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:

THE examples of ancient confederacies, cited in my last paper, have not exhausted the source of experimental instruction on this subject. There are existing institutions, founded on a similar principle, which merit particular consideration. The first which presents itself is the Germanic body.

In the early ages of Christianity, Germany was occupied by seven distinct nations, who had no common chief. The Franks, one of the number, having conquered the Gauls, established the kingdom which has taken its name from them. In the ninth century Charlemagne, its warlike monarch, carried his victorious arms in every direction; and Germany became a part of his vast dominions. On the dismemberment, which took place under his sons, this part was erected into a separate and independent empire. Charlemagne and his immediate descendants possessed the reality, as well as the ensigns and dignity of imperial power. But the principal vassals, whose fiefs had become hereditary, and who composed the national diets which Charlemagne had not abolished, gradually threw off the yoke and advanced to sovereign jurisdiction and independence. The force of imperial sovereignty was insufficient to restrain such powerful dependants; or to preserve the unity and tranquillity of the empire. The most furious private wars, accompanied with every species of calamity, were carried on between the different princes and states. The imperial authority, unable to maintain the public order, declined by degrees till it was almost extinct in the anarchy, which agitated the long interval between the death of the last emperor of the Suabian, and the accession of the first emperor of the Austrian lines. In the eleventh century the emperors enjoyed full sovereignty: In the fifteenth they had little more than the symbols and decorations of power.

Out of this feudal system, which has itself many of the important features of a confederacy, has grown the federal system which constitutes the Germanic empire. Its powers are vested in a diet representing the component members of the confederacy; in the emperor, who is the executive magistrate, with a negative on the decrees of the diet; and in the imperial chamber and the aulic council, two judiciary tribunals having supreme jurisdiction in controversies which concern the empire, or which happen among its members.

The diet possesses the general power of legislating for the empire; of making war and peace; contracting alliances; assessing quotas of troops and money; constructing fortresses; regulating coin; admitting new members; and subjecting disobedient members to the ban of the empire, by which the party is degraded from his sovereign rights and his possessions forfeited. The members of the confederacy are expressly restricted from entering into compacts prejudicial to the empire; from imposing tolls and duties on their mutual intercourse, without the consent of the emperor and diet; from altering the value of money; from doing injustice to one another; or from affording assistance or retreat to disturbers of the public peace. And the ban is denounced against such as shall violate any of these restrictions. The members of the diet, as such, are subject in all cases to be judged by the emperor and diet, and in their private capacities by the aulic council and imperial chamber.

The prerogatives of the emperor are numerous. The most important of them are: his exclusive right to make propositions to the diet; to negative its resolutions; to name ambassadors; to confer dignities and titles; to fill vacant electorates; to found universities; to grant privileges not injurious to the states of the empire; to receive and apply the public revenues; and generally to watch over the public safety. In certain cases, the electors form a council to him. In quality of emperor, he possesses no territory within the empire, nor receives any revenue for his support. But his revenue and dominions, in other qualities, constitute him one of the most powerful princes in Europe.

From such a parade of constitutional powers, in the representatives and head of this confederacy, the natural supposition would be, that it must form an exception to the general character which belongs to its kindred systems. Nothing would be further from the reality. The fundamental principle on which it rests, that the empire is a community of sovereigns, that the diet is a representation of sovereigns and that the laws are addressed to sovereigns, renders the empire a nerveless body, incapable of regulating its own members, insecure against external dangers, and agitated with unceasing fermentations in its own bowels.

The history of Germany is a history of wars between the emperor and the princes and states; of wars among the princes and states themselves; of the licentiousness of the strong, and the oppression of the weak; of foreign intrusions, and foreign intrigues; of requisitions of men and money disregarded, or partially complied with; of attempts to enforce them, altogether abortive, or attended with slaughter and desolation, involving the innocent with the guilty; of general inbecility, confusion, and misery.

In the sixteenth century, the emperor, with one part of the empire on his side, was seen engaged against the other princes and states. In one of the conflicts, the emperor himself was put to flight, and very near being made prisoner by the elector of Saxony. The late king of Prussia was more than once pitted against his imperial sovereign; and commonly proved an overmatch for him. Controversies and wars among the members themselves have been so common, that the German annals are crowded with the bloody pages which describe them. Previous to the peace of Westphalia, Germany was desolated by a war of thirty years, in which the emperor, with one half of the empire, was on one side, and Sweden, with the other half, on the opposite side. Peace was at length negotiated, and dictated by foreign powers; and the articles of it, to which foreign powers are parties, made a fundamental part of the Germanic constitution.

If the nation happens, on any emergency, to be more united by the necessity of self-defense, its situation is still deplorable. Military preparations must be preceded by so many tedious discussions, arising from the jealousies, pride, separate views, and clashing pretensions of sovereign bodies, that before the diet can settle the arrangements, the enemy are in the field; and before the federal troops are ready to take it, are retiring into winter quarters.

The small body of national troops, which has been judged necessary in time of peace, is defectively kept up, badly paid, infected with local prejudices, and supported by irregular and disproportionate contributions to the treasury.

The impossibility of maintaining order and dispensing justice among these sovereign subjects, produced the experiment of dividing the empire into nine or ten circles or districts; of giving them an interior organization, and of charging them with the military execution of the laws against delinquent and contumacious members. This experiment has only served to demonstrate more fully the radical vice of the constitution. Each circle is the miniature picture of the deformities of this political monster. They either fail to execute their commissions, or they do it with all the devastation and carnage of civil war. Sometimes whole circles are defaulters; and then they increase the mischief which they were instituted to remedy.

We may form some judgment of this scheme of military coercion from a sample given by Thuanus. In Donawerth, a free and imperial city of the circle of Suabia, the Abb 300 de St. Croix enjoyed certain immunities which had been reserved to him. In the exercise of these, on some public occasions, outrages were committed on him by the people of the city. The consequence was that the city was put under the ban of the empire, and the Duke of Bavaria, though director of another circle, obtained an appointment to enforce it. He soon appeared before the city with a corps of ten thousand troops, and finding it a fit occasion, as he had secretly intended from the beginning, to revive an antiquated claim, on the pretext that his ancestors had suffered the place to be dismembered from his territory, [1] he took possession of it in his own name, disarmed, and punished the inhabitants, and reannexed the city to his domains.

It may be asked, perhaps, what has so long kept this disjointed machine from falling entirely to pieces? The answer is obvious: The weakness of most of the members, who are unwilling to expose themselves to the mercy of foreign powers; the weakness of most of the principal members, compared with the formidable powers all around them; the vast weight and influence which the emperor derives from his separate and heriditary dominions; and the interest he feels in preserving a system with which his family pride is connected, and which constitutes him the first prince in Europe; –these causes support a feeble and precarious Union; whilst the repellant quality, incident to the nature of sovereignty, and which time continually strengthens, prevents any reform whatever, founded on a proper consolidation. Nor is it to be imagined, if this obstacle could be surmounted, that the neighboring powers would suffer a revolution to take place which would give to the empire the force and preeminence to which it is entitled. Foreign nations have long considered themselves as interested in the changes made by events in this constitution; and have, on various occasions, betrayed their policy of perpetuating its anarchy and weakness.

If more direct examples were wanting, Poland, as a government over local sovereigns, might not improperly be taken notice of. Nor could any proof more striking be given of the calamities flowing from such institutions. Equally unfit for self-government and self-defense, it has long been at the mercy of its powerful neighbors; who have lately had the mercy to disburden it of one third of its people and territories.

The connection among the Swiss cantons scarcely amounts to a confederacy; though it is sometimes cited as an instance of the stability of such institutions.

They have no common treasury; no common troops even in war; no common coin; no common judicatory; nor any other common mark of sovereignty.

They are kept together by the peculiarity of their topographical position; by their individual weakness and insignificancy; by the fear of powerful neighbors, to one of which they were formerly subject; by the few sources of contention among a people of such simple and homogeneous manners; by their joint interest in their dependent possessions; by the mutual aid they stand in need of, for suppressing insurrections and rebellions, an aid expressly stipulated and often required and afforded; and by the necessity of some regular and permanent provision for accomodating disputes among the cantons. The provision is, that the parties at variance shall each choose four judges out of the neutral cantons, who, in case of disagreement, choose an umpire. This tribunal, under an oath of impartiality, pronounces definitive sentence, which all the cantons are bound to enforce. The competency of this regulation may be estimated by a clause in their treaty of 1683, with Victor Amadeus of Savoy; in which he obliges himself to interpose as mediator in disputes between the cantons, and to employ force, if necessary, against the contumacious party.

So far as the peculiarity of their case will admit of comparison with that of the United States, it serves to confirm the principle intended to be established. Whatever efficacy the union may have had in ordinary cases, it appears that the moment a cause of difference sprang up, capable of trying its strength, it failed. The controversies on the subject of religion, which in three instances have kindled violent and bloody contests, may be said, in fact, to have severed the league. The Protestant and Catholic cantons have since had their separate diets, where all the most important concerns are adjusted, and which have left the general diet little other business than to take care of the common bailages.

That separation had another consequence, which merits attention. It produced opposite alliances with foreign powers: of Berne, at the head of the Protestant association, with the United Provinces; and of Luzerne, at the head of the Catholic association, with France.


Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Howdy from Texas! I hope “y’all” had a great weekend. I hope you had a chance to start reading, ‘Miracle at Philadelphia.” It is such a great companion piece to what we are doing and did y’all watch the History Channel’s, “America: the Story of US?” It is fantastic!

I thank you for joining us today and I thank Professor Knipprath’s words of wisdom!

I hope you have a chance to check out my daily video today, (it’s on the website or the link to YouTube is on Facebook), and my daughter’s weekly video as National Youth Director, Week #2

Please spread the links via e-mail and Facebook. Today’s videos encompass quotes from Senator Patrick Moynihan and President Ronald Reagan and highlight the 1st Amendment and William J. Bennett’s book, “America: The Last Best Hope.”

As I read Federalist Paper No. 19 by Alexander Hamilton today I was intrigued with the following quote regarding sixteenth century Germany, “Military preparations must be proceeded by so many tedious discussions, arising from the jealousies, pride, separate views, and clashing pretensions, of sovereign bodies, that before the diet can settle the arrangements, the enemy are in the field.”

I find this phrase to be remarkably relevant today. We are experiencing so much “discussion” regarding threats to our country from foreign countries, so much “discussion” with foreign countries, so much dissension amongst our political parties and so much clashing pretensions from our Congress and Executive Branch that our vision is being obscured in regard to the fact that our enemy is in the field.

And Alexander Hamilton’s words about the lack of military alertness echoes forth a warning, too.

“The small body of national troops which has been judged necessary in time of peace, is defectively kept up, badly paid, infected with local prejudices, and supported by irregular and disproportionate contributions to the treasury.”

Are we prepared?

God Bless,

Janine Turner


Monday, May 24th, 2010

Professor Knipprath, thank you for an essay that goes way beyond Federalist 19, addressing the natural order of the universe!  Your observations not only reflect what we have seen in history, but also what we are seeing in our country today.

Federalist 19 continues to reveal to us that the United States system of government as outlined in the Constitution is not just the result of our founding fathers’ vivid imaginations and creativity.  The system of government they designed is based on an astute observation of history, an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of the governmental systems of many civilizations, and the improvements upon those systems our founders devised, taking into account their deep understanding of human nature, the people of the United States, and the resources of our great land.

Publius’ arguments for ratification are compelling because he doesn’t simply give an opinion, he backs up his position with example after example.

One of the last sentences of Federalist 19 caught my eye:

So far as the peculiarity of their case will admit of comparison with that of the United States, it serves to confirm the principle intended to be established. Whatever efficacy the union may have had in ordinary cases, it appears that the moment a cause of difference sprang up, capable of trying its strength, it failed.”

Unlike many governmental systems in history, the system of government designed by our founders, within the structure of our Constitution, has allowed our country to withstand differences capable of “trying our strength.”  Our system of government has not failed us, even in trying times.  We survived the Civil War. We survived the Great Depression.  We survived riots in the 1960’s. We survived World War I, World War II and terrorist attacks upon our country.  We will survive the current immigration problems besieging many of our states. Through the course of history we have calibrated and recalibrated the course of our Nation through our elected representatives.

I believe that is what Andy was trying to say in a post this weekend:

“This country was founded on the ability to change direction in government by the vote. That happened two years ago because a majority of people felt change should happen. If that change went too far, then an opportunity to reset the course will occur in November.”

and what Janine says in her FoxNews Op-ed, Your Vote is Your Voice:

Going back to Professor Knipprath’s essay, an informed, educated and engaged citizenry is the energy that keeps our Republic from decay.  It is what keeps our system of government so carefully constructed by our founders, from failing us during the trying times.

The responsibility rests with We The People. When we  understand our rights embodied in the United States Constitution as well as the principles upon which this country was founded, we can elect those who will use the Constitution as our guiding light as we forge the course of the future, keeping us strong during the  times capable of “trying our strength.”

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie


Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

Monday, May 24th, 2010

E Pluribus Unum. “Out of Many, One.” This aphorism is one of the mottos adopted by the Confederation Congress in 1782 for the Great Seal of the new United States. It not just describes the union of states that was put together through the efforts of the Second Continental Congress. That particular choice also recognizes the relative novelty of the political experiment Americans were undertaking, a novelty memorialized as well in a motto on the Seal’s reverse, Novus Ordo Seclorum, “A New Order for the Ages.”

Federalist No. 19 continues the examination of dangers from weak confederations, a topic that has, in one form or another, been at the core of most of Publius’s preceding efforts. As in the adjoining papers, the theme is the tendency of weak confederations towards internal turmoil, external weakness, and eventual collapse. Here, Madison focuses on the weaknesses of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, an entity intended to re-create an old order for the ages.

The historical evolution of the Germanic realm that Madison describes is the opposite of E Pluribus Unum. “Out of one come many” better represents the unfolding of the usual order of things. That theme is common in creation explanations from religion, philosophy, and science. God created Adam, then Eve from Adam, who together multiplied. For Plato and his later interpreters, reality followed from the singularity of the Form of the Good. In physical science, everything developed from the singularity that is the source of the Big Bang. Under the theory of biological evolution, all life multiplied from some original single-celled organism. Out of one, many.

Likewise, the usual order of things is for systems, once established, to move from flourishing to decay, from order and unity to chaos and multiplicity, from the whole to the parts. This holds true for physical and biological systems, as well as systems of human organization. The body decays. Stars decay. Personal relationships decay. Political orders decay. Personal experience and a basic study of science and history lead us to these common sense conclusions.

Following initial Creation, subsequent creations may form new systems from pre-existing parts. People come together to form new families, communities, and states. At the level of states, these events are infrequent, and, as Madison points out in a later essay, usually the result of one charismatic man’s influence. But any such creation is immediately threatened by the tendencies towards decay and multiplicity.

The protection against decay and chaos is “energy.” To maintain our bodies, we use energy through food. Plants use the sun’s energy to stay alive. In families, it takes energy (physical and emotional) to maintain a well-functioning unit. So it is with political systems. The Germanic realm was created by Charlemagne, a very energetic statesman. But subsequent emperors were more ordinary, and the system itself failed to provide the structures that would allow the government to act with the requisite energy to maintain it. This need for “auxiliary measures,” that is, constitutional structures, to insulate the country from instability caused by variability in the qualities of the governing officials is raised in several essays.

Publius frequently raises the critical quality of energy in government in various writings. To underscore the force of his argument in Federalist 19, Madison’s recitation of the emperor’s formal powers suggests, not too subtly, those under the Articles. The princes, with their own claims to particular sovereignty, produced chaos within the system and intrigue from without. Madison’s warning about the deleterious effects of the decision to devolve power onto “circles” within the Empire was a pointed rebuke to supporters of the Articles who argued that common interests and customs within regions of the United States would produce amicability and desire for concord among neighboring states in ordinary matters, while the Confederation took care of external challenges. The Empire’s structure could not provide the conditions for energy in government when the emperor’s personal ordinariness could not surmount the system’s deficiencies. Neither could the Articles. The Constitution would.

Too little energy in government is a problem; so is too much. The sun’s energy is necessary for living systems. Yet too much energy kills as relentlessly as too little. Much of the debate over the Constitution was not about the need for energy in government, but about the amount. Some opponents of the Constitution thought that the Articles supplied enough. Others agreed with Publius that the Articles were defective, but worried that the Constitution went too far.

Though the particulars of Madison’s historical account might be open to question, his basic conclusions have merit. Still, the Empire lasted a thousand years. Indeed, Antifederalist writers lauded the relative stability and continuity of the systems that Madison derides. For well over three centuries (from the early tenth through the thirteenth), the Empire functioned effectively and energetically. It will take more than another century for the United States to reach that longevity. Meanwhile, we must ask whether the system that has emerged under the Constitution provides the right amount of energy to the central authority—or too much. Or did the Framers get the structure right, but have the people, through a lapse of republican virtue and political participation, permitted politicians and bureaucrats to stretch the structure beyond its original contours and to draw energy from individuals and other constituent parts to the central government?

As the mottos declare, the forming of the United States was a creative act to forge one out of many, first under the Articles and then, “to form a more perfect union,” under the Constitution. This was to be a new order for the ages, one that would seek to avoid the inevitable decay and dissolution through a novel constitutional accommodation. There is, too, a revealing third motto on the Great Seal, “Annuit Coeptis,” translated as “He [God] Approves Our Undertakings,” to complete the description of the project at hand. To avoid the fate of the polities that Madison describes in Federalist 19, we must remain vigilant to keep our constitutional, political, and social order true to the aspirations expressed in all three mottos and in the Constitution.

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