solution to tlic problems of macro political order and that hernwould ha’c been an Antifederalist in 1787.rnEvcrv worthwhile theory of the ideal state contains a storyrnabout how it will collapse. Hume fixes on two distempers inrnmodern politics which, if not checked, will subvert the libertyrnof the extended republic. One is ideological fanaticism, andrnthe other is the tendency of modern states to unite war andrnconrmcrce into a project of imperial expansion. To counter thisrnlatter tendency, Hume wrote into the constitution of thernextended republic “a fundamental law against conquests.” Hernwarned that “extensive conquests, when pursued, must be thernruin of every free government; and of the nrore perfect governmentrnsooner than of the imperfect; because of the very advantagesrnwhich the fornrer possess above the latter.” As the extendedrnrepublic expands, two contrary tendencies arerngenerated: one toward secession and the other toward an opprcssixernconsolidation by one section over the others. By 1850,rnin less than 50 vears, the United States had swollen to some 12rntimes its original size. It was time either to renegotiate thernunion of so vast a territory with such different and conflictingrninterests or for one ambitious and powerful section to conquerrnand consolidate the rest into its own image, thereby generatingrnwhat I lume had theorized as the worst form of modern government:rna republican empire.rnWhen the “free state” of Britain faced this tension betweenrnsecession and consolation in its far-flung territories after 1763,rnit chose consolidation, and the Americans seceded. Lincoln, inrnhis refusal to receive Confederate Commissioners, and consequentlvrnin his refusal to negotiate a trade treaty and paymentrnfor federal property so that commerce would receive little disruption,rnalso chose consolidation and coercion. Hume, however,rnfaored secession. As he put it to his astonished friendrnWilliam Strahan in October 1775: “Let us, therefore, lay asidernall Anger; shake hands, and part Friends. Or if we retain anyrnanger, let it only be against ourselves for our past Folly; andrnagainst that wicked Madman, Pitt; who has reduced us to ourrnpresent Condition.” But the greatness of mind revealed in thisrnjudgment was beyond the venal House of Commons in 1775rnand the equally venal Northern Republican Congress in 1860,rnneither of which could tolerate a policy of free trade and selfgorncrnment, even though the economic prosperity of neitherrnwould have been seriously affected. But as Hume dryly obscrxed,rn”republics have ambition as well as individuals.”rnIt is ironic that Jefferson had a hand in both of the twornsources of destruction that Hume had found to be immanentrnin the modern extended republic: hubristic expansion and ideologicalrnenthusiasm. It was Jefferson who first expanded the republic,rnand he did so not by the method of concurrent majoritvrnthat had been used so successfully under the Articles ofrnConfederation to solve conflicts over the Western territories,rnbut b a sinrple majority of Congress. The New England Federalistsrnwere right to insist that the Louisiana Purchase Territorvrnand the admission of Louisiana as a state required at least arnconstitutional amendment, and they were right also to considerrnsecession as a remedy. To Jefferson’s credit, it must be saidrnthat, though he was an expansionist, he was no consolidationist;rnfrom the first he was willing to consider secession as a remedvrnto the problem of size. Concerning the New England secessionrnmovements of 1805,1807-1809, and 1812-14, he wrote: “Ifrnan state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation . . .rnto a continuance in union . . . I have no hesitation in saying, ‘letrnus separate.'” But separation did not occur. And expansionrncontinued, following Jefferson’s precedent of annexing territoriesrnand states h siiriple majority of Congress, thereby creatingrnnew constitutional majorities and minorities. To appreciaternjust how constitutionally dislocating this could be, imaginernwhat would happen if the United States undertook to incorporaternthe proN’inces and states of Canada and Mexico. Wouldrnthis not lead to either secession movements or greater and morernoppressive consolidation? And if it is said that the hypotheticalrnis absurd because such a regime would be too large, thernHumcan reply must be that the regime was too large in 1850.rnHume’s extended republic is about the size of a large Americanrnstate such as Virgiiria or New York; that 50 and nrore of thesernshould be consolidated into one “indivisible” republic wouldrnhave been, for Flume, a new and ingenious form of bad^arism.rnThe second source of collapse is ideology. Jefferson had a rationalistrnstrain that occasionally corrupted his moral and politicalrninstincts. He was fond of the philosophic superstition thatrnthere are natural rights independent of inherited social condition,rna doctrine exploded by Hume in an essay entitled “Of thernOriginal Contract.” Jefferson proudly wrote these into thernDeclaration of Independence. But rationalist doctrines such asrnnatural rights arc blank checks on which can be written anythingrnthat power, circumstance, audacity, and lack of shamerncan establish. I .incoln took Jefferson’s doctrine that all men arerncreated equal and “incorporated” it into the Constitution as itsrntelos, transubstantiating it, by an act of philosophical alchemy,rnfrom a fundamental law nrarking out the division of authorityrnbetween independent moral and political communities and arncentral go ernment, created by them for limited purposes, intorna consolidated nationalist regime modeled on the French Revolution.rnIn this regime, deracinated individuals, now emancipatedrnfrom their state and local authorities, could be viewed asrna standing reserve of “human resources” for the millenarianrnproject of pursuing an ever-illusive antinomic “proposition”rnabout equality. It never occurred to Jefferson that publicrnspeech about ahistorical natural rights could be used to destroyrnthe independi;nt moral and political communities of the statesrnin favor of a consolidated nationalist imperium. How to accourrtrnfor this philosophical innocence?rnRationalism is philosophv in its adolescence. The adolescentrnseeks self-determination and certaint) above all else. And whatrnrationalism ields is certainty (we hold these truths to be selfevident);rnbut certainty attaches only to abstractions which arernmere aspects of experience and not the whole. Nothing intellectuallyrndeep is self-evident. A political philosophy foundedrnon truths self-evident to every adolescent is a politics fit only forrnadolescents. Unhappily, postbellum American political culturernis heavily infected with rationalism in the form of an increasinglyrnleft-directed liberalism. This has reduced American politicalrnspeech to a state of permanent adolescence: naturalrnrights independeirt of inherited social and traditional obligations;rnendless “new births of freedom”; the belief that Airrericarnis not a culture but an “idea,” a “proposition country”; thatrnAmerica is an “experiment,” or a place where government canrnbe “reinente(J”; or a country that can regularlv “reinvent” itself.rnThis strange form of sclf-iirrposed innocence is difficultrnfor wisdom from the adult philosophical world to penetrate,rnwrapped, as it conceives itself to be, in the mantle of “reason.”rnRather than suppress Hume’s History as an ideological threat tornthe young Confederation, Jefferson would have done well tornstudy more carefully the subde and profound criticism of rationalismrncontained therein. crnNOVEMBER 1995/23rnrnrn