# 7: Right to Instruct [Greenberg]


Greenberg, Kenneth S. Representation and the Isolation of South Carolina, 1776-1860. The Journal of American History, Vol. 64, No. 3 (Dec., 1977), pp. 723-743.





“Bernard Bailyn sees in this debate evidence of a much more basic disagreement between the colonies and England about the nature of representation itself. Americans during the colonial period, Bailyn argues, living in autonomous towns and counties, were attracted to a medieval conception of the representative as an attorney or agent for the locality which elected him. In a world where real power lay in the hands of small, decentralized units, the particular group which elected a representative expected him to speak for its special interests. According to this view, the representative might even be bound by specific instructions from his local constituents. Massachusetts town meetings, for ex- ample, frequently instructed their delegates to the colonial assembly. As a result of such a conception of representation, Bailyn contends, Americans thought it absurd for anyone to argue that parliament represented the colonists when parliament contained no men actually elected by them. For ‘no member,’ explained the Georgia pastor John Joachim Zubly in a 1769 pamphlet published in Charleston, ‘can represent any but those by whom he hath been elected … representation arises entirely from the free election of the people.’


“In contrast to this American emphasis on the explicit nature of con- sent through ‘actual’ representation, the English during the late- eighteenth century adhered to the idea of ‘virtual’ representation” (724).


“If the defense of actual representation could rarely be carried to its logical extreme in Revolutionary America, the structure of the new state governments clearly indicates the American desire at least to actualize representation to an extent hitherto unknown. In the years after 1776 the mechanisms of actual representation flourished: constituents bound representatives by instructions, election laws tied officials to local districts by residence and property qualifications for officeholding, the suffrage broadened, and legislatures reapportioned themselves to reflect more accurately the actual distribution of population. The Revolutionary struggle generated a distrust for all forms of authority, and local districts, in numerous ways, tied the hands of their elected official” (726-727, italics added).


“A movement for the instruction of representatives by constituents also flourished in South Carolina during the Revolutionary period. Impelled by a distrust for all forms of authority as a result of their Revolutionary experience, and especially fearful of the aristocratic, lowcountry, “Nabob” members of the South Carolina legislature, popular leaders of the 1780s such as William Hornby, Alexander Gillon, and Thomas Tudor Tucker enthusiastically advocated instruction. Their ideas received wide circulation in Gillon’s The Circular Letter and in Tucker’s Conciliatory Hints. Tucker, regarding the explicit participation of the represented as the essential ingredient of any system of representation, even brought his views to national attention when, in Congress, he proposed to include the right of instruction of senators as one of the first amendments to the Constitution” (728-729).


 ***be careful, author argues that S.C. really wanted “virtual” representation.  need more research on this thorny nest…


“Despite the Revolutionary movement toward actual representation, South Carolina between 1776 and 1860 remained fundamentally attached to the ideals and institutions of virtual representation. On the question of instructions, for example, it was not Gillon or Tucker who spoke for the future of South Carolina politics, but rather the Revolutionary leader Christopher Gadsden. Instructions, Gadsden argued in 1784, would “prove a dangerous Jesuitical imperium in imperio and serve to put the legislature into leading strings, and make them as a body contemptible. . . .” Instructions, Gadsden contended, need not be avoided under all circumstances. In matters of purely local interest instructions should be obeyed, but the representative was also “charged to attend to the general combined interest of all the state put together, as it were upon an average. Obviously, Gadsden reasoned, the representative had to discover this general interest through deliberation and reasoned debate rather than through binding instructions from local constituents. Gadsden did not believe ultimate power should rest anywhere but in the hands of the people. Yet, during the usual operations of government, the people should exercise this ultimate power only on election day and should not interfere with their representatives once the election had ended, except under the most extraordinary circumstances. If “any representatives wantonly counteract the plain sense of their parish, choose them no more,” he admonished, “which is much better upon the whole than sitting them with absolute instructions. . . . “ (729, italics ion original).


“A ratifying convention is one of the least likely places to find anti- instruction ideas since, in American political thought, such a convention is supposed to be the direct voice of the people acting in their sovereign capacity as a constituent assembly. Yet even here, Alexander Tweed, representative of Prince Frederick Parish, in one of the few extant recorded speeches from that body, “spurned at the idea” that his district should attempt to direct his vote. “For my own part . . . ,” he explained to the convention, “I came not here to echo the voice of my constituents….” (730).


“Thomas Cooper, president of South Carolina College during the 1820s and 1830s, influential instructor of the state’s most prominent citizens, and key figure in the nullification movement, shared the anti-instruction sentiments of his eighteenth-century forebears. Explicitly siding with Sir William Blackstone and Edmund Burke against Tucker of Virginia and Secretary of State Henry Clay, Cooper argued in 1826 not simply that state legislators should be virtual representatives but that “Every man called to the national legislature, is a national and not a local representative…. You are sent to the national council,” he admonished a hypothetical instructed representative, “to deliberate for the nation, and not for the petty district where you reside” (730).


**next four paragraphs together:


“Calhoun found particularly convincing the anti-instruction sentiments expressed in Burke’s famous ‘Speech to the Electors of Bristol.’ ‘That mind must be greatly different from mine,’ Calhoun explained, ‘which can read that speech, and not embrace its doctrine.’ Burke’s doctrines largely centered on the idea that since Parliament represented the interest of all, no representative should be bound by instructions from his local constituents. As Burke stated the case:


Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole-where not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament.

“It was with such thoughts in mind that Calhoun admonished a Congress he believed to be instructed: “Instructions! Well, then, has it come to this? Have the people of this country snatched the power of deliberation from this body?” All who accept instruction “abandon the plain road of truth and reason. . . .’

“John Townsend, author of such pamphlets as The South Alone Shall Govern the South and The Doom of Slavery in the Union Its Safety Out of It, referred with praise to both Burke’s ideas and this Calhoun speech, in an 1858 pamphlet directed to his constituents. “I regard the claim of coercive instruction,” Townsend explained, “on the part of his constituents which the Representative is bound to obey, against his reason and conscience, as at war with the very spirit of our republican Representative institution” (731, italics in original).



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