Representation and Republicanism: Two Views
Publius: The Journal of Federalism
In recent years, the concept of representation in the American founding has received considerable scholarly attention. Two of the most important studies have been The Creation of the American Republic: 1776 to 1787 by Gordon Wood and Political Representation in England and the Origins of the American Republic by J.R. Pole. 1 Both Pole and Wood believe that the constitution of the American republic marks a watershed in the theory of representation, though they assess this development
... lopment differently. Wood and Pole agree that the architects of the constitution, and especially James Madison, sought to replace the representation of virtue, traditional in republics, with the representation of interests. For Wood, this means "the decline of classical politics," that is, the disappearance social homogeneity and the disintegration of the organic connection between the representative and his constituents on matters affecting the common good. Wood argues that the Federalists twisted the rhetoric of republicanism to create a liberal representative government based upon an "elitist theory of democracy." Wood's central concern is with the meaning and requirements of republican government, and with the kind of representation appropriate to it. Pole is both more and less critical of the founding than Wood. Although Pole also believes that the framers substituted for virtue the representation of material interests, he goes even further than Wood when he argues that "the representatives of interest were not obliged even in theory to consult for the public good" (p. 531). Instead of disinterested representatives deliberating about the common good, the common good is now understood to be nothing more than the balancing of conflicting interests.