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Denouncing Secrecy and Defining Democracy in the Early American Republic

journal contribution
posted on 2022-04-25, 00:00 authored by Katlyn Carter
Exploring the intense and common critique of secrecy articulated by the Federalists' opponents both before and after ratification, this article sheds new light on the way in which the Constitution left open the question of what it meant to represent the people in government. The article traces how concerns about secrecy were amplified in the early republic, becoming a primary discourse in which Federalist policies were contested and serving as glue that bound former Antifederalists with Democratic-Republicans who had championed ratification, most notably James Madison. The article also examines debates about secrecy to underscore their centrality to the conception and construction of representative democracy. Attitudes about secrecy reflected underlying beliefs about the role of a representative and what made him legitimate as such. By asking why critics identified secrecy as threatening, the article uncovers the way in which political procedures were both reflective and constitutive of ideas about representative government, how it should work, and what made it legitimate.

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2022-04-25

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  • English

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