a1 Department of Political Science, McMaster University E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article reappraises the political ideas of William Manning, and through him the trajectory of early modern republicanism. Manning, an early American farmer writing in the 1780s and 1790s, developed the republican distinction between “the idle Few” and “the laboring Many” into a novel “political theory of the dependent classes.” On this theory, it is the dependent, laboring classes who share an interest in social equality. Because of this interest, they are the only ones who can achieve and maintain republican liberty. With this identification of the interests of the dependent classes with the common good, Manning inverted inherited republican ideas, and transformed the language of liberty and virtue into one of the first potent, republican critiques of exploitation. As such, he stands as a key figure for understanding the shift in early modern republicanism from a concern with constitutionalism and the rule of law to the social question.