This first examination in almost 40 years of political ideas in the seventeenth-century American colonies reaches some surprising conclusions about the history of democratic theory more generally. The origins of a distinctively modern kind of thinking about democracy can be located, not in revolutionary America and France in the later eighteenth century, but in the tiny New England colonies in the middle seventeenth. The key feature of this democratic rebirth was honoring not only the principle of popular sovereignty through regular elections but also the principle of accountability through non-electoral procedures for the auditing and impeachment of elected officers. By staking its institutional identity entirely on elections, modern democratic thought has misplaced the sense of robust popular control that originally animated it.

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