Diamond’s Contribution to American Political Thought: Symposium

Walter Berns. "Martin Diamond's Contribution to American Political Thought: Symposium." The Political Science Reviewer 28.1 (Fall 1999): 18-20.


Forgotten or neglected by politicians, the Constitution and its Framers did not fare much better in the academic world that Martin Diamond entered in the early 1950s. Political science departments offered courses in constitutional law, but, at that time, none offered a course on the Constitution. The historians studied the framing of the Constitution, but, under the influence of Charles A. Beard, they saw it as a scheme devised by the few rich to keep power out of the hands of the many poor. As they saw it, every constitutional feature, or what Tocqueville called “forms”-federalism, bicameralism, separation of powers, judicial review, the amending process, and fixed and overlapping terms of representatives, senators, and the president-was devised with one idea in mind, namely to prevent rule by democratic majorities.

But the Framers made no secret of their purpose. As Publius said in Federalist No. 10 (and by saying it he anticipated what Tocqueville was later to say), “in the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy to the diseases most incident to republican government.” Diamond saw his task as one of explaining that this republican remedy was, contrary to its critics, democratic in spirit, that, under the Constitution, the majority could rule, but, in a phrase he employed on more than one occasion, it would be a “decent, even though democratic” majority, by which he meant a moderate and deliberative majority. And he described precisely how the Constitution worked to “form” that majority.

First Principles [pdf]