Recreating the American Republic: Rules of Apportionment, Constitutional Change, and American Political Development, 1700-1870

By Charles A. Kromkowski | Go to book overview

6
Divide et Impera: Constitutional Heresthetics and
the Abandonment of the Articles of Confederation

The contextual conditions described in Chapter 5 and the divergent political expectations they supported made constitutional change possible in the mid-1780s, but they neither required nor spontaneously prompted the abandonment and replacement of the Articles of Confederation. Constitutional change of this magnitude requires the timely intervention of individuals who possess the vision, commitment, and political skills to organize and to direct other dissatisfied individuals and groups toward the transformation of an existing order. The process of constitutional change must thus be understood as being entrepreneur-dependent.

However necessary constitutional entrepreneurs are for this account's explanation, they play an initial but clearly secondary role because they rarely dictate the final terms of the process of constitutional change. Not only are they constrained by their own capacities to envision both a new constitutional horizon and the immediate range of real possibilities, but, once initiated, transformative processes typically and often thankfully are propelled by and negotiated among a much larger and more diverse set of political actors. Regardless of the vision or charisma of any particular entrepreneur, his or her capacity to extend the political discourse of the day to include the possibility of constitutional change remains contingent on innumerable historical accidents of context and personality. As a consequence, constitutional change remains uncommon not only because of the high transformation costs but also because the convergence of the necessary macro- and microlevel conditions make real opportunities for wholesale transformation rare indeed.

Whereas Chapter 5 described the development of various macrolevel conditions between 1776 and 1786, this chapter focuses at the microlevel

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