Friday, October 23, 2015

Sellers on Machiavelli as the Father of Modern Constitutionalism

Mortimer Newlin Stead Sellers, University of Baltimore School of Law,  has posted Niccolò
Machiavelli: Father of Modern Constitutionalism:
Cesare Borgia seated with Machiavelli. (Federico Faruffini; LC)
Niccolò Machiavelli is the father of modern constitutionalism. Constitutionalism began anew in the modern world with the study of the ancient republics and it was Machiavelli who inaugurated this revived science of law and politics. Five hundred years after the composition of Il Principe and the Discorsi we are still working out the implications of applying reason to the structures of law and government in pursuit of justice and the common good. Modern constitutionalism and ancient republicanism share three central beliefs: first, that government should serve justice and the common good. Second, that government should do so through known and stable laws. Third, that these will best be secured through the checks and balances of a well-designed constitution. Machiavelli took the theories and experiences of republican Rome and applied them to his own era. This application of reason to constitutional design transformed the politics of emergent modernity and reconfigured government throughout the world.
H/t: Legal Theory Blog

2 comments:

Shag from Brookline said...

I downloaded this short (10 pages) article a couple of days ago and have just begun with its Introduction. Perhaps the article addresses the influence, if any, of Machiavelli on the Founders/Ratifiers.

Shag from Brookline said...

I finished the article and found it quite interesting, learning more about Machiavelli. There is a section "American Constitutionalism" that is less than a full page in length. It references John Adams' views of Machiavelli with some interesting quotes from Adams' writings. But no other Founder/Framer is specified who was influenced by Machiavelli. The author's claim of influence on the Founders/Framers of our Constitution are general except in the case of Adams. This claim is counter to what I recall from my studies that emphasized Locke and certain others from the UK. So I Googled "Influence of Machiavelli on Framers of the Constitution" and one of the "hits" included Donald S. Lutz, "The Relative Importance of European Writers on Late Eighteenth Century American Political Thought," American Political Science Review 189 (1984), 189-97. This included a listing of 39 based upon frequency of citations by Founders/Framers during a short time frame both before and after the 1787 Constitution was adopted. Machiavelli was #29 on the list at 0.50%.

My search included a "hit" on a Georgetown paper that I was not able to access. But I'm still curious as to the thoughts of others with respect to the author's claim. As noted earlier, I did learn quite a bit about Machiavelli's writing distinguished from The Prince.