restricted access Bodin’s Puritan Readers and Radical Democracy in Early New England

The legal and political theory of Jean Bodin made a significant impact on ecclesiastical and constitutional ideas in the earliest puritan colonies in New England (ca. 1620-50), structuring the terms of debate over basic institutions. The Massachusetts regime was initialy considered a “popular state” with an “aristocratic government,” akin to ancient Rome and modern Geneva. Through the pressures of political conflict, however, the colony elite abandoned Bodin’s distinction between sovereignty and government in favor of Aristotelian ideas of mixture and balance. Radical democrats, by contrast, creatively adapted Bodin’s analytic protocols to advocate reforms that he would have abhorred.