Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

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.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Horace Cooper is a Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

47 Responses to “April 28, 2010Federalist 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

  1. Peter says:

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. Will says:

    @Lillian Harvey
    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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Maggie says:

    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).

  11. 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.”

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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.”

  18. 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.”

  19. Ron Meier says:

    And, thanks to Janine and Cathy for getting this going! Two women who listened to Burke and got off their donkeys.

  20. 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.

  21. Jesse says:

    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.

  22. 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.

  23. Melanie says:

    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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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

    Original Sponsor:
    Peter King (R-NY 3rd)

    Cosponsor Total: 31
    (last sponsor added 04/21/2010)
    1 Democrats
    30 Republicans

    Only 31 sponsors, pretty amazing huh?

  27. 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.

    H Cooper

  28. Rob D says:

    @Robert S:

    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.

  29. 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.

  30. Debbie says:

    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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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:)

  33. WeThePeople says:

    @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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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).

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. Daniel Smith says:

    Given the history of large governments in the past why do you think Hamilton had such faith in this new county?

  39. 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…

  40. Melanie says:

    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.

  41. 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:

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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

  45. Kristine says:

    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.”

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

Guest Essayist: Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC and graduate of Boston College Law School

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Federalist Paper #2 was written by future Federalist party chieftain John Jay to address what many founders felt was a critical deficiency regarding the then existing government authorized by the Articles of Confederation.  The deficiency was the major vulnerability the young nation faced because it lacked sufficient national authority to defend itself or to enforce its laws.

Reflecting his view that the public “choose” the new central government contemplated in the Constitution rather than simply acquiesce in it, Jay presents his arguments in terms of the “self interest” of the readers.  “It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to place in one national government.”

John Jay was the oldest contributor to the Federalist Papers at age 41.  Jay, a staunch abolitionist who would go on to become governor of New York and successfully ban slavery statewide, also had served as President of the Continental Congress and was a principal negotiator of the Treaty of Paris.  After the U.S. Constitution was ratified, he would become the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

At the time of the writing of Federalist #2, it had only been a few years since the Revolutionary War had ended.  Although the Americans had just successfully defeated one of the most powerful military forces on the planet when it successfully won its independence against England, barely five years later the capacity to carry off a similar feat was dramatically undermined by the operation of the Articles of Confederation.  In addition, compounding matters there was increasing sentiment among the political class that instead of presenting a “united” front as part of a United States of America, the states should actively consider whether even the loose association authorized by the Articles was either useful or worthwhile.

John Jay vigorously argues that not only should the states remain united; they should adopt the proposed Constitution’s federal style of government.  It was Jay’s view that the crisis of the Revolutionary War had led to the hasty creation of the Articles of Confederation and even as its defects became apparent, those deficiencies were not great enough to prevent America from prevailing in the war.

Now that the war was over, the problems of the Articles had been so severe that the Philadelphia Convention had been convened to attempt to ameliorate its difficulties.  Of course the result of the convention was an entirely new compact being drafted.  The central theme of this compact is that it contains a Federal Government with specific authority and power to carry out its limited but important duties in a way that the Federal Government authorized under the Articles of Confederation could not.

John Jay presents two basic premises that are basis for his argument:  it is a fundamental responsibility of government that it has the necessary power to regulate conflict and administer the laws it has lawfully enacted.  Secondly, in order for any grant of authority to be legitimate it must be consensual — that is the people must grant the government the powers.

While Jay recognized that any of the government powers exercised ultimately came from the people, the issue was which of these powers should be reserved for citizens and which were usefully granted to the government.  The test for Jay was whether a particular grant of authority best protected the safety and interests of the American populace.   However, this problem was made more difficult when the question of whether the Americans should unite under one national government or instead become separate states.

To Jay the answer was a strong union. He believed that for all intents and purposes, the confederation of states were already a union.  He argued that the geographical make up of the nation including its topography and “navigable waters” created natural boundaries that encouraged commonality.  Additionally the faith, language, principles and customs of the people who dwelled in this land which were overwhelmingly similar also argued for a strong union.

“This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.”

Since the land, people and language made it naturally more efficient to remain together then Jay believed that it was essential that the government they were subject to had the authority and power to carry out its duties in a way that the Articles of Confederation had never allowed.  “It has until lately been a received and uncontradicted opinion that the prosperity of the people of America depended on their continuing firmly united, and the wishes, prayers, and efforts of our best and wisest citizens have been constantly directed to that object.” It was John Jay’s considered view that the adoption of the Constitution in the long term would prove beneficial to all Americans both in a time of military conflict and in times of peace.

Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC is a graduate of Boston College Law School


Friday, April 30th, 2010

Essay # 3 investigates the causes of war. Publius seems to raise the question, not merely from curiosity but rather because it’s important to be prepared to prevail in war and also to place one’s state in the position to avoid war. The Federalist Papers seem to adopt this perspective in its approach to foreign policy inquiring not how to adopt an active posture for engaging in war but rather how to make war as little likely as possible. The argument is laid out by the end of the third essay, and then stated outright in the fourth essay, where he says of the American people, “Wisely therefore do they consider Union and a good national Government as necessary to put and keep them in such a situation as instead of inviting war will tend to repress and discourage it.” This deterrence theory is based on a number of factors deriving from human nature, and it therefore forces us to ask whether Publius generally understands the causes of war. Again, in the third essay we see a claim that the pace of America highly depends upon observance of the laws of nature towards all foreign powers, a thing more perfectly accomplished in proportion as we have one national government rather than thirteen or some other number of states. We expect, therefore, to close with an argument from efficiency, less chance, greater consistency, and greater stability in foreign relations.

Surprisingly, Publius does not do that in the third essay. He instead states the following: “When once an efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but also will generally be appointed.” He argues not from efficiency but from the character and talents of the officeholders. The first reason for increased national security is clearly that one obtain the best statesmen. The question of safety calls for intelligence and consistency.

It is wise to avoid war, and Publius illustrates this by arguing that “Hence, it will result that the administration, the political councils and the judicial decisions of the national Government will be more wise, systematical, and judicious, than those of the individual States, and consequently more satisfactory with respect to other nations, as well as more safe with respect to us.” The chief means to avoid war is good order at home, and it includes satisfying other nations.

A third reason for a foreign policy of justice and consistency is that the national government will avoid tempting other nations to offend the United States because a United States that is well organized will be successful and prosperous, and that is what will bring peace. It will dispose other nations to cultivate our friendship as well as yielding strength. This will attract other nations into peaceful association, and this is what makes it possible to avoid war.

W. B. Allen

Michigan State University

Professor William B. Allen is emeritus dean and professor of Political Philosophy at Michigan State University.

39 Responses to “April 302010 – Federalist No3 – The Same Subject ContinuedConcerning Dangers From ForeignForce and Influence (Jay) – Guest BloggerWilliam BAllenProfessor of Political Philosophy at Michigan StateUniversity

  1. Susan Craig says:

    So far the argument for union, is the implied understanding that in strength there is peace.

  2. Carolyn Attaway says:

    There was so much in Paper #3 that lends itself to a good discussion. However; the 3rd and 4th paragraphs sum up the whole paper for me when John Jay talks of Foreign Arms and Influence; and Like Kind arising from domestic causes. And whether the wars happen or will happen because of REAL or PRETEND causes that will PROVOKE or INVITE them.

    I am constantly amazed at the insight our Founders had regarding the present State of the Union during their time, as well as future conditions that could, and most likely will, occur. Without the strength of a Union, the individual states existence were in danger because of their lack of reinforcements from the other states; that combined with their statenot only ensured safety of external forces, but internal conflicts as well.

    Think of all the small countries in Europe that have been abolished and/or reformed into other countries because of internal or external conflicts. The country of Yugoslavia, for example; until 1941 was the First State of Yugoslavia with a monarchy rule. The Second of Yugoslavia was from November 29, 1943 until June 25, 1991, and it was a socialist successor state to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and existed under various names.

    The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was from April 27, 1992 until February 4, 2003 and it was a federation on the territory of the two remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro.
    The Union of Serbia and Montenegro was formed on February 4, 2003, and officially abolished the name “Yugoslavia.” On June 3 and June 5, 2006, Montenegro and Serbia respectively declared their independence, thereby ending the last remnants of the former Yugoslav federation.

    This present day example could have very easily happened to any individual state during the Founders time if they allowed themselves to believe they were stronger as an individual entity as opposed to an entity within a greater union. As John Jay explains, there were threatening forces for the Border States, as well as internal conflicts with native Indians within other states. With a Union, individual states were protected from aggressors, as well as being prevented from becoming a rogue state that would threaten the security of the Union.

    Today, many of our states are experiencing turmoil from neighboring countries, other states, and citizens. The Founders had put in place measures on the Federal level to keep the Union secure. However; I find it ironic, that today it is the Federal government that is threatening the security of the Individual States.

  3. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    The very argument that is made in Federalist #3 for Peace through Strength was the very essence of the Ronald Regan Administration. Remember when he refused to give up SDI and the media belittled him and yet what do we see today, missile defense. When Regan let the summit in Iceland go with out an agreement with the USSR on arms control every one said we were doomed and yet who fell from the world stage, the USSR and not the United States. The most important question is where are we headed today and how will we mantain our strength when those who are supposed to be our leaders and willing to give up our strenth by crippling our economy after all it is economic strength that produces the real stength in any nation.

  4. Bill Kenagy says:

    In “strength bringing peace” the opportunity then will present itself to aid our fellow man rather than war with our fellow ma.

  5. Shannon Castleman says:

    Chuck, insightful. I fear where we are headed today is disater on a global scale. I think Jay ande others of the time would tell us today, “Let’s be as strong militarily as e can, so that others will not cause us harm. In return, let’s not have troops in fifty nations, (lik we do today), so that other nations will not feel the need to wage war against us.”

    What better use of our resources if we took 80% of the troops we have spread around the world and secured our borders, south and north. I care not what the North Koreans do (our troops there); I care intensely what the Mexicans do.

  6. Susan H. says:

    Hi All,

    I’m catching up on my reading today. Thank you everyone for your great comments.

    I was struck today by the passage “Because when once an efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but will also generally be appointed to manage it…..” I feel like maybe at this point in time we don’t have the best men or women in the country serving. Of course this behooves the population to place better people in office.

    I also wanted to say that I agreed with the comment from a few days ago regarding how the founding fathers WANTED the people to know what the government was doing. It really does feel to me like the present government is being sneaky.

  7. Randy Nutt says:

    I took from Federalist #3 the need for a centralized govt to protect the whole of the States and wage war if necessary… Federalist #3 ties in to the border question we have today in my opinion… if we have between 12 and 25 million illegals crossing the border and Art IV section 4 of the Constitution has the Federal Govt responsible for protecting the borders from an invasion, then if the numbers I stated are correct, what, pray tell, would constitute an invading force than up to 25 million non-citizens?

    Just saying…

  8. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Shannon it is very frightful as we see what is going on, on our southern border. In the late 1980′s after Casper Winberger was Secetary of Defense he wrote a novel outlining 5 senerios where the USA could fing itself in war. One of those was Mexico, as that country would become so corrupt and violent due to it’s drug problem that the US would have to send troops to stabilize it in “our” national security interest. It appears we have reached that point but our Federal Government has niether the plan or the will to do so much less secure our own borders.

  9. Morning. It’s Janine. I think it is very interesting and quite relevant how John Jay talks about the states dealing with their neighboring countries in a passionate manner as opposed to the Federal government who would deal with the state’s neighboring countries in a cool, objective manner.

    This begs the question: If the Federal government is to protect the states re her foreign borders then should they not neglect the states needs and causes? What happens if the states are left in middle of desperate situations with no aid from the Federal government. Is this where the Tenth Amendment comes into play?

  10. Susan Craig says:

    I think that in their worldview the order of responsibility went person, family, local, state and last and only as a final resort federal.

  11. Damon Wilson says:

    Professor Allen points out something that I’d never thought about before — the question of what should nations do to avoid invasion. It appears that the founders didn’t think that merely being friendly was a sufficient basis for ensuring that one would be free from an attack. President Reagan comes to mind, but I’d be curious what Presidents over the 20th and the 19th Century before thought about this principle?

  12. Gary says:

    Janine. I think your scenario is a prime example of when the 10th Amendment would be very operative. After all, the central government cannot state that an obligation is Constitutionally reserved to it, then refuse to exercise that obligation. I beleive Congress has defacto abrogated the right to “control naturalization” and the sovereign states must do it themselves.

  13. Carolyn Merritt says:

    @Constituting America and Gary: James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 45 that “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the StateGovernments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace negotiation, and foreign commerce;…The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects , which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state.”

    In my humble opinion, I believe Arizona is correctly operating under the States’ Rights set forth in the 10th Amendment because the Congress is not doing its duty to protect Arizona from its loss of life, liberty, property and prosperity.

    What say someone else?

  14. Carolyn Merritt says:

    Federalist #3 is the first of 3 of Jay’s arguments that the Articles of Confederation are inadequate for our defense. In this third paper, Jay puts great emphasis on the reasoning for a national united Government as opposed to the 13 states each governing their own way.

    He states that we Americans long hold the belief that in order to continue with peace and prosperity; we do so under a single governing body, the federal government. The first provision by the governing body is the safety of our Country and We the people. Though the Founders were more concerned about our being protected against foreigninvasions and influence, they were also concerned even then about the dangers of domestic insecurity. Jay goes on to state that through a friendly and efficient national government can we best be protected from foreign hostilities. Our Nation would not be the provocateur because we would be an America that is united. “The Union tends most to preserve the people in a state of peace with other nations.”

    Jay goes on to state that it is extremely important that in order to maintain the peace of America we respect and observe the laws of nations in which we have signed treaties and this can be done only by and through one united Government, not by the several states or sovereignties.

    He gives the sound reasoning as to why we needed a national government run by men of intellect appointed to serve wisely, systematically, and judicially. Jay felt that left to their own governing, separate states would selfishly guard their own peoples and borders.

  15. Maggie says:

    Federalist #3, for me, drew the strongest parallel thus far to what we are experiencing today. Jay states that “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their SAFETY seems to be the first.” Has our government lost sight of this? “We the people” have stated time and time again that our biggest concern is safety. Jay also states that “The neighborhood of Spanish and British territories, bordering on some States and not non others, naturally confines the causes of quarrel more immediately to the borderers. The bordering States, if any, will be those who, under the impulse of sudden irritation, and a quick sense of apparent interest or injury, will be most likely, by direct violence, to excite war with these nations”. Doesn’t the Federal government have a duty and an obligation to HELP AZ? Is this not one reason WHY a centralized government was established rather than having several smaller governments?

  16. Maggie says:

    @ Carolyn….I too was struck by the fact that our founding fathers had the foresight to understand that dangers can come not only from “Foreign Arms”, but can also arise “from domestic causes”. These wonderful men seemed to have thought of everything that could possibly go wrong. God Bless them.

  17. Susan H. says:

    To Carolyn M.

    I wholeheartedly agree that AZ is doing the correct thing considering that the Federal government can’s seem to find the will to protect that border. Here we are reading the writing of our founding fathers arguing that the federal government is needed for just this sort of thing and yet currently the federal government is failing. It will be interesting to see if any other states follow suit in this issue.

  18. Howdy from Texas. I thank you for joining us today and I thank today’s guest scholar, William BAllen, for his words of wisdom about Federalist Paper #3. Thanks William!

    What I continue to find fascinating is how the Federalist Papers are consistently relevant today. John Jay’sFederalist Paper #3 is one that really motivates contemplation. Publius speaks about how the unity of the country, the states, is the best way to combat an enemy or foreign intrigues. Unity, a house united, is definitely more advantageous than a house divided. Objectivity trumps subjectivity.

    Yet, if the states are to acquiesce their rights and inclinations to defend themselves, then it is the duty of the Federal government to adequately protect the states. The father must protect his children. The Federal government needs to pay heed.

    John Jay provides examples of how domestic disputes amongst small countries in Europe often lead to major battles – battles that then enveloped several nations for many years. We have certainly seen this repeat itself subsequently and most recently in the 20th century yielding morbid and tragic devastation.

    During our country’s infancy, unity amongst the states was paramount for a strong and unilateral defense.
    However, ironically, the same principle applies today. With the current situation in Arizona, we should remain first and foremost unified in dealing with the crisis at hand. Brother against brother, state against state, breeds contempt and failure.

    It is prophetically proposed by our founding fathers that a unified action yields the best result for the nation.
    Let us remember that unity will reign victorious and gather wisdom to deal with all obstacles.

    We are the United States of America.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    April 302010

    P.S. Don’t forget to check out our “We the People 9.17 Contest” for kids, my daily Video Podcasts and the archive of the daily essays written by Cathy and me and our daily guest scholar!

  19. Susan says:

    I am struck by the amount of thought put into these papers to explain the authors’ reasoning for the adoption of the Constitution to the people. It is a stark contrast to today’s bills which are so long and convoluted that I don’t think anyone can read them let alone explain them and probably few even try.

  20. John Harris says:

    I believe some of the founding fathers had an idealistic view of it’s new country and republic. Most specifically, Monroe believed that the brotherhood of republics transcended national boarders and expansion of induvidual liberties was central to the policies of modern governments born of revolution and the revolution would tear down national bounaries and unite mankind. Once the revolution was over he/they realized real quick that self interest was a greater force than any republic. England, France and others coveted the riches of the new world. The founding fathers found themselves having to preserve the united colonies (thank you Federalist Papers), protect them from invasion and promote trade abroad. And the best way at the time was through diplomacy and not war.

    Translating to our present situation we find ourselves relying on others for natural resources, trade abroad has resulted in a large deficit, and our boarders have been invaded. It is vital that every citizen in America today understand our Constitution and how it was formed. If we dismiss the wisdom of our forefathers we are doomed to tyranny.

  21. Jesse Stewart says:

    You all have said things that struck me when reading Federalist 3. But what really stood out, as others have suggested, was that the best men will fill the roles of “administration, the political counsels, and the judicial decisions” of the national government because there is a large population in the Union from which to draw these men.

    Would Jay roll over in his grave given the quality and honor of those serving today? It is our responsibility as citizens to ensure that the “best men” are filling those important roles!

    PS: realized I didn’t put my last name on previous comments; not intentional!

  22. Eli Hazelett says:

    There would seem to be many ways that a country could fall apart — does an invasion have to be formally waged by a nation as such or can it come from an unorganized group?

  23. Peggy Brittain says:

    “The pride of states, as well as of men, naturally disposes them to justify all their actions, and opposes their acknowledging, correcting, or repairing their errors and offenses. The national government, in such cases, will not be affected by this pride, but will proceed with moderation and candor to consider and decide on the means most proper to extricate them from the difficulties which threaten them.”

    It seems to me that our national representative government has turned this around. They are the ones who justify their actions, and oppose their acknowledging, correcting, or repairing their errors and offenses.

    If we cannot believe in our national government to protect us from harm and ensure our safety then don’t the states have the right to protect themselves?

    I don’t think our founders intended for our representatives to be career politicians. This state has led to our elected officials being more protective of their own self interests and their voting blocks than protecting the citizens of the states. Today, the interests of our elected officials is all about power and control. To them our founding documents are living documents meant to change with the times. I am learning that it is just the opposite. Our founding documents are just as relevent today as they were at the time of their writing.

  24. Christina Quinn says:

    It is staggering to me from our vantage point now looking back through time that that we in this present generation have so much greater abilities than our forefathers to both study historical documents and communicate to our fellow citizens, yet do not. It was beyond comprehension that a day would come where information regarding all past and present civilizations, their failures and successes, their forms of governments would be or could be juxtaposed and weighed against each other. The vast superiority of Our Constitution is not even debatable in world history and is in fact I would suggest self-evident to all that apply their reason, but therein lies the rub. It was a given during the time of our forefathers that applied reason would win the argument and that the citizenry out of self-interest would deem it necessary to educate themselves in a form of government that was to be run by themselves. Out of all the considerations, safeguards, checks and balances, they sought to circumvent or eliminate in the wording of the Constitution the one blind spot now a glaring omission was not to mandate it’s reading by the citizenry. The implied self-interest of a government by the people for the people for our forefathers it went without saying that all citizens would know and read the Constitution and thus understand our foundation and liberty. Again beyond their comprehension would be a day that “self interest” for a majority of citizens regarding their government could be assessed as what they can “Get from” it not “Vest To” it, yet here we are. While “Foreign Force and influence” were on Jays mind clearly foreseen as a great potential threat not so was the idea of threat of domestic ignorance… that specter that topples all freedom and liberty, let us pray for the defeat of ignorance in our this Constitution Revolution:-) .

  25. I to am amazed at the foresight of the Founding Fathers. I’m as amazed at the ignorance or disregard from our current leaders to bring history forward as guidance on what NOT to do to overcome troubles today.

    Fed Paper #3 – As I read it, I couldn’t focus on the paper itself…all I could focus on is the relevance to Arizona vs. the Federal Government. Jay states that a national government is more likely derterrent for warding off war than astate…and I agree. But since the Federal Government has been unable the state has to step in.

  26. Ron Meier says:

    @ Janine, the Arizona situation seems to bring rebirth to the Confederation instead of the Union. Only 4 states share the Mexico border and our Representatives and Senators spend their days about 2,000 miles away in Washinton, DC, far from the points of conflict. Because they are so far away, and the 46 states they represent don’t have the samedirect problems with illegal immigration, they seem to be acting as if they lived in a Confederation, where they don’t care enough to act on the problem because the problem is not in their own districts.
    In many instances such as this, our elected representatives are acting more like delegates than representatives of a Republic. As delegates of a state, they vote only for those things that are problems for their own states; as representatives, they should be voting for those things that are in the national best interest, even if not in the best interest of their home state.

  27. Greg Zorbach says:

    @John Harris… I agree in your entire post, but would amplify your statement: “And the best way at the time was through diplomacy and not war.” It was probably true that in 1787 the new country was weak enough to the point that diplomacy was the only option in most cases of foreign provocation or dispute (therefore, the recurring argument for adoption of the proposed Constitution to replace the AOC in order to give the country a stronger national government). Several times in our history when we were not strong enough militarily, our diplomatic efforts proved to be impotent. The best explanation of national power or effectiveness in foreign affairs I have heard was presented at the Naval War College by a visiting lecturer from the government in the late 80’s: any nation’s power is like a stool with four legs. The legs are military power, economic power, national resolve or character, and the last one that depends the most on the other three – diplomatic skill. However, if the stool’s legs are not in relative balance, national effectiveness in foreign affairs (the most critical being the avoidance of war without resorting to the ‘tribute’ that led Jefferson to take on the Barbary pirates) is diminished. I believe that Chief Justice Jay was make this same point in argument for adoption in Federalist 3.

  28. Beverly Benson says:

    If our country became unified would it mean that we would have more people to select from in terms of making up the military force? And I guess I haven’t read the Articles of Confederation, but I noted that the Constitution allows the federal government of the U.S. to have a draft. Would unity mean that the founders wanted to be able to draft people from every single colony?

  29. Cindy Thompson says:

    Our country has truly been blessed to have men such as John Jay to take such an interest in the nation and to accept the risks that they did. It is really too bad that historians have tried to rewrite their profiles to turn them into lesser men. I am honored to read their essays and thankful for the Constitution we have. I’ll do my part to spread the word about it.

  30. Tricia says:

    It is amazing how persuasive the 3rd Federalist Paper is. I like how Publius used moderate language throughout the essay in order to gradually convince the reader of his cause. By the end, I found myself agreeing with him in the idea that “strength is peace.” I envy the eloquence of this essay!

  31. Seij De Leon says:

    The Federalist Papers no3 makes a point to explain how things will go well, concerning the people running the country. It states that the best men will serve the country, and to defend that explains that “for, although town or country, or other contracted influence, may place men in State assemblies, or senates, or courts of justice, or executive departments, yet more general and extensive reputation for talents and other qualifications will be necessary to recommend men to offices under the national government,–especially as it will have the widest field for choice, and never experience that want of proper persons which is not uncommon in some of the States.” Like what Jesse Stewart was saying, this is nowadays an overall hollow statement, and I’m sure that John Jay could not of envisioned how things really work today. Just because there is a large selection of people to choose from does not mean the best men will be chosen, an unavoidable flaw in any society where the people can make decisions such as these.

  32. Nancy Martin says:

    It interests me that three men could agree so strongly on the benefits of the new constitution that they could all use the same pen name Publius. I’m curious about what this means in terms of the trust they had for one another?

  33. Shannon Castleman says:

    Nancy, thoughtful question. These men trusted each other because they were Statesmen, not “politicians”. They loved their new country more than they loved to disagree with one another.

    They don’t make people like that anymore, at least not many. Could you imagine Pelosi, Paul Ryan, Harry Reid, and a Libertarian doing this together?

    I can’t.

  34. Peter says:

    Dumas captured the spirit of Federalist #3 when he wrote “All for one – and one for all.”

  35. Susan Craig says:

    What has become inverted is the foundation of peace. What the founders here argued is that diplomacy functions best when supported by three legs. These legs are; one a strong defensive capability (making it hazardous to attack), two a strong economy (ability to sustain) and three a collective understanding of principle and the will to back them up. Currently termites are attacking all three legs and still insisting that diplomacy unsupported will work.

  36. Hello all. Peace through strength,,I think the founders knew this and up until these past few years that axiom has held us in a secure grip in a very dangerous world.Reality exists and to pretend that we can behave out side it because it suits our wishes is a dangerous and irresponsible failure of understanding.I expect our Government to be adults,people who will hold themselves errect and bear the burdens of truth, and this does not mean we are imperialist ,Facist,etc.These over the top charges make me wonder about the depth of understanding of those using these distructive words.It stikes me as as very young and immature teen who has heard a few new words and can’t wait to use them,and have no idea how foolish they appear .I am imbarrased for them most of the time.
    Strong mature silence is quiet and deliberate in its action and words. Unity is in our best interest and I pray for a leap of comprehension on the part of America.

  37. Andy Sparks says:

    Shannon, you may find it interesting to know that two of the people who wrote the Federalist Papers (Alexander Hamilton and James Madison) went on to become bitter enemies. Madison switched sides so to speak, and joined Jefferson’s Republicans and denounced and worked against Hamilton’s Federalists, and vice versa. Once the Constitution was ratified, they did not work together as statesmen, but became politicians.

  38. Patrina L. says:

    RE the statement by Seij De Leon: “Just because there is a large selection of people to choose from does not mean the best men will be chosen, an unavoidable flaw in any society where the people can make decisions such as these.”

    It is true that people can, have done, and will make mistakes in selecting their leaders via their voters’ voice; however, I fear how much WORSE it would be if the PEOPLE did NOT have the power to make these monumental choices…

    Would anyone want the current leaders (or any leaders, for that matter) making these important choices of leadership for us? How much worse would that be? We, as a people, have the CHOICE to oust, what we perceive to be as, any bad lot of leaders at the voter’s box. This is what gives US the power. We must jealously guard it through our own education regarding our national history and our current events. This is what Benjamin Franklin meant when asked by a woman what kind of government the Founding Fathers had given the Country. He responded, “A Republic- if you can keep it.” His answer implies that we bear an ACTIVE responsibility toward maintaining our power as a people. Not only must we educate ourselves, but we must also actively exercise our freedoms through voting. We have been given a rich wealth of freedom and power through our national inheritance, but we cannot become passive because our inheritance will not maintain itself. We, as the ones who have inherited this great gift, have an ETERNAL RESPONSIBILITY toward ACTIVELY preserving it by being knowledgeable, diligent, and vigilant regarding its upkeep, or else it will be stolen from us while we slumber. We the People must insist upon learning about our inheritance of power and freedom, and preserving it through proper tending, or else it will surely wilt and die, yielding us nothing but disappointment and grief, making us very poor inheritors, indeed.

    So, the truth of the matter is that if the PEOPLE did not make the choices of leadership, the outcomes would be far worse. I believe that is why the Founding Fathers put the “US” in the USA.

  39. CJ says:

    Amazing how forthright the Founders were and how devastated they’d be today.
    There are certainly a lot of words and as my High School teacher said of my essays….”flowery pansies”….The speaking back then certainly were colorful.

    In my mind I summed it up to: Together we are strong, separate open to prey..

    In this section of Federalist 2 it seems to be their lack of foresight and elitism that America would be a people of thesame kind and equal in religion manners and customs…CJ

    Federalist 2……
    ..”With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence
    has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united
    people–a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same
    language, professing the same religion, attached to the same
    principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs,

    These paragraphs in 4 struck out at me: CJ

    Federalist 4
    …”But the safety of the people of America against dangers from
    FOREIGN force depends not only on their forbearing to give JUST
    causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and
    continuing themselves in such a situation as not to INVITE hostility
    or insult; for it need not be observed that there are PRETENDED as
    well as just causes of war.
    hostility and insult have been invited. CJ

    It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature,
    that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect
    of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make
    war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the
    purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military
    glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts
    to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans.
    These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of
    the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by
    justice or the voice and interests of his people. But, independent
    of these inducements to war, which are more prevalent in absolute
    monarchies, but which well deserve our attention, there are others
    which affect nations as often as kings; and some of them will on
    examination be found to grow out of our relative situation and
    …. “Have our wars been sanctified by justice……”CJ

    This is sad for our government has put us in this position…I fear today with this administration even more so.
    America was so very young…… CJ


by W.B. Allen, emeritus dean and professor of Political Philosophy at Michigan State University

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Having established the “utility” of the Union for avoiding foreign wars, Publius proceeds to reinforce the argument in essay number four. In the second paragraph he acknowledged the claim that the United States should avoid inviting hostilities, insults, from other nations. But the third paragraph shows how difficult that might be.  It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it, nay that absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it but for purposes and objects merely personal… These and a variety of motives, which affect only the mind of the Sovereign often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice, or the voice and interests of his people. What this suggests is that many of the wars that arise will do so because people having the power to make war or to a void war yield to temptations that we find perfectly ordinary in human nature. People see opportunities and try to take advantage of them.

We should question the causes of war and the premise that if we knew the causes it would be easier to avoid war. In this point, though, it seems that the very resource we relied upon in the beginning == namely, the people with the power to decide — is also one of the chief causes of war. People in office who yield to temptation happen to be one of the chief causes of war, and Publius reminds us of this.

This is not an aberration. All we need do is to expect leaders to be human to expect these causes to operate. That is not the exclusive cause of war. Publius is clear about this, but it is the most difficult to deal with. And in that respect we ask once again is the Union better at dealing with the causes of war? will the Union make it less likely that notional office holders yield to personal illusions that carry their nation into war? The significance of this is that with the national union our personal illusions come packed wait a far greater punch In spite of that, Publius argues that, yes, in spite of greater fire power, the greater temptations, the greater illusions, the answer is yes. How?

Publius does not claim to alter human nature one bit. He suggests, though, that we need to pay as close attention to the effect of the new government upon the governed as upon those who govern. There is a deterrence theory in essay four that suggests the response: “Wisely, therefore, do they consider union and a good national government as necessary to put and them in in such a situation as, instead of inviting war, will tend to repress and discourage it.” Then he repeats the argument from essay three, namely, that a Union will foster the involvement of the “experience of the ablest men” in the entire nation in guiding the nation. But he adds a caveat that was not in essay number three, namely, that “it can harmonize, assimilate, and protect the several parts and members, and extend the benefit of its foresight and precautions to each.” That is a new argument, an argument that a government for the union can in fact create homogeneity where diversity existed previously: e pluribus unum.

Professor William B. Allen is emeritus dean and professor of Political Philosophy at Michigan State University.

28 Responses to “May 32010 – Federalist No4 – The Same Subject ContinuedConcerning Dangers from Foreign Forceand Influence, for the Independent Journal (Jay) – Guest BloggerWilliam BAllenemeritus dean and professor ofPolitical Philosophy at Michigan State University

  1. Ron Meier says:

    Those bumper stickers “War is Never the Answer,” and similar slogans always bother me because they assume that there are no humans who would ever choose war over peace. History proves that this simply is not true. I don’t know where I read it, but I remember reading sometime in the past several years that there have been at least two wars going on somewhere in the world every year of recorded history.
    The idealistic left assumes that peace is normal and conflict is abnormal; in my analysis of history, conflict is normal and peace is an anomaly. We don’t even have to look at the history of nations; we can look at families, homeowners associations, clubs, and the like, and what we find is that conflict is normal and peace is not. When good nations have unilaterally disarmed in the name of peace, we normally find that war comes shortly thereafter. Therefore, we should always be prepared with a strong defense.

  2. Shannon Castleman says:

    My question to you all: After reading #2-#4, Do you believe our Founders-if the came here in a time machine-would support or not support our being in the Middle East right now?

    Most of me says no, but a small part of me says maybe. Any thoughts??

  3. Susan Craig says:

    I find it very telling that the first four papers in defense of the new Constitution dealt solely with mutual defense and security! It is almost as if they wished the primary and dare I say almost the only purpose of the Federal government was dealing with external influences leaving the internal to the individuals and their respective States?

  4. Jeff James says:

    Isn’t it interesting that one of the main points in Federalist #4 is the balance of trade and the U.S. ability to supply ourselves with commodities once supplied by India and China. Times sure hve changed!

  5. Roger Jett says:

    In answer to Shannon, who posed the question ….” would our founders support or not support our being in the Middle East right now? I think that at least some insight can be obtained by studying our involvement in the “First Barbary War 1801-1805″ and the “Second Barbary War 1815″. Based upon the bold actions taken by the young United States with it’s fledgling military at that time, I believe it is probable that the Founders would be in support of any action that has taken place in recent decades to protect American Citizens and American commercial interest. However, I suspect they would not have engaged in the level of police action and nation building that our modern time leaders have burdened us with.

  6. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I am going to miss John Jay’s writings in these Papers. I find his Papers very easy to read and very thought provoking.

    Shannon, in paragraph 3, our conflicts with Iran and Iraq immediately jumped into my mind. Many speculate why we entered this war; national security, oil, democracy, many more views, and a combination of many. But with both Iraq and Iran, their leaders have expressed an ambition for themselves and their country that has enveloped the rest of the world. Unfortunately, a down side of the founder’s logic of being a strong union is that we have became too strong and we are depended upon by the rest of the world to intervene in global crisis. I do not believe our founders would have wanted this for their beloved Union, but could they themselves have prevented it given the cost of noinvolvement. As Edmund Burke, a supporter of the American Revolution said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. If the Middle East conflicts happened during our founder’s time, we probably would not have become involved, at least not to the degree we are now. But given the domino effect of global fallouts today, I believe they would feel they had no choice but to intervene.

    Why? In paragraphs 7 through 10, John Jay writes of America’s involvement with China and India, and how that trade involves other countries. He explains how this trade can irritate other countries with our success in commerce and in our navigation of the oceans that give America a greater share in the territories that they at one time monopolized. So even at this time, America was heavily involved in foreign affairs and commerce; the founder’s wanted to protect the Union’s stakes of interest in other countries and this was one of their reasons for the States to be unified.

    The last paragraph could be taken from any Tea Party and Patriot Activist Guide Book today. Of the many Rallies, Town Halls, and Prosperity meetings I have attended, this is the rallying call: “If they see that our national government is efficient and well administered, our trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented, and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment. If, on the other hand, they find us either destitute of an effectual government, what a poor, pitiful figure will America make in their eyes! How liable would she become not only to their contempt but to their outrage, and how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.”

    The Conservative Movement feels it is way past time to return America to her previous Glory. Was she perfect? No. And a lot of things changed to make her better and her people freer. But the change we did not need is our overbearing and non-transparent government, an overregulated and crippling trade policy, liberal agendas to dictate our military, our resources and finances in ruins, our credit in the toilet, our citizens losing freedoms to the NannyState and becoming quickly discontented and divided.

    Was America perfect? No. But; she was the closest thing to liberty and freedom the civilized world had ever known.

    I believe most of us on this site probably believe this, otherwise why bother being here.

  7. Donna Hardeman says:

    @Bob Greenslade-before I get immersed in the next Federalist paper, I wanted to take a moment to thank you sincerely for your reply to my question about the Bill of Rights. It was an excellent read – one of the main reasons I’m on this site because of bloggers like you!

  8. Neal C White says:

    Shannon asks the question whether our Founders were to visit us would they or would they not support our being in the Middle East now? It is a good question and one we all should examine. I think the answer to this question depends on the faith we have in who our elected officials are and whether we are convinced of their resolve and purpose. Most of us do not have the time to research and totally understand such matters.

    Unfortunately, at present it is doubtful that our leadership are capable of steering our country in the right direction. I guess in the end we will have to depend on God having control and guiding our leaders to make the correct decisions.

  9. Marc W. Stauffer says:

    Remember the school yard bully? How that bully singled out and picked on the weak? There are always going to be the “school yard bullies” out there in the big bad world. Remember what happened when “the picked upon” banded together? You found out that the “school yard bully” wasn’t so big and bad after all and they turned to easier prey.
    I think Publius makes an excellent point with his fleets of Britain and trade market competition. The corner on the trade market was held by Britain and the inference that human nature would not stand idly by and allow that hold to simply be taken from them by a small, relatively defenseless state or confederation merits a good understanding. When you are banded together with a common cause strength is realized and with that strength comes deterrence…something every “school yard bully” thinks twice about.

  10. Bache says:

    In the First Barbary Wars,family letters written by Daniel T. Patterson from the Tripoli Prison, Nov. 23, 1803 are fascinating. He was a midshipman, from the shipwrecked frigate Philadelphia and now a prisoner at the age of 17. The prisoners were kept in “a stone bulding, the walls very thick, it is about 20 ft. wide, 25 ft. high, and about 80 ft long, with arches overhead, the walls could scarely be distinquished from cob-webs, and dirt, it had formerly been used to dry hides in, and had never been cleaned out, the strings by which they suspended them are still hanging there. The light and air is admitted through a space in the top, about 4 ft.square, grated over with Iron Bars, by 2 small holes in the side wall near the top, which are almost choked up with dirt and a small grated window near the door, there was the ground for seats and an old sail spread for beds, this place was to contain three hundred persons, the doors shut every evening at sunset and opened at daylight when they want any fot the men to work, they arrange them all in a line and take those they like…but when they misbehaved they are bastionandoed, two small loaves of bread made of barley bran and as much water they can drink is all they live upon.” He latter writes that the Turks had 50-60 million dollars in their treasury, in unchained captivity 1,500 Christians…a demand of $3,000 per sailor for ransom is made to President Thomas Jefferson.

    I find these letters from a young man held in captivity along with Captain Bainbridge and fellow officers enlightening. His words paint a picture of the demands of the First War of Terror on our newly founded republic and navy.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    After reading the fourth paper, the last paragraph jumped out at me. It seemed as though it was written for today and how the world views us. Are we sure it was written in 1787? Talking about how foreign nations, “if they see that our national government is efficient and well administered…they will be more disopsed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment…How much more true does that ring today?

  12. Susan Craig says:

    I think this is a function of our founding fathers knowledge and understanding of human nature and realistic approaches to dealing with it. Whereas today’s ‘leaders’ wish try and impose their picture of an ideal. They ignore at their peril the human nature that resents and resists imposition of someone else’s picture of how we should be vice how we truly are; flawed and sinful.

  13. Carolyn Merritt says:

    I too, was taken with the past paragraph of #4 and how it rings true today. We must continue to show our strength and unity, if we do not and we continue on the path our current government is trying to take our Nation, we are going to keep losing the respect we once had from other Nations.

    The last sentence of John Jay’s argument was echoed almost 100 years later by Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (1858) This holds true today as well.

  14. Ron Parson says:

    Three short points:
    – first: We subsidize consumption and tax investment, which is “eating the seed corn.” It leads to poverty. Thus, a wholehearted second to Carolyn Attaway’s point above, in part quoting “our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established.” We must do this, and quickly.
    – second: re Iraq and Afghanistan: both lacked a “strategy”; both were a full level below that, at “operations.” To distinguish strategy from operations, ask . . . “and then what?” as in, We capture Baghdad . . . and then what? We flatten the Taliban (temporarily) . . . and then what? Both operations implied nation-building, which was scarcely anyone was thinking about; and I believe it impossible by outsiders.
    – third: In Washington, a “strategic plan” is neither; Washington abounds in incoherent scraps of strategy. A coherent strategy has 7 elements: context, assumptions, ends/objectives, ways/concepts, means/resources, The Plan, review-adapt loop. If we’d applied that template to Iraq & Afgh before moving in, likely we wouldn’t have done so. The best monograph I know of on this is at by a Dr. Harry Yarger.

  15. Will says:

    I strongly suspect that the standing and respect we once had in the world has been declining for some time, at least since the close of the Marshall Plan (itself a big social spending program). It’s being going on long before the current administration.

  16. Susan Craig says:

    Ron your second point is a function tieing our hands via the UN and limiting conflicts to police actions. War is not a sporting event in which ties are a good resolution to the game. War is a Darwinian evolution of the survival of the fittest.
    Your third point is one of the things the world holds against us – a lack of continuity/consistency between administrations. Case in point the missile shield promised to eastern Europe in the Bush administration and reneged upon by the Obama.

  17. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Susan, you have apoint about the lack of continuity between administrations, but I do not believe our past presidents strayed so far from each other as our current President has. Whether Reagan, either Bush, or Clinton; I do not believe our Allies ever considered that the USA would sever ties with them, or desert them. Now, I believe they are unsure of their relationship with us. You mention the world holds this inconsistency against us, but the sad part is many of our own citizens hate America as much as our enemies do. I came across a liberal the other day that hated America so much she said it was time we became a 3rd World country and suffer the abuses we inflicted on other countries. Her history was so skewed, I could not make any headway with her.

    So picking up Ron’s point of a strategic plan, I agree that we shouldn’t enter a war with just the first line of attack planned out, and then when that is over, you say “Now what?” I also realize that the world in constantly changing, and priorities are constantly changing, so National Security, our first and foremost proirity, needs to be constantly one step ahead of the world, and sometimes that is very hard to do. Ron, I look forward to checking out the link you provided. I joined Liz Cheney’s group “Keep America Safe”, and she and her contributors have indepth information on our current State of National Security. I haven’t been able to get to the site lately, but I recommend it.

  18. Hello all…….There are so many problems these days it is hard to keep up.The question was asked about our waring in the Middle East… great question and a very tall one.I suppose to bring the war to them could be argued for,WE were attacked by an idology not a country,this is very unconventional and a bit elusive by our past experiences.Our tactics need to be contemporary ….(going back, when the English attacked us during the revolution they followed strict and cumbersome methods of war,marching in bright red coats, and were quiet horrified that the militias did not line up and march in neat lines as they attacked, they instead used slight of view, snipers, etc.War had evolved and the Brits fought (may I dare say ,in a bit of an old fashon way) .Are we in a similiar delema ,fighting terrorist who fade from full annoument of their presence sneaking up using our very freedoms against us.Perhaps we need to reconsider some of our tactics.One way I think this is being done are the drone attacks.I know there are those who have objection to their use , but I like using stealt as often as possible .
    The mention of BIG government was also brought up. The thought that comes to mind over and over again when I see an attempt to control salt use,sweets , meat. fats and the such is the Temperence movement, and Prohibition. It was so against the Nature of humans and merely a product of the imaginations of the movers of Prohibition that we went right on doing what we knew was our own business.Crime rose and the repeal followed 13 years later. Of course this is a problems for sure but the most important problems we are facing is the Admin, taking control of Health Care, Banks, Financial markets, Car industry,errosion of Property ownership,wiping out contracts and so on and so on.We have much to right and thank God for our Constitution and the will of the people coming to life. This effort that has been offered to us by the contributers of the Constituting America site is a thrill.

  19. WeThePeople says:

    I really like the attitude this takes toward war: that it’s not something we ever want to invite upon ourselves. Its nice to know that the creators and supporters of our constitution strongly believed that peaceful solutions could be reached. It’s obvious that the constitution did need to give consideration to our national defense, but still. Now, if only our government had this same attitude today…

  20. Charles Babb says:

    This has been a wonderful opportunity to better understand what my ancestors faced, when they took their “Oath of Allegiance to North Carolina” at a Safety Committee meeting in Bute County (later to become Warren and Franklin Counties) in 1775.

    My question is; Where have all the Statesmen gone?

    They seem to have been replaced by patisan political thugs (result of career politicans?) that have usurped authority never granted them in the Constitution and have intentionally allowed our Nation to be invaded by a foreign forcewhich they hope will allow them to rip away the very last vestiges of freedom our Founding Fathers had intrusted to us.

    When America wakes up and realises what her apathy has brought us, I pray it is not too late for the People to regain control.

    Your posts give me hope that the United States can regain her way.

  21. Susan Craig says:

    Having spent sometime overseas (government sponsored tours and college) and listening to my hosts, it was a generic theme even back in the 1970′s. At that time it was Viet Nam Kennedy had committed to them and Nixon backed out under domestic political pressure.

  22. Tricia says:

    After reading the fourth Federalist Paper, I’m confused. John Jay sought to show how having a large, unified government would help protect the different states. He uses examples of how monarchies have started wars over personal matters and how three or four little governments aren’t as strong as one big one.

    But what’s to stop the leader of the US government from declaring war for personal reasons? What would keep the president in check? I don’t know if I missed that point or if it’s going to be further developed later…

  23. wow the founding fathers were right in so many aspects about war, trade, and just life in general. This country now feeks that we need to be in everyones affairs where as many of the founding fathers felt we needed to stay out of europes affairs. I wish the government was like this today, and that we needed to stay united unlike the polotics of today

  24. Andy Sparks says:

    To understand fully Jay’s essays regarding foreign relations, it is important to look to the near future of his time. The new republic’s life blood was trade with Europe. While America was rich in staples such as tobacco, timber, indigo, and rice; our manufacturing was relatively non-existant. Basically, we traded our raw materials for manufactured goods. The Quasi-War with France and the War of 1812 with Britain grew out of the disruption of trade with those respective countries. When both countries began boarding, impounding, and confiscating our merchant ships, it became a potential cause for war. Adams was able to avoid a conflict in the late 1790′s through shrewd diplomacy; Jefferson also avoided conflict by implementing a disasterous embargo policy that plunged the new nation into an economic crisis; Madison was not able to avoid war as the war hawks like Henry Clay and John Calhoun demanded the U.S. go to war with Britain in 1812. And although the U.S. claimed impressment and trade violations as the ultimate reason for war; imperial designs on Canada were as much a factor as those sited. So, despite (or because of) Jay’s warnings in Federalist #4, the nation not only could not avoid war, but in the case of 1812, actively sought it out.

  25. Peter says:

    There are some great comments being made tonight. It is interesting, but in a way obvious (at least to me) that the first few Federalist papers dealt with national security. Not only is the primary purpose of the state to organize for war – something the indiviudal is least prepared to do of all government functions – it is in my judgment the best argument for why the various colonies/states needed to come together into a centralized arrangement – or as one of the founders put it, for their mutual protection and, and this is important, defense.

  26. Seij De Leon says:

    In the last section of the article, Publius makes a remark saying that basically, if we as a nation are strong and powerful, other nations will want to befriend us and not provoke us. At the time, this may have been a more beneficial concept. But now as we are a large world power it has not only earned better feelings from other countries, but their dependency on dealing with larger affairs that our founding fathers may not of foreseen, and in turn made things what some might consider worse for us. I think it is interesting how goals were met, but even with the very thorough analysis that is offered by the federalist papers not everything can be predicted such as foreign dependency.

  27. Sandra Rodas says:

    I am very much enjoying this reading project and the blog. I read every comment each day. I have been meaning to read The Federalist Papers from “cover to cover” for some time now, and it is nice to have someone inspire me to get busy and do it. It is especially nice to get so many insights from others as I read. Thank you Cathy and Janine for sponsoring this.

    In #4 the comment, “when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves,” keeps coming back to my mind.
    There have always been different opinions and different sides of issues — some of them very nation-changing and serious — but I feel a lack of unity in our country at this time that alarms me. It somehow feels different and more hostile.
    We are dividing against ourselves. We need to realize that we can disagree without the hostility. The “shape” of our nation will be irregular and asymmetrical as we all push and pull in the different directions that our hard-won freedoms allow. That is OK—it is even good. The harmony improves the melody. However, we need to remember that our center should be one.

  28. Greg Zorbach says:

    re Tricia and her question: “But what’s to stop the leader of the US government from declaring war for personal reasons? What would keep the president in check?” Only the congress candeclare war. it was true with FDR in 1941 and with W in 2002. Yjey both had to make their points with the people and their representatives in congress.



Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

John Jay continues explaining the need for a United States of America as opposed to either an association of 13 separate and individual states or a collection of three or four nation states.  Jay explains his view that there were significant arguments in favor of a union, specifically by arguing that the recent experience with England and Scotland offer good examples of the benefits.

“QUEEN ANNE, in her letter of the 1st July, 1706, to the Scotch Parliament, makes some observations on the importance of the Union then forming between England and Scotland, which merit our attention.”

Taking up an example that may have been familiar in the eyes of his readers was a useful means for Jay to use to help voters understand the issues that were at stake.  The situation facing Scotland and England provided an excellent rationale for the states to reconsider the developing position among some that a confederation or a breakup into separate states would be useful in the long term.

Jay concludes: “We may profit by their experience without paying the price which it cost them. Although it seems obvious to common sense that the people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another. Notwithstanding their true interest with respect to the continental nations was really the same, yet by the arts and policy and practices of those nations, their mutual jealousies were perpetually kept inflamed, and for a long series of years they were far more inconvenient and troublesome than they were useful and assisting to each other.”

Moreover, the problem was not simply that 13 separate nations were never going to cooperate.  Jay argued that even if the States were to divide themselves into as many as three separate nations, they would still face problems that would ultimately jeopardize the well-being of the entire people. ”Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations, would not the same thing happen? Would not similar jealousies arise, and be in like manner cherished? Instead of their being “joined in affection” and free from all apprehension of different interests,” envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most other bordering nations, they would always be either involved in disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.”

In fact, it was Jay’s considered view that by their very nature there would be differences between the various nations now comprising the original 13 states; and that this would lead to disputes.  Perhaps you could imagine one nation having more commerce, another more population, still yet another possessing larger navy.  Whatever the differences might be – they could not be avoided because the nature of things would be that different influences would occur in each of the separate states — they ultimately would lead to conflicts or fear of conflict.  If you increased the number of nation states from three to 10, you likely would only increase the risks of conflict threefold or more because success or failure by one nation would cause her sister nation to take notice and feel some obligation to adjust in response.

“Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance, if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her importance; and would also restrain them from measures calculated to advance or even to secure her prosperity. Much time would not be necessary to enable her to discern these unfriendly dispositions. She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them.”

Jay recognizes that having one nation would eliminate all of those peculiar instances at least in terms of their perception to other countries and greatly attenuate the potential for envy or fear to develop internally.  Because as Jay recognized, nation states naturally are attentive to the concerns and changes that occur in other countries and tend to evaluate them in terms of  whether these changes either advance or retard their own perceived interests it is useful to minimize them wherever possible.

“Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.”  Jay concludes by pointing out that the very distance between the states and Western Europe made it more likely that any conflicts that would cause government leaders to take sides would occur here in the Americas and not with “distant nations.”

The very large swath of land and significant population of America potentially were the greatest strength of the nation in unity but could be its greatest weakness in disunity.

Horace Cooper is a Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

23 Responses to “May 42010 – Federalist No5 Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence (continuedGuestBloggerHorace CooperLegal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

  1. Brad Tepper says:

    This experience has been fantastic! Thank you Janine and Cathy.

    Now I am stumped. In 1786 John Jay argues for and attempts to secure specific and limited commerce for the Northeastern states with Spain. This was not his assignment either. I believe he was to negotiate rights for the entire confederation of 13 states with Spain. His actions, the Jay-Gardoqui Treaty, thankfully was never ratified.

    One year later, he authors Federalist #5. He then argues AGAINST such a negotiation and specific treaty for a factional section of the states.

    Can someone explain how this 180 seemed to occur? Who/What were the influences?

  2. Susan H. says:

    Good morning everyone,

    I had a few thoughts as I read #5. Jay writes “The history of Great Britain is the one which we are in general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful lessons. We may profit by their experience without paying the price which it cost them.” I guess this just drove home the point that history does indeed repeat itself. It behooves us all to be students of history. I recently read a historical novel, The Constant Princess, by Philipia Gregoria. In that novel one of the constant worries of the King was invasion from the Scots in the north.

    The other thought I had was in regards to the AZ contoversy. It feels like that state is being forced into a us vs. them position. Instead of the federal government looking out for the Union, they are forcing states to protect their own interests. Now you have other states looking to boycott and withdraw invetments, etc. Sounds to me just like what John Jay was warning against.

    I continue to be impressed by the founding fathers.

  3. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Susan you are exaactly right the Federal Government has failed in it’s first responsibility and that is to protect our borders. This situation has existed for years it is not new. The border states have had to contend with the failure of the Federal Government and the other states have sat by and said it is not my problem. If we are to mantain this union we had better start thinking about what is best for all the states and not just our own. Texas has been at the for front of the EPA because of some of our emmisions but it is because we refine the majority of the oil and gas in this country if we did not the Northeast and Midwest would freeze in the winter and not have transportation. Remember the righters of the Federalist Papers were arguing for this Union with the Enumerated Powers in mind not this Government we see today.

  4. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Horace Cooper’s last line in his entry summed up Paper #5 for me; “The very large swath of land and significant population of America potentially were the greatest strength of the nation in unity but could be its greatest weakness in disunity.”

    I find it curious that I read this article on the day after I watched the 2nd part of the series “America – The Story of Us”. In the Series, the narrator explained how pioneers continued to expand the States through events such as the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Alamo, the Gold Rush and the Westward Movement in order to create a better life for themselves. The point that was constantly stressed that what made America so different from all other countries was the ability for their people to be free and that they could carve any life they wanted for themselves.

    The Series went on to explain how Americans in the West wanted to be connected with the East, so with the existance of steamboats and the building of the Erie Canal, the expansion of commerce crossed the continent and had a major impact of the American way of life.

    The great need for commerce and the economic differences between the Northern and Southern States led to a great discord within the Union. This difference eventually led to the Civil War.

    I think of the Civil War in this Paper, because I wonder if the Founders had not pushed so hard to create a Union, if the Civil War would have ended differently. Would the Southern States have remained intact, or consumed into the Northern States after their defeat? Would the Northern States have had the right to demand the abolishment and expansion of slavery?

    I find that the Founders relentless drive to form a Union may not have prevented disunity between the States, but the formation of the Union gave us an ending which could have otherwise been disastrous to America as a whole.

    Like Great Britain, the individual States could have spent years upon years of internal fighting; disrupting any chance of expanding their trade and increasing their strength to be a profitable nation. Instead the Civil War could have turned into multiple civil wars, weakening the states resources to the point of becoming a target for foreign countries to attack. Would we even be a Superpower today?

    Even today with the problems we are facing, there are faint whispers of state secession in the wind. I believe the Union should always remain intact. However; the powers the federal government currentlly holds should be scaled back and limited, and the state’s powers should be restored to their full capacity. Also, if the federal government fails to do its job in protecting the states from invasion (i.e. Arizona), then the states should have the right to protect themselves without federal naysaying.

  5. Neal C White says:

    Excellent comments by all on Federalist No 5. I cannot help but think that we are today experiencing a continuation of the argument that prompted Jay to write this piece. It seems to me that there is an effort to divide our country. It is amazing the number of so called pundits have written articles criticizing Arizona for the realistic passage of legislation suggesting that they wished to see the law upheld in their state. None of those who are protesting had any suggesting how to deal with the very real problems of murder, drugs, destroying of personal and public property to say nothing of the heavy burden of economic support demanded by the Illegal Immigrants.

    If this attitude continues we will see division of our great country in different groups just as Jay is warning us about – and for many of the same reasons he mentioned. Why do we, the citizens, allow this to happen. The vast majority of us are in agreement with Arizona and believe the rest of the Union should support similar action. We are headed for a very bad ending if something is not done to change this attitude and direction that America is now following.

  6. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    The whole problem we have today is the Federal Government with the aid of the Courts exceding the Enumerated Power it was granted under the constitution. If the government operated today as was intended under the original intent of the Constitution the Federal Government would not be involved in 90% of the issues they are involved in today. Just look @ the move today to revise the Clean Water Act to read “all” water instead of just the navigatable waters. With this change the Federal Government will have control of any water in the United States including Playa Lakes. Is this what the Founders intended.

  7. Susan H. says:

    No Chuck, I don’t believe this is what the Founders intended. We the People have the power to make a change at the ballot box. The critical question is will the “vast silent majority” get of “our collective duffs” and do something about it. I think websites such as this one and other venues promoting basic civics education may be the key.

  8. David Hathaway says:

    Today’s Federalist Paper references the earlier letter from Queen Anne. An editorial I read today referenced even earlier the Magna Carta. Clearly, our Founders were men of letters who understood the precedents of their age. I surely wish our leaders today were as well versed. I would be pleasurably shocked to learn that any of our Congress were reading along with us.

    I live in Texas. We are proud of our state, and our superior policy and good management. We are fiercely jealous of our state’s power and push back on the Federal Government’s imposition of policies and costs. In the context of today’s reading, if we were still a Confederacy, it is not hard to imagine that the current AZ brouhaha would lead us to side with her, against the neglectful central government. Heck, we do already!

    Likewise, can’t you imagine Michigan or other economically challenged states looking enviously at Texas? It would be a war waiting to happen.

    I found it interesting that Jay touted the strength of the Northern Hive against that of the southern states. Remember, he was writing to encourage New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution. Isn’t saying “we are more powerful than those lazy southerners” more of an argument against the Constitution? If this were today, and the writer was a Texan, I bet there would be many voices that said, “what do we need New York for?”

  9. Andy Sparks says:

    Excellent comments and observations, especially Brad and Carolyn. I sometimes hear people say the nation would be better under the Articles of Confederation because the states were independently sovereign. However, they don’t seem to realize the internecine conflicts between borders and commerce that would arise if this were the case. Jay and the other Federalists saw first hand what path a loose confederation of nation states were headed. Eventually, even the United States under the Constitution could not hold the union together without a bloody war.

    Brad, I believe Jay thought that a 25 year moratorium on use of the Mississippi was reasonable at the time. The territories to the west of the Appalachians were still fairly sparse and perhaps he felt getting Spanish agreement in writing that the river would eventually revert to the U.S. was more important than instant gratification. Also, I don’t think he realized the deep resentment the southern states and western territories had for his negotitations until after the treaty was vilified and eventually not ratified. I think it speaks well to him that he realized the mistake that was almost made and changed his line of thinking regarding it.

  10. Melanie says:

    To Brad Tepper, I am equally confused about John Jay’s apparent 180 on the virtue of states’ sovereignty verses a strong federal government. I look forward to others’ comments on this.

  11. Ron Meier says:

    @ Carolyn. Re the Civil War. Would there even have been a Civil War if a Confederation had continued, with the slave states being soverign? Possibly not, but there might have been other wars between the various Confederacies. We just don’t know, because that’s not the path we chose.
    We can look at current day Europe for an example of what might have been. Effectively, the EU is a confederation. Look at the problems that are occuring right now with the Greece situation. We can see the very things the writers of the Federalist were warning us against coming to pass in the EU. The other members of the EU confederation are becoming self centered now that they may have to rescue member Greece. They are asking why should they have to pony up money to rescue their member which has not been fiscally responsible. It will be instructive to see how that one plays out over the next months and years.

  12. Melanie says:

    Today in The American Thinker is an article entitled “Declaration of Independence As Law”,
    written by Ronald R. Cherry. It begins “Our American Declaration of Independence is the supreme, unamendable lawof the United States. Declarational law preceded and trumps our supreme, amendable secular law, the Constitution. As stated in our Declaration, the purpose of secular law (Constitution) is to secure our sacred, unalienable, equal, individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–i.e., private property honestly earned through creative labor : ‘That to secure these rights, Governments [constitutions] are instituted among Men…’ While our Constitution and Bill or Rights are the greatest secular laws ever written, it must be acknowledged that our secular Constitution has a sacred mandate–the Declaration of Independence.

    It’s well worth reading the entire article, the premise is sound.

  13. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Ron, I think a civil war would have ensued eventually; just like today we do not like to see other people in other countries being mistreated or enslaved, the people of the North would have began to challenge the morality of slavery. It would still have been an issue.

    Greece is a scary situation because the unions in that country have cuddled the Greek citizens for so long. The citizens are rioting in the streets for cut backs such as getting paid for 12 months out of the year instead of 14. Can you imagine?

  14. john jay was a brilliant man who along with the other authors of the federalist papers helped to address issues that the american people felt needed to be addressed. the federalist papers however seem to address issues that hadnt even happened yet. . some of the federalist paers seem to forshadow the civil war that devistated this country. at this time the federal government was trying to force the country to become a union, and this along with issues such as slaverymay have caused the civil war in 1862

  15. Susan H. says:

    To Ron – that is an excellent point you bring up about the EU!

  16. Carolyn Merritt says:

    In my opinion Jay was prescient in using the example of the north being generally “the region of strength” and at some time in the future exert the power over the southern portions of the confederacies. They would not act as neighbors but as borderers, would be prey to discords, jealousies, etc. In short, we would be in exactly the situations which some nations want to see us – formidable only to each other. Was Jay talking about the future civil war?

    @Ron, not only are we seeing what Jay wrote about happening in Europe, we are seeing it happening here on our own shores today. As he states in Federalist 4 . Now we were a nation that could defend ourselves, and provide ourselves with goods and not only that could now export these same goods to other countries cheaper than they could produce them. What has happened to our commerce? It has gone overseas. We no longer manufacture and export goods that are cheaper than other countries can produce. We no longer provide ourself with goods that we produce.

  17. Tricia says:

    @ David. I agree. States wax and wane in power and if they were all independent of each other as under the Articles of Confederation, every state would have some resentment against the others for some past fight or jealousy.

    Under the Constitution, the states can get along (to an extent). By being united as one entity, the separate states can still have their differences, but also work together during times of hardship, such as the Great Depression.

  18. WeThePeople says:

    One of the extracts from the union in England states that a strong union will be able to resist any enemy. It also suggests that our union would be divided by the North and South from the very start. Hmm, it seems that the founding fathers hint about a civil war a lot…So, for the civil war, since part of the union became it’s own enemy, does that detract from our strength as a whole? I know it did at the time, but overall, was it for the best?
    This paper seems to focus on the fact that it would be a burden NOT to separate ourselves from Britain. Wonder how parliment reacted to these papers.

  19. Peter says:

    What is important to conisder is the context – remember the Federalist Papers were printed/published in New York and were, largely, about persuading New Yorkers to accept the idea of a new nation with a new system of government. Virginia was the largest colony while Pennsylvania was probably the strongest in economic terms. Without New York the country could of – and probably would have – split into a northern country and a southern country. What Jay is doing here in one of the last papers he wrote is to build the case for unity from Massachusetts to Georgia. And he does a brilliant job, in my opinion.

  20. A big thank you to Horace Cooper for serving as our Guest Blogger for Federalist No5. Excellent analysis fromHorace, and great discussion! Thank you to everyone for participating! I would like to share a few of the lines and thoughts from today’s post and blog comments that particulary resonated with me.

    As many pointed out today, the Founding Fathers were visionary in their ability to look down the road and see what the future had in store for the United States. They had this ability because they were keen students of history, political philosophy, and human nature. David said it well, “Clearly, our Founders were men of letters who understood the precedents of their age.”

    As Susan H. pointed out, history does repeat itself. Our founders understood that fact much better than we do today. These days we tend to believe we are immune to the cycles that every civilization has experienced throughout the ages. If our forefathers were with us today, they would certainly be able to predict our future better than we can ourselves!

    Carolyn pointed out Horace’s last line, which I loved: “The very large swath of land and significant population of America potentially were the greatest strength of the nation in unity but could be its greatest weakness in disunity.” I felt that summed up Federalist #5 perfectly!

    I am continuing to learn much from you all! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please invite others to join us!

    Looking forward to Federalist No. 6!

    Cathy Gillespie

    PS – We are working to consolidate all blog comments onto the Daily Guest Bloggers page, and Janine and I will be posting our daily essasy on the Guest Blogger’s Post as “Comments” as well as the usual standalone posts. Please post all your blog comments on the Guest Bloggers Page so its easy to see all the great comments in one place! Thank you!

  21. Seij De Leon says:

    The reasoning in Jay’s writing is solid, there wouldn’t of been any other way to make this nation powerful without unity. But it wasn’t a problem free solution, even as the states came together there was still constant internal bickering mainly between the North and South concerning slavery. Had the United States not been formed, their would have been no single power to regulate decisions concerning slavery in newly formed states and separated states could have made chaos in fighting for what they want, earlier in time than just the civil war.

  22. Howdy from Texas. What a great conversation today. I have to tell you guys, or y’all, I am really learning from not only our guest scholars, but from you who blog. Today was a most thought provoking dialogue. I thank you for joining us and for spreading the word about our “90 in 90.” A great civic discussion, based on the founding principles of our country, is just what our country needs.

    I thank Horace Cooper for his wonderful essay today. Thanks Horace!

    I related to what Tricia said in her blog today regarding the fact that a union gives us the ability to disagree yet to unite in times of trouble. An analogy would be a family. Families may bicker but – watch out – because they will defend each other when one is confronted or in danger.

    In relation to the founding era and Federalist No5, there was still so much to be imagined, discovered and resolved. There was an abundance of mystery in America. This is one of the brilliant aspects of Publius – they had such foresight, almost prophetic. They knew there were differences amongst the peoples of America, with a vast portion of America yet to be discovered and claimed, but they also new that it was better to be with each other rather than against one another; to be governed by a unified vision.

    As our two hundred thirty -four years have evolved, it has become apparent that our differences did drive stakes into our passions but they did not dismember us. If we had not found stability as a burgeoning union then we would never have been able to survive the challenges that were to be wrought by the civil war and the great depression.. to name a few.

    So what is the relevancy of Federalist No5 today? It is in defining the boundaries between the federal government and the states in the twenty first century. It is in the understanding of how much power our founding fathers really intended the federal government to have. It is in the reckoning and reconciling of the autonomy the states were intended to have and should have today. The answers to these questions are complex, especially because it is inordinately hard to rein back leniencies that have already been dispersed. Once one foot is in the door, it is very hard to close it again. Has the federal government planted its boots upon our thresholds too boldly?

    I dare say many of us would answer yes. I dare say many of us agree with Arizona in regard to the fact that she has the right to make her own laws, yet look at how her autonomy is disrupting the union. Is this not exactly what Publius was predicting? However, today, is the fault with the state or with the Federal government who failed to protect her and her people? Or is it the state’s right to defend herself? Is this not addressed in the Constitution in Article I Section 8.16? I, personally, would like to hear some thoughts from our scholars as to what exactly Article 1 Section 8.16 means in relation to Arizona.

    It is only in the educating of America about the United States Constitution that these questions may be answered. Knowledge is power. We cannot appreciate what has been taken away if we have never known what was rightfully ours in the first place.

    The monarchies of Europe didn’t want their “people” educated. An educated people meant that they would be able to see the truths. These truths are self-evident: If we don’t utilize our educated voice someone else will speak for us. And all of our rights will be lost.

    God bless,

    Janine Turner

  23. Kellie says:

    The conflict in AZ today really brings home this issue of unity and states’ rights which is so important to understand if we are to protect our country. The federal government needs to get back to playing the role of protecting the states by enforcing the federal laws already put in place. By turning their back on AZ, they are essentially advocating the disunity. I never really understood how important it was to give the states rights to govern their citizens, yet have the federal government to protect and govern the states. I think the only hope is that people of America and especially AZ understand these concepts and educate each other on the consequences of disunity, and they not let our federal government forget the original principles as discussed in these papers.



Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Federalist #6

Essay number five closed with recognition that what is decisive in human communities is the political distinction, the political identity. That settles the question of what is “near and dear.” That distinction lies at the root of warfare. It follows accordingly that one lessens the chance of war by setting thins up so that people will call the same things “near and dear.” This means, at a minimum of course, that when people seek to resolve their most important questions they will all expect the authoritative answer to come from the same source. They will all appeal to the same Solomon.

None of this means that Publius envisions a human landscape from which all war has been eliminated. He described controlling war within the precise political environment of the United States by means of constructing a political identity for these people called Americans. This is made clear in essay number six, in which Publius speaks explicitly against utopian speculation.

Men, he argues, are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. They are so because they differ regarding the things that are near and dear to them. One reacts to those things which are not one’s own more under the influence of those passions of ambition, vindictiveness, or rapaciousness than with in respect to what is one’s own. The founding seeks to insulate this characteristic in human beings by teaching some set of human beings to hold the same things “near and dear.”

Note, too, that the statement about human character does not add the familiar phrase, “by nature.” It is not necessary to conclude that human nature is evil in order to see that certain evil (fallenness) is attached to human nature. There is another view that human nature itself is evil, that is sometimes falsely attributed to Publius. This very negative portrait of constitutionalism makes it appear that the whole purpose of the constitution is to prevent Americans from doing all the evil they can to one another.

The first essays in The Federalist Papers convey exactly the opposite picture: it is admitted that evil is possible; it is admitted that government is necessary; it is admitted that people do violence; it is admitted that there are causes of war rooted in human nature; but there is still the positive endeavor, which is the real driving force of this founding, and that is the endeavor to build a nation of one people who call the same things near and dear.

This emerges clearly in the third paragraph of essay number six:

The causes of hostility among nations are innumerable. There are some which have a general and almost constant operation upon the collective bodies of society: Of this description are the love of power or the desire of pre-eminence and dominion – the jealousy of power, or the desire of equality and safety. There are others which have a more circumscribed, though an equally operative influence, within their spheres: Such are the rivalships and competitions of commerce between commercial nations. And there are others not less numerous than either of the former, which take their origin intirely [sic] in private passions: in the attachments, enmities, interests, hopes, and fears of leading individuals in the communities of which they are members.

These separate categories that Publius has listed all relate to one another, but the most important thing about them is that they are distinct, separate. The love of power, to take an example, is different from the private passions. The rivalries and competitions of commerce also differ from private passions. In a manner of speaking, these factors may not be passions at all, they may be perfectly rational. If by passions, we mean what is not rational, then we cannot call all these things “passions.” That means that the causes of war are not necessarily irrational.

To imagine that wars come about only because of failures of reason is probably one of the greatest mistakes. Some wars are thoroughly rational. Above all, ina case wehre people palce themselves ina situation to invite war. Let’s remember essays three and four: “the nation must place itself in such a situation that it will not invite war.” It will invite friendly intercourse, not war; which is why prosperity is a precondition for peace rather than a consequence of peace.

Having made that distinction, and having distinguished the private passions from other conceivable causes of war, we now note that the private passions are not less interesting because they are arational. For they bear upon the question of public opinion, and the preceding discussion turns almost entirely upon the question of public opinion.

In paragraph seven of essay six Publius again discussed the general clauses and examples of wars, now focused on the United States. He remarked that great national events sometimes are produced by petty personal matters, and he described Daniel Shays of Massachusetts as a desperate debtor. Then he added that it is much to be doubted whether there had bee a rebellion had Shays not been a desperate debtor. Thus, Publius wonders out loud whether the brief civil war was caused because a desperate person was carried away or because a person of enormous capacity for leadership was desperate. Accordingly, private passion must be taken into account no less than rational opportunities. If Shays with his talent had not been made desperate, he had not organized thousands of debtors and farmers.

In the next two paragraph Publius set up a measure of the distance what he called visionary or designing men, on the hand, and the hardheaded realists of political life on the other hand:

The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men and to extinguish those inflammable humours which have so often kindled into wars. Commercial republics, like ours, will never e disposed to waste themselves in ruinous contentions with each other. They will be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of mutual amity and concord.

What a lovely, visionary portrait of the modern dispensation! But Publius rejects it, no matter how close it comes to the view that prosperity is a precondition for peace. Publius says that it is not enough to form a republic and to practice commerce. In fact, he responds to both issues, when he wonders whether “it is not the true interest of all nations, whether republics or not, to cultivate the same benevolent and philosophic spirit.” Commerce may well soften manners, but it equally well provides new occasions for jealousies, new occasions for conflict. In short, Publius rejects the new and modern principles of the enlightenment, that greater human understanding will eliminate causes for war.

Publius’s argument is particular to the political organization of the untied States. Our discussion emerged from considering domestic violence. Publius examined commerce among the states, but noted that the commerce would not disappear because of Union. The only difference is a difference in practice or habitude. The various states (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, say) would experience the same necessities. But under the Union they would all turn to the same source for help when problems arise. They would call the same thing near and dear by turning to a single Solomon. IT is the act of agreeing upon a single Solomon that predisposes men to be more peaceful with one another, more like brothers than enemies.

W. B. Allen

Dean and Professor of Emeritus

Michigan State University

27 Responses to “May 5, 2010Federalist No. 6Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States, for the Indpendent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: W. B. Allen, Dean and Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University

  1. Maggie says:

    I found it very striking that he brought up the jealousies that can and will occur between states due to successes. Is this not what is happening today with our jealousy of corporate America? We want the fruit of other’s successes.

    I was also moved by this paper because, to me, it seems to reflect upon the current unrest and calls for dissension by a few states. We look to each other (as states) and want what others have or don’t worry about other’s problems because we don’t see them as our own. Hamilton knew so many years ago that this could be an issue.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    The first five papers argue for the primary reason for government defense of the people. Now in six it is posited that the next reason for a national government arbitration between the sovereign states to peaceably resolve differences. They do not start from the belief that man is inherently good, argue from the knowledge that man is inherently flawed and sinful and will often act from any of the seven deadly sins (greed, lust, etc.)

  3. Bache says:

    B. Franklin once said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” I believe the life of every American citizen and or state was and is impacted by the whole, ie. one nation. Relinquishing a liberty for the short term forsakes longterm security. “We must indeed all hang together or most assuredly, we shall hang separately.” This famous quotation by Benjamin Franklin is a principle our Founding Fathers agreed to not only as a nation but personally by pledging their fortunes, families, and honor. Who today would be willing to take such an oath as this?

  4. trish says:

    Susan I really like how you brought a central theme for the first 5 papers. Good thought!

  5. Kay says:

    Hamilton’s sentences are long and more involved than John Jay’s, and take more concentration on my part. The essays and commentaries on each Paper condenses the information, bringing out the highlights. I am so enjoying this series.

  6. Samantha Curtis says:

    None of this means that Publius envisions a human landscape from which all war has been eliminated. He described controlling war within the precise political environment of the United States by means of constructing a political identity for these people called Americans.

    — So he is saying that America is not prefect that we are always going to have wars. But we need to control the war in a political way?

  7. Carolyn Attaway says:

    After reading Alexander Hamilton on #6, I realize how much I miss John Jay’s writings. John Jay was very concise, whereas I find Hamilton’s words very flowery. It reminds me of when Abigail Adams told her husband “John, people know you are highly educated, you don’t have to remind them in your speeches.” I guess I am going to be an unhappy camper for awhile

    That being said, there were 2 phrases that jumped out at me: “A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations who can seriously doubt that,” and “There have been, if I may so express it, almost as many popular as royal wars”.

    One definition of Utopian is an ardent but impractical political or social reformer; visionary; idealist. I believe we are experiencing this mindset today regarding our national security. Many believe we only need to discuss our differences with those that oppose us and we can solve all our problems. This is unrealistic for many reasons, and as Hamilton explains, this logic forgets that some men are ambitious, vindictive and rapacious for no other reason than human nature. Hamilton realizes that most people strive for a Utopia, but he writes that because of the many causes of hostility between nations, this place is seldom, if ever found.

    The second phrase regarding popular versus royal wars, reminded me of when the majority of Americans supported the IRAQ war, when their passions ran high and demanded action for the horrendous crime committed on our soil. The outcome of this war has split our Nation after several years because of many reasons, and now many question why we entered the war in the first place.

    @Bache Today, only about 50% of the American population if you take in consideration that about 47% now receive some form of government entitlement.

  8. Susan says:

    @Carolyn, I so totally agree with you on the styles of the two writers. Hamilton requires my complete attention. That being said, I am so impressed with how the Founding Fathers have anticipated all these problems in the future.

  9. Roger Jett says:

    The Federalist Papers , as other commenters have pointed out, were directed toward a New York readership in hopes of bringing them into the camp that was arguing for a strong national government. Hamilton in particular wrote from a point of view that didn’t play as well in other parts of the country. This I think was particularly true of Paper #6 as some perception has been (both past and present) that he trivalized and mocked the plight of a very large portion of the citizenry when he labeled their protests as disturbances, revolts and rebellions. These people who had been made destitute by the war and by subsequent economic depressions, felt severely oppressed by their government. Those in position of power demanded payment of obligations in gold or silver. Many soldiers, farmers and other contributors to the war effort found themselves after the war undercompensated or even unpaid entirely for their sacrifices. The continental notes at that point in time were devalued to the point that they were widely considered of little or no value. The courts confiscated property to settle debts and many found themselves in debtor’s prison. A few protestors found themselves hung for treason! In this paper Hamilton mentions situations in three of the states ….North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Massachuetts. In his commentary Professor Allen identifies for us Shay’s Rebellion as the Masssachuetts’ incidence. I believe the disturbance in Pennsylvania that Hamilton alludes to would be the “Fries Rebellion” which is were the people were being assessed taxes for the number of windows they had in their homes (this was way before they had tanning beds). I presume, but may be doing so wrongly that the reference to North Carolina was referring to the establishment of the temporary and unrecognized State of Franklin which was located at what is today eastern Tennessee, but which was at that time considered a part of western North Carolina. The Federalist Party took political hits from their opponents due to the perception they were often against the common people in these various events and others. In saying all of this, I have no intentions of taking away or minimizing the enormous contribution that Hamilton made in leading our country to a magnificient republic with a constitution that is enequaled and has long endured the test of time. Hamilton is certainly deserving of the great honor bestowed upon him as a ” Founding Father.”

  10. Andy Sparks says:

    Hamilton speaks directly to the weakness of the federal government under the Articles of Confederation in this essay: “Let the point of extreme depression to which our national dignity and credit have sunk,…from a lax and ill administration of government.” The loose confederation under the AOC is causing the new found freedom established by the Declaration of Independence to be threatened both without and within. Only under a new government such as proposed by the as yet ratified Constitution can prevent the discord among the states (such as Shay’s Rebellion) from ruination.

  11. Laurie says:

    I too need assistance with Hamilton’s writings, so I want to thank professor Allen for his helpful comments. I was struck by his use of what is “near and dear” to us as a nation, our political identity, what truly holds us together as Americans. That identity has been under such terrible attack by so many for so long, that it has undermined our unity as a people. Now we are being pushed into groups, not so much warring states, except for Arizona, but isn’t that really a group identity issue, too. It is not the states at war so much as the political groups we are being made to identify with and to feel are more important than anything else. Aren’t people thinking of their political identity with their group, rather than with America as a whole? Aren’t we being set up here with the shift to think of what is “near and dear” to our group, rather than to our country?

  12. Howdy from Texas! I thank y’all for joining us! Federalist No. 6 is yet another fascinating reading. Yes? I want to thank our Constitutional scholar, W.B. Allen, for breaking down Federalist Paper No. 6 with such superb detail.
    Thanks Mr. Allen!

    The complexity of this particular paper is mesmerizing.
    I am enthralled by the examples of former empires, the rise and fall of these republics, and the reasons why. The relevancies in today’s reading are many but the warnings are simple and the question singular. How to we keep the United States of America from failing? The warnings from history provide wisdom. The republics of Sparta, Athens, Rome and Carthage were ruined by wars and greed, Holland was overwhelmed in debt and taxes and England and France were beleaguered by antipathy toward one another.

    It is interesting to reflect upon the fact that one of the reasons Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison could make such brilliant observations is because of their superb education. Alexander Hamilton should be an inspiration to many who believe that one has to be born into wealth to receive such an education. I wrote about Alexander Hamilton’s mother in my book, “Holding Her Head High.” Alexander was raised by his single mother, who by example, taught him at an early age the art of business and the spirit of tenacity. Yet, he was very poor. When his mother died he was in desperate need of a new pair of shoes. He may have had no shoes but he had spirit, determination and true grit.

    Are these not qualities that Americans hold “Near and Dear” – spirit, determination and true grit. These American characteristics were why we won the Revolutionary war and these are the qualities that keep America great today. We are a country, a republic, where one may dare to dream. We are a country where, according to our Constitution, no one may receive titles of Nobility. We are a country where a boy born in a single room log cabin becomes President, where men raised by single mother’s become President, to name a few examples. We are a country where vision, perseverance and willingness to work hard can nurture the seeds of talent, in any man or woman, to fruition. In this respect we are all equal. In this respect we must hold “Near and Dear” our free enterprise, which yields the vast fruits of commerce, industry and personal ingenuity keeping America vibrant, solvent and safe.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner

  13. Maggie says:

    @ Carolyn…….You have a way of putting into words exactly what I am thinking after reading these papers. I can’t thank you enough for your contributions here.

    Laurie stated “Aren’t people thinking of their political identity with their group, rather than with America as a whole?”……and I couldn’t agree more. We need to stop thinking about issues on a “Right” or “Left” (or Republican vs Democrat) basis and get back to doing what is right for America.

  14. David Hathaway says:

    I personally enjoy Hamilton’s writing style. He uses difficult but valuable words that an earlier reader would have understood quicker than us. I am reminded of the difference between Spanish and English. Spanish tends to use more, easier, words while English uses longer, meatier words. The net result is that Romance language writings take more space. Just imagine how long this Paper would have been if Jay had written it!

    I find it interesting that Hamilton invokes Shay’s Rebellion. Again, I find it timely. DESPERATE DEBTOR Daniel Shay was largely desperate and in debt because his government had levied such high taxes. Massachusetts levied high taxes to pay off their war debt. So crushing was the tax burden that citizens insurrected against their own government!

    The experience was fresh in Hamilton’s mind as he became the first Secretary of the Treasury. It spurred him to address the National debt (not independent State debts), ultimately forming the First Bank of the United States.

    I think the rebellion is timely, because our present government is likewise saddling us with debt. How long will it be before we are inflicted with crushing tax rates? How long will it be before Tea Parties become Shay’s Rebellions? Well, at least to the mainstream media!

    I mentioned before the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Andrew Chernow. It’s very readable, as you’d want while straining the Federalist Paper soup. If you read the few chapters on Hamilton circa the post-Revolution and pre-Constitution, you might have even more insights.

  15. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @ Maggie . . . Thank you so much for your kind words. I, too, enjoy everyone’s contributions to this site. I have learned so much already!

  16. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    I totally agree with getting back to doing what is right for America but remember we must think in terms of the Enumerated Powers of the Federal Government and not what has become today a total Federal System that has usurped the power of the States and the People.

  17. ERL says:

    After completion of the Federalist (and possibly Joseph Story’s Commentaries on the Constitution), I would recommend reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton. He had one of the most fascinating careers in American Politics. Unfortunately, he has been cast as the “villian” of the Founding Fathers, but our political, economic, and governmental system is more in line with his vision than that of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

    Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers with little editing, making the finished product all the more impressive. (When he grew tired of writing, his wife recorded his dictation). He was also instrumental in creating the initial cabinet departments (he was the first Secretary of the Treasury), and in establishing the Presidency as a powerful policy-making branch of government, rather than simply an adminsitrator for Congress. Evidently, Jefferson and Madison envisioned a British-style Parliamentary system, where the leader of Congress would also be the leader (i.e., Prime Minster) of the US Government.

    Alexander Hamilton is probably the most misunderstood of our Founding Fathers.

  18. Ron Meier says:

    Two phrases struck me in Prof. Allen’s post. First, “prosperity is a precondition for peace rather than a consequence of peace.” Second, “IT is the act of agreeing upon a single Solomon that predisposes men to be more peaceful with one another, more like brothers than enemies.”

    As I mentioned a couple days ago, with respect to the first phrase, conflict is normal & peace is abnormal. Where properity doesn’t exist in the world, nations are run by dictators and seem to be in a state of constant civil war. Increasing prosperity does seem to have helped us avoid civil war for the past 150 years. Now, though, it seems that some of our countrymen are setting up prosperity as a straw man to be attacked and vilified and drawn and quartered in the name of peace through equal outcomes. Instead we should praise God for the prosperity that has enabled us to be the most generous nation on the face of the earth and the nation that other nations call upon to bring them peace.

    As to the second phrase, I wonder, what is the SINGLE SOLOMON upon which we might all, left and right, agree upon today that might nullify the internal conflict that is beginning to tear us apart? Troops in combat have that single Solomon, which is that they shed their blood and endure personal hardships for their comrades; that makes them a Band of Brothers. We don’t seem to have that single thing that makes all Americans feel like a Band of Brothers; we don’t endure much hardship together and we certainly don’t have each other’s backs to watch out for. Remember Curly from City Slickers who said the secret to life is ONE THING; Mitch asked what the one thing was and Curly’s response was “that’s what you’ve got to figure out.” We’ve got to figure out what our one thing is. While we might all agree on the qualities that Janine mentioned as those American hold near and dear, they appear important, but not sufficient, today to be our single Solomon. It seems that we, collectively, need to agree upon that before we can overcome our current internal conflicts. Anyone have any ideas on that Single Solomon? Or, as Curly might say, that one thing?

  19. Andy Sparks says:

    David, Hamilton addressd both the national AND the state debt. His assumption plan incorporated all the individual state debts with the national debt. The federal government would assume all the debt and pay off the interest only at a guaranteed rate. This would establish good credit with the rest of the world and insure that the wealthiest classes of America would be heavily vested in the success of the United States federal government: a very shrewd plan that worked wonders at putting the new nation on solid financial ground.

    But you are right about early hints at his eventual policy in Federalist #6. I think he was saying that if the debt crises created by individual states financially at odds with one another were replaced by a government that did something like assume all of their debt, perhaps Shays would not have had a reason to rebel.

  20. Roger Jett says:

    Would like to make a correction to a tidbit in my earlier post this afternoon. I had speculated that Hamilton was referring to the “Fries Rebellion” when he alluded to a late menacing disburbance in Pennsylvania. Well that was wrong since this rebellion took place about twelve years after the ” Federalist Papers” were written. It’s a small matter, but does anyone know what event Hamilton was referring to ? My initial thought had been the “Whiskey Rebellion” of western Pennsylvania, but that took place later also.

  21. Andy Sparks says:

    Roger, Hamilton was referring to an incident in the Wyoming region of Pennsylvania where a group of people were trying to separate with other local regions to form their own state. It was serious enough that the Pennsylvania legislature resolved to call out the militia if things had gotten worse. See the minutes of the the legislature below:

  22. WeThePeople says:

    Bringing up previous regions and unions that have experienced internal conflict… What is it with the federalist papers authors and the idea of an imminent civil war? This subject was touched upon in all of the federalist papers so far, and it was mentioned in the Constitution. It’s like they are psychic or something… just kidding, but I do find it strange.
    Roger Jett, if your previous assumptions about the rebellion were wrong, which one is it referring to? Any further insights?

  23. Jim Sykes says:

    In response to Ron Meier. There is no “one thing” for all individuals and that is what I believe Curly was trying to tell Mitch. The reference to Solomon to me refers to the Solomon of the Bible. To answer Ron’s question about “my one thing” is my belief in God and His power to heal our nation if we will simply pray for Him to do so. I ask each person who reads this to do exactly that tomorrow at your local meeting to observe our National Day of Prayer. A special thank you to Janine and Cathy and may God bless you all for participating here and for trying to return our great nation to it’s rightful place as our Creator intended.

  24. Ron Meier says:

    That may be the “one thing” we’re lacking as a nation, Jim. “One nation, Under God.” It is being undermined every day.

  25. Hi everyone – thank you to Professor Allen for your enlightening essay! And thank you to everyone for your comments today.

    I love the realism of Alexander Hamilton: “men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages.”

    We are fortunate our founding fathers were well read students of history, philosophy and political systems. They understood that we, as humans, are imperfect, and that civilizations through the ages have fallen victim to the character flaws of their leaders and citizens, time and time again. The Constitution they proposed, with its delicate checks and balances, was designed to take man’s nature into account.

    My favorite line from this essay was “Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?”

    Over 200 years later, we, and the rest of the world, are still “remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue”-a state humans will most likely never attain. As we consider how we deal with Iran and other terrorist nations, we should remember Alexander Hamilton’s words, and not assume we can simply talk things out. These nations have not had the benefit of freedom. Oppression breads violence, and reinforces man’s darker side.

    The United States of America, though, is one of the greatest humanitarian and charitable nations on the planet. How is that possible, given the nature of man as described by Hamilton? Our founders – we the people – designed a government based on Godly principles, ceding only enough power to the government to keep man’s darker side in check, but allowing the freedom necessary for our better qualities to flourish, and be brought to bear upon the problems facing our Nation and the world.

    Cathy Gillespie

    PS – We are working to consolidate all blog comments onto the Daily Guest Bloggers page, and Janine and I will be posting our daily essasy on the Guest Blogger’s Post as “Comments” as well as the usual standalone posts. Please post all your blog comments on the Guest Bloggers Page so its easy to see all the great comments in one place! Thank you!

  26. Jesse Stewart says:

    Many of you have commented in a similar way to mine today. My initial reaction to this paper was that Hamilton’s argument made sense, but upon reflection realized that even the holding the same “near and dear” can’t always keep the states together – we had a Civil War after all! From disagreements over land in the early days of our nation to today when states and other governmental entities are fighting Arizona over its own state law and states taking sides on the constitutionality of health care reform, we will never get rid of the personal and “momentary passions” that afflict man.

    We’ve come through disagreements before and united in times of crisis – I hope we will do so this time!

  27. Tim Shey says:

    The nature of life is antagonism. Life is war; war is life. Why? Because of our fallen nature. As long as there is Christ and Satan at work in human endeavor, there will always be conflict. Alexander Hamilton knew this. We need limited government to protect the innocent and powerless from those that would abuse their power.

    As a Christian, my life is governed by the Lord. If I abide in Christ (or if I am strong in Christ), then it is very hard for Satan to tempt me or influence me. If I am an unbeliever or weak in Christ, it is much easier for Satan to disrupt my life.

    If a nation is morally weak, this invites attack from other nations. The Marxist remedy is to concentrate on education (liberal propaganda) and redistribution of wealth and a mega government that solves all of our problems and everything will be fine and dandy because there is no such thing as Original Sin. The Christian remedy is to repent of our sin, seek God and the Lord will heal our land–and then the Lord will raise up righteous men to govern the nation.

    When the Israelites were in sin, they wanted a king to govern them just like the nations around them. But this is being conformed to the world. Mosaic Law and to be ruled by the judges were what the Lord wanted for the Israelites. But sin breeds more selfishness and more blindness, and so they wanted a worldly king (King Saul). The Lord told Samuel that Israel did not reject Samuel, but they had rejected the Lord and the Lord’s plan for their lives. King Saul ended up being one of the worst kings in the history of Israel.

    This Obama Administration is another King Saul. If the United States turns back to God, the Lord will raise up another King David, so that we can get rid of demonic strongholds in high places.

    Obeying the Lord is internal government; the U.S. Constitution is external government. The internal must come first before the external can be effective.

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Federalist # 7

Publius in the seventh essay of The Federalist Papers focuses entirely on examples of the kinds of disputes that could, in the event of disunion, reduce the United States into a replica of the European wars that had long colored that continent.

The examples cover territorial disputes, commercial disputes, debt settlement disputes, state laws violating contractual obligations, and alliances with foreign powers. In each of these examples Publius adopts the probable reasoning of prudent statesmen, not predicating intrinsic hostilities among the states but rather arguing from the operations of interest and the resentments of injuries real or perceived.

His point is simple and clear: without a trusted judge either to settle such disputes or to obviate them altogether through uniform rules where appropriate, there would be no ready instrumentality of resolution. Sometimes the disputes would be regulated through negotiation. But at other times, as occurs elsewhere, they would eventuate in conflicts that remain unresolved save through war. Publius’s point is not that war among the states is a likely prospect, but rather that the habits of independence and self-reliance would eventuality develop into hardened positions that would not admit of easy resolution.

The arguments developed especially in essays two through six, therefore, receive their concrete political application in a consideration of the actual circumstances of the states and the effects of their contiguity. What ought to be matters of domestic difference resolved through the rule of law would become matters of international conflict, for which there is no agency or instrument of resolution apart from the contest of force. He concluded:

The probability of incompatible alliances between the different states, or confederacies, and different foreign nations, and the effects of this situation upon the peace of the whole, have been sufficiently unfolded in some preceding papers. From the view they have exhibited of this part of the subject, this conclusion is to be drawn, that America, if not connected at all, or only by the feeble tie of a simple league, offensive and defensive, would, by the operation of such jarring alliances, be gradually entangled in all the pernicious labyrinths of European politics and wars; and by the destructive contentions of the parts into which she was divided, would be likely to become a prey to the artifices and machinations of powers equally the enemies of the all. Divide et impera must be the motto of every nation that either hates or fears us.

The force of the argument is immediately discernible in the eventualities o the War for the Union of the 1860s, in which not only the differences among the states produced eventual warfare, but the prospective intervention of foreign powers was seriously bruited and nearly obtained. Stated plainly, the Union was created for the sake of the rights of self-government described in Federalist one but also to grant Americans space to grow in peace.

W. B. Allen

Dean and Professor Emeritus

Michigan State University

21 Responses to “May 6, 2010 – Federalist No. 7 – The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States, for the Indpendent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: W. B. Allen, Dean and Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University”

  1. Brad says:

    I am still thinking about Shays “rebellion”. Quite frankly, I feel that Shays got a really bad deal. From my reading, he was a Revolutionary War veteran of much decoration having served in several theaters with distinction. He seemed to desire to return home and live out his life in peace UNTIL such time that the state of Massachusetts had other ideas. Did the elite “intellectuals” in Boston really believe they could tax and tax to death the common man to ruin? Shays pleaded for reconsideration and relief from this new oppression. What he must have been thinking to face a new taxing tyrant.
    Hamilton and Jay are correct to point out the dangers leading man to revolt. In this case, though, the state of Massachusetts was able to take care of this problem on its own. Albeit in a way that I feel was disgraceful. Gov. Boudin’s actions were tyrannical. Thank goodness Hancock replaced him soon enough to restore calmer heads and unified the state. It is a fallacy to think that a greater Federal Government was needed at that time. What was needed was a smarter and more humane state government. I feel that Publius falls short in argument here. I feel that this is not a good example where a unified central government would be more productive in local affairs.
    Note our current state of affairs. We the people do not need more oversight on a local level pushing its weight around.

  2. Maggie says:

    This part of Hamilton’s essay jumped out at me as I read…”There is, perhaps, nothing more likely to disturb the tranquillity of nations than their being bound to mutual contributions for any common object that does not yield an equal and coincident benefit. For it is an observation, as true as it is trite, that there is nothing men differ so readily about as the payment of money.” Truer words were never written. We battle over money and who pays more tax and who gets more benefits from those taxes EVERY DAY.

  3. Susan Craig says:

    So far in the past two Federalist Papers (6 and 7) I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the National Government was to regulate and control commerce between states. What I see is a proposed arbitration and adjudication of differences between the sovereign states.

  4. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Maggie, I would have to agree with you on the accurateness of the quote by Hamilton. Not only is it distasteful to have to pay taxes to a government that carelessly uses the money it receives from it’s hardworking citizens; but to have to pay mandatory taxes for causes that many believe are unconstitutional or wasteful, is adding even more salt to the wound. Case in point, the current HC Reform bill, and sending taxpayer money to the World Bank to bailout countries like Greece.

    Which brings me to the statement that was written with a highlighter on it: “The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of collision between the separate States or confederacies. The apportionment, in the first instance, and the progressive extinguishment afterward, would be alike productive of ill-humor and animosity.”

    All I could think of when I read this statement was CALIFORNIA. Today, through the policies and laws the state of California has adopted, this state has crippled their economy to the point of backruptcy and now cries “FOUL!” California demands that her sister states bail her out and pay for her bad decisions. The other states, especially those who have watched their budgets and acted prudently in good times to help themselves through the bad, bristle at the charge that they must pay for California.

    Without the Union, I believe the majority of Americans would allow California to fail. Hopefully, because of the Union, California can be assisted but with very strict conditions. California needs to take the New Jersey route.

  5. Roger Jett says:

    The stated mission of “Constituting America” is to educate America about the validity, necessity and Providential Divinity of the Constitution. On this National Day of Prayer let us pray for the success of this mission. As Janine Turner says “we must not let those who devalue freedom to dominate the debate.” Before we debate though …. let us be sure to pray for wisdom…. learn all we can and can all we learn …. discern truth and preserve it …. be absolutely sure we are right …. and then …. by all means …. go ahead !

  6. David Hathaway says:

    @Maggie – leapt out of the page at me, too!

    @Susan Craig – I believe these were written to show the merit of the proposed Constitution. Yesterday’s Federalist No 6 began,

    “THE three last numbers of this paper have been dedicated to an enumeration of the dangers to which we should be exposed, in a state of disunion, from the arms and arts of foreign nations. I shall now proceed to delineate dangers of a different and, perhaps, still more alarming kind–those which will in all probability flow from dissensions between the States themselves, and from domestic factions and convulsions.”

    So rather than proposing a system of arbitration and adjudication, or regulation and control of commerce, these last two papers describe the sorts of conflicts that The Constitution could prevent. Or perhaps mitigate. “Adopt The Constitution and these sorts of problems between States won’t occur [as much]“.

    I hope I didn’t misread the intent of your comment. I’m sorry if I did.

    I also like how Dr. Allen summarizes this:

    “What ought to be matters of domestic difference resolved through the rule of law would become matters of international conflict, for which there is no agency or instrument of resolution apart from the contest of force.”

    Nicely stated.

  7. Maggie says:

    @Carolyn…….I immediately thought of California as well. We’re in a rather sad state of existance here in Michigan as well due to the auto industry. I agree that we need to help each other out, but we also need to make sure that bad policy NEVER allows this to happen again.

  8. Susan Craig says:

    Yes what I was driving at is the current iteration of our government is seemingly intent on control of the national commerce not arbitrating differences between states. As I’ve read these papers the regulation and control of what business can and cannot be was States purview and any disagreements between States were to be adjudicated or arbitrated at the Federal level. I do not see Department of Labor and I certainly do not see a Department of Commerce that can and did tell a man who wanted to grow wheat for his own families consumption that he was in violation of interstate commerce laws.

  9. Debbie Beardsley says:

    Carolyn, While I am not going to argue with you about California’s budget issues, I am going to take exception to saying we want the other States to bail us out. Yes California is a mess right now partly due to the uncontrollable spending habits in Sacramento and the stranglehold the environmentalists and unions have on us. Another very large part of our problem are illegal immigrants and the fact that the Federal government is not doing their job in securing the borders and dealing with the fact that border states pay dearly for having illegal immigrants. Our Governor has asked the Federal government to pay for incarcerating the illegal immigrants that commit crimes and are sent to jail. This amounts to billions of dollars annually.

    As in Arizona, we have a huge problem with illegal immigration in California and the Federal government is choosing to do nothing. It is time for the Feds to step up.

  10. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Debbie – I was referring to back in January of this year when Gov. Schwarzenegger asked for a federal bailout up to $8 billion. According to the Hill, “the California gov’t. knows they can’t raise taxes significantly without further destroying the state’s economy to generate jobs. With that option virtually eliminated, the governor is looking for help from outside the state; from the rest of us. Bail us out, he says, or we will end our welfare-to-work program and eliminate services for the elderly and the disabled.” The reports I read did stress that the majority of the voters didn’t favor a bailout, but approx. 33% did.

    I agree that the Federal Government needs to step up on illegal immigration. It is creating a huge problem in all states, but mostly in the southern border states. With those borders open, anyone from anywhere can enter the USA.

  11. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Carolyn i agree with you on the problem of illegal immigration but part of the problem in California is that eventhough your Governor has ask the Federal Government to pay for the cost of the incaration of the criminal element involved in illegal immigration it has done very little to confront the problem itself such as Arizona has done. As long as the legislature in Sacramento continues to tax and spend and to encourage illegal immigration as it has done the problem will continue. Each state has it’s responsibility to uphold the Union as well as it’s own soverinty.

  12. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Chuck, I was replying to Debbie. I am not from California. I agree with you about the taxing and spending in California, and I realize that illegal immigration is a problem.

    The original point I was trying to make is that California has the 8th largest economy in the world, so even though it is a state, it’s economy is larger than most countries. Saying that, some legislators feel California is too large to fail, and if we do let it fail, the effects will be felt globally. Look at the impact Greece is making. Many say California is Greece three years from now, if things do not drastically change.

    From everything I read, California is also one of the highest in taxes, so they cannot tax their citizens anymore. Therefore, the Gov. requested a Federal Bailout. If California is awarded a Federal Bailout, it will be paid from the taxpayers of the other non-crisis states. Also, from what I read the states are reluctant to bailout California for many reasons, but 2 of them are 1) States are trying to save what money they have for their own needs, and 2) California refuses to change it’s liberal programs if awarded a bailout.

  13. i agree with what carolyn and chuck said. immmigration is not the federal governments responsibility. In my opoinion it shpuld be on the state, its their responsibility to keep the country in working order. The uniuon itself keeps the states in check, and without the union, states would turn on eachother.

  14. Maggie says:

    @ Joshua……I don’t think that Carolyn and Chuch and saying that immigration is not the Federal Government’s responsibility…..on the contrary, it is very much their responsibility. They, however, are not living up to their responsibility. The problems already exist with too many illegals and incarceratiion issues. Since the Feds refuse to due their job, AZ HAD to take matters into their own hands. California wants to boycott AZ….forget trying to get them to help themselves and deal with the illegals on a state level. The point I believe that others were trying to make is that 1) California needs to deal with the illegals to try to better their own situation and 2) California needs to change it’s incredibly liberal entitlement programs…..these two things need to happen before a national bailout will do anything other than throw money down the toilet.

  15. Maggie says:

    Sorry….I meant to say “Chuck”. I’m typing too fast.

  16. Carolyn Merritt says:

    @Joshua. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, immigration is the federal government’s responsibility. However, the federal government is not doing its job, therefore, the states are left to take care of it. Because the government is turning a blind eye to its duties to the states, the states are turning on each other. I find it reprehensible that this president is misstating AZ’s law since it follows the federal law and by misstating the facts, he has helped incur the anger on both sides of the illegal immigration issue.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  17. Howdy from Texas. I thank you for joining us today! I, also thank Professor W.B. Allen for his essay. As I was reading his essay today I realized how grateful I am that he has graced us with his wisdom and that he, and our other guest scholars, have so deftly interpreted the meaning of the Federalist Papers. Isn’t it wonderful?

    I hope you are checking out the Daily Behind the Scenes Videos that I am filming, editing and uploading every night! They are on the website – it’s the box on top of the “90 in 90 = 180” box – the top, center of the home page. I am wearing a red dress. I am really enjoying filming this every night and writing the daily essays, but I am getting no sleep!!!

    Cathy, my co-chair, has written such inspirational essays. Thanks Cathy. You are a true American Patriot – as are all of you who are joining us! Please spread the word about our “90 in 90” and our “We the People 9.17 Contest” for kids!!

    Today’s reading continues to focus on union and the danger we would face from Europe if we did not unite.

    Strength in numbers and unity through diversity is a true American-ism.

    One of the greatest miracles is that America won the Revolutionary War, but also, and no less importantly, that America survived her infancy and was directed by brilliant forefathers who were touched by Divine Providence. The United States Constitution was a miracle as well.

    There are a couple of Alexander Hamilton’s phrases that caught my attention today:

    The spirit of enterprise which characterizes the commercial part of America,
    has left no occasion of displaying itself unimproved.

    “The spirit of enterprise..” this is the heart and soul of Americans. We were hard working survivors with an independent streak that gave us the courage to cross the oceans to live in an inconceivable wildernesses and the adventurousness to cross the plains in covered wagons to endure an untamed land. Americans were of a fearless stock driven by an unbridled spirit.

    And we still are.

    This is why Samuel Adam’s words still ring true to the American soul – a soul that was built upon generations of mavericks:

    The redistributing of wealth and pooling of property are despotic
    and unconstitutional.

    American’s thrive on the spirit of free enterprise and the freedom to pursue it.

    The government must not cripple America’s genius.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner


  18. Welcome to Federalist No. 7 – 90 in 90 = 180: History Holds the Key to the Future!!!!

    Are you all watching Janine’s Behind the Scenes Videos? Tonight she gives a shout out to the Constitutional Scholar Guest Bloggers!

    Please check these videos out for the lighter side of Constituting America! You will be glad you did!

    In Federalist Paper No. 7 Alexander Hamilton explores possible causes of tension, disagreement and outright warfare between states if joined as a loose confederation instead of through the proposed U.S. Constitution.

    Territorial disputes, trade disagreements, apportionment of the public debt of the
    United States, “laws in violation of private contracts, as they amount to aggressions on the rights of those states whose citizens are injured by them,” and differing alliances between various states and foreign nations, are all listed as divisive factors which could prove destructive without a central arbitrating force.

    The fact that even with the ratification of the United States Constitution our country could not avoid civil war, validates Hamilton’s concerns that without the Constitution, the natural tensions between states would eventually erupt. Thanks to the founders’ wisdom and vision, even with civil war, the United States Constitution lit the path for the healing and reconstruction of our Nation.

    It is hard to imagine what the United States might have looked like if the Constitution were not adopted, but the founding fathers envisioned a future similar to Europe, and they knew they did not want to emulate the European countries. “From the view they have exhibited of this part of the subject, this conclusion is to be drawn that America, if not connected at all, or only by the feeble tie of a simple league, offensive and defensive, would, by the operation of such jarring alliances, be gradually entangled in all the pernicious labyrinths of European politics and wars; and by the destructive contentions of the parts into which she was divided, would be likely to become a prey to the artifices and machinations of powers equally the enemies of them all.”

    Our current leaders would be wise to assess if it is any more attractive today to emulate Europe than it was over 200 years ago. As we chart the course for the next two hundred years, we must choose if we embrace the U.S. Constitution and the founding principles of our country, including “The spirit of enterprise, which characterizes the commercial part of America.” This “unbridled spirit” as Alexander Hamilton referred to it, is part of what has made the United States a great nation. Will we bridle our spirit of enterprise and drift from the Constitution and our founding principles? And what will our Nation look like in 200 years if we do? Our founding fathers could most certainly predict the outcome, and if we read these papers carefully, we can too.

    Cathy Gillespie

    PS – We are working to consolidate all blog comments onto the Daily Guest Bloggers page, and Janine and I will be posting our daily essasy on the Guest Blogger’s Post as “Comments” as well as the usual standalone posts. Please post all your blog comments on the Guest Bloggers Page so its easy to see all the great comments in one place! Thank you!

  19. WeThePeople says:

    So, does this mean that any future “territorial disputes, commercial disputes, debt settlement disputes, state laws violating contractual obligations, and alliances with foreign powers” will fall to the hands of the Supreme Court? It said that there should be a judge, so I assumed Supreme Court or the judicial review.
    In response to @Joshua’s comment, if the federal government IS failing to do that job, wouldn’t the next logic step be that the immigration power goes to the states?

  20. Susan Craig says:

    From our initial founding document!
    We hold truths these to be obvious and beyond reproof. First God created all men equal, granted them rights; some of them being life, liberty and the freedom to strive for happiness. Second, our Government is instituted to protect and secure these rights; retaining power only with the consent of the governed. Third, When the government disregards its purpose and becomes destructive of these undeniable rights, it is the Right of the People to alter it or institute a new Government.

  21. Tim Shey says:

    I like what Janine Turner wrote:

    “Americans thrive on the spirit of free enterprise and the freedom to pursue it.
    The government must not cripple America’s genius.”

    Faith in God is freedom. Non-faith is sin–which is slavery. The opposite of faith in God is faith in human convention that rejects God (Marxism, big government). Slaves (Marxists) want to make slaves of other people because this is what their fallen natures dictate (“dictate” is an appropriate word, don’t you think? Somehow it reminds me of the word “dictator”).

    Free enterprise comes ultimately from some faith in God. I believe the Hand of God works much more smoothly and effectively in a free-market economy than in a slave (Marxist) economy.


Friday, May 7th, 2010

Federalist #8

The eighth essay presents a hypothetical case of a dis-United States. But it is the general argument that has been built that is germane to understanding the argument. Publius is aware of a “new politics” that has come to be, but Publius is no less aware that it will not produce perfect wisdom and virtue. That creates the moral and practical dilemma of defending the creation of a powerful government, one capable of “harmonizing and assimilating” diverse peoples and interests, while recognizing simultaneously that the government will not make people virtuous and wise. We wonder how to justify doing so, because we wonder whether there is any guarantee of a government’s goodness apart from the virtue and wisdom of its people.

The answers to all these questions, it seems to me, are conditioned on a single premise, namely that one refer to the consequences of the government and not its operations. Now, the chief consequence is peace where war would otherwise prevail. It is true that governments that are energetic – powerful governments – affect the characters of the people they govern. That is a necessary condition of energetic government, a fact that Publius makes clear. We may admit two facts, then – namely, that people will not be made virtuous and wise and, further, that government will nonetheless be driven by public opinion.

Publius calls it an idle theory or “utopian speculation” to imagine removing human weaknesses, but we still question, not whether theories of humans transformed into angels are correct but, rather, the reason for confiding all authority in society into the hands of imperfect human beings and ignoring all the other claims to rule that have existed in human history. There have been claims based on age; claims based on strength; claims based on reason, on wisdom, on piety. Why must we reject all those to place the entire society into the hands of what may be the foolish and the vicious, as Publius has done?

From this perspective even the principle of descent in a monarchy may seem intelligent. For, though from time to time an occasional stupid bastard will be born king, most of the time men get fairly decent, well-bred people (which in the absence of better guarantees is at least something to rely upon) and thus may hope for stability if not good government. The alternative seems to be to submit to rule by people that are not going to be improved by government and that might not govern well. Publius reserves the response to this dilemma to later essays discussing the operations of government. Still, he has raised the stakes very high in this argument, showing that, while the government will not itself make people virtuous and wise, it is nevertheless wise and virtuous to construct such a government.

The eighth essay allows Publius to demonstrate the propriety of such an undertaking in the hypothetical context of an America disunited. For, though no one knows how the experiment will work in the end, it is still possibly to speak at length about the opportunities afforded by modern principles (as he anticipates the elegant ninth essay!). He draws a firm distinction, noting that “the industrious habits of the people of the present day, absorbed in the pursuits of gain, and devoted to the improvements of agriculture and commerce are incompatible with the condition of a nation of soldiers…” Thus, the Americans will not have the old fashioned virtues, based on the martial spirit in small republics of ancient times.

But that observation serves only to augment the question, how does Publius deal with the problem of rendering a people suitable to rule in this new and modern context without guaranteeing their wisdom and virtue? That such reflections introduce the eventual and ultimate response to the question of domestic violence is of great significance. Essays nine and ten deliver the conclusion. But the end of the introduction in the eighth essay firmly establishes that what we desire to now is precisely how turning power over to the people (defending popular government, self-government) produces the promised prosperity and peace without changing human nature. One might almost think it to mean that human nature is no mean thing to begin with!

W. B. Allen

Dean and Professor Emeritus

Michigan State University

27 Responses to “May 72010 – Federalist No8 – The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States, From the New YorkPacket (Hamilton) – Guest BloggerW. BAllenDean and Professor EmeritusMichigan State University

  1. Susan Craig says:

    The worldview that Hamilton argues from is the fallen condition of man, this worldview has been warped into today where the self-esteem worldview insists that man is inherently good. This is sharply in contrast to all men have value in an inherently fallen condition.

  2. Carolyn Attaway says:

    In reading Paper #8, I could not help but notice that a lot of the arguments Hamilton made to convince his readers of the need for the states to have a Federal Government, can be used today as a defense against our war against terrorism.

    The following statement brought to mind the Patriot Act that was written into law on Oct. 26, 2001, shortly after the attack on New York. “Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

    Many Americans did not oppose this legislation at the time of its creation because the attack on American soil created a great fear of possible repeat attacks and Americans were greatly concerned for their safety. Nine years later, more Americans find the Patriot Act outdated and an intrusion into their private lives.

    Today, I believe many are in the ‘Utopian speculations’ that we discussed in Paper #6.

    @Susan – I agree with you that today the overplayed importance of self-esteem has warped our society and has taken us from the mindset of “The needs of many outweigh the needs of one” to “The needs of one outweigh the needs of many”. The majority in this country are quickly being stripped of their rights to meet the rights of a few. Whoever thought the toy in a happy meal would put extra burdens on a parent and keep them from giving their children healthy food?

  3. Maggie says:

    “The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”……ok…I find this just too eerily close to what we have been doing here in the U.S. Under the guise of “keeping us safe” the government has convinced us for far too long to keep handing them more and more of our liberties.

  4. Maggie says:

    Sorry for the partial repeat of Carolyn’s quote reference. My computer is running very slowly today and her blog post had not yet come through at the time I wrote mine. It just causes me to reiterate that she has a knack for writing exactly what I am thinking.

  5. This is Cathy Gillespie – that quote leapt off the page to me as well!

  6. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Maggie – great minds think alike :)

    The part that really makes me sit up and take notice are the liberties that are being stripped domestically in the guise of “We know what is best for you”. And all these concerns come in the form of regulations and taxes. Is our government today going the way of the Stamp Act of 1765? And; will the American people follow Patrick Henry’s stance against it?

  7. Peter says:

    Professor Allen poses an excellent question: “How does Publius deal with the problem of rendering a people suitable to rule in this new and modern context without guaranteeing their wisdom and virtue?” This, it seems to me, is one of the most important and ongoing issues in the life of the nation. Can we, in fact, force people to be wise and virtuous in the name of preserving the construct of the nation? There are those who believe we must – and on both sides of the ideological divide. There are others who believe that people have the right to be wrong, to be stupid, to be unviruous. This is one of those places where, it seems to me, it is often hard to thread the needle of liberty.

  8. Susan Craig says:

    Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry is own weight, this is a frightening prospect.
    Eleanor Roosevelt
    Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.
    Just a few thoughts on the value and price of freedom.

  9. Howdy, it’s Janine. I want to say to Carolyn, Maggie, Susan and Peter.. it’s great to have you guys blogging on our site everyday. Great comments! Thank you! I am learning so much.

  10. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Thank you Janine for putting this site together for all to learn and study our founding documents. I saw your interview on FOX and started with the site on Day 1. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy reading my assignment every night and then getting the opportunity to talk to everyone the next day about what we read. Your guestbloggers have been so informative, and very helpful in understanding what was written. I have learned so much already, and what amazes me most is how timeless our documents are; they could have been very easily written for today!

  11. Barb Zakszewski says:

    This is a Wonderful Website..I just read about it last night in Human Events, Conservative Spotlight, and checked it out. This is JUST what I have been looking for, as I have recently decided to study the REAL constitution. I’ve been reading, of all things, the Politically INcorrect guide to the Constitution and have been reading those parts of the Constitution as I’ve progressed. Your 90/90 project is GREAT!! I know I’m jumping in a little late, but intend to pick up at this point, May 7, and move forward. In order for us to return our Country to the Principles of the Founding Fathers, we have to know what those principles are, and the reasoning behind these principles. The Founders had differing points of view about what direction to take this country, Federalist v Nationalist, and many of the arguements made back then are being repeated now. I agree it is vitally important for our children to be taught the REAL history of the United States, not the Liberal, America is bad history that is being taught now. Thank you, Thank you!! for this wonderful site.

  12. Today was yet another stimulating reading. Your blog comments have been thought provoking as well. I thank you and I, also, once again, thank Professor W.BAllen for his astute interpretation. After reading both Federalist PaperNo8 and Professor Allen’s essay here is what I have gleaned:

    With the birth of the Republic of the United States came the birth of a new type of republic. Republics in the past all eventually lent themselves to the art of war, instead of the art of commerce and free enterprise, as its focus. Our newrepublic would be monitored and governed by the people instead of military figures.

    This was truly an enlightened and inspired experiment.
    Yet, safety would have to be secured in order to offer the opportunity of these pursuits and the art of war delineated. If the people did not feel safe, and if war were to spring from internal hostilities, then the focus would shift away from the remarkable aspects of American ingenuity to the colossal attentions war and/or petty skirmishes demanded.

    To quote Alexander Hamilton:
    “Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates..”

    “To be more safe, they, at length, become willing to run the risk of being less free…”

    If war were to become the dictate then the executive branch would broaden and the legislative branch, the people’s branch, weaken.

    “They would, at the same time, be obliged to strengthen the executive arm of government; in doing which, their constituents would acquire a progressive direction towards monarchy. It is of the nature of war to increase the executive, at the expense of the legislative authority.”

    War was thus incompatible with the new industriousness of the American people:

    “The industrious habits of the people of the present day, absorbed in the pursuits of gain, and devoted to the improvements of agriculture and commerce, are incompatible with the condition of a nation of soldiers, which was the true condition of the people of those republics.”

    Once again our forefathers had the wisdom and wherewithal to prophesy the necessities for a free people to flourish – freedom from dictators, tyranny, war, conquests and internal squirmishes.

    Which begs the next big undertaking: replacing the dictator with the wisdom of the people. If the government were to heed upon the whims of the people then how does one educate and inspire the people? The checks and balances of the Constitution were thus both a check against the leaders and the people – a republic instead of a democracy.

    In this respect how have Americans fared? I would say on the broad scale, remarkably. I believe our forefathers would be mesmerized with the scope of growth, scientifically, industriously and humanitarianly. They would be in astate of awe. The experiment of liberty and union, though bruised along the way, has remained vital.

    Yet, a new generation and movement are upon us. Our founding fathers, I believe, would be a bit wary regarding the modern day wisdom of the people. There was such a hunger for education and inspiration in the blossoming days of the United States because the repression of such liberties had left a formidable and everlasting impression.

    Today, do we take for granted the freedoms that have made our country great? I believe that the lack of voting would be a disappointment to our forefathers, as would the seeming unawareness of the founding principles of our country.

    If we, as citizens, and our children, do not understand the dignified rights and principles we have then we, and our children, will not know when they are subtly taken away from us. The success of the progressive movement is a prime example.

    Thus, the reading and comprehension of the United States Constitution and the Federalist Papers are paramount. I, personally, feel blessed to be having this dialogue with our daily scholars, Cathy and all of you who blog. I thank you for your involvement. Spread the word! Let us all be educated citizens with a knowledge rooted in the thesis of our country so that we may then step forward, voice our opinions and make a difference as informed citizens.

    God Bless!!

    Janine Turner

  13. Barb, It’s Janine. We are happy that you have joined us!

  14. Ron Meier says:

    It seems that this one quote has impacted more than one of us today: “To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” Obviously, what is happening in our country today makes us more sensitive to this quote than we might be if we were not living in the age of the progression of entitlements to the levels we see in the EU, with Greece being an example of what can happen if we allow what is happening in our country to progress to that extreme.

    A second quote that got my attention was this: “The desire to shed the characteristics of the “old world” was very strong in our founders, who were not far removed from living under those types of governments.” Today, we are far removed from those types of governments and many of our brothers and sisters seem to be wanting us to move in the direction that our founders wanted us to move away from. If more of us had a better knowledge of history, or a knowledge at all, and if more of us knew what we few who are going through this exercise are learning, perhaps we would see through the eyes of our founding fathers. Let us pray that, at the conclusion of this 90/90 exercise, we can see through those wise eyes as clearly as they did.

  15. Well said Ron! Thanks for joining our 90 in 90!

  16. Susan Craig says:

    Carolyn, I need to address your application of the Patriot act to the quote “To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” That is why every time a limiter is needed for safety we have put ‘sunsets’ into them when enacted. Habeus Corpus was suspended for a while during the Civil War. One of the things that brought down Woodrow Wilson was his abuse of free speech during WW I. FDR is still reviled for the restrictions placed on people of Japanese descent even though it is provable that some were active for the Japanese Empire. He decided that in order to continue to dedicate the needed resources to prosecute WW II he did not have the need resources to investigate individually all those of Japanese descent so he decided to quarantine the probable source of espionage and sabotage. The Patriot act does not give blanket surveillance over American communication but it does remove restrictions on communications between Americans and KNOWN terrorist sources.

  17. Susan Craig says:

    I did not post this yesterday as I did not wish to hunt on that rabbit trail while discussing Federalist 8.

  18. Thank you all for another week of wonderful insights!

    Please encourage the children in your life to sign up online for our We The People 9.17 Contest! We are looking for entries especially in the short film and PSA categories for high school! Middle school and high school students can also enter a cool song or an essay, and the elementary school kids are invited to submit a poem or holiday card. Prizes include $2,000 for the winning high school entries and gift cards and other prizes for the younger kids. More information, including rules and signup form, is available at

    A recurring theme on these posts and blogs has been our amazement at the foresight, vision and wisdom of our founding fathers. There are times in reading their words that certain sentences seem to leap off the page with relevancy for today. We find this long term vision and wisdom amazing because the elected officials of our generation deal mainly in the here and now. We are an immediate gratification society, and the majority of today’s leaders respond accordingly.

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear our current policy debates discussed in the terms we find in these Federalist Papers, with the spirit of civility and long term vision of our founders? What will the new health care bill mean to us 200 years from now? What impact will the various immigration reform proposals have far into the future? Wouldn’t it be interesting for some of our members of Congress to write a series of articles similar to the Federalist Papers, addressing the consequential issues facing our country today?

    What words from our generation of leaders will resonate 200 years from now? I can’t answer that question, but I do hope and pray that 200 years from now, United States citizens will still be reading and studying the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, and will still be amazed at the foresight and wisdom of our founders.

    Have a great weekend, and wishing you all a very Happy Mother’s Day!

    Cathy Gillespie

  19. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Susan, I appreciate your feedback on the Patriot Act. The point I was trying to make was when the Patriot Act was signed into law, most Americans felt that the safety of their country was more important than the need to restrict our government from possible communications information. I wasn’t trying to define the Patriot Act in everything that it did, just that most people supported it at the time even though some claimed it gave the Federal Government to much freedom into communications and records. Today, there are some who claim that parts of the Act give the government to much authority.

    I believe 16 sections of the Patriot act were set to expire unless Congress decided to extend them. After much debate, Congress passed a bill in March 2006 which renewed the Patriot Act but implemented additional safeguards for civil liberties. 14 of the 16 measures were permanent, but the roving wiretap provision and the FBI access to business records were extended only until 2009. Then in February 2010, Congress passed a one-year extension on three expiring Patriot Act provisions which were:
    –Authorize court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones.
    –Allow court-approved seizure of records and property in anti-terrorism operations.
    –Permit surveillance against a so-called lone wolf, a non-U.S. citizen engaged in terrorism who may not be part of a recognized terrorist group.

  20. Susan Craig says:

    I don’t know how much more civil they were; there are stories of Senators or Representatives going after each other with their walking sticks.

  21. Carolyn Attaway says:

    True, but don’t politicians always balk. I always find it interesting how a politician finds a law or rule wrong when he is in the minority, but a similiar rule when he is in the majority is the right thing to do. (Not all politicians, but quite a lot) I would find it interesting to see which Congressmen voted against the Patriot Act, but are for Net Neutrality.

  22. Susan Craig says:

    I agree Carolyn that that would be a fascinating statistic! General observation would suggest that the number would be high.

  23. Susan Craig says:

    Item three was (I think) not necessarily to go for the lone nutcase but to cover instances of a singular person sent out like a sniper. Snipers function on their own but are part of an overall strategy. All of the others I believe were caveated with a predicating contact with known terrorist or sympathizing entities.

  24. Glenn Roberts says:

    Like Barb Zakszewaki, I read about this site in Human Events. I just completed reading all the blogs made to date. Now I am going to Barnes & Noble in Chattanooga, Tn with a list of books that will help me keep up with this program. Thanks for making this site available and best of luck.

  25. Mary Lou Leddy says:

    I have been following this course of study since the very first day. It is so moving that the Founders were so insightful for the future of this great country. I have also been uplifted by the fact that so many other bloggers have had the same thoughts as I have had . And , of course, the guest bloggers ‘ interpretations have been most helpful to me.

    As I read the Federalists Papers, I am amazed at how pertinent they are to this day and age.

    I thank you all for sharing your thoughts .

  26. Greg Zorbach says:

    @ Carolyn. You are right on the money with this: “The Patriot act does not give blanket surveillance over American communication but it does remove restrictions on communications between Americans and KNOWN terrorist sources.” In fact, most of the rights its critics are complaining about are ones that do not exist – i.e. for non-citizens. Carolyn’s later summary was a very good one. The final point about enabling surveillance against a non-U.S. citizen engaged in terrorism is true about the latest legislation, but it should not be a requirement for non-citizens. However, given the courts’ unprecedented intrusion into this war’s prosecution it is probably necessary.
    Yesterday my fifth-grader grandson noticed this web site up on my laptop and asked me if I was reading the Constitution. He eagerly explained to me that they were studying about the Constitutional Convention. So, he and I got out his Social Studies book and went through it. To my surprise, the book got most of it right, especially the statement that the most important principle underlying the Constitution is individually liberty. My joy was dashed when I came across the following explanation of the First Amendment: “It also says that the government cannot promote or financially support any religion.” And this is at a Catholic academy. However, the textbook is a CA standard one. In my opinion, it would have been better had they just used the simple wording of the amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
    Found another surprise in his textbook – the last three lines of the second stanza of “America The Beautiful”: “God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!”
    Self-control and liberty in law. How pertinent.

  27. Susan Craig says:

    @Carolyn: Our ‘wonderful’ Congress has just removed the “sunset” from the Patriot Act!!! Them’s fighting words.



Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Federalist Papers 9 and 10, though written by two different authors (Hamilton and Madison, respectively), both address the benefits from large “confederate republics” for internal peace and political stability. Of the two, Federalist 9 is the less momentous, but it raises a number of points that apply as well to other papers that follow.

First, there is the matter of defining terms. Throughout the Federalist, the writers define terms that often are used rather flexibly by others, including “republic” and, here, “Confederate Republic.” Hamilton in Federalist 9 wants to let his readers know precisely what distinctions he is drawing. Hamilton defines a confederate republic as a “convention by which several smaller states agree to become members of a larger one.” While that distinguished such a polity from a monarchy or an aristocratic republic (Rome and Venice), the definition leaves plenty of interpretive room to accommodate different types of confederacies, a discretion Hamilton and the others use to their advantage.

Second, Hamilton responds to the Antifederalist charge of “consolidation,” a frequently-used disparagement at the time that invoked images of a distant, tyrannical, and out-of-touch centralized government and of destruction of state-level authority. (Were they onto something?) Such consolidated government was said to be the opposite of a confederacy. The proposed constitution, Hamilton responds, does not abolish the states, but, rather, makes them a constituent part of the national sovereignty (an issue explored in more detail in future papers) and leaves with them certain exclusive and very important aspects of sovereign power (again, to be examined further in subsequent papers).

Hamilton’s approach accomplishes a couple of important goals and reveals a strategy followed over and over by the writers. For one thing, he ties the new Constitution to the old Articles. That creates the illusion of constancy, important for gaining political acceptance of the new plan. Placing the government under the Constitution (“strong” federalism) on the same continuum as that under the Articles (“weak” federalism) makes the difference between the two just a matter of degree—and an advantageous degree, at that—rather than of kind. This illusion is also important for blurring the revolutionary origins of the Constitution in a process that ignored the constitutional framework under the Articles. For another, emphasizing the confederal nature of the new structure supported the rhetorical coup of the pro-Constitution advocates styling themselves “Federalists,” a much more anodyne and sympathetic term than “Nationalists” or “Consolidationists.” That also, conveniently for the Federalists, deprived the Constitution’s opponents of the moniker most suited to them and left them tagged with the politically unenviable designation of just being “anti” something, and anti “federalism,” at that.

Third, Hamilton helps himself generously to quotations from the Baron de Montesqueiu. The latter’s main work of interest to the Framers, The Spirit of Laws, was cited frequently to support their positions, though not always in the “spirit” in which Montesquieu intended. Unlike the Federalist, Montesquieu saw a rarified interpretation of the English constitutional monarchy as ideal.

More important than the references to Montesqueiu as such is the high level of discourse they represent. Note also Hamilton’s reference to the Lycian confederacy. Discussing political philosophy and comparative constitutional systems is a common device in the Federalist, with frequent citations to other systems, ancient and modern. While these citations and the authors’ interpretations often were editorialized to prove a point (the Federalist was persuasive advocacy, not dispassionate analysis), the casual use of them meant that the authors and the audience had a common frame of reference.

The level of discourse evidenced by the Federalist is remarkable. Granted that the writings may not have targeted  the day laborer, the audience was nevertheless a wide segment of society. After all, these papers were not just notes on an internal debate. They were disseminated to a rather literate American public well beyond the participants in the New York and Virginia ratifying conventions. There was a broad level of understanding of the classic “liberal arts” among the middle and upper classes that made such discourse possible. True, Hamilton attended King’s College (Columbia University), but would the typical graduate of Columbia today be as well-grounded in Western civilization and thought (in contrast to identity group “victims studies”) as Hamilton and his audience? Is one likely to hear such discourse in the halls of Congress or in the media today? If not, does that say anything about our fitness for republican government?

That brings up a theme to be discussed further in connection with Federalist 10, the idea of “republicanism.” Republicanism animated Americans’ self-identity. Start with the name of just the writers of the Federalist, “Publius.” The man of the “people” (not of “states” or “interests”). It comes from Publius Valerius Publicola, a legendary statesman and general of the Roman Republic’s founding. Why write under a pseudonym? There was a legal reason in the history of the English law of publications of criminal libel, but by 1787 it was just a fashion—but one carefully selected. Opponents of the Constitution, too, chose their names with care, and the same person might change names to fit the occasion. Thus, in 1793, in defending President Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation, Hamilton wrote under the pseudonym “Pacificus” (the “peaceful one”). Most of their pseudonyms, from Publius to Cato to Agricola to Brutus to Cincinnatus, were taken from Roman Republican history. The Framers—and Americans generally—were fascinated, nay, obsessed, with the Roman Republic. They saw themselves as heirs to the Roman tradition of classical republican virtue, in their civically-involved citizenry, the militia basis for political participation, the need for inculcation of shared political values, and (for some, e.g., Jefferson and Patrick Henry) the repository of civic virtue in a broad class of yeoman farmers and artisans.

But, as Hamilton shows, the Framers were also keenly aware of the fragility of many republics. Hamilton sees the means of saving the American republic through its size and through the use of a representative system. Madison picks up that theme in Federalist 10.

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

29 Responses to “May 102010 – Federalist No9 – The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection, for the Indpendent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School”

  1. Susan Craig says:

    Thank you Professor Knipprath for your discussion on this paper. Like you I was struck by a portion of the Montesquieu quotation. That being; “As this government is composed of small republics, it enjoys the internal happiness of each; and with respect to its external situation, it is possessed, by means of the association, of all the advantages of large monarchies.”
    The following argument in support of the Constitution leapt out at me. “The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government.” It shows me how important it was that the corporate entity known as States be treated as deserving of representation as a whole and separate from individual citizen representation.

  2. Maggie says:

    Fabulous write up and interpretation. I now have a much better understanding of this paper and the mindset within which is was composed.

    @ Susan….the same second quote leapt out at me. It showed me how important it is that the Federal Government not overstep the individual States’ rights. We are, afterall, a Confederate Republic…not a consolidation.

  3. Susan Craig says:

    This paper reinforced my belief that the 17th amendment was a serious mistake and disenfranchised the individual States! This being said a repeal of this amendment would be a good step towards correcting what has gone amiss.

  4. Kay says:

    Prof. Knipprath also helped my understanding of Hamilton’s reasoning. The Founders undertook their task of formulating the Constitution by looking back and looking forward, what worked in the past, what governments had deficiences, what could conceivably work to provide the States, as part of the whole, for “peace and liberty” as opposed to “domestic faction and insurrection.” Our Congress has no sense of the past, except perhaps FDR’s New Deal, which seems to be the best thing since sliced bread, and Congress has just expanded, and expanded, on that with the out-of-control control of the Health Care Reform Bill. I hope those arising to run for public office are educating themselves on the reasoning behind the Constitution, and applying those lessons (which are timeless) to situations facing us today.
    Every candidate should be asked, “When was the last time you read the Constitution? Are you familiar enough with it to judge every piece of legislation by its provisions?” I have already been asking this question of candidates, and unfortunately, the answers are no to nebulous.
    Now I look forward to reading Madison in the next paper and the commentary. Your posted comments enlighten my understanding of every paper with thoughts I never would have drawn from the reading.

  5. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Prof. Knipprath, I thoroughly enjoyed your explanation of Federalist Paper #9. With your write up, I was able to breakdown the paper into several main components, and concentrate on the main theme of each.

    As with Susan and Maggie, I too picked up on Hamilton’s reiteration of the difference between a Confederate Republic consisting of constituent parts and that of a Republic with consolidated states. Earlier on this web-site, while discussing amendments, I mentioned that number 17 needed to be repealed because in its current status, it diminishes the States representation in the U.S. Senate. I believe this paper strengthens the argument that the U.S. Senator should be appointed to the Senate to represent the States best interest and not the voters.

    For example, when the heath care reform bill was being debated in the Senate, many State Governors requested that their U.S. Senators vote against the bill because of the damage the cost would do to their state. Instead, many U.S. Senators were more concerned with party loyalty and re-election bids; they voted against their states best interest. Now, many States are creating legislation to ward off the damage their Senators help create.

    Another section that caught my eye was ‘The Science of Politics’. This is not the first time that I noticed the concentrated effort to stress the importance of power into distinct departments. The statement ‘the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election: these are wholly new discoveries, or have made their principal progress towards perfection in modern times. They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided.’

    I find it humorous that Hamilton says that this legislative balance was not known or was imperfectly known to the ancients. If that is the case, I can’t help but wonder if we evolved 360 degrees and are now experiencing a generation that does not realize the importance of balanced powers within the Federal Government. And, if that is why we yet again find ourselves comparing our current troubles to that of Greece.

    One last thing that caught my attention, the word Framer. Until this time, I was concentrating on the word founder, but Prof. Knipprath used the word framer when describing our founding fathers. This word adds a new dimension for me when reading these documents. Now I can see these documents as a framework that is composed of many parts that are to be fitted and joined together to support our founding. A foundation is much stronger when it has a framework to support it.

  6. Richard Heck says:

    I appreciate Prof Knipprath’s words however he needs to write more in laymans terms. I had a hard time reading, understanding and following his article, I cannot imagine what my teenagers are going to say about todays blog.

  7. Margaret Wilkin says:

    Prof. Knipprath also helped my understanding of Hamilton’s reasoning. Liberty can only exist when we have a balance power. The Founders had this amazing foresight of what the future could become. They did this by their understanding of history of other governments and the great philosophers of the day.
    It strike me that we the citizens of the United State have to take a test to drive a car , to become a lawyer, get all sort of degrees, but the people that hold our liberty and that are sworn to uphold the constitution do not have to do anything to prove they understand the constitution. Just a thought .

  8. Susan Craig says:

    I’ll get the apology out of the first. Richard I truly do not mean to pick on you but your comment gives example as to why we need to take education away from the government. Where we presume that the ability to ascertain a meaning by context or dictionary has been lost or is not important.

  9. Andy Sparks says:

    I think it is important to distinguish the context in which Hamilton is writing. He is trying to persuade those that would vote against ratifying the Constitution to support it. Thus, he is emphasizing to the reader that the states will be sovereign in some capacities as defined by the Constitution. However, both he and Madison (at this time) saw the inherent weakness of the federal government compared to the states under the anemic AOC. Madison even proposed in the Convention a ‘negative’ against all state laws for the federal government, and nobody was for a more centralized government than Hamilton, as history bears out after ratification. During the writings of these essays then, one should read them understanding that at this time, all three writers, while assuaging those moderate anti-federalists concerned about the powers of their states, wanted a vastly more energetic national government.

  10. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Mabye Constituting America could index all of the guest bloggers blog on each Federalist Paper so they would be avaliable for future reference.

  11. Carolyn Merritt says:

    I agree with Chuck Plano on indexing all of our guest bloggers. I have not blogged in the last several days, but trust me, I’ve been studying and reading all of the blogs by the fantastic guest bloggers. Thank you Prof. Knipprath for clarifying what Hamilton was saying in Federalist #9.

  12. I have read and reread the 17th Admend.and compared it to the original arrangement,I must say I can not see an advantage to repealing the 17th.I understand there is Party pressure but I don’t see this as reason to take the vote from the people.Special interests and Party pressure is a difficulty,but in this day, where incumbents are sweating the results of the awakening people ( long long over due) I see this as perhaps the intentions , the spirit of the passage of it. Please if anyone can show more light revealing my error I am open .

  13. Howdy from Texas. I want to thank you for joining us today and I thank Professor Knippratch for his most insightful essay today!!! Thank you, Professor Knippratch.

    I am in the middle of tornados whirling through

    our ranch so I have to make this brief. I am once again amazed and inspired by the intellectual tenacity of our forefathers. It is my hope, through our foundation, that we may encourage our youth to read, read, read.

    History truly is the key to our future.

    My favorite passage of Federalist No9 is:

    The regular distribution of power into distinct

    departments; the introduction of legislative balances

    and checks; the institution of courts composed of

    judges, holding their offices during good behaviour;

    the representation of the people in the legislature, by

    deputies of their own election; these are either

    wholly new discoveries, or have made their principle

    progress towards perfection in modern times

    “..or have made their principle progress towards perfection in modern times.”

    This line captures my attention. Through out history many empires and republics had been formed but became lost in the mire of war, conquests or tyranny, as mentioned in earlier essays. Now, according to Alexander Hamilton, The United States Constitution, by analyzing the annals of history and recalculating and reinventing the basis of former Republics, offered “progress towards perfection in modern times.”

    Our forefathers, guided by the hand of Divine Providence, etched onto the new sphere of political science a masterpiece, a stroke of genius that would be embraced and cherished by Americans and emulated throughout the world – even today.

    How sad it is that we Americans have such little time to devote to the revolutionary and relevant thesis of our country; that we have forgotten to cherish such a gem. We, as a modern society, have forsaken our great founding principles, as a kitten is forsaken on the side of the road.

    It is Cathy’s and my goal to reach out to the schools across America and by this September 17th have 20 minute DVDs (or downloads) available of the winners of our contest – hip, cool and contemporary – discussing the United States Constitution in all her glory.

    Then when a 7th grader gets in your car, he or she won’t say, “What’s the Constitution?”

    And we, as parents, as adults, as citizens, through our “90 in 90 = 180,” will be re-stimulated, re-educated and fortified to take on whoever wants to challenge, defy or ridicule the validity of the United States Constitution. We will be ready to teach our children, our families, or our friends about the “perfection of modern times.”

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner

    May 102010

  14. Thank you Professor Knipprath for yet another enlightening essay!

    I would like to take a moment to recommend a book that I have found useful, and that you all may too:

    How to Read the Federalist Papers, by Anthony A. Peacock. This book may be purchased at the Heritage Foundation bookstore: It is only about 100 pages, and full of great information!

    In Federalist 1, A General Introduction, Hamilton asserted that a wrong decision on this “important question” of whether or not to ratify the United States Constitution, would “deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

    Federalist 9 reminds us of the grand experiment that America was and is. History was littered with failed Republics. Another failure could forever doom future attempts at governing within the framework of a Republic. Success, however, could inspire similar governments around the world, liberating mankind. The stakes were high, and the founders recognized their place in history.

    This was America’s chance to prove that a Republican form of government could work – that political science had progressed, and refinements had been made including, as Hamilton lists:

    “The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election,” and ”the ENLARGEMENT of the ORBIT within which such systems are to revolve.”

    I love how Hamilton takes on the arguments of his opposition, and further quotes, paraphrases, and explores Montesquieu to make his points, ending with an explanation of the importance of the State governments within the framework of the proposed Constitution, and their “exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power.”

    Thomas Jefferson called the Federalist, “The best commentary on the principles of government, which ever was written.” Federalist 9 certainly lives up to this high praise.

    Looking forward to Federalist 10!

    Cathy Gillespie

  15. Roger Jett says:

    Lynne Newcomer. Without the 17th Admendment there would not have been the “Miracle in Massachusetts” back in January. It would not have truly been the people of Massachusetts’ seat to fill, but would have belonged to the party machine. With the passage of this admendment we drew closer to Lincoln’s desciption of a “government of, for and by the people.”

  16. Susan Craig says:

    Roger Jett, while the “miracle” would have been a little more unlikely it might not have been necessary. The Senators were never to be direct representatives of the individual citizens. They were to represent the people as a corporate group overall as a State. They were sort of like in a large company where the union is the like the House of representatives. A Senator would be like the different Department heads representing the interests of their respective Departments (each department management selects the person to represent the needs and wants specific to the department as a whole). No longer do the specific States have a representative the looks to the overall of the State specifically because they no longer are selected at the State level while it is warm and fuzzy to have direct say in essence you did have a say by the selection of State Senators and Representatives. Also, if Massachusetts had not changed their law to preempt the possibility of a Republican Governor appointing the replacement for John Kerry should he have won the Presidency the ‘miracle’ would not have happened at all.

  17. Carolyn Attaway says:

    As excited as I was for the election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate; it was more for the ability to stop the majority’s agenda than his ideology. I believe this election came about because of over 100 years of misuse of the Senate Body. With the ratification of the 17th Amendment, party loyalty usurped State representation in the U.S. Senate. Senators could be elected over and over again by a majority of voters, thus dominating the seat and the ideals of the voters that elected him.

    The voters are represented in the House of Representatives, if they control the Senate as well, I believe this distorts the voters power, and those in the minority are overruled in every stance. If the Senate only reported directly to the State, the bullying factor from the party and the Administration would be diminished, thus giving the State a voice in the Federal gov’t. The State as a whole is a greater entity and has more strength in dealing with legislation that could hurt it’s citizens than the individual voter.

    I believe a lot of the ills States currently have to deal with are a direct result of Senators putting their party loyalty ahead of the State’s best interest. For example, many Governors are telling their Senators to kill Cap and Trade, but who are their Senators really listening to?

  18. @Roger Jett, I agree with you.I see more opportunity for corruption with appointments.The people are smart enough to bear the consequences,because we have the vote .Thanks for your input.

  19. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    In regards to the 17th amendment if we returned with the repeal of the 17th the states would regain a large degree of control of the Federal System. It is much easier to change and or control the State Legislatures than it is the Federal Legislature. No longer would there be “money” involved in Senate elections and the beholding of Senators to special interest groups because of their campain contributions. Currently Senators spend on average over $10,000,000.00 dollars to get elected, where do they raise that money? Senators would have to answer to their state legislature for their votes such as the receint health care bill that will ultimately cost the states billions.

  20. Susan Craig says:

    Lynne, yes the opportunity is there. However, now the corruption is not so confined to the State Government level. Prior to the 17th amendment Senators were not vulnerable to the circumstances that led to and have been exacerbated by Campaign Finance Reform! If you didn’t like the Senators your state’s Governor, State Senators and State Representatives selected to represent the State as a whole; they are easier to reach, influence and/or change.

  21. Paul S. Gillespie says:

    Regarding 17th Amend., Lynn and Roger: Party loyalty as an encumbrance to the fidelity of a Senator to his State is a reality. Couple that with the unmitigated influence of campaign contributions, the majority of which does not originated within that State, and the result is a Senator with too many obligations to effectively represent this State, much less the people electing him.

  22. Roger Jett says:

    Valid points have been presented in opposition to the 17th Admendment and I concede that in theory state governments suffered a level of disenfranchisement as a result of it’s ratification. Framers of the Constitution recognized that Article 1, section 3 in granting constituency to the state legislatures instead of the populace in regards to the Senate, greatly increased the likelihood that those same state legislatures would ratify it. Beyond that there were substantial differences of opinion on constituency issues that drifted to the extreme in both directions.
    I believe that neither Article 1, section 3, nor the 17th Admendment perfectly address the numerous difficulties that we have faced with regard to the selection of Senators. Historically, the “realities of human nature” afflicted those serving in state legislatures during the first 125 years when they were the constituents, since factionalism does not discriminate and all are vulnerable. In the beginning, not all states elected their senators the same way. Intimidation and bribery occured at times. I saw noted that between 1866 and 1906 that nine bribery cases were brought before the Senate. On numerous occasions contentions arose that prevented state legislatures from electing new senators. At one point Delaware went four years without a seated U.S. Senator.
    As the point was well made in posts by others, even under the 17th Admendment there are times when vacancies are temporarily filled by state govenors. I ask that each of us compare and contrast the appointment of Roland Burris to the Senate seat for Illinois versus, the special election of Scott Brown to the Massachusetts vacancy. So far, I’ve not seen what I considered to be “unmitigated influence” steming from outside conservative campaign contributors to Senator Brown. He seems fairly focused on listening to and serving his Massachusetts constituency…. the people.

  23. Susan Craig says:

    The purpose of the bicameral legislature was that in one house representation would be by population (3 guesses and the last 2 and 3/4 don’t count) and the other would be where all constituent states would be equal (same offer) that way New York could not bully Wyoming on issues of sectional importance.

  24. Tina Bogani says:

    This is my first blog. FP #9 and #10 are my favorites. I always find myself reading the papers in the context of current events. One of the quotes that struck me was, “…we shall be driven to the alternative either of taking refuge at once in the arms of monarchy, or of splitting ourselves into an infinity of little, jealous, clashing, tumultuous commonwealths, the wretched nurseries of unceasing discord and the miserable objects of universal pity or contempt.” For me, this sounds like a description of “diversity” and how one group should be treated “more fairly” than another (ie, “empathy in judging”).

    I’m sorry to say, even after reading the arguments regarding the representation of the States interests in the Senate, how would it be different than what we have now? Wouldn’t the representatives of the States appointing the Senators be appointed by the People of the State in the first place? Sorry to be dense – can someone explain one more time how it should have worked and how it works now?…

  25. Susan Craig says:

    I’ll try and take a shot at it. Think of the nation as say a large conglomerate company. where there are scads of workers in many different subsidiaries. Say one subsidiary has mainly teamsters, another iron workers, another service, they elect someone to represent them and their concerns to the conglomerate board this would be like the house of representatives. Previously the Senate would have be made up of people who were selected out of the various subsidiaries to represent the overall concerns of the subsidiary say steel framing another subsidiary would say be agricultural services these would be selected by management and workers combined with final say being who the head judges to be best able to represent the subsidiary as a whole. As the Senators are now selected it is a beauty contest voted on by every one and concern no longer is to the corporate body but to the various constituencies.

  26. Roger Jett says:

    Tina Bogani. I may not be of much help in answering your question, but please let me try. It is a very good and appropriate question. Originally, under the Constitution (Article 1, section 3) U.S. Senators were elected by the state legislatures of their respective states. Under that arrangement the state legislature was the Senator’s constituent (the people he answered to and was responsible to represent the best interest of). By the early 1900′s there was sufficient disatisfaction within the nation to change that original arrangement and the legislative branch of the federal government proposed to the states the 17th Admendment for ratification. There were 37 states out of what was then 48 states in total (in 1913) that ratified this admendment into law. Under this new arrangement Senators were now to be elected directly by individual voters within each state and the individual citizens now were the Senator’s new constituency. That’s the quick and easy answer and I think it’s factual . Which arrangement is best involves a number of competing opinions as I think you’ve seen already in the ongoing debate. It sounds wishy washy of me, but I really think there truly are some pretty good arguments on each side.

  27. Kellie says:

    @Roger Jett: Thank you for your explanation, because the 17th Amendment and the story behind it was confusing me. I wonder, could this amendment contribute to the “lifetime” US senators we now have holding office today? Would it have been different if the senators were determined by the state legislatures, which are more diverse. My guess is that the terms of these senators would be shorter and we’d have more of a voice in government.

  28. Roger Jett says:

    Kellie, I’m not sure I would agree that state legislatures are more diverse than the general population. Like it or not our political system is now and has pretty much always been a two party system at both the national level and the state level. Amongst the people there is enormous diversity, but within each party I believe that many of the minorities go pretty much unrepresented at the state legislature level. States have a tendency to lean to one party, even when they have a substantial number of voters who profess to be unafilliated and independent minded. The explanation of why we have so many “lifetime U.S. Senators” probably requires a better understanding of human nature than I currently have. My quess would be that Senators as a rule have been successful at convincing us that we have a voice with them (not been true lately though… has it?).

  29. Are you kidding me? I’m not certain I can put myself behind what you have said. But I will surely be back to find out more soon.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 10th, 2010

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

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

  1. Susan Craig says:

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


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

  2. Maggie says:

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

  3. Carolyn Attaway says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  4. Carol Frenier says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. Susan Craig says:

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

  6. Roger Jett says:

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

  7. Kay says:

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

  8. Maggie says:

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

  9. Ron Meier says:

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

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

  10. Andy Sparks says:

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

  11. Susan Craig says:

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

  12. Susan Craig says:

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

  13. Quillhill says:

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

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

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

  16. Susan Craig says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you again to everyone for your insights today!!

    Cathy Gillespie

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

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

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

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

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

    To quote James Madison:

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

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

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

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    May 11, 2010

  19. Carolyn Merritt says:

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

  20. Joe Drum says:

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


Thursday, May 13th, 2010

In Federalist 12, Hamilton seeks to convince skeptical states that forming a union will increase and regularize a revenue stream.  His main argument centers on the assumption that the best source of revenue is the taxation of consumption, particularly consumption from abroad.  He takes great effort to dispel any possible advantages to a federal tax on land (since doing so would be “too precarious” and would put America’s agrarian livelihood at risk).  Any sort of direct (i.e. income) tax would also be “impracticable” because collection is difficult, hard currency is scarce, and such tax has never generated enough revenue in other places they had already been tried.

So duties was the way to go—and especially “duties on imported articles.”  But the problem remained, as Hamilton saw it, that, if each state levied its own duties at varying rates on different products, the likelihood of fraud would go way up.  After all, he reasoned, the states were all adjacent to several others, shared a language, enjoyed a long history of interaction already, and were connected by myriad modes of transportation, including rivers and bays.  Therefore, “all these are circumstances that would conspire to render an illicit trade between them a matter of little difficulty, and would insure frequent evasions of the commercial regulations of each other.”

But a unified system of duties across all states, collected and enforced by the federal government via “a few armed vessels,” would not create such incentives to cheat and would greatly improve the efficient collection of revenue.

But why do we even need revenues?  Well, as Hamilton asserts in Federalist 12, “a nation cannot long exist without revenues.  Destitute of this essential support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded condition of a province.”  That is, to Hamilton, an independent and consistent revenue stream is necessary for political independence.

To increase the universe of revenue, Hamilton saw only one acceptable path: increase commerce.  After all, he argued, “the prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth.”  It also increases the quantity of currency in circulation and thus makes the payment of taxes much easier (thereby increasing the “supplies” to the treasury).  Plus, and not insignificantly, a growing and varied commerce contributes to the individual—and thus the national—happiness.

So let’s follow the Hamiltonian logic here.  To maintain political independence, a nation must have a consistent and increasing revenue stream.  A consistent revenue stream best comes from a federal government levying duties on commerce—particularly commerce with foreign nations.  An increasing revenue stream comes from expanding commerce.  And expanding commerce “multipl[ies] the means of gratification”—or happiness.

Hamilton might find it fascinating that, 223 years after he wrote Federalist 12, some of the themes he addressed in it form the basis of some of today’s most furious debates.  For example:

  • Should the federal government receive an ever-increasing revenue stream? While many Americans regard any increase in revenue to the federal government as a positive development, other Americans regard increasing federal revenues as a guarantor of increasing federal spending on matters less and less constitutional.  After all, for example, how could we expect a grossly overweight man to gorge less when more and more food is put in front of him?
  • Should the federal government levy taxes on commerce with foreign nations? This question is of course at the center of the ongoing debate between free trade and so-called “fair” trade.   One would be hard-pressed to find any modern evidence of tariffs and other such duties being a net benefit for either levier or levee.
  • Should the federal government encourage the expansion of commerce? Here, Hamilton is spot-on.  Robust commerce benefits man and nation alike and thus should be positively promoted.  Hamilton would be horrified, however, at today’s practice of the government participating in commerce—not just facilitating it.

Regardless of how you feel about these three questions and other issues addressed in Federalist 12, we all can likely agree that Hamilton could never have conceived of the levels of revenues that pour into the federal government today.   Over the last forty years, tax revenue has averaged 18% of the Gross Domestic Product, and is projected to increase significantly under a variety of scenarios.

Paul S. Teller, Ph.D.  is the Executive Director of the RSC the caucus of House Conservatives

17 Responses to “May 132010 – Federalist No12 – The Utility of the Union In Respect to Revenue, from the New YorkPacket (Hamilton) – Guest BloggerPaul STellerPh.D., Executive Director of the RSC

  1. Shannon Castleman says:

    It seems that Hamilton would be a Fair Taqx supporter today, and here is where I base my hypothesis:

    1. He writes, “the prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth.” . The Fair Tax would increase commerce and one reason would be that large corporations would move to our shores as they would pay 0% corporate taxes.
    2. He mentions the best form of taxing is that which taxes consumptions, not income. He notes that wherever a tax on income had been tried, it had failed. He also points out that efficient collection is difficult, which we all know to be true.

    3. He takes great effort to dispel any possible advantages to a federal tax on land (since doing so would be “too precarious” and would put America’s agrarian livelihood at risk). Part of the system we have today is the death tax. This keeps beneficiaries from growing their family wealth.
    4. But the problem remained, as Hamilton saw it, that, if each state levied its own duties at varying rates on different products, the likelihood of fraud would go way up. Do we not see this today with all the loopholes in the tax code? People try to wiggle in a “dubious” tax deduction to get a little more back. A one time sales tax paid at the cash register will knock out the fraud 90%.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    If the counter intuitive circumstance could be understood by the general populace that the less you tax and activity there is opportunity for more of that activity to occur yielding more tax revenueHamilton seems to have grasped this very well.

  3. Ron Meier says:

    Federalist 12 can take us down many rabbit trails. Obviously, the transition from an agraian society to a commercial and industrial society, overlayed with the increased velocity and quantity of information delivery, has made some assumptions about taxation extinct. Direct taxation is pretty efficient in our country and tariffs are frequently roadblocks to efficient and productive international trade. Commercial regulation was yet to begin, as the Congress was not yet formed.

    In 2010, most of us might observe that complex and repressive personal and corporate taxation as well as strangling regulation is making commerce difficult to expand as anticipated by our founders and as necessary today to provide sufficient revenue for all the government redistribution programs. If anything, the Congress seems to be more focused on limiting the ability of commerce to expand as rapidly as required today because they want to shield and protect the public, not from the government, but from risk and uncertainty. Our founders were very willing to accept both risk and uncertainty, as well as unequal outcomes, in exchange for protection from the government’s encroachment on individual liberty. “Security FROM government,” not “security OF government,” was the objective in the late 18th century America.

  4. Paul S. Gillespie says:

    The argument of inefficient collection of direct taxes is as valid today as in the late 18th century. While a very large percentage of American citizens voluntarily submit to paying their direct taxes in a lawful manner, a not insignificant number of people skirt or avoid these taxes altogether. This places a burden on the law abiding citizen as he must not only pay his share, but necessarily shoulder the shortfall of the uncollected taxes of those that enjoy the benefits of our free society but do not contribute to its expense. I think this is a very real cause of discontent and resentment among tax payers.
    The “Fair Tax”, much discussed today, would have many advantages over the present system. Primarily it is infinitely fair to all and would bring millions of people into the tax system who pay no taxes today. On the Federal side the cost of tax collection would be significantly reduced and the efficiency of tax collection would improve dramatically. On the commerce side there would be a resulting drop in the cost of goods and services, artificially high because of the added expense companies incur in order to comply with Federal tax law. The chief danger to this system is the temptation to congress to grant exceptions to interest groups in order to “promote the general welfare”.
    Would Hamilton agree?

  5. Roger Jett says:

    Ron Meier, I very much liked a lot of what you said in your post concerning “Federal Paper #12″. I especially appreciated your closing remarks, “Our Founders were very willing to accept both risks and uncertainty, as well as unequal outcomes, in exchange for protection from the government’s encroachment on individual liberty”. However, I do have to disagree with one statement which was, “Direct taxation is pretty efficient in our country”. Coming from an accounting background and having had extensive exposure to it, I have to contend that taxation in this country is anything but efficient. I’m retired now and my perspective comes from having worked in the private sector. Nothing is simple about our federal tax code and the system is inefficient beyond all comprehension. Blame the Congress for this. By their smoke and mirror tactics, they have constructed a tax system that is a complete monstrosity. I have nogreat love for the IRS, but I recognize that there are many good people working there under extreme conditions . They are left with the difficult job of carrying out the unseemly tax laws enacted by Congress …. they’re left holding that bag. We the people are encumbered not only by the direct tax burden, but also the substantial cost for compliance.

  6. Maggie says:

    @ Roger….I couldn’t agree more with our tax code being anything but simple. Even those in charge of overseeing tax law can’t seem to figure it out and pay their taxes. A consumption tax ensures that EVERYONE pays based upon what they use or consume. What does it matter how much money you make if you are not spending it? It is ultimately when you spend it that you impact the economy. It is at this end that it should be taxed….not before. Consume more…pay more. Consume less…pay less. It leaves the end results for each individual in their own hands.

  7. Susan Craig says:

    Roger, just think of what we’d do to the unemployment numbers if we put all the tax lawyer out of business by virtue of a consumption tax? ooo I shudder to think. No longer wending my way through that impenetrable maze in order to see if I can find another way to lessen the burden just a wee bit.

  8. Shannon Castleman says:

    I think the Fair Tax would be closest taxation method to what our founders would agree with; or mayb a few large excise taxes on certain items.

    1. It would increase the tax base -illegals, toursists, underground income, etc. An increased tax base would mean the economy would be less jolted by a small segment of the population going through economic harship. Today, if there are 100 million income earners, one person out of work is 1/100 millionth of the tax based lost; if 300 million people are paying a sales tax, then one person out of work is only 1/300 millionth of the tax base lost.

    2. Definitely fair. We all pay the same % at the register.

    3. Harder for the government to pay off their cronies. Today, a tax give away is sent in the form of a line you check off in your 1040 form. That is how segments of society get a tax break. When I get a $10,000 mortgage interest deduction, and I am in the 25% tx bracket, tat is the same thing as the government mailing me a welfare check for $2,500. If it is in the form of a check, I am looked down upon as a leech. If it done through my 1040, I am called a productive member of society. Under the Fair Tax, in order for a politician to decide to raise the sales tax to spend more money on his cronies, we ALL would have our taxes raised at the cash register. This way, the people would be better educated and more informed on the true cost of government.

  9. Dave says:

    Revenue . . . must be had at all events.” “[T]he necessities of the State . . . must be satisfied[.]” So the question remains who will bear the public burdens of our constitutional federal republic. As previous generations of children at play knew instinctively, everyone could not ride in the wagon at the same time–everyone, with few exceptions, had to pull their fair share. Again, kids knew what was fair–”you pull for five minutes then I’ll pull for five minutes.” Recently, The Tax Policy Center estimated that 47% of households pay no federal income tax. How come they get to ride in the wagon all the time and never get out and pull?

    In No12Hamilton makes a good case for ratification based on the States’ and individuals’ economic self-interest. With a federal tax system, much less revenue would “escape the eye and the hand of the tax-gatherer.” And there would be no need to bear the costs of administering 13 redundant state tax systems.

    Okay, so I’m sold on the idea that the new federal government will have a sufficient source of revenue to accomplish its constitutional objects. But I have other concerns: How fairly, equally, or justly does any source of revenue spread the burden over all Americans who benefit from the federal system being advocated? And, what restraints will be in place to keep the general government from spending any and all money it collects, instead of collecting only that amount it needs to accomplish its constitutional responsibilities?

    I think the founders and their successors were wrong to concentrate on tariffs. Indirect taxes are stealth taxes and you never really know who’s paying them. “In the 1850′s, the federal government obtained 92% of its revenues from customs duties imposed on goods imported from abroad.” (Weisman, The Great Tax Wars) And the reliance on tariffs led to, in my mind, at least questionable results–a farmer enjoying sugar-sweetened coffee at his local early-american Starbucks would pay more in taxes than someone buying $1,000,000 in bonds. The regressivity or progressivity of any proposed tax system should be transparent and is of course debatable. The amount and sources ofrevenue coming into the federal government has changed dramatically over the last hundred years or so–I just want to know why and has it been to our benefit. “In 1913, nearly half of federal revenues came from customs duties, and almost all the rest came from tobacco and liquor taxes.” (Weisman) Hamilton was way ahead of his time advocating “sin” taxes and luxury (“extravagance”) taxes on “ardent spirits.”

    Thank you to everyone at Constituting America for creating this wonderful project. How impressive and awe-inspiring!–To encourage ordinary Americans to study our founding documents. Thanks also to all the contributors. I enjoy reading what you think is important about our great country and where you think we’ve gone wrong and what we can do to get us back on the right track.

  10. Ron Meier says:

    Although all rational human beings would prefer a “fair tax” or “flat tax,” the probability of getting one is zero. The tax laws long ago ceased being a method for generating the revenue required to run the affairs of the federal government. Instead, the tax law has been the means for Congress to raise revenue to achieve the social and economic outcomes it desires at a particular point of time. It has also been used by the Congress to modify behavior of its citizens and corporations.

    There are two types of economic triggers available to the federal government, monetary policy and fiscal policy. Monetary policy is solely under the control of the Federal Reserve; fiscal policy is under the control of the legislative and the executive branches. The legislative branch initiates and passes fiscal policy laws and the President approves or disapproves. Fiscal policy has three elements: (1) government spending management, (2) federal debt management, and (3) taxation. We know that the Congress will not really control government spending; therefore, it needs to have a means by which it can adjust the cash flow required to fund the programs it wants to fund. There are two primary ways it can fund the programs. It can borrow money, thereby increasing the federal debt; there are limits to how much additional federal debt can be sold to investors. This leaves only one remaining way to raise the necessary funds – TAXATION.

    If a flat tax or fair tax were to be inititated, Congress would have it’s only real method of modifying behavior and raising money for social engineering taken away from it. Although you and I would love to see this happen, it won’t happen because Congress critters know that the game is over if their only toy is taken away.

    By the way, if you’ve been paying attention, Congress knows that it may be reaching the end of its rope with respectto its ability to keep increasing taxes, so it has used the current economic crisis to attempt to extend the reach of its powers to control monetary policy by making the Federal Reserve subject to its review. That sounds pretty benign, and like a good idea on the surface, but it is nothing but a first baby step to get its fingers in the monetary policy pie; once it gets a pinky in, the hand will follow. It’s important that we don’t let them get any control over the Federal Reserve’s Monetary Policy toolbox. Most people don’t understand any of this, so they ignore it. Keep your eyes and ears open for more in this arena.

  11. Great stuff…. The fair tax seems the way to go,here are two reservations /unexpected consequences (not without solution) 1) Would this create a black market? 2) would this hit the very poor right between the eyes,.If the margin they live on is close and they are not paying taxes would that throw them under the bus? Oh yeah… what about Social Security tax how would that be managed,,how would we assertain if someone has woked their required number of quaters to be elegible…. I don’t like the monsterous tax code we have today,but beleieve we could do this taking many cautous steps.

  12. Shannon Castleman says:

    Good points nDave. That is why nI like the Fair Tax. Every taxpayer pays 23% sales tax on the purchase of final goods. Every tax payer gets a monthly prebate deposit into their checking account to cover spending to the poverty level-a one time tax deduction. This ensures the poorest of the poor will not pay sales tax.

    If it were up to me, government would be cut 66%, and we would have a sales tax of 10% or so, with no prebate checks.

  13. Carolyn Merritt says:

    We are running under the assumption that if the powers that be decided to go with the fair tax system, they would do away with the federal income tax. There are states that have a sales tax and also collect a state income tax and all collect real property taxes. Therefore, depending on what state a person lived in, with the fair tax and the state taxes, some would still be paying more than others. True, the underprivileged would pay their fair share.

    The next question would be: What would be taxed and what would not be taxed? Food? Medicine?

  14. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I didn’t get to participate in the discussion today, but I enjoyed reading everyones comments, especially on a day when our Governor just eliminated 2 of our state taxes: the Senior Citizens Retirement Income Tax and the States portion of the homeowners property tax!

  15. As I read each day one of the Federalist Papers, my goal is to see the true intention of our Constitutional forefathers and also to see how it is relevant today.

    Their wisdom and foresight continue to astound me.

    “A prosperous commerce is now perceived and acknowledged, by all enlightened statesmen, to be the most useful, as well as, the most productive, source of national wealth and has accordingly become a primary object of their political cares.”

    A prosperous commerce is the most productive source of national wealth. How is this relevant today? Is America’s prosperous commerce being compromised? When the Federal government becomes a source of income, care and resources, when they seize control of her commerce, American enterprise and inspiration are stigmatized. This stigmatization stifles the prosperity of commerce because citizens lose their motivation and one of their most precious American traits – ingenuity.

    “The genius of the people will illy brook the inquisitive and peremptory spirit of excise laws.”

    This is very relevant today in regard to businesses being heavily taxed.

    And lastly, “A nation cannot long exist without revenue. Destitute of this essential support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded condition of a province.”

    Our debt is surpassing our ability to recover. How long will we be able to survive economically, politically? How will we be able to protect ourselves? When destitute of support will we then resign our independence and sink into the degraded position of, yet again, a province?

    These are serious times. Our forefather’s words serve as warnings. They documented it for us in our United States Constitution and the Federalist Papers. They provided the answers. Will we heed their wisdom? To do so we must know about it. We must understand it. Knowledge is power. Spread the word.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner

    P.S. I thank our fantastic scholar today, Paul STeller, and yesterday’s scholar Dr. Joe Postell. How lucky we are to have their insights and educated opinions! I also thank each and every one of you who have blogged! Fantastic.

  16. Roger Jett says:

    I found Ron Meier’s post today very helpful in getting a bigger picture of our nation’s current predicament. His depiction of the “fiscal policy” as it should be compared and contrasted to the “monetary policy” was insightful and he points out clearly the importance of both tools being used wisely and by the right people. I think the call for more accountability from the Federal Reserve with it’s management of monetary policy is prudent. I see great danger however in allowing those who through political motivation (Congress), have wrecked and misused the fiscal policy so badly, now gain undue influence over the management of monetary policy also. Thank you again Ron Meier in helping us get the bigger picture.

  17. Federalist Number 12

    Thank you to Dr. Paul Teller for your insightful post today, and to Dr. Joe Postell for your enlightening post yesterday! We are blessed to have Constitutional scholars such as yourselves helping us on our journey through theFederalist Papers! And thank you to everyone who continues to comment, and share your thoughts! I am learning so much from each of you.

    “The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer,–all orders of men, look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to this pleasing reward of their toils.”

    Taxes. No one like them. Since biblical times the tax collector has been seen as one of the most despised members of society.

    Taxes sparked the American Revolution. It is in our heritage to resent taxes, especially when we feel we have little orno say in how the money is being spent!

    Yet, Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No12 makes an argument we may not like to hear – taxes are necessary. We must find ways to fund the government :

    “A nation cannot long exist without revenues. Destitute of this essential support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded condition of a province. This is an extremity to which no government will of choice accede.Revenue, therefore, must be had at all events.”

    The question is how.

    It is fascinating to observe the progression of taxation in our country. From Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution:

    The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

    To a federal tax code that is over 7,000,000 words long (thank you to my friend Steve Moore for this fact, cited in a great piece he did for National Review

    What happened?

    In federalist No12 Hamilton advocates consumption taxes because they are more fair, people will tolerate them better, and they are easier to collect. There were no assured means of assessing personal property ownership or personal income during this period in our country, and as Hamilton wrote, “because personal assets are difficult to trace, large tax contributions can only be achieved through consumption taxes.”

    In three years we will “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of the income tax, the ratification of the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is hard to believe that this complicated, lengthy tax code has been in existence for less than 100 years. The explosion of this code in such a short time shows the tendency of government to grow and intrude into our life and liberty, unless we vigilantly keep it at bay, guarding the boundaries of our freedom.

    It was eye opening to read Federalist No12, and see that in the early days of the Republic, an income tax was the furthest thing from the founders’ minds. These were men of great vision, and this is one more area where their foresight shines.

    If only we had listened to them more closely!

    Good night and God Bless!

    Cathy Gillespie



Guest Blogger: W. B. Allen, Dean and Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

In the fourteenth essay Publius argues that America has discovered the merit of making the mechanical principle of representation the basis of unmixed and extensive republics. This is not only an extended republic, but it is a republic in which we do not have to make a special place for the rich and the poor. We will not reserve one legislative house for the rich, another house for the poor. We will not create formal classes in government, and the government will not depend on class distinctions.

It may not have been observed that the tenth essay’s principle of the extended sphere of the republic has a consequence in the operations of politics. There will be commerce, and single district representation also. There will be the “multiplicity of interests.” But we must not neglect that as interests multiply they must affect more people. The consequence of that fact for the ancient distinction between the rich and the poor is a significant diminution in the numbers of the poor. The logic and dynamic of the extended commercial republic is precisely to squeeze rich and poor towards the middle.

The real impact of this constitutional design is to get rid of the struggle between the rich and the poor. The great American middle class is an historical oddity that has come to characterize all the modern world impacted by the industrial revolution and the principles of modern republicanism. This growing middle class is the basis of the unmixed constitution, a constitution founded on the middle class that turned almost into the only “class.” One of the most extraordinary things about the argument in the tenth essay, which is reflected as well in the fourteenth essay, is that it anticipates the nineteenth century debate about class and political life. Publius responded in advance, in effect, to the arguments of Marx and others, insisting that the United States need not have the rich overcome the poor or the poor overcome the rich. It could rather offer a social, economic, and political dynamic through which in fact those distinctions disappear in terms of their political significance.

Grant we must that what are called the super-rich do exist, as do the tabloid sheets that celebrate. But we do not view the rich, or even the super-rich as a class. Which is the reason that they can be just about anyone, from extraordinarily gifted athletes to people of very old money and families. They are isolated; they are individuals. They are not a class. In fact the only thing that distinguishes them today is their money. Otherwise they seem much like everybody else, and sometimes less. What matters is that this happened not by accident; it happened by a constitutional design that aimed to base the Constitution’s support on the strength of a very large middle class.

The claim, therefore, in the fourth paragraph of the fourteenth essay, that we have an umixed and extensive republic, goes to the very heart of the Antifederalist challenges to the Constitution and leads Publius to inquire in the paragraphs following, what are the limits of a democracy? and how are we supposed to calculate this? The question must be asked because we know that general arguments must be tested by practical limits. We cannot assume that there are no limits to representation as an approach, especially if we take seriously the task of “harmonizing and assimilating” differences. Differences must at least be kept to such a level that they are subject to being thus harmonized.

Publius provides a calculation in the fifth paragraph and those following. It is interesting because of what it says about 1787 technology and what it implies about the future. First, he describes the limits of democracy as a dynamic function: “the natural limit of democracy is that distance from the central point, which will just permit the most remote citizens to assemble as often as their public functions demand.”

The natural limit is the distance determined by public functions.  The natural limit of a republic is that distance from the center, which will barely allow the representatives of the people to meet as often as may be necessary for the administration of public affairs. Can it be said the limits of the United States exceed this distance? “It will not be said by those who recollect that the Atlantic coast is the longest side of the Union, that during the term of thirteen years, the representatives of the States have been almost continually assembled.”

To say that members of the Confederation Congress were “continually assembled” is a bit disingenuous; for although the Congress was almost constantly in session, one of the chief complaints about it was the notoriously poor attendance of delegates.

Publius then conducts a lesson in public geography, leading him to conclude that the ability to travel from any point, within a certain period of time (two weeks in 1787), to reach capital and conduct business, sets the allowable size of the system. This is a fairly mechanical definition, and it can be misleading. Not only does it not respond to the matter of harmonizing and assimilating, but it deflects attention from the ultimate basis of Publius’s judgment. The twelfth paragraph makes this clear, when Publius appeals to ties of affection to sustain “one great respectable and flourishing empire.”

In other words, Publius reminds us that we started with a Union, not with a theory on the strength of which we generated a Union. A theory may tell us that the Union is not too big for its britches, but that does not imply its indefinite extension. The condition for extending the Union is the continual existence of the Union. But that, in turn, would depend upon people accepting its principles, and first and foremost those principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence.

Thus, two things operate simultaneously: first, the notion of the mechanical theory, the distance limit and, second, the moral limits, the moral distance. To the extent that we accomplish Union on the scale of the moral distance, it becomes possible by the mechanical theory to justify extending the reach of the Union, and not one bit farther.

W. B. Allen is Dean and Professor Emeritus of Michigan State University


Guest Blogger: Professor Allison Hayward, George Mason School of Law and fellow with the Center for Competitive Politics

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Federalist #15

Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist 15 is a gloomy counterweight to Madison’s optimistic Number 14. Madison ended No. 14 praising the noble course set by the founders of the new nation. Hamilton’s No. 15 is like a splash of cold water, reminding citizens of the moment’s terrible perils.

And the troubles are many. The nation’s present configuration is inadequate to the task. The central government cannot govern, and thus cannot honor its debts, defend its territory, engage in diplomacy, or unite its constituent state governments.

And therin lies the rub, not just for Hamilton and the founders, but for generations afterward. How should the central national government relate to the states? The states are the unit of government charged with the ratification of the constitution. But Hamilton knows that a “mere” confederation of states will not survive, not in the dangerous world of the late 18th century. The central government needs sufficient power to govern the nation as one unit, when solidarity is required. Recalcitrant states must be brought to heel to honor their obligations. That meant, in contrast to the Article of Confederation, extending the federal government’s power to impose obligations upon real citizens as individuals, not just intangible state governments.

This is a big step. Hamilton’s challenge is to appeal to his reader’s fear of irresponsible state governments. He can then position the national government as a solution to that problem, rather than as a tyrant to be feared itself. But among his readers are also the political leaders within New York, so he must argue carefully. He isn’t attempting to convince his New York readers they need to fear for irresponsibility in their own state government. He doesn’t need to accuse them of fecklessness. It is enough that other states will take advantage of a weak central government to pursue short term agendas to the ultimate detriment of all.

As we know, debate over the size and scope of the federal government persisted after the ratification, even to this day. From our vantage point, it may seem odd to entertain the notion that the central government could be too weak. Federal statutes and regulations reach deeply into American society, and into areas of governance traditionally left to state and local governments, such as criminal law, education and corporate governance. But in 1787, the prospect that the United States could become a “failed” state was real. However one feels about the size of government today, reading Hamilton should remind us that “ordered liberty” requires some authority to maintain the order.

Federalist 15 makes interesting reading in light of the financial crisis in Europe. Although the EU has an executive, the power of the central government is fragile and nothing like that established by the Constitution. Is the European Union sufficiently powerful to bring fiscal order to its constituent nations? Or will the lack of fiscal discipline in Greece, to name but one member, pull the EU down, destroy the Euro, and provoke domestic crisis throughout Europe? Can Europe impose a federal solution? I suspect that the EU may fail, because its constituent nations will be unwilling to yield the necessary sovereignty to create a sufficient federal government.

Professor Allison Hayward teaches election law at George Mason School of Law and is also a fellow with the Center for Competitive Politics


16 Responses to “May 18 – Federalist No. 15 – The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Professor Allison Hayward, George Mason School of Law and fellow with the Center for Competitive Politics”

Susan Craig says:
May 18, 2010 at 10:01 am
Honor and restraint seem to be the necessary ingredient that both Madison and Hamilton imply. Especially in this quote from #15: “should you permit that sacred knot which binds the people of America together be severed or dissolved by ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation.” Unfortunately quite a few of the list seem to be rampant in today’s world. I think the most damaging is misrepresentation (aka lying). Presenting your self or your program in language that obfuscates the intent. Most recent example “Employee free choice Act”. How ironic the “Big Government” of 1787 is now looked on as the ideal of the “Small Government” people. As we traveled from 1787 to now it seems that we suffered from the belief that if this much is good maybe a little more will be better.

Susan Craig says:
May 18, 2010 at 10:37 am
Found an interesting chart defining the ‘factions’
The Parties as they were constituted at inception:
Republicans (aka Anti-Federalist)——————–Federalist
radical Whig—————————————-moderate Whig (can anyone define Whig belief)
localists——————————————–more centralist
less taxation—————————————-taxation
balanced budget————————————deficit (as a tool for credit)
egalitarian—————————————— enlightened paternalist
strict construction———————————–broad interpretation
expansionist—————————————–reluctant expansion
became modern Dems——————————–became the modern Reps
Does it strike you that there is coming another 180?

Charles Babb says:
May 18, 2010 at 11:21 am
Professor Hayward, your analysis of Federalist No. 15 is very enlightening.
However, Publius may have been short sighted in his view. The balance of power still seems to be a problem. In 1787, the States were “recalcitrant” of their fiduciary and other responsibilities to the Confederacy. The Constitution seems to have solved that problem, but will it solve today’s dilemma caused by a Federal governments bribing the States into prostituting away (using the citizens tax dollars) the liberties of their citizens, with it’s tentacles wrapped firmly around our throats in many areas. Especially in the area of education. They realize that a people made dumb as sheep, are easily led to slaughter.
Today we have a federal government that refuses to enforce the laws it has passed; but wants to bring legal action against a State which, in desperation for life, limb and property, tries to take upon itself that task of citizen security, for which the federal government is now recalcitrant. The federal legislature is so enthralled with a power grab that all they can talk about is creating “comprehensive legislation”, rather than insisting on the enforcement of the laws already on the books. K_I_S_S.
Friends, passion has caused me to exceed the bonds of strict adherence to the analysis of FEDERALIST No. 15, I beg your indulgence.

Ron Meier says:
May 18, 2010 at 12:24 pm
We are going through this exercise of reading the Federalist Papers @ a time in world history when we get see first hand what our founders were talking about in the first 20 or so papers. As Professor Hayward notes, we are watching a Confederation in Europe crumble before our very eyes, and we can refer back to the various FPs to understand why.
At the same time, we are seeing in our own country the very thing that the States and citizens were worried about with respect to our Federal government attempting to consolidate power by having complete control over two of the three branches of government and attempting to neutralize the ability of the states, particularly Arizona, from protecting their own interests.
It’s great that we are able to analyze what we see, hear, and read more rationally, rather than just passionately, as a consequence of reading the FP. The language of the authors of the FP makes reading and understanding somewhat arduous, but enlightening when the gist of each article comes through.

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 18, 2010 at 12:24 pm
I found Paper 15 to be very relevant to current events. I could not help but think of all the situations that are occurring in and around America today, as I read Hamilton’s debate for a Federal Government.
The third paragraph had excerpts that jumped from the page which served as reminders of why we need a sound and common sense Federal Government, and not one set on pushing its own agenda. Hamilton states “We may indeed with propriety be said to have reached almost the last stage of national humiliation. There is scarcely anything that can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent nation which we do not experience….Do we owe debts to foreigners and to our own citizens contracted in a time of imminent peril for the preservation of our political existence?….We have neither troops, nor treasury, nor government….Is commerce of importance to national wealth?….Is respectability in the eyes of foreign powers a safeguard against foreign encroachments? The imbecility of our government even forbids them to treat with us.”
These statements, though written at an earlier time to defend the need of a Federal Government, can be looked upon today as a defense to rid ourselves of the status quo in Congress. Hamilton tries to convince the people of New York of the need for a basic Federal Government whereas today it has become overbearing and oppressive. The Congress has allowed the United States to be humiliated, and has apologized for her standing as a Superpower to other countries. They have endangered our AAA rating in the financial markets by increasing our debt to foreign powers as well as to their own citizens.
We may have military power, but it is constantly being undermined by accusations and political correctness. We have no treasury, and our federal government is quickly becoming imbecilic. I believe Congress has forgotten the reason behind its creation.
Hamilton writes: “Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation.” I realize that this statement was intended for the States in trying to form a Union, but I cannot help but see the hypocrisy in this statement when in it is applied to the Federal Government in relation to the immigration laws and dealing with enemy combatants.
One of the main reasons for a Federal Government was, and is, National Security. Our Congress views the laws to these issues as recommendations, to be applied to their best advantage, when in fact, it should be their number priority.
I heard the following on the news yesterday, “Most of the illegals caught crossing are from Mexico or South America, but thousands are classified as OTMs, “other than Mexicans,” including hundreds from nations that sponsor terror. These are the records we obtained at this federal detention center near Phoenix, Arizona. We find illegals from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, and Yemen in custody. This congressional report on border threats confirms members of Hezbollah have crossed the southwest border. It also contains photos of military jackets found on the border. The Arab insignia reads: “Martyr: Way to eternal life.” The other depicts a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. The congressional report also reveals the route Middle Easterners take. They travel from Europe to South America to the tri border region where they learn to speak Spanish, then travel to Mexico and blend in with other illegals heading to this country. Former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is now secretary of Homeland Security. We wanted to ask her about the border threat, but our request for an interview was never answered.” (Link:
Instead of securing our borders, Congress is inviting illegal immigrants to the bounty produced by hardworking citizens, and admonishes those who question their actions.

Dave says:
May 18, 2010 at 1:15 pm
Thank you, Professor Hayward for your thoughts on Hamilton’s No. 15. I was struck by the tone of the paper, and more specifically, the words and phrases Hamilton used to describe the situation back in the early winter of 1787. The “troubles are many.” They probably were, but I couldn’t help picture Hamilton as Professor Harold Hill in the Music Man singing “We Got Trouble.” In writing about the “material imperfections” and “those defects in the scheme of our federal government” under the Articles of Confederation, Hamilton does seem to be a tad hyperbolic: “impending anarchy,” “national humiliation,” “imbecility of our government,” “mimic sovereignty,” “melancholy situation,” “brink of a precipice,” “plunge us into the abyss,” “destitute of energy,” “political monster,” “desperate extremity,” and “the frail and tottering edifice.” He sums it all up by basically saying that anything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. Here is a master salesman at work.
Hamilton knows the stakes and is not shy in making the hard sell. America is in dire straits and anyone who opposes the plan of union can be characterized “by ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation.” The negative aspects of our human nature never seem to be present in the supporters of the plan. They all have the Wisdom of Solomon, the calm patience of Job, and the self-sacrifice of Jesus. Let’s be honest, Hamilton knew his duly revered General Washington would most likely be chosen as the first president and that he, Hamilton, would be in the first administration. It is to be remembered that it was Hamilton’s plan at the Constitutional Convention that had a president for life with supreme veto power over any and all laws.
So, even if his Bill of Particulars, “enumeration of particulars,” presents a convincing indictment against the existing Confederation, Publius should still be tasked to justify his solution to “this desperate extremity.” Publius has 70 more papers to make his case. Will the new plan of union truly protect the governed so they may enjoy the prime object of government, ordered liberty?
One is tempted to ask, “Who decides what, and how much, order?” In the end, force or the threat of force must become a real possibility. Washington said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
Thank you Professor Hayward for bringing in the current EU troubles. This seems to be analogous to what Hamilton said about the law must have sanctions. How is the EU to act against Greece but by force (“military execution”) or the threat of force, if Greece decides not to honor her agreements.
In No. 15 there exists a rallying cry for our times: “[L]et us make a firm stand for our safety, our tranquility, our dignity, our reputation. Let us at last break the fatal charm [of Statism of all kinds] which has too long seduced us from the paths of felicity and prosperity.”

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm
Thank you Dave for mentioning the statement in your last paragraph. I too feel this is a rallying cry for our times. I highlighted it in my reading of Paper 15 and drew an arrow to the last sentence six paragraphs down: “we must extend the authority of the Union to the persons of the citizens, –the only proper objects of government.” As citizens of the United States, I believe it is our task to keep our government in check, and be more active in our involvement than just voting.

Maggie says:
May 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm
Carolyn I couldn’t agree more. When I read “Do we owe debts to foreigners and to our own citizens contracted in a time of imminent peril for the preservation of our political existence?”, I instantly thought of China and how much of our debt they hold. We are literally selling away our power. I was also struck by this statement: “We have neither troops, nor treasury, nor government”. Yes, we have a very strong military; but for how much longer when every democratic administration that comes into power further defunds the troops? I, too, immediately thought of the immigration issues with Hamilton’s writing “Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation.” I believe that this quote stands for many laws on our books that are simply NOT being enforced. Every time a politician brings up gun control and how “we need more laws” all I can do is think about the many laws we already have controlling the ownership of firearms….they just aren’t being enforced. Why is it that those in Washington just don’t seem to comprehend that criminals don’t care about laws? They have already broken laws…that is why they are CRIMINALS. Further revoking the rights of law abiding citizens will NEVER change that.

Lynne Newcomer says:
May 18, 2010 at 3:22 pm
Thank you Professor Hayward for your quidence on this paper.
I do so agree with so much that has been written by everyone that it would waste time to name everyone.
Simply… with regard to AZ, we are either a Nation of laws or we are not.The Gov of AZ.showed remarkable fortitude to stand up to Washington.She is no fool she knew she would meet with much hateful speech etc, but went on and is weathering the storm hip- hip- hurray.The fact that Washington is lowering the standards of civil, and acceptable dialogue is surely regretable but the sanctions are going to come their way,and they will come from the voting booth.We are a smart people and we know the Pres,and Congress ore failing to do their jobs.
I like the EU example, the officers of the EU,seem to be toothless and of a more ceremonial nature.I do hope that they find their way .

Dave says:
May 18, 2010 at 3:49 pm
Carolyn, what I think everyone can accept is that a sovereign implies some control over the individual. The sticking point for the Anti-federalists (and for me I’ve lately learned) seemed to be how justly and efficiently a distant, centralized power would govern. We’ve seen some elaboration and we’ll see a lot more of the compromise reached between the consolidators and confederals. The consolidators placed their trust in the State. Those advocating for more of a true federal system wanted a buffer between the national government and the individual. There would be two sovereigns over the individual, each with their own sphere of authority. General, national concerns would fall under the purview of the general government, and the local, private, every-day concerns would be handled by the state or local government. I think it’s quite workable in a republic of virtue, in spite of Hamilton’s slam of an imperium in imperio as a “political monster.”
The irony should not be lost on any of us reading No. 15–Hamilton was indicting the weak national system of the government under the Articles of Confederation and yet almost every malady he mentions could apply today in spite of a very strong leviathan, national government. Publius is constantly urging opponents of the plan to open their eyes to the light of reason and experience and see that an energetic, wide-ranging central power will cure all their ills. We’ve gone wrong somewhere. Would that there were a modern-day Publius to counsel us on how we’ve gotten off course and what we can do to get back on the right course.
I do know our state governments have let us down. Here’s a sampling of excerpts we will read in the next few weeks showing the buffer role of the states I mentioned:
We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority. (No. 85)
The executive and legislative bodies of each State will be so many sentinels (No. 84)
But ambitious encroachments of the federal government on the authority of the State governments would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm (No. 46)
schemes of usurpation will be easily defeated by the State governments (No. 46)
I should not have rambled on so. All I wanted to say is that I agree with you in the role of the individual, but the states have a responsibility and they seem to be shirking it.

Jimmy Green says:
May 18, 2010 at 4:32 pm
The theme of the States surrendering some power to the Federal Government via the Constitution to strengthen their security and prosperity through a Union of these same states is a continual
theme in the federalist papers.
While I generally agree with the adage of “united we stand divided we fall”
I would be more interested in Hamilton’s views on what should occur if the Federal government fails to uphold its enumerated powers.
What are the states rights if the federal government abrogates or is lacking or deficient in its constitutional powers.
I’ve seen mentions of the Arizona law in some people’s writings. What would Hamilton think the proper response of a state to the Federal Governments lack of securing the borders? There are many such examples but as the federalist papers are to explain why the states should unite one is left to wonder what Hamilton’s view are on states rights as a consequence of the failures of the Fed.

Shannon Castleman says:
May 18, 2010 at 4:38 pm
Dave, indulge away. Great points. Those who have brought up the EU are right on. True, we have a front row seat , as though we went back in a time mchine, to watch the disintegration the former empire across the pond.
But the Professor’s statement brought it to a new light for mr when she said that the EU actually needs to be stronger (like hamilton wanted for the US). It was hard for m to grasp as I always viewed individually the nations of Europe to be too much beholden to central government.
But now I see the reasoning behind that.
I am learning so much.

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 18, 2010 at 5:26 pm
Maggie, I agree with you about being over regulated by our government. If I hear of one more law that strips away our right to make choices, I think I will scream. Oops! Sorry! I have already done that. This latest push to take away McDonalds right to put a toy in their happy meal because parents shouldn’t be burdened with having to tell their children NO, I think takes the cake. If I wanted a nanny, I would have hired one.
I agree as well that our 1st and 2nd amendment rights are under major attack, but the people in Congress who are suppose to care, just roll over and admit defeat. I am soooo ready for November.
Dave, you have me in your corner in the belief that States have been giving away their rights piecemeal by piecemeal. Many are starting to wakeup in lieu of all the costs that they will be burdened with, I just hope it is not to late. Regarding your wish for a modern-day Publius, Gov. Chris Christie is on the right track, and if he succeeds in lifting up New Jersey, we may have someone other Governors may try to imitate.

Carolyn Merritt says:
May 18, 2010 at 7:51 pm
Thank you Professor Hayward for your enlightening analysis of Federalist 15. Hamilton could have written this paper for what is happening to our Country today. We are heaviily in debt, our military is being undermined by Congress and this President; toll roads, power companies, oil companies owned by foreign countries; we print money just as fast as this government can spend it and worse of all – our respect around the World is diminishing because of all the apologists in the current admininstration.
I liked Hamilton statement “Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.”
Amen Charles: “May God Bless America.”

Constituting America says:
May 19, 2010 at 12:23 am
Relevancy today. It is very clear in Federalist Paper No. 15 that cohesion between the states was necessary in order to preserve our union in a viable way.
Our guest scholar, Professor Allison Hayward, (I thank you Professor Hayward for your wonderful essay!) speculates about the future of today’s European Union, “I suspect that the EU may fail, because its constituent nations will be unwilling to yield the necessary sovereignty to create a sufficient federal government.”
The potential failure of the European countries to render themselves to a singular government speaks volumes about why the United States was able to succeed. Americans had the foresight and the fortitude to unite after the Revolution, rendering brilliant results. Thus, two miracles birthed the United States of America, one the success of the Revolutionary war, the other the success of the United States Constitution.
Homage must be paid to our Constitutional forefathers who tirelessly, tenaciously and methodically gave their time and talents to achieve the three pertinent steps: the Constitutional Convention, the rendering of the Constitution and the eventual ratification. This was no easy feat, yet it proved to be our rallying point and the launching pad for realizing the potential of our countrymen and the wealth of the land.
Yet, today, we must question if the confines of our great Constitution have been stretched beyond what our forefathers intended. A federal government to persevere and preserve is very different than a federal government to control and contrive.
Here are some of Alexander Hamilton’s words that I find relevant today and thought provoking:
“I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to which you would be exposed, should you permit that sacred knot, which binds the people of America together, to be severed or dissolved by ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation.”
“We may indeed, with propriety, be said to have reached almost the last stages of national humiliation. There is scarcely any thing that can wound the pride, or degrade the character, of an independent people, which we do not experience.”
“Do we owe debt to foreigners, and to our own citizens, contracted in a time of imminent peril, for the preservation of our political existence?”
“Is public credit an indispensable resource in a time of public danger?”
“Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.”
“The rulers of the respective members, whether they have a constitutional right to do it or not, will undertake to judge of the propriety of the measures themselves. They will consider the conformity of the thing proposed or required to their immediate interests or aims; the momentary conveniences or inconveniences that would attend its adoption.”
Are we not experiencing all of the above today?
God Bless,
Janine Turner

May 18, 2010
Constituting America says:

May 19, 2010 at 12:55 am
Have you been watching Janine’s Behind the Scenes Videos? They are fantastic! Last night Juliette Turner, Constituting America Youth Director, talked about the We The People 9.17 Contest, and how important it is that young people understand the Constitution and founding principles of our country! Check out these fun, short videos – where else can you see pets reading the Federalist Papers, or meet Longhorns with names like Revolution or America’s Pride? You’ll see some beautiful Texas landscapes, and if you click on the right one, you’ll even get to hear Janine sing the Star Spangled Banner!
Thank you to Professor Allison Hayward of George Mason University! Your thorough explanation, and tie-in to Europe’s present day troubles, made Federalist No. 15 come alive! Thank you also to all who posted today. If you are reading, and haven’t written your comments in our blog, please join the conversation! We need your voice and view!
I echo Professor Hayward’s observation that Hamilton’s Federalist No. 15 is a bit of a downer after Madison’s optimistic essay yesterday. Madison’s Federalist No. 14 made my heart swell with pride to be a citizen of the United States of America. Federalist No. 15 reminds us that our country soared to greatness, strength and respect from humble beginnings. In 1788 the prospect of failure was very real. Hamilton does a brilliant job describing the environment, and paints a bleak picture, “the last stage of national humiliation”: lack of respect in the world, debt, no troops, declining commerce and land values, lack of private credit – the list goes on and on. The country was at a low point.
But out of this low point, rose our great Nation – rebuilt upon the framework of the United States Constitution. In fact, if all had been going well in the late 1780’s, the beautiful, unique, perfectly balanced republic that emerged might never have been born.
That is the lesson I take from Federalist No. 15. And one I have learned from Constituting America’s co-chair and my good friend, Janine Turner, who is an inspiration to me. Janine often speaks about how tough times etch our character and shape us into who God wants us to be. The tough times in Hamilton’s day produced the United States Constitution.
Our country is again going through tough times. Hamilton’s words throughout Federalist No. 15 could easily be describing our present day circumstances. But look what these tough times have already wrought: a renewed passion and engagement of the citizens of the United States! There is an energy and thirst for knowledge taking hold across the country that I have not felt before in the 25 years in which I have been involved in politics.
Where will this lead? What lies ahead? When we Americans join together, with our spirit of enterprise, ingenuity and passion, only good things will result. We are once again on the “precipice” Alexander Hamilton speaks of, but I predict we will not plunge into the abyss. Instead, we will emerge stronger, fortified, with a renewed, patriot’s zeal and commitment to our country’s founding principles.
I look forward to the readings that lie ahead, sharing with you and others, and putting what I am learning to use!
Good night and God bless!
Cathy Gillespie
May 18, 2010

Guest Blogger: Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC and graduate of Boston College Law School

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Federalist #16

In Federalist #16, Alexander Hamilton continues to outline the deficiencies of the present system of government authorized under the Articles of Confederation.  It is Hamilton’s view that the loose confederation will lead to lawlessness and ultimately anarchy once the inability to enforce its own laws becomes apparent.

This exceptionable principle may, as truly as emphatically, be styled the parent of anarchy: It has been seen that delinquencies in the members of the Union are its natural and necessary offspring; and that whenever they happen, the only constitutional remedy is force, and the immediate effect of the use of it, civil war.

The system that was in place had two important facets:  it was a voluntary association of the states and secondly it was in most respects a government whose actions were non-binding. The fact that the Articles of Confederation were voluntary meant that the Congress ruled with the consent of the governed and therefore exercised their authority lawfully.  However, the fact the government could not enforce its dictates meant that ultimately festering conflicts could result in armed conflict among the several states as the enforcement mechanism of last resort.  Furthermore, due to the differences between the size and influence of some of the states, the confederation was particularly ill suited for America.  With no enforcement power, the confederation created asymmetric power centers encouraging large and powerful states to see national policies for their benefit while disregarding the needs of the smaller and less powerful states.  In the unlikely circumstance wherein the Congress adopted a policy that might benefit small states, larger states might ignore them with impunity.  Such a circumstance potentially leads to civil war.

In fact, Hamilton observes that this asymmetric distribution of authority had other problems unrelated to the tendency towards internal armed conflict.  Even when faced with exogenous threats, because the states view themselves as sovereigns — motivated primarily by their own self preservation — the national government would either not have access to the resources necessary to prevent an attack from a foreign enemy or perhaps simply not respond to an attack if the attack was perceived as being against one of the states rather than the nation as a whole.

If there should not be a large army constantly at the disposal of the national government it would either not be able to employ force at all, or, when this could be done, it would amount to a war between parts of the Confederacy concerning the infractions of a league, in which the strongest combination would be most likely to prevail, whether it consisted of those who supported or of those who resisted the general authority. It would rarely happen that the delinquency to be redressed would be confined to a single member, and if there were more than one who had neglected their duty, similarity of situation would induce them to unite for common defense.

On the other hand, since the Articles of Confederation do not give Congress the power to lay and assess the taxes without consent or to compel the armies necessary to stave off attacks, the weakness that the American government presents to other nations would appear quite provocative.  Hamilton complains that by their nature, the states as sovereigns are not transparent entities and therefore even assessing duties or raising armies is unduly difficult.  Does a state refuse to pay up its share because of actual shortages it is experiencing or because its support for the cause identified is lackluster?

If there were a national government like the one described in the Constitution, it would already have the authority to defend itself — recognizing that an attack on one part was an attack on all.

Even if the conflict from foreigners is not the result of a coordinated assault i.e. a war, foreign governments would still be tempted to sow dissension among the states, Hamilton argues.  As long as the states themselves are complete sovereigns, they have every incentive to evaluate foreign relations, trade, and even aid solely in terms of its impact on them as sovereigns and not on the nation as a whole.  Hamilton calls this “Its more natural death is what we now seem to be on the point of experiencing, if the federal system be not speedily renovated in a more substantial form.”

Nevertheless, even if the states were to voluntarily provide the resources for an army, would the force be used to intimidate would be attackers or instead to enforce through intimidation its policies among the states themselves?

It remains to inquire how far so odious an engine of government, in its application to us, would even be capable of answering its end. If there should not be a large army constantly at the disposal of the national government it would either not be able to employ force at all, or, when this could be done, it would amount to a war between parts of the Confederacy concerning the infractions of a league, in which the strongest combination would be most likely to prevail, whether it consisted of those who supported or of those who resisted the general authority.

Then this would present concerns that are even more troublesome.  Wouldn’t it be the case that what Hamilton calls the “delinquency” (meaning the failure of compliance) would occur not just among one state but also likely among several?  In addition, wouldn’t powerful states attempt to align themselves in ways to avoid suffering the consequences of their delinquencies?  If so using the military to enforce compliance begins to look a lot like civil conflict or civil war now that the states joined together in alliances are using enforcement of national policies as a tool of enforcing their perceived advantages.

Hamilton writes, “It would rarely happen that the delinquency to be redressed would be confined to a single member, and if there were more than one who had neglected their duty, similarity of situation would induce them to unite for common defense. Independent of this motive of sympathy, if a large and influential State should happen to be the aggressing member, it would commonly have weight enough with its neighbors to win over some of them as associates to its cause.”

A final critique that Hamilton makes of the Articles of Confederation stems from the notion that it would be beneficial that states would affirmatively approve most of the policies adopted by the national government.  While on its face, it might appear that requiring a second step in order to assure that a given statute must go into effect would be good for liberty, Hamilton argues that it was more likely to lead to anarchy or civil conflict.

Under the U.S. Constitution many checks and balances were already put in place, which acted in many ways as hurdles to excessive, or passion based legislation.  The new Constitution by its design sought to encourage greater deliberation leading to legislation that is more necessary and weeded out that which was frivolous.  Forcing the additional step of state approval would be needlessly limiting the flexibility of the national government while sowing seeds for conflict.

Hamilton asserts, If it be possible at any rate to construct a federal government capable of regulating the common concerns and preserving the general tranquillity, it must be founded, as to the objects committed to its care, upon the reverse of the principle contended for by the opponents of the proposed Constitution. It must carry its agency to the persons of the citizens. It must stand in need of no intermediate legislations; but must itself be empowered to employ the arm of the ordinary magistrate to execute its own resolutions. The majesty of the national authority must be manifested through the medium of the courts of justice. The government of the Union, like that of each State, must be able to address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals; and to attract to its support those passions which have the strongest influence upon the human heart. It must, in short, possess all the means, and have aright to resort to all the methods, of executing the powers with which it is intrusted, that are possessed and exercised by the government of the particular States. To this reasoning it may perhaps be objected, that if any State should be disaffected to the authority of the Union, it could at any time obstruct the execution of its laws, and bring the matter to the same issue of force, with the necessity of which the opposite scheme is reproached.

Hamilton reveals himself to be quite alarmed by the potential threats posed by the Articles of Confederation.  While he may not see the U.S. Constitution as a panacea to all problems that the young nation might  face, he believes that by its design, it is far better able to prevent conflict, or in the event that conflict occurs, it would be able to see that the nation was ultimately able to survive it.

Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC is a graduate of Boston College Law School

18 Responses to “May 19 – Federalist No. 16 – The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC and graduate of Boston College Law School”

Susan Craig says:
May 19, 2010 at 9:03 am
The more I read and study what transpired between the Declaration of Independence and the end of George Washington’s second term the more I find myself squarely between the two factions. I see the deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation but seeing how some of the programs that were darlings of the Federalists have developed I think I would have fought to caveat the Federal Government a little more strictly and defined the relationship of State to Federal a little more clearly.

Charles Babb says:
May 19, 2010 at 11:55 am
How would we ever make any sense of these writings, were it not for the wise interpretation and guidance of our special guest bloggers? Thank you.
I would like to explore Mr. Lampkin’s thoughts in the following observation;
“Under the U.S. Constitution many checks and balances were already put in place, which acted in many ways as hurdles to excessive, or passion based legislation. The new Constitution by its design sought to encourage greater deliberation leading to legislation that is more necessary and weeded out that which was frivolous. Forcing the additional step of state approval would be needlessly limiting the flexibility of the national government while sowing seeds for conflict.”
Do we not see a design fault here, resulting in excessive legislation, happening today? Is this one of the areas where you, Susan, would like to have seen greater clarification?
I shudder to think what the volume of legislation is that has been passed over the years. And yet in November we will elect, or re-elect, representatives who will go to Washington and pass more confusing and conflicting legislation, largely because (1) they try to hide the intent of their proposed legislation through volume and “legalize” and (2) our representatives are too lazy to read it.
How can you “deliberate” that which you do not comprehend?
And once it becomes the law of the land, if they do not enforce it, are they not in violation of their “Oaths of Office”?
What recourse then do “we the people” have?
We have November.

Nickie Summers says:
May 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm
Two thoughts come to mind reading the founding papers:
First, it is crystal clear to me how far our country has moved away from the Constitution (defining principles and the relationship between the federal government and the states/citizens.) The Federalist/founding papers are redundant making the case to caution people of an ‘over reaching’ government. Hamilton says in No.15, and I’m paraphrasing, the idea of the Constitution is incompatible with the idea of government and therefore a Republic is the only safeguard against an unruly government. No. 16 expands on that and much more. Federal government has to remain small and ‘in check’ to their boundaries/responsibilities….that brings me to my second thought…’The People’….
Second, the founding papers completely empower each citizen – they own the begining and the end of the political process. Our political leaders are turned around in that thinking today. Americans are engaged and ‘owning’ their role to govern…we can/will change the political mindset and landscape in DC and around this great country.
Go Team USA!!

Susan Craig says:
May 19, 2010 at 1:57 pm
That is a symptom, Charles. What I would have liked defined was that rather vague commerce clause that has allowed the Fed to homogenize what was potpourri. Before if you did not like the way Massachusetts regulated its business, you could choose from any of the established States or explore into the territories. Now its Massachusetts or Massachusetts lite.
I would have liked a more elaborated upon clause. My suggestion, States may order commerce within their borders as they see fit. Should disagreements arise between States in the conduct business the Federal will act as Good Faith arbiter to facilitate and promote the smooth conduct throughout the country. Not exactly a legal beagle but I think something like this would have kept the SCOTUS from declaring wheat grown on private property for private consumption under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government by virtue of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution.

Ron Meier says:
May 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm
Too bad the creators of the EU didn’t read the first 20 or so FP before creating the EU. Had they done so, they wouldn’t have let some members in and they would have instituted some kind of enforcement mechanism. More likely, the EU would not have been created, since the prospective initial members would not have approved the sanctions for misbehavior.
re Charles’ comment about the sheer volume of legislation, to say nothing of the thickness of each individual piece, when our legislators run for reelection, they have to demonstrate that they were in attendance for xx% of all votes, the higher the better. If someone has a lower than acceptable percentage, then the opponent runs negative campaign ads demonstrating that the legislator is not doing his or her job. I submit that it might be better if our legislators would spend more time deliberating on the really important legislation and skip showing up to vote for legislation that they know nothing about and that is not critical to survival of our nation. As our Attorney General and Director of Homeland Security have just demonstrated, they don’t even have time to read a simple 10 page piece of legislation (Arizona’s law), yet they feel qualified to speak authoratatively on the law they haven’t read. Our legislators are in similar constraints and likely have staff read certain portions and give them briefings; I doubt they even read legislation they propose.

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm
Nickie, I too picked up on the citizen empowerment theme toward the end of this paper. There were several parts that begged to be read out loud, but two statements caught my eye, and I had to read them several times to absorb the impact of their words: “An experiment of this nature would always be hazardous in the face of a constitution in any degree competent to its own defense, and of a people enlightened enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal usurpation of authority . . . . If the people were not tainted with the spirit of their State representatives, they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution, would throw their weight into the national scale and give it a decided preponderancy in the contest.”
The first statement contained the sentence a people enlightened enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal usurpation of authority. I find this choice of words interesting given that enlightened means to have intellectual or spiritual light; and usurpation of authority means illegal seizure and occupation of a throne. How true do these words ring today that the people must remain vigilant of their government and the laws that are passed unto the citizens themselves less they become subjects to the throne of government through unconstitutional laws and practices? Are we not experiencing a degree of this usurpation of authority today? Is one of the main reasons we gather daily on this web-site is to renew our vigilance and become enlightened with our founding documents?
The second statement reiterates this theme with the words as the natural guardians of the Constitution would throw their weight into the national scale and give it a decided preponderancy in the contest. In Paper 15 Hamilton tells us that the only proper objects of government are the persons of the citizens, so it stands to reason that they would be the natural guardians of the Constitution. And being guardians they would have the decided preponderancy; superiority in weight; power, to defend the Constitution against illegal practices on either State or Federal levels to ensure its authority. We, as citizens of the United States, are charged with this duty.
I find these words amazing.

yguy says:
May 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm
“What I would have liked defined was that rather vague commerce clause that has allowed the Fed to homogenize what was potpourri.”
However vague it may be, there is no way it can be reconciled with Wickard v. Filburn (1942), wherein SCOTUS held that a person not engaging in commerce could be penalized under color of the commerce clause.

Jimmy Green says:
May 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Interesting that Hamilton’s belief of state delinquencies in a confederacy would result in civil war.
Yet less than a century latter a civil war between the states would arise under a constitution that Hamilton felt would prevent it.
I believe Hamilton’s desire for a constitution that must be able to legislate over the state and citizens is an implicit understanding of the nature of any true Federal System. The problem is the balancing act between a sovereign state jealously protecting its states rights and an federal government with certain enumerated powers over the sovereign states. Hamilton’s view of the powers of the federal government often seem like a dark cloud on the horizon. Granted the federal government in order to maintain the union has to exercise a degree of control over the states and citizenry.
However this is done via our elected officials in the congress. The States and peoples views are expressed through them such that hopefully any federal legislation is not unseemly harsh on the state or citizens as if they were blindsided. Hamilton’s writings seem somewhat of a dark nature and come across to me as someone who places state sovereignty a distant second to federal prerogatives. However reading the founding documents will show that states vigorously enforcing state rights its necessary to prevent that which Hamilton believes will occur under a confederacy.
Its good that Hamilton recognizes that the states should definitely intervene if the feds legislation becomes a “tyrannical exercise of the federal authority”.
However that’s an extreme viewpoint with most government tyrannies today being a rather long affair that slowly change the country with most of the citizens unaware of the slo-mo tyrannical creep. Interesting read.

Andy Sparks says:
May 19, 2010 at 7:29 pm
Jimmy, I think you hit the nail on the head with Hamilton. Remember he was born and grew up in the British West Indies. He didn’t come to America until he was 17, so he had no loyalty to any particular state. While he was educated and settled in New York, he joined the Continental Army only a few years later. What better place to gain an interstate perspective than in the army. Under Washington’s tutelage, he quickly learned about the deficiencies of the Congress under the AOC during the war in regards to raising troops, supplies, and other necessaries to keep the army going. I think any reference he makes to state power is so to appear not too enthusiastic for a national government. After all, he is trying to convince those moderate anti-federalists to vote for ratification. If it were up to him, he would have preferred a British style government; in fact his detractors referred to him as a monarchist while he headed the Federalist party.

Barb Zakszewski says:
May 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm
Both Hamilton and Madison seemed to have crystal balls at times, with their keen ability to look 100-200 years into the future. Hamilton argued that the Articles of Confederation could eventually set of a “civil war”..Yet 75-80 years after Ratification of the Constitution, the United states was involved in a “Civil War”…the War for Southern Independence. Although this war was considered to be chiefly over slavery, it was a war also for States Rights, for the 10th Amendment..Many of the things Hamilton predicted in Federalist 16 actually came to pass, by then, and that is what got things started.
As for comments made towards the end of the paper, Hamilton is saying that citizens will tolerate a lot from their government, unless government evolves into a tyranny, similar to what is happening today with the Socialist President and Congress we seem to find ourselves with. I believe there is a tie in to what Hamilton says here and the part in the Declaration of Independence that warns when government sinks to absolute despotism, it is our right and duty to throw off such government and provide new guards for our future security.
The more involved I become in this project, the more I can see where the Nation is going now; we must educate ourselves our families and our friends so that we can fight this and reclaim our Great Country!! The Founding Fathers, rather than being irrelevant as many Liberals think, are becoming more relevant with each passing day. We MUST listen to what they have to say.
God Bless this Great Nation!!

William Matthews says:
May 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm
No one has mentioned this, but under the Constitution Senators were selected by their states not like they are elected today. Before a bill could become a law, each of the states two senators had a chance to weigh in on it. In essence the states had actual representatives in the national government and states could actually control much more how their Senators voted. So perhaps when Hamilton is referring to the Constitution being superior he’s also meaning that states get to exercise their influence without needing to individually approve each law?

Jimmy Green says:
May 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm
Thanks for the input Andy. I plan on reading Hamilton’s autobiography in the near future to gain a better insight on him. Sadly as I’m living in the peoples republic of California, the founding fathers and the founding documents are not rated very highly. But there is hope that one day it will.

Susan Craig says:
May 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm
I think we have a lot to thank or accuse Rhode Island for. If they had not refused to consider ratifying any and I do mean any amendment to the Articles of Confederation how different a picture this would be.

Constituting America says:
May 19, 2010 at 11:45 pm
I want to let you know that I have begun a short film with my daughter for my “Daily Behind the Scenes Videos.” Tonight is Part 1. Check it out. The link is on the website on the home page or the link to the YouTube version is on the Constituting America Facebook Page. It’s going to be fun! I direct these and edit them on my computer nightly – with the help of my daughter, of course. The goal of these videos is to enlighten American citizens about our great United States Constitution, our “90 in 90” and our “We the People 9.17 Contest” so, spread the word!
Here we are at Federalist Paper No. 16! I want to thank Marc S. Lampkin for joining us again today. We are so lucky to have your scholarly insights, Mr. Lampkin!
Alexander Hamilton’s quote, “When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation,” speaks volumes. First of all, it is how Alexander Hamilton died, in a dual of passionate discord with Aaron Burr. Secondly, I can’t help but find relevance in these words regarding the situation in Arizona. The more I read, absorb and learn about our United States Constitution, the more I start seeing all aspects of our current political environment through Publius’ eyes –
their reasoning, their framework – which, of course, is the whole point of our “90 in 90.”
“When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation,” starts to make more and more sense to me when I witness, with the rest of America, the friction between our “United States”, Arizona and California. It was experienced over two hundred years ago, has happened throughout our history and it is happening today – “faction.” What we are experiencing as a country is a sample of what would have happened if we had not ratified our Constitution. There would have been no way to keep the peace and find a unity in vision and mutuality of purpose.
Thus, my current assessment is that the cohesiveness of a Federal government served and should continue to serve its purpose in certain areas – one of those areas is the defense and protection of her states.
Thus, the question begs the answer. Why hasn’t the Federal government protected her border states? Yes, states have rights, and yes, the Federal government has grown way beyond our founding father’s intentions but in this instance regarding defense, the federal government should have stepped up to the plate. Arizona has been left to fend for herself and is getting abuse from all angles.
Consequentially, we are witnessing state against state – accusations, misinterpretations – faction. Will California boycott her ally? Will Arizona turn her brother’s lights?
“When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation.”
Let us experience the freedom, uniqueness and independence as individual states yet, the unity of brotherhood as a country. Once the sword is drawn where will the passions end? Discourse is an enticement. United we stand. Divided we fall. Has this not been the theme of these Federalist Papers?
God bless,
Janine Turner
May 19, 2010

Roger Jett says:
May 19, 2010 at 11:45 pm
As I have been reading day-to-day the many comments posted to this wonderful forum, I’ve come to appreciate how well read many of you are. It challenges me to study, learn and evaluate how our nation’s Founders strove to provide us with the best government possible. It was not easy for them to establish it, nor will it be easy for us to do our part to restore what has been largely lost. I too find myself at that point that Susan Craig described earlier today, after having read a lot of the writings from the time of the “Declaration of Independence” through the second term of George Washington’s Presidency, she finds herself squarely between the two factions on the issues of the day. As I have read a number of the arguments presented by Jefferson, Mason and Henry, I find myself influenced by points that they made. I don’t find that troublesome …. I do find it most helpful in obtaining a more balanced understanding and more informed opinion. I don’t always find myself agreeing with all that gets said on this forum, but I believe that the process has challenged me to evaluate what I think is right, true and has caused me to grow a little more strong and firm. Thank you Janine, Cathy and all the rest of you who participate. May God bless you all !

Constituting America says:
May 20, 2010 at 1:35 am
May 19, 2010 – Federalist No. 16 – Cathy Gillespie
A big thank you to our guest blogger Marc Lampkin! Marc, thank you for guiding us today!
I so appreciate all of you who take the time to comment. You often see nuggets of wisdom in these papers that I have glossed over on my first reading, and your posts send me scrambling back to find the phrases you elaborate on.
Two phrases jumped out at me upon my first reading of Federalist 16, though, and they are the same mentioned by Nickie and Carolyn:
An experiment of this nature would always be hazardous in the face of a constitution in any degree competent to its own defense, and of a people enlightened enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal usurpation of authority. The success of it would require not merely a factious majority in the legislature, but the concurrence of the courts of justice and of the body of the people. If the judges were not embarked in a conspiracy with the legislature, they would pronounce the resolutions of such a majority to be contrary to the supreme law of the land, unconstitutional, and void. If the people were not tainted with the spirit of their State representatives, they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution, would throw their weight into the national scale and give it a decided preponderancy in the contest. Attempts of this kind would not often be made with levity or rashness, because they could seldom be made without danger to the authors, unless in cases of a tyrannical exercise of the federal authority.
“A people enlightened,” ”natural guardians of the Constitution”
“We the people,” are the natural guardians of the Constitution, because as our country drifts from the Constitution, it is “We the people,” who have the most to lose. If we are not “enlightened,” to understand what we had, and have, we will certainly not know what we have lost, and are losing. And our children will understand even less than us. We must not only enlighten ourselves, but enlighten our children, so the torch of freedom may be passed to the next generation of Americans. Watch Janine’s Behind The Scenes Videos starting today, as she teaches her daughter about the Constitution in a several part series!
I am both amazed, and a bit embarrassed to admit how much I am learning through this exercise. I graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in political science, yet I don’t recall ever picking up the Federalist in college. This reading is my first time through these prescient papers. Tonight, I feel empowered that I am becoming “enlightened,” and that the founding fathers considered us – ‘we the people” – to be the guardians of the Constitution. The more I learn, the better I can guard it! And the more I can teach my children! On to Federalist No. 17!
Good night and God Bless,
Your fellow guaridan of the Constitution,
Cathy Gillespie

Dave says:
May 20, 2010 at 1:41 am
Here’s how I see No. 15 and No. 16. Hamilton is laying the foundation of his argument for ratification and basing it on man’s actual experience through history of forming civil governments, human nature, and most importantly for his argument, the actual experience the Americans had with the government under the Articles of Confederation. I need not repeat his parade of horribles here. He had to convince the New Yorkers that the current system was making their lives miserable whether they knew it or not, and that a strong, energetic, centralized, national government was the answer to all their prayers. If they would just stop being so biased towards their narrow, local interests. He assures them that the states will retain their due sovereignty, but the national government will be the supreme sovereign concerning the national objects under its authority.
The new plan would be different in significant ways from the failed confederations of the past. Those alliances always broke down in predictable ways because they were not consonant with human nature. If I may jump ahead an essay, in No. 17 Hamilton tells us:
“It is a known fact in human nature, that its affections are commonly weak in proportion to the distance or diffusiveness of the object. Upon the same principle that a man is more attached to his family than to his neighborhood, to his neighborhood than to the community at large, the people of each State would be apt to feel a stronger bias towards their local governments than towards the government of the Union; unless the force of that principle should be destroyed by a much better administration of the latter.”
We care more about that which is close to us, and we should. Hamilton wants us to give up some of that local care and concern and cede it to the national government in our own enlightened self-interest. And up to a point I think he’s right.
I would caution vigilance for the corrupting influence of power, for the tendency to be profligate with other people’s money, and mission creep. If the national government had stuck to the plan of being a limited government of enumerated powers, and if it had not spent decades and decades trying, and failing, to be all things to all people, we might not be in the sorry state we are in now.
The Founders saw the states within the new plan as laboratories of democracy. Some states’ experiments would be successful and emulated; other states’ experiments would be colossal failures and be rejected, or at least should be rejected (think CA, MI, and NJ.) In this way, mistakes would stay local and not doom the entire republic. The fiscal black hole some states, cities, and corporations are in has been caused almost exclusively by bad legislative, economic, and business decisions. Bailouts using taxpayer dollars to reward imprudent local decisions creates what economists call a moral hazard and offers exactly the wrong kind of incentives with other people’s money, our money.

Dave says:
May 20, 2010 at 3:15 am
Andy, good points about Hamilton the man. I tend to bask in the glow of his brilliance and genius (he was only 30 or so in the summer of 1787,) but then I force myself to consider what aspects of his psychology and life experiences could be influencing his thoughts on government. Madison’s notes of the Federal Convention have Hamilton laying out his plan on June 18. An executive elected for life with supreme veto power? How could he think that was a good idea?
Jimmy, you had written yesterday, “I would be more interested in Hamilton’s views on what should occur if the Federal government fails to uphold its enumerated powers.” That’s exactly what I’ve been wondering. The three branches of our federal government seem to have come to the conclusion that it’s just too much trouble to get the people to act in their constituent role as the “natural guardians of the Constitution” and amend the Constitution; they, our “agents and trustees” (No. 46) just ignore the Constitution and work their way around it, but they do make sure to pay it lip service at the appropriate times.
With the benefit of hindsight, I am amazed at how often in the papers, Publius warns us of what, to him, was the major threat to liberty. He thought the abuse of power would come from the states. After all, the federal government is a creature of the states or a servant of the states. It could never be the case that the creature would supplant the creator or the master would become the servant. Oh really? And something else that still troubles me in the federal system that they were proposing, with its dual sovereignty in different spheres and even with its guarantee of republican government in the states—What is to be done when a state exhibits tyrannical tendencies and is technically not in violation of the Constitution, but is in violation of the founding principles located in the Declaration of Independence? How was the slavery issue to be resolved? Abortion?
Last thought: For the new federal plan to work, the Framers had to have some presuppositions in mind about man and about the world. Were any of the presuppositions necessary for the perpetual success of the union under the constitution to be ratified? And would it be the case that any state of affairs not including those requirements would spell doom for the union.

Guest Blogger: William C. Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

One of the most significant criticisms of the proposed Constitution was that it would eviscerate the autonomy and authority of the individual States. As Alexander Hamilton described it, the argument was that the Constitution “would tend to render to government of the union too powerful, and to enable it to absorb those residuary authorities, which it might be judged proper to leave with the states for local purposes.” While some today would not think of that as a weakness, this criticism was important because both the Framers and many of their contemporaneous critics believed that functioning States were crucial to ordered liberty. Thus, the Constitution provided that of all the appropriate objects of government authority, only a small and specifically identified set would be delegated to the national government, by the States.

So, in Federalist 17, Alexander Hamilton could respond to the criticism by arguing that the threat actually goes the other way (that the States might interfere with the proper ends of the national government). He supported his arguments for the likely predominance of State power by noting that: (1) the enumerated powers of the national government (commerce, finance, negotiations, war) will likely be very alluring targets for people driven by ambition so they won’t bother with the larger set of issues regulated by States, (2) meddling in local concerns would likely create enough trouble for the national government as to make doing so undesirable to national officials, (3) the people of the States would not likely stand for the usurpation and they are the constitutions of the national government.

In support of this last point, Hamilton notes that it accords with human nature: “It is a known fact in human nature, that its affections are commonly weak in proportion to the distance or diffusiveness of the object.” Thus, “a man is more attached to his family than to his neighbourhood, to his neighbourhood than to the community at large” so “the people of each state would be apt to feel a stronger bias towards their local governments, than towards the government of the union, unless the force of that principle should be destroyed by a much better administration of the latter.” The States also have the important advantage of being responsible for matters “of criminal and civil justice” which make them “the immediate and visible guardians of life and property.” The national government, dealing only with “more general interests” that are “less immediately under the observation of the mass of the citizens” is “less likely to inspire a habitual sense of obligation, and an active sentiment of attachment.” Since the States “will generally possess the confidence and good will of the people” they “will be able effectually to oppose all encroachments of the national government.”

Hamilton’s analysis is persuasive but might seem a little alien in a climate where the national government increasingly dominates not only the objects of proper governmental authority but areas of life the Framers would not have contemplated government would regulate. Nevertheless, Hamilton does hint at a motivation for this dramatic incursion of the national government. Thus he notes that hypothetically “mere wantonness, and lust for domination” could lead national leaders to desire to interfere in State prerogatives. He believed, however, that the political process would turn back any such incursions since the States, with the support of their citizens, would “control the indulgence of so extravagant an appetite.”

Why has this check not been more effective? Perhaps it would have been if the sole threat to the notion of a national government of limited powers was the personal ambition of national leaders and others who might have a financial stake in government functioning. A more menacing challenge, however, was developing in Europe at the time of the Framing but which had not taken root in the fledgling United States. This was the emergence of ideology and its attendant schemes for improving not only the administration of traditional government functions but rather human nature itself. The scope of such an ambition obviously would not be confined to interstate commerce and international relations but would also contemplate the objects of State governments like criminal and civil justice. In this project, the States have too often been complicit in order to secure largesse from the national government. Then, as the province of the power of the national government expanded, the subjects which might tempt ambitious individuals and financial speculators multiplied and created interest groups with a strong incentive to continue national involvement in traditional State concerns.

The best hope to change this state of affairs is a return to the modest scope of national power and the reemergence of robust State authority.

Mr. Duncan is director of the Marriage Law Foundation ( He formerly served as acting director of the Marriage Law Project at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and as executive director of the Marriage and Family Law Research Grant at J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he was also a visiting professor.

33 Responses to “May 20, 2010 – Federalist No. 17 – The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: William C. Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation”

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 20, 2010 at 8:06 am
I appreciated Mr. Duncan’s insight into Paper 17, and realized as I read his analysis of Mr. Hamilton’s writing, that where the Paper was to warn of the dangers a very robust State may have on National authority; today we see the reverse to be true, where a robust National authority usurps the State’s power.
During Hamilton’s time, the men in Congress served part-time and worked a great deal in the private sector. So when Hamilton writes ‘relating to more general interests, they will be less apt to come home to the feelings of the people; and, in proportion, less likely to inspire an habitual sense of obligation, and an active sentiment of attachment’, I realize how far we have come from the framers original intent. Today our representatives in Congress are full-time delegates; many never having worked in the private sector, making laws over citizens with no sense of reality as to what it takes to survive in mainstream America.
This part of our framework I fear is broken. I believe our founders never intended Congress to be so removed from their citizens, taking on the role of knowing what is best for their constituents, and making laws without their consent. The Great Cement of society has cracked.
I enjoyed Hamilton’s reference to the feudal systems of Great Britain. Being an avid reader of that period of time, I could visualize the struggles between the feudal baronies and clans, not only against the crown, but with each other, and within each group of people. Hamilton writes ‘the separate governments in a confederacy may aptly be compared with the feudal baronies; with this advantage in their favor, that from the reasons already explained, they will generally possess the confidence and good-will of the people, and with so important a support, will be able effectually to oppose all encroachments of the national government.’
Again, during Hamilton’s time, I believe this statement had greater import, but today with the States giving the Federal Government so much of their power, they do not retain a great deal of the confidence and good-will of their citizens. Many of their citizens do not realize that a lot of the entitlements that they receive from the State are due to monies being received from the Federal Government in exchange for State authority. And if they do realize it, how many of them understand the consequence?
With the ratification of the 17th Amendment, I believe the power of the State diminished.

Charles Babb says:
May 20, 2010 at 9:00 am
Thank you Mr. Duncan, for that synopsis and for your analysis. Hamilton seemed to miss one “fact of human nature” regarding “its affections”; that is the one of individual and collective greed. “In this project, the States have too often been complicit in order to secure largesse from the national government.” We’ll give back some of your citizens’ tax dollars, for school construction as long as you agree to teach your children what we tell you to teach them.
And it could not be said better; that, “The best hope to change this state of affairs is a return to the modest scope of national power and the reemergence of robust State authority.”
What is needed now is a plan to accomplish that goal.

Susan Craig says:
May 20, 2010 at 10:52 am
While I grant that Hamilton’s point of view has merit from the divisiveness that comes from internal squabbling. But what happens to the country when the abuse comes from the other direction? What happens when the greed and power hunger abuses the intent of the enumerated powers? In Federalist 17, Alexander Hamilton responds to this by arguing that the threat actually goes the other way (that the States might interfere with the proper ends of the national government). He supported his arguments for the likely predominance of State power by noting that: (1) the enumerated powers of the national government (commerce, finance, negotiations, war) will likely be very alluring targets for people driven by ambition so they won’t bother with the larger set of issues regulated by States, (2) meddling in local concerns would likely create enough trouble for the national government as to make doing so undesirable to national officials, (3) the people of the States would not likely stand for the usurpation and they are the constitutions of the national government.
Today I don’t see much of that but I do see a lot of usurpation of State, local and individual rights by the Federal Government, this I think is a result of ignorance and laziness on the part of the individuals.

Linus Behne says:
May 20, 2010 at 1:04 pm
Boy, I sure wish that Alexander Hamilton was correct about the national government staying out of the business of the states. Hamilton would be shocked if he came back to life today. The Federal government wants to stick its’ nose into everything.
One of my favorite lines from Fed 17: “It is therefore improbable that there should exist a disposition in the federal councils to usurp the powers with which they are connected; because the attempt to exercise those powers would be as troublesome as it would be nugatory; and the possession of them, for that reason, would contribute nothing to the dignity, to the importance, or to the splendor of the national government”.

William Duncan says:
May 20, 2010 at 1:54 pm
Thank you for these excellent comments. I am much from your responses and am glad the essay sparked these thoughts.
I agree that our situation now is pretty grim in terms of centralization of power in the national government. One thing that I believe would make a difference is for states and individuals to resist the temptation to accept federal funding in some instances.

William Duncan says:
May 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm
The first sentence in the second paragraph of my comment should have read “I am learning much.”

Susan Craig says:
May 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm
How I wish that today’s iteration of our ‘Constitutional’ government would think that the usurpations were “nugatory” (of little or no consequence: trifling, inconsequential: having no force: inoperative: synonym – vain)

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm
Susan, I agree with you to some degree on the ignorance of the individual due to the lack of correct US History being taught in the public school system, however; I do not concur with the word laziness. The majority of Americans today are very hardworking people, many taking several jobs to keep afloat, and I think that is the crux of the problem. So many people are on auto pilot in political matters of our country, and do not have the time nor energy to keep up with all that is happening today. Many people work long hours and only look for a small reprieve from their work by the end of the day/week. Others honestly thought that the problems we are experiencing today never could happen.
I heard a current poll today that asked if you were satisfied with the direction the country is going. Only 23% of the people polled agreed, the rest were deeply dissatisfied. I think we can safely assume that the 23% is from the left who have very liberal agendas.
I believe with every day that goes by, more and more people are finding the energy and the courage to take a stand. Now if we could get our representatives in Congress to do likewise.

Maggie says:
May 20, 2010 at 2:11 pm
I don’t think that Hamilton ever envisioned things going so far in the opposite direction because it has always been the American Spirit to work hard for what we have. We have become a nation full of people with our hands out. When you expect others to take care of your every need without working for it yourself, you give up many rights in return. We the People have handed our rights over, slowly but surely because we have become lazy and complacent.

Ron Meier says:
May 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm
As others have noted, the current situation is greatly different from what could have been anticipated 200 years ago. States have allowed themselves to have their authorities and powers over certain areas of responsibility be minimized by federal mandates on a whole host of areas. As a consequence, the states have allowed themselves to become dependents of the national governmennt. Today, we see that many of the most populous and powerful states are in a state of almost permanent weakness, due to their own fiscal mismanagement, and thus are not able to take back what the federal government has taken away; they are responsible for all that is wrong in their states, but the federal government holds the reins of authority, and the states have no power to correct anything. Effectively, the states have been neutered in small bites by the feds.
Therefore, it is now up to the people. It seems that many of us have intuitively realized that the states cannot and will not fight back, and that is the genesis of the tea party movement. This movement is unfolding and untested, and we won’t know if it can effectively take back what has been taken from us over a hundred years. I remember Warren Buffett saying recently that “we have been selling our country to foreigners a little bit at a time.” Indeed we have; we’ve also been selling our individual and states’ rights a little bit at a time. Each tiny step didn’t hurt at all, so we kept selling. Now, while the individual steps were no problem, the cummulative effect of those tiny steps is killing us. Kinda like smoking; pleasurable over many years, but fatal sooner than hoped.

Will Morrisey says:
May 20, 2010 at 3:06 pm
I think that Hamilton’s key point is that the original design or structure of the U. S. federal system gave the states the means of resisting federal-government encroachment. The centerpiece of this was the Senate. Recall that the senators under the original system were not elected directly; they were appointed by the state legislatures. Quite often, those legislatures would sent `their’ man to Washington with expressly-stated directives on how to vote. Contrast this with the system brought in by the Progressives, under the Seventeenth Amendment. From then on, a U. S. Senator simply did not need to worry much about any directions or resolutions from his/her state legislature. A Senator’s political `power base’ is quite independent of the legislature of his home state. This is one major reason why federalism doesn’t work as intended. It’s not Hamilton’s fault, or the fault of any of the founders. It’s a much later development.

Constituting America says:
May 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm
Where did we go wrong as a country that we let the Federal government overtake the states? This was obviously not the intent of our founding fathers. As explained in Federalist Paper No. 16, the communities and local passions were to always be the stronghold against the homogeneous nature that springs from a Federal formation.
Obviously, Alexander Hamilton could envision great commerce and industry from such a fastidious people as Revolutionary Americans, but how could he see the vast transformation of communication and transportation? From his post in the 18th century, the local influences and perspectives were dominant, and the national sways were secondary.
He could not imagine the amazing feats in engineering that would revolutionize transportation broadening the horizons of the people. Nor could he foresee the formidable transformations resulting from the inventions of the telephone, radio and television. With this occurrence, the states lost their uniqueness, the people their distinctness and the federal government gained power – a shift occurred.
But was this enough to open the door for the Federal government to eat away at the core of the states’ powers?
What gave the Federal Government the power to encroach? Perhaps it was the Constitutional Amendment XVI – Income Taxes. What was the incentive that enticed the people to forfeit their individuality and their rights? Subsidies – the spoon-feeding mentality that usurped the American “can do” spirit.
The slippery slope began. Alexander Hamilton stated in Federalist No. 15, “When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation.”
Perhaps it should be, “When the sword of taxes is drawn, the passions of government observe no bounds of moderation.”
Knowledge is power. With the awareness and education of the true intention of our United States Constitution, the American spirit will be revived and the people will recognize the power of their vote. Our Republican form of government offers the way to rectify.
To quote Alexander Hamilton, “There is one transcendent advantage belonging to the province of state governments, which alone suffices to place the matter in a clear and satisfactory light.. I mean the ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice.”
The criminal and civil justice belong to the states.. something to ponder.
God Bless,
Janine Turner
May 20, 2010
P.S. I thank William C. Duncan for joining us today and for his insightful essay! Thank you, Mr. Duncan!

Susan Craig says:
May 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm
The ‘laziness’ I was alluding to was not that of hard labor but of intellect and inquiry. Our propensity to go along to get along. The laziness is in trusting what the ‘talking heads’ and politicians say not digging into the details of what is behind the pretty sounding titles and sound bites. My current example of this is the trust we had when the ‘talking heads’ and politicians said that the passed version of “Health Care” [prime example of a misleading title] did not contain a public option – THEY LIED! It is there just buried in the care of the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (Section 1334, pages 97-100).

Dave says:
May 20, 2010 at 4:24 pm
Carolyn, well said. You got me thinking about how different public officials and citizens were in Hamilton’s time compared to today. Citizens were probably not as mobile back then, so when they settled on a place, it was a place where they would invest considerable time and resources. Early Americans must have been very attached and loyal to their local communities and states. They knew that any public improvements would be improvements they would enjoy for many years, so public projects were heavily supported locally (no stimulus money needed back then.) How loyal to their local communities are today’s representatives of the people. They are in Washington more than their home states. They won’t even meet with constituents for town hall type meetings. They vote for social policies even when their constituents are against them 5 to 1 or even 10 to 1. How loyal were the Clintons to Arkansas? How many politicians sell out their states to obtain a federal post? From how many laws do the federal legislators exempt themselves? Arlen Specter wanted power so bad he switched parties and abandoned any principles he may have had.
As I read No. 17, I kept writing in the margin “wrong.” Hamilton had certain expectations of how things would play out. Evidently modern man has become much more imperfect and degraded than Hamilton could ever conceive. It’s obvious to me Hamilton has a blind side. He cannot envision the general government being the source of infringements on individual liberty. Granted the states at the time were not bastions justice and magnanimity, and something had to be done.
Hurray Charles. I’m sick and tired of what Ronald Reagan, many years ago, called the money merry-go-round—citizens compelled to send their hard-earned tax dollars to Washington, only to have it trickle back to their state at the whim and behest of federal bureaucrats. Federal money is for FEDERAL PROJECTS duly enacted that benefit the whole republic. Spending federal dollars on non-federal projects is unconstitutional.
Reps have a duty to protect their state’s enlightened self-interest and constitutional sphere of state authority on behalf of their constituents. This duty I’m suggesting is not to imply an abrogation of a state’s federal responsibilities, nor is there any implication to disparage or diminish the constitutional prerogatives of the federal government or those of the 49 other states. What cannot be allowed to continue is for the states, and the state actors, to continue to accept the role of mere agents for the federal government. Madison in Federalist No. 46 puts the agency relationship in the proper perspective: “The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers and designed for different purposes.” In a nutshell, local money, to the greatest extent possible, should stay local for local purposes.
My thanks to Mr. Duncan.

Dave says:
May 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm
Thanks for bringing up the Seventeenth Amendment Professor Morrisey. What was it that sold the Amendment to the states? Why would they give up such a key component of federalism and a check on the passions of the people’s house with a different scheme of composition for the senate?

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 20, 2010 at 4:57 pm
I think it is more stupid arrogance of our elected officials. When in any other time of history would you have heard these responses:
“Many senators and congressmen have taken offense to the idea that they read these bills.
Representative John Conyers didn’t know what the point was in reading it because he wouldn’t understand it anyway.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer laughed at the idea of reading the health-care bill saying, “If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes.”
Representative Henry Waxman admitted he didn’t know the details of his own Cap and Trade bill.
And Senator Arlen Specter said they couldn’t read the whole bill, because they have to “make adjustments very fast.” Link:
More constituents knew what was in the HC Bill than Congress did. I do agree many constituents are lazy when it comes to researching their candidates before voting for them; but hopefully this Novemeber that won’t be a problem!

Dave says:
May 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm
Susan, nihil sub sole novum (nothing new under the sun.) Jefferson had this in the Declaration of Independence: “all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Hard-working Americans have been hard at work supporting themselves and their families. As individuals they give time and money to their churches, charitable organizations and to the community. They never saw the slow switch when public offices became places of profit instead of places of honor. Hard-working Americans have been too busy to be political activists and “organizers.” I think they’re realizing quickly that they cannot afford to be too busy too much longer.
I think the masses have become too accepting of pronouncements from a self-anointed elite class. Universal healthcare? Let’s see, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, PGBC, Amtrak; failure, failure, failure, failure, and failure. Why would anyone think the government being everyone’s doctor is a good thing?
The moral fabric of Americans having become frayed, Americans have succumbed to the siren song of the free lunch. Too many Americans think it is morally acceptable to have others provide for that which they can, but refuse to, provide for themselves. I love Janine’s
line about America being built by Americans, not with their hands out, but with their hands at work. Contrast that with Nancy Pelosi’s recent utterance about the healthcare bill: ““We see it as a entrepreneurial bill – a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care.”
So, if the marketplace has determined that you really suck at something, no worries, the taxpayers will subsidize your “artistic efforts.”

Jimmy Green says:
May 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm
Hamilton’s arguments that the Federal Government would never usurp the States sovereignty in its laws simply due to the lack of interest or as Hamilton states “can never be desirable cares of a general jurisdiction”. is something I agree with not because of a lack of desire by the fed’s but rather a restraining system of checks and balances working properly to enforce this restraint. Power generally begets more power when it can and Hamilton knew this so a simple belief the Feds would have no further interest to usurp state sovereignty regardless of a constitution seems week at best.
This paper seen in the perspective that the constitution will work as written would in effect allow everything Hamilton wrote in essay 17 to work as so written. In that context I agree with Hamilton and we could rewrite essay 17 as essay common sense.
Our attachments are greater to those nearer. Our bias would be towards our State. Even the state criminal and civil laws or justice will bind the people to their states. “Unless you’re guilty.” Okay all common sense.
The exception is Hamilton’s belief that the feds need to worry more about the states encroachment on the fed. The congress will be enacting “federal” legislation and since the “federal” courts will determine the constitutionality of the “federal” laws vs. the states.
I would have thought this alone would give Hamilton pause in his belief on the reality or not of state encroachment.
Hamilton upbringing and early adulthood probably colored his view differently from the average Americans as some have pointed out to me.
Also the essays were written to achieve consensus in New York on ratifying the constitution so some liberties may have expressed Hamilton’s desire but not actual beliefs.
I’m curious to know if Hamilton believed there was a threat to state sovereignty or if he cared. He understood the corrupting influence of power. The drive of power for powers sake and the inherent jealousy and ambitions to abuse the common man in pursuit of power. Yet he seems devoid of understanding that when the Federal Government is left to determine the constitutionality of any law against a sovereign state through the federal governments own federal courts that your only asking for trouble. The final arbiter of constitutional law is the Supreme Court. Just a bunch of federal “lawyers” sitting around deciding what they believe is write or wrong. If they follow a fairly strict interpretation of the constitution then were all reading from the same play book. Life is fine, the sun shines and the bees buzz. It’s when decisions based on egos or the sudden finding of a hidden meaning in the constitution that no one before them found or god forbid “I want to leave a legacy”. Then the rule book is always changing and we start to look like those feudal systems Hamilton discussed. This was an inherent danger the founders overlooked that we need to remedy today less we move further away from the founding documents.

Susan Craig says:
May 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm
There’s the rub. (to quote a famous Dane). What we have at federal level is not the deliberative body it was envisioned to be. They are trying to be all things to all people and being none to everybody. They are reactive thinking [and I use the term loosely] that we being an instant society need everything done yesterday if not sooner.

Roger Jett says:
May 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm
Dave, You asked earlier in reference to the 17th Admendment, ” what was it that sold the Admendment to the states?”. I think the answer to that question is that it was the desire of the people. Overtime their was enormous dissatifaction over the process of having U.S. Senators elected by state legislatures. Pressure was exerted on both the U.S. Congress and upon the state legislatures to allow their direct election by the citizens. Congress resisted, but state legislatures acquiesced to the will of the people. By 1912, (29) state legislatures elected U.S. Senators via state referenda. It was only after the state legislatures were on the verge of achieving a two-thirds majority in a movement to call for a convention for a constitutional admendment, that congress relented and proposed the 17th Admendment. The Admendment was ratified by 37 out of a possible 48 states with only one state explicitly rejecting it.

Susan Craig says:
May 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm
I don’t know but when it was briefly covered in either my high school or college history courses I think the selling points were supposedly “We the people” are supposed to be the final say in our ‘democracy’ (note how the fact we are a representative republic is not to be spoken) so why should there be another body of our ‘betters’ choosing the most powerful position in the legislature. Somehow they neglected to point out it is the directly elected representatives who have the power of the purse and that legislation at least nominally is to originate from there too.

Will Morrisey says:
May 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm
There had been numerous attempts to amend the Constitution to require direct election of senators; the first such attempt was in 1826. By the time the amendment was passed in 1912, 29 of the 48 states had direct elections `in effect’; that is, they had nonbinding elections, but the state legislators pledged to vote for the top vote-getter. Amendment 17 is one of the Progressive-era amendments; as one would expect, the argument was that democracy in principle should involve direct popular election of legislators. The Heritage Guide to the Constitution has a good, short account of the matter.
Janine Turner adds an important point about the income tax amendment, passed around the same time. These two amendments were characteristic moves of Progressivism: If you are out to build a centralized, modern state, you need big revenue source, such as an income tax (mere tariffs won’t do); in addition, you need political structures that do not in any way depend upon the will of the subordinate political structures in the system. This sets up a system that appears to be more democratic than its predecessor (and in some respects is more democratic) while at the same time funding a bureaucracy that will effectively serve as an UNelected `fourth branch of government’–that is, as a new and oligarchic element in the regime.

Roger Jett says:
May 21, 2010 at 12:55 am
Dr. Morrisey, Many seem to be in agreement that the 17th admendment was a poor decision. I’ve tried to listen and remain open on the matter, as I have evaluated the various arguments for and against it’s ratification. I have to entertain thoughts about where would we be now if we still left it up to the state legislatures to determine who represents in the Senate. Who can say what impact the 17th Admendment has had in the last 96 years or so, but certainly there has been some effect caused by it. What that might be is speculative at best. One point however is that the legislative landscape at the state level has been dominated by one party consistently for a long, long time, while at the national level there has been substantially more balance between the parties in the U.S. Senate. I don’t want to argue that we are always better off if a particular party is in the majority. However, I believe most people recognize that when we have a party that has too large a majority for too long a period of time, then abuses occur. Many Americans breathed a little easier when the balance of power shifted ever so slightly in the Senate this past January. If Article I, section 3, were still in effect , with partisan politics as it is, what would be the status in the Senate. We currently have Republican control over 14 state legislatures and Democrat control over 28 state legislatures. In seven state legislatures neither party controls and apparently Nebraska’s Legislature is considered nonpartisan. In my mind, I see this scenario resulting in at least 56 Democratic Senators and at least 28 Republican Senators, with a lot of contention transpiring in the remaining 8 states over how to decide who gets the remaining 16 Senate Seats. I for one am glad it’s the people who decde.

Dave says:
May 21, 2010 at 12:59 am
This is better than a college seminar. Thanks for all the great comments about the 17th Amendment. I think the amendment disrupted the balance the Founders’ tried to achieve in accommodating the different faculties of men and hence different material conditions as Madison wrote about in No. 10. The Senate seemed to be designed to keep the levelers at bay. But now you have two lower houses, one of which has a 6-year term–let the great leveling begin, for Madison tells us that “the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.” (No. 10) To “the People” of the populism movement who wanted a senate that looked like them, I have one thing to say–”How’s that working out for you? A few years back a study was done of the financial wealth of senators and found that 40 percent of them were millionaires. Not quite a mirror image of the general populace.
Isn’t getting rid of the aristocratic leanings of the senate like Hamilton’s example of when the sovereign and the common people “effected a union between them fatal to the power of the aristocracy[?]” In this context, I can’t help thinking about the title of a history book on the Russian Revolution by Orlando Figes–”A People’s Tragedy.” The people always think they’re going to come out way ahead and they never do.
As I read more and more about our early republic, I’m troubled with a recurring thought–Have we become a people incapable of governing ourselves?

Susan Craig says:
May 21, 2010 at 8:18 am
The more we push self-esteem over self-accomplishment and allow “the devil made me do it” instead of insisting on the self-determination of ones actions the less governable we become. Governance begins with self.

Will Morrisey says:
May 21, 2010 at 9:09 am
Roger Jett makes a key argument. My point is simply that one can’t have two opposite things at once. That is, you can’t have federalism as “The Federalist” conceives it and also have the popular election of senators that has brought greater representation to the Republican Party in the Senate–unless you figure out some other institutional device that would shore up the states by giving them a more direct voice in the federal government. Alternatively, under a system of renewed control of state legislatures over the Senate, Republicans would need to take state legislative elections much more seriously and work to win majorities in them. There would undoubtedly be much more media focus on such elections if more were at stake in them. When it comes to state legislative elections, maybe Republicans have reaped the harvest of their own inattention.

Dave says:
May 21, 2010 at 10:31 am
Roger, thanks for your insight. But the people did decide before the 17th Amend., it’s just that under the framers’ plan they decided indirectly by electing the local legislators. The senate was to be the repository of the accumulated wisdom of the nation. It was set up to throw cold water on the heated passions of the lower house. They were supposed to be the best and the brightest; an aristocracy of merit not heredity (if my ancient Greek does not fail me, I think aristos means best or most noble.) The unique concerns of the senate laid out in the constitution were far removed from local concerns. Treaties, foreign trade, federal appointments, and national security were not what the common people were thinking about on a day-to-day basis–they wanted to know if the crops and animals were taken care of.
I haven’t had a chance to read up on the 17th Amend., but my guess is that there had to be corruption, or abuse of power of some kind, to upset the people of the time.
The American people of the 21st century are too ignorant of the long-term impact of their ill-considered public policy desires. Our rights of private property will always be sacrificed on the altar of democracy. If the masses can confiscate the wealth of the few through the use of government under the color of “social justice,” “economic justice,” “environmental justice,” and “shared responsibility,” they will. The senate was supposed to be populated with disinterested statesmen of integrity and honor–closer to Franklin than Franken. The civic knowledge landscape of the American electorate and the elected is not a pretty picture. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s ( reports for the last few years present a dismal, horrifying dumbing down of Americans. We’ve gotten to the point where someone like me, just a common man, could now be seen as an elitist.
Just give the people their bread and circuses (panem et circenses) and the individual rights and liberties of others can be trampled without notice or concern to the long-term detriment of all.

Dave says:
May 21, 2010 at 10:57 am
Susan, we do irreparable harm to the individual and his potential to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life when we show such little respect for his free will and his autonomous self-determination by not holding him accountable for the consequences of his actions.
I got an idea. If anyone wants a bailout, they must seek it from family, friends and willing strangers. The anonymity of individual and corporate welfare payments lacks the transparency to make people accountable. There’s no sense of shame, no sense of honor; just entitlement. It’s so easy to spend other people’s money.

Susan Craig says:
May 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm
Dave, that is my prime objection to a majority of national welfare programs. It subtly tells the recipient that they can’t make it therefore they need to be cared for. Enslaving those take the ‘entitlement’.

Dave says:
May 21, 2010 at 2:28 pm
Susan, to me it’s even more insidious than simply telling the recipients that they can’t make it. The “welfare” is sold as something they are entitled to because their situation came about through no fault of there own–certain external constraints kept them from living a life of excellence. But for certain classes of people holding the recipient back because of prejudice, monopoly power over capital, or any other made up reason our recipient would be the next Edison or Gates. The system allows people to forget that before the government can “benefit” certain individuals, it must necessarily deprive others. A government has nothing prior to taking from the governed.

Roger Jett says:
May 21, 2010 at 7:50 pm
Dave, I find that what Dr. Morrisey and you have had to say today has great merit and serves to help us focus more upon the real underlying issues and less upon the “appropriateness” or, perhaps the “inappropriateness” of the 17th Admendment. The Founders sought to preserve sovereignty to the states and to the people in those areas which were not specifically enumerated to the federal government. I believe we each agree that to the detriment of America we have drifted substantially away from where the Founding Fathers intended for us to be . In my opinion some of that drifting may have been the result of unrealistic expectations on their part. After all, much that they attempted was experimental and on a grand scale. However, while they may have been mistaken in a few of their methods, they proved to be overwhelmingly correct in their concepts, precepts and principles. Our goverment as built upon our Constitution, has withstood many tests over a period of time that is unequaled in history. However, I believe I’m on target when I say that there is a consensus that we are in grave danger of losing our republic form of government. We face many difficulties. By way of what Dr. Morrisey calls a Fourth Unelected Branch of the federal government (bureaucracy), the executive branch is managing to usurp power from the legislative branch. By judicial activism, the judiciary branch further usurps power from the legislature as they legislate laws from the bench. Of course as has often been discussed already, the federal legislative branch in conjunction with the federal judiciary has routinely overriddened the sovereignty of the state governments. We the people have grown selfish, complacent, apathetic and in increasing numbers more and more dependent upon the federal government. Such actions and lack of action invites bondage. We still have a “republic” and it’s time for us to wake up, cast off our fears and fight to save it.

Kay says:
May 21, 2010 at 11:21 pm
I have nothing to add, except my thanks for all the bloggers and essayist Mr. Duncan. As one of you mentioned, this is better than a class. I read today one little ray of hope: the Constitution is selling like hotcakes. The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and even our Congressional offices who have free copies are experiencing a rush of requests for the Constitution.

Dave says:
May 22, 2010 at 9:24 am
Roger, I wholeheartedly agree. Thanks for taking the time to write so many well thought out comments for this project. You used the word “drifted” and that is a word that has found its way into my vocabulary with increasing frequency. Paul Rahe used it in the title of his book Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift. I haven’t read it yet, but it did get me to read selections of Tocqueville–check out the short chapter six of part four in volume two entitled What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear. Tocqueville foresaw the Nanny State and the Administrative State 175 years ago.
I’m not well read enough to see the big picture yet, but I’m going to keep reading.

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


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


Guest Blogger: William C. Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Federalist 20 is one of a series of essays that discuss the governmental precedents of other nations as illustrations of some of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. In it, James Madison discusses the Netherlands, painting a picture of a weak government held together by a strong magistrate and the pressures created by hostile surrounding nations. Madison underscores the fact that the government has overstepped its constitutional bounds on occasion because those bounds do not allow it to meet emergencies.

A lesson here is that a weak and ineffectual government is a threat to liberty just as an overly strong and active government would be. He explains that the experience of the Netherlands demonstrates: “A weak constitution must necessarily terminate in dissolution for want of proper powers, or the usurpation of powers requisite for the public safety.” The implication for the United States Constitution is that it must create a government capable of meeting true emergencies and dealing forcefully with threats from other nations. The failure to do so not only could result in dissolution, but ironically, could lead to too strong a government: “Tyranny has perhaps oftener grown out of the assumptions of power, called for, on pressing exigencies, by a defective constitution, than out of the full exercise of the largest constitutional authorities.”

Madison attributes the weakness of the constitution of the Netherlands to “the calamities brought on mankind by their adverse opinions and selfish passions” and recommends that Americans “let our gratitude mingle an ejaculation to Heaven, for the propitious concord which has distinguished the consultations for our political happiness.”

In addition to evoking gratitude, there is another important lesson in Federalist 20 for current political debates.

In the Pennsylvania Convention, John Dickinson had taught: “Experience must be our only guide. Reason may mislead us.” At the end of Federalist 20, Madison explains why he has spent time describing the precedent of other nations in words that echo Dickinson’s: “Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.”

An obvious application of this point is to the ongoing debate over whether our government should continue to press for greater and greater social controls. It would seem obvious that the unequivocal disaster of socialist and communist governments ought to warn us away from that precipice.

More generally we can heed the Framers’ example of willingness to learn from experience rather than to trust only in their unaided ability to reason out new solutions. Subtle thinking and cleverness have their place but must be disciplined by a willingness to learn lessons from human experience. One of the greatest strengths of the U.S. Constitution is its dual application of (1) the principles of self-government learned in the colonial experience and (2) the lessons of history derived from careful study and reflection.

Returning to a theme from the discussion of Federalist 17, there is a temptation to apply not experience, but ideology, to problems we face as a nation. Doing so appeals to a hubristic temperament. Some will always be dissatisfied if political reality is not made to conform to prefabricated theories even when doing so requires compulsion and control. In fact, the ability to control society may be the attraction of such theories; at least to some of their adherents.

The Framers eschewed easy answers and paid the price in experience, deliberation and study to create a secure foundation for our national government. That foundation incorporates the lessons of experience. Our response to current challenges must do the same.

Mr. Duncan is director of the Marriage Law Foundation ( He formerly served as acting director of the Marriage Law Project at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and as executive director of the Marriage and Family Law Research Grant at J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he was also a visiting professor

16 Responses to “May 25, 2010 – Federalist No. 20 – The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union, from the New York Packet (Hamilton & Madison) – Guest Blogger: William C. Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation”

  1. Charles Babb says:

    This morning I sent the following message to my children.

    “Those who are not informed of what they possess will not recognize when it is taken from them. Nor, can they preserve it for their prodigy.

    William Duncan has blogged an informative op ed in response to our reading of FEDERALIST No. 20 this morning and I invite you to take a few minutes and read it.


    Understanding what is needed won’t help much if I don’t take some positive step toward implementation. Eventually we can all begin to demand that those seeking elective office exhibit an of understanding of and a desire to support the truths we believe in.

  2. Maggie says:

    Madison and Hamilton state that “a weak constitution must necessarily terminate in dissolution for want of proper powers, or the usurpation of powers requisite for the public safety.”…..It is in the name of “safety” that the government has continued their unrelenting power grab. I’m sure we have all seen what an overbearing parent does to the will of a child. When does a parent let the child grow up and fend for himself? This goes for both “safety” concerns as well as being financially responsible. How brilliant these two men were when they said, “let our gratitude mingle an ejaculation to Heaven, for the propitious concord which has distinguished the consultations for our political happiness.” Our “new” system works. Why are we not rejoicing to God that it has brought us thus far and doing all we can to protect it rather than looking back with fondness upon the many systems that have failed time after time?

  3. Susan Craig says:

    What crystal ball did they have? Or was it just a true understanding of history and its lessons?
    This paragraph brought me up short!

    This unhappy people seem to be now suffering from popular convulsions, from dissensions among the states, and from the actual invasion of foreign arms, the crisis of their distiny. All nations have their eyes fixed on the awful spectacle. The first wish prompted by humanity is, that this severe trial may issue in such a revolution of their government as will establish their union, and render it the parent of tranquillity, freedom and happiness: The next, that the asylum under which, we trust, the enjoyment of these blessings will speedily be secured in this country, may receive and console them for the catastrophe of their own.

    We have Michigan, California, Louisianna and Arizona. We have Islamic radicals, several countries that don’t like us very much (Venezuela, North Korea and Iran) not to mention those that wouldn’t mind seeing us taken down a peg.

  4. Ron Meier says:

    Thanks for the Dickinson quotes, Mr. Duncan, especially “Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.”

    For the longest time, I had tried to show several otherwise very logical and rational friends, all with advanced degrees, including PhD, the folly of their thinking, by comparing reality to their ideology. For example, an atheist friend believes Radical Islam is not a problem and we should not be fighting a war in the Middle East. I pointed out that an atheist has the most to fear from Radical Islam because they would be forced to convert to Islam or be killed. Since an atheist does not believe in life after death, they would be most disappointed to be killed before their otherwise natural death; yet, if they are true to their atheism, they should not convert. Therefore, I would submit that Atheists should be the ones whom we might expect to be most adamant in pursuing the war on Radical Islam, to insure that they are never faced with that impossible choice.

    After awhile it finally hit me that logical and rational reasoning, supported by experience and facts, was 100% ineffective in arguing with those whose ideology trumps all facts and experience. Now, generally, I ignore their comments and don’t waste time. It seems that my time is better spent discussing with those who are fence sitters and open to ideas rather than those who are confined to their ideological straitjackets.

    I wonder what Mr. Duncan might think about the utility of arguing with these kind of ideologues and what advice he might have for us so we can be more effective? Certainly marriage counseling has many similar circumstances and I would assume similar roadblocks are encountered there.

  5. Dave says:

    Mr. Duncan, well said. Thank you.

    Charles for Father of the Year!

    Maggie, I concur. With increasing frequency we are told of a crisis and the impending doom if we don’t grant Washington more power, control and more of our money.

    And we haven’t been rejoicing to God for our good fortune for over one hundred years, because some pointy-headed, hubristic “intellectuals” thought man could do better. Man can create that utopia that God has so cruelly and stingily withheld. After two world wars one would think our days of longing for a man-made utopia contrary to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” would be over.

  6. Karen Sherer says:

    This study of the Federalist papers has really brought home to me the plain fact that a thorough knowledge of history is not “a useless course of study. I’ll never use it in my life. Why take it?” It is so very true that our current administration (and many others before it) DO rely on their pure ideological goals and either ignore or never learned the lessons of history.

  7. Bache says:

    The wisdom obtained and applied by the Founders required diligence, dedication and knowledge. The personal principles each contributing writer and scholar to our Constitution and foundation of our country came with sacrifice. I believed that they recognized their own inadequacies and were willing to listen to experience and to the history. B. Franklin once said, ” The doors of wisdom are never shut.”

  8. Susan Craig says:

    There is a book titled ‘The World Turned Upside Down’, that demonstrates that reason comes out of religion and that eventually all genres of thought that say religion is inimitable to reason and logic eventually hit a point which is unreasonable and illogical. The author is Melanie Phillips.

  9. Carol Frenier says:

    I, too, continue to be interested in the impact of ideology on both 1) failing to see the importance of experience and 2) the desire of some to expand the power of central government. Can you recommend a good history of ideological development in American politics?

  10. Laurie says:

    I was concerned that no one responded to Carol Frenier’s writing yesterday about what this ideology from Europe is that we keep referring to as the one that is a threat to the America that our founders gave us. I immediately think of a mandatory course in 11th grade, “Americanism vs Communism.” Bet that’s not mandatory anymore. Whether you want to call it Socialism or Communism, it is an ideology that gives the wealth to the political or ruling class and makes the rest of us basically equal. (See Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela) A European book that was recently translated into English is “The Coming Insurrection” by the Invisible Committee, how to bring down governments, even the family. ( has it) Also, study Saul Alinsky’s Rules for radicals and the Cloward and Piven strategy, you can Google those. They also preach how to overwhelm the welfare system in order to bring American capitalism to an end. The Drudge Report has a story today how “government provided benefits are at record high” and “paychecks from private businesses at record low.” (About 42%) Who is going to pay all these benefits? Unions want a 165 Billion Dollar bailout for their pensions. State worker unions want 100 Billion Dollar bailout. This is what the radicals want. Who is rioting in Greece? Labor Unions and Radicals. I’m afraid we are being set up by Overspenders in Washington, who want to collapse free enterprise and all our liberties. That is why this Federalist study, learning what Americanism is again is so terribly important.

  11. Carolyn Attaway says:

    As Susan pointed out, the paragraph that begins ‘This unhappy people . . .’ could very well be written to some extent of America today. Reading headlines such as “Redistribution Victory: Private Pay Plummets, Govt Handouts Soar”, “ObamaCare Lawsuit Reveals National Grab to Regulate Individual Decisions”, and “Nonpartisan Proof: Cap-and-Trade Is an Economy-Killer”, brings home the point addressed in Paper 20 that ideology over experience always leads to failure. I believe that many nations have their eyes fixed on us, some praying for our strength, and others for our demise.

    Which leads me to the most important statement that I have read so far in the Federalist Papers; with added words “Experience is the oracle, the divine revelation of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, absolute, they ought to be conclusive, decisive and regarded with reverence, sacred.

    As Mr. Duncan points out, “Subtle thinking and cleverness have their place but must be disciplined by a willingness to learn lessons from human experience. One of the greatest strengths of the U.S. Constitution is its dual application of (1) the principles of self-government learned in the colonial experience and (2) the lessons of history derived from careful study and reflection.”

    Of this great strength in our Constitution, can we make the argument that our Congress is not paying much heed to the second application, and that many of America’s citizens themselves have forgotten the valuable lessons of history? I am always taken aback when I mention a relatively known country such as Wales, and the large number of people who do not even know that Wales is a country, much less where it is located.

    So how can one study the history of a country, if they do not even know that that country exists? One of my favorite videos on AFV is when the father of a little 2 year old girl asks her to point to various states and cities on the map, and when she is correct in her answer, she does the “Smarty Pants Dance” (It still makes me giggle) Anyway, maybe we should take this lesson and apply it to students of all ages, reinforcing the idea that knowledge of history makes one very wise.

  12. Kay says:

    The premises and arguments of The Federalist Papers are seeping into my being. Two weeks ago I wrote a two page letter to my congressman (remember the NY 23rd district race) with concerns, and ended it with: “Our founders were wiser than the whole Congress put together today, having foresight because they had hindsight on what works and does not work for a nation to prosper. They did not live in the moment because they desired that the Constitution be a lasting document, not like the legislation Congress is passing that will destroy us as a people.” Because of the essayists and commentators on this project, my thinking is being refined and focused on the whys behind our wonderful Constitution. May we all have opportunities to pass onto others what we are learning.

  13. The Ransom of Reason

    Reason be and reason we
    Away our distant shores
    Wander not and wanton trot
    Afraid of written mores

    Did we not through seasons see
    The meaning, yet for many
    We forgot the how,
    We riddled out the penny

    “I know this and I know that
    Believe me for I’ve the vision
    Follow me and listen now
    For I rewrite the mission

    We is the forgotten us
    It matter not for you
    I seek your best and vest my truths
    It is I who reap the view.”

    Freedom this and Freedom that
    Ring in empty vestibules
    History renders ghosts forgotten
    Lost the written tools

    “I seize the rapture
    Seek doleful and the bane
    Meeker making spirit spree
    I linger not in vain

    Feed the weakness, starve the heart
    Watch the soul regress
    Rhyme and reason take their toll
    Happy opportune the guess.”

    By Janine Turner
    May 25, 2010

  14. Laurie says:

    The God that the founders turned to in 1776, is the same One today. Without Him, we will not succeed in our desire to re-found our nation on the principals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Make no mistake. Without Him, we will be overwhelmed by the agenda from others. Our founders didn’t just have incredible knowledge of history, they believed in God, and His special purpose for America. That was their strength. We must have the same strength today. Those who believe in America, must believe in the God of our Founders, Who gave the incredible power and foresight and knowledge to help them to create our exceptional-ism, never before in the history of the world, a country of freedom and liberty and justice for all. Truly, a miracle.

  15. Maggie says:

    Janine……that’s absolutely beautiful!

  16. Roger Jett says:

    Laurie, I agree. Even the “Deist” of our day can see that we live in “a time that try men’s souls”, but it will require that “we the people” once again awaken to the faith of our fathers. A faith that not only acknowledged Him the “Creator” as He was ….., but that He is and that He will always be the “Sustainer” and “Giver” of all good things. You said in your post that “they believed in God, and His special purpose for America.” There are those who dispute that and have long been laboring in the margins of our society to knit a fabricated false rewrite of history. Unfortunately, they are no longer operating in the margins. They are positioned in high places and with each day they seek to entrench. As you say, “Without Him, we will be overcome by the agenda of others”. We can reason and trust that He that is the “First Cause” is more than able and can effect the restoration and sustainment of all that we desire, “a country free and liberty and justice for all”.

Guest Blogger: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The Federalist #21: In Defense of Politics

Hamilton opens Federalist #21 with a continuation of a theme:  it will be easier to understand the need to adopt the new Constitution if the defects of the old Articles of Confederation are better understood.  He embarks on an effort to outline what he calls the “enumeration of the most important of those defects which have hitherto disappointed our hopes from the system established among ourselves.”

He starts with the fact that under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government had no power to enforce its rulings.  He sees this as an almost fatal flaw.  He complains that the “most palpable defect of the subsisting Confederation, is the total want of a SANCTION to its laws. The United States, as now composed, have no powers to exact obedience, or punish disobedience to their resolutions, either by pecuniary mulcts, by a suspension or divestiture of privileges, or by any other constitutional mode.” In addition to the hardships  that beset any government incapable of enforcing its on rules and laws, Hamilton explains that such a posture is certainly unique among nations.  He argues that there are no nations — kingdoms or any other kinds of governments which operate without the fundamental ability to carry out its interests.

A second flaw in the present system is that in almost all respects the states are left to fend for themselves.  In one crucial way, Hamilton points out this isn’t even in the interest of states.  What happens in the event there is a local insurrection?  There is no ability for the governor of one state to enlist the citizens of another state to step in and offer assistance.  Thus, there is the potential that states would have to devote significant resources solely for domestic armies that would lay in wait for an uprising meanwhile draining the treasury.  Collectively one might imagine this duplicative waste across the several states equaling more than the amount that a federal government would use to handle the same concerns.  Additionally, the mere fact that the federal government could respond to an internal insurrection could be sufficient to prevent one from forming altogether.  Hamilton further points out that the Constitution’s guarantee that all its citizens would have a “republican” form of government means that in the event the leaders of a state attempt to declare a dictatorship or otherwise suspend democratic control the Federal government could intervene to return liberty back to the hands of the people.

Hamilton turns next to the taxation system set up under the Articles of Confederation.  The “quotas” system that he derides essentially assessed the states themselves instead of having direct taxing authority.  Hamilton explains that a system based on state assessments would fundamentally fail to meet the needs of the American government.  It would be insufficient and in his view significantly inequitable in that it simply presumed that all states were equal in most respects financially.  Hamilton explains that “there is no common standard or barometer by which the degrees of it can be ascertained. Neither the value of lands, nor the numbers of the people, which have been successively proposed as the rule of State contributions, has any pretension to being a just representative.” Furthermore he explains, “there can be no common measure of national wealth, and, of course, no general or stationary rule by which the ability of a state to pay taxes can be determined. The attempt, therefore, to regulate the contributions of the members of a confederacy by any such rule, cannot fail to be productive of glaring inequality and extreme oppression.” While making his argument for a federal consumption tax, Hamilton demonstrates a degree of clarity about the consequences of tax rates being too high that many modern leaders would do well to recall.  If you tax too high, you get less.   Hamilton explains, “It is a signal advantage of taxes on articles of consumption, that they contain in their own nature a security against excess. They prescribe their own limit; which cannot be exceeded without defeating the end proposed, that is, an extension of the revenue. When applied to this object, the saying is as just as it is witty, that, “in political arithmetic, two and two do not always make four.” If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds.

With the three defects that Hamilton identifies by implication the answers provided in the U.S. Constitution are clearer and more readily understood.  The Federal government in the Constitution has the power to enforce its rules, defend each of the states individually and collectively and finally assess taxes directly rather than through the states.  Prior to this change the Federal government was indebted, powerless and in many ways so weak, it threatened the liberty of all Americans because it was unable to defend them against most threats.

Horace Cooper is the Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

12 Responses to “May 26, 2010Federalist No. 21Other Defects of the Present Confederation, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

  1. Ron Meier says:

    Cathy has called us to encourage children to participate in this project and contest. I’ve forwarded the link to a principal of a Christian school, but it then occurred to me that schools will be closed for the next several months. So, I sent a link to the woman at my church who runs the Children’s ministry; Sunday schools and Vacation Bible Schools will continue to operate all summer, so they are a good source to get children involved with Constituting America. If we all contact our church children’s ministers, we might get more kids involved.

  2. Maggie says:

    That’s a fantastic idea Ron. I’ll be sending a link to my church’s youth leaders.

  3. Charles Babb says:

    Good move Ron; It is frustrating, to me, to see how easy it is to acquire this information, and to realise that many of our leaders don’t seem to possess it. We have a mid-term election this year and I decided to send the following email to a candidate for Congress from my District.

    “I would sure feel more comfortable casting my vote for you, if I saw that you were participating in this program.

    It appears that too many of our leaders have not made a commitment to understanding our Constitution and why it developed as it did.

    Knowing that those who seek leadership roles are truly committed to preserving that which has made US the greatest Nation in existence, is important to all voters.

    You cannot preserve it, if you don’t understand and live it.

    Seeing your name in our daily blogs would mean to me that you truly do understand and that you are truly committed to preserving our way of life.”

  4. Susan Craig says:

    With the first flaw identified in #21 has merit I don’t think the power of enforcing unfunded mandates was something the founders envisioned. Unfunded mandates in many ways contribute in major ways to not only State budget woes but to the health care costs problem.
    With the second expounded, we see an abrogation of that in the current illegal alien situation. The invasion of our country by people who start off their residency demonstrating a disrespect for our laws is compounded by the movement for boycotts between neighboring states.
    Problem 3 is a well duh! I find the counter-intuitive fact that the more you tax the less you get one of the things that I can not understand how the people in politics do not see it.

  5. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Susan people in politics do see it and they ignore it. It is all about the next election cycle and what will get them reelected. When politics became a very profitable profession with life time benifits and very little service is when “We” the people started loosing control of our government and as the number of citizens grew that do not have an investment (income tax) in our government they demand more and more and politicins are all the more ready to give it to them to insure their election to office.

  6. Susan Craig says:

    I suppose I sort of knew that. But being the pie-eyed optimist I hoped that it was not across the board.

  7. Roger Jett says:

    With much insight and skill, Horace Cooper has expounded upon the increased focus that Hamilton has placed toward the “defects” and shortcomings of that form of government prescribed under the old Articles of Confederation. In my post, I ask to be allowed to take a bit of a light-hearted yet I hope pertinent look at that process that we as a nation went through as we debated, charted and then negoitiated our course by which we arrived at a newly designed and better government.

    I begin by confession to the fact (as my family will verify), that I have this tendancy to reduce and relate many things (for which I devote much time), to either an episode of the old Andy Griffith Show, or to a scene from the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou”. Well today’s epiphany was inspired by the afore mentioned movie and it helped me grasp a better understanding of how things were for our young country during that time that we were linked together under the “Articles of Confederation”. If you are familiar with this movie, let me direct you to a scene that appeared early on. The main characters, Everett, Pete and Delmar while in prison have formed a “confederacy” with the common goal of achieving freedom. While they are able to escape the chain gang, they are still hindered by the fact that they are in shackles and chains that link them together. As they make their awkward and laborious run for freedom, they must work as a unit because they are literally bound to each other. Necessarily, a joint and coordinated effort must be made in order to put distance between them and the pursuers hounding them. Disaster strikes as they attempt to hop a freight train and it is quickly revealed that there are serious “defects” in their newly formed confederacy. The outside viewer quickly realizes even if Everett, Pete and Delbert fail to fully do so, that this small confederacy, as it is currently formed, is in great danger of not surviving. As they made their run to hop the train, Everrett manages to make it inside the freight car, but fails to remember that his success as an individual is linked to the rest of the confederacy. Delmar only makes it halfway in and Pete after running too great of a distance, falls down and of course Delmar and then Everrett are pulled from the train. After this debacle they individually arrive at the conclusion that a convention is needed in order to review and reconsider the the current form of government for this “outfit” and debate what changes are needed.

    The individual wills are causing division and friction within the group. Also, it has become clear that there has been a failure to determine and define definite lines of authority by which effective leadership can be achieved and maintained. Pete is especially unhappy with Everett’s presumption of a leadership position. Everett makes the case that he, because of his superior intellect should lead. SORRY! I’ve apparently exceeded an allotted amount of space. Hope to finish in another pos

  8. Roger Jett says:

    This is a continuation of my earlier post at 4:20pm. Everett makes the case that he, because of his superior intellect should lead. However, the viewer has already witnessed Everett’s failure to help Delmar and Pete succeed in getting into the freight car ….. a failure that caused the whole confederation to fall off the train in defeat. Self proclamations and self appointments do not make leaders “bona fide”. Later scenes give us further reason to question the ability of Everett to act in the best interest of the others. Everett is determined at all cost to hold his position as “pater-familias”, but finds himself in grave danger of losing his headship over his seven young daughters. If a man fails his wife and daughters, can he then be trusted to be the “bona fide” leader of our little confederacy? Oh constant sorrows!
    Pete displays that he is independent minded and strongly stands up to argue and vie for the leadership role. He has common sense, is committed to duty and loyal (especially to kinfolk). Pete will not be railroaded (though he might fall down while catching a train), but does he have vision and the overall capacity to lead?
    Delmar is the valley of humility in between the two mountains of self-interest. Instead of siding with one faction over another he simply takes the diplomatic position of ” I’m with you fellars”. We chuckle, but that individual quality was greatly needed during the time of transition from the old way to the new. Delmar best represents the many who are first and formost self-governed by the “golden rule” and they serve to be cohesive for the group at large. They hold us together during times of heated debate so that the debate can be completed and hopefully the best interest served. Thankfully, our Founders were successful in their great endeaver to bring about a strong constitutional republic. A government that has enabled us to protect our persons, our property and our freedoms. Thankfully, long after they lost their chains and shackles, Everett, Pete and Delmar also went on to form a more perfect union ….the “Soggy Bottom Boys”.

  9. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Thank you Mr. Cooper for your insightful analysis of Paper 21.

    The 3 flaws that Hamilton describes are indeed matters of grave importance for the reasons he mentions, as well as National Security beyond invasion by a foreign power.

    In the second flaw Hamilton points out that States are left to defend themselves, and the trouble the States incur may be too large for them to handle alone.

    Today, many States have to fend for themselves because the Federal Government won’t help them whether by choice or oversight, many speculate on the reasons, but the fact remains that many States are without federal assistance. Border States have to deal with illegal immigration relying on their own resources to guard against illegal entry and activity. Gulf States have to direct their own cleanup efforts from the BP oil spill because of the absence of Federal help; and then on the other hand the Federal Government criticizes them for taking action.

    I believe we as a country are at the point where Hamilton states “The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men.”

    The third flaw is very present in our Congress today. Hamilton states “If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds.” My daughter and I were discussing our economy today, and how that states compared to each other.

    On average, the northern states are heavy laden with unions and high taxes, whereas the western states are quickly becoming bankrupt because of their liberal policies. Yesterday the headlines disclosed the following: Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds. At the same time, government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.

    According to news reports, most states in the Sunbelt have the lowest taxes and largest amount of private businesses. Even though all states are struggling to balance their budgets, and are having to make major cuts in state programs, the Sunbelt states are generally faring better than their sister states. This example tends to support Hamilton’s third flaw and should give high tax states and the Federal Government pause.

  10. Susan Craig says:

    2nd attempt. Chuck, I sort of knew that but being a wild-eyed optimist did not wish to believe it was deliberate.

  11. Yesterday, May 25, 2010, marked the 223 anniversary of the convening of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The National Constitution Center is sponsoring an innovative Twitter program which Constituting America is promoting: .

    The premise is that a rogue delegate is secretly “tweeting” from the Constitutional Convention and giving us “the inside scoop.” It is fun! If you are on Twtter, check it out! If you aren’t on Twitter, consider signing up! It is vital that we utilize “new media,” to spread the word about the Constitution and the founding principles of our country.

    Thank you to all of you who participate in this blog, follow Constituting America on Facebook (, and Twitter ( , and forward emails out to your friends! A big thank you, also, to Horace Cooper for sharing your insights on Federalist 21 with us!

    In Federalist 21, Publius begins an itemization of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation in order to build a case for the proposed Constitution. The Articles of Confederation were clearly not taking the country in the direction the founding fathers hoped it would go. Imagine what shape the country must have been in, in 1787, for our founders to have undertaken the monumental task of travelling to Philadelphia, and spending over three months in the oppressive summer heat crafting the Constitution.

    From Hamilton’s writings, it seems the national government did not have enough funds to operate, the states were not being adequately protected from domestic uprisings such as Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts, and the founders foresaw long term problems in the unequal way taxes were being collected from the states through quotas.

    How are these Federalist Papers relevant today? The United States of 2010 is again in a period of challenging times. A shaky economy, threats from our borders, and protesters from groups such as SEIU that are increasingly bold and unruly. Most recently to the point that Nina Easton, a member of the media who would normally support the rights of protesters, has openly condemned a group of over 500 who showed up next door to her home, on the lawn of her neighbor, Greg Baer.

    All the while, the national government seems to be ever growing and reaching, employing the “Star Trek” principle: Boldly Going Where No United States Government Has Gone Before – running our auto companies, our health care system, and even trying to dictate what types of food we eat!

    For those who are unhappy with the course of our country, there is solace in Alexander Hamilton’s words:

    Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of the people, there is the less pretense for the use of violent remedies in partial or occasional distempers of the State. The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men.

    Thanks to our Constitution, and our republican form of government, there is a structure in place to change the course of the country, and get back onto the path envisioned by our founders, the path of individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise.

    Tough times in 1787 sparked an amazing document that has guided our country for over 200 years, now the oldest federal constitution in existence.

    What positive outcome will the tough times of 2010 produce? I am praying it will be a rekindled passion for the United States Constitution, and the founding principles of our country – the principles that have allowed us to be, in Janine Turner’s words, “America the beautiful, America the hope.”

    Good night and God Bless!

    Cathy Gillespie

  12. Debbie Bridges says:

    I was really surprised when I read the argument for the Consumption Tax. We have this same idea being raised and fought for today with the Fair Tax. The IRS has become way to powerful and invasive and the tax system in our country is broken just as it was back when we were under the Articles of Confederacy. I have been learning so much from these posts and will continue to read and eventually catch up with everyone.

Guest Blogger: Dr. Will Morrisey, William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

The Federalist #22: In Defense of Politics

Publius here concludes his critique of the old constitution, the Articles of Confederation, a critique he began with Federalist #15.  To understand this critique, we need to step back and consider the problem the Founders intended to solve: Can modern states practice politics?  This seems an odd question.  There seems to be no shortage of politics in the modern world.  And why should politics—messy, compromising, frustrating, roiling politics—be something anyone would want to encourage, anyway?

Undeniably, politics has aroused the interest of the greatest minds: Plato titles his most famous dialogue Politeia, which means “regime”; Aristotle devotes an entire book to politics.  In that book, Aristotle points to the family as the embryo of politics; in the household we can see the DNA of political life.  Aristotle identifies three kinds of rule within every family: the rule of master over slave, whereby the ruler commands the ruled for the benefit of the ruler; the rule of parent over child, whereby the ruler commands the ruled for the benefit of the ruled; and the reciprocal rule of husband and wife, in its proper form a consensual rule animated by discussion and compromise—“ruling and being ruled,” as Aristotle puts it.  An overbearing spouse acts like a master or parent toward one who does not by nature deserve to be treated like a slave or a child.  Genuinely political rule consists of this consensual rule, rule along the marital rather than the masterly or parental model.  In human societies only tyrants attempt masterly rule, only kings attempt to rule as if they were fathers of their countrymen.

The small, ancient polis and the larger feudal communities lent themselves readily to political rule.  In a polis, where everyone knows everyone else, unquestioned rule of one over many seldom lasts.  Under feudalism, the presence of numerous titled aristocrats, each with his own independent source of revenue and of military recruits, will not submit to tyranny forever, as King John of England should have learned at Runnymede, but didn’t.

By contrast, the political engine of the modern world, the state, threatens to put an end to political rule, to make all rulers rule in masterly/tyrannical or parental/ authoritarian modes.  Large and centralized, the state can mortally compromise all independent bases of authority in its domain, repressing any need to discuss or compromise.  At the same time, the very power the modern state marshals requires all neighboring societies to institute states of their own, upon pain of conquest.

The Founders thus attempted something that seemed impossible: To constitute a modern state that is sufficiently powerful to defend itself against other states but nonetheless political, not masterly or tyrannical.  They solved the problem in principle by adopting and refining the idea of federalism.  A single, centralized state stunts political life, but if that state can be made to consist of a set of smaller communities, each with governing to do—townships, counties, and smaller states, all with their own responsibilities, and their own elected representatives—then politics can continue to flourish in the modern world.

Why should we want it to?  Because, as Aristotle argues, human beings differ from all the other animals in their capacity to speak and reason: If I say `Jump’ and allow you to say no more than, `How high?’ you may be speaking but you are not reasoning.  Your character as a human being suffers.  In political life, you can talk back. To be sure, at some point, you will run up against the `being ruled’ side of the Aristotelian equation.  But so will everyone else.

The Articles constitution tried to protect political life by keeping most of the American states small enough to feature political life but strong enough to be sovereign—even as, in federation, they multiplied their strength to fend off enemy states.  As Publius has argued in this series, however, the Articles constitution contradicted itself.  The general or federal government could only raise revenues and soldiers with the consent of the member states.  But there can be no “sovereignty over sovereigns.”  Disunion threatened.  Foreigners sneered and circled for the kill.

Publius lists seven additional defects of the Articles, all of them flowing from this overarching defect.  As seen in #21, the first three of these defects are the lack of sanctions for violations of federal law; the lack of any guarantee of mutual aid in case of usurpation within any one state; and the lack of any common standard for determining the revenues each state owes to the general government that protects them.

Publius now turns to the remaining defects, both material and moral.  Materially, the structure of government under the Articles constitution impedes national commerce by allowing member states to enact protective tariffs against one another.  Morally, this inclines each state to treat others as “foreigners and aliens”—the way Europeans do. Materially, the federal government also wields inadequate military strength, as states remote from the battlefields have little incentive to contribute men or material; morally, this leads to “inequality and injustice among the members.”

Speaking of inequality and injustice, equal representation of each state in the unicameral Articles Congress “contradicts that fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.”  Why will—why should—New York and Virginia long tolerate a government that allows tiny Delaware or Rhode Island to hamstring it?  Especially if the legislatures of the small states were to fall under the influence of foreign powers, and not republican ones.

To these economic, military, and political defects of the existing government, Publius adds another problem with the legal system.  Not only does it have no power to enforce Congressional laws, it lacks a federal judiciary to oversee “a uniform rule of civil justice.”  Without a federal judiciary, encroachment of federal authority by the states can find no defenders beyond the military; force, not law, will rule.

The Articles government has only one ruling institution, the Congress.  The absence of other independent but complementary branches of government might have undermined genuinely political life in the United States, except that the framers of the Articles made the Congress more or less impotent vis-à-vis the member states.  But this caused another problem.  Unqualifiedly sovereign member states will incline to violate the fundamental law of contract, of government by consent: That no party to any contract may excuse himself from the terms of the contract without the consent of the other parties.

Therefore, the new constitution will require ratification not by the governments of the states but by the people of each state, and moreover by the people of states now to be united by the only true rulers of a republican regime.  This new governing contract, “flow[ing] from that pure, original source of all legitimate authority,” will supply the national means needed to secure the national ends listed in the Preamble.  Therefore, also, the new and more powerful wielder of those means, the federal government, can no longer rest in the hands of one ruling institution, but in the tripartite structure of legislative, executive, and judicial branches.  This newly-devised institutional structure for American self-government can preserve politics, reciprocal ruling-and-being-ruled, at the highest level of American government without necessarily exposing Americans to conquest by imperial monarchies.

Will Morrisey is William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College.

14 Responses to “May 27, 2010Federalist No. 22 – The Same Subject Continued: Other Defects of the Present Confederation, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Dr. Will Morrisey, William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College

  1. Shannon Castleman says:

    There are some people who condemn people like Hamilton for being the “first types of big government politicians, because of the desire for a National Bank, and stronger central government.

    In my opinion, these groups of Federalist essays proves those naysayers wrong.

    The “Federalists” didn’t want BIGGER goverment, they wanted a WORKABLE governmet. We need to put ourselves in Hamilton’s shoes, where we see a government not even strong enough to raise revenues, or strong enough t raise a military. Of course we needed a “bigger” government a that time, or we woul have gone the way of Europe.

    Hamilton would in no way support “bigger” government if he awakened in 2010 America.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    Genuinely political rule consists of this consensual rule, rule along the marital rather than the masterly or parental model.  While Publius makes a great argument against the Articles of Confederation, I seriously doubt that he wanted the political pendulum to have swung so far that the power to exercise it in a paternalistic manner [such as today]. Professor Morrissey is profound when he points out that A single, centralized state stunts political life, but if that state can be made to consist of a set of smaller communities, each with governing to do—townships, counties, and smaller states, all with their own responsibilities, and their own elected representatives—then politics can continue to flourish in the modern world.
    American states small enough to feature political life but strong enough to be sovereign—even as, in federation, they multiplied their strength to fend off enemy states.

  3. Charles Babb says:

    Hamilton seems to be saying that, if the proposed new constitution is not adopted and if the existing foundation of government (Articles of Confederation) can survive the aggression of greedy, self serving men, it will evolve, bit-by-bit, into a structure of government not desirous by anyone.

    Is this not exactly what has happened to our Constitution? Have not (career) politician’s ignored the obvious wishes of the electorate, hiding behind (and serving instead) the power of political parties. No longer do they just overstep Constitutional authority, they thumb their noses at us and stomp all over it.

    If this were not so, why would an elected official have to hide what goes on in her office from view of the “public” she (or he) swore an oath to serve.

    Few of them today, would acknowledge that “The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.”

  4. Sorry guys, I thought I posted this last night.. I’ll check in later on Federalist Paper No. 22 :)

    Well, small business profits are on the decline and government provided benefits are on the rise. Carolyn, I read your blog and I also heard about these frightening statistics today. Socialism is rearing its ugly head. Next will be the general demise of spirit and motivation in our country. This exact scenario was predicted by Samuel Adams in his warning over two hundred years ago, “The pooling of property and redistributing of wealth are both despotic and unconstitutional.”

    As duly noted in last night’s reading of Federalist No. 20. We must learn from the experience of history. It makes no sense, and has been proven by history, that if a country becomes a nanny state and feeds the people’s every whim, punishes the hard working enterprising people, snuffs the spirit of business by taking over their free enterprise then the country and her citizens become mired down with a lack of motivation.

    If motivation is at a minimum, productivity ceases to prevail and if productivity ceases to prevail then there is no money for the nanny. If the nanny does not provide then the people rebel. When the people rebel then there is a need for a strong force to control. Enter Tyranny. Good-bye Democracy. Good-bye Republic.

    Carpe Diem. We must seize the day and reverse course while we can. This begins with knowledge and fortification. Wisdom whispers in the words of Publius.
    The answers are in the United States Constitution.
    Spread the word.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    P.S. I thank you Horace Cooper for joining us today and for your brilliant insights

  5. Susan Craig says:

    Power corrupts, the founders tried to hedge the access to power so that absolute power could not be concentrated to corrupt absolutely.

  6. marjay says:

    The problem with the National Bank is that when it was created in 1913, it was privatized. Jefferson warned again that. The Federal Reserve Bank is not an entity of the federal government at all. It is a privately owned and operated business. This fact is not commonly known. The bankers who own it have benefit of the interest derived therefrom, coming from loans to the federal government, using money the bank has CREATED. That interest money belongs in the nations coffers, not in the hands of the bankers. Article 1, Section 8, gives CONGRESS the power to coin money and determine its value, not private BANKERS, which is how Lincoln financed the Civil War, after private bankers refused to loan him money. Giving congress that power was a marvelous arrangement, subject to voter approval every two years at election time. That power was delivered up to what I would call “tyrants” when my grandparents were children. The Federal Reserve has never been audited. No doubt such an audit, which should be mandatory, would reveal an amazing history.

  7. Roger Jett says:

    Charles Babb, While I can readily agree with much of what you said in your post earlier today, I have to ask you to rethink on a couple of things. First of all, I wished you had worded a little differently your phrases, ” The fabric of the American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority”. Some might think that I’m arguing semantics , but I don’t think that the two words, “American” and
    “empire” should ever fall side by side when the subject is regarding our government. Empires have a single sovereign ruler and they are usually referred to as an “emperor”. I believe what you are saying …. the point that you are emphasizing is that ” the people” are the legitimate authority upon which our elected government officials gain their powers. As Dr. Morrisey points out as he quotes Hamilton, that it is fundamental to a republican form of government which “requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.” However, I’d like to emphasize that under our Constitution there are protections of unalienable rights for the individual as well as rights to the minorities, that government must respect. What may become deemed as the “CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE”, is not necessarily a determinant of what is fair and in the interest of justice. Under that concept, a majority of my neighbors might up and decide to take some of my property for public benefit without making effort to give me just compensation. Fortunately the Constitution even protects us from ourselves in that sense. The stream you speak of is in reality not that pure.

  8. Charles Babb says:

    @Roger Jett; I certainly can’t argue that point; that was just a copy and paste of Mr. Hamilton’s words. That’s why I included the quotation marks.

  9. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I find it amazing that with all the writing of how America should form a Federal Government to ensure commerce and national security, the founders wanted to keep the integrity of the free market system sound and thriving. If we travel back to Jamestown, many historians debate that with the Virginia Company being a publically traded company, English America was a corporation before it was a country. Our roots are founded in the entrepreneurial spirit of risk, hard work, and reward.

    To borrow the words from the novel “Love and Hate in Jamestown” by David A. Price: In their war for independence and their struggle to create a constitution, the Founders themselves had shown the same pragmatic qualities of mind that rendered Smith a hero. The actions of Smith, like the actions of the Founders, also point to a shared outlook on life; one in which a person does not look inward and wait for life to reveal its answers, for life itself is the one carrying out the interrogation. More than most people, Smith and the Founders attempted to answer the questions that life was constantly asking them-or, rather, the single question it asked them, and asks us, over and over. Life presented them with a series of astonishing possibilities and all-engulfing obstacles, all the while whispering to them:
    What are you going to do?
    What are you going to do?
    What are you going to do?

    Have we come to that place in history again?

    One has to wonder when our country is being invaded by illegal immigrants of many nationalities by crossing the southern border, and you hear news like this:

    “US National Guard troops being sent to the Mexican border will be used to stem the flow of guns and drugs across the frontier and not to enforce US immigration laws, the State Department said Wednesday. The clarification came after the Mexican government urged Washington not to use the additional troops to go after illegal immigrants. President Barack Obama on Tuesday authorized the deployment of up to 1,200 additional troops to border areas but State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters, “It’s not about immigration.” Link:

  10. Jimmy Green says:

    Hamilton’s desire to have a Federal Government regulate commerce between the states seems reasonable at first, forgetting momentarily of the disaster this has lead to today. It would I think allow developing a more standard set of trade rules and I suppose it would give foreign nations more confidence in one regulated system instead of dealing with thirteen colonies, or would it. I would almost suggest that left alone the states would develop a set of mutually advantageous trade rules to simply improve trade. Although still for foreign nations it is easier to negotiate one treaty not thirteen.

    I think more insightful of weakness in a confederacy is as Hamilton states “want of a judiciary power”. A federal court system with a Supreme Court that unifies and enforces the states with a uniform set of laws is paramount. Again momentarily forgetting the disaster those unelected oracles in robes unleashed on the states via the commerce act among others. It seems obvious any united anything requires a federal court system, or does it.

    On the issue of “equal suffrage among the states” it seems correct that in the Union through representation by numbers it would be better balanced. The state with a larger population would have more house members then a state of lesser population. However Hamilton’s belief that giving the minority the ability to stop or hinder the majority is wrong is not always practiced. In the legislature the filibuster by a single congressman is used to delay or obstruct a vote on some proposal or bill.

    Interestingly in the U.N. the Security Council is comprised of 5 countries but India with the second largest population after China is not one of them. I’m not sure how the U.N. would be classified. It’s a bizarre organization of the worst kind more akin to a dysfunctional feudal system then anything else.

    Many of Hamilton’s beliefs were correct in theory. With hindsight we can trace many of the losses of state sovereignty back directly to these arguments that Hamilton would have not imagined. However the expansion of the Federal Government is, I believe, a simple result of the complacency of the states and people resulting in a power vacuum the Feds were more then happy to fill.

  11. Roger Jett says:

    Charles Babb, Please accept my apology for the earlier post. As Andy Griffith once said, “the rest of the family is eating chicken for supper, but I’m having crow.” Also, just in case you are wondering, my foot size is a twelve and yes it was a tight fit even in my big mouth.

  12. Kay says:

    Thank you Dr. Morrissey for walking us through Federalist No. 22! Publius certainly covers a lot of ground in this Federalist Paper! If only our current elected officials would take the time to methodically explain major proposed legislation in this manner. Our “sound bite” culture and collective short attention span does not lend itself to deeply and thoroughly understanding the many issues facing us.

    The weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation were many: lack of federal regulation of commerce, including foreign commerce and interstate commerce; the weakness of the state quota system for raising armies; problems of equal suffrage among the states; the weaknesses of the 2/3 majority requirement for important resolutions ; lack of “one Supreme Tribunal,” and overall so many problems with the Articles of Confederation that they were not deemed fixable by amendment. Publius goes on to point out the weakness of a Congress with only one legislative body, and the final and most important flaw: The people never ratified the Articles of Confederation. It is with this final point that my favorite quote from Federalist 22 appears:

    “The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.”

    One of the things I have enjoyed most about reading The Federalist are the quotes like the one above, that leap off the page, and speak to us so clearly, 223 years later. They encapsulate principles that our country has drifted from, and remind us of the intent of the founders. When these principles are followed, our country flourishes. When we drift from them, we stagnate.

    If only our founding fathers could come back today, and write a series of Federalist Papers where they analyze our current governmental structure in the same manner they analyze the Articles of Confederation, and methodically itemize all the places our country has deviated from their original founding principles. I have a feeling they would have a hard time confining their essays to 85!

    Good night and God Bless!

    Cathy Gillespie

  13. Why write many paragraphs when a few lines will do, three lines to be exact, from Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 22?

    1. Though the genius of the people of this country..

    2. Its opposition contradicts that fundamental maxim of Republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority shall prevail.

    3. The fabric of American empire out to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE.

    Are these words being honored in our American government today?

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    May 27, 2010
    I thank our guest scholar, Dr. Will Morrisey, for joining us today!

  14. Jesse Stewart says:

    Shannon – thanks for your insight re: “big government Hamilton”; it helps to put it in perspective!

    What a wonderful group of commenters, what a wonderful exercise! I’m telling everyone I know about Constituting America.


Guest Bloggers: Troy Kickler, Ph.D., Director of the North Carolina History Project and Daren Bakst, J.D., L.L.M., Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies at the John Locke Foundation

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Federalist #23

When Alexander Hamilton attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he was thirty-six years old.  Despite his young age he was a leading statesman, who was knowledgeable not only regarding current events at home and abroad but also the classics and the historical lessons that they contain. The future, first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton incorporated his political observations and knowledge into The Federalist.

Hamilton penned more than half of The Federalist essays.  In them, he pointed out the defects of the Articles of Confederation and argued that the Constitution and the powers that it enumerated to the national government were necessary for the Union’s survival.  To remain under the Articles, Hamilton contended, meant certain death for the Union, for the states would continually act in their self-interest and ignore the Union’s interest.  Laying the foundation for his reasoning in subsequent commentaries (24-29), the New York lawyer put forth this particular argument in Federalist 23: “The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union.”

When debating Anti-Federalists–those who questioned or opposed the Constitution’s ratification–Hamilton and other Federalists used the word “energetic” to describe a government that had power to fulfill its given responsibilities such as providing for a national defense.  An “energetic” government was not one that encroached on individual rights.  It meant simply giving life to a dormant national government and allowing it to exercise and fulfill its responsibilities.

In Federalist 23, Hamilton asks what are the proper duties of a national government.  He contends they are providing for the common defense, preserving public peace, regulating interstate commerce and foreign trade, and conducting foreign affairs.  For the remainder of the essay, Hamilton emphasizes why it is essential for the national government to provide for the common defense and what means are necessary for it to ensure the Union’s longevity.

To charge someone with a responsibility yet not empower them to perform their duty is imprudent.  That is what Hamilton believed.  In Federalist 23, he writes that if the national government is given the task of providing for the common defense then it should have the necessary authority to do so.  Even the framers of the Articles, Hamilton points out, understood this necessity: they allowed Congress to ask the states for unlimited requests for men and money to wage war; however, they erroneously trusted states to provide adequate goods and munitions and men for the national government to use at its discretion.  States many times ignored requests.

The assumptions of the framers of the Articles, Hamilton declares, were “ill-founded and illusory,” and he claims that states worked strictly for their self-interests. To make the Union last, a change in governmental structure, Hamilton contends, was imperative: power and the means necessary must be given to the national government to provide for a common defense.  To meet this particular end, Hamilton argues that the federal government should, in effect, bypass the states and “extend the laws of the federal government to the individual citizens of America.”

In regards to national defense, Hamilton believes it is “unwise and dangerous” to not give the national government power to provide for a common defense: the powers “ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them.” He reminds his political opponents that to withhold such means and power from the national government is counterproductive and welcomes national instability.  (Hamilton was aware of the lingering Anti-Federal skepticism and considered many of their objections to be merely nitpicking).

The change in government was needed to preserve national interests, and the proposed federal government was worthy of the people’s trust.  Hamilton and other Federalists believed, write constitutional scholars Colleen A. Sheehan and Gary L. McDowell, that “interest, reputation, and duty would bind the representatives to the Constitution and public opinion.”  That belief is expressed and implied in Federalist 23.

Although Anti-Federalists and Federalists waged a genuine and intense intellectual battle, both were concerned with protecting American liberties.  In many ways, they were champions of freedom and had much in common.  Both considered constitutions essential to the existence of a free society, and both believed that restraints should be placed on government.  Both would be horrified how far many modern-day lawmakers and constitutional theorists have strayed from original intent.

–Troy Kickler, Ph.D., is Director of the North Carolina History Project and Daren Bakst, J.D., L.L.M., is Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies at the John Locke Foundation.


Guest Blogger: Allison R. Hayward, Vice President for Policy at the Center for Competitive Politics

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Federalist 24

Allison R. Hayward

Federalist 24 continues Hamilton’s argument in favor of strong national government for national security purposes.  Here, he addresses the explicit complaint that the Constitution would permit standing armies in peacetime.

Critics of the Constitution feared that standing armies would become either a tool for those in power to seize power in perpetuity, or a means to usurp elected government with a military one.  Colonists in America were not far removed from the days of Oliver Cromwell, who after prevailing in the English Civil War became Lord Protector of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Quite possibly the families of many of the colonists reading the Federalist Papers migrated to the New World to escape Cromwell’s Britain (or the Restoration aftermath, plague, fire, and general 17th century misery).  Certainly many were familiar with the fall of the Roman Republic at the hands of the Roman General, Julius Caesar.   In any case, popular opinion would have feared standing armies as a destabilizing force and a threat to democracy.  This is thus a powerful argument that the Federalists need to answer.

Hamilton responds to these critics in several ways.  First he implies that these critics misinterpret the constitutional separation of powers.  He reminds them that the Constitution places the responsibility for raising an army with Congress, not the President.  Moreover, any appropriation may be for no longer than two years.  Under this division of authority, the election branch – Congress – which is most responsive to the public, must consent to military mobilization.  Unlike the Roman and English examples, sole military authority is denied the American Executive.  Moreover, the existing regime under the Articles of Confederation contains no standing army limit.  This fact allows Hamilton to imply that the anti-Federalist criticisms are disingenuous.

Moreover, notes Hamilton, the world poses security dangers to America apart from “formal” war.  The nation is bordered by territories of Britain, Spain and France, and much of the frontier is inhabited by native Americans.  Any of these could threaten Americans (and America) if the nation relaxed its guard.  Frontier garrisons in particular require support even during “peace.”  Finally, for American to meet its potential as a commercial power, it needs to build a navy, which requires outlays for dockyards –even in peacetime.  Hamilton argues that the Constitution properly leaves these decisions to Congress, the people’s elected representatives.

Today, the Pentagon’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year is $708 billion, including a $56 billion “black budget” for classified programs.  About 1.5 million individuals are in the active service, about 560,000  in the Army alone.  Notwithstanding concerns voiced through time about the size, expense, and “military industrial complex” the United States has, since World War II, maintained a large professional armed force.  Moreover, it has done so under the supervision of the Executive – not, as Hamilton contended, under Congress.

Further, military spending is seen by many Congressmen as an important part of their representative role – not simply to keep the country safe, but to keep constituent military contractors profitable.  One wonders what Hamilton might have made of the current political “war” over the military’s budget, in which the Defense Secretary has demanded the end to certain programs.  Yet Congress insists on keeping them.

Allison R. Hayward is the Vice President for Policy at the Center for Competitive Politics.

7 Responses to “May 31, 2010Federalist No. 24 – The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Allison R. Hayward, Vice President for Policy at the Center for Competitive Politics.”

  1. gianna cerullo says:

    Great Job Janine! I am impressed with your determination tho I am not at all surprised!

    I share your views : )

    Juliette is gorgeous !

  2. Susan Craig says:

    I have long felt that America has had a schizophrenic relationship with its military. Stemming from two factors: desire to be a most Christian nation living in peace, and a recognition of human nature. On one hand experience and faith (the insult of the British quartering of troops, desire to live in peace and threaten no man, and a belief that a military in the hands of a tyrant would threaten our liberty) inclined us to wish to do away with standing armies. On the other hand the recognition that the proven, visible ability to fend off invaders and threats allows for security and freedom (freedom requires vigilance). Out of these factors come our constant debate on things military. The Articles of Confederation left it in the hands of the States. In effect in today’s world it would be as if there were no regular army, navy or air force just the various guard units in each state. The opposing view was a standing force sole under Federal jurisdiction a permanent military such as was in existence at the time, uneducated and owing allegiance to the leader a separate ‘career’ path or class. What has developed is an amalgam of these two views a small voluntary standing military which depends in time of strife on a ready militia (national guard). The oath our military takes its oath from top to bottom “protect, preserve and defend the Constitution”. It, also, chooses from educated or those who wish to be educated not from those lacking knowledge or understanding. All of those in the military are instructed as to what is or is not a lawful order and are encouraged to resist any unlawful instruction. Yet to this day we still have the debate how much is sufficient and necessary. We continue to think that a “Peace Dividend” is to be had by the reduction and/or elimination of a standing military.

  3. Fred Mars says:

    I am a Philadelphia-born Constitutional Libertarian, which is to say that I am not talking about a political party, I am referring specific ideology and not a party platform.

    Above all, I feel that the Constitution as it was written, including the Bill of Rights, which is part of the Constitution, And the articled of Confederation from which this nation was born, are the only things that stand between freedom and tyranny. That being said, it is also as relevant today as it was in 18th Century America, that we still require the vigilance of citizens to protect the liberties granted to the people at this nation’s founding.

    Sometimes it seems that we are being attacked from many sides, and I do not doubt that it is accurate. We have always been loved and hated by other nations, but mostly we are resented for the very freedoms we enjoy.

    All Americans must stand together as one voice in demanding that our Congress repeal the damage caused by the 16th and 17th Amendments, charge Congress with it’s obligations to coin (and print) currency and set the value thereof (and use gold/silver to give it real value) and end the extortion of the Federal Reserve System and it’s collection agency the Internal Revenue Service.

    Return the selection of Senators to the State legislatures, who we have elected to represent us in our sovereign States, and remove the two party system from its monopoly on the electoral process.

    Instead of election day, each State may have an election week, and hand-written ballots used instead of electronic machines and mail-in ballots. Because of the importance of votes, it must be done in such a way as to insure the integrity of the system for all citizens.

    We must save our nation by restoring Constitutional integrity to the federal government, and control of the armed forces returned to Congress. The President only assumes status of Commander in Chief when a war is declared by Congress, and then power is voided after the war is over or two years unless Congress acts too extend the war and hence Presidential powers beyond two years. But not in perpetuity.

  4. It is interesting that in the early days of the republic, people feared a standing army. The Pennsylvania and North Carolina Constitutions went so far as to say, “As standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, THEY OUGHT NOT to be kept up.” This was a legitimate fear, based on history, as Allison Hayward points out in her essay today. (Thank you, Allison, by the way, for your second Guest Blogger essay!! We appreciate your insights!!)

    Our founders addressed this possible threat to the peoples’ liberty by placing the power of Commander in Chief with the executive branch (Article II, Section II of the Constitution), but the power to raise armies with the legislative branch (Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution). And they even included a clause which forbade the appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer period than two years, as a precaution to keeping troops without necessity.

    Today, on Memorial Day 2010, most Americans look at our military not with the suspicious eye of our forefathers, but with heartfelt pride and gratitude. Two days ago Rasmussen announced a poll showing that 74% of Americans have a favorable view of the U.S. Military. Only 12% had an unfavorable opinion and 13% weren’t sure.

    I believe part of this strong support for our troops is due to the founding fathers’ wise use of checks and balances in structuring their control. The abuses that the anti-federalists feared have not come to pass.

    An equally important factor responsible for American support of our troops is the quality of the men and women who, since the elimination of the draft, have chosen to serve. These are brave, selfless men and women – fathers and mothers – who leave their families for years at a time to go to foreign lands and defend freedom. These members of the armed services make sacrifices in their personal life, their financial life, their physical and mental health, and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice, all to defend our liberty. I am honored and blessed to count many active duty members of the military as friends, and I cannot think of any people with higher character, sense of patriotism and duty to country than these service members.

    God bless those who have sacrificed their lives in defense of our freedom, may God be with their families, and may God be with and bless our active duty military and veterans. Our country owes you all a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

    Cathy Gillespie

  5. Susan Craig says:

    @Fred, welcome. I consider myself a fiscal and social conservative with libertarian leanings. As I continue to read the Federalist debate and early American History while watching the shenanigans of today, I must say I could inveigh against all factionalism along with the most vehement of our Founding Fathers. I see it in the stasis in Washington and it is part and parcel of the intellectually incurious who have voted the line since Methuselah was in diapers.

  6. Gary Tillery says:

    As a veteran, I stand with other Veterans who have served this nation with dignity, courage, and honor. In our time, which young people today see as antiquated, we saw the Constitution as a document representing the very heart of America. Even though we were divided by different beliefs in life the Constitution was the very umbrella that kept us united as one people. Different states (republics) but one nation. It was to be honored,cherished, and respected. Due to that belief, when we as veterans went to battle to serve our nation we did so with committment, dedication, pride. Unfortuinatley, people today do not talk this way anymore for they have so taken the Constitution and freedom for granted that they, as we speak, are in danger of losing their freedom.
    The Constitution is like the Ten Commandments – When we look at them both is reveals to us the goals we strive to reach. Yet, at the same time it shows us our weaknesses and vulnerablities. When we vote, we should look and ask each candidate their interpretations of the Constitution and how their campaign is based on the Constitution. Yes, They need to prove themselves from here on out. We can no longer take their word for anything. I would be interested in how many of our politicians today truly can tell you about the FEDERAL PAPERS and the CONSTITUTION. Because by the actions of our some current government officials they do not mind violating it.
    It is our obligation, as young and old Americans, to protect the Constutution and remove any politician that violates it. That is why we all, old and young, need to know the Constitution and keep it in the forefront of our minds when it comes to politics. For those of us who served, risked, and watched friends die, it is heart wrenching to see the real threat of Socialism creeping in the back door knowing that all the sacrifice could be for nothing if our children/grandchildren live under any other form of government than a Constitutional Democracy. For God and Country. God give the youth of today the courage to stand for Democracy.

  7. Maggie says:

    @ Gary….I agree with everything you said, with the exception of our children living under a Democracy. We are NOT a democracy…we are a Republic. This is one of the big problems we have today. People don’t even realize what form of government we are supposed to have. How, then, can they protect and keep it?

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

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Alexander Hamilton began his Revolutionary War service as a member of a New York militia unit. He then joined the Continental Army as an artillery officer and became General Washington’s adjutant in 1777. After resigning that post, he persuaded Washington to give him a position as a field commander at the decisive Battle of Yorktown in 1781. From his experience as line officer and staff member, Hamilton was well aware of the capabilities of a trained army and those of the militia. More, in 1783, the Confederation Congress had appointed Hamilton to head a committee to investigate the creation of a standing army.

That background stands out in Federalist No. 25. Supporting Congress’s power to create a standing army, Hamilton rejects the argument that, if there is to be such an institution, it should be under the control of the states. Hamilton also rejects a more moderate position supported by Brutus and other Antifederalists that the national government be permitted to raise and keep troops for frontier duty and to counter threatened attacks, but not to keep armies generally during peacetime. He uses a rather trite “where-do-we-draw-the-line” argument to defend drawing no line at all. Brutus has a ready response: Just specify the purposes for which peacetime troops may be raised and kept, and require a two-thirds vote for Congress to act.

But, rejoins Hamilton, “how easy would it be to fabricate pretences [sic] of approaching danger?” A peacetime army might be kept up, through collaboration between Congress and the President, on the flimsiest of excuses and for however long they judge the danger to exist for their own political ends.” Hence, there should be no restriction on Congress’s power to raise and keep a peacetime army. Because a limited power might be abused, there must be an unlimited power? It is this logical leap that the Antifederalists reject.

Hamilton raises an important broader point here, namely, the use of contrived crises not only to justify military action, but any government action. As Publius notes in several other essays, government thrives on crisis, while individual liberty shrivels. Power flows from the individual to government, from local governments to the central government, and from the legislative and judicial branches to the executive. Such crises fuel an explosion of political energy that produce dangerously excessive unity over individuality, and conformity over liberty, at least temporarily. Government officials gain from such crises, be they real or contrived. “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” is a brilliantly apt aphorism of this phenomenon. Wars and natural disasters are real crises, but one frequently hears crisis terminology used to describe more run-of-the-mill political issues, from “wars” on poverty and drugs to health care and obesity “crises,” to justify government intrusion into individual autonomy. Not long ago, there was even a “hidden” child care crisis, with government efforts made all the more critical because the crisis was so insidious no one recognized it.

Hamilton also anticipates the assertion that the militia suffices for the national defense, an argument he roundly rejects. This was a particularly sensitive ideological issue for Americans of the time. The myth of the citizen-soldier was a powerful republican tale. The ideal soldier was Cincinnatus, the Roman consul-turned-farmer who was subsequently called to be dictator and general during a war, which offices he resigned upon successful completion of the military campaign. He then returned to his farm. Making this republican myth concrete for Americans was that they had their own Cincinnatus in the person of George Washington. Revolutionary War officers formed the Society of the Cincinnati to promote this republican ideal.

The militia embodies the ethos of the citizen-soldier. Hamilton pays due homage, but recognizes the inferiority of the militia to a regular army in sustained military operations. “The American militia, in the course of the late war, have, by their valour on numerous occasions, erected eternal monuments to their fame; but the bravest of them feel and know, that the liberty of their country could not have been established by their efforts alone, however great and valuable they were.” As he noted in Federalist 24, even in peacetime the militia would be unsuited to perform regular soldiering duties such as guarding the frontier. “The militia, in times of profound peace, would not long, if at all, submit to be dragged from their occupations and families, to perform that most disagreeable duty.” Worse, he declares, is the economic inefficiency of compelling the militia to such service, produced by a loss of labor and industrious pursuits and by the expense to the society of frequent rotation of the militia. Since militia service was universal for adult males of a wide age range, such burdens would be even more objectionable than if they fell on a body of citizen volunteers, such as today’s National Guard.

Our current military system depends on a combination of a professional standing army in active service and volunteers in the National Guard and in various reserve units. The system has advantages in training and professionalism, which become more important as the technology in fighting becomes ever more complex. The war-fighting skills of the massed citizen soldiers of the ancient Athenian hoplite formation or of the Roman legion were relatively simple to master. Today’s warfare is infinitely more complex, and continuous campaigns are measured in years, not weeks. Relying on citizen-soldiers, even volunteers in the National Guard, for long commitments produces hardships and economic dislocation, as news reports often point out. This is well worth remembering when politicians blithely call for a state’s national guard to be deployed to guard the frontier against trespassing aliens, or when cuts in the defense budget are proposed while the scope of military commitments abroad continues at a high level.

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

15 Responses to “June 1, 2010Federalist No. 25 – The Same Subject Continued: The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

  1. Susan Craig says:

    On an average there is at least one sentence per paper that brings me up short. This papers contribution is: “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state.”

  2. Ron Meier says:

    Some interesting stats to consider. About 60 years ago, before the Korean War, our population was about 150 million; today it’s about 310 million. Before the Korean War, we had a standing peacetime Army and Marines of about 15 Divisions; today, our standing Army and Marines, in time of war, is about 13 Divisions. Before the Korean War, we were not at war; today, we’ve been at war for 9 years and yet have not increased the size of our active Divisions. We’ve actually decreased them, in spite of a 100% increase in population. I don’t know what an appropriate size is of a standing military in time of peace, but it seems to me that, during a time of war, there should be some kind of increase. I don’t think our current military size is a threat to our population, given the 100% increase in popluation and the decline in the standing military, but I do think that it is inadequate to perform our multiple missions without having our professional volunteers burn out with family stress that comes from the multiple deployments that are today’s reality.

  3. W. B. Neate says:

    First let me add my thanks to Janine and Cathy for this wonderful forum.

    I would agree with Ron Meier that in the manner our military has been used our smaller force has caused undue hardship on those who serve and their families as well. I would suggest, however, that with our superior military technological capabilities, we have badly mismanaged the use of our forces.

    The scope and techniques of our armed forces activities are dictated by our political leaders. Of the 535 members of the 111th Congress only 121 are veterans. This is less than 25% and this percentage declines with each new congress. The major concerns seem to be political correctness and collateral damage. I don’t think political correctness was even a “buzz phrase” during WWII and had we been overly concerned about collateral damage we would have never dropped the atomic bomb which ended that great war. I am not a war monger but do believe that whatever might we have we should be willing to use if we are to engage in warfare and I am much less concerned about collateral damage in foreign lands than I am about the lives of our young men and women who serve so selflessly. War is hell and “playing nice” is not only too costly but encourages our adversaries.

    Having stated this position I would like to suggest that there exists at least three good reasons for required national service; 1) fresh troops to take some of the burden from our career military personnel, 2) a larger pool of those who have truly served our country from whom we might choose future leaders and 3) a larger number of future Americans with greater sense of national pride that can only be gained via service to country or close relationships with those who serve. As a Viet Nam era veteran I can assure you that I see this deep sense of patriotism diminishing as time goes by.

    Please note that in the preceding paragraph I used the phrase “required national service” as opposed to suggesting a re-institution of the draft. I think all young people should serve but also think they should have the choice of opting out of military service if they choose. We have plenty of other areas where service could be applied.

  4. Susan Craig says:

    @W.B., I agree about the ‘required national service’. If it can be kept out of the political paws, I think things like Vista and Peace Corps should be offered as viable options for national service.

  5. Jimmy Green says:

    It’s natural to accept a professional standing army as better equipped and trained than a militia and the control resting in the Federal Governments hands instead of the states is obvious to me. Hamilton’s experience in the military makes this quite clear. I believe he short changes himself somewhat by not heeding more seriously the concerns about the inherent dangers of our liberties that could result from a standing army. I have not yet read the anti federalist papers but the point mentioned by the Anti federalists according to Prof. Knipprath “that the national government be permitted to raise and keep troops for frontier duty and to counter threatened attacks, but not to keep armies generally during peacetime”. Seems to be a practical approach. This would be somewhat like a trip wire giving us warning of an approaching storm without incurring the high cost and inherent dangers of a continual standing army.

    Under the scenario of the Anti Federalists I wonder if our military would have been used in past conflicts such a Somalia or Bosnia or any U.N. police actions which I doubt the founding fathers would have agreed with. Also something that bothers me were incidents such as the Pennsylvania mutiny in 1783 by a small part of the Continental Army over pay. If I remember this was one of the reasons the Federal Government relocated away from Philadelphia and eventually established the federal district of Washington D.C. Is there any chance of this reoccurring if our economy takes a serious nosedive beyond anything we have experienced so far?

    George Washington in his farewell address stated “Overgrown military establishments are, under any form of government, inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.”

    Another General who became president, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in his farewell speech of 1961 “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

    I grew up as a kid on a Marine Corps base “Camp Lejeune” so I know the professionalism and power of our armed forces. In reading history it seems some of our most prominent members of America and other countries understood the value of a standing army but also gave us stern advice on the inherent dangers. Let’s hope we understand both clearly and use the military in the interest of our country only.

  6. On this Memorial Day season, I think it is appropriate to truly contemplate and think about the soldiers and families who have sacrificed their lives and loved ones, and given their time and dedication to our country.

    Sometimes it is beyond reach to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and feel, to the most heightened sense, what it would be like to say good-by to our loved ones for perhaps the last time. Do we take the time to feel empathy for the soldier who has to walk away from his family – mother, father, wife, husband, daughter, son – to be potentially killed out in the field – to die away from family – in perhaps some distant land, in enemy territory, on foreign soil? How frightening this would be.

    It is difficult in our daily lives that are hectic with work, pressures, commitments and family responsibilities to really pause to think about the sacrifice our men and women in uniform have made and are making to protect us. Our men and women in uniform were and are the brave, the special, the few and the truly great patriots. Without these soldiers, we, America and Americans, would not be here – plain and simple. The air we breathe, the land we walk, the sky we sketch, the country we call home, is because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.

    No matter which war they called their own, they all fought the enemy, whether near or far, whether boots were on the ground, in the air or on the sea, whether the enemy was present or premeditating. As Alexander Hamilton expressed in Federalist Paper No. 24, “ cases are likely to occur under our governments, as well as under those of other nations, which sometimes render a military force in the time of peace, essential to the security of the society.” Thus, an actual battle or a state of ready alert has served the same purpose – the enemy was to know and knew that he would not prevail against men and women who had the Divine right of liberty in their soul, passion in their hearts and the supreme strength of military readiness.

    Memorial Day is the day to set aside time and sit down with our children and teach them about our wars and war heroes. It is a time to teach them about the Revolutionary War and the reasons why we fought it. They should know about the soldiers who walked barefoot in the snow, leaving the stain of their blood on the ice and about those soldiers who died miserable deaths as POWs in the stifling bowels of the British ships at sea. They should know about heroes such as Paul Revere, Israel Putnam and Nathan Hale who said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

    We should take a moment during our Memorial Day season, and everyday, to pray for our men and women in uniform. We should teach our children about those who served in the War of 1812 when the British returned, how they burned down the White House and how President James Madison’s wife, Dolly Madison, ran to save the portrait of President George Washington.

    They should know about the Civil War, why we fought it and how thousands of our soldiers died from a new type of bullet that shattered their bones. They should know about the horrors of slavery, how it had permeated the world throughout history and yet how, according to William J. Bennett, “the westerners led the world to end the practice.” They should know about how Americans fought Americans claiming hundreds of thousands of soldier’s lives.

    They should know about World War I and how the soldiers lined up in rows, one after the other, to be shot or stabbed by swords. They should know about World War II and the almost inconceivable bravery of the soldiers who ran onto the beach to endure the battle of Normandy, which claimed thousands of American lives. They should understand what history has to teach us about the mistakes in politics that bred the tyrants who led millions to slaughter. As Publius teaches us, we should not rule with reason but upon the strong foundation of the lessons of history.

    They should know about the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Communist Regimes that ripped the souls from its people. They should know that our soldiers did not fight or die in vain in Korea or Vietnam because even though the enemy was physically in their field, the enemy’s propaganda permeated and thus threatened our field.

    They should know about the soldiers who stood on alert during the Cold War and their willingness to die. (My father is a West Point Military graduate and served in the Air Force. He was one of the first to fly twice the speed of sound, Mach II, in the 1960’s. He flew the B-58 Hustler and was ready to die on his mission to Russia when his country called him to do so.) The cold war was won by the ready willingness of our brave soldiers in uniform and a country who was militarily prepared.

    A prepared state is a winning state. Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 24, “Can any man think it would be wise, to leave such posts in a situation to be at any instant seized by one or the other of two neighboring and formidable powers? To act this part, would be to desert all the usual maxims of prudence and policy.”

    Today, we fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. We fight the insurgencies at our borders most especially in Arizona, Texas and California and we fight an elusive enemy that is creeping into our fields. They are creeping both from abroad with violence and from within with the slow usurpation of our founding principles. Alexander Hamilton warns in Federalist Paper No. 25, “For it is a truth which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are commonly most in danger, when the means of injuring the rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertained the least suspicion.”

    A strong and honest government based on the Constitution and ruled by the people through the Constitutional Republic will prevail but only if we, as citizens, know about it and only if our children are raised on the fruits of this knowledge. As Alexander Hamilton states in Federalist Paper No. 25, “It also teaches us, in its application to the United States, how little rights of a feeble government are likely to be respected, even by its own constituents.”

    Wars are fought physically and wars are fought mentally. As civil servants we must be alert to the enemy that is amongst us. Alexander Hamilton states in Federalist Paper No. 25, “…every breach of the fundamental laws, though dedicated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence, which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country…”

    On this Memorial Day season, we begin our mission with an education of the thesis and basis of our country – what we fight for – the United States Constitution and the wisdom, freedoms, righteousness and structure that it upholds.

    May God bless all of our service men and women past, present and future, who have fought valiantly for these principles.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    June 1, 2010

  7. W.B. Neate – I thank you for your kind words! And I thank all of you great patriots for joining us and for being a part of our blog. I am learning so much from your perspectives!
    God Bless.. Janine

  8. Susan Craig says:

    To Professor Joerg Knipprath: Thank you I look forward to each of you posting with anticipation.

  9. Great comments again, and, as Janine writes, especially fitting on Memorial Day. Susan, that quote is from Fed. 28, I believe, but it is a very important principle that many of the founders had actually lived. It also fits well with the historical purpose behind the Second Amendment, which protects people’s right to own weapons. Although that right extends to personal self-defense, those who adopted it were keenly aware of the right of self-defense against a tyranny by the people organizing themselves into a militia. Kind of a “nuclear option,” if all other means have failed. But that’s a whole other topic.

  10. Greg Zorbach says:

    Upon reading #24 this caught my eye: “…a conduct of this kind has too much the appearance of an intention to mislead the people by alarming their passions, rather than to convince them by arguments addressed to their understandings.” I found myself thinking not of today’s army or navy, but rather the current administration’s response to the immigration, financial and health care ‘crises’. Then today, right on cue, Professor Knipprath’s comments on #25: “Hamilton raises an important broader point here, namely, the use of contrived crises not only to justify military action, but any government action.”
    One of the basic differences between the two political parties, or if that is too confining for your tastes, for those on the left vs. those who are ‘conservative, is that the statists (as Mark Levin accurately calls them) believe that government is the answer to all problems. But the basic inconvenient truth countering that is that our country was founded on the premise of individual liberties and limited government. These days even the most sincere calls for civility and ‘bipartisanship’ can’t bridge that divide.
    That statist mentality is what leads the left to call for all solutions to be ‘comprehensive.’ How else could the government solve a problem if its not a total-control solution.
    I have detected a similar strain in some of these blogs. Don’t get me wrong, this forum and all of its participants are demonstrating exactly the kind of involvement required in these times. However, we cannot realistically expect a complete and immediate return to the kind of government we are reading about in these timeless papers.
    History teaches us a lot. And, it has much to teach us about the time that this great country has been in existence (i.e. since these papers were written). For instance, all of these concerns about standing armies have been proven to be groundless. As one of the Pope Pius’s put it (paraphrasing here) there has been no greater institution for good in the world than the United States Army. General Colin Powell put it this way: “In all the wars America has fought in this century, we have sought no more land in conquest than enough to bury our dead.”
    Re. Jimmy Green: George Washington also said this: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
    More applicable quotes:
    “Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready.” –Theodore Roosevelt
    “Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace.” –Thomas Jefferson
    “The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it.” — H.L. Mencken

  11. Juliette’s newest video about our contest:

    We are almost one month away from our We The People 9.17 Contest entry deadline of July 4. We need everyone’s help in recruiting kids to enter! We have been told email is the most effective means of recruiting entries and spreading the word, so please feel free to cut and paste this blog and circulate it to your email list.

    Constituting America is seeking high school students to submit entertaining short films, public service announcements, cool songs, and of course, essays by July 4th for our We The People 9.17 Contest!! We have a good number of essays, but not as many short films, public service announcements and songs as we were hoping for, so if you know any high school students who have a talent for making movies, or composing and singing songs, please direct them to: for more information, rules and to sign up online! Prizes for high schoolers include $2,000, a trip to Philadelphia on September 17 (Constitution Day), and Governor Huckabee has invited the contest winners on his show! The National Constitution Center has offered to show the winning short film in their theatre, and highlight our contest winners in their Constitution Day events.

    Constituting America is seeking Middle School Students to enter cool SONGS and well written essays!! We have a good number of essays, but not as many songs as we were hoping for! Please spread the word to any Middle School kids you know, especially those who like to compose and sing, and direct them to: for more details, and to sign up online!! Prizes for Middle School kids include gift cards, publicity on the Constituting America website, and other cool surprises!

    And, calling all Elementary Schools kids who like to write poems or draw! We need poems, and art for a holiday greeting card! Again, please see: for rules and details, and to sign up for the contest online!! Prizes for Elementary School kids include gift cards, publicity on the Constituting America website, and other cool surprises.

    If school is still in session in your area, please contact social studies teachers, art departments, music departments, and theatre/film departments! This is a great project to fill those last days of school when teachers have possibly run out of curriculum or want to give students a chance to earn some extra credit! Church youth groups are another possiblity. And if anyone has ideas or ways to get the word out to the military about this contest, we would love your help in doing so!

    As for Federalist No. 25 – first of all, thank you Professor Knipprath! I echo Susan in saying I always look forward to your posts. And what a beautiful essay Janine wrote on Federalist 24 & 25. I am not sure I have ever read a better tribute to the troops for Memorial Day. Like Greg, Professor Knipprath’s line: “Hamilton raises an important broader point here, namely, the use of contrived crises not only to justify military action, but any government action,” especially resonated with me. It seems that more and more frequently, “crisis,” is used to justify the government creeping into areas of our lives, and the marketplace, where our founding fathers never intended it to go.

    In Federalist 24, Hamilton used a phrase I love – he describes the American people as “so jealous of their liberties.” If we can once again become a people educated about and “jealous of our liberties,” we can begin to roll back some of the government encroachment the founding fathers tried to guard against. We must stay alert and awake!

    A hard task at 2:26 a.m. as I write this post!

    Good night and God Bless,

    Cathy Gillespie

  12. Susan Craig says:

    Oops caught me out; reading ahead the quote is as you say, Professor.

  13. ryan says:

    Professor Knipprath is my absolute favorite guest blogger. Today’s is particularly excellent!!

  14. Susan Craig says:

    I’m with you, Ryan. I especially like that he revisits his blogs and adds clarification and answers questions.

  15. Neb Witt says:

    Sorry for the delay in posting, I wanted to read the essay first. I must say these are really remarkable. They have debates a lot like my grandparents said used to happen when they were kids.

Guest Bloggers: Daren Bakst, J.D., LL.M., Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies at the John Locke Foundation and Troy Kickler, Ph.D., Director of the North Carolina History Project

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

At the start of Federalist No. 26, Alexander Hamilton addresses the challenging balancing act required between legislative power and liberty.  Using this as a jumping off point, he makes the case that the legislature must have the power to provide for the national defense.

While he acknowledges the balancing of interests, he argues that the scales tip toward having strong legislative power when it comes to national defense.  Restraining legislative authority in the area of national defense “is one of those refinements which owe their origin to a zeal for liberty more ardent than enlightened.”

He explains that it would “endanger the public safety” if there were “impolitic restrictions on the legislative authority.”  He goes on to suggest that anarchy would result and the American people would not support such an anarchy.

Hamilton then turns his attention to the question of standing armies during peacetime.  Pointing to England, he explains how it had lived under the rule of monarchs who had almost unlimited power.  After the Revolution of 1688, the monarch’s power to raise armies was drastically reduced.

The only manner in which an army could exist in peacetime was with the consent of the Parliament.  As Hamilton argues, even in England where the desire for liberty during this time was great, the only restraint believed necessary was to prohibit the executive from having sole power to raise armies.

The British revolutionaries who fought for liberty knew that there was a need for troops in peacetime.  There always needed to be troops ready to meet any contingency that faced the nation.  By placing power with the legislature, this was the proper balance between liberty and public safety.

According to Anti-Federalists, in particular Brutus in his “Tenth Letter,” those opposed to standing armies in peacetime were concerned with executives gaining excessive power.  To support this argument, they used Rome and Britain as examples.

In Rome, writes Brutus, Julius Caesar changed “it [Rome] from a free republic…into that of the most absolute despotism.”  In Britain, the armies had been used by Oliver Cromwell to take away the people’s liberty.

Hamilton though counters these concerns by stressing the role of the legislature.  One key protection was the appropriations process.  The legislature must, every two years, vote on whether to allow a military force.  Their constituents could hold them accountable at the ballot box if their actions were inconsistent with their will.

Further, according to Hamilton, state legislatures would protect their citizens.  Hamilton saw a strong federalist system where states fought against the encroachments by the federal government.  States would not simply voice their concerns, but they would be the vehicles by which the citizens would be protected.

Since Hamilton’s time, a key component to the power of state legislatures has been lost. Until 1913, state legislatures had the power to elect Senators.  They were not elected like they are now by a direct vote of the people.  This was a major check that states possessed in preventing excessive national power.

However, under the current system, state governments are mere shadows of what Hamilton envisioned.  This does undercut his argument.  The federal government has become a behemoth with state governments beholden to it due to an over-reliance on federal funds.

Fortunately, the military has never posed a significant threat to domestic tranquility.  This can be attributed to numerous factors, including the legislative check on executive power that Hamilton articulates in Federalist No. 26.  Given our country’s past and current foreign threats, he appears to have been correct in espousing the need for a standing army in peacetime.

– Daren Bakst, J.D., LL.M., is Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies at the John Locke Foundation and Troy Kickler, Ph.D., is Director of the North Carolina History Project.

11 Responses to “June 2, 2010Federalist No. 26 – The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Bloggers: Daren Bakst, J.D., LL.M., Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies at the John Locke Foundation and Troy Kickler, Ph.D., Director of the North Carolina History Project”

  1. Jace Broadman says:

    So much of what’s in our Constitution is a result of the experiences that our founders had had before — things that worked and things that didn’t. This practical approach to setting up rules makes a big difference. Something as straightforward as the legislature’s role in defense was improved by the trial and error of the founders. I guess this makes me wonder why so many rules and proposed laws today seem to defy this tradition. Cap and Tax and the health care takeover come to mind. Have these worked anywhere before? Why must we be the experimenters?

  2. Susan Craig says:

    I’ve always felt that reform and power are pendulums which never stops at the bottom of the swing in perfect balance. The first, as an example, unions vs. owners, in the late 19th century owners were developing fiefdoms within their spheres so to empower the labor force unions were developed. In government it is liberty vs. order. What is counter intuitive is that reasonable boundaries are necessary to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Rules like Fences make good neighbors.

  3. Jimmy Green says:

    As with our constitution the legislature does indeed have the power to provide for the national defense in Section 1 article 8 of the constitution. I’m not certain how the Federal Government got around the issue of “no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years.”
    The concern is in today’s world the executive branch is more inclined to initiate war regardless of the congress. I think WWII was the last time the legislature actually declared war as constitutionally required. Today the military is essentially at the Presidents disposal to be sent wherever, whenever. Does this imply the executive branch not the legislative is actually in charge of providing for the common defense? It seems a power vacuum has played out between the two branches and the Congress has surrendered its authorizations for war. This should be troubling to everyone. Besides this issue I do agree that in theory the legislative branch should have what ever power is needed to provide for the common defense. Although I’m not certain how to determine what size of a standing army we truly need.

    As Professor Kickler and Bakst pointed out “The federal government has become a behemoth with state governments beholden to it due to an over-reliance on federal funds”.
    This can be seen quite acutely in what former President Eisenhower termed the military industrial complex.
    Today’s attempts to kill most any major weapons system take a Herculean effort. Not because every weapons system is needed or wanted but simply because the cancellation of said system will involve the loss of thousand of jobs across many states. The congressman of those states will fight tooth and nail to maintain those jobs. And the defense contractors are clever enough to spread the development across as many states as necessary to ensure its survival. Sadly even weapon systems the pentagon does not want are built because the congressman is unwilling to allow the jobs to be lost. This is a detriment to the military and taxpayers.

    The mention of Rome via the Anti Federalist papers is amusing in that it’s hard to see that occurring to our republic currently. However as with Rome the executive power increased until Caesar took control as virtual dictator effectively ending any remnants of a republic. Today as I mentioned a power vacuum has been occurring in which the executive branch is wielding more power simply by taking it from the legislative branch.. This jeopardizes the check and balances needed to maintain a healthy republic especially in times of war. Although I don’t think were close to crossing a Rubicon in America I definitely have my concerns about the average citizens role as seemingly something less then “We the people” .

  4. Jimmy Green says:

    Sorry meant to say Article 1 section 8

  5. Dale Morfey says:

    Congress essentially delegated to the President, via the War Powers Act, the ability to respond to an act of war quickly (which the President already had under the Constitution) and to become involved in military actions that constitute acts of war.

    Congress has tried to delegate away one of their most important functions and We The People have allowed them to do so – to our shame.

    Remember the old saying “An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.”…? There being a time for everything… now is the time for the pound.

  6. James Roman says:

    James Madison Federalist papers
    Military: country capable of supporting without breaking the bank.
    Population 300 million

    Army 1/100 population= 3 million
    organized Militia 25 * Army= 75 million

    Militia@Large rest of population capable of bearing arms

  7. Barb Zakszewski says:

    Basically, every “war” since the Korean “War”, that the United States has fought in, has been Unconstitutional, in a strict sense. The President can go before Congress as FDR did in WWII, and ask for a declaration of War. But not even the Gulf wars and the current conflicts in the middle East are constitutionally declared wars, because the President has not done his Constitutional duty properly and Congress certainly has not either. No doubt, Congress has abdicated its role, in favor of politics and winning elections. Several of the wars including Korea and Vietnam have been police actions that the spineless United Nations have gotten us involved in. I would love to have seen GW Bush go before Congress after 9/11 and request a declaration of war, but against whom? The Taliban, Al-queda. Terrorists are much more elusive and undefined than a Nazi Germany or an imperalist Japan. So instead, we fought against and continue to fight these elusive terrorists, without an actual declaration of war. I don’t know what the answer is here, the United States must defend itself, but to grant SOO much power to one individual certainly cannot be what the Founders intended. We must go back to the Constitution and to the arguments made in the Federalist and see what those intentions were and try to find the answers that are already there.

  8. Thanks to everyone who joined our discussion today, and to our Guest Constitutional Scholar Bloggers, Daren Bakst and Troy Kickler!

    I asked you all last night to help us recruit kids to enter the We The People 9.17 Contest, Entries due July 4! Thank you!! We have had several new online signups today at Please keep spreading the word!!

    Here is one additional request – as you recruit young people to the contest, please ask their parents, and the older kids, to join us on this blog! We learn so much from each other. The more people we have participating, the more we learn!!

    Tonight, the first paragraph of Federalist #26 grabbed my attention. I even printed it off and carried it down the hall to show my husband who was trying to watch TV in peace! But as he read the sentences below, he agreed – these words ARE relevant today:

    IT WAS a thing hardly to be expected that in a popular revolution the minds of men should stop at that happy mean which marks the salutary boundary between POWER and PRIVILEGE, and combines the energy of government with the security of private rights. A failure in this delicate and important point is the great source of the inconveniences we experience, and if we are not cautious to avoid a repetition of the error, in our future attempts to rectify and ameliorate our system, we may travel from one chimerical project to another; we may try change after change; but we shall never be likely to make any material change for the better.

    I admit I had to look up a few words. I had a vague understanding of their meanings, but reading the definitions added to the richness of Hamilton’s message.

    ameliorate – to make or become better, more bearable, or more satisfactory; improve; meliorate.

    chimerical – 1 : existing only as the product of unchecked imagination : fantastically visionary or improbable
    2 : given to fantastic schemes

    Even though Publius uses this first paragraph to make his case for the legislature to have the power to provide for national defense, these words reverberate with meaning, as I think of the numerous ways the balance between “legislative power and liberty” (thank you Mr. Bakst & Kickler for that phrase) has been disrupted.

    Our founders created a system of checks and balances, and nothing less than our freedom is dependent upon its equilibrium. Whether we tip too far towards anarchy, as Hamilton feared if the legislature wasn’t granted the power to provide for the national defense, or too far towards government control in our lives, the result is a deviation from the system of government our founding fathers so carefully designed. When “We the people” allow the government to get out of balance, we allow our liberty to fade, creating those “inconveniences,” Hamilton references, and we fail to make “any material change for the better.”

    Good night and God Bless!

    Cathy Gillespie

  9. “…the state legislatures, who will always be not only vigilant, but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of the citizens, against encroachments from the federal government, will constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national rulers, and will be ready enough, if anything improper appears, to sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but if necessary, the ARM of their discontent.”

    When I read these words of Alexander Hamilton, I think to myself, “ WHAT HAPPENED?” This is one of the absolute best paragraphs in the Federalist Papers! When one wants to know what’s the big deal about the Federalist Papers, when someone wants to know why the United States Constitution important, when someone says, “We haven’t strayed that much from the Constitution,” I would direct them to this paragraph in Federalist Paper No. 26.

    These are the words that define the vision of our founding fathers, and the structure of the United States Constitution, in regard to restraining the federal government.

    “the state legislatures, who will always be not only vigilant, but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of the citizens”

    “against encroachments from the federal government, will constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national rulers”

    “and will be ready enough, if anything improper appears, to sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but if necessary, the ARM of their discontent.”

    What are our state legislatures doing? They are not representing us in the U.S. Congress anymore and the federal government has tied their hands.
    The tenth amendment needs to be revisited and rekindled.

    Have we proceeded too far to save America? Will we ever get back to the true intention of our Constitutional government? Will American’s ever cut the umbilical cord?
    Are we to watch our flag burning in the street as citizens insist that the government owes them benefits? Will the age of entitlement ever be replaced by the original age of entrepreneurial vigor? Are we to sink on the same ship as Greece? Our GNP is projected to meet Greece’s GNP by 2020.

    How will America survive?

    If American’s do not know what they have they will not know when it is slowly being taken away from them.

    As Alexander Hamilton states,“Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community, require time to mature them to execution.”

    The time has come and the alarm must sound before it is too late. What are our state legislatures doing? They are not representing us in the U.S. Congress anymore and the federal government has tied their hands.

    The tenth amendment needs to be revisited and rekindled.

    We must act now before America’s great liberties are swallowed into the great abyss of socialism and democracy fails – but this will happen only if we let it. We must be the VOICE and the ARM of discontent. The best way to do this is by education. We must educate our friends, our family, our neighbors, our CHILDREN about the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers and our country’s founding principles.
    We must be vigilant!

    It begins with YOU. Spread the word about our website and “90 in 90,” and our contest for kids!

    God bless you!!
    God bless America.

    Janine Turner
    June 2, 2010

  10. “…the state legislatures, who will always be not only vigilant, but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of the citizens, against encroachments from the federal government, will constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national rulers, and will be ready enough, if anything improper appears, to sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but if necessary, the ARM of their discontent.”

    When I read these words of Alexander Hamilton, I think to myself, “ WHAT HAPPENED?” This is one of the absolute best paragraphs in the Federalist Papers! When one wants to know what’s the big deal about the Federalist Papers, when someone wants to know why the United States Constitution important, when someone says, “We haven’t strayed that much from the Constitution,” I would direct them to this paragraph in Federalist Paper No. 26.

    These are the words that define the vision of our founding fathers, and the structure of the United States Constitution, in regard to restraining the federal government.

    “the state legislatures, who will always be not only vigilant, but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of the citizens”

    “against encroachments from the federal government, will constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national rulers”

    “and will be ready enough, if anything improper appears, to sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but if necessary, the ARM of their discontent.”

    Have we proceeded too far to save America? Will we ever get back to the true intention of our Constitutional government? Will American’s ever cut the umbilical cord?
    Are we to watch our flag burning in the street as citizens insist that the government owes them benefits? Will the age of entitlement ever be replaced by the original age of entrepreneurial vigor? Are we to sink on the same ship as Greece? Our GNP is projected to meet Greece’s GNP by 2020.

    How will America survive?

    If American’s do not know what they have they will not know when it is slowly being taken away from them.

    As Alexander Hamilton states,“Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community, require time to mature them to execution.”

    The time has come and the alarm must sound before it is too late. What are our state legislatures doing? They are not representing us in the U.S. Congress anymore and the federal government has tied their hands.

    The tenth amendment needs to be revisited and rekindled.

    We must act now before America’s great liberties are swallowed into the great abyss of socialism and democracy fails – but this will happen only if we let it. We must be the VOICE and the ARM of discontent. The best way to do this is by education. We must educate our friends, our family, our neighbors, our CHILDREN about the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers and our country’s founding principles.
    We must be vigilant!

    It begins with YOU. Spread the word about our website and “90 in 90,” and our contest for kids!

    God bless you!!
    God bless America.

    Janine Turner
    June 2, 2010

  11. Neil Simpson says:

    It helps me a great deal when I see the explanation. It seems unusual that there was such a controversy over the control of the military. But that does seem to show that our founders had a lot of foresight in that they anticipated problems and then resolved them. I guess what I don’t understand is how we’ve gotten so far away from that ability. Are modern Americans less bright or is the divine no longer influencing our nation’s path?

Guest Blogger: Julia Shaw, research associate and program manager at the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

We are all familiar with the recent skepticism about government’s performance. Ever since Rick Santelli’s rant on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, Americans across the country have gathered in tea parties to discuss and protest the plethora of bad policies pouring forth from Washington. Frustration with government, though, is not limited to tea party participants. The recent oil spill in the Gulf Coast has renewed discussions on the left and the right about what the federal government can and should do in such emergencies.

How should we understand the recent frustration with government and skepticism about its role? Writing as Publius in Federalist27, Alexander Hamilton explains the cause of such dissatisfaction and the suggests a remedy to restore the people’s confidence in and affection for government.

In Federalist27, Publius addresses the charge that the new government “cannot operate without the aid of a military force to execute its laws,” ultimately because “people will be disinclined to the exercise of federal authority in any matter of an internal nature.” Publius counters the presumption that people will be disfavor this new government, arguing that  “I believe it may be laid down as a general rule that their confidence in and obedience to a government will commonly be proportioned to the goodness or badness of its administration.”

Publius rejects the notion that people arbitrarily despise their government. Instead, he argues that there is a relationship between effective administration of government and public affection for government. People have confidence in and affection for a well-administered government. Conversely, people distrust and become frustrated with a poorly administered government.

This is not an unfamiliar argument. President Obama acknowledged that Americans were desperate for a well-administered government. But when Obama proclaimed in his inaugural address, “the question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works,” he suggested that effective government is unrelated to the size and scope of government. Good administration is necessary for good government. But this does not mean that good administration is unrelated to the size of government.

But Federalist27 anticipates Obama’s argument.  Good administration is inseparable from limited government. Publius explains, in Federalist27 and throughout the entire Federalist, that the constitutional design of the government lends itself to gaining the affection of the people. In Federalist27, Publius highlights the expanded choice in election, the selection of the senate, and the reduction of factions as examples of the changes that will engender good will toward the new government. The rest of the Federalist discusses in greater detail the powers and limits on the new government. And, it is this limited government of enumerated powers that “the citizens are accustomed to meet with it in the common occurrences of their political life, [and] the more it is familiarized to their sight and to their feelings, the further it enters into those springs of the human heart, the greater will be the probability that it will conciliate the respect and attachment of the community.”

Considering that people have affection for good administration, and that good administration is inseparable from a limited government, it follows that people’s current dissatisfaction with government is ultimately rooted in the government’s abandonment of constitutional limitations. Every day, entitlement programs grow, government spending increases, and Washington bureaucrats issue new regulations to control our lives. It may be a difficult task to return to limited constitutional government, but, as Publius reminds us in Federalist27, the affection of the people and the long-term health of the country depend upon the such a return.

Julia Shaw is a research associate and program manager at the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies.

16 Responses to “June 3, 2010Federalist No. 27 – The Same Subject Continued: The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered, from the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Julia Shaw, research associate and program manager at the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies”

  1. Susan Craig says:

    Oops! “the more the operations of the national authority are intermingled in the ordinary exercise of government, the more the citizens are accustomed to meet with it in the common occurrences of their political life, the more it is familiarized to their sight and to their feelings, the further it enters into those objects which touch the most sensible chords and put in motion the most active springs of the human heart, the greater will be the probability that it will conciliate the respect and attachment of the community. Man is very much a creature of habit.” I fear that in arguing for the increased power of the central government also put his finger on the problem we face today. Via gradualism and how can you argue against the good of these mandates the creatures of habit have grown used to the meddling of the nanny state.

  2. Ron Meier says:

    In the town hall of Siena, Italy, is a very large classic fresco painting of the Effects of Good Government and the Effects of Bad Government, painted in the 14th Century. Now, I wish I had spent more time looking at it than I did. You can google that to find various descriptions. As I understand, Siena, at that time, was a republic. We might all benefit by spending some time examining the painting and its various meanings to better understand where we are today and what we have to do to get back to where we started. It would be good to have a reproduction of that painting in the Congressional Rotunda.

  3. Maggie says:

    This leapt off the page at me….”A government continually at a distance and out of sight can hardly be expected to interest the sensations of the people.” I do not think of this as “distance” in a literal sense, but rather “distance” in their understanding of the every day man. Our politicians have made careers out of being set apart rather than being one of us and governing as one of us.

  4. Jimmy Green says:

    Military force is not needed but honestly lets agree that many taxes and fees that are charged to us often unfairly would never be paid if their was no implicit threat of fines, incarceration ,loss of property, violence of some type by the federal or local government if you do not obey them. Sadly this coercion is being forced on us to accept unjust or unconstitutional laws.
    The administrative efficiencies of the government good or bad would have little bearing on us in a constitutionally run government. The issue as mentioned is the relative size and intrusive nature of it into our personal lives.
    No doubt the Federal Government was corrupt a hundred or more years ago but that corruption did not affect us much. The constitution was still in effect and the wall preventing the Federal Government from meddling in our private life was limited

    Most every serious problem in America today can easily be traced back to unconstitutional decisions the Federal Government made and the judicial system approved. Is there any limit to the government’s intrusion into our private life?
    Are we becoming wards of the government?. Each one of us should be furious about this. Unless you wish for a cradle to grave welfare state or maybe entered the country illegally then the Federal Government is the nightmare on Elm Street. Or from another great show “We are the Federal Government….Resistance is futile…..You will be assimilated
    You life as it has been is over. From this time forward you will service us” or something cool but scary like that.

    I believe our guest blogger Julia Shaw hits the nail on the head when she states “it follows that people’s current dissatisfaction with government is ultimately rooted in the government’s abandonment of constitutional limitations”. I believe this is primarily what we all tend to think and the comments I have read from you all tend to support that idea.

    Maggie says: “Our politicians have made careers out of being set apart rather than being one of us and governing as one of us.”
    Absolutely true, the only question of importance now is what are we willing to do to change this. What efforts or discomforts are we willing to accept for a restoration of the government and the constitution of the people.

  5. Susan Craig says:

    Jimmy, let me pose the question to you this way. Consider you and your neighbors homes to be a microcosm picture of two countries. Let us say that is common knowledge that both of you have on your properties something of great value. You are not armed, while your neighbor is known to have at least one gun. I consider this the individual equivalent of a national standing army. Which house is more vulnerable to thieves?

  6. Jimmy Green says:

    Okay Susan I give. Please explain your point and the relevence to essay 27.

  7. “Man is a creature of habit. A thing that rarely strikes his senses, will have but a transient influence upon his mind.” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 27.

    Bingo. Once again, from the minds of Publius rings relevancy today. The United States Constitution is a thing that rarely strikes the senses because it is so infrequently discussed or taught. Consequently, it has but a transient influence upon American’s minds and passions. The mainstream American culture is basically void of any mention or remembrance of the United States Constitution. Hence, our calling, as concerned American’s who value our Constitutional Republic, is to rally our Republic and curb the tide of irreverence that is engulfing the United States Constitution.

    We must make it prevalent and relevant to the senses of our citizens. Knowledge is power. Culture is contagious. The United States Constitution is critical. Actually, it is in critical condition and its survival is the antigen to the disease of socialism. It embodies the vaccine that needs to be boosted in American society.

    Man is a creature of habit and without the awareness of the basic structure, the true intent and the proper application of the principles of our United States Constitution then our Republic will be but a fleeting memory.

    It is projected that by 2020 our economy will match the failing economy of Greece and democracy as we know it, America as we know it, will meet its demise. The spending must cease and the only way to accomplish this is to reinvigorate the can do spirit that built America. As John F Kennedy said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

    We must counter the culture. One way to do this is to have parties in your home to study the Constitution and encourage people to join our “90 in 90” or refer people to the essays that are in our “90 in 90” archives. Cathy and I want to build a library that will provide a richness of resources to be utilized at any time.

    Another way to counter the culture is with our children, the youth of our country. The culture is sending them the wrong message and the awareness of the Constitution is either vague, repugnant or nil. I thank you for getting your child, or a child you know, to join our contest. Taking the time out of “summer time slumber” or “summer time frenzy” is the first step to requisite better habits.

    Our sense of pride in our country needs to be rekindled, and the paramount awareness of our rights and our basic foundation needs to be reaffirmed, by infusing the culture the American grassroots way. If not by the culture or mainstream media, then by the sheer will of dedicated Americans, like you.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner

  8. Susan Craig says:

    Jimmy, and I quote ‘Military force is not needed’ even if it is not used it has a function.

  9. Susan Craig says:

    In America under ‘posse comitatus’ the standing military is not permitted to act internal to the boundaries of the union. The only ‘military’ body that may be called to internal action are the individual state guard units and that only at the behest of that states governor. Under the Constitution the military is purely an extention of foreign policy whether it is declared war or the ‘big’ stick that others know we have and are not afraid to use when provoked.

  10. Jimmy Green says:

    Susan, yes thats correct if I understand you correctly were talking about coercion. My statement of “Sadly this coercion is being forced on us to accept unjust or unconstitutional laws.”
    The government always gets what it wants by the implied threat of force, rarely the actual use of it. Hopefully I understood you correctly but maybe not.

  11. Richard says:

    “I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts.” — Ronald Reagan

  12. Susan Craig says:

    Okay your point was [if I understand you right] is that for government coercion to occur our government has found a way to do it without military involvement? Okay there we can agree. One of our founding fathers said [and I probably paraphrase] ‘Where government fears the people you have liberty, where the people fear the government you have tyranny!”

  13. Peter says:

    This observation “Publius rejects the notion that people arbitrarily despise their government. Instead, he argues that there is a relationship between effective administration of government and public affection for government. People have confidence in and affection for a well-administered government. Conversely, people distrust and become frustrated with a poorly administered government.” is the central point of Federalist 27, in my judgment, and of much of the debate in which we find ourselves today. Big government is hard to administer, is arbitrary and ineffective – which is part of the reason people feel the way they do about the IRS, the Post Office, the EPA and, at the local level, the DMV. This point is certainly worht thinking about in the contemporary context.

  14. Adam Estep says:


    Though it be by whip and chain or by excessive common laws and many taxes its name does not change!

  15. Jesse Stewart says:

    I know this posting is late, but I’ve been unable to participate for a few days. I too was struck with “I believe . . . general rule that their [the people] confidence in and obedience to a government will commonly be proportioned to the goodness or badness of its administration.”

    The “badness” of our government over a long period of time has lead to the mistrust now felt by the people. I hope and pray that we will be able to reverse this trend, or we will be lost!

  16. Greetings from NYC. I am here, with Cathy and Juliette, and we are Constituting America. Be sure to tune in tomorrow to Fox News midday as I am going to be a guest on Megyn Kelly’s show. I will, also, be on Glenn Beck’s Show, the Founding Father’s Friday, on Friday! Yea! Great exposure for Constituting America and our “90 in 90” and our We the People 9.17 Contest for kids. Deadline for our contest entries is July 4th – so please continue to spread the word!

    I am glad to have Marc S. Lampkin back with us today, thanks Mr. Lamkin for your wonderful insights and I was also really happy to see some of our regular bloggers back today, such as Maggie and Carolyn, as well as some new bloggers…welcome!

    I find that I agree with Carolyn Attaway’s blog entry today. My favorite quote from today’s reading was the following:

    “Where in the name of common-sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our brothers, our neighbors, our fellow-citizens? What shadow of danger can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings, sentiments, habits and interests?”

    As Carolyn said, our military fights for our love of country not for the love of a leader. Our military also fights for a love of his countrymen. We are brothers and sisters, neighbors and fellow citizens. Our unity through diversity is what makes us unique. Our Constitutional forefathers gave us a brilliant structure, and roadmap, to keep us that way, to keep us unencumbered by the weight of heavy-handed government. Our freedoms have given us our opportunities and identity and breathed life into our bond as a brethren working together. Our limited government has given us the ability to dream. Our sense of adventure has flourished and made America great because Americans have not been censored. Rooted in this spirit is a moral compass that has guided our way. If we loose this, we loose everything.

    Alexis de Tocqueville summed it up best:

    “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies; and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast commerce, and it was not there. Not until I visited the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    June 7, 2010