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American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World, 1776-1989A Global Perspective$

George Athan Billias

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780814791073

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814791073.001.0001

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European Interlude

European Interlude


(p.142) 5 European Interlude
American Constitutionalism Heard Round the World, 1776-1989

George Athan Billias

NYU Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the influence of American constitutionalism in Europe during the era of the American and French revolutions and the European revolutions of 1848. It suggests that the influence of American constitutionalism during this period did not have as much effect as before. It considers three distinctive periods of Western constitutionalism that mark this interlude: the period when Napoleon ended the French Revolution with his coup d'état, the age of Klemens von Metternich, and the period just before the outbreak of the 1848 revolutions. The chapter also discusses American constitutional influence on a number of European constitutions in the years 1800–1848, including those of Norway, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Italy, and Greece. It concludes with an assessment of the impact of Jacksonian democracy on European constitutionalism.

Keywords:   revolutions, American constitutionalism, Europe, Western constitutionalism, Napoleon, Klemens von Metternich, European constitutions, Norway, France, Jacksonian democracy

A long interlude separated the two echoes of the shot heard round the world: the era of the American and French revolutions and the European revolutions of 1848. Though continuing, the influence of American constitutionalism did not have as much effect as before. Three distinctive periods of Western constitutionalism mark this interlude. The first was the period when Napoleon ended the French Revolution with his coup d’état, created a new constitution that established a facade of parliamentary institutions at home, and introduced modernizing administrative decrees throughout much of western Europe. The second was the age of Metternich, which sought to restore stability and order in Europe with its legitimist constitutions after a quarter century of revolutions and warfare. The third was the period just before the outbreak of the 1848 revolutions.

Western constitutionalism appears to have followed the curve of industrialization after the early 1800s. The Industrial Revolution in England, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium gave rise to the bourgeoisie. In Germany, Austria, and Italy, however, industrialization did not penetrate as deeply; these countries remained agrarian and were politically more backward. From a constitutional viewpoint, these two regions presented a stark contrast, and their reactions to American constitutionalism differed accordingly.

One important constitutional change, however, modified the image of America in Europe. The Jacksonian movement in the United States in the 1830s, more than half a century after the American Revolution, gave the lie to the old assumption that a democratic country would inevitably degenerate into mob rule. Hence, many Europeans began to change their minds about the United States, viewing America in a quite different light than before.

(p.143) American Constitutional Influence: General Considerations, 1800–1848

From 1800 to 1815, the greatest obstacle with which American constitutionalism had to contend was Napoleon and his revolutionary constitutional model. Surrounding France there emerged six satellite states, most of them ruled by Napoleon’s relatives or favorites. Besides these so-called sister republics, Napoleon’s authority stretched into Spain (where his brother was monarch) as well as into some newly created German principalities. Save for Russia in the east and Britain in the west, Napoleon dominated nearly all of western Europe.

The Napoleonic period was followed by an era of restored legitimist constitutions. These charters represented a rough compromise between a return to the practices of the ancien régime and Napoleon’s revolutionary regime. The compromise in many European countries resulted in written constitutions, an American idea introduced in European nations for the first time. But as one scholar observed, the written constitutions were “conceded and revocable, the condescension of a prince to his subjects and not the freely adopted instrument of a sovereign people.”1

Many constitutions underwent other changes during the 1830s. The French Charter of 1814, the archetype of all the legitimist constitutions, was revised as the result of the French revolution of 1830. Bourbon kings who had been restored to power violated the terms under which the Restoration had operated. Although sovereignty of the people was not recognized in the revised charter of 1830, the strict legitimist position became unacceptable, and “1830 [became] the half-way house to 1848.”2

A new trend, constitutional monarchy, appeared after 1830 as the sovereignty of the people became better recognized and the power of kings more limited. This change, coupled with the important development of Jacksonian democracy in America, resulted in a more receptive attitude toward American constitutionalism. Constitutionalists all over Europe—in Norway, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Italy and Greece—began to examine the American model more carefully as a catalyst, example, and source of inspiration.3

American Constitutionalism and Norway’s Constitution of 1814

In Norway in the early 1800s, the people had become discontent with their centuries-long union with Denmark. Meeting in Eidsvold, the Norwegian (p.144) estates declared their independence, invited a Danish prince to be their king, and promulgated their constitution in 1814. Within six months, however, they had to abandon the king of their choice and accept a Swedish king. Although the constitution of 1814 remained mostly the same and reflected mainly indigenous sources, in some respects it emulated the U.S. Constitution.

From the time it achieved independence, America had fired the imagination of Norwegians, to whom George Washington was a great hero. One important leader of the Norwegian revolution of 1814 was Judge Christian Magnus Falsen, often called the “father of the Norwegian Constitution.” When his son was born that year, Falsen named him George Benjamin after his two favorite heroes, Washington and Franklin. The American Dream was obviously alive in Norway.4

Norway’s constitution makers also were quite familiar with many of the six seminal documents, including, of course, of the Declaration of Independence. When the constituent assembly met at Eidsvold, moreover, one delegate brought along a copy of the French translation of the first state constitutions. The men at Eidsvold were aware too of the work of the framers at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and of The Federalist.5

That these American models inspired Norway’s constitution makers is clear: a draft of the Eidsvold Constitution actually incorporated a word-for-word translation of article 30 of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, which articulated the principle of the separation of powers.6

Other Norwegian provisions showed parallels to the U.S. Constitution, including the listing of the Storthing’s legislative powers and its method of compensating lawmakers. The resemblance between the Norwegian constitutional rule of parliamentary immunity from arrest and the first article in the U.S. Constitution was striking. The same was true of the rules for impeaching members of the royal cabinet. Furthermore, the election of representatives was to be indirect, through a system in which they were chosen by primary electors, as was nominally done in the American presidential elections.7 The Norwegian Constitution of 1814—after America’s 1787 document, the world’s second oldest surviving written national constitution—thus revealed some direct borrowing from and parallelisms with its predecessor.

(p.145) American Constitutionalism and French Constitutionalists, 1800–1830s

In France, the political discourse regarding American constitutionalism during the first third of the nineteenth century was carried on primarily by three important commentators: Lafayette, Destutt de Tracy, and Alexis de Tocqueville.


Lafayette, entering his second phase as an Americanist, continued to be more a political activist than an original constitutional thinker. Although he presumably had retired in 1800 after returning to France from his Austrian prison, he actually played an important role in French affairs. He served as a mediator between contending factions, remained the principal figure in French–American relations, and continued to be an outspoken advocate for the U.S. Constitution. Through his correspondence with the leading constitutional theorists of the day—Destutt de Tracy, Benjamin Constant, and Jeremy Bentham—he became part of an important international intellectual network.8

While ruling France, Napoleon tried to co-opt Lafayette, but he failed. Although Lafayette claimed he was in retirement in his LaGrange estate, working as a “gentleman farmer,” he actually was writing to Jefferson and John Adams about constitutional matters. Hostile to Napoleon’s regime because of its authoritarian policies, Lafayette insisted on the Corsican’s abdication after Waterloo.

Once back in public life, Lafayette emerged as an important leader in the Chamber of Deputies, to which he was elected in 1814. He became the leading promoter of liberal institutions, many of which had American models. An advocate of nineteenth-century liberalism, Lafayette tried to steer a middle course between conflicting factions, insisting that the ancien régime could never be reestablished in France. The majority of Frenchmen, he maintained, had come to appreciate the advantages of liberty and were now more restrained in their demands for individualism. For that reason, he supported the charter of 1814 and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy.

Neither a strict royalist nor a radical, Lafayette remained a constitutional monarchist with strong republican tendencies. He hoped that France would establish a state based on French constitutional traditions, (p.146) and at the same time he borrowed ideas about political institutions from America and Britain. During his six years in the Chamber of Deputies, he opposed the constitutional principles proposed by the restored Bourbon kings.

In regard to America, Lafayette kept reiterating the principles he felt had shaped the U.S. Constitution and other American institutions. During his tour of the United States in 1824/1825, he observed that the American people “have founded their constitutions upon … [a] clear definition of their natural and social rights.” To Lafayette, this idea was important to world history and had inspired “immense majorities” in other countries. Despite the “combinations made … by despotism and aristocracy against those sacred rights of mankind,” he believed that in the end the American position would prevail.9

Throughout his U.S. tour, Lafayette kept repeating the same theme: that America’s commitment to the “sacred rights of mankind” in its Constitution was superior to the ideas held by European aristocrats. American children reared amid “liberty and equal rights,” he observed, would learn to love their “republican institutions” once they understood more about “those parts of the world where aristocracy and despotism still retain their baneful influence.”10

At the end of his tour, at a gathering at the White House where President John Quincy Adams was present, Lafayette reaffirmed his belief in the superiority of American institutions. He attributed it all to the U.S. Constitution:

[It was]. … a result of the republican principles for which we fought … a glorious demonstration to the most timid minds … of the superiority, over degrading aristocracy and despotism, of popular institutions founded on the plain rights of man, and where the local rights of every section are preserved under a constitutional bond of union.11

Upon returning to France, the aging hero was destined to play a key role in the revolution of 1830. While serving in the Chamber of Deputies, he was called again to head the National Guard, a symbolic post that gave him an unusual opportunity to regain some of the influence he had lost following his actions during the early 1790s. Although privately offered an opportunity to become president of the French republic, Lafayette declined, instead publicly embracing Louis-Philippe and helping make him the monarch. A limited constitutional monarchy, he felt, was France’s best (p.147) guarantee for liberty.12 He told Louis-Philippe that the U.S. Constitution was the most perfect document ever to come from the hands of man and that the American republic represented the ideal form of government.13

Lafayette was doomed to be disappointed, as Louis-Philippe’s policies soon drove him into the opposition. When Lafayette died in 1834, he was still struggling to achieve what he had consistently sought throughout his long career: liberty under law along republican lines.

In that quest, Lafayette retained his status as a “hero of two worlds.” He helped confirm the belief of many Americans in their uniqueness and the rightness of their constitutional accomplishments. Insecure in their new nationalism, Americans benefited from the reinforcement of imposing public figures abroad. Lafayette strengthened the image Americans had of themselves as a republican people who had engaged in a revolution unique in world history and who had written a constitution worthy of imitation.

Destutt de Tracy

One of Lafayette’s closest friends and fellow constitutionalists was Destutt de Tracy, a philosophe and economic theorist. Along with Benjamin Constant, they formed an important triumvirate and remained in constant communication.14 Tracy was the first to coin the word idéologie and was partly responsible for the rise of the idéologues, members of a philosophical movement based largely on a rationalist, sensationalist theory of knowledge.15 Tracy believed, for example, that an ideal political revolution should be based on reason and reform, and he viewed the American Revolution as a model.

Victims of self-deception, some idéologues had regarded Napoleon’s seizure of power as a timely rescue of liberty from the deadly hands of the Directory.16 Tracy himself served willingly as a senator during the Consulate and Empire periods but became disillusioned and eventually called for Napoleon’s abdication. Tracy’s friend Thomas Jefferson also had succumbed briefly to Napoleon’s charm and in 1801 accepted a nomination to the Class of Moral and Political Science of the French National Institute. Like Tracy, Jefferson saw eye to eye with Napoleon for a time and then became disenchanted.

More important intellectually was Tracy’s and Jefferson’s disagreement with the ideas of Montesquieu. Tracy wrote a critique of Montesquieu entitled Commentaire sur l’esprit des lois de Montesquieu and asked Lafayette (p.148) to send a copy to Jefferson, then president. He thought Lafayette could render the idéologues a great service by placing their works in the hands of an enlightened national leader.17 Jefferson’s response was highly enthusiastic: he praised the work, translated it himself, and promised to use it to educate American youth. He wrote to Tracy in 1811, declaring that the Frenchman had produced a “great desideratum … a radical correction of Montesquieu … [which] I consider … the most precious gift the present age has received.”18 Stating that he hoped to see the work “in the hands of every American student,” Jefferson was as good as his word. He recommended to the College of William and Mary that Tracy’s book be assigned as required reading in 1813.19

It is not hard to see why Jefferson thought so highly of Tracy’s “gospel,” as the Commentaire coincided with many of his own constitutional views. Like Jefferson, Tracy feared tyranny and supported popular sovereignty and representative government in theory. The Frenchman claimed that representative democracy, which he called “a new invention,” was unknown in Montesquieu’s time. Both Tracy and Jefferson disagreed, moreover, with Montesquieu’s hypothesis that the republican form of government was practical only in small countries. And on other major issues, such as the need for a written constitution, distrust of executive power, fear of government interference, separation of church and state, and condemnation of colonialism, the two friends held similar positions.20

But they disagreed on several important points. Tracy’s formula provided a liberal’s justification for the support of monarchism or republicanism, depending on the historical context, whereas Jefferson would never agree to a monarchy under any conditions.21 The same was true of the idea of a dual executive. Jefferson took exception to the notion, citing examples of pluralism in the executive branch in both American and French history that had failed.22

The two men were deeply divided as well over the concept of American federalism. Tracy thought it was impossible for France to apply the concept.23 Surrounded by powerful enemies on the European Continent, lacking the ocean barriers that protected America, and needing a strong central government for military reasons, France could ill afford to consider any form of federalism that might diminish the power of the central government.

Despite their disagreements, Jefferson continued to hold Tracy’s tract in high esteem. Five years before his death, Jefferson wrote to a family member that the Frenchman’s work was the “best elementary book on (p.149) government ever published.” He planned to make it “the textbook of the Political lectures of the University [of Virginia]” which he was helping establish,24 and when Lafayette visited the Virginia campus in 1825, he found the Commentary being used in the politics department.25


Alexis Charles Henri Maurice Clérel de Tocqueville was the Frenchman most responsible for spreading ideas of American constitutionalism. His brilliant two-volume book, Democracy in America, published in France in 1835 and 1840, was translated quickly and read throughout the Western world. A genuine classic, the work remains the single most important study of the United States and its institutions ever written by a foreign observer, with the possible exception of Bryce’s American Commonwealth.

Tocqueville’s main thesis was the threat of tyranny by a majority within a democracy, in other words, dictatorship by public opinion. He feared that the untutored masses might destroy liberty and equality within the United States. Although he believed the spread of democracy throughout the world was inevitable and irreversible, he was aware of both its promise and its possible dangers.

To Tocqueville the ideas of freedom and democracy were inseparable, if not synonymous. To him, freedom meant individual independence, for liberalism was still in its individualistic phase when he was writing. Democracy, however, was seen as a social state in which greater equality could be achieved. Although successfully integrating freedom and democracy was the mark of a free society, the democracy that Tocqueville advocated posed certain problems.

Tocqueville agreed that democracy equalized social classes and fostered broad political participation. At the same time, however, it tended to destroy those local institutions that traditionally protected individuals from the despotic power of the state. Tocqueville warned, therefore, that safeguards should be erected against the overwhelming power of any majority in a democracy that might erode the freedom and liberty of the individual.26

Tocqueville was an ardent admirer of two American constitutional documents in particular, the Constitution and The Federalist. To him America’s most original contribution was not the Declaration of Independence but the Constitution. He called the 1787 charter “a veritable work of art” and “the best of all known federal constitutions.” It was, he said in a (p.150) striking elaboration, “like one of those creations of human diligence which gives inventors glory and riches but remains sterile in other hands.”27 In the first edition of his Democracy in America, Tocqueville reproduced the entire text of the document.

In the chapter of Democracy in America devoted to the Constitution, Tocqueville addressed the question: “What Distinguishes the Federal Constitution … of America from All Other Federal Constitutions?” His answer? The American government was not a federal government but an incomplete national government. In previous confederations, peoples who allied for a common purpose had “agreed to obey the injunctions of the federal government, but they kept the right to direct and supervise the execution of the [U]nion’s laws in their territories.”28 In 1787, however, the Americans agreed not only that the federal government should dictate the laws but also that it should itself see to their execution.

Previously a federal government had had to appeal to subordinate governments to provide its needs. In America, however, the subjects of the Union were private citizens. When the Union wanted to levy a tax, for example, it did not turn to the government of Massachusetts but to each Massachusetts inhabitant. In other words, the Union could act directly on private citizens without going through the states.29

There was always, of course, the danger of too much centralization on the part of the federal government. Such a situation could create a problematic relationship and lead to tension between the democratic polity and the centralization allowed the federal government. Tocqueville thereby addressed “certain peculiar and accidental causes” that might bring about such a crisis and, in doing so, discussed the concept of federalism to show how such problems might be resolved.30

In arguing the theory of American federalism, Tocqueville weighed whether the tendencies toward consolidation or disintegration of the Union were greater. After evaluating the forces that united Americans and those in the confederated states that might motivate them to break away, he concluded: “The Anglo-American Union is in reality a more united society than some European nations living under the same laws and the same prince.”31 Tocqueville recognized, however, that there were certain weaknesses in his argument and listed the limitations of American federalism.32

In this connection, Tocqueville discussed what might be called “the informal constitution” compared with the formal written document. He noted, for example, that the New England township provided one of those (p.151) local institutions that established a sense of communal freedom as well as a social connection. It served as the basis of the principle of popular sovereignty operating within American society. The township succeeded in winning the affection of its inhabitants and created a strong local municipal spirit that formed those ties to the nation at large. Within the township, the theory and practice of popular sovereignty were developed to the highest degree. Local governments served as the safeguards and mediating agencies against the passions of the democratic masses, on the one hand, and the policies of the central government, on the other.33 Tocqueville believed that townships also provided an essential forum for the exercise of democratic liberties, and he envisioned a progression from the smallest political unit (the town) through the states and up to the federal government.34

When he turned to the institutional character of the Constitution, Tocqueville dealt with the idea of presidentialism, his position being that the executive power in the United States was “limited and exceptional.” Compared with the constitutional monarch in France, the American president was a feeble leader, indeed. He was elected subject to the will of the people which introduced an element of instability and was dependent on the national legislature in many situations. By contrast, a monarch had a much freer hand to exercise his authority.35

Tocqueville believed, however, that the weakness of the American presidency was the result of historical circumstances rather than the written laws. With this idea in mind, he predicted (presciently) that if the security of the United States were threatened in the future, the power of the presidency would grow accordingly.36

Along with federalism and presidentialism, Tocqueville considered judicial review one of the most interesting features of the Constitution. Almost all his information regarding the idea was drawn from The Federalist. He believed that an independent judiciary, armed with the power to declare laws unconstitutional, would help maintain balance in the federal system, check the legislative branch, and preserve the liberties of the people.

Judicial review would also act as a counterweight to the sovereignty of the people on which all of America’s political institutions rested. Unlike the judges in France and England, American judges could declare laws to be unconstitutional and thus serve as guardians against any democratic excesses by the legislature.37 Tocqueville stressed, too, the importance of preserving the independence of the judiciary. This was especially true for (p.152) the Supreme Court, which had been given the highest standing among the great institutions in the state. “No other nation [has] ever constituted so powerful a judiciary as the Americans,” Tocqueville concluded.38 Yet like other branches of the federal government, the judiciary itself had to be kept in check. The legislature had to take precautions lest the right of the courts to declare laws unconstitutional be abused and the president, by his power of appointment, could affect the composition of the Supreme Court.39

The Federalist was a second major source for Tocqueville’s ideas. He first read the essays while stuck on a sand bar in the Mississippi in the early 1830s and decided that the book “should be familiar to statesmen of all countries.”40 But the essays he used in his work were often not acknowledged because Tocqueville failed to indicate what he had borrowed.41

Tocqueville understood instantly the significance of the difference between the Articles of Confederation and the new Constitution as expressed in The Federalist. “The old Union,” he wrote,

governed the States, not the individuals. … The new federal government is … the government of the Union in all things within its competence; it addresses, not the States, but individuals; its orders are addressed to each of the American citizens, whether he be born in Massachusetts or Georgia, and not to Massachusetts or to Georgia.42

Madison’s famous Federalist 39, as one might imagine, was another favorite source for Tocqueville, and he based his description of the Union in large part on Madison’s language. Madison wrote about the Constitution’s being, strictly speaking, “neither wholly national nor wholly federal, but a composition of both,” whereas Tocqueville described the American government as “neither precisely national nor federal.”43 Clearly he plagiarized Madison without acknowledging it.

The Federalist also was the source for Tocqueville’s discussion of many institutional barriers in the U.S. Constitution as having been erected by the framers against popular despotism. These included various sections addressing such problems as the nature of American federalism, bicameralism, the system of indirect elections, the local jury system, legal and judicial establishments, the press, political parties, and the important function of voluntary associations in American society. Tocqueville’s discussion of these features revealed his grasp of the U.S. Constitution and its (p.153) merits.44 But it also demonstrated his insight into the significance of The Federalist, his interpretation of which did more at the time than any other commentator to spread the fame of Publius abroad.

In regard to the bill of rights tradition, Tocqueville was equally perceptive. His philosophy in this regard was set forth in his general statement that “up to now no one in the United States has dared to profess the maxim that everything is allowed in the interests of society, an impious maxim apparently invented in an age of freedom in order to legitimatize every future tyrant.”45

Tocqueville also compared the freedom of the press in America and France, noting that the absence of an intellectual center like Paris, the decentralized press in America, and the coarseness of the nation’s newspapers all made the press far less powerful in the United States. Freedom of the press, he observed, was a necessary concomitant of the sovereignty of the people as it was understood in America: no person would dare to suggest, therefore, restricting this freedom.46

Tocqueville believed that freedom of religion was particularly important to democratic societies like America because of the urgent need to instill morality in the people. The dangers of materialism inherent in all men, he felt, could be countered mainly by religion. Tocqueville was struck by the spirit of religion prevailing in the United States and believed that religion was a powerful contributor to the maintenance of America’s civil society.47

Finally, Tocqueville took up the freedom of association characteristic of American society, demonstrating how Americans continually resorted to this freedom to create a civil society. The voluntary associations that had sprung up paved the way for political ones, which strengthened democracy. Although the freedom of political association could lead to instability, he noted that in America, the reverse was true.48

Tocqueville did not discuss at great length the remaining three of the six seminal documents. He barely mentioned the Declaration of Independence and used the Articles of Confederation as a negative example to show the weaknesses of that government.49 But in the preface to the twelfth edition of Democracy in America, Tocqueville took note of the tremendous importance of America’s first state constitutions. They rested, he observed, on the “principles of order, balance of powers, true liberty, and sincere and deep respect for law … indispensable for all republics.” He concluded, moreover, that it was safe to prophesy “that where they are not found the republic will soon have ceased to exist.”50

(p.154) Tocqueville warned his fellow Frenchmen, however, not to copy American institutions slavishly. “Let us look there for instructions rather than models; let us adopt the principles rather than the details of her laws.” The laws of the French republic, he maintained, would and, in many cases should, differ from those of the United States.51 With this commentary, Tocqueville emerged as a classic example of Friedrich’s contention that the American model should serve as a catalyst for foreign constitutionalists to rethink their ways of governance.

American Constitutionalism and French Royalist Constitutionalists

A bitter struggle took place between 1815 and 1830 regarding the restoration of the monarchy between the ultraroyalists (ultras) who wanted to roll back the achievements of the Revolution, and the liberals and their allies who hoped to retain the reforms achieved up to 1814.52 The charter of 1814 incorporated some gains made in the Revolution: it guaranteed the principle of equality before the law, preserved the principle of religious toleration, and confirmed land titles acquired in the Revolution. It did not, however, reflect any influence of American constitutionalism.

The next charter, the French Constitution of 1831, though based primarily on indigenous traditions, reflected more British than American influence. An unstable compromise, the 1831 document took sovereignty from the Crown without expressly giving it to the people, and it created a parliamentary regime without guaranteeing government protection against monarchical manipulation. From the Restoration to 1831, a debate raged: should the settlement after the divisive French Revolution of 1789 be broadened, narrowed, or rejected altogether?

The French nobility, the ultras, were mostly hostile to the republicanism inherent in the U.S. Constitution. The killing of the French king, the slaughter of his family and friends, and the forced emigration of many aristocrats left the ultras fearful of republics in any shape or form. A few noblemen like Lafayette, to be sure, fought as officers in the American Revolution, became lifelong liberals, and retained friendships in the United States. But the vast majority of nobles were fearful of the symbol that a democratic republican America presented to the discontented elements in France.53

Some nobles, however, such as the comte de Ségur and the marquis de Barbé-Marbois, believed that France had something to learn by studying the United States and its Constitution. Both had been in America during (p.155) the revolutionary era, Ségur as the French consul general in New York and Barbé-Marbois as a young officer in Virginia. Both remained faithful friends of the United States and held a highly idealized view of the new nation. Their romantic vision was largely inspired by the philosophes and uncritical, and they and men like them continued to believe in the American Dream throughout the Bourbon Restoration. Ségur described America as a “political Eldorado” and considered the U.S. Constitution one of history’s most remarkable creations. Although both he and Barbé-Marbois agreed that the American form of government was not suited to the Old World, their admiration of it in the New World was boundless.54

Barbé-Marbois and Ségur were hardly typical of those who held royalist views. A better example was François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand, a French poet and statesman. Chateaubriand visited the United States in 1791 and toured for almost five months. As a twenty-three-year-old youth, he became disenchanted by what he saw: America’s materialism, ill treatment of the Indians, and ruination of the environment. His writings presented a hostile picture of America.

A true-blue royalist, Chateaubriand resisted both the French Revolution and Napoleon but welcomed the return of the exiled Bourbons and the charter of 1814. But his political views were complex and contradictory: although known as an ultra, he was not always in the king’s favor. He warned the king and ministers against what he considered their liberal policies and claimed they were leading the monarchy down the road to ruin. One of the founders of the theoretical and practical conservatism in his country, Chateaubriand kept insisting that America’s indigenous conditions made it impossible for either France or Europe to achieve its kind of constitution.55 Intermittently shifting his views, in his posthumous Mémoires d’outre tombe he gave a favorable view of republican America based on political realism rather than ideology.56

Belgian Constitution of 1831

The greatest triumph of constitutional monarchy during the mid-nineteenth century was achieved in the Belgian revolution of 1831. Once the Belgians won their independence from the Dutch, they repudiated the king and his legitimist constitution and declared that members of the Dutch royal family were ineligible to hold public office. They proclaimed the sovereignty of the people, wrote a constitution recognizing it, and installed a king whose powers were limited to those specified in the new (p.156) document. When the Belgians promulgated their new constitution of 1831, it became the most liberal governing document in Europe. The king was chosen by representatives of the people; the parliament became an organ of popular will; and the monarch had to take an oath to follow the constitution.

The section of the constitution labeled “Of Belgians and Their Rights” incorporated features from France, America, and Britain, as well as indigenous customs. The Belgian Constitution drew most heavily on the French Declaration of 1789 when expressing theoretical arguments regarding the basis for civil rights, but at the same time, it protected these rights from a more practical American point of view.57 The extensive catalog of enumerated civil liberties also reflected some American influence.58

Hailed as one of the world’s great democratic charters, the 1831 constitution upheld certain principles that were paralleled in the U.S. Constitution: limited powers in the executive branch, separation of powers, protection of civil liberties and private property, and, most important, the radical separation of church and state. The Belgians, however, depended more on indigenous than on foreign sources, so according to one commentary, half the constitution of 1831 was drawn from the 1815 Belgian Constitution and one-third from the 1830 French Constitution, leaving little room for the influence of the Americans and British.59

That the U.S. Constitution was much on the minds of the framers of the 1831 constitution, however, was evident from the comments of one of its framers, Désiré Pierre Antoine de Haerne. Speaking to the national parliament almost half a century later, Haerne remembered how deeply American principles had influenced Belgian constitutionalists: “We found a great people worthy of entire imitation, and it is the institutions of that people we have chiefly inscribed upon our organic charter. We have followed their example in all that regards public liberty, the distribution of power, the election of representatives and decentralization of rule.”60

American principles refracted through the Belgian prism, therefore, indirectly affected much of the rest of Europe throughout the nineteenth century. The Belgian Constitution of 1831 served as a model for several other charters: the Spanish Constitution of 1833, the Greek Constitutions of 1844 and 1864, the Luxembourg Constitution of 1848, the Prussian Constitution of 1850, and the Bulgarian Constitution of 1864.61 It was a classic example of the idea of world syncretisms at work.

(p.157) Jacksonian Democracy and European Constitutionalism

The romantic image of America as a republic—“a TransAtlantic Arcadia” peopled in theory by virtuous farmer-citizens who loved liberty—started to change when the Jacksonian movement for greater democracy developed. America became increasingly identified as a representative democracy rather than as a republic, particularly in France. Although Alexander Hamilton had used the term representative democracy during the founding era, this characterization of the American system was not generally accepted by European intellectuals until the 1830s.62 The idealization of America gave way to a more realistic picture as additional European travelers visited, early observers like Lafayette died, and political party differences became more obvious.63

European conservatives then began to view American constitutionalism in a new light after the rise of the 1830s Jacksonian liberalism. Although critical of Jacksonian democracy as a whole, they were attracted by the conservative nature of American constitutionalism which demonstrated that in the tension between republicanism and democracy, democracy did not necessarily have to degenerate into mobocracy.

At this time, the American system was being interpreted by European conservatives as a variation of the British, one that aimed to eliminate some of the presumed degeneration in the Westminster model, such as the cabinet system and role of political parties. What this approach overlooked was that the British themselves had long ago rejected elements of the Westminster model, like the executive right to veto. In a surprising contradiction, therefore, despite their fear of Jacksonian democracy, some European conservatives found attractive certain elements of the American liberal movement under Jackson.

As party strife in America became more pronounced, however, European constitutionalists began criticizing the United States for fostering political parties that encouraged conflict. The divisive slavery question in particular was seen as contradicting the emphasis on consensus stressed by French constitutionalists who still held to the concept of “the nation one and indivisible.” America was also seen as being more depraved in economic terms as the society was increasingly judged to be materialistic, profit driven, and greedy.

Ironically, these criticisms came at a time when important constitutionalists were taking note of the spread of democracy as a worldwide (p.158) phenomenon. Tocqueville wrote that it was evident to all that a great democratic revolution was rising everywhere. John Stuart Mill in England shared that vision, and Chateaubriand, though often hostile to it, was forced to admit democracy was spreading with the United States as its leading exemplar.

Liberals in France whose influence increased after 1830 were among the first to acknowledge the changing American image. They seemed more willing to accept American institutions and the ideas of Jacksonian liberalism, although not necessarily the social structure of the United States as a whole or belief in an outright egalitarian society.64 Despite these qualifications, America began to enjoy a reputation as an important model among French liberals. Without this change in attitude, it is unlikely that American constitutionalism could have played the important part it did in France and elsewhere during the European revolutions of 1848.

American Constitutionalism and German Constitutionalists, 1800–1848

For Germany, the first three decades of the nineteenth century were only a period of preparation in regard to American constitutionalism. Then when German constitutionalists, jurists, and political thinkers gradually acquired a more realistic picture of the United States, they better understood the possibilities of applying American solutions to Germany’s constitutional problems.65

There is no evidence that American constitutionalism had any influence on the 1815 Constitution of the German Confederation, despite its experiment with federalism. Once established, however, comparisons between it and the U.S. Constitution became inevitable, even though such analogies were usually inaccurate because the American model was so frequently misunderstood.66

One major exception to such inaccuracies was the work of Robert von Mohl, a giant in the field of German constitutional history. Mohl, a liberal, helped shape much of the thinking in Germany about the U.S. Constitution, not only in his day, but for a long time to come. Regarded by many as the greatest German political scientist of his time, Mohl produced a stunning pioneering work as a young man. No systematic study of the U.S. Constitution had been available in Europe before his monumental Das Bundes-Staatsrecht der Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-Amerika (p.159) was published in 1824. Although dubbed “Germany’s de Tocqueville,” Mohl actually anticipated his French counterpart by more than a decade.67

Mohl’s masterpiece was divided into six chapters, each dealing with a separate subject: the member states in the American Union, the Constitution, the separation of powers, the relations between the states, the relationship between the states and the federal government, and the rights of American citizens. American constitutionalism, he concluded, was the “miracle of our time.”68

Mohl was interested particularly in federalism, democracy, and judicial review, and his ideas about American federalism were best expressed in a subsequent publication. For example, he questioned the conventional wisdom that America’s success was derived mainly from the country’s favorable circumstances. Instead, it was the federal form of government, Mohl concluded, that enabled America to make the most of its advantages. The Constitution had satisfactorily resolved two of the most pressing problems of democratic government: how to establish a republic in a large territory and how to reconcile the participation of all citizens in public affairs with the then current notion of freedom, which called for the least possible government interference with the individual.69

Mohl considered federalism and popular sovereignty the most important contributions of the American governmental system. When studying the Constitution, he grasped instantly the distinction between the Staatenbund and the rarer and more complicated form of federal union, the Bundestaat. The Bundstaat, he observed, was formally a state and not just a treaty among states that remain independent or, at best, form a defensive alliance. A Bundestaat possessed all the attributes of an ordinary state, with its own legislation and laws binding directly on individuals and a government having all the means necessary to execute its laws by establishing federal courts. The Bundestaat was distinguished from an ordinary state only insofar as it was divided into different and separate “provinces” that were free to handle their own internal affairs. While meeting the criteria as a Staatenbund, Mohl asserted, the United States as a federal union was also fully qualified as a Bundestaat. To support his conclusion, Mohl enumerated the constitutional limitations on the states besides the different aspects of national sovereignty.70

On the issue of democracy, Mohl articulated his views best in the reviews he wrote later of Tocqueville’s work, as well as in his own commentary on the California and Massachusetts constitutional conventions of (p.160) 1849 and 1853. Like Tocqueville, he was aware that democracy was on the march worldwide. Democratic ideas were penetrating aristocratic circles everywhere. While casting about for a model democracy, he chose the United States and analyzed the democratic ideas at work in America, discussing their relative advantages and drawbacks.71

Mohl’s high regard for the U.S. Constitution led him to predict that it would play an important part in Europe’s future development. America was the best “prototype” to evaluate the workings of democracy under modern conditions, he wrote, because of the peaceful environment under which its ideas had developed.72

But along with his praise, Mohl pointed out some serious problems. Like Tocqueville after him, Mohl warned about the tyranny of the majority and its consequences for the freedom of individuals. Representative democracies like America tended to become more and more democratic over time, he observed. But by their very nature they failed to provide sufficient protection against the abuses of power: large majorities were often guilty of being unfair to minorities. There could be no freedom of the mind under majority rule because it was difficult for individuals to fight against the way of thinking held by a majority. Although there would be no accusations or punishments, resistance against majority public opinion would be resented deeply, and the social status of those individuals involved would suffer.

As a result, popular despotism had the effect of suppressing any serious discussion on intellectual matters. On this basis Mohl determined that intellectual life in America was more oppressed than even in the most absolutist of European countries. The natural outcome was a provincialism, a narrow-mindedness, and a passionate clinging to accepted values. This condition inevitably led to intellectual mediocrity, which was evident in America’s low level of education, lack of talented writers, and scarcity of creative artists.73

Mohl sensed also a decline in the quality of America’s political leadership. From the founding fathers to the presidencies of Andrew Jackson and Franklin Pierce, there had been a discernable downward trend. The “relatively aristocratic” founding fathers had been able to devise a government independent of public opinion because of their secret deliberations in the Philadelphia Convention. But as time went on, “the whole spirit of the people in all strata has changed slowly, step by step, but inevitably, as [if] it were sliding on a slanted plane, toward more democratic beliefs and institutions.”74

(p.161) The broadening of the suffrage, Mohl believed, resulted as well in the destruction of any aristocracy based on merit. It promoted the election of mediocre candidates to public office, men who simply flattered and pandered to the masses. This trend, he implied, did not bode well for the future of American democracy.75

A number of institutions that the founding fathers had considered indispensable to the protection of lawful liberty had already fallen victim to what Mohl called the “neodemocratic spirit.” For example, Ohio, as well as some newer states entering the Union, was electing judges directly. Democratic demands that a short time ago would have been branded as “completely senseless” were gradually being taken for granted.76

One feature of the U.S. Constitution that most fascinated Mohl was the idea of judicial review. In fact, he considered this concept “one of the boldest and most interesting experiments in modern public law.” But great as his admiration was for this feature, he doubted judges had the right to decide whether legislation was unconstitutional under the separation of powers.77

Mohl’s perception was that the Constitution had been freely adopted by the American people as a whole and that national power rested naturally on the will of the people rather than on any concessions made by the states. National power, he wrote, was necessary to prevent any petty adherence to states’ rights, and any determined resort to states’ rights would result in the destruction of the federal government, general anarchy, and a civil war.78

After discussing the Constitution, Mohl turned to the other seminal documents, including the Declaration of Independence. His treatment of that text was insightful because his primary emphasis was on the freedom of the individual. On those grounds, he made an interesting observation by contrasting the Declaration and Constitution. The Declaration, on the one hand, cherished the idea of equality and made no distinction concerning individuals. The Constitution, on the other hand, divided the population into different classes, including slaves, and made other social distinctions.79

Mohl held America’s first state constitutions in high esteem because they made wider use of the idea of popular sovereignty than did the U.S. Constitution. He then commented on the purity of the first state constitutions and on their decline once subsequent state charters grew more detailed. The later state constitutions reflected a “neodemocratic spirit” evident in such features as the election of judges and other local political (p.162) officials. Persons could now vote who had “no pertinent ties whatsoever to the State, and often had not even been residents.”80

Mohl had a great regard for The Federalist, recognizing its value to the science of government everywhere. “It would be difficult,” he wrote, “to render a more careful and more brilliant account of the principles and essential institutions of the American Constitution.”81 But Mohl went even further, claiming that the work was “one of the best publications in the general field of politics and public law.”82

Finally, Mohl took up the bill of rights tradition. Although his main concern again was freedom of the individual, he was not prepared to allow liberty to degenerate into license. He was opposed, for example, to the unlimited freedom of the press. Newspapers, he wrote, appealed to the baser human passions, as they encouraged people to accept superficialities and discouraged serious political discussions.83

Mohl’s magnum opus and other writings had a tremendous impact throughout Germany and marked the beginning of serious interest in American constitutionalism. Although he admired the country, he was sufficiently detached to criticize its deficiencies as well: “The United States is by no means a paradise inhabited by angels, and her institutions are not of utopian excellence.”84 Mohl’s honesty gave his work an aura of objectivity, and his writings set the stage for the 1848/1849 constitutional dialogue in Germany in which he took part.

From an institutional point of view, one German development in the 1830s of special interest to constitutionalists everywhere was the creation of the German Customs Union, or Zollverein. It highlighted the role of American constitutionalism by extending the concept of federalism beyond the political realm into the economic.85 The Zollverein established a free-trade zone throughout much of the country and was seen as a significant step toward the ultimate unification of Germany. Some intellectuals viewed this system as a nonrevolutionary way to bring about great change in both the economic and political spheres.

To some reformers like George Friedrich List, a German economist who briefly migrated to the United States, the use of high tariffs among nation-states was anathema. Commercial warfare meant that the states remained separate entities and economically divided from one another. But if the states could get together and form a federal union, they could carry on free trade with one another over a larger area, an idea that explains why American-type federalism attracted foreign theorists like List.

(p.163) The German political economy began to prosper after 1818 when List persuaded German governments run by petty princes to drop their high tariffs and create a Zollverein. List gave a speech in 1827 in the United States urging it to practice free trade. At the time, however, Henry Clay was calling for the opposite position, establishing an “American System” to protect young American industries against foreign competition. As a result, List’s idea was never accepted.

List was a man well ahead of his time. He viewed the United States as a perfect model of a free-trade zone not only for Germany but for the entire world. “If the globe were united by a union like the twenty-four states of North America,” he wrote, “free trade would be quite as natural and beneficial as it is for the union.”86 List was, indeed, a predecessor of the European Union and other integrated economies of modern times that anticipated globalization.

American Constitutionalism and Switzerland: “The Swiss Contagion,” 1798–1848

Switzerland was greatly influenced by the U.S. Constitution during the first half of the nineteenth century, by what one scholar called the case of American–Swiss “constitutional contagion” between 1798, the year the unpopular Helvetic Constitution was imposed by the French, and the famous 1848 Swiss Constitution.87

With the collapse of the Helvetic Confederation in 1803, a controversy ensued regarding the future direction of the Swiss government. Under the Helvetic Confederation, the sovereignty and independence of the cantons were abolished, and power was centralized under a five-man directorate. Two opposing views dominated this debate. One favored the increased centralization under the republic, and the other supported the stronger cantonal powers, which had a long-standing tradition. Over the next half century, these two views—those of the “Unitarians” who wanted a more centralized government and those of the “Federalists” who desired stronger cantonal rights—could not be reconciled. But in either case, both invariably discussed the American model.

Besides federalism, bicameralism was another significant feature of American constitutionalism that attracted the Swiss. The idea of a two-house legislature, however, had become tarnished during the first half century because domination by the French had resulted in a wave of xenophobia against any foreign influences. Those favoring the U.S. (p.164) Constitution as a model were hesitant, therefore, about introducing yet another foreign example.

The French revolution of 1830 brought about some sudden changes. Swiss liberals, influenced by events in France, removed aristocrats from government in a series of cantonal coups d’état and promptly set up new establishments based on popular sovereignty. Thus began the so-called period of regeneration (1830–1848), during which the cantons shifted sides on issues according to changes in the domestic political scene.

Switzerland now reflected a patchwork of conflicting subcultures: ethnic (German, French, Italian), religious (Catholic and Protestant), economic (industrial and agricultural), and occupational (lawyers, farmers, and merchants, among others). Such competing groups made any kind of consensus on constitutional matters almost impossible. But in 1832 the liberals, many of whom were antidemocratic and antitraditionalist rather than true democratic radicals, persuaded the federal Diet to consider making changes in the central government. By doing so, they paved the way for further discussions by proponents of American-style federalism.88

Even before this move, certain groups and individuals had advocated changes based on the U.S. Constitution. The Helvetic Society, a private organization composed of public-spirited citizens from all parts of Switzerland and founded in 1761, had long suggested constitutional reform. Heinrich Zschokke, president of the organization, historian, and admirer of the United States, urged that the American model be followed. During the dark days of repression, he had written an article in 1818 entitled “Europa’s Niedergang, Amerika’s Aufgang” (Europe’s Fall, America’s Rise), which closed with this peroration: “From now on America shall be the home of human culture and the lighthouse of the globe, towards which the individual sages in all countries will look back with yearnings and grateful blessings.”89 In 1829 Zschokke was still singing the praises of the American federal state as the “lighthouse of the globe.”90

An even more important publicist was Ignaz Paul Troxler, a learned doctor turned philosopher from Lucerne and a member of the Helvetic Society. Troxler was probably more responsible for the adoption of the American-style bicameral system than any other single individual.91 More cosmopolitan and less provincial than his compatriots, he argued against the proposed draft constitution in 1833 and claimed that a federal state would serve Switzerland’s needs best. At the same time, he urged the adoption of the American bicameral system and remained faithful to this concept throughout his life. In 1848 he published a political pamphlet (p.165) appropriately entitled “The Constitution of the United States of America as a Model for the Swiss Federal Reform.”92 Troxler, like Zschokke, believed the Americans had created a constitution that had universal significance. “Through their federal constitution,” he wrote, “they have translated into life an ideal of social organization which from now on in the history of the world must be looked upon as the authoritative pattern of all federal republics.”93 Troxler’s writings ultimately helped overcome the xenophobic prejudice against the U.S. Constitution.

One of the reformers influenced most by Troxler was Karl Kasthofer, an elderly forester from Berne. Kasthofer helped popularize the “American system.” To counter the nationalistic prejudice against foreign ideas, Kasthofer produced a widely circulated didactic pamphlet in which he propounded the doctrines of American federalism and bicameralism and demonstrated how they might be adapted to Switzerland despite the great differences.94

Thomas Bornhauser, another influential reformer, was a political pastor from Thurgau whose famous pro-American sermon in 1834 became one of the most popular writings of the time. Published in a pamphlet, it took the form of a make-believe dialogue. The principal exchanges were between two fictional characters, Treuherz (Trueheart), who advocated the American system, and his opponent, Schweitzerbart (Swissbeard). Under the guise of a give-and-take discussion, Treuherz concluded that not all American institutions should be copied in Switzerland: “We should, however, base our new federal constitution on the fundamental principles which experience has so gloriously consecrated beyond the Atlantic.”95

All three men were German-Swiss, hailed from German-speaking cantons, and had attended German-speaking universities that offered courses on American civilization and U.S. constitutional law.96 Their writings, therefore, reflected their upbringing and educational background.

In contrast, James Fazy, a fervent supporter of “the American system,” was a leader of the French-Swiss point of view. Born in Geneva, Fazy spent some time in France, returned to Switzerland, and began publishing in the liberal Journal de Genève. He produced a draft constitution in 1837 which, one scholar claims, resembled the American model more closely than any other proposal before or after. Among its features were a bicameral legislature, a single executive somewhat similar to the American president, a separation of powers, and a bill of rights guaranteeing religious tolerance, equality before the law, and rights of assembly, speech, and free press.97 Fazy, like Troxler, had been deeply influenced by The Federalist.98

(p.166) Although the U.S. Constitution received a sympathetic hearing in the 1830s, no important constitutional changes were made. Faced with a deadlock, political opponents became mired in fierce fights that went nowhere. These clashes moved to the battlefield when a civil war erupted in 1847, which finally broke the existing gridlock and led to constitutional reforms in 1848.

American Constitutionalism and Poland: An Object Lesson

Poland, which promulgated the world’s second national written constitution in 1791, was well aware of American constitutionalism. Because Poland had been broken up between the 1770s and the 1790s, it was the usual practice among intellectuals to contrast America’s “success” with Poland’s “failure.” Poland lost its statehood when European powers partitioned Poland in 1772, 1793, and 1795, until it disappeared altogether as an independent country. But Charles Francis Adams, writing in the mid-nineteenth century, shrewdly observed that America might have had equally serious disorders had the positions of the two countries been reversed. Much of the success or failure of any given form of government, he suggested, could be traced to circumstances that had no connection whatsoever to the intrinsic value of the constitution involved. In Poland’s case, the lack of natural protective boundaries created a virtually insurmountable problem. If the United States had suffered Poland’s geographical disadvantages, Adams observed, “it is at least open to question” whether its constitution would have survived intact.99

Americans themselves had experienced partition fears of their own when on the verge of declaring independence, but on different grounds. The founding fathers had worried about a possible partition of North America by England, France, or Spain, and Philadelphia newspapers kept mentioning the European powers’ “partition spirit” during the spring of 1776. With the Polish partitions on their minds, members of Congress were driven to adopt the Declaration of Independence immediately. Among those who specifically referred to such a partition was Richard Henry Lee, who proposed the resolution for the Declaration.100

The American Dream, though dimly perceived in the distant reaches of Poland, sometimes became quite visible. Thaddeus Kościuszko, a Polish patriot who fought with the Continental army, was inspired for the rest of his life by his American experience. Returning to his homeland, he led Polish troops against the Russian armies that invaded his country (p.167) to suppress the reformist Constitution of 1791. When the Russians completed their occupation and forced the Polish king to renounce the constitution, Kościuszko fled into exile. After an underground movement was formed in Poland in 1793, he was asked to lead it. Standing before an immense crowd in Krakow in 1794, he solemnly vowed to regain Poland’s independence.

During the ensuing Polish revolt, Kościuszko exercised virtual dictatorial powers as a political and military leader. At the same time, however, he tried to introduce policies similar to those in America. For instance, to promote greater equality in the conservative Polish society, he issued a proclamation in May 1794 freeing the serfs. A Kościuszko-inspired pamphlet, Can the Poles Fight Their Way to Independence? made specific references to the United States and even envisaged an institution patterned after the American Congress.101

Late in 1794, Russian troops put down the Polish uprising, and Kościuszko was wounded, captured, and imprisoned in Russia until 1796. After his release the following year, he traveled to the United States where he formed a lasting friendship with Jefferson. Rushing back to Europe in 1798, he was encouraged by Napoleon’s rise to power to believe that the French leader might advance Poland’s cause. But Kościuszko was to be disappointed. His subsequent proposal to the Russian czar in 1814 to establish a large Polish state with a liberal social order was likewise ignored, and his dreams remained unfulfilled.

American Constitutionalism and Russia in the 1820s

The one-day drama of the Decembrists in Russia was a sharp contrast with the decades-long Polish struggle for independence. Generally speaking, the goals of those involved in this well-known Russian conspiracy were quite varied. As one scholar put it: “It was possible, in Poland, to be a patriot without becoming a revolutionary, whereas in Tsarist Russia, any sincere liberal was bound to become a revolutionary, at least from the moment when granting a constitution to Russia proved a dream.”102 Such was the case of the Decembrist conspirators in 1825.

In 1815, Russian army officers battling Napoleon had occupied Paris. They were soon exposed to Western liberal ideas, including those of France and indirectly those from America. Secret societies were formed in the Russian officer corps and other elements of society, but members of these underground groups held contradictory views about the changes (p.168) they desired: some sought a constitutional czardom; others demanded a republic; and a few even dreamed of emancipating the serfs.103

Although quickly put down, the Decembrist revolt was highly significant. It was the first modern revolutionary movement in Russia—an effort inspired by an ideological program—and therefore different from the earlier mass upheavals. The revolt provided the basis for a legendary past that inspired Russian dissidents for decades. Both the “radical” Decembrists like Pavel Ivanovich Pestel, who advocated a republic, and Nikita Murav’ev, who favored a limited monarchy, had been influenced by the U.S. Constitution. In the first version (1823) of his Russkaia Pravda, Pestel called for a republican system with full democracy and a popular vote. Murav’ev’s draft constitution, which provided for a constitutional monarchy and a federal organization of the Russian empire, was patterned in certain ways after the American document. Remnants of these ideas survived in the writings of Alexander Herzen, a liberal socialist, and exercised considerable influence later.104

American Constitutionalism and Hungary

Hungary, like Poland and Russia, also was touched by the wave of revolutionary upheavals that affected Europe intermittently throughout the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Opposition movements in all these countries were led mainly by noblemen, some of them impoverished.

Hungary, then part of the multiethnic empire of the Hapsburg monarchy, had a long history of discontented noblemen. The Magyars, the local aristocracy, had been restless under Austrian rule during the early 1800s. Well before the Hungarian revolution in 1848, a generation of reformers—Stephen Széchenyi, Nicholas Wesselényi, Louis Kossuth, Francis Deák, and Sándor Farkas—were singing the praises of America. They showed a deep interest in the U.S. Constitution and had been inspired by the American Dream.

Stephen Széchenyi, called “the greatest of the Magyars” by Louis Kossuth, leader of the Hungarian revolution of 1848, was not only a member of the nobility but also a cosmopolitan citizen of the world.105 After living most of his life abroad until he was thirty, he returned to his homeland and began spreading liberal Western ideas. So enamored was he of American thought, he was dubbed “der Americane” by the ladies in Viennese society.106

(p.169) Széchenyi’s view of America was highly idealized, however. It was part of the high esteem in which he held the achievements of the Anglo-Saxon world as a whole, which he considered to be civilized compared with the barbarity elsewhere. His enthusiasm for America—“the Land of the Future,” in his words—was boundless. He dreamed of visiting the country one day, though a dream never realized.107 In his writings in 1819, he compared America with the ancient Roman republic. Just as the torch of civilization had passed from Asia to Europe to Rome, so too culture and perfection had moved from the Old to the New World, but with one important difference: the Roman republic had remained a small city-state, whereas everything in the United States was on a grand scale.

Széchenyi also made an important distinction in the Anglo-American world between Britain and America. Impressed with America’s strong sense of independence, he felt the new nation would find it impossible to imitate the mother country or to copy its political institutions. To support his argument, he pointed to the differences in behavior and physical appearance of the two peoples as well as their dissimilarities in manufacturing.108

These comparisons, drawn from Széchenyi’s 1829 “Code of Conduct,” were significant for several reasons. They indicated that America appealed to liberals and reformers in central Europe well before the publication of the Hungarian edition of Tocqueville’s work. And they revealed the breadth of Széchenyi’s political perspective and demonstrated his interest in comparative government. He intended to visit England one day to study the parliamentary reform movement and to compare it with the workings of American democracy.109 Despondent over his failure to realize his goals, Széchenyi became mentally unbalanced and later took his own life in 1860.

Sándor Bölöni Farkas, a Hungarian writer who traveled to the United States in the early 1830s, had a different purpose in mind. This middle-aged nobleman set out to publish a primer on democracy for feudal Hungary and succeeded in producing a work that became a best seller: Journey in North America, 1831. Farkas analyzed American democracy and used its model of government to argue against Metternich’s despotic regime.110 The book’s success was unprecedented in nineteenth-century Hungary, a society in which book reading was relatively rare.

While in America, Farkas met Tocqueville, who was in the midst of writing his Democracy in America. A comparison of Farkas’s Journey and Tocqueville’s Democracy is instructive. Unlike Tocqueville, Farkas made (p.170) more concrete references to the U.S. Constitution and other documents, whereas Tocqueville’s approach was more abstract.111

Farkas associated the genius of American politics with its two founding documents, the Declaration and the Constitution. “To me,” he wrote, “the declaration of the rights of mankind … is the most significant, and the rest is just the frame around it.” Aware that slavery violated the “principle of natural law,” Farkas boldly prophesied that the United States would one day end the institution and achieve the ideals expressed in the Declaration. He was under no illusions that emancipation would be easy and was quite skeptical about the organizations already in existence for that purpose. Nor did Farkas believe that freeing the slaves would usher in any kind of American golden age.112

His brilliant insight, however, caught the true meaning of the Declaration, which he reprinted almost entirely in the first edition of Journey in North America. Farkas eloquently insisted that the document’s uniqueness derived from its radical departure from European charters of freedom, which were royal grants subject to the ruler’s discretion. The Declaration, in contrast, “declares that just power derives from the consent of the people who entrust some rights to the government. The language of the Declaration is not the language of diplomacy but the language of natural law.”113

Farkas likewise grasped the essence of the U.S. Constitution when he compared how a European king exercised power with how an American president would do so. Europeans were used to the notion of a godlike ruler as “the elect of heaven” and familiar with the spectacle of “his halo” creating officials who surrounded him with “glitter and splendor” in order to be “obeyed and feared by subjects.” As a result, they were unable to comprehend the “direct simplicity” of American presidents. This experience had instilled the belief that “fear teaches obedience,” but the Americans nonetheless rejected this centuries-old European tradition.114

Farkas captured also the historical significance of the first state constitutions. Even though they differed in form, the documents “shared some fundamental principles.” After drawing up their constitutions, the states entered the “Articles of Union” on their own volition and jointly created the Congress. Farkas reprinted the text of the New Hampshire Constitution as an example, identifying it as the first of the new state constitutions.115

Farkas’s depiction of the U.S. Constitution as a model that could fulfill the moral and rational nature of the individual reflected the civic (p.171) humanism in which he believed deeply.116 The importance of his Journey in North America to the intellectual life of Hungary is difficult to overestimate;117 its ideals carried his influence to the revolutions of 1848.

American Constitutionalism and Italy from 1800 to the 1830s

Italian constitutional thinkers, as noted, had indigenous traditions stretching back to ancient Roman times; nevertheless, their discussions of the U.S. Constitution played a small, though significant, role in developments after 1800. This contribution was made possible by a few educated Italians who kept abreast of constitutional changes in America through the writings of their own countrymen and foreign authors.118

The American Dream thus remained alive in the region. It was revived early in the 1800s by the remarkable four-volume history of the American Revolution published by Carlo Giuseppe Botta in 1809. A physician and historian from Piedmont, Botta had been inspired in his youth by the French Revolution and became a Jacobin. But in 1792 when he attempted to emulate his French friends in his native land, he was thrown into prison. After escaping to France, he served as a doctor in the army and then settled in Paris where he met and became friends with Lafayette.

Botta’s book, translated into English in 1820, instantly became a best seller in both Italy and the United States, going through twenty-two printings in Italian and sixteen in America during its first forty years. So thorough was its coverage that Harvard University adopted it in 1839 as the textbook for its course on the American Revolution.119

Botta’s history had severe shortcomings, however. He overlooked much of the civil war between the loyalists and patriots, put speeches into the mouths of persons who may or may not have uttered them, and was uncritically pro-American. His work focused too much on military affairs (as was the style of the time) and gave short shrift to social and economic history.

In regard to constitutional matters, however, Botta was very perceptive, singling out developments that had worldwide consequences and demonstrating his sound grasp of American constitutionalism in three ways. First, he underscored the importance of covenants, such as the Mayflower Compact, which had served as constitutional precedents. Second, he highlighted the importance of constitutional conventions—“conventions extraordinary,” in his words—to produce “a system” in order “to satisfy the world that Americans could govern themselves by their own laws.” He believed the same was true of the first state constitutions. Third, he wrote (p.172) extensively about the Declaration of Independence, calling it a “manifesto” for “all mankind.”120 Botta’s work, together with that of Tocqueville translated into Italian in the 1830s, served as the major sources for Italians reading about American constitutionalism.

Botta’s success soon led to imitators, and in 1812/1813 Carlo Giuseppe Londonio published an exhaustive survey of the American colonies from settlement through independence. Whereas Botta had concentrated mainly on military history, Londonio stressed social and economic developments. In his survey, he analyzed the Declaration, reproduced the complete text of the U.S. Constitution, and included a copy of the federal Bill of Rights. Londonio also introduced two themes that appeared time and again in subsequent Italian histories: the by-now standard critique of the weakness of the Articles of Confederation, as compared with the strength of the U.S. Constitution, and an attack on slavery as the fundamental flaw in American society. In addition, he dwelled on the fate of the Native Americans and their condition in what had been their land before the European settlements.121

In the 1820s Giuseppe Compagnoni wrote a two-volume work on the United States which, like Londonio’s, began in the colonial period and ended in his own time. Compagnoni praised the U.S. Constitution and “considered [it] to be the best among all constitutions until now.” His account included a detailed discussion of every single article in the document. “America today,” he wrote, “appears on the way to an orderly [development] which to … old and corrupt Europe should be [a source of] shame and a lesson.”122

Not all the histories by Italian writers had a positive outlook. In 1818 Giovanni Grassi, a Jesuit who came to America to head a new Catholic school in Georgetown near Washington, D.C., published a short history which went through three editions in Italy.123 He was skeptical about America’s future success as a republic. France, Grassi noted, had gone from the blindest fanaticism for liberty to abject slavery and feared America might suffer the same fate.124

Another critical view came from a more radical source. The Jacobin sculptor Giuseppe Cerrachi visited the United States twice in the 1790s and was deeply disappointed in the results of both the Revolution and Constitution. In his eyes, neither was radical enough. Cerrachi came to his conclusion from the perspective of an extreme revolutionary. On his first visit in 1790, he stayed for two years, was welcomed warmly, and was admitted to the small select circle around Washington, Hamilton, and (p.173) Jefferson. But on his second trip, from 1794 to 1795, Cerrachi’s pro-Jacobin sympathies, outspoken criticism, and friendship with a French diplomat in Philadelphia during the period of America’s neutrality made him persona non grata. After returning to Europe, he was involved in radical movements in both France and Italy and died on the guillotine in 1800 for plotting to assassinate Napoleon.125

Italian observers from the American Revolution through numerous European revolutions were kept well-enough informed about the new republic to allow educated readers to sustain the American Dream. The U.S. Constitution, however, became much more meaningful as Italians approached the revolutionary period of 1848 and began thinking more about the kind of government they would establish once they gained independence.

American Constitutionalism and Greece, 1820s

Although during the early decades of the nineteenth century, most European revolutionaries were inspired by the French Revolution, the Greek revolution against the Turks in the 1820s was an exception. Adamantios Korais, a Greek patriot, grew disenchanted with French Enlightenment thinkers and turned instead to Jefferson and other American founders.

Korais met Jefferson when both were in Paris in the 1780s and interested him in the Greek cause, later seeking Jefferson’s help when shaping a constitution for the new Greek republic.126 Although many leaders of the Greek independence movement were cosmopolitan merchants living in Paris and influenced by French thought, others like Korais were affected more by American ideas.127

The American public likewise had a great affection for the Greeks. Many founding fathers, like Jefferson, considered themselves heirs of the cultural and constitutional traditions of ancient Greece, and discussions in the Constitutional Convention were filled with references to Greek republic city-states and ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle.

Indeed, enthusiasm for the Greek independence movement was so great in the 1820s that it was dubbed the “Greek fever.” President James Monroe wanted to support the Greek cause and at times seemed ready to challenge conservative European powers in contradiction to the doctrine that bears his name. The Greek independence movement, in fact, nearly succeeded in making America change its policy toward intervening in European affairs.128

(p.174) During their war for independence, the Greeks turned to the U.S. Constitution as their model when considering their new government. The structure of the Constitution of Epidauros of 1822, for example, was based on French, British, and American models. The Greek executive council was headed by a president who held many of the same powers as did the American president. The Greek judicial system likewise bore a slight resemblance to the American model: it had an appellate court system, was headed by a supreme court, and enjoyed relative independence from the other two branches of government.129 Such parallelisms showed that the Greeks were well aware of the American model.

When Korais wrote to Jefferson seeking advice on constitutional matters in 1823, he received an interesting response. Jefferson urged Korais to look instead at the state constitutions, warning that the principles of government in ancient Athens and other city-states could no longer be applied to “doctrines of the present age.” Given the size of Greece, Jefferson recommended a unitary rather than a federal state. Expounding on federalism, states’ rights, the system of checks and balances, bicameralism, and the differences between a collegiate as compared with a single executive, Jefferson instructed his friend. He strongly advocated, for example, the American idea of amendments and the incorporation of a bill of rights.130

Jefferson’s ideas fit well with Korais’s. He believed also that the decline of ancient Greece had been caused by the dissension among the city-states. Korais denounced the idea of direct participation of citizens in the government and agreed with Jefferson’s reservations regarding American-style federalism for Greece.131

After the Greeks declared their independence, the Constitution of Troezen was adopted in 1827. Essentially indigenous in character, the document borrowed also some elements from both the U.S. and French constitutions. It explicitly affirmed, for example, the principle of popular sovereignty. The document also recognized the distinction between the legislative and constituent process in constitution making. Any thought of a constituent constitutional convention based on popular participation, however, was impossible under existing political circumstances. The Greek bill of rights embodied the ideal of the rule of law and reflected respect for the rights of citizens. It guaranteed equality before the law, security of life, liberty, and property, as well as freedom of speech and the press. Although many details of the Troezen Constitution did reflect Jefferson’s advice, any application of his views resulted as much from the (p.175) political situation in Greece as from conscious borrowing.132 Although the constitution was stillborn, those parallelisms helped provide some basis for the Greek democratic state that eventually emerged.


That American constitutionalism was much on the minds of many European constitutionalists from 1800 to 1848 is quite clear, though not as much as during the first echo. Time and again, however, constitutionalists considered ideas from America’s six seminal documents in their role as catalysts, examples, or inspirational models.

Nevertheless, the main constitutional issue dividing liberals and conservatives in Europe until 1830 was still the French Revolution. Even in those countries interested in American constitutionalism, the focus remained on France. Only with the advent of Jacksonian democracy was America considered seriously as a subject in its own right. The idea began to be recognized that for the first time since ancient days there now existed a country based on popular sovereignty by its citizens. Yet even many European liberals who acknowledged this development still viewed America as a “fledgling.”133 The primary political role of American constitutionalism appears to have been as an alternative model used mainly by opponents to attack the established regime.

The interlude years were, however, highly significant as a preparatory stage for the European revolutions of 1848. Without the changed attitude toward the United States, the continued spread of the six documents throughout western Europe, and the appearance of constitutionalists like Tocqueville and Mohl, the revolutions would have lacked their significant American dimension.

Constitutionalists aside, much evidence shows that the common people of Europe were increasingly influenced by American constitutionalism. In the year before the 1848 revolutions broke out, the United States had clearly been established as the primary destination for Old World immigrants coming to the New World. About 1.3 million people, or 79 percent of the total, came from the British Isles.134 Obviously, many came because of their grasp of the English language. But how many were motivated also to cross the Atlantic because they learned by word of mouth about the land where, it was said, “all men are created equal,” we shall never know.


(1.) John A. Hawgood, Modern Constitutions since 1787 (London: Macmillan, 1939), 92.

(2.) Ibid., 104.

(3.) The concept of a “representative democracy” as distinctly different from a constitutional monarchy did not begin to emerge in Europe until after the 1830s. See Klaus von Beyme, America as a Model: The Impact of American Democracy in the World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), 17.

(4.) Frede Castberg, Norway and the Western Powers: A Study of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oslo: Oslo University Press, 1957), 12.

(5.) Richard B. Morris, The Emerging Nations and the American Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), 95–96; Franklin D. Scott, Scandinavia, rev. and enlarged ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), 47; Stefan Björk-lund, comp., Kring, 1809 (Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1965), 114–19; and Castberg, Norway and the Western Powers, 5.

(6.) Franklin D. Scott, The United States and Scandinavia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950), 66.

(7.) Morris, Emerging Nations and the American Revolution, 96; T. K. Derry, A Short History of Norway, 2nd ed. (London: Allen & Unwin, 1968), 134; and Castberg, Norway and the Western Powers, 13.

(8.) Lloyd Kramer, Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 65. Kramer, Lafayette’s most recent biographer, goes out of his way to deemphasize the unfair label of “fool” fastened on Lafayette by Napoleon. Kramer emphasizes instead Lafayette’s important intellectual activities during this period, and I am inclined to agree with him. See Kramer, Lafayette in Two Worlds, chap. 3. The article “Lafayette,” by Patrice Gueniffey in Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, ed. François Furet and Mona Ozouf and trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), 224–33, is much less favorable.

(9.) New York Commercial Advertiser, August 19, 1824; and Kramer, Lafayette in Two Worlds, 204.

(10.) Cincinnati Advertiser, May 25, 1825.

(11.) Auguste Levasseur, Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825: Or, Journal of a Voyage to the United States, trans. J. D. Godman, MD, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Carey & Lea, 1829), 2:253.

(13.) Quoted in John McBride, “America and the French Mind during the Bourbon Restoration” (PhD diss., Syracuse University, 1953), 268.

(14.) Emmet Kennedy, A Philosophe in the Age of Revolution: Destutt de Tracy and the Origins of “Ideology” (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, (p.432) 1978), x–xi; and Lawrence S. Kaplan, Jefferson and France: An Essay on Politics and Political Ideas (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967), 92.

(15.) Kramer, Lafayette in Two Worlds, 56. Ideologist was the word coined by Tracy in 1802 to label the philosophical movement based mainly on the sensationalist theory of knowledge as a science of ideas. Although it was not intended to identify any group in particular, it affected many leaders involved in the French Revolution, except for followers of Rousseau and the Terrorists (91–93). See Cheryl Welch, Liberty and Utility: The French Idéologues and the Transformation of Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984).

(16.) Destutt de Tracy, along with his fellow ideologists, criticized Rousseau for having led the French Revolution astray by encouraging its experiments with egalitarianism and authoritarian rule. See Bernard Manin, “Rousseau,” in Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, 830.

(18.) Jefferson to Destutt de Tracy, January 26, 1811; cited in Kennedy, A Philosophe in the Age of Revolution, 211.

(20.) Antoine Louis Claude, comte Destutt de Tracy, Commentaire sur l’esprit de lois de Montesquieu (Paris: Mme. Levi, 1828), 19–20 and 97–98. Tracy qualified his generalization about republicanism in small-sized countries by pointing out that the Roman Senate had successfully governed a large territory in the Roman Empire. Tracy’s tract was published in English in Philadelphia by William Duane (1811). The edition cited here is that published in Paris in 1828.

(23.) Ibid., 212.

(24.) Jefferson to Francis Wayles Eppes, June 27, 1821, in The Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Edwin Morris Betts and James Adam Bear Jr. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1966), 439–40.

Jefferson and Tracy also were in general agreement on economic matters, with Jefferson subscribing to the critique of Montesquieu found in Tracy’s A Treatise on Political Economy (Washington, DC: J. Milligan, 1817); also see Drew R. Mc-Coy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 253. For a more detailed analysis of Tracy’s ideas, see David N. Mayer, The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994), 140.

(26.) See Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer and trans. George Lawrence, 2 vols. in 1 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969); George Wilson Pierson, Tocqueville and Beaumont in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1938); Jean-Claude Lamberti, Tocqueville and the Two Democracies, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, (p.433) 1989); J. P. Mayer, Alexis de Tocqueville: A Biographical Study in Political Science, 2nd ed. (Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1966); and James T. Schleifer, The Making of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), among many other works. There are, of course, many different ways of interpreting Tocqueville: see Robert Nisbet, “Many Tocquevilles,” American Scholar 46 (1976/1977):59–75. Whether Tocqueville embodied the true liberal temper of his times has been debated endlessly.

(28.) Ibid., 156.

(29.) Ibid., 157.

(30.) Ibid., 674–79.

(31.) Ibid., 373.

(32.) Ibid., 163–70.

(33.) Ibid., 58–98.

(36.) Ibid., 125–26.

(37.) Ibid., 8, 104, and 101.

(38.) Ibid., 149. There is an important typographical error in the Mayer edition which reads “every” instead of “ever.”

(39.) Mayer, ed., Democracy in America, 99. It is impossible to do justice here to the many perceptive insights of Tocqueville regarding the U.S. Constitution. My treatment is admittedly cursory.

(41.) James Schleifer identified the exact 1831 edition that Tocqueville used and showed that he borrowed heavily without attribution. See Schleifer, The Making of Tocqueville’s Democracy, 88.

(43.) Compare Madison’s Federalist 39 in The Federalist, ed. Jacob E. Cooke (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), 257, with Mayer, ed., Democracy in America, 157.

(45.) Ibid., 292.

(46.) Ibid., 180–88.

(47.) Ibid., 287–90.

(48.) Ibid., 520–24.

(49.) Ibid., 112–15 and 155–56.

(50.) Ibid., xiv.

(52.) See J. P. Mayer, Political Thought in France from Sieyès to Sorel (London: Faber & Faber, 1943); E. L. Woodward, Three Studies in European Conservatism: (p.434) Metternich, Guizot, the Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century (London: F. Cass, 1963); and Gordon Wright, France in Modern Times: From the Enlightenment to the Present, 3rd ed. (New York: Norton, 1981).

(54.) Louis-Philippe, comte de Ségur, Memoires ou souvenirs et anecdotes, 3 vols. (Paris: A. Eymery, 1825–1826), 1:423; Marquis de François Barbé-Marbois, Com-plot d’Arnold et de Sir Henry Clinton contre les États-Unis d’Amérique et contre le Général Washington (Paris: P. Didot, 1816), passim.

(55.) Le Conservateur 4 (1819):373–74.

(56.) Durand Echeverria, Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957), 212; Journal des débats, July 5 and October 25, 1826. For the posthumous record, see François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand, Mémoires d’outre tombe, 12 vols. (Paris: E. et V. Penaud frères, 1849–1850), discussed in McBride, America in the French Mind during the Bourbon Restoration, 187.

(58.) Albert P. Blaustein and Jay A. Sigler, eds., Constitutions That Made History (New York: Paragon House, 1988), 182–83.

(59.) Hawgood, Modern Constitutions since 1787, 141 and 146; and F. Reyntjiens, “Belgian Constitution of 1831,” in Blaustein and Sigler, eds., Constitutions That Made History, 131.

(60.) E. H. Kossman, The Low Countries, 1780–1940 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 157.

(62.) For Hamilton’s use of the term, see Willi Paul Adams, The First American Constitutions: Republican Ideology and the Making of the State Constitutions in the Revolutionary Era, trans. Rita Kimber and Robert Kimber, expanded ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), 289.

(65.) Among the first to contribute to this better understanding was the historian Christophe Ebeling. His massive seven-volume work on the history and geography of America published between 1793 and 1816 was a tremendous success, representing the most thorough work on the United States done by anyone, European or American, to that time. A professor at Hamburg Gymnasium, Ebeling taught a course on the history of free states. As he wrote to a friend with regard to America, he hoped to paint a “faithful picture of a truly free republic.” See Christophe Daniel Ebeling, Erdbeschreibung und Geschichte von Amerika, Die Vereinten Staaten von Nord-amerika, 7 vols. (Hamburg: C. E. Bohn, 1794–1816); Michael Kraus and Davis D. Joyce, The Writing of American History, rev. ed. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 87; and Christophe Ebeling to (p.435) William Bentley, June 25, 1805, in “Letters of Christophe Daniel Ebeling,” ed. William C. Lane, Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 35 (1925):371. In his first volume, Ebeling declared, “The new constitution and the development of its consequences for the happiness of the people … is far too noteworthy to enable one to be satisfied with a brief presentation” (Ebeling, Erdbeschreibung, 1:viii).

(66.) Erich Angermann, “Early German Constitutionalism and the American Model,” in Reports, XIV International Congress of Historical Sciences, 3 vols. (New York: Arno Press, 1977), 3:1499–1516.

(67.) Gottfried Dietze, “Robert von Mohl, Germany’s de Tocqueville,” in Essays on the American Constitution ed. Gottfried Dietze (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 187–212.

(68.) Robert von Mohl, Das Bundes-staatsrecht der Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-Amerika (Tübingen: J. G. Cotta, 1824), 192.

(69.) Robert von Mohl, “German Criticism of Mr. Justice Story’s Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States,” American Jurist 15 (1837):3–6.

(71.) Dietze, “Robert von Mohl, Germany’s de Tocqueville,” 203–7. Mohl’s reviews of Tocqueville’s work were published in 1836 and 1844: “Amerikanisches Staatsrecht,” Kritische Zeitschrift 8 (1836):359; and “Entwicklung der Demokratie in Nordamerika und in der Schweiz,” Kritische Zeitschrift 16 (1844):275. The reports on the constitutional conventions appeared in Mohl’s Staatsrecht, Völkerrecht und Politik: Monographien (Tübingen: H. Laupp’schen, 1860), but Mohl’s ideas about American constitutionalism remained remarkably consistent over time.

(73.) Ibid., 204.

(74.) Ibid., 205.

(75.) Ibid., 204.

(76.) Ibid., 206.

(77.) Ibid., 199 and 212.

(78.) Ibid. 200.

(80.) Ibid., 532–33.

(81.) Quoted in Gottfried Dietze, The Federalist: A Classic on Federalism and Free Government (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1960), 13.

(85.) But see also Richard Marsh, “The American Influence in German Liberalism before 1848” (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 1957), 213.

(86.) Quoted in Margaret E. Hirst, Life of Friedrich List, and Selections from His Writings (London: Smith, Elder, 1909), xix.

(87.) William Rappard, “Pennsylvania and Switzerland: The American Origins of the Swiss Constitution,” in Studies in Political Science and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania Bicentennial Conference, ed. Hu Shih, Newton Edwards, Mark A. May, et al. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1941), 51. See also two other major works devoted to similarities between the constitutions of the two countries: Johann Jakob Rüttimann’s monumental Das nordamerikanische bundesstaatsrecht verglichen mit den politischen einrichtungen der Schweiz, 3 vols. (Zurich: Orell Fussli, 1867–1876); and Myron Luehrs Tripp, The Swiss and United States Federal Constitutional Systems: A Comparative Study (Paris: Libr. sociale et économique, 1940).

(88.) James H. Hutson, The Sister Republics: Switzerland and the United States from 1776 to the Present (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1991), 36.

(89.) Heinrich Zschokke, Ausgewählte Schriften, 16 vols. (Aarau: H. R. Sauerländer, 1830), 10:322; cited in Rappard, “Pennsylvania and Switzerland,” 69.

(90.) Heinrich Zschokke, [Das verhältniss der Helvetischen gesellschaft zum zeitalter] Rede an die Helvetische gessellschaft zu Shinznach (Aarau: Sauerländer, 1829), 42.

(92.) Ignaz Paul Troxler, Die Verfassung der Vereinigten Staaten Nordamerika’s als Musterbild der schweizerischen Bundesreform (Schaffhausen: Brodtmann, 1847), cited in Rappard, “Pennsylvania and Switzerland,” 93–95.

(94.) Ibid., 97.

(95.) Ibid., 101–2; quotation cited on 102.

(96.) Ibid., 102–3; and Sigmund Skard, The American Myth and the European Mind (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961), 31.

(98.) Georges Sauser-Hall, The Political Institutions of Switzerland, trans. Hugh Felkin (Zurich: Swiss National Tourist Office, 1946), 200.

(99.) In Charles Francis Adams, ed., Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States (1787), 10 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1850–1856), 4:374.

(100.) James Hutson, “The Partition Treaty and the Declaration of Independence,” American Historical Review 58 (1972):892. Others expressing similar fears at the time of partition and later were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine (894–96).

(101.) Piotr Wandycz, “The American Revolution and the Partitions of Poland,” in The American and European Revolutions 1776–1848: Sociopolitical and Ideological Aspects, ed. Jaroslaw Pelenski (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1980), 106. (p.437)

(102.) Stephan Kieniewicz, “The Revolutionary Nobleman: An East European Variant of the Liberation Struggle in the Revolutionary Era,” in Pelenski, ed., The American and European Revolutions, 272.

(103.) Ibid., 279–80.

(104.) Ibid., 279; Marc Raeff, The Decembrist Movement (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 100–18; and David Hecht, Russian Radicals Look to America, 1825–1894 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1947), 17–19.

(105.) George Barany, Stephen Széchenyi and the Awakening of Hungarian Nationalism, 1791–1841 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), 3. This first-rate biography portrays incisively the intellectual history of Hungary at the time.

(108.) Ibid., 176.

(109.) Ibid., 176–77.

(110.) Sándor Bölöni Farkas, Journey in North America, 1831, ed. and trans. Arpad Kadarkay (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1978), 5–6.

(114.) Ibid., 190–91.

(116.) Ibid., 37.

(117.) See Béla Király and George Barany, eds., East Central European Perceptions of Early America, Brooklyn College Studies on Society in Change (Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press, 1977), 111–12.

(118.) Raymond Grew, “One Nation Barely Visible: The United States as Seen by Nineteenth-Century Italy’s Liberal Leaders,” in The American Constitution as a Symbol and Reality for Italy, ed. Emiliana P. Noether (Lewiston, NY: Mellen Press, 1989), 120. I disagree with the fundamental premise of the Grew article, which tends to deemphasize the influence of American constitutionalism in Italy.

(119.) Carlo Botta, Storia della guerra dell’independenza degli Stati Uniti d’America, 4 vols. (Paris: D. Colas, 1809). Michael Kammen, A Season of Youth: The American Revolution and the Historical Imagination (New York: Knopf, 1978), 282, reports that in the spring of 1839 Jared Sparks gave the first course of lectures on the American Revolution and used Botta’s History as the assigned text; see Herbert B. Adams, The Life and Writings of Jared Sparks, Comprising Selections from His Journals and Correspondence, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1893) 2:375. See also Giuseppe Buttà, “Carlo Botta’s History of the War of Independence of the United States of America,” in The American Constitution as a Symbol and Reality for Italy, ed. Emiliana P. Noether (Lewiston, NY: Mellen Press, 1989), 69–79. (p.438)

(120.) Carlo Botta, History of the War of Independence of the United States of America, trans. George Alexander Otis, 2 vols., 6th ed. rev. (New Haven, CT: N. Whiting, 1834), 1:263–64, 344, and 355.

(121.) Carlo Giuseppe Londonio, Storia delle colonie inglesi in America dalla loro fondazione, fino allo stabilimento della loro indipendenza, 3 vols. (Milan: G. G. Destefanis, 1812–1813); and Emiliana P. Noether, “As Others Saw Us: Italian Views on the United States during the Nineteenth Century,” Transactions, Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 50 (1990):133–34.

(122.) [Giuseppe Compagnoni], Storia dell’America in continuazione del compendio della storia universale del sign. Conte di Segur, 2 vols. (Milan: Stella, 1820–1822), quoted in Noether, “As Others Saw Us,” 134–35. Compagnoni’s work was printed anonymously under Segur’s name as part of his twenty-eight-volume universal history, but Compagnoni is listed in the index as the author of these two volumes.

(123.) Giovanni Antonio Grassi, Notizie varie sullo stato presente della Repubblica degli Stati Uniti dell’America settentrionale (Rome: L. P. Salvioni, 1818).

(124.) Ibid., 43–44.

(125.) Emiliana P. Noether, “Giuseppe Cerrachi,” in Biographical Dictionary of Modern European Radicals and Socialists, vol. 1, ed. David Nicholls and Peter E. Marsh (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988), 50–51.

(126.) Nicholas Kaltchas, Introduction to the Constitutional History of Modern Greece (New York: Columbia University Press, 1940), 16. See also Paschalis M. Kitromilides, “Tradition, Enlightenment, and Revolution: Ideological Change in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Greece” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1979).

(127.) Paul Constantine Pappas, The United States and the Greek War for Independence, 1821–1828 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), 28.

(128.) Ibid., xvi, 15, and 26. Stephen A. Larrabee, Hellas Observed: The American Experience of Greece, 1775–1865 (New York: New York University Press, 1957), chap. 3; Pappas, The United States and the Greek War for Independence, chap. 3; and Edward Earle, “American Interest in the Greek Cause,” American Historical Review 58 (1972):44–63.

(130.) Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray [Adamantios Korais], October 23, 1823, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, 20 vols. (Washington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association of the United States, 1903–1905), 15:480–94; and Kaltchas, Introduction to the Constitutional History of Modern Greece, 16–17.

(132.) Ibid., 52–57.

(134.) Thomas J. Archdeacon, Becoming American: An Ethnic History (New York: Free Press, 1983), 42.