Pub Date1997
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Democracy Reformed: Richard Spencer Childs and His Fight for Better Government

Bernard Hirschhorn
Greenwood Press

This biography, the first of Richard Spencer Childs, begins in the Progressive Era when Childs initiated and pursued two fertile ideas: the short ballot doctrine and the council-manager plan. Childs understood that the simplification of the task of the voter was a question pressing for solution and that the council-manager plan would transform municipal government. This comprehensive work discusses other aspects of Childs’ broad reform agenda. His proposals included: county government reform; reform in state government administration; unicameral state legislatures; reapportionment of state legislatures; selection of judges by appointment; replacement of elective county coroners with appointed professional medical examiners; democratization of state political parties; and reform of the Presidential nominating system. Based on Childs’ papers and personal interviews with Childs, this biography advances scholarship on the Progressive Era and contributes to the historiographical debate on the nature of reform.