Thomas Jefferson describes the Ward Republic as the idea nearest to his heart.  The Ward Republic is a pure expression of how the people may govern themselves and so it is a prime resource for our Republic in realizing our aims.

  1. Overview:

    1. Our Motto: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - Buckminster Fuller

    2. We have a republican form of government that is based on the people governing themselves and basing their governance on: The Common Law of Do no Harm, Gods Law, Natural Law, Maxims of Law, Law of Nations.

    3. The people govern themselves to secure their unalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which includes property.

  2. How do we do that?  What is necessary for the people to be able to govern themselves?

    1. First is an agreed upon purpose, mission, or aim.

    2. Second is a commitment to being honorable:  To be honorable is to be kind, genuine, and compassionate without expecting a reward for your behavior.

    3. Third is a commitment to hearing from everyone and respecting the differences.  The similarities draw us together but respecting the differences make us a community.

    4. Fourth is a commitment to using a rational argument to express our views.  A rational argument appeals to the sensibility of others and invites engagement.  

    5. Fifth is a commitment to treating objections as opportunities to improve a project or policy, and for any decisions and action plans, setting the criteria for evaluating them and the time-frame when they will be evaluated.

    6. Sixth is consenting to the project or policy as "good enough for now" and "safe enough to try".


40 years after the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said:

 

“The infancy of the subject at that moment, and our inexperience of self-government, occasioned gross departures in that draught from genuine republican canons. In truth, the abuses of monarchy had so much filled all the space of political contemplation, that we imagined every thing republican which was not monarchy. We had not yet penetrated to the mother principle, that 'governments are republican only in proportion as they embody the will of their people, and execute it.' Hence, our first constitutions had really no leading principle in them. But experience and reflection have but more and more confirmed me in the particular importance of the equal representation then proposed.”

 

"The organization of our county administrations may be thought more difficult. But follow principle, and the knot unties itself. Divide the counties into wards of such size as that every citizen can attend when called on, and act in person. Ascribe to them the government of their wards in all things relating to themselves exclusively. A justice, chosen by themselves, in each, a constable, a military company, a patrol, a school, the care of their own poor, their own portion of the public roads, the choice of one or more jurors to serve in some court, and the delivery, within their own wards, of their own votes for all elective officers of higher sphere, will relieve the county administration of nearly all its business, will have it better done, and by making every citizen an acting member of the government, and in the offices nearest and most interesting to him, will attach him by his strongest feelings to the independence of his country, and its republican constitution. The justices thus chosen by every ward, would constitute the county court, would do its judiciary business, direct roads and bridges, levy county and poor rates, and administer all the matters of common interest to the whole county. These wards, called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their governments, and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government, and for its preservation. We should thus marshal our government into, 1. The general federal republic, for all concerns foreign and federal; 2. That of the State, for what relates to our own citizens exclusively; 3. The county republics, for the duties and concerns of the county; and, 4. The ward republics, for the small, and yet numerous and interesting concerns of the neighborhood: and in government, as well as in every other business of life, it is by division and sub-division of duties alone, that all matters, great and small, can be managed to perfection. And the whole is cemented by giving to every citizen, personally, a part in the administration of the public affairs."

 

The concept of the Ward Republic was inspired by the traditional practice in England and other feudal European countries to organize people below the county level into what were called "hundreds", that is, a geographic group of a few hundred individuals and their families. That concept goes back to a similar practice among the ancient Hebrews of organizing themselves for military purposes, and form a militia unit for each such group.[2] Although intended for feudal administration and defense, hundreds also tended to cooperate in performing other functions of government.

Jefferson presented the idea in a letter to Samuel Kercheval in July, 1816. "The true foundation of republican government," Jefferson wrote, "is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property, and in their management."[3] Kercheval of Winchester, Virginia had been trying to organize a convention to write a new state constitution, and sought the support of Jefferson, who had been trying since 1776 to get Virginia to adopt a new constitution.

In that letter, Jefferson outlined the need for "ward republics," small units of local government, within Virginia's existing counties, which he thought were too large for direct participation of all the voters. He proposed to divide the counties into "wards of such size as that every citizen can attend, when called on, and act in person … will relieve the county administration of nearly all its business, will have it better done, and by making every citizen an acting member of the government, and in the offices nearest and most interesting to him, will attach him by his strongest feelings to the independence of his country, and its republican constitution."[4]

Jefferson proposed that such ward republics, among their other functions, should select jurors, so that these units of local government would act as a restraint on the judicial as well as the legislative and executive branches of government.

One of the functions to be performed by such wards was public education. Jefferson's 1779 Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge was never passed in the form he proposed. Virginia did not set up a system of mandatory common schools until well into the nineteenth century. However, the concepts it contained persisted and he continued to campaign for public education as the safeguard of republican citizenship.[5]

Jefferson's Bill proposed that each county would be divided into "hundreds … so as that they may contain a convenient number of children to make up a school, and be of such convenient size that all the children within each hundred may daily attend the school to be established therein". Jefferson's deliberate use of the term "hundreds" echoes the Anglo-Saxon term for such a political sub-division. He and many of his contemporaries believed that English and American liberties were rooted in Anglo-Saxon political life. These "hundreds" are the origins of Jefferson's later conception of "ward republics," political units so small that "every citizen, can attend, when called on, and act in person".[3] The school system was envisioned as tiered, from primary to secondary to college, so that the ward republics were to be the smallest, most intimate parts of political life and the basis for state republics and the national republic.[6]

Footnotes are forthcoming.

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