The “Many-Headed Monster” and its Critics in Revolutionary America
Yiannis Kokkinakis

It is well known that during the American Revolution the popular tradition embodied in state constitutions was undermined by the building of a more unified central government, a government that would keep the common people at arm’s length from power and decision making in the Union. The image of the American people as a disastrous monster gained ground before the “reign of terror” supplied the counter revolutionary forces with new arguments for restoring an earlier image of the multitude as a heinous Hydra. Anti-radical rhetoric in revolutionary America borrows images and argumentation from a highly articulated tradition of thought, a neglected aspect of which was linked to the image of a many-headed monster. In the first section of this essay I will present the aims of those who supported the construction of new constitutions in the former British colonies of North America. In the second and third sections I will focus on the representation of the “people” as a “many-headed monster” and the multiple implications that this had in 17th century England and revolutionary America. I will close with some thoughts concerning the long-term consequences of the fight against the “many headed monster” of radicalism in view of the advancement of a more conservative attitude towards the “people” embodied in the federal constitution of 1787.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/rhps.v3n1a8