Is the “Right to Instruct” important to Americans today?

Instruction is common political practice before the Articles. In the Journal of the Continental Congress, we read that States did “instruct” on Confederation.

For example, a resolution of instruction from Maryland did “instruct you not to agree to the confederation, unless an article or articles be added thereto in conformity with our [State’s] declaration” (May 21, 1779). In the debates, instruction meant “what steps it is the pleasure of our Constituents we should take in case we should be instructed” (Volume 16, September 1, 1780 – February 28, 1781).

Instructions enabled the people to instruct representatives, or for the legislature to instruct their delegates, and time was taken by the delegates to “wish to know the minds of my constituents” (Volume 11 October 1, 1778 – January 31, 1779). In the record, we read that “their instructions were adopted” or they were adopted in the negative (Volume 19 August 1, 1782 – March 11, 1783) and that the people “should think proper to instruct their delegates in Congress of their own accord” (Volume 4; John Adams to Vergennes, 1781).

Dear reader, to what degree do you think republicanism, or self-government via the right to instruct, is alive in the early 21st century? Can you think of an example?

Happy Halloween!


4 thoughts on “Is the “Right to Instruct” important to Americans today?

  1. I hear that comment often. I think it’s also important to see that “the people practicing self-government” were happy to take the power away from state legislatures in order to return the power to themselves.

    I find little reason to suggest that the 17th Amendment reduced the power of self-government or republicanism, though it certainly strengthened the Senators capacity for liberal governance too.

  2. Not saying that 17th amendment made self-government less important, just made instruction less important. States no longer need instruction because elections have replaced them as a mechanism or accountability/signaling.

  3. The actual legislation from the states to the General Government; not sociologically or even procedurally. Political scientists are finding examples of this continuing today in many aspects. I would argue it gave the people more power. For example, I am confident that my faction of Independents in the electorate identify, like me, as a “republican” as understood in my dissertation (@ home stretch).

    For example, Snyder R, MI, was just elected with a win of 130k votes for Governor. Gary Peters (D, MI Senate) won by 410k votes. Why? How is this split? Who are the Independents that decided this outcome? I think that about 200k of these voters identify as Independents and, if I were to give a survey using my 3 political languages, would identify as a “republican”. Just a theory, of course. I much prefer Snyder to the D opponent and I much prefer Peters to the R opponent. Indubitably, the opponents are the more “liberal” of the two; the former progressive and the latter traditional.

    Don’t you think, if evidence illuminates this theory, people committed to republicanism as an ends to a means are, still quite weakly, controlling Washington D.C.!

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