America's Four Regimes

The flag is known as the Goliad flag of Texas. As the old saying goes, don't mess with them. I found it on

I've just made a reference to four American republics and I thought that I might for once just explain myself. 'America' as such usually, like the British crown, tends to suggest that it is a continuous historical whole. Since it aspires to a civic citizenship that is neither ethnic nor racial, that is desperately necessary. But I think that most fair-minded observers would note four fundamentally different sorts of federal government in America;

(i) That of the Articles of the Confederation that prevailed for most of the 1780s

(ii) The Republic, limited by a bill of rights that applied to the Federal Government, that existed between 1791 and 1869

(iii) The Republic that nationalised itself between 1869 and 1920 or so, via the fourteenth amendment and the growth of mass industrial parties, and that reached apotheosis with progressivism and prohibition

(iv) The Republic that followed on the New Deal, and the Social Security Acts, but which morphed into the culture of tort, of rights, of identity politics and of neoliberal reaction to those big-government activities.

I think that it is perfectly possible that the fourth republic has now hit the buffers and that a new federalism, or a radically smaller federal state, or some national revision starting with the electoral college and ending in an assault on state independence could be on the cards. So that is what I meant by 'the end of the fourth republic'. Of course, there were other republics around before the United States--Vermont, Texas, California, and West Florida spring to mind, though some were very short-lived. Equally, I understand that the Continental Congress was an order that preceded the Confederation, and that Ben Franklin, through his postal network, promted a republic-lite with the Albany plan in 1754.


Martin: An excellent historical analysis and I agree with your conclusion about the 'near' end of this phase of the American Republic. Although patriots would applaud - if it would ever happen - a shift of federal power back to the states, a more likely scenario is the USA becoming a major part of a NAFTA confederation similar to the EU. I believe that the actions of the past two administrations in bankrupting the treasury and adding oceans of debt, will create a collective atmosphere in the citizenry, aided by a compliant media, in a few years that a NA entity will be the salvation. However, looking back in history, the fate of the Roman Republic and the rise of a a military dictatorship is also another likely scenario. The joker in the deck is that the US military officer corp that is disproportionately Southern, evangelical religious and fiercely nationalistic. How this group would react to the 'next phase' remains to be seen.
Martin Meenagh said…
Thanks for the comment, as usual.
I can't pretend that my analysis is particularly original--Morton Keller once identified three regimes and James McPherson also wrote of a 'second American republic' at one point. However, I think, obviously, that the dates and periods I identified, hold.

We're clearly at some sort of point of overlap or transition. I wouldn't want to put money on any outcome, but sadly, I agree with you that the tensions between urban and country areas, and the bilious partisan rhetoric, encouraged by a media with an active agenda, are not good things. The world around the Atlantic rim has been heaving underground for some time, in ways that are difficult for you or I to process because few people think beyond recent years, let alone in decades. Something is clearly surfacing in the current crisis, though, which many are coming to see as a depression.

All the best, and, as usual, I hope that you are well.