The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots. In Massts. it had been fully confirmed by experience that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute. One principal evil arises from the want of due provision for those employed in the administration of Governmt. It would seem to be a maxim of democracy to starve the public servants. He mentioned the popular clamour in Massts. for the reduction of salaries and the attack made on that of the Govr. though secured by the spirit of the Constitution itself. He had he said been too republican heretofore: he was still however republican, but had been taught by experience the danger of the levilling spirit.
When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in 1787, they debated the flaws in the Articles of Confederation and how their system of government might be improved. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts had signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, but expressed deep skepticism of the solutions suggested at the Convention. As many moved for a national legislature elected by the people, Gerry balked. Perhaps affected by the popular uprising of Shays' Rebellion in his own state or perhaps skeptical of significant changes in the mode of governance, Gerry suggested that an "excess of democracy"--not a lack of it--was the source of problems in the confederation.
It might strike contemporary readers as jarring that in 1787, one could ever view that era of a rather novel experiment of democracy as one with an "excess." But it's worth recognizing that "democracy" has experienced some fluidity. Over the last couple of centuries, we've seen both increases and decreases of democratic participation. Some occurs by law and force; others occur by the fervor or apathy of the people.
And although Gerry was deeply skeptical of this new regime, it didn't prevent him from serving as James Madison's vice president years later. It is perhaps a warm reminder that political opponents can embrace what they view as a flawed system, even its "excesses."
And this blog? It's perhaps little more than my own often-conflicted views about what the "right" democracy is. At times it may be in excess; at times it may be lacking. But I hope to reflect sincerely about our democracy in the posts ahead. (And in my own, rambling, half-baked way.)