Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
The Federalist Papers were written from 1787 to 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. They were published in several New York State newspapers to persuade New York voters to ratify the proposed constitution that had been crafted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. Numbering 85, the essays outlined the ways the new federal government would operate and why this type of government was the best choice for the United States of America. Each of the essays were signed “PUBLIUS” and they remain today as an excellent reference for anyone who wants to understand the United States Constitution.
Hamilton opens Federalist #1 with an introduction of the present state of affairs in the then existing United States of America and his plan to explain over a series of Papers why the new federal government created by the U.S. Constitution was necessary. Premised in his argument is a fundamental foundation upon which our system of government is based — self-government or rule by the consent of the governed. From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate. Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.
At the time of the writing of Federalist #1 the United States of America is governed by the Articles of Confederation. Drafted by the Second Continental Congress in 1776, the Articles of Confederation had been submitted to the states for ratification in November of 1777.
As outlined by the Continental Congress, the federal government by 1787 had the authority to make war, negotiate diplomatic agreements and treaties, and acquire and oversee new territories that had not yet become full-fledged states.
However, by the time of the Philadelphia Convention that year many of the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation were obvious. The government created by the Articles was incapable of providing the authority and power needed to be a fully functioning authority. Instead of a division of authority among three separate branches, the federal government exercised all of its authority through a unicameral legislature called the Congress of Confederation. Ironically, such a concentration of power masked the overall weakness of the federal government.
In order to change or amend the Articles, it required unanimous approval of the states. This standard made making any changes or reforms nearly impossible. The federal government had no power to tax and as such could not meet even its most basic financial responsibilities. A threshold requirement that nine of 13 states approve major laws passed by the Congress limited the ability of Congress to act on any but the most uncontroversial matters. In addition, it is significant that the Articles provided no authority for Congress to resolve conflicts between the states or to set up countrywide rules to encourage merchants and commerce.
Hamilton along with many other of our Founders recognized that if the United States was ever to become an economic powerhouse capable of defending itself from enemies without and within it was essential that the changes proposed in the Constitution were adopted. You see it was not simply dumb luck that we have this national charter. Now more than 200 years later we Americans share in the legacy created by these men and women who had such foresight and wisdom.
The Philadelphia Convention convened in May of 1787 and did not finish until September. When the convention finished Delegate Benjamin Franklin was approached by a woman. She asked Mr. Franklin, “What have you given us? A monarchy or a republic?” He famously replied, “A republic…if you can keep it.” Therein lies our task as citizens today.
Horace Cooper is a Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation
47 Responses to “April 28, 2010 – Federalist No. 1, General Introduction, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Horace Cooper, Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation”
It is particularly interesting to me that Hamilton and Madison, who worked so well together to produce the Constitution and see it through to ratification, later became the driving force behind the first two political parties (The Federalists & The Jeffersonian-Republicans, which today are known as the Democrats). United in the cause of bringing the nation into being, they later split over the direction it should take.
It would be interesting to see how–and if–the differences that later developed between are foreshawdowed in The Federalist Papers. Perhaps some of the experts could build that analysis into their commentaries as the series moves forward.
Lillian Harvey says:
“…it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”
I wonder how Mr. Hamilton would feel about the “power grab” enacted on the backs of the American people in the form of “Healthcare *access through mandated insurance purchase*” as an Individual Right? He certainly didn’t think much of the “rights” of people over the “firmness and efficiency” of government.
It is clear that the anti-Federalists had a reason to be nervous for the future of our country and establishing a federal system without a clear delineation between the rights of individuals and the powers granted to government by those individuals. Without that rich debate, would we have ever gained the deep appreciation for the liberty and prosperity that was possible as this country grew? To even think that modern day Progressivism is in anyway aligned with the thinking of either of these schools of thought is absurd, imho. How far away they are from what the Founders were talking about and doing.
Do our selected leaders of today really understand how far this process has strayed? I feel there are tricks and tyrants afoot.
Are you all as blown away by what you are reading as I am? I studied these documents in school, of course. But I feel like I am finally understanding them because there are such contrasting ideas being practiced in our government today. Process is everything. I understand why these 1st Principles were adopted and why they fought so hard to enact them. Time to restore the Republic to 1st principles. No pain, no gain.
Yes, I’m pretty much blown away by understanding the deeper meanings in these documents. Until this project I never really understood how things like Social Security, Medicare and parts of the health reform bill really *are* unconstitutional, and should be abolished.
Lillian Harvey says:
Finding the reset button is one thing, but pushing it is another. Each day, I’m finding more courage to accept the consequences of doing just that. There are more of us to convince that we are on the wrong track and there will be sacrifices to get us straight. Projects like this one are our best hope to help us make the necessary case through educated and considered argument against the legislative waste passed for the “good of the people”.
Donna had a great description of how the study of case law and rulings on precedents rather than original intent has assisted in getting us off track. Being able to see legislative proposals through the principles laid out in the Constitution demonstrates that most have no place being enacted at the Federal level. There is so much bloat in the Executive as a result. Of course “Washington is broken”. This structure was not designed to carry that extraordinary and unnecessary weight.
Susan Craig says:
From Ecclesiastes “There is nothing new under the sun”. It continues to amaze me at the well rounded understanding of the human condition that our Founding Fathers had. How our ‘education’ has failed us.
Carolyn Attaway says:
I made the comment to my husband last night, that since I started reading the Constitution again through this series, watching the news took on a complete new dimension. Listening to Congressmen discuss the Immigration Laws and the Goldman Sachs debacle, I am realizing that many have no idea what they are talking about. Congressman and newscasters alike are saying things like ‘This Law Makes it a Crime to be an Illegal Immigrant’. I had to clean out my ears when I heard that one. Surely I was mistaken. Sadly, I wasn’t.
And I could have cried when I heard the congressmen grilling Goldman Sachs CEO’s. They had no idea what they were asking, and could not understand the answers. Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe Goldman Sachs is an innocent victim in this mess, but the dog and pony shows our Congress puts on is embarrassing. And it’s all for political gain. I find it hard to believe they will prosecute Goldman Sachs; just like passing an immigration law, it is to dangle the carrot in front of unsuspecting voters for the November election.
Our country burns, while our Congress fiddles. I wonder if Benjamin Franklin knew how prophectic his words would be.
On another note, I find it interesting that all the letters are signed PUBLIUS. Publius was the “Chief man of the Island of Malta” mentioned in Acts 28:7 (Another proof that our founders read the Bible). How appropriate that they used the name of the man who entertained Paul and his companions while they were shipwrecked on Malta, and were seeking a permenant place of residence. Paul and his companions stayed on the island until the stormy season had passed. Could our founders have felt that same way in trying to ratify the proposed Constitution? I find this very interesting and it sheds a new light on this process for me.
Carolyn Attaway says:
I forgot to add on my previous post, that I believe with Knowledge comes Responsibility. As we read and discuss the Constitution and Federalist Papers, we are being charged with passing what we learn to others. No more couch activists! If we are to help restore our country, we must step into it. Finding the perfect balance between teaching and not preaching, will be a challenge for me, I know. But I heard a great piece of advice that other day on the radio. The talk show host was talking to a priest who works out west. The priest said the difference between liberals and conservatives, is that liberals use their emotions for their arguments, while conservatives use facts. When dealing with feelings, one must tread carefully.
Shannon Castleman says:
Carolyn, right on. agree with you that Goldman Sach’s is not a Saint. However, if my Economics degree taught me anything, it is this: They have the right to short an invenstment just as we have the right to wait for that new pair of jeans to go on sale. (That is basically ‘shorting’ the position.)
If people are wise stewards of their money, and diversify their investments like the BIBLE commands, they really wouldn’t be hurt by one bad apple.
Susan Craig says:
My ‘couch’ efforts have included posting the days revelation on my local news station’s blog site and calling the HS principle and ensuring that the HS was aware of the educational tools and contest available for his students.
I, too, am embarrassed at the debacle going on with the grilling of Goldman Sachs…especially since the one doing most of the grilling (and using profanity) is from my district. I agree that those doing the grilling have no idea what they are talking about. Yes, something needs to be done about reigning in Wallstreet but how and at what cost? The government itself is up to its eyeballs in the cause of the financial mess we are in. Our founders KNEW that humans crave and seek power and that power corrupts (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”….John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton). That is exactly why they were so careful in their drafting of our Constitution and the follow up Federalist papers. The government was not MEANT to be Big Brother. Their “powers” were meant to be very limited. Government is neccessary to prevent anarchy, but “we the people” are the ones in power (alteast we are supposed to be).
Robert Shanbaum says:
What a curious commentary on Federalist #1! Mr. Cooper, could you have written less about the actual content of Hamilton’s essay?
The bulk of the essay is not about government at all. It opens and closes with a bit about the importance of the decision. But in the middle five paragraphs, Hamilton gets to his main purpose, which is to “poison the well” – to try to bias the reader against the other side, which Hamilton expects to rise in opposition to the new Consititution, before he has a chance to speak. Look at the litany of characteristics that the opponents will have: “ambition, avarice, personal animosity…” They will have some personal interest in the preservation of more powerful state governments (“…power, emoluments, and consequences of the offices…”). Essentially, it’s an exercise in mudslinging – but it’s the most elegant and dignified mudslinging since Marc Antony’s eulogy in Julius Caesar.
Federalist #1 doesn’t shed much light on the Constitution at all, except to the extent that it sheds light on the way politics worked in the Eighteenth Century. And when I read the following, in which Hamilton predicts how his adversaries will behave, I can’t help but think, this could have been written yesterday:
“A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”
Robert Shanbaum says:
Lillian, you do realize, do you not, that when Hamilton wrote that “a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people”, he was referring to people whom he expected would oppose the Constitution by arguing that it would give the government too much power to infringe on people’s rights? You realize, don’t you, that those people – the ones who argue that they’re interested in “the rights of the people” – those are the bad guys in Hamilton’s narrative?
The good guys here, according to Hamilton, are the ones who promote the virtues of a government having “firmness and efficiency”.
I ask because in your comment immediately following the citation, it sure looks like you could be positioning yourself as one of Hamilton’s bad guys when you argue that the government’s actions are a “power grab enacted on the backs of the American people.” That sounds to me like it could be characterized as a “zeal for the rights of the people.” Whether one would see it as a “specious mask” of the same is probably a matter of one’s political persuasion.
You might want to read a little more about Hamilton. He’s something of a problem for those who are seeking support in the Constitution for de minimis government. In the Philadelphia Convention, for example, he proposed a centralized government in which the former states were stripped of their sovereignty altogether. (Importantly, to give you comfort, he did not prevail, obviously).
Elsewhere in these blogs, Hamilton was referred to as “evil” because he favored centralized, powerful government (which he did indeed, to a greater degree than any modern progressive of whom I’m aware). But whether you like his politics or not, he was in fact one of the framers of the Constitution, and he apparently saw sufficient comportment (dare I say, “potential comportment”) between it and his politics to allow him to go to the trouble of working for its ratification by writing these articles.
To answer your question about how Mr. Hamilton would feel about your alleged “power grab”, I’d say, he would be perfectly alright with it.
On that same topic, it may interest you to know that in 1798, the fifth Congress created the Marine Hospital Fund, which established a network of federally-run hospitals along the eastern seaboard to care for sailors and seamen, financed by a federal tax on their wages of twenty cents per month. That system persisted into the 1980’s. I think that in addition to what the Founders and Framers wrote, it’s instructive to look at what they did.
David Hathaway says:
My interest in the Federalist Papers was begun when I read the recent biography of Alexander Hamilton, written by Ron Chernow. It was an interesting read, especially since Hamilton went on to found and The First Bank of The United States, the first Fed. I highly recommend this book.
I’m sorry that I have delayed reading the Federalist Papers for so long. Thanks for the guided opportunity to make up for lost time.
Karen Sherer says:
I LOVE this opportunity to really refresh my understanding of the roots of our wonderful country by reading and blogging with all of you about the Constitution and the Federalist Papers! I’ve never blogged before so I was excited to finally find a topic I could respond to that offers something new and, perhaps, worthwhile. @ Carolyn Attaway: you provide so much food for thought, and maybe Madison did name Publius from the Publius of the Acts of the Apostles as the author of the Federalist Papers but the edition I am using had an insightful introduction by a man named Charles A. Kessler. He wrote that Publius Valerius Publicola was instrumental in establishing the republic of Rome. He called Publius the founder and savior of Rome and that Plutarch compares and contrasts this man with Solon the democratic lawgiver of Athens in “Parallel Lives”. Kessler wrote that Hamilton named the author of the papers “Publius” to trump the anti-federalists who were using “Cato” and Brutus” (also heroes of the Roman republic) as pseudonyms for their anti-federalist papers.
Also @Carolyn: I hope to end my career as a “couch activist” as I become more able to defend my political belief with facts. And I also heard that interview on talk radio about the difference between liberals and conservatives and I find that really true.
Carolyn Attaway says:
@Susan – Great “couch” activities! I didn’t even think about the local news station blog. Good idea.
@Shannon and Maggie – I for one am glad that the GOP has stopped the Financial Reform from getting to the floor for debate. I do not trust this Congress with Financial Reform, especially since they will not even address Fannie and Freddie, or want to put more bailouts for Big Banks in this bill. That just scratches the surface. I would love for this Senate to stop anything from going through until after the election AND they address spending!
And the Founders had it right about Congress should not be a full time job. I cannot even begin to describe my emotions when I heard Tim Geithner comment “I never had a real job”. Doesn’t that spike confidence in his abilities to help the ‘real’ world?
Carolyn Attaway says:
@Karen – Awesome piece about Publius Valerius Publicola. I find it intriguing that the name Publius is close to the word Public, which can be defined as people constituting a community, state, or nation, or a particular group of people with a common interest, aim. I am really enjoying learning so much from everyone’s input about our founding documents.
The hardest thing I have found about getting off the couch so far is pulling my friends with me.
Thomas Soyars says:
While true when written this part may be even more true today:
“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”
Ron Meier says:
At my church, we are having a sermon series titled “Get off your donkey.” It is based on the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:34, who got off his donkey to serve his fellow man, even though the injured man was one others, including priests, avoided and refused to help. In like manner, by following this program, we should have the courage to get off our donkeys, armed with the knowledge of what our founders wanted this great country to be, and be ready to “fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish the race,” 2 Timothy 4:7. We have a lot of work to do, and it’s time to get off our own donkeys and force our leaders to get back on the track our founders placed us on more than 200 years ago. The tea parties are a good start, but only a start. Remember what Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”
Ron Meier says:
And, thanks to Janine and Cathy for getting this going! Two women who listened to Burke and got off their donkeys.
Ron Meier says:
Interesting comment when Hamilton says: “a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.” It’s interesting to me that much of the rhetoric in DC today is supposedly based on making everything better for everyone other than the wealthy; it seems that this is a ruse to convince the people that having more government will make this happen, when the ultimate end game is to maximize control over the majority of the people. 50% don’t pay income taxes now; if the Administration and Congress can move that up to 70% or so, then they’ll have the people right where they want them.
As I finished Federalist 1, I concluded that it set out the plan for the series of essays, what was to be discussed, and tried to debunk one of the first objections – that the individual states are better off without being under the umbrella of a nation.
My personal belief is in line with Federalist 1 – America is a great country because of its ability to bring the talents, resources, opinions and people of the individual states together while allowing the states to experiment and maintain their individuality.
Andy Sparks says:
The Publius pseudonym used by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay was named for the Roman Consul Publius Valerius Publicola who supposedly helped form the Roman Republic. He lived around 500BC, well before the birth of Christ.
How impressive you all are in your commentaries! I suspect the only thing our Founding Fathers would be proud of and respect today (were they to awaken to our current state) would be the new rebirth of patriotic activism, the passionate rediscovering of our heritage, and the determination of Americans to restore our great republic to it’s true form of constitutionally limited government of, by, and for The People.
Lillian rightly appreciates how wise our Founders were in their understanding of human nature, and how delicate and difficult to maintain a limited government would be. I can never get over the profound wisdom of our Founders in that they not only understood the nature of their righteous endeavor, but they understood how unique in the annals of all human history their undertaking was! They were IN the moment, and they KNEW they were in the moment. How grand! Lillian, it does just blow one away.
Chuck Plano, Tx says:
Carolyn here is a question, if to become a naturalized citizen you must be able “to speak, write and read words in the English Language in their common usage” and it is violation of the law to vote if you are not a citizen, why do we need to print voting ballots in any language but English and provide interperters at voting places as is required by the Voting Rights Act of 1964? Is it because we knowing allow People who are not Citizens to vote?? I have ask this question of Congressmen in the past and have never received an answer.
Shannon Castleman says:
Chuck, great point. As a matter of fact, that is the main reason Obama and his ilk are against the AZ law-because many of their voting base will leave. The Democrats have to rely on illegal votes/ACORN tactics/the Black Panthers with their bats at a voting place in Philly, etc. to win an election.
They cannot win on the merits of the debate.
Carolyn Attaway says:
@Chuck – That is a good question. I do believe all official tests, such as citizenship, driver’s licenses, voting, etc, all should be in English. But keep in mind, there are many in Congress who do not want to make English the official language of the United States. As a matter of fact, do we even have an offical language yet?
According to Congress.Org – ’2/26/2009–Introduced.National Language Act of 2009 – Makes English the official language of the U.S. government. Requires the government to: (1) conduct its official business in English, including publications, income tax forms, and informational materials; and (2) preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the United States of America. Provides that no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the government act, communicate, perform, or provide services or’
Bill # H.R.1229
Peter King (R-NY 3rd)
Cosponsor Total: 31
(last sponsor added 04/21/2010)
Only 31 sponsors, pretty amazing huh?
Horace Cooper says:
Several commenters have mentioned that Hamilton’s repeated preference for an efficient central government meant that he would embrace the sizeable federal government that exists today. However no fair reading of Hamilton and his writings would yield this assessment. Hamilton’s arguments about a strong central government should be juxtaposed against the organizational handicaps of the government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. His view was that the government needed to more capable and agile in order to accomplish the limited set of objectives outlined in the Constitution — not the all encompassing objectives presently undertaken by the modern Federal Government. Additionally as a member of the burgeoning merchant class Hamilton believed that there was a fundamental responsibility of the federal government to encourage commerce. For him the lionshare of the regulatory state would be anathema.
Rob D says:
Liberty basically means limiting other people’s power, and to do this effectively, you support a lesser power against a greater: the pope against the emperor, the king against the pope, the parliament against the king, and so forth.
When the States dominated, it makes sense to strengthen the central government. Now the balance is tipped the other way, so we oppose Washington’s excesses.
“Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have he same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress.” —Hamilton, Federalist #28
Also, please let’s appreciate our guest commentators. If there’s more to add, then you can happily add it.
Andy Sparks says:
You are right on. The Federalist essays are propoganda! They were written specifically to convince New Yorkers to ratify the constitution because many parts of that state had anti-federalist sentiments. It’s important to remember that Madison and Hamilton were strong supporters of a more energetic federal government. Both had witnessed first hand the anemic government under the AOC as representatives from their respective states. They were not proponents of limited government (Madison would become so, but not at this time). In fact, Madison had proposed that the Constitution allow the federal government to negative any state law and was deeply concerned when it was not adopted. Hamilton all but proposed the government be an electable monarchy with the executive and Senate being elected for life. Hamilton, of all the founders, would probably be the most proud of how the USA became a world superpower.
The signing of the the name Publius interested me enough that I looked up the definition in Wikpedia. The name Publius is a Roman masculine given name meaning “public” in Latin, one of the small group of common forenames found in the culture of ancient Rome.
There are also references to other Publius names, such as: Publius Valerius Publicola (Roman Consul), Publius Clodius Pulcher (Republican politician), Publius Cornelius Scipio (Roman Consul), Publius Quinctilius, (Roman General and Politician), Publius Clodius Thrasea Paetus (Senator during Nero’s Reign), and Publius Aelius Fortunatus (Roman Painter).
In actual fact we may never really know who was the real Publius, or was the name used because it meant public.
Lynne Newcomer says:
I so love this, hello everyone. There is so much going on these days that you could almost lose your place if you didn’t press to maintain your focus . I am not complaining but I find the rapid fire of the political scene makes me ponder some of the tactics outlined in the book- Rules for Radicals -. This site is so helpfull,giving an intellectual boost via articulating my own as well as marinating my thoughts in all that is offered on this site.I watch and listen to cable news and radio programing to gather opinions,and while I value the points of view,this site has helped.
Someone said that we should get rid of Social Security, Medicare and some of the Health care bill,I have to respecfully say if that were to happen, I would be mad as a hatter…. I have been paying into these (not health care )for well over 40 years, holy mackeral that would probably cause many of us older folks to get out our pitch forks.As I would be in the front line. I understand (I think) the point that was trying to be made but fair is fair.
AZ,I am following this situation very closely and have heard things that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.Bottom line the Goverment has failed and in their failure have denied the citizens in boarder states and all states actually their Constitutional Rights. This group of people are not fullly included in the discussion of civil rights and I don’t think for one minute that it is a mistake.To stand the two groups side by side might provide too much lite on the subject for any real question to even be proposd.The Feds need to get off thier butts and do their jobs,.
Debate debate debate is the name of the game ,what I find distressing is the demonizing of opposing opinions, . This keeps us honest, or should ,using tricks or slight of speech is a shame.
Enough from me I guess I should get down off my soapbox. Good Night all.
Shannon Castleman says:
Andy, good comments. However, I take a different approach than you based on your comment: “It’s important to remember that Madison and Hamilton were strong supporters of a more energetic federal government.”
It is my belief the reason they wanted a more energetic Federal Government is because under th AOC, the feds couldn’t even raise taxes in order to fund what the constitution stipulated.
I would rather ask a different question: Pick the most ‘big government’ “Founding Father”, bring him bck to life, bring him to America in the year 2010, and ask him his thoughts.
Tell that Founding Father that the feds and state governments want to tell me how much salt to eat, want to tell McDonald’s they can’t serve toys with Happy Meal, want to tell cops in AZ they can’t research someone’s citizenship who has been pulled over for a DUI, want to tell me I have to purchase health care insurance, and then record their thoughts.
I don’t believe the quotes would be printable:)
@Peter, I too find that interesting that Hamilton and Madison went on to be so influential. It’s odd that their beliefs, or at least one of them, changed. But wasn’t Andrew Jackson behind the creation of the democratic party?
I think that by signing the papers by the name PUBLIUS, the actual writers separated themselves (all of them being significant political figures of the time) from the Federalist Papers, and made the connection back to the people. I think that, despite the elevated language, it would make the public feel more closely related to the topics addressed in the papers. It would make them feel like the concerns expressed here should be theirs as well.
Tricia Revolinsky says:
“From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate. Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.”
What confuses me about this is that the creators of the Constitution decided that the Constitution was effective immediately and that the Articles of Confederation were debunk. They didn’t wait for all the states to ratify that the AOC was now null and void. They hoped that most of the states would ratify it and all the others would fall in behind them. Only after stubborn little Rhode Island ratified it, did it really become a true document formally accepted by the people. Until that point, the Constitution was in all respects, self-enacting.
Carolyn Merritt says:
The US Constitution that Hamilton, Madison & Jay defended has become one of the most copied and admired documents in the history of mankind. The Federalist itself was published in Spanish in 1811 by the Venezualan Manuel Garcia de Sana, along with copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Federalist influenced movements in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and in Europe.
Hamilton believed in the future greatness of America and believed that our nation could and would be one of power and strength. He somehow knew the United States would be a world power. (And wouldn’t apologize for it either).
Joshua Foote says:
the articles of confederation was an absolute disaster. The states didnt wait to ratify it and because of this many problems arose. Even after the constitution was formed these states were fihting over many other issues than the ge=reat compromise resolved. ONly after rhode island ratifed the constitution did the people of the new wnited states accept the constitution. Be fore this document was ratified howver, the articles did a bad job at holding the counrty together, and only after the constitution was formed did the US truely become a self sustaining nation.
Greg Zorbach says:
In response to the two posts by Robert Shanbaum, in no particular order:
Of course “Federalist #1 doesn’t shed much light on the Constitution at all.” It is, after all, titled “General Introduction.” As Mr. Cooper points out, The Federalist Papers “were published in several New York State newspapers to persuade New York voters to ratify the proposed constitution that had been crafted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787.” It seems to me that to argue means to point out the superiority of your argument and the flaws in opposing ones, as well as any ulterior motives that may exist in those making those opposing arguments. I’m perplexed as to why you would find Mr. Cooper’s blog to be “curious.” He is after all, commenting on a general introduction to an 85-article two-volume set. It did not surprise me that: “The bulk of the essay is not about government at all.” It was billed as an essay on Federalist I, which got the process of persuasion under way. As Mr. Cooper put it: “Premised in his argument is a fundamental foundation upon which our system of government is based — self-government or rule by the consent of the governed. From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate. Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.” Messers Hamilton and Cooper were both setting the stage for what was/is to follow.
The sense I got from this rereading of Article I was that Hamilton was attempting to introduce the Publius articles by remarking on the “mud-slinging” as you put it, that had marked debate to that point in order to keep that most-important public dialog (as Jay puts it in today’s reading – Federalist II) more substantive, and with candor, even good will. The history of politics is replete with evidence of Hamilton’s warning that those who would stand to lose power (the states’ legislators) under the new Constitution would oppose its ratification, regardless of the strength of the arguments for it. We see that same dynamic in play today: Congress will never vote for a flat tax or term limits: too much restriction on their power. (The closest to the exact opposite I can recall in my lifetime was the new Republican-led congress voting on the first day in session to limit the terms of its committee chairmen.) Hamilton goes on to admit that “Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions…blameless at least if not respectable.”
As you point out, of course Hamilton was on the side of a more-powerful centralize government. That was the point of the Constitutional Convention: to fix the weaknesses in the governing Articles of Confederation and the resulting weak federal government. I do not believe that Hamilton was (or does in subsequent articles) see ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys.’ It is true though that, as you put it: “Whether one would see it as a “specious mask” of the same is probably a matter of one’s political persuasion.” After all during the previous administration dissent was characterized as patriotic. Today the Tea Partiers are accused (by a former president no less) of fomenting violence.
I believe that a main genesis of our current exercise of rereading the Constitution and the Federalist Papers is rooted in how far the federal government has strayed from the Constitution, especially from the Tenth Amendment. In that regard, the Anti-Federalists and other skeptics were correct to insist on the Bill of Rights. Although the fact of the Tenth Amendment’s inclusion seems to have had no obvious effect on limiting the federal government’s powers to those enumerated in the Constitution.
Upon rereading Lillian’s blog, I have no doubt that she understands where Hamilton’s views lie. After she lauds the Anti-Federalists, she makes the basic point of Article I (and our current civic exercise) quite nicely: “Without that rich debate, would we have ever gained the deep appreciation for the liberty and prosperity that was possible as this country grew?” You do realize, do you not, that it takes arguments from both sides of an issue to have a rich debate? Is not the point of any debate or series of articles on an important public issue to “to bias the reader against the other side”?
As to the question of how Mr. Hamilton would feel about the healthcare “power grab” Lillian mentioned, I disagree in your conclusion. First, we don’t know how Hamilton felt about the issue of establishing hospitals for soldiers and sailors. (Since he served General Washington admirably and loyally, I can hazard a guess.) Secondly, the only thing that the concept of caring for those who flight our wars and/or defend our liberties has in common with the current government’s takeover of the entire nation’s healthcare system is that both are/were federally run. Enlisting in the armed forces requires one to give up significant personal rights and freedoms. In turn, the country, with the government as our agent, provides for those individuals. Not many of us who will see our healthcare choices inevitably restricted under the new law ‘enlisted’ in anything, but we will see our freedoms and liberties limited nonetheless. I believe that Hamilton would be perplexed, if not appalled. In fact, Shannon may be right: his reaction may not be printable.
OBTW, very nice post, Melanie.
Daniel Smith says:
Given the history of large governments in the past why do you think Hamilton had such faith in this new county?
Andy Sparks says:
@Shannon – Undoubtedly, you are right. But then again, Madison and Hamilton probably could not conceive that women and blacks would ever be elected as representatives of our government, or be able to even vote for that matter…
Janine, the new series, “America, The Story of Us” is wonderful. The focus of the narration seems to be the deep faith, the independent spirit, and the determination of the Americans to live unfettered lives of limitless possibilities! I was thrilled to hear the commercial announcement that every school in America will receive the DVD series. Let’s hope it is put to good use. (And let’s hope its message remains unchanged.)
The First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” when clearly understood, is so powerful! It makes me want to come to the defense of people of all faiths. If we don’t reclaim and assert our religious heritage, and stand up against the progressive secularization of our country, we will be lost as a nation, and the world will be lost. A little good news today… the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Mojave Desert WWI War Memorial to display the Cross.
The more we study these writings, the more profound the gems we find.
Robert Shanbaum says:
Greg, thank you for responding to my comments.
I did not write that I thought my observations were surprising, and I apologize for being critical of Mr. Cooper. However, I thought that remarks on Federalist #1 should probably include some comments on the content of Federalist #1, and not just reflections on its title, and that’s what I was trying to (happily) supply.
I didn’t realize that the object here was to learn about “how far the federal government has strayed from the Constitution”, but to learn about the Constitution. An intellectual inquiry that begins with the former purpose may well find its object, but it will fail to understand its subject well, as only that which was sought will be revealed.
I am not convinced that the oft-cited fourth paragraph has been well understood here. My use of the term “good guys” and “bad guys” was an attempt to use modern vernacular to describe that which is couched in the unfamiliar prose of another era. If you think that Hamilton was not trying to set up the debate as between what we would call “good guys” (his side) and “bad guys” (the other side) in that paragraph, what do you think he was saying?
I do indeed realize that a debate requires two positions. A debate does not, however, require what Hamilton has done here; that is, attempting to demonize his opponents before the actual debate begins. I am not passing judgment on the use of this technique – I’m simply observing that that appears to be his main purpose here.
By the way, the Marine Hospital Fund (and its related income tax) covered not just naval personnel, but merchant seamen as well. Also, I am curious about your comment that the healthcare plan will restrict your healthcare choices, and thereby limit your freedoms and liberties: if this or some other healthcare plan implemented by the government were to increase the number of choices available to you, would that expand your freedoms and liberties? Would that make it OK?
I do agree that Hamilton’s reaction, and for that matter, the reactions of all of the founders and framers, to the modern federal government, and for that matter, the modern world in general, might well be perplexity and dismay (though I think sheer shock would be the most likely reaction); after all, those are reactions of many who have grown up in it.
With regard to Mr. Cooper’s comment, wherein he disagreed with my conclusion as to what Hamilton’s possible reaction to healthcare reform might be, saying that Hamilton would have been attached to the enumerated powers in the Constitution, I refer both of you to Hamilton’s actual proposal for the new general government, which you can read here:
Also, you may find his side of a debate with Jefferson regarding the chartering of a national bank informative:
Dale Swartzel says:
Wonderful article! I think I understand a lot more about what the founders were trying to say and why. Thanks so much.
Ross Bigney says:
To me the most important lesson from Federalist #1 is the importance of hearing again that even the greatest idea — for example the Constitution — isn’t valid unless the people consent. Our founding fathers were marvelous people — they had such foresight. And people like George Washington who were popular enough that he could have become king of our country but would not. They are truly marvelous people.
Arizona Citizen says:
Arizona lawmakers have approved changes to the state’s controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants. The changes were designed to answer charges made by protesters that it will lead to racial profiling by police. The original law stated police can conduct an immigration status check during any quote “lawful contact,” if they have reasonable suspicion a person is an illegal immigrant. It replaces “lawful contact” with “lawful stop, detention or arrest,” clarifying police may not stop people without cause. The revised law also removes the word “solely” from the phrase “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.” Read the new Arizona Immigration Law
Please note, there is a great article enitled “Could the Constitution stop the new health-care law?” by Nathan W. Tucker in the Christian Science Montior Volume 102, Issue 23 (current issue..weekly publication.) In it he mentions that the enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8 do not mention the power to “legislate our health.” He goes on to discuss why the common claim by Congress that the Commerce Clause, and Tax and Spend Clause, and references to general welfare do not support the power grab of mandating the purchase of healthcare. He also mentions the “FEDERALIST PAPERS.”
Rod Criscillis says:
That is some inspirational stuff. Never knew that opinions could be this varied. Will all of the Federalist Papers be brought down to earth in such a compelling way? Thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here.
Susan Craig says:
I don’t know about the suffrage of other races but I see no reason that they couldn’t imagine the suffrage of women because women had suffrage in the late 1700 in the state of my birth New Jersey.