The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union
For the Independent Journal.

Author: Alexander Hamilton and James Madison

To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States.

The members retained the character of independent and sovereign states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force of the confederacy against the disobedient; to admit new members. The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath, and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances, they exceed the powers enumerated in the articles of confederation. The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory. The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities; and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest. Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination.

It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party.

Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic vicissitudes convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms, to establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy, Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies; and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war; which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

As a weak government, when not at war, is ever agitated by internal dissentions, so these never fail to bring on fresh calamities from abroad. The Phocians having ploughed up some consecrated ground belonging to the temple of Apollo, the Amphictyonic council, according to the superstition of the age, imposed a fine on the sacrilegious offenders. The Phocians, being abetted by Athens and Sparta, refused to submit to the decree. The Thebans, with others of the cities, undertook to maintain the authority of the Amphictyons, and to avenge the violated god. The latter, being the weaker party, invited the assistance of Philip of Macedon, who had secretly fostered the contest. Philip gladly seized the opportunity of executing the designs he had long planned against the liberties of Greece. By his intrigues and bribes he won over to his interests the popular leaders of several cities; by their influence and votes, gained admission into the Amphictyonic council; and by his arts and his arms, made himself master of the confederacy.

Such were the consequences of the fallacious principle on which this interesting establishment was founded. Had Greece, says a judicious observer on her fate, been united by a stricter confederation, and persevered in her union, she would never have worn the chains of Macedon; and might have proved a barrier to the vast projects of Rome.

The Achaean league, as it is called, was another society of Grecian republics, which supplies us with valuable instruction.

The Union here was far more intimate, and its organization much wiser, than in the preceding instance. It will accordingly appear, that though not exempt from a similar catastrophe, it by no means equally deserved it.

The cities composing this league retained their municipal jurisdiction, appointed their own officers, and enjoyed a perfect equality. The senate, in which they were represented, had the sole and exclusive right of peace and war; of sending and receiving ambassadors; of entering into treaties and alliances; of appointing a chief magistrate or praetor, as he was called, who commanded their armies, and who, with the advice and consent of ten of the senators, not only administered the government in the recess of the senate, but had a great share in its deliberations, when assembled. According to the primitive constitution, there were two praetors associated in the administration; but on trial a single one was preferred.

It appears that the cities had all the same laws and customs, the same weights and measures, and the same money. But how far this effect proceeded from the authority of the federal council is left in uncertainty. It is said only that the cities were in a manner compelled to receive the same laws and usages. When Lacedaemon was brought into the league by Philopoemen, it was attended with an abolition of the institutions and laws of Lycurgus, and an adoption of those of the Achaeans. The Amphictyonic confederacy, of which she had been a member, left her in the full exercise of her government and her legislation. This circumstance alone proves a very material difference in the genius of the two systems.

It is much to be regretted that such imperfect monuments remain of this curious political fabric. Could its interior structure and regular operation be ascertained, it is probable that more light would be thrown by it on the science of federal government, than by any of the like experiments with which we are acquainted.

One important fact seems to be witnessed by all the historians who take notice of Achaean affairs. It is, that as well after the renovation of the league by Aratus, as before its dissolution by the arts of Macedon, there was infinitely more of moderation and justice in the administration of its government, and less of violence and sedition in the people, than were to be found in any of the cities exercising SINGLY all the prerogatives of sovereignty. The Abbe Mably, in his observations on Greece, says that the popular government, which was so tempestuous elsewhere, caused no disorders in the members of the Achaean republic, BECAUSE IT WAS THERE TEMPERED BY THE GENERAL AUTHORITY AND LAWS OF THE CONFEDERACY.

We are not to conclude too hastily, however, that faction did not, in a certain degree, agitate the particular cities; much less that a due subordination and harmony reigned in the general system. The contrary is sufficiently displayed in the vicissitudes and fate of the republic.

Whilst the Amphictyonic confederacy remained, that of the Achaeans, which comprehended the less important cities only, made little figure on the theatre of Greece. When the former became a victim to Macedon, the latter was spared by the policy of Philip and Alexander. Under the successors of these princes, however, a different policy prevailed. The arts of division were practiced among the Achaeans. Each city was seduced into a separate interest; the union was dissolved. Some of the cities fell under the tyranny of Macedonian garrisons; others under that of usurpers springing out of their own confusions. Shame and oppression erelong awaken their love of liberty. A few cities reunited. Their example was followed by others, as opportunities were found of cutting off their tyrants. The league soon embraced almost the whole Peloponnesus. Macedon saw its progress; but was hindered by internal dissensions from stopping it. All Greece caught the enthusiasm and seemed ready to unite in one confederacy, when the jealousy and envy in Sparta and Athens, of the rising glory of the Achaeans, threw a fatal damp on the enterprise. The dread of the Macedonian power induced the league to court the alliance of the Kings of Egypt and Syria, who, as successors of Alexander, were rivals of the king of Macedon. This policy was defeated by Cleomenes, king of Sparta, who was led by his ambition to make an unprovoked attack on his neighbors, the Achaeans, and who, as an enemy to Macedon, had interest enough with the Egyptian and Syrian princes to effect a breach of their engagements with the league.

The Achaeans were now reduced to the dilemma of submitting to Cleomenes, or of supplicating the aid of Macedon, its former oppressor. The latter expedient was adopted. The contests of the Greeks always afforded a pleasing opportunity to that powerful neighbor of intermeddling in their affairs. A Macedonian army quickly appeared. Cleomenes was vanquished. The Achaeans soon experienced, as often happens, that a victorious and powerful ally is but another name for a master. All that their most abject compliances could obtain from him was a toleration of the exercise of their laws. Philip, who was now on the throne of Macedon, soon provoked by his tyrannies, fresh combinations among the Greeks. The Achaeans, though weakenened by internal dissensions and by the revolt of Messene, one of its members, being joined by the AEtolians and Athenians, erected the standard of opposition. Finding themselves, though thus supported, unequal to the undertaking, they once more had recourse to the dangerous expedient of introducing the succor of foreign arms. The Romans, to whom the invitation was made, eagerly embraced it. Philip was conquered; Macedon subdued. A new crisis ensued to the league. Dissensions broke out among it members. These the Romans fostered. Callicrates and other popular leaders became mercenary instruments for inveigling their countrymen. The more effectually to nourish discord and disorder the Romans had, to the astonishment of those who confided in their sincerity, already proclaimed universal liberty [1] throughout Greece. With the same insidious views, they now seduced the members from the league, by representing to their pride the violation it committed on their sovereignty. By these arts this union, the last hope of Greece, the last hope of ancient liberty, was torn into pieces; and such imbecility and distraction introduced, that the arms of Rome found little difficulty in completing the ruin which their arts had commenced. The Achaeans were cut to pieces, and Achaia loaded with chains, under which it is groaning at this hour.

I have thought it not superfluous to give the outlines of this important portion of history; both because it teaches more than one lesson, and because, as a supplement to the outlines of the Achaean constitution, it emphatically illustrates the tendency of federal bodies rather to anarchy among the members, than to tyranny in the head.


Friday, May 21st, 2010

Another week of 90 in 90: History Holds the Key to the Future draws to a close!  Thank you to Andrew Langer for your participation as a Guest Constitutional Blogger! And thank you to everyone who is posting such well thought out and researched comments.

In Federalist 18, the founding fathers are telling us that History, indeed does hold the Key To the Future, as the name of this blog indicates.

Not even a fourth of the way through the 85 Federalist Papers, and we have all been amazed at the foresight of the founding fathers.   They seem to have an uncanny ability to see the future.   We know they did not have a crystal ball or special powers, so what was their secret? The answer is that they were extremely well read students of history, philosophy, and human nature.   They took the time to think; they actually thought about the future, and used their knowledge to predict outcomes if certain paths were chosen.

Today, we live in an instant gratification society. If a problem is not immediately upon us, it is not dealt with.  If a problem looms twenty years away, we do not want to address it.  Our founding fathers had a much longer vision looking ahead, and looking back.

The depth of knowledge of the founders about ancient civilizations, and the lessons drawn from them is fascinating.  As Juliette, Janine’s daughter observed, they knew all this and didn’t even have Google!

The founders took the time to study these ancient civilizations so they could draw the important lessons from them:  the necessity of a closer union so the strong states would not tyrannize the weak, that “a weak government, when not at war, is ever agitated by internal dissentions, so these never fail to bring on fresh calamities from abroad,” that a stronger union can repel invaders.

Somewhere along the way our society has lost respect for history.  People want to alter it, to make it fit their world view.  In arrogance we believe we are immune from the mistakes of the past and don’t take the time to analyze events or draw lessons from them.

In today’s comments, Ron made an important point – to change this culture of disrespect for and ignorance of history, we need to take action! He encouraged us to “find some historical event that you’re passionate about, do the research, and tell the story. Service clubs need speakers for every week’s meetings, so there are plenty of opportunities. We just have to do it. Taking action is important. Exercises like this should stimulate us to some action; if we finish this FP exercise and go back to living our lives as we did before, then we’ve gained knowledge, but done nothing to rediscover our heritage or, more importantly, to help others do the same.”

Ron is so right!!  As we read the Federalist, our eyes open to many truths, one of which is the importance of looking at lessons from history as we move forward.   We need to find ways to take action, and share what we are learning with others.  Whether it is Ron’s idea of speaking to civic clubs, or simply forwarding a link to this blog to your personal email list, you can make a difference in  opening people’s eyes to the founding principles of our country, and the importance of knowing the United States Constitution.

Thank you to each of you for all you do for our Nation!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

One Response to “May 21, 2010 – Federalist No. 18 – Cathy Gillespie”

Barb Zakszewski says:
May 24, 2010 at 6:39 pm
I like Ron’s idea too. We must take the knowledge we are gaining and share it, or it will just grow old and stale in our brains. I’ve been talking to everyone I can think of, informing this of this website and the knowledge I’m gaining…I actually write a small column for the monthly newsletter of a club I belong to and have told our editor of my plans to start writing a summary of the what’ I’m learning here each month!! I’ve constantly encouraged my club’s members to become active, and as Janine says, “knowledge is POWER!!!”. Let’s all spread the word!!

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Today my 12-year-old daughter read Federalist Paper No. 18 to me as I was driving her to ballet class after school. As she was reading, she would stop to look up words she didn’t know and yet had some understanding of the culture because she has been studying Latin and Greek this year. Her first comment was, “Wow, he knew all this and he didn’t even have Google!”

I agree with our guest Constitutional scholar, Mr. Andrew Langer, (I thank you for blessing us with you scholarly insights again today, Mr. Langer!) that one of the Providential aspects of our country’s founding and birth of the United States Constitution is that the deliberators and creators were so well read and prolific in their knowledge.

In the book I mentioned earlier this week, Miracle at Philadelphia, it recounts how James Madison asked Jefferson for a few books, “Whatever may throw light on the general constitution and droit public of the several confederacies which have existed.” Jefferson sent some, by the hundreds. Madison instantly threw himself into the study and wrote essay after essay in preparation for the challenge that lay ahead.

Thus, coupled with extreme knowledge and intellect was another most needed ingredient, passion. Carolyn Attaway quoted Churchill in her blog today about how people don’t rise to the occasion until it is too late.
In this regard I actually have a spark of hope. I see and sense an awakening of the American patriotism, passion and practicality. Americans are taking action, speaking out and yearning for truths and our founding American principles – just like all of you great patriots who are dedicating your time to join our “90 in 90.”

Americans have a keen sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice. It is in our blood. We will rally and rise to the occasion. The prevailing theme of these Federalist Papers – union – stimulates our cause and fortifies us with knowledge and inspiration.

I thank you for joining us. Please continue to spread the word and please reach out to your children and/or a child you know and teach them about the history of our great country. History proved to be a beacon for Publius and our American history will prove to be the beacon for us.

God Bless,

Janine Turner

9 Responses to “May 21, 2010 – Federalist No. 18 – Janine Turner”

Dawn says:
May 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm
Well said, Janine! Your point about the depth of learning and knowledge of the Founders is something I was pondering just the other day. These were men who did not have the equivalent of today’s High School diploma, and yet they were scholarly, well read, most well informed and excellent critical thinkers. I think we would do well to look at not only how these men thought, but also how they learned: as you said, by extensive reading for “extreme knowledge and intellect” plus that potent catalyst; passion.

Marc W. Stauffer says:
May 21, 2010 at 11:45 pm
Actually, they were very well educated, with most of the founding fathers having degrees, many in law. Many also held degrees in Ministry. The educational philosophy of the time included religion, morality and knowledge and was far more rigorous and demanding than today’s. Have you ever read The New England Primer? This was the introduction book to reading…a first grade equivalent book. Spelling was up to six syllables and there was much memory work. By fourth grade, complex math problems were calculated without the use of pen and paper (head math). Webster’s “Blue Back” speller was being used; creating the first “spelling bee’s” competitions. It was not uncommon for young people to enter the university system at the young age of 14. Fisher Ames (First Amendment creator) entered Harvard at 12, Charles Carroll of Carrolton (a Declaration signer) entered college at 12, Benjamin Rush (Declaration signer) graduated from Princeton at 14, Jonathan Trumbull (Con. Supreme Court Justice) passed the Yale entrance exam at 7 1/2 but was held back to enter with his peers at 13. James Iredell (Supreme Court Justice) was appointed to the North Carolina office of the Treasury as their Secretary at 17, the list goes on and on.
When you read about the lives of the Founders you suddenly realize what extraordinary men they were.

Dave says:
May 22, 2010 at 10:10 am
Thanks Marc for making me feel really stupid:) I remember reading a letter of Thomas Jefferson to a friend discussing a course of study for this friend’s son. Jefferson listed the required reading list and thought that with a modicum of dedication the son should finish the course of study in about three years. How did Jefferson define “a modicum of dedication?” Fourteen hours of reading a day! Contrast that with the results of a study done in 2003 of the reading activity of any kind done by 15- to 24-year-olds. This age group, our future leaders, read a whopping 8 minutes per day. Source: The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein.

Barb Zakszewski says:
May 24, 2010 at 6:41 pm
I have a book I bought a couple years ago, called “The constitutional Convention”, which is comprised of James Madison’s detailed notes of the proceedings, including many of the arguements for and against each article and phase of the Constitution. I started reading it, then put it aside, but guess what, I’ve picked it back up again!!

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 24, 2010 at 7:20 pm
I think it is up to the parents to instill the love of reading into their children, it is not a natural pasttime for most. When our children were born, Sunday became reading day, first to them, then later by themselves. The TV could not be turned on before 6pm, and only after 2 hours minimum of reading was done and discussed. Now our children are avid readers, and read everything. We still have table discussions on what we read, and debate our point of views. They have an immense vocabulary and can talk knowingly on most topics. And now, reading is done daily, their choice.

Susan Craig says:
May 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm
I saw an 8th grade graduation exam from back in the late 1800′s and if most ‘College’ graduates didn’t flunk it, I’ll eat my hat.

barb Zakszewski says:
May 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm
Shameful, isn’t it?? What isn’t being taught in our schools anymore. I remember having to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution in my 7th Grade History class. Now the kids are barely aware we even has a governing Constitution. Most kids think our Constitution is what the Supreme Court and Obama says it is..Sad indeed..That is why this site is SOO important!!

Mireille Cantrell says:
June 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm
Researching the trend toward homeschooling is growing year by year to become the fastest trend in education. The government is controlling what is taught in public schools and parents are concerned about the truths in our history that is being left out of our textbooks.
If America’s history is removed from the minds of its people, not only honor and pride will be lost, but the very freedoms for which our founding fathers fought and died for. Without liberty there remains only slavery and the will of the people will be removed by the government. We need to remember the past in truth because we are the result of this past.

Clarity Brown says:
June 8, 2010 at 4:33 pm
I think more people would do home-schooling if they weren’t so afraid of ‘how’ to. I know when my kids were just about ready to start school, I didn’t even consider it an option at the time. I was too afraid, and assumed there was no way I could teach my kids. Plus, I had no idea on where to get the information to know how and what to home-school them with.
Of course at the same time, I had no idea that the government was using schools in most places to push an agenda. If I had known that, I probably would have gone out of my way to find out this information.
They’re both in high school, now. I wouldn’t think of pulling them out, since they’ve been in the system too long. But I did make sure to keep them informed on everything happening, and fortunately for me, they both have an open mind on politics and what’s going on.

Guest Blogger: Andrew Langer, President of the Institute for Liberty

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Federalist #18

What sets the founding of the American republic apart from the founding of so many nations on Earth was the depth and breadth of knowledge, research, analysis and debate that went into it.  This is made evident from Madison’s Federalist #18, written under his pseudonym “Publius”.  In 18, Madison delves deeply into the experience of the ancient Greek states and the various federations, alliances, and confederations that they had historically formed.  In an era without instant electronic access to libraries of information, the sheer amount of scholarship presented in these pieces is nothing short of astounding.

Federalist #18 charts the shortcomings that arose within these various confederacies, presenting them as analogs and object lessons for the then-current struggles the fledgling republic was experiencing.  The message was simple:  we must learn from these mistakes, and make every effort to correct where the learned Greeks were deficient.  It is the essence of archival scholarship:  those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

Two key lessons emerge.  First and foremost, the issue of balancing minority interests against those of a powerful majority, and vice-versa.  It was only though the careful historical scholarship of the founders that the delicate structures that we have today were created—and direct lines can be drawn from these lessons to the creation of two very different legislative branches, one stemming from direct democracy (The House), the 2nd stemming (initially) from a more genteel (but, in my estimation far more responsive to the people) source of power (The Senate, which until the ratification of the 17th Amendment drew its members from the nominations of state legislatures); the electoral college (which serves to balance the interests of rural and urban population centers); as well as the very system of dual sovereigns that underpins the system of federalism.

The second lesson arose out of the first—that whatever federal union would be created, would have to be strong.  That even though federalism “secures to citizens the liberties that derive from the diffusion of sovereign power” (The Supreme Court in Coleman v. Thompson, 501 US 722, 759 (1991)), nevertheless there would still have to be a strong and unified central power, to ensure that the nation would not only grow and prosper, but be able to effectively defend itself.  There is strength to be had in numbers, and this is the essence of E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One).

Call it happenstance, call it the coincidence of timing and talent, or call it (as I do) divine providence.  The bottom line is that at the time when this nation needed learned minds and steady hands guiding it, those men were to be found leading it.  Their grasp of the lessons of history (both the mistakes, and triumphs) are evident in Federalist #18.

Andrew Langer is the President of the Institute for Liberty