Article

The Democratic Moment: The Revolution and Popular Politics

Ray Raphael

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199746705
Published online December 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199746705.013.0008

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Democratic Moment: The Revolution and Popular Politics

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Direct democracy was practiced within town meetings in colonial New England, driven by four overarching principles. First, citizens had a political voice as members of a specific geographic community, rather than as individuals. Second, “the mind of the town,” as it was called at the time, could be readily determined through public discourse in meetings of the enfranchised citizenry. Third, this collective will could be relayed to higher governing bodies by issuing specific and binding instructions to elected representatives. Finally, citizens who opposed the mind of the town could be forced to abide by it through community pressure. While the American Revolution elicited its own examples of popular, democratic politics outside of official chambers, the overall trend was in the opposite direction. Formal representational structures generally superseded meetings of the body of the people by liberty trees and liberty polls, county conventions of committees of correspondence, and local committees of safety, inspection, and observation.

Keywords: democracy; politics; American Revolution; town meetings; New England

Article.  9106 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700) ; World History

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