Party Government in the United States of America

By William Milligan Sloane | Go to book overview

VII
PUBLIC OPINION

Popular sovereignty--In New England: variable and general--In the Middle States: stable and general--In the Southern States: stable and aristocratic--The general public opinion--The vehicles of discussion--Indirect pressure on Convention: compromises-- Open questions--Discontent with the Constitution--Elements in the parties.

THUS far we have confined our account, as is correct, to the opinions and actions of the ruling class. Everywhere among men there is a ruling class, but it is very differently constituted at different times, in different places. That in the colonies seems to have strongly resembled the corresponding class in Great Britain; there were in it, as already said, great landed proprietors and great merchants, men of wealth, birth, and education. But there was something behind the American ruling class which was far stronger than any of these elements in human life, a force which is generally called popular sovereignty.

This force was at the beginning strongest in the New England States, because the settlers of those colonies were refugees from a polity, ecclesiastical and political, which they had thought tyrannical. They had, therefore, established in their new homes strong local governments, both church and secular; and, what was even more important, they had se-

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