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It’s Time To Let Native Americans Practice Their Faith – Guest Essayist: Kristina Arriaga

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In “Federalist 51,” James Madison wrote, “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.” He went on to explain that for religious rights to be secure, pluralism is needed. Religious rights, he explained, “consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects…” Put simply, greater religious diversity equals greater religious liberty.

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How The Federalists Viewed Human Nature And Its Impact on The Resulting Government System In The United States of America (Part 2) – Guest Essayist: Amy Rofail

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The balance to solve the problems inherent in past democracies are addressed in the Federalist Papers. One topic that takes precedent is the idea of popular sovereignty and its dangers that can result in the tyranny of the majority. Whereas most Founders would agree that man is rational and capable of solving problems through reason, and that the will of the majority may be correct, this will is quite fallible. The recognition of this aspect of human nature lays the foundation upon which the Constitutionalists will devise the mechanisms and safeguards within government to allow for popular sovereignty to rule, but tyranny of the majority to fail.

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How The Federalists Viewed Human Nature And Its Impact on The Resulting Government System In The United States of America (Part 1) – Guest Essayist: Amy Rofail

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The founding fathers, particularly the writers of the Federalist Papers, were well versed in the classics, Greek literature, historical records of successes and failures of governments, and the political theorists of their era. The Founders’ views of human nature are the basis upon which they created a democratic republic such as they did in America. This paper will examine elements of the how the Founders’ viewed human nature, and how that view influenced the resulting mechanisms placed within the Constitutional government of the United States. This examination will focus on James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers Numbers 6, 10, and 51, and other writings of Madison. In addition, the theories and writings of the era that influenced both Madison and other founding members of the federal government will be reviewed.

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Executive Overreach And Its Effect On The Constitution’s Structural Safeguards Of Liberty – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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A t-shirt I saw recently embodies the ultimate justification for parental authority, “I’m the Dad, That’s Why.” Of course, substituting “Mom” works, as well. President Obama’s claims of executive authority to act when Congress fails to enact his vision about immigration matters, Obamacare, or the environment, similarly appears to be, “I’m the President, that’s why.” As a t-shirt slogan, it works; as constitutional doctrine, not so much.

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The Imperial Obama Presidency and the Demise of Checks and Balances – Guest Essayist: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

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Under President Obama, America has witnessed an unprecedented expansion of presidential power.  This is not merely the observation of political opponents.  Liberal law professor Jonathan Turley—who voted for President Obama—has reached the same conclusion:  “We are seeing the emergence of a different model of government in our country—a model long ago rejected by the Framers.”[1]  “What’s emerging,” according to Professor Turley, “is an imperial presidency, an über-presidency . . . where the President can act unilaterally.”[2]

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Federalist No. 51

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The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments
From the New York Packet.
Friday, February 8, 1788.

Author: Alexander Hamilton or James Madison

To the People of the State of New York:

TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places. Without presuming to undertake a full development of this important idea, I will hazard a few general observations, which may perhaps place it in a clearer light, and enable us to form a more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the convention. In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others. Were this principle rigorously adhered to, it would require that all the appointments for the supreme executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the same fountain of authority, the people, through channels having no communication whatever with one another. Perhaps such a plan of constructing the several departments would be less difficult in practice than it may in contemplation appear. Some difficulties, however, and some additional expense would attend the execution of it. Some deviations, therefore, from the principle must be admitted. In the constitution of the judiciary department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist rigorously on the principle: first, because peculiar qualifications being essential in the members, the primary consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice which best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the authority conferring them. It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices. Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other would be merely nominal. But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State. But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions. As the weight of the legislative authority requires that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified. An absolute negative on the legislature appears, at first view, to be the natural defense with which the executive magistrate should be armed. But perhaps it would be neither altogether safe nor alone sufficient. On ordinary occasions it might not be exerted with the requisite firmness, and on extraordinary occasions it might be perfidiously abused. May not this defect of an absolute negative be supplied by some qualified connection between this weaker department and the weaker branch of the stronger department, by which the latter may be led to support the constitutional rights of the former, without being too much detached from the rights of its own department? If the principles on which these observations are founded be just, as I persuade myself they are, and they be applied as a criterion to the several State constitutions, and to the federal Constitution it will be found that if the latter does not perfectly correspond with them, the former are infinitely less able to bear such a test. There are, moreover, two considerations particularly applicable to the federal system of America, which place that system in a very interesting point of view. First. In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments. In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself. Second. It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority. This, at best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority. In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government. This view of the subject must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere and considerate friends of republican government, since it shows that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated: the best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of every class of citizens, will be diminished: and consequently the stability and independence of some member of the government, the only other security, must be proportionately increased. Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradnally induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful. It can be little doubted that if the State of Rhode Island was separated from the Confederacy and left to itself, the insecurity of rights under the popular form of government within such narrow limits would be displayed by such reiterated oppressions of factious majorities that some power altogether independent of the people would soon be called for by the voice of the very factions whose misrule had proved the necessity of it. In the extended republic of the United States, and among the great variety of interests, parties, and sects which it embraces, a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good; whilst there being thus less danger to a minor from the will of a major party, there must be less pretext, also, to provide for the security of the former, by introducing into the government a will not dependent on the latter, or, in other words, a will independent of the society itself. It is no less certain than it is important, notwithstanding the contrary opinions which have been entertained, that the larger the society, provided it lie within a practical sphere, the more duly capable it will be of self-government. And happily for the REPUBLICAN CAUSE, the practicable sphere may be carried to a very great extent, by a judicious modification and mixture of the FEDERAL PRINCIPLE.

PUBLIUS.

Monday, June 3, 2013 – Essay #76 – The President of the United States by Woodrow Wilson – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Thomas Woodrow Wilson was dour, humorless, and convinced of the fallen nature of all but the elect few and of the need for strong leaders with proper principles who would provide the discipline and vision for the moral guidance of the weak at home and abroad. Calvinist in appearance, outlook, and family background, he perfectly matched the caricature of a Puritan. Those traits also made him a perfect Progressive.

Wilson was strongly influenced by 19th century German intellectual thought, especially Hegel’s views of the State as the evolutionary path of an Idea through history, and by contemporary adaptations of Darwinian theories to social science. He enthusiastically embraced the nascent ideology of the State. Read more

Thursday, February 28, 2013 – Essay #9 – The US Constitution – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Program Director, Washington-Jefferson-Madison Institute

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The Constitution

When Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were creating the University of Virginia, they decided that the three American documents that would best illuminate the meaning of the Constitution when teaching future statesmen were the Declaration of Independence (along with the ideas of John Locke and Algernon Sidney), George Washington’s Farewell Address, and the Federalist.

Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence expressed the universal principle that all men were endowed by a Creator with natural, unalienable rights.  Influenced by the ideas of John Locke’s social compact theory, the purpose of government was to protect those natural rights.

If any government became tyrannical, or destructive of the ends for which it was created, the people had a right to overthrow that government and to institute a government that would protect their rights. Read more

May 11, 2010 – Federalist No. 10 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

It’s been exciting to see so many blog participants today! A big thank you to those who are with us every day, and an enthusiastic welcome to some of our newer folks!   Each of you brings a unique and valuable perspective to these pieces.  The larger the group we hear from, the more complete and “whole” our understanding becomes!

I was fascinated by the descriptions of factions in human nature, with faction defined as a group, majority or minority, united by a common passion or interest “adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”  Knowing we can’t control the cause of these factions, the founders set out to control the effects.

Madison argues that a republic is more effective than a democracy in controlling the effects of factions.  I would bet that most citizens today cannot explain the difference between a republic and a democracy.  Federalist No. 10 not only explains the difference, but outlines the reasons why a Republic is more effective than a Democracy in representing the broad interests of the community and Nation.

I loved this sentence: “A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal distribution of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it.”

Madison saw “an equal distribution of property” as “improper and wicked.” There is a moral case to be made for allowing the spirit of free enterprise to reign in our society.  Men possess different abilities, and their “diverse faculties” produce different classes of property owners.  A republic balances the interests of these different classes.

Finally, towards the end of Federalist No. 10, a sentence that made me smile: “In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried.”  It is interesting to see that over 200 years ago, they still had problems with “dirty tricks,” in campaigns!

Thank you again to everyone for your insights today!!

Cathy Gillespie

3 Responses to “May 112010 – Federalist No10 – Cathy Gillespie”

  1. Dave says:

    Cathy, you commented on Madison’s acknowledgment that men by nature possess a diversity of faculties. But, what almost jumped off the page for me was the next sentence–”The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.” This idea is similar to what Jefferson wrote in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence telling us that governments are instituted among men to secure our unalienable rights. Our diverse faculties are such an integral part of who we are that they are probably as unalienable as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One can come to a paradoxical conclusion that when individuals with diverse faculties, situated differently in time and space, are truly free, the result is a whole lot of inequality–that’s material inequality not political inequality. So a necessary corollary of liberty is inequality and it then follows that a prime function of government is actually to protect inequality. Of course in the long run, society is better off if individuals are allowed to flourish using the unique faculties with which they have been endowed. This is a problem today in an era of identity politics, the politics of envy and class warfare–individuals can’t be allowed to flourish.

    It is clear to me that the Founders conceived of government, properly structured, as a means of protecting us from one another. The modern conception of government for most Americans is diametrically opposed to the Founders’ conception. Today, we have some Americans using government to invade the property rights and impair the faculties of other Americans. Government today is seen as a provider government; a government that will provide not only the bare necessities, but also a house, a job with a certain pay level, medical care, a car, internet, a cell phone and, most recently, appliances. And what most people fail to realize, or they do realize and just don’t care, is that before the government can provide anything to anyone it must first take resources or labor from some other citizens. So now we have an ever-growing segment of our population who wish to obtain for themselves through the force of government that which they refuse to provide for themselves by tapping into that quintessential American trait of an “unequaled spirit of enterprise.” The Founders no doubt were familiar with the fundamental law of economics that says, “Man tends always to satisfy his needs and desires through the least possible effort.” If it’s easier to get something through political means using coercion than through economic means using voluntary contracts and transactions, then men lacking virtue won’t waste any time to start organizing to gain control the political process with the singular aim of redistribution.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    Ah yes another prime example of the hubris of man. Man thinks that he can equalize and homogenize what GOD has created as diverse and interesting. This ranks right up there with the belief that puny man could possibly destroy anything as complex and wonderful as the climate of the earth. Yes we can soil to uninhabitability our own particular corner but on a global scale not so much.

  3. Madison also saw large corporations as an evil. so the “moral case to be made for allowing the spirit of free enterprise to reign in our society” was not as cut and dry as Libertarians make it seem. Madison wrote that “there is an evil which ought to be guarded agst in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations, ought to be limited in this respect” – – James Madison, Detached Memoranda, circa 1817

    This pretty much contradicts the “moral case to be made” in favor of a progressive case for trust busting and legislating against “too big to fail.”

 

 

May 11, 2010 – Federalist No. 10 – The Same Subject Continued: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection, From the New York Packet (Madison) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Monday, May 10th, 2010

Federalist 10 is a masterpiece of political theory and insight into human psychology. Almost every sentence is worth studying. The central theme, “republicanism,” carries over from its predecessor. At the core of classic republicanism, going back to the ancient Greek and Roman writers, lies “virtue.” Aristotle, Polybius, and Cicero, among others, saw an essential connection between personal (private) virtue and civic (public) virtue. This was, for most Americans, especially those drawn from Calvinist stock, one of those self-evident truths. An interesting statement of the preconditions for virtue is in the great Northwest Ordinance of 1787: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness [in the Greek sense of personal flourishing as a human being] of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.,” sentiments expressed almost identically by George Washington in his remarkable farewell address.

Writers on ideal republican systems that emphasized virtue were not faced with the task of constituting an actual working government. One of the asserted practical defects of republics and, worse, democracies, has been their political turbulence. Ever since Plato, Western political theory has emphasized the very practical need that government first and foremost ensure political stability. To that end, every political system must have a symbol or ideal around which to rally, something or someone that can bridge the inevitable tensions that arise among competing personal interests. In the English constitution, that symbol was the crown, and American writers in the 1780s worried about what the absence of a king might mean for the long-term stability of the United States. The political and economic turmoil that was endemic in many of the states was less than reassuring. In the United States, that common ideal was the promotion of republican virtue. Today, some would say, it is the Constitution.

The self-interested part of human nature was called the spirit of party or, more commonly, “faction.” Its effect is to undermine republican virtue, which demands sacrifice of the self or the group for the benefit of the whole. Faction is the anti-matter of classic republicanism The history of the early American republic, including Jefferson’s inauguration speech in 1801, almost wholly revolves around coming to terms with the reality of faction in a system that claimed to rest on republican virtue. Today, politicians still often appeal to bi- or non-partisanship as a republican value and libel their critics’ opposition as un-American selfishness. Truth be told, people love partisanship and engage in full-throated defense of their interests, and politicians quickly change their tune when their own oxen are gored.

Madison shrewdly exploits that. He writes that there are two ways to deal with faction: Address its causes or its effects. The first is impossible, as it would necessitate addressing the root cause of faction, fallen human nature. That is totalitarian, in that it requires remaking human nature by equalizing personal talents and possessions. Such a cure would be a destruction of liberty worse than the disease. Moreover, it actually would go against the duty of government to protect the natural inequalities of persons. We may all be created equal in the eyes of God or enjoy metaphysical equality, but we are not in fact all created equal in talent. Human society will always reflect inequalities in talent and differences of opinion, and we need to deal with the realities of human nature, not with pie-in-the-sky proposals to remake humans. Is anyone in D.C. listening?

He proposes instead to deal with the effects of faction. He sets out the danger of democratic systems, such as ancient Athens, where the ability of people to communicate with each other within a homogeneous and geographically confined polity allows permanent majority factions to appear that oppress minorities. Those endangered minorities are political and religious dissenters and the propertied classes. In fact, he singles out taxation as a tool particularly susceptible of abuse against them. Does this sound familiar at all? The opposite danger could also appear, in oligarchies, where a permanent minority faction might oppress the majority. The key, then, is to prevent both of these permanent conditions. Like Plato and Aristotle, among others, Madison sees both oligarchy and democracy as corrupt political forms. Like many of them, he proposes something he calls a “republic.”

The danger of oligarchy is mitigated by the republican principle of the vote. Easy enough. More difficult is the danger of unadulterated democracy. It is worthwhile to re-read his mellifluous and powerfully concise indictment of such a system in the paragraph that begins, “From this view of the subject….” The control, though not cure, for that ill is the element of deliberation introduced through the republican principle of representation. By itself that is still not enough, as small republics suffer from similar defects as democracies. The second crucial element to forestall oppressive permanent majorities is the large size of the American republic with its large and diverse citizenry. That lessens the dangers of popular passions easily communicated and organized to oppress the minority.

Madison cleverly turns the arguments of his opponents against them. Among Antifederalists, it was almost an article of political faith that a government for a large dominion inevitably becomes oppressive. Not content merely to defend the Constitution and the increased power of the national government against charges that the new system threatens liberty, Madison goes on rhetorical offensive against the political instability found in states with which his contemporaries were all too familiar. In a hard-hitting paragraph near the end (“The influence of factious leaders….”), he argues that the central government is less dangerous than states or localities. It is noteworthy what he perceives to be the bad results from too much democracy: “[A] rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project….”

Ingenious as his control of faction is by embracing its reality while blunting its worst manifestations (an issue to which he returns in Federalist 51), is he still right today? Certainly there are big variations in dominant popular political opinions between states or even within states. Though the contrast is becoming paler, there still is greater political homogeneity within particular localities than among Americans as a whole. On the flip side, mass communication and personal mobility, along with a weakening of intermediary institutions, make even our national system much more like the participatory or plebiscitary democracies about which Madison warned. Moreover, the central government, through means to be addressed in future papers, has taken on some of the very characteristics the Antifederalists feared. If that is the case, isn’t local control (and the ability to vote with one’s feet) more conducive to personal liberty than top-down central government from which there is no escape?

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums.  Read more from Professor Knipprath at: http://www.tokenconservative.com/ .

20 Responses to “May 11, 2010 – Federalist No. 10 – The Same Subject Continued: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection, From the New York Packet (Madison) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School”

  1. Susan Craig says:

    Wow! In my note taking for this paper, I found it hard not just to copy the whole thing! But the portions that hit the hardest were: “On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations:”

    AND

    “The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.”

  2. Maggie says:

    Excellent interpretation! You have clearly explained the very “soul” of this paper….I really have nothing to add. Thank you again for your time and willingness to help all of us learn more about our founding and the great men who were inspired to give us our Republic. Now let’s hope that it’s not too late to keep it.

  3. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I wish we could have had this Federalist Paper assignment over a weekend; there was so much in it that my thought process was constantly racing from one end of the spectrum to the other. I had to read this paper several times in order to take in all the ideas of information.

    For me, the main theme in this paper was the statement “There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.”

    Prof. Knipprath goes in great detail explaining the methods of removing factions, and the example he used regarding the differences in human talent spoke to me best.

    For years, I have told my children that everyone should be guaranteed an equal opportunity in life, but no one is guaranteed equal outcome. There are too many factors is life to make equal outcome impossible, no matter what any politician tells you. The factors that direct a person’s life are limitless and cannot be controlled.

    The following statement by Prof. Knipprath hit the nail on head as to why I believe many societies fail: ‘We may all be created equal in the eyes of God or enjoy metaphysical equality, but we are not in fact all created equal in talent. Human society will always reflect inequalities in talent and differences of opinion, and we need to deal with the realities of human nature, not with pie-in-the-sky proposals to remake humans.’

    I have heard it said that if you take all the wealth in the country and evenly distribute it among that country’s citizens, within a generation or two, the majority of the wealth will be back to its original distribution. Why? Because the spirit of the entrepreneur will always rise to the surface to better the situation around him. That spirit is always dissatisfied with the status quo.

    Sadly, many in our government believe in equal outcome, and have convinced a large portion of our country that this process is not only doable but sustainable. Both I believe to be false statements, and a major cause of faction in our country today.

    My humor statement of the day in this paper, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm”. Oh, if only I had time to debate this!

  4. Carol Frenier says:

    In the 1970s I taught American History in high school. I remember that Federal #10 was viewed as one of the cornerstones of the Federalist papers in the eyes of many historians, but it took me 65 years of living to see why. Quite simply #10 explains in the most realistic terms how people relate to their government: they form factions to get what they want.

    Madison’s definition of factions and its causes, plus his conclusion that removing the causes would essentially destroy liberty, are intriguing. But even more interesting to me is this passage which sums up the whole situation.

    “The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is…an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on sentiments and views of respective proprietors ensures a division of the society into different interests and parties.”

    The idea that it is the duty of government to protect the inherently different capacities in people is well worth pondering. Liberals and conservatives would probably react to this very differently. Many liberals might grudgingly concede that inherent differences are a reality, but they might also find it appalling—something for Progressives to alter via government action. Conservatives would more likely find it appalling that liberals would think this reality is something that could be changed, sort of like defying gravity. They would likely support the protection of such differences as the ground upon which people thrive and create.

    Wanting people to be free to use their inherent capacities (and wanting to protect the fruits of their labor) is not the same thing as being indifferent to the suffering of those in need, but it is often interpreted that way. The distinction between these two ideas is important for conservatives to get across to the electorate in November. We are, it seems to me, at a crossroads between reaffirming the protection of liberty as the bedrock of our political tradition or moving toward a nanny state in which differences of ability—and the creativity that results from those differences—are minimized and group identity and grievances are emphasized.

    As we debate these two political courses—often rancorously—we are ourselves caught up in factions. Can we calm the debate and minimize our different views by focusing on the values and principles that we all do agree on? How, for example, is the best way to integrate the ideas of liberty and fairness? Or liberty and compassion? What specific policies would contain good compromises between these competing passions and interests?

  5. Susan Craig says:

    What I am trying to figure out is the inclination of utopians is that they can legislate a change in human nature. It strikes me as absurd as trying to legislate gravity out of existence because I don’t want the pain caused when I fall down.

  6. Roger Jett says:

    In “Federalist Paper 10″, Madison lifts the veil to reveal what fearful impact “the reality of faction” has on any system were liberty receives value. Liberty requires breath, but Madison points out succinctly that the same air that gives us breath fuels the fire of factionalism. Professor Knipprath has been succinct also as he has expounded insightfully upon the issues raised. Madison in this writing, loaded the bases for our team and you sir have drilled it out of the park. I wonder to if “anyone in D.C. is listening?”.

  7. Kay says:

    This Paper #10 was by far the most exciting, probably because I see so much happening today mirrored in Madison’s reasoning. What were the particular factions existing in the time of the Constitution, and which Madison may have had in mind?
    “Liberty is to faction, what air is to fire,” seems to say there will always be issues of passionate viewpoint. Republican virtue would hopefully rise to the top if, a big if, office holders possess virtue. For those whose mantra is equality in every way, didn’t they ever tell their children that sometimes life is not fair? Also, what came to mind after reading: “But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property,” was the parable Christ told about the talents and how some capitalized on their talent, and how one of them did nothing with it. To me, that exemplifies human nature and spirit…how they move and work in their own domains. Governments can try to “equalize” everyone and our possessions, but as in the Soviet’s days, a greyness, dampness will occur over the people.
    Thank you again for the Professor Knipprath’s commentary and all the bloggers, who are adding day by day to my meager understanding!

  8. Maggie says:

    @ Kay….you said it perfectly when you stated “To me, that exemplifies human nature and spirit…how they move and work in their own domains.” It makes me think of “No Child Left Behind”. We educate all of our children in this country, but not all people have the same capacity for learning. We now spend more time trying to prop up those people who, sometimes, just aren’t going to get it while neglecting those who could be our future leaders. The brilliant minds of our youth are being held back to the lowest common denominator in the classroom. Sure, I think that those that are falling behind may benefit from extra help but not to the detriment of the rest of the class. The same goes for the business world. We can’t expect EVERYONE to be a great success…..we don’t all have what it takes. Trying to change that is a waste of time, effort and expenditures.

  9. Ron Meier says:

    This struck me most: “When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. We well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control.”

    This is what happens when one party controls both houses of Congress and the Presidency, which is what we have in 2010. The faction includes the executive and legislative branches, which are controlled by one party. In spite of the opposition of the majority of citizens, the majority faction controlling two branches of government was able to pass the health care law, which was based solely on ideological passion and not on what was best for the public good.

  10. Andy Sparks says:

    Professor Knipprath, thank you for the excellent essay on the Federalist 10 written by the foremost political mind of the founding generation. I find it interesting and appropriate that you reference the passage from the NW Ordinance (which was devised by the government under the Articles by the way) and relate it to George Washington’s farewell address. Realization of the comparison is evident given that James Madison initially wrote and Alexander Hamilton revised Washington’s farewell address. While the two primary authors of the Federalist essays eventually diverged on how government should be run under the Constitution, they are remarkably consistent on the reasons necessitating the Constitution at its inception.

  11. Susan Craig says:

    From readings I’m doing it appears that the Articles weren’t all that ineffective. Where it ran into difficulty was in the unanimous requirement for amendment and raising of revenue. I would like to know the reasoning behind Rhode Island’s obstructionist votes during this period. Each time amendments were brought forward under the Articles of Confederation Rhode Island was the lone state not to ratify and as there was a unanimous requirement they all went down to defeat.

  12. Susan Craig says:

    They also were the lone State to initially not send delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

  13. Quillhill says:

    Is the recent and current path of our federal government proving the Anti-Federalists correct?

  14. As usual, the quality of the comments is so impressive. A “thank you” also for the gracious responses to the blog post.
    Federalist 10 is in the top handful of the papers in insight and importance. It combines political theory with a clear-eyed view of political reality and how institutions work, as historical experience tells those who only have the will to listen.
    I was intrigued by s.th. Susan wrote, a point that probably will come up again in future discussions. Adoption of the Constitution was probably not as essential at that time as Publius makes it out to be. The main drawback of the Articles was, indeed, the difficulty of amendment. There were serious efforts to amend the Articles at least into 1786, and discussions even into 1787. The earlier efforts focused on getting Congress some independent revenue-raising power, at least as to import duties (s.th. that the King had had under his sovereign prerogative for a long time). Some focused on getting some kind of military power to force recalcitrant states to pay their obligations. Later efforts focused on finance, as well, but just as significantly, on a power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce. That would have superseded the Congress’s limited ability under the Articles only to arbitrate commercial disputes upon demand by the states.
    As to “Rogue’s Island,” as it was often known, there are two broad explanations, one high-toned, the other not so much. R.I. had a long democratic (for the time) tradition, with a royal charter that basically remained the state’s constitution into the 1840s (when a mildly violent “civil war” addressed the desire for reform) and protected civil liberties and voting rights. The state distrusted the federal government as an invitation to tyranny, exactly the kind of concern Fed 10 tries to assuage.
    The less honorable interpretation is that R.I. was a strong “debtor” state that had engaged in all kinds of chicanery regarding its public and private debts. Moreover, it was a state that had acquired quite a reputation for sharp commercial dealings. It relied on heavily on fishing and international commerce (including the slave trade), including smuggling. If a strong central government emerged, the state’s inflationary loose money policies, as well as its independent commercial course would be subject to control. The state had all those characteristics that Fed. 10 assigns to the most turbulent of small democratic states (“A rage for paper money, etc.”).
    Its convention voted 34-32 in 1790, after years during which no convention had been permitted to meet because the Constitution had lost in a popular advisory vote. The convention was called because the Bill of Rights had been proposed and because of threatened sanctions from other states (from taxing R.I. products as imports from a foreign country to using military force to quarantine or invade the place). “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”

  15. Everybody… thank you for your input. What I got from this reading is that we have been straying from the bed rock principles of human nature for some time now.It has us all caught up in a make believe world to some extent.Examples that come to mind,…the trophy generation children are being indoctrinated with this idea…..teachers not marking papers with red ink because some will “feel” bad, of course this was never the original intention of red ink. Raising children taught me many things ,among them was that each child was different an individual, they all had my love and attention but they all needed guidence in different area .Government needs to be there but mostly needs to get out of the way of the people,we can handle our own lives and resent intrusion , manipulation and trying to make us all something that someone else fancies is always a bad idea.,We are what we are and our founders understood the condition of man quiet well.

  16. Susan Craig says:

    Thank you, Prof. Knipprath (how do you pronounce that?). As a history fan it has been a head scratcher for me. I’ll wager things were quite lively in RI for a while.

  17. It’s been exciting to see so many blog participants today! A big thank you to those who are with us every day, and an enthusiastic welcome to some of our newer folks! Each of you brings a unique and valuable perspective to these pieces. The larger the group we hear from, the more complete and “whole” our understanding becomes!

    I was fascinated by the descriptions of factions in human nature, with faction defined as a group, majority or minority, united by a common passion or interest “adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Knowing we can’t control the cause of these factions, the founders set out to control the effects.

    Madison argues that a republic is more effective than a democracy in controlling the effects of factions. I would bet that most citizens today cannot explain the difference between a republic and a democracy. Federalist No. 10 not only explains the difference, but outlines the reasons why a Republic is more effective than a Democracy in representing the broad interests of the community and Nation.

    I loved this sentence: “A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal distribution of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it.”

    Madison saw “an equal distribution of property” as “improper and wicked.” There is a moral case to be made for allowing the spirit of free enterprise to reign in our society. Men possess different abilities, and their “diverse faculties” produce different classes of property owners. A republic balances the interests of these different classes.

    Finally, towards the end of Federalist No. 10, a sentence that made me smile: “In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried.” It is interesting to see that over 200 years ago, they still had problems with “dirty tricks,” in campaigns!

    Thank you again to everyone for your insights today!!

    Cathy Gillespie

  18. Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. Mesmerizing. I agree with Professor Knipprath words, “Federalist No. 10 is a masterpiece of political theory and insight into human psychology. Almost every sentence is worth studying.”

    Well said, Professor Knipprath and your essay today is quite brilliant, too, and thought provoking, as well. I thank you for your devotion to “Constituting America” and for all of your esteemed guidance.

    I thank all of you who have blogged with us today and for your stimulating dialogue.

    There is so much wonder, scope, knowledge, perspective and vision in this paper that I do not even know where to begin. I do believe I may have to meditate upon it before I can give it the respect it deserves.

    What am I learning is the difference between a democracy and a republic and through these papers, and this paper in particular, I am getting a clear vision about why we are a republic. Passions, individual perspectives and political factions breathe life into liberty but they must be channeled and curbed. The answers to this challenge lie in our representative form of government.

    To quote James Madison:

    “Liberty is to faction, what air is to fire, an aliment, without which it instantly expires”

    I am sharpening my insights regarding Republican virtues. These virtues deserve to be studied in school and taught in the home. We, as citizens, would be wise to delve into the psyche of the Revolutionary patriots, imbue their sense of virtue and wear their armor of valor. Ah, to breath the air they breathed, to feel the electricity they felt – the enlightment, the courage, the inspiration, the determination.

    Knowledge is power. How fabulous that we are on this journey, this path of understanding – for if we do not know what we have, we will not know what is being taken away. Spread the word. Let’s get as many Americans to join us as we discover the thesis of our great land – to preserve it we must observe it.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    May 11, 2010

  19. Carolyn Merritt says:

    I found #10 to be an exciting read. It was like reading the blueprint for today’s political atmosphere. In his first paragraph where he states “…that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties; and that measures are too often divided, not according to the rules of justice, and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and over-bearing party.” This brings to my mind the current steamrolling of health care, bailouts, etc., without regard for the majority of citizens’ voicing their opposition.

  20. Joe Drum says:

    Wow, these are the kind of insights I was hoping to find when I came to this site. Thanks Janine and Cathy and can we hear more from Professor Knipprath?

 

June 23, 2010 – Federalist No. 41 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Yesterday we passed the halfway mark for the 90 in 90: History Holds the Key to the Future Program !  We are more than halfway through our 90 day journey to read the Federalist Papers and U.S. Constitution in 90 Days!

A big thank you to all our 90 in 90 particpants.  We thank you for taking the time to read, and share your thoughts. Some of you blog so regularly, I feel I know you!  Others pop in from time to time, and it is always refreshing to read a comment from a new person!

Please continue to spread the word, and invite your friends.  Every comment adds to our group’s understanding.   Don’t be shy! Your comment or thought may be just the thing someone needs to read!

Thank you to Professor Knipprath for your enlightening essay.  You continue to be one of our groups’ favorite guest Constitutional Scholar Bloggers!  We appreciate you coming back on during the day to add comments and answer questions.  Today, your analysis of the Congress’s power to spend, and the general welfare clause was very helpful!

What a gift it is to read the writings of these brilliant men and have the benefit of hindsight – to be able to look back 222 years and see which of their predictions were correct, where the anti-federalists’ fears were substantiated, and to be able to heed their wise words, relating them to situations we face today.

As Professor Knipprath points out, Madison once again returns to addressing the anti-federalists’ fears of  a standing army.  Abuse at the hands of the British Army was a real and painful memory to our founding fathers.  And throughout history standing armies had become enemies of the people they were charged with protecting.

Madison wisely recognizes the need for the Union to be equipped to protect itself:

“How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation? The means of security can only be regulated by the means and the danger of attack.”

This statement is even more true today, when our enemy cannot be pinpointed geographically, and is ever present.  Thankfully, the anti-federalists’ fears of a standing army were unfounded.  As I mentioned in my Memorial Day essay, a recent Rasmussen poll showed that 74% of Americans have a favorable view of the U.S. Military.  Only 12% had an unfavorable opinion and 13% weren’t sure.

While the anti-federalists’ fears of a standing army were never validated, their fears of Congress’s power to spend certainly were!

Madison protests:

“Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.”

If Madison were alive today, I believe he might owe the anti-federalists an apology!  The anti-federalists’ worst fears about “an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare,” have been realized.  Congress’s taxing and spending is out of control, and the national government has reached into areas far beyond its enumerated powers.

What are we to do? In Federalist 51, Madison states, “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.”

“We The People” are to exercise our control.

“Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty, ought to have it ever before his eyes, that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America, a be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.”

I look forward to the next few Federalist Papers, as Madison defends the Congress’s powers, and we examine them in depth.

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 1, 2010 – Federalist No. 47 – The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts, From the New York Packet (Madison) – Guest Blogger: John S. Baker, Dale E. Bennett Professor of Law at Louisiana State University

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Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Although mentioned in previous essays, Publius formally began to address separation of powers in Federalist # 47.  Together with ## 48 and 51, #47 explained the unique understanding of that principle as built into the Constitution. The Federalists and Anti-Federalists agreed that separation of powers was essential to liberty, but disagreed on what that required in a constitution. Unfortunately, over the last century, the term “separation of powers” has almost disappeared from the civic vocabulary in the United States and been replaced by the term “checks and balances,” a term with an overlapping, but different meaning.

Federalist #47 affirmed the principle upon which the Federalists and Anti-Federalists agreed: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  Thus, the Founders did not believe that voting alone guaranteed liberty.

It must come as a surprise to many Americans to learn that the Federalists and Anti-Federalists emphasized separation of powers as an absolutely essential guarantee of liberty.  For many — if not most – Americans, the protection of liberty is primarily accomplished through the Bill of Rights.  The Federalist and Anti-Federalists agreed on the need for separation of powers, but not for a bill of rights. The Anti-Federalists criticized the proposed Constitution for a lack of a bill of rights, but the Federalists actually contended “that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous.” Federalist #84.

Instead of mere “parchment barriers,” i.e. paper protections, the Framers presented a “well constructed Union.” Federalist ## 10 and 39 laid out the plan and purpose of the extended, (con)federal republic. Without separation of powers, however, that structure would have been insufficient to prevent the consolidation of power in the central government.  Both parts of the structure came under attack as contrary to fundamental principles of liberty. In #39, Publius admitted that if the plan of the Constitution actually did depart from the republican principle, it would be indefensible. He did likewise in #47, admitting that if the Constitution ”really [were] chargeable with this dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system.”.

For separation of powers, as for the extended confederate republic, see Federalist # 9, Montesquieu was the authority appealed to by both Federalists and Anti-Federalists.  As with the extended (con)federal republic, Publius explained in # 47 that the claim that the Constitution violates the principle of separation of powers is mistaken.  Montesquieu relied on his understanding of the British Constitution to explain separation of powers.  Publius correctly observed that in the British Constitution “the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments, are by no means totally separate and distinct from each other.” Indeed, the British Constitution actually involved a “checks and balances” system, rather than one of separation of powers as understood by both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists.  That is to say, separation of powers as understood by Montesquieu and the Founders included a separate, co-equal judiciary.  Under the British (unwritten) Constitution, the judiciary has never been a separate, co-equal branch of government. Rather, at the time of our Founding, the British government involved a traditional governing system in which the one (the king), the few (the House of Lords), and the many (the House of Commons) checked and balanced each other.

Publius concluded that Montesquieu “did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency or no control over the acts of each other.”  (emphasis in the original) Rather, he said Montesquieu’s meaning “can amount to no more than this, that where the whole power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the whole power of another department, the fundamental principles of a free constitution are subverted.” (emphasis in the original).  He demonstrated the point by examining aspects of the British constitution, Montesquieu’s model.

Publius then considered the state constitutions.  He noted “that, notwithstanding the emphatical, and some instances, the unqualified terms in which this axiom has been laid down, there is not a single instance in which the several departments of power have been kept absolutely separate and distinct.” He addressed the constitutions of all but two of the states and quoted the “emphatical” language from a couple of them. While looking at the state constitutions in order to rebut the charge that the proposed Constitution violates separation of powers, Publius was not indicating that the state constitutions are an appropriate model for the new Constitution.

The last paragraph of #47 opened, stating “I wish not to be regarded as an advocate for the particular organizations of the several state governments.”  Indeed, the Framers created a government radically different from that of the state constitutions. In part, the differences were due to the fact of the federal constitution being one of limited powers, while the state constitutions have more general powers. In addition, however, the form of separation of powers in the federal Constitution differed significantly from that of the states.

In distancing himself from the state constitutions, Publius attempted to avoid giving offense by first offering a modicum of praise and an excuse for their deficiencies.  (“I am fully aware, that among the many excellent principles which they exemplify, they carry the strong marks of the haste, and still stronger of the inexperience, under which they were framed.). Nevertheless, Publius was clear that the state constitutions provided for separation of powers “on paper,” but not “in practice.” (“It is but too obvious, that, in some instances, the fundamental principle under consideration, has been violated by too great a mixture, and even an actual consolidation of the different powers; and in no instance has a competent provision been made for maintaining in practice the separation delineated on paper.”)

Professor John S. Baker is the Dale E. Bennett Professor of Law at Louisiana State University.

 

June 7, 2010 – Federalist No. 51 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Federalist 51 – what a quotable paper!  We have been busy on Facebook today (http://www.facebook.com/constitutingamerica ), rolling out many of the famous and insightful lines!

Thank you to Professor Baker for your wonderful essay, and for itemizing some of the well known quotes from this paper!

The biggest challenge we face today is our government “controlling itself.” As Publius points out:

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Publius is quick to knowledge, in this paper and in many others, that the greatest control on government is the people:

“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.”

Yet, the founders brilliantly erected a governmental structure designed to control itself, as well.  One of the most important controls is the federal structure, with power divided between the states and national government.  But power is also divided within the national government, between the three branches, and going even further, the founders gave each of the branches “tools” to “check” the other.

Despite this well conceived structure, our government is not controlling itself today.  The national government has encroached upon areas far past its enumerated powers, and into the purview of states, and individual rights. As we have journeyed through these federalist papers, we have often asked, “what went wrong?”  How could our founding fathers design a system based so carefully upon history, proven successes, with improvements on historical flaws,that could not protect us from an overreaching federal government.

We have come up with many answers:

*state budget shortfalls (in part a result of unfunded federal mandates) that necessitate federal dollars (with strings attached)

*the addition of the 17th and 16th amendments

*an aggressive Supreme Court that interprets the Constitution as a “living” document

*a Congress that does not always respect Constitutional limits on federal powers

The most important reason, though, may be that the “primary control” on government, “the people,” have failed to pay attention, and to embrace their role.

Without the energy of the people, the structural system can only go so far to set limits on government.

It is now up to the “we the people,” “the primary control on the government,” to bring our system back into balance.  When “the people” work in concert with the structure our founders designed, we will once again start to glimpse the America our founding fathers envisioned.

And how do the people control the government?  First, by knowledge, and then, As Janine wrote in a recent Fox News Op-Ed: “Your Vote is Your Voice.” http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/30/janine-turner-supreme-court-justice-constitution-elections-elected/

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 7, 2010 – Federalist Paper No. 51 – Janine Turner

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Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Howdy from Texas. Here we are at Federalist Paper No. 51! I want to thank Professor John S. Baker for his wonderful essay and gracious time. I also thank all of you who are blogging with us. Isn’t the conversation stimulating? Isn’t it wonderful to have this forum to discuss and interpret the United States Constitution and the Federalist Papers?

I am very intrigued with Federalist Paper No. 51. I feel as if I need to read it again and again. It is filled with perpetually profound paragraphs.

As I read through these papers, many of Publius’ explanations are starting to gel in my mind. One is the importance of faction and the meaning of James Madison’s words, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire.” Faction not only exists between states but it is essential that faction exist within the government. As Professor Baker stated, so often we hear that we should have harmony in our congress, yet total and complete accordance represents a tyranny and a monopoly, a trumping so to speak, of the diversity of voices in America.

In Federalist Paper No. 51 James Madison states:
“In framing a government that is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Faction is a function of this control.

Another intriguing point of James Madison’s is:
“In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same for that of religious rights. It consists in one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.”

Security for civil rights and religious rights represent free government. I wonder how James Madison would view our religious rights in America today?

However, the most stunning, revealing and relevant statement of Federalist No. 51 is the following:

“Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be, pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”

We, as citizens, as humans, as spiritual beings must be allowed to seek, succeed, stumble and rise again. It is only through the hard times that we truly learn and grow. I teach my daughter that failure is an essential element of life. She must not fear it. She can only succeed if she can run the risk of failing. True genius requires true grit.
If we take away the freedom to rise and fall, then we take away our primary principle of liberty.

Liberty will be lost in the pursuit of the great cultural equalizer.

Spoon feeding justice to all Americans will not only sap the soul, it will sap our economy which will lead to a decline of industry, a debilitating debt which will jeopardize our freedoms.

Capitalism must be allowed to succeed, fail and rise again.
These are the great ingredients of success: ambition, hunger, drive, competition. This is human nature. Defy human nature and the riddle will unravel.

“Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be, pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”

Wise, prophetic words that need to be heard now. As John Adams said, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge of the people.”

History holds the key to the future.

God Bless,

Janine Turner

 

July 7, 2010 – Federalist No. 51 – The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments, From the New York Packet (Hamilton or Madison) – Guest Blogger: Professor John S. Baker, Dale E. Bennett Professor of Law at Louisiana State University

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Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Federalist #51 is the most important of the essays in The Federalist, after #10. It completes the discussion of the general structure of the Constitution before Publius turns to a consideration of its particular elements. It ties together the main points of the previous essays.

Federalist #47 and #48 outlines the challenge of keeping the departments of government within their proper bounds; then Federalist #49 and #50 considers and rejects the suggestion of occasional or regular appeals to the people for that purpose.  Federalist #51, therefore, begins with the question: “To what expedient then shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the constitution?”

Importantly, the answer is NOT a bill of rights! Rather, Publius writes, “[t]he only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied by so contriving the interior structure of government, as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.” (emphasis added).

As elsewhere, the analysis of the problem and the solution rest on an understanding of human nature. Each department must have a “will of its own,” which requires having “the means and personal motives” to defend its powers. Why the emphasis on power rather than “the common good.”  Isn’t this just a cynical approach to government?  Publius explains that enlisting private interests to protect the public good is the only method actually of achieving the end of government, which is justice.

The “preservation of liberty” requires “that each department should have a will of its own and consequently should be so constituted, that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others.” Rigorous adherence to this principle “would require that all the appointments for the supreme executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies, should be drawn from the same found of authority, the people, through channels having no communication with one another.” (emphasis added). The federal judiciary, in particular, does not meet this test.  Publius says this deviation is justified because the mode of choosing judges ought to be the one best designed to produce the peculiar qualifications required of judges. He also presciently observes, as so many later presidents have learned to their dismay, that lifetime appointments for judges “must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the authority [i.,e., the President] conferring them.”

This passage reminds us that a republic, as defined in Federalist #39, “derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people.” The judiciary, along with the President and the Senate (prior to the 17th Amendment’s substitution of popular election for election by state legislatures), draws its powers “indirectly” from the people because judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The judiciary and the President — who is actually elected not by the people, but by the Electoral College — are both somewhat removed from the people and in need of protection from the legislative branch.  Thus, if as to their salaries they were “not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other, would be merely nominal.”

What follows are some of the most insightful and widely quoted observations about the relationship between human nature and government.  With so much packed into one paragraph, each thought deserves to be separated out for separate consideration.

  •        “the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others.:
  •        “The provision for defence must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack.”
  •        “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”
  •         “The interest of the man, must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.”
  •        “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”
  •         “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
  •         “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

The notion that, at its core, the Constitution is a structure to control the self-interested tendencies of both the people and those in government may be a new idea for many Americans.  To those who think that the citizenry and government require no restraint other than popular elections, Publius responds that “experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” The Constitution reflects the “policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives.”

Federalist #51 then reiterates and extends the argument of Federalist #47 and #48 concerning legislative dominance and the practical implementation of separation of powers. Besides strengthening the weaker branches, Federalist #51 makes clear the need to weaken the legislative branch. “The remedy for this inconveniency is, to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election, and different principles of action, as little connected with each other, as the nature of their common functions, and their common dependence on the society, will admit.” That explains the phenomenon that even when the same party controls both houses of Congress, the two bodies nevertheless do not cooperate very well.

It is often said in the media that the American people want the branches of the Federal government to work together.  The Constitution, however, guarantees conflict among the branches and between the federal and state governments in order to protect the liberty of the people.  Federalist #51 emphasizes the Constitution’s “double security” of separation of powers and federalism.

In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people, is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments.  Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people.  The different governments will control each other; at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.     Federalist #51 then ties the constitutional structure back to the fundamental argument of Federalist #10. For it is necessary “not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard the one part of society against the injustice of the other part.”  The way to avoid the “oppressions of factious majorities” is a federal system which encourages the multiplication of factions.  As a result, in the United States, “a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place upon any other principles, than those of justice and the general good.”  Thus, change is intended to be difficult as demonstrated by the fact that legislation cannot pass simply on the basis of “the majority” in Congress. A vote in the House of Representatives reflects one majority and a vote in the Senate represents a different majority. So, too, the President, who represents yet another majority, has the opportunity to sign or veto legislation.

The original Constitution operates on the basis of producing a legislative consensus through conflict and compromise.  This reflects the Framers’ view that structured conflict among the departments of government, rather than simple majorities, is more likely to produce a just consensus protective of minority interests. In such a system, there must be less pretext also, to provide for the security of the [the minor party], by introducing into the government a will not dependent on the [majority]; or, in other words, a will independent of the society itself.” (emphasis added).

This structure of “double-security” has been changed in important ways. The initial addition of the Bill of Rights did not actually change the structure, as Madison explained it would not do so when he introduced the amendments for adoption by the first Congress.  The Bill of Rights applied to the federal government, not to the states. The post-Civil War amendments did immediately change federalism by abolishing slavery and imposing important and just limits on the states. Nevertheless, federalism remained largely in tact as long as states continued to have a direct voice within the federal government by virtue of the election of U.S. senators by their state legislatures. See Federalist #62. The Seventeenth Amendment, however, changed that by requiring popular election of senators. Not that long thereafter, the Supreme Court became much more deferential to Congress and less so to the states.

One of the effects of the Senate no longer representing the residual sovereignty of the states, see Federalist #62, has been that the Court has had a relatively free hand – and indeed encouragement from some in Congress – to erode federalism. While there have been struggles among its members over federalism, the Court certainly has affected federalism through the manner in which, through the Fourteenth Amendment, it has applied the Bill of Rights to the states. In the course of doing so, the Supreme Court has arguably become “a will independent of the society itself” as it tends to prefer the minor party as against the states.  As a result of these constitutional amendments and judicial interpretations, the states no longer offer much security against the federal government.

For Publius, “the enlargement of the orbit” through federalism (see Federalist #9 and #10) made republicanism possible.  The Anti-Federalists, on the contrary, argued that such a large country was incompatible with a self-governing republic and would grow into imperialism. Despite “contrary opinions,” Publius concluded “that the larger the society, provided it lie within a practicable sphere, the more duly capable it will be of self-government.” As Publius predicted, self-government has flourished in the United States because “happily for the republican cause, the practicable sphere may be carried to a very great extent, by a judicious modification and mixture of the federal principle.” Publius’s prediction, however, became a reality because predicated on the premise of the double-security of separation of powers and federalism.

Professor John S. Baker is the Dale E. Bennett Professor of Law at Louisiana State University

 

July 9, 2010 – Federalist No. 53 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, July 9th, 2010

Federalist 53 was a reminder to me of how blessed our country is to live under a system of government “established by the people and unalterable by the government.”

“The important distinction so well understood in America, between a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government, and a law established by the government and alterable by the government, seems to have been little understood and less observed in any other country. Wherever the supreme power of legislation has resided, has been supposed to reside also a full power to change the form of the government.”

We forget that in many other countries, terms of office may be capriciously changed to meet the political needs of the office holders.

Publius refers to “frequency of elections,” as the “cornerstone” of free government.  A theme throughout the Federalist is the people’s role in protecting their own liberty.  Elections are the people’s voice.

Publius also outlines the importance of members of Congress having enough time to learn the job.  He predicts that some members of “superior talents; will, by frequent reelections, become members of long standing.”

A recent Congressional Research Service report on the average tenure of a member of Congress  stated:

“The average years of service for Members of the 110th Congress, as of January 3, 2007, when the Congress convened was 10.0 years for the House and 12.82 years for the Senate. This is a record for the Senate. House Members who took their seats at the beginning of the 102nd Congress (1991-1993) represent the high point of Representatives’ average tenure (10.4 years).”

This is interesting, compared to the early history of our country, when most Senators did not even complete their six year term.  CRS notes that in the early Republic, House Members began to exceed their two year terms after the Fourth Congress, but their average service did rise above four years until 1901-1903.  During the Great Depression, the average tenure of a U.S. House member shot up to seven years.

Many people today call for term limits, to bring back the concept of citizen legislator.  As these proposals develop, attention would need to be given to the power of staff, especially committee staff, who, if not checked as well, would end up with even greater influence as members of Congress come and go.

Although Publius points out the merit of some seasoned legislators, he also warns, “No man will subject himself to the ridicule of pretending that any natural connection subsists between the sun or the seasons, and the period within which human virtue can bear the temptations of power.”

There are strong arguments on both sides of the term limits issue, but as Publius reminds us in Federalist No. 51:

“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.”

The people are the energy of the government. When they are engaged and paying attention, recognizing that knowledge is power, the need for term limits will not be as great. Even the best governmental structures will not reap the desired results, unless the “genius of the people,” the primary energy of government is fully engaged and deployed.

Thank you to all of you who are joining us on this journey through the Federalist Papers.  Knowledge is Power!

Looking forward to Federalist No. 54!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 12, 2010 – Federalist No. 54 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, July 12th, 2010

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”

Federalist No. 51

Federalist No. 54 reminds us of the fact that the United States Constitution was not, and is not, a perfect document. It is a reflection of human nature, and as our founders knew, human beings are not perfect creatures.  Federalist 54 addresses Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, the Three-Fifths clause. The counting of  human beings as 3/5’s of a person, and the preservation of  the institution of slavery for 20 years, are some of the Constitution’s greatest blemishes.  Although 3/5′s was a compromise, with the ultimate goal being the elimination of slavery, it is still a blemish on a document that is a beacon of liberty for our country and the world.

I was curious where else slavery is mentioned specifically in the Constitution and consulted the Heritage Guide to the Constitution (one of my favorite Constitutional resource books). I found that slavery is also addressed in Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 (Slave Trade); Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 (Fugitive Slave Clause); and Article V (Prohibition on Amendment: Slave Trade).  The Slave Trade clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1) did not allow the federal government to prohibit the slave trade until January 1, 1808.  According to Dr. Mathew Spalding in the Heritage Guide, on that very day, January 1, 1808, Congress passed a prohibition of the slave trade, and President Thomas Jefferson signed it into law.   Although they could not ban slavery at the inception of the Constitution, the founders put a mechanism in place to start the country on that path, and banned it as soon as they could.

Through their humility and understanding of human nature, our founders knew the Constitution was not perfect.  They devised the Amendment process to make corrections, adjustments and refinements, a process not too easy, but also not too difficult, a process Madison describes in Federalist 43:

“It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

One of the great characteristics of Americans is that we are always striving to be better, to improve, and to grow.  Many Amendments to the Constitution reflect this growth.

Although we may not always be proud of every step in our journey, we can be proud that as a country we have made corrections from where we started, that our founders recognized we would need to make corrections, and that a process is in place to continue to refine this brilliant, but human, document.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 15, 2010 – Federalist No. 57 – The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many Considered in Connection with Representation, From the New York Packet – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Publius continues a lengthy examination of the election and composition of the House of Representatives with a response in Federalist 57 to the charge that the chamber will tend towards oligarchy. He finds this an absurdity in light of the short term of the representatives and the liberal and flexible qualifications for both those who will be elected and those who will elect them. But, in the harsh light of experience, is the objection entirely absurd?

Classic democratic and republican constitutions commonly relied on three formal devices connected with the selection of officials to prevent concentration of power in a few ambitious individuals. Those were selection by lot, short terms of office, and term limits. These mechanisms often were used for the selection of civil executive and administrative officers, the “upper house” of the legislature (such as the Venetian Senate), and—in Athens at least—the juries. The “lower house” of the legislature in each of them was not based on representation but on participation by the whole qualified class of citizens. In the House of Representatives, however, the representative principle applies, which makes that body more analogous to the first class of offices. Our system retains traditional democratic essentials in the selection of juries, intended to produce a cross-section of the community, to prevent corruption through jury tampering, and to keep “professional” jurors from accumulating power.

Classic republicanism saw election as “oligarchic,” unlike the “democratic” method of selection by lot. True, election can produce more qualified officials than the uncertainties from drawing lots. Done well, it elevates the most deserving, a point Madison hammers home in his discussion. If it works right, election can produce a true aristokratia, a government of the best. After all, the Athenians selected their strategoi, the military commanders, by vote and without term limits, because military skills are more specialized and crucial than ordinary bureaucratic talents. But the corrupt form of aristocracy is oligarchy, a government of the few for their gain. In that corruption lies the problem.

The classical distrust of elections was precisely what the Antifederalists feared, namely, that certain individuals would gain disproportionate personal power and begin to see their offices not as a public trust but as a personal estate. Inevitably, this would corrupt even the most virtuous newcomer. Moreover, once the official left office, the influence he gained in office likely would cause the office to be passed on to an ally or hand-picked successor, thereby creating a semi-hereditary sinecure. Looking at many members of Congress today (though not just them), one sees this political dynamic at work relentlessly. Short terms have not prevented the emergence of Congressional “barons,” those who spend decades in Congress tending to their fiefdoms. Nor is that entrenchment necessarily due to some great superiority of personal qualities rather than the inertia of party identification among voters and the gerrymandering of districts to protect party and incumbent advantage.

What forms might such corruption take, other than those already mentioned? Among them, Madison concedes the danger from laws that favor politicians, their friends, and particular interest groups, including ones that expressly exempt politicians from the coverage of those laws. Favoring the particular over the general interest is anathema to republican purists, but also a fact of political life that, as Publius has written frequently, must be channeled, as it cannot be cured.

Madison’s proposed solutions are by turns plausible, idealistic, resigned, and non-responsive. He mentions term limitation, by which he means frequency of election. Though many state offices at the time had annual terms, the two-year term for House members is sufficiently republican.

Second, the lack of property, religion, and status qualifications means that the net will be cast widely for suitable candidates. Could additional limits, other than those qualifications expressly written into the Constitution, be imposed by Congress or the states? As to the first, the Supreme Court emphatically rejected that proposition, concluding in Powell v. McCormack (1969) that the list of qualifications in the Constitution was exclusive. The Court also rejected that argument more circumspectly in regards to the very different issue of state regulation of the number of terms to be served in Congress, in Term Limits v. Thornton (1995). Madison’s reference in Federalist 53 to the lengthy terms some likely would serve, somewhat supports the Court’s conclusion. Third, the voters will have the same qualifications that the states themselves deem sufficiently republican.

Madison’s further reliance on politicians’ gratitude and sense of honor as restraining, at least for a while, the various corrupting tendencies is noble, but naive. Homo politicus is, unfortunately, too often characterized by a lack of these desirable natural sensibilities. The sentiment also conflicts with Publius’s admonition in Federalist 51 that, to limit government to its proper purposes, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Madison is closer to the mark in suggesting that ambition for re-election works as a universal motivator for politicians’ behavior. Public choice theory has demonstrated just that.

The problem is that Madison connects that ambition with doing what benefits the voting majority. Leaving aside whether what is good for the immediate majority is collectively good for the people over the longer term, is Madison correct? Again, public choice theory, based on just watching what politicians do, shows that politicians’ self-interest and the rent-seeking by organized special interests better explains voting behavior than a strong attachment to collective good (if the latter can even be determined coherently) or even to the preferences of a weakly-organized majority. Then there is the matter of how that cozy connection between politicians and organized minorities seeking government favors affects the problem of faction that Publius has addressed repeatedly, if voting cannot cure that problem.

He grants that these internal and external controls may be “insufficient to control the caprice and wickedness of men,” but declares that this is all the mind and hand of man can devise, and that these controls reflect traditional republican practice. In Federalist 51, among others, Publius discussed the importance of constitutional structures as auxiliary precautions against the excesses of government. Here, he hedges those bets. Publius is right that the forms of government are important, but can only do so much to temper corrupt extravagances. The system’s success ultimately depends on the quality of people elected by voters possessed of the judgment and character that balances republican virtue, self-restraint, and vigilant self-interest, and on the subtler bonds of cultural and political tradition. Constitutional forms help, but, ultimately, responsibility lies with the people.

Madison warns against laws that will not have “full operation on [Congressmen] and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society.” Making only laws that are universally applicable “has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together.”  Citizen legislators must not be a privileged class.

Though the Republican take-over of Congress in 1995 spurred the passage of a law that removed Congressional exemption from a dozen anti-discrimination, labor, and safety laws, there yet remain other laws that apply to private citizens but not to Congress. Madison asserts that the American spirit will restrain the legislature from making legal discriminations in their favor and that of a particular class. “If this spirit shall ever be so far debased, as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty.” Where does that place us?  As many have said in some variant about republican systems, “The people get the government they deserve.”

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law.  Prof. Knipprath has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums.  His website is http://www.tokenconservative.com.

 

July 21, 2010 – Federalist No. 61 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia!

Thank you to Professor Kyle Scott for soaring to 50,000 feet and giving us the aerial view of Hamilton’s important point in Federalist 61!  I was in the weeds, struggling to make sense of where and when elections should be held, and the most important point of this paper sailed right over my head until I read Professor Scott’s essay.

Federalist 61 gives us an important insight and specific example of the founders’ view and intention of the construction of the United States Constitution:  broad principles outlined that provide a structure and framework to guide the specifics of future legislation as time and events require.

Our founders had great wisdom as to what is appropriate for the Congress to decide, the specific powers that should be delegated to the federal government, where the federal government’s limits are, and what needed to be carefully spelled out and guarded in the Constitution.  Reading back through Federalist Papers 52-61, the founders gave Congress many powers when it came to elections: deciding the time of elections, the power to modify election law, even the power to alter the total number of U.S. Representatives.  These are all powers Publius argues are “safe for the legislature to decide.” The important guiding principles, such as the frequency of elections, and who may vote (broadened with Amendments, thanks to the “genius of the people”) are safely embedded in the Constitution.

In Federalist 51, Publius writes:

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Giving the government any power over the laws affecting the election of its own members is a tricky proposition.  The founders’ carefully crafted system of checks and balances, including “THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE,” (Federalist No. 22) have preserved our liberty for over 200 years.

Let us not forget the words of Federalist No. 60 regarding the ultimate “check” of the people:

“Would they not fear that citizens, not less tenacious than conscious of their rights, would flock from the remote extremes of their respective States to the places of election, to overthrow their tyrants, and to substitute men who would be disposed to avenge the violated majesty of the people?”

Looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and comments today!!

Stay cool!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 30, 2010 – Federalist No. 68 – The Mode of Electing the President, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Friday, July 30th, 2010

Federalist 68 to 72 address the election and structure of the Presidency. Who better to address that than Alexander Hamilton, whose knowledge of executive power combines with an affinity for it that caused much suspicion during his political career?

The first essay is a brief foray into the Electoral College. The matter excited so little passion during the ratification debates that Hamilton barely gets his writing hand limbered up. He allows himself to wax poetic and substitute a couplet edited from Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man for some of the acerbic put-downs of his preceding efforts as Publius. Yet, the frivolity of the approach should not obscure the delicate political balances reflected in the constitutional settlement of the President’s election. The Framers’ had rejected direct popular election (an easy call due to its profound conflict with the idea of the United States as a confederated republic), election by Congress, election by the state legislatures, and election by electors selected by regional electors elected by the people (Hamilton’s multi-layered proposal).

The Framers wanted at once to have an energetic executive and to prevent the emergence of an American Caesar. The first would be accomplished by unity in the office, the latter through, among other things, care in the selection of the person. They also were deeply fearful that some foreign power might place a Manchurian Candidate among the presidential contenders. Hamilton mentions that concern in his defense of the system, a concern also reflected in the requirement that the President be a natural-born citizen. This was no small matter to the Framers. There were various plots and other connections between foreign agents and American politicians and military officers (the Wilkinson/Burr cabal with Spain, for example). Moreover, these kinds of intrigues to place a foreigner in executive office were familiar, both because they were common abroad, and because of the Confederation Congress’s offer in 1786, quickly withdrawn, to the republican-minded Prince Henry of Prussia to become regent of the U.S.

The Framers faced several practical problems. Every efficient electoral system has to provide for a means of nominating and then electing candidates. Moreover, civil disturbances over what is often a politically heated process must be avoided. There must be no taint of corruption. The candidate elected must be qualified.

As to the first, the Electoral College would, in many cases, nominate multiple candidates. Electors would be chosen as the legislatures of the states would direct. Though the practice of popular voting for electors spread, not until South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860 did appointment by the legislatures end everywhere. Once selected, the electors’ strong loyalties to their respective states likely would cause the electors to select a “favorite son” candidate. To prevent a multiplicity of candidates based on state residency, electors had to cast one of the two votes allotted to each for someone from another state. It was expected that several regional candidates would emerge under that process. There likely would be no single majority electoral vote recipient, at least not after George Washington. The actual election of the President then would devolve to the House of Representatives, fostering the blending and overlapping of powers that Madison extolled in Federalist 51.

That last step corresponded to the Framers’ experience with the election of the British prime minister and cabinet, and with the practice of several states. However, consistent with the state-oriented structure of American federalism, such election in the House had to come through a majority of state delegations, not individual Congressmen. Though modified slightly by the Twelfth Amendment as a result of the deadlock of 1800, this process is still in place.

The Electoral College also was to be the mediating device that would balance the desire for popular input with the realistic concern that a direct popular vote would promote candidates with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” Hamilton, a skilled in-fighter, possessed very sharp elbows politically, but lacked those particular talents and despised them in others. As John Jay writes in Federalist 64, the Constitution’s system would likely select those most qualified to be President. Augmented by the Constitution’s age requirement for President, the electors are not “liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.”

Having the voters select a group of electors, rather than the President directly, would also calm the political waters. By making that election something other than a vote about particular candidates, the process would encourage reflection and deliberation by voters about the capacity for reasoned judgment of the electors chosen. The smaller number of wise electors, in turn, would exercise that judgment free from popular passion.

There is also the problem of corruption of the electors. Every polity must address that. The Republic of Venice had a truly byzantine system of election and selection by lot of those whose sole responsibility it would be to elect the Doge (the executive). The sheer number of participants and the unpredictability of the eventual identity of the Venetian electors made vote-buying, influence-peddling, and intimidation impractical. In Federalist 68, as well, Hamilton assures the reader that, in the American system, corruption and the influence of faction are avoided by the temporary and limited duty of the electors, the disqualification of federal office holders to serve, the large number of electors, and the fact that they meet in separate states at the same time. Presumably, those protections fall away when the House elects the President. But Congressmen have to worry about re-election and, thus, want to avoid corrupt bargains that are odious to the voters.

Though the constitutional shell remains, much of the system operates differently than the Framers hoped. The reason is the evolution of the modern programmatic party, that bane of good republicans, which has replaced state loyalties with party loyalties. The Framers thought they had dealt adequately with the influence of factions in their finely-tuned system. As modern party government was just emerging in Britain and—in contrast to temporary and shifting political factions—unknown in the states, the Framers designed the election process unprepared for such parties.

Today, the nominating function is performed by political parties, while election is, in practice, by the voters. Elections by the House are still possible, if there is a strong regional third-party candidate. But the dominance of the two parties (which are, in part, coalitions of factions) suppresses competition, and the last time there was a reasonable possibility of electoral deadlock was in 1968, when Alabama Governor George C. Wallace took 46 electoral votes. Mere independent national candidacies, such as that of Ross Perot in 1992, have roughly similar levels of support in all states and are unlikely to siphon electoral votes and block the usual process.

Parties have had a beneficial effect in that they have prevented repetitions of the debacles of 1800 (when, due to the tie vote between Jefferson and Burr, it took the House 36 ballots and probable political intervention by Hamilton on the former’s behalf to resolve the election) and of 1824 (when the election dominated by just the regional candidacies anticipated by the Framers was thrown into the House and extensive bargaining precipitated charges of corruption that stymied the J. Q. Adams presidency). Had parties not emerged to provide necessary lubrication, the creaky constitutional machinery well might have had to be reformed. Though they have smoothed the process, parties arguably also have promoted the very evils (other than foreign intrigue) that Publius assured his readers were avoided under the electoral system designed by the Framers.

At the same time, the emergence of modern political parties has not made the Electoral College obsolete, as it still promotes important values. It reinforces the founding principle that the U.S. is a confederated republic and not a consolidated national government, as analyzed so persuasively by Madison in Federalist 39. Despite the occasional misfire, as in the election of 2000, the Electoral College often gives the narrow victor in the popular vote a mandate through a significant electoral college majority. The need to find a lot of electoral votes to overturn such a result reduces the likelihood of persistent challenges. Elections such as 1948, 1960, 1968, and 1992 come to mind. Proposals to change or abolish the Electoral College have appeared frequently since the Constitution’s adoption and are of predictable types. But they always lose steam, as there has been no showing that they will serve republican values better than the current system. Indeed, efforts to change the system have declined in the last half century, even after the contested election of 2000, a testimony to the enduring legitimacy of the Electoral College.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law.  Prof. Knipprath has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums.  His website is http://www.tokenconservative.com

 

August 3, 2010 – Federalist No. 70 – The Executive Department Further Considered, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

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Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Federalist 70 is the heart of Hamilton’s investigation of the nature of executive power. Publius returns to “energy,” a theme that he has addressed frequently in his essays as a necessary attribute of government generally, and the Union in particular. As executive power is the essence of government, energy is the essence of executive power. Energy in the executive produces vigor in the administration of law and expeditiousness in response to necessity. Too much energy, however, can threaten republican government and personal liberty. The secret is to find the constitutional version of Aristotle’s golden mean.

The Antifederalists had a lavish panorama of historical examples to illustrate the dangers of energetic executives. They proposed a multiple executive, instead, examples of which were spread throughout history, while others were close at hand in the states. Multiple executives are of several types. One, such as the consuls and tribunes of Rome or the kings of Sparta, are of equal dignity and can veto each other’s acts. Another, more favored by the states and based on the republican variant of the old British model, involves a governor-and-council structure.

There are others, not mentioned in Federalist 70. One is the modern British cabinet model, where ministers hold their portfolio independent of the “prime” minister through election by the party. Formally, they are the monarch’s ministers, but today this is a quaint fiction, as the monarch reigns as head of state, but does not rule. An American version of this can be found in the governments of many states, where various executive officials are elected independent of the governor. Those officials, like the California Attorney General, Secretary of State, and others, derive their powers directly from the state constitution and election by the people, not from appointment by the chief executive.

As anyone who has worked on a committee or sat in a meeting knows, the more people there are, the less of substance gets done, and the exponentially longer it takes to do so. Veterans of faculty meetings can bear particularly melancholy witness to those truths. Hamilton urges that multiplicity is welcome in the legislative department, where deliberation and the “wisdom of the multitude” are valuable to reach a “right” decision and to protect the rights of the minority. Indeed, haste in the passage of laws will result in badly-written legislation with unintended or—if the law is so long and complex that it has not even been read—unknown consequences, as well as in laws that may be against the people’s wishes.

In the executive, however, delays and indecision are damaging. As a member of General Washington’s staff, Hamilton personally must have been keenly aware of the incapacity of the Continental Congress and even the Board of War, its agency, to direct the war effort reliably and effectively. A multiple executive also courts the evils of faction, undermining stability. At the same time, a successful cabal among multiple executives can magnify their danger to liberty.

It is crucial, then, that the executive be unitary, to provide the requisite energy and vigor to accomplish the objectives of government expeditiously and without endangering the respect for law that haphazard and desultory administration brings. There are other benefits from a unitary executive, ones that, at the same time, provide the most effective protections of liberty. Those are transparency and accountability. It has been said that success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. Having a single decision-maker shines the light of responsibility on him: “The buck stops here.” The best protection against abuse by an overly-energetic executive is, predictably, the vigilance of the people expressed at the next election. But they cannot exercise that vigilance when multiple parties are pointing fingers at each other the way that members of Congress do when policies they have been championing become political liabilities. Nor can responsibility readily be gauged when politically tough issues are shunted onto appointed commissions, such as “deficit commissions,” whose “recommendations” are treated as binding.

Another limit on the executive comes through formal restraints. Some are institutional, such as fixed terms and removal through impeachment. Others are more in line with the “auxiliary precautions” Publius defends in Federalist 51 in connection with separation and balancing of powers. Examples are the qualified nature of the veto and the Senate’s role in approving treaties, in both of which the President is engaged in making law. With the exception of the appointment power, however, there are no formal limits on his explicit executive functions.

The objectives of executive government that Hamilton cites are instructive: Protecting against foreign attacks, securing liberty against domestic subversion, protecting property against riots and insurrection, and administering the law in an impartial and constant manner. In this classic political minimalism, one notes the absence of the trappings of the modern administrative Leviathan that has taken over functions best left to other institutions.

Despite the assertions in Federalist 70, the nature of the executive branch was ambiguous when the government convened. Hamilton, a fan of the British political system, contributed to that uncertainty. As Treasury Secretary, he envisioned the cabinet as an approximation of the British system, with the President as chief of state and as someone who presided over the administration of policies determined by rather willful cabinet officials exercising independent authority. Due to his close connection as Treasury Secretary to Congressional policy-making (and his long personal relationship with George Washington), Hamilton envisioned himself as the prime minister in this arrangement. There was some constitutional plausibility to this conception of a moderate multiple executive, as the Constitution provides that Congress can create a limited appointment power in “heads of departments” and sets up the Senate in some ways like the governor-and-council system. The Senate not only votes to approve appointments and treaties, it technically has an “advice and consent” role that could be read as requiring formal Senate participation before the president nominates an officer or makes a treaty.

Several developments arrested any significant movement in that direction. Textually, the Constitution vests the executive power entirely in the President, subject only to specified limitations, a point Hamilton himself urged further in his 1793 Pacificus essays during the debates over the Neutrality Proclamation. Politically, Hamilton left the Cabinet in 1795, reducing his influence, a trend that was accelerated when his patron, President Washington, left two years later. Even while Hamilton was in the Cabinet, Washington was not the type of person content to play a passive role. He favored a vigorous presidency, and it was clear that, while he listened carefully to his officials, he made the decisions. The Senate-as-council role was buried when Washington, after one soured attempt at consultation before treaty negotiations in 1789, refused to set foot in the building again. Washington’s presidency was intended to help define the ambiguous contours of the president’s powers, and he set the office firmly on the course of the unitary executive.

As a functional constitutional matter, the issue was settled over the course of the debate over the president’s power to fire executive officials at will. A presidential removal power is not specified in the Constitution, so it has to be implied from other powers. Though Hamilton wanted a strong executive, he appears to have favored the view that the president’s power to remove officials can only come from his power to appoint. As the latter requires Senatorial consent, so must the former, a position Hamilton endorses in Federalist 77. The reason for his support of what at first blush appears to be a dilution of executive unity is that he liked the British style of government. Presidents could come and go, but, if a new president could not unilaterally remove members of the Cabinet, those members gained political independence. Effectively, that made them the policy-makers and administrators as long as they maintained the confidence of the Senate. With that qualification, Hamilton favored a strong, independent executive branch.

The removal power occupied the first Congress’s attention. The matter was resolved by artful language in a statute that implied that the President had the inherent executive power to remove the secretary of state. While this was a victory for the unitary executive argument, there remained ambiguities. President Andrew Jackson won a clear political victory in favor of the unitary executive doctrine by removing the secretary of the treasury when the latter disobeyed a presidential order, even though Congress had given the secretary the discretion to act as he did. Analogous to Hamilton’s implied executive powers theory of the Pacificus letters, Jackson argued that the appointment and removal powers were both executive powers that, unless expressly limited by the Constitution, belonged to the President as head of the unitary executive branch.

As the removal controversy demonstrates, the unitary executive broadly implicates separation of powers that finds concrete expression in provisions of the Constitution. If those provisions are elastic, such as the executive power clause, the “take care” clause, or the commander-in-chief clause, the line between execution of policy and legislation of policy can become blurred. The need to find limits is matched by the difficulty of doing so. Much depends in specific cases on formal precedent (legislative, executive, and judicial) and customary constitutional practice shaped by broad popular acceptance. For example, the unitary executive theory underlies doctrines of executive immunity and executive privilege. Those concepts are not expressly addressed in the Constitution but are obviously connected to an energetic executive branch and the unitary executive that animates it. Though the Supreme Court did not address executive privilege until 1974, it arose early in the Washington administration, when the President set a precedent followed by almost all his successors. In implied powers cases, the need for action often determines the outcome, and foreign relations, military affairs, national security, and emergencies define their own scope of action.

Despite Jackson’s victory and a long history in support of the unitary executive, controversy still flares occasionally. A recent challenge to the unitary executive theory has involved presidential “signing statements.” These have long been used as expressions of reservation about the constitutionality of a proposed law. Critics argue that the president can veto the bill, if he believes it to be unconstitutional. If the Congress overrides the veto, is the president then bound to enforce the bill? He is obligated to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, but there is also the long tradition of executive discretion in the enforcement of laws. Moreover, if the law invades a presidential power or is otherwise unconstitutional, the president can refuse to enforce this statute.

Laws, however, are often many-layered creations. Why should the president have to veto the whole effort just to avoid enforcing one objectionable part? A signing statement can help. In fact, the signing statement puts everyone on notice about the president’s intentions. They are constitutional because the president as head of the executive branch is independently responsible under the Constitution for the actions of the whole branch in the enforcement of laws.

The unitary nature of the executive also has been challenged by some who cite to the existence of a vast array of “independent” administrative agencies as contrary evidence. Since the 1930s, the Supreme Court has upheld Congress’s power to limit the President’s removal power in regards to officers of independent agencies. Using the unitary executive theory, presidents since Franklin Roosevelt have formally rejected the assertion these agencies are beyond the President’s removal power. Such agencies are performing executive functions and are not otherwise recognized under the Constitution as a fourth branch of government. One may wonder, though, whether any dilution of the unitary executive paradigm is really the problem. The sheer growth of government (of which administrative agencies are the most significant part) is probably more responsible for the dearth of transparency and accountability citizens endure.

Critics of the administrative state see this exception from the application of the general rules for  separation and balance of powers as more evidence that these agencies are unconstitutional. The still-growing reach of the regulatory state assures that the issue will not go away. As the matter involves fundamental and shifting boundaries between the legislative and executive domains, it is thoroughly political and admits of no definitive settlement. But the broad theory of the Constitution has been settled in favor of the unitary executive that Hamilton defends in Federalist 70 and his later writings.

An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law.  Prof. Knipprath has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums.  His website is http://www.tokenconservative.com