THE END OF KINGS: A History of Republics and Republicans by William R. Everdell

THE END OF KINGS: A History of Republics and Republicans

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This chatty history of republicanism is based on the premise that few Americans today know what a republic is; unfortunately, Everdell, a history teacher at St. Ann's School in Brooklyn Heights, hasn't got it right either. The main point of a republic, to him, is that it stands in opposition to monarchy. He thus acknowledges, but relegates to second place, the fact that a republic is different from a democracy: a republic may be more or less democratic, or more or less aristocratic, and still be a republic. And he finds no evidence for the crucial idea that a republic is a system based on representation. Representation was not a part of the Roman republic, he says, and no part of classical republicanism. This is plain wrong. Evergard disregards the theoretical basis of republicanism in Aristotle's depiction of the polity--composed of the one, the few, and the many--as the best and most stable form of government. The ancient Greeks were democrats, not republicans--their government was based on participation by citizens--while the Roman republic was just that; and it was, contra Everdell, Aristotelian in composition. Everdell's fundamental confusion is compounded when he extols Switzerland as a republic (the federated Swiss cantons are based on direct democracy, not republicanism). Occasionally he does hit on a real republican: Machiavelli, John Milton, John Adams. But also included are Thaddeus Stevens, because he opposed the excessive presidential powers of Andrew Johnson, and Sam Ervin, for a like stand in the case of Richard Nixon. History-by-slogan, and mistaken from the start.

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 1983
ISBN: 0226224821
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan