#3587 Created 04/14/2014 Updated 04/28/2017
From the earliest rumblings of rebellion in the seventeenth century to the adoption of the U.S.Constitution in 1878, the nation was alive with disputes about the application of political principles to the design of public institutions. Once again the ancient analogy between politics and technology became an expressive idea. Taking what they found useful from previous history and existing theories, thinks like Madison, Hamilton, Adams and Jefferson tried to device a "science of politics," a science specifically aimed at providing knowledge for a collective act of architectonic skill. Thus, in the Federalist Papers, to take one example, we find a sustained discussion of how to move from abstract political notions such as power, liberty and public good to their tangible manifestation in the divisions, functions, powers, relationships and limits of the Constitution.
"The science of politics", Hamilton explains in "Federalist No. 9", "like most other sciences, has received great improvement. The efficacy of various principles in now well understood, which were either not known at all, or imperfectly known to the ancients.. The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election: these are wholly new discoveries, or have made their principal progress toward perfection in modern times." (Federalist #9 pg. 37-38) (Winner 42)
The industrial revolution with its distinctive ways of arranging people, machines, and materials for production very soon began to compete with strictly political institutions for power, authority, and the loyalties of men and women. Writing in 1781 in his Notes on Virginia, Thomas Jefferson noted the new force abroad in the world and commented upon its probably meaning for political society. The system of manufacturing emerging at the time would, he argued, be incompatible with the life of a stable, virtuous republic. Manufacturing would create a thoroughly dependent rather than a self-sufficient populace. "Dependence," he warned, "begets subservience and venality, suffocates the term of virtue, and prepare fit tools for the design of ambition." In his view the industrial mode of production threatened "the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the hear of its laws and constitution. 43