Essay 90 – Guest Essayist: William B. Allen
The United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence on an American Flag background

On this occasion I beat an old horse, just to prove that he is not dead. In this task I am not unlike the rhapsode, Ion, who kept Homer alive by memorizing Homer’s entire poems and reciting them at every opportunity. Unlike Ion, however, I trust that I do not mistake the wisdom of the authors for the wisdom of the rhapsode.

The relation between the Declaration and the Constitution has a different affect today than it did in 1860, when enemies to the more perfect union could find no pillar bearing more weight – and thus to be dislodged – than what they called the “self-evident lie” that “all men are created equal.” Those critics insisted that men indeed are not by nature made equal, nor should be. Today’s enemies of the more perfect union believe that “all men” in 1776 only meant all white males and, moreover, that not even they were by nature made equal though they should be. These critics insist, however, that what nature and history refused to humankind law can create (and they would indeed have all men equalized, the Constitution notwithstanding).

In 1860 nothing and no one so stoutly resisted the enemies of the Declaration than the Defender of the Constitution. Today nothing and no one so stoutly resist the enemies of the Constitution than the Defender of the Declaration. Abraham Lincoln established at Gettysburg that the nation “conceived in liberty” and confirmed “in the proposition that all men are created equal” must conduct its affairs through limited, constitutional union. Today we require to learn that limited, constitutional union can only be justified on the basis of the Declaration of Independence. What we mean, then, when we say that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are best friends, is that they are necessary and reciprocal supports for each other.

Two proofs are necessary to complete this argument: first, that the Declaration requires limited, constitutional union and, second, that the Constitution requires the principle of equality founded in laws of nature and creation.

The First Proof: Limited Constitutional Union Is Required

We may restate the first inquiry in the following form: is it true that the rebellion against British monarchy would have been unjustified on any grounds other than the grounds of natural rights, and that natural rights must disclose not only people’s claims to justice but their capacities to realize those claims?

When stated thus, the first proof becomes, I believe, easily realizable. Let’s start with the negative argument. The British constitution and laws in no way recognized a right of revolution. Accordingly, the act of revolution could not have been founded on any positive authority. Moreover, the Americans were not disproportionately harmed, relative to other subjects of the monarchy. Therefore, as far as the conceded rights of Englishmen went, the Americans could have had no beef against the Crown. Although non tallagio non concedendo (“no taxation without consent”) was an established principle of positive right in Britain, it was honored more in the breach than in the practice (given the pervasiveness of rotten borough representation). Americans were no less well represented than many a Briton. Nor could America make any secession claim, since the colonies could not affect an autonomous status conditioning their place in the empire. To have a right to secede, they would have had to begin with voluntary assimilation into the empire. Political forms, which are themselves artifices, cannot derive principles of their conduct from nature as opposed to their architecture.

If the Americans were justified at all, in other words, their justification had to be extra-judicial, extra-political, extra-historical. When we read the Declaration of Independence, we notice not only the broad language of the exordium (“When in the Course of Human Events…”) and the universal principle of the enunciation (“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”), but we can especially notice the particular charges (“the long train of abuses and usurpations”) leveled against the King. It has been frequently noted that the very form of the Declaration’s indictment identifies the King rather than the Parliament as the enemy to America’s liberty. Sometimes this is thought to be a ruse to avoid acknowledging Parliament’s authority (the Americans claimed an interpretation of the British constitution that made them directly subject to the monarch without intervention of the Parliament). A careful reading, however, discloses a substantive and not merely rhetorical argument that highlights the Declaration as an initial charter of government.

Government for the Good of the People…

The first twelve charges against the King (all of them, that is, until the thirteenth, which associates him with the Parliament in opposition to the colonies) actually condemn the King foremost for ignoring the welfare of his subjects. The language of the very first charge is meant to characterize the particulars in all of those that follow:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

Now, the laws invoked by the colonists here are the laws of their colonial legislatures, not any laws of Parliament. Thus, the substance of the charge is that the King, their sovereign, has declined to cooperate in their exertions of lawful and subordinate self- government with an eye to the public welfare. The implicit argument made here, clearly, is that persons are subject to government only for their good, and that argument is a principle that transcends any charter or act of government. It establishes a standard of judgment to which every government of whatever cast is subject, and in the name of which any people, any time, have the right, nay, the “duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

…Or Else Legislative Powers Return to the People

Each of the remaining charges against the King reinforces this same principle; each is a particular proof of the universal truth contained in the Declaration’s enunciation. Perhaps none does so, however, so centrally as that in which they accuse him of neglecting the necessary exercise of legislative powers in such a manner as to cause that “the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise.” But this very observation is followed with the particular notice that the result is to expose the people, inadequately provided, “to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.” This observation, then, makes the necessary argument that although in general the purpose of government is to provide for the public welfare, in particular it is to accomplish such acts as the people, otherwise unprovided, cannot so well provide for themselves. And where the constituted government — limited by this purpose — fails, it falls to the people speedily to provide such a government as can respect these limits and accomplish these results.

Each of the charges against the King can be converted into a positive affirmation of the obligations of government. For example, government must respond to “immediate and pressing” needs, relying upon local necessities and judgments wherever delays in execution would be a necessary part of reserving judgment to the highest authority. The needs of people must be accommodated without the cost of them relinquishing “the right of Representation in the Legislature.” Legislatures must operate in such a manner as to remain readily accessible to the people and with recourse to public records. Dissent must be respected within the assemblies that conduct the public business. Free movement of persons into and out of the country is a fundamental part of the liberty of citizens. Judicial powers must be independent of executive will and be empowered to render justice to persons. Citizens should not be burdened with excessive requirements to support public officers. A military administration is incompatible with public liberty, and the military must be subordinate to and dependent upon the civil power.

Architecture of Government Founded in Universal Principles

The architecture of government sought in these affirmations is founded in universal principles and not the English constitution. If there were any doubt about this, the doubt would be resolved not merely by comparing this to the actual English constitution of the day, but also by considering the weighty charge against the King concerning his activities in Canada. For there, the revolutionaries held, he abolished “the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing there in an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies.” Note that this produces a different picture of English laws operating in Canada. If Canada, previously French, were being anglicized along lines different from what obtained in the thirteen colonies, the thirteen colonies were not anglicized. Moreover, the demand for a clear-cut demarcation among the powers of government — executive, legislative, and judicial — derived not from English practice but from a universal principle.

This design of limited constitutionalism, further, was nothing less than imitating in human artifice the order of nature reflected in the powers of God affirmed in the Declaration. God held the three powers of effective order, legislative, executive and judicial. He legislated “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God;” regarding humans he was the executor, for “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights;” and he was appealed to as “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.” God, in other words, united the three powers of effective order in his own person. He could do so precisely because he exists in an order above man and respecting which no “consent” to his rule could be demanded. No man is God’s equal, while every man is any king’s moral equal.

Therefore, no rule by men could assemble the three powers of effective order in the same man or body of men, without creating the presence of a power superior to man. The necessity of consent derives from the truth that “all men are created equal,” meaning that no one man is by nature the ruler of any other. In that circumstance, just rule among men can eventuate only from consent. To be effective, however, such consent must be limited by prudential separations of power that will prevent god-like domination. Men will fail to obtain such good as God has ordained for them unless they gather together in effective political union, but effective political union requires limited, constitutional government.

The Declaration needs limited, constitutional union in order to realize its promise of goods ordained by God for men. The Constitution responds to that need. The most evident forms of Constitutional response are visible in the architecture itself. The powers of government are divided into legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Among these, the legislative takes pride of place, being elaborated in Article I and bearing the most careful delineation of powers and principles of representation. This satisfies the concerns of the Declaration, in which the particular enumeration of tyrannical oppressions lists fourteen specific legislative power violations, ten executive power violations, and one judicial power violation. The list of legislative powers in Article I, Section 8 serves as a template by which we may assess the charges against the King as mainly of one or the other tendency. The Constitution established bulwarks where the experience recorded in the Declaration identified dangers. This same pattern is evinced in the Bill of Rights, which opens with the powerful stricture, “Congress shall make no law…”

The Second Proof: The Principle of Equality

The most telling evidence of the Constitution’s principles is provided in its architecture. Nevertheless, further, significant dimensions are contained in the language and tenor of the document. The Preamble has oft been noted as keynoting the document in its identification of “We the People” as the authorizing power of the government established under the Constitution. This responds, of course, to the Declaration’s insistence that the public good is the aim of limited, constitutional union. Moreover, it furthers the claim that not artificial, political entities create the United States of America, but the people, exercising a native, God-given right do so. Not less important, however, is the fact that the authorizing people are recognized within the document as fully entitled to serve in the government and to benefit from its ministrations. Those who are eligible to hold office on the Constitution’s own terms are distinguished no further than by reasonable age and citizenship restrictions. No religious test is admitted. No race or gender is excluded. In short, in the vision of the Constitution, “all men are created equal.”

Perhaps the most important affirmation of the Declaration’s constitutionalism is the careful provision for re-balancing, re-forming, and re-directing the government that is contained within the Constitution. The amending provision is evidently the leading, though not the sole, source of this understanding. The constitution is careful to keep the door open to the formation of new political subdivisions within the Union, at the same time as providing guarantees against arbitrary or unwanted re-constitutions of the political subdivisions. In the vision of the Constitution the states are both permanent members of the Union and autonomous members of the Union. The sovereign without their consent may not alter them. Further, political decision making is constrained by a careful regard to establish broad consensus rather than the mere weight of numbers – or, in other words, as nearly as possible all the people must be comprehended in decisions for all and not merely a disproportionate number. Whether the concern is constitutional amendments (which must attract three-fourths of the states), the election of the president (which must attract dispersed majorities throughout the country rather than a merely numerical majority), or the election of representatives (which must work toward broad acceptance rather than merely ideological conformity), the Constitution is a Declaration-minded charter, eager to avoid ever again exposing one part of the empire to the willful neglect or oppression of another part.

The detailed ways in which the Constitution, rhapsode-like, echoes the Declaration are legion and, mercifully, will scarcely reward rehearsal in these premises. (However, an appendix is added to illustrate the relationship.) A notable example is the subordination of the military power to the civil power, and there are many others. Yet, I would insist that nothing so fully explains the Constitution as the Declaration.

What About Slavery?

Now it will be reasonable for anyone to insist that the compromises of the Constitution be brought within the compass of these reflections – most notably, the compromises with slavery. Is not slavery the very denial of the Declaration that the Constitution is otherwise said to have echoed? No, we cannot duck this important challenge, for it is certainly correct to say that, if the Constitution were a slave-holding Constitution, then it could not have been a Declaration Constitution. Benjamin Banneker argued as much when he appealed, in 1792, to the author of the Declaration to take up the work of vindicating that document by using his office (as Secretary of State) and reputation (as author of liberty’s charter) to end the abuse that slavery was. Banneker believed that only by eliminating slavery could the Constitution be a true Declaration charter.

I would readily embrace Banneker’s impassioned plea on behalf of the slaves, if I were not already persuaded that the reciprocal influences of the Declaration and the Constitution alone provided in this world any hope for the eventual renunciation of slavery as a lawful practice among men. Although Christianity long before the founding of the United States inseminated moral consciousness with repugnance for slavery, it is doubtless correct to observe that it was only when Christianity combined with the political architecture of liberty that any real opportunity arose to sustain that moral consciousness through the abolition of slavery.

The Constitution, then, compromised with slavery. But in what did the compromise consist? Could it be fairly said that the Constitution purchased its ratification at the cost of approving slavery? Or, was it rather that slave-holding purchased an extended lease at the cost of approving a Declaration charter? I believe the answer to this question is that the latter is nearer the truth than the former. We have not only the testimony of James Madison in the first Congress, who interpreted the slavery clauses in the Constitution as revealing an opposition to slavery albeit in consciousness of the inability to eliminate it at once. We also have the very language of the Constitution itself. The studious avoidance of the word, “slave” – thus to avoid staining the Declaration charter – testifies volubly. Moreover, the tendency of each of the slave-provisions is to provide direct testimony against slavery. At least some proportion of the slaves should be regarded as human beings, for purposes of representation and direct taxation (based on population numbers). That language, the three-fifths clause, was borrowed from a 1783 measure that dealt only with taxation (and therefore led slave-holders to resist the formula rather than support it) and also made plain that all free persons included black persons not slaves. This meant that it was not a comment on the human value of black persons; it was rather a practical measure of the degree of influence the respective sides of the controversy exercised in making the decision. The slave-trading language (“the migration or importation of such persons”) again affirmed the personhood of the slaves. And it did more; it identified the trade as a thing eventually to be ended rather than an option for the future. And the last compromise, the fugitive slave clause, conceded that general laws regarding property should be enforced without exception (thus preserving comity among the states) while yet speaking of “persons held to service,” which included a class larger than slaves.

The slave compromises passed the Constitution, to be sure. But the slave power took the greater risk in doing so. For the other provisions of the Constitution constantly fostering and even encouraging a spreading democratic sentiment could fairly have been expected to deepen the modulated criticism of slavery contained with the compromise language itself. The fact that changing economic and demographic facts in subsequent decades rendered this a more problematic expectation cannot be employed to discount the initial prospects. Nor can it be fairly denied that Lincoln’s valiant and successful effort to recapture the original perspective owed everything to the prior existence of the Declaration charter. When Lincoln and Douglas debated whether the Constitution could apply to black people, and Lincoln reverted to the “standard maxim of a free society” (“that all men are created equal”) to explain the nature of the constitutional principles, we beheld in purest form the sustained, reciprocal interplay of the Declaration and the Constitution. Such a view should persuade us that they are friends never to be separated, best friends in the cause of liberty.

Author’s Note: Keynote address delivered before the New Hampshire Center for Constitutional Studies at its 2004 Constitution Day Celebration, Concord, New Hampshire, September 21, 2004. I acknowledge with gratitude the editorial assistance of my wife, Carol M. Allen. Published in Original Intent vol. 5, no. 1 (December 2004): 1-3, 5.

William B. Allen is Emeritus Dean and Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University.


Podcast by Maureen Quinn.




Declaration                                                         Constitution

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. Article. I., Section. 1.
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing im- portance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. … If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it,unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. Section. 2.
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
[The President] may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;



He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have re- turned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. Article III., Section. 1.
The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. [The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. The Congress shall have Power… To declare War… To provide and maintain a Navy; To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;



He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. Section. 2.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service…
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: Article. VI.
… This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: … no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. [counters the Quebec Act]
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: Section. 4.
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances



of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.


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Guest Essayist: W.B. Allen, Dean Emeritus, James Madison College; Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

Reading the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence bears the heading, “in Congress, July 4, 1776, a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress assembled.” At the outset we see the practice of a “congress” — it reads: “in Congress July 4, 1776.”  This act taken in a solemn assembly was called for specific purposes “by the representatives of the United States of America.” This is ambiguous, for the American states were previously colonies, not states.  Read more

Guest Essayist: W.B. Allen, Dean Emeritus, James Madison College; Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

Amendment 13 – Slavery Abolished, Ratified December 6, 1865.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North- West of the River Ohio, known as the Northwest Ordinance or “The Ordinance of 1787,” an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787.
Article 6. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.

The 13th Amendment is often referred to as the first of the “Reconstruction Amendments.” While it is true that the abolition of slavery was certainly the first priority for the Congress that conducted the War for the Union, it is not exactly correct to pair the 13th Amendment with the 14th and 15th Amendments, which were literally debated in the context of the aftermath of the war and specifically adopted to extend the “privileges and immunities” of citizenship to the ex-slaves. The 13th Amendment, by contrast, was debated and adopted by the Congress while the war yet raged, and specifically as blow against the rebellion as well as an affirmation of the principle of equality at the heart of the Declaration of Independence. As such, the 13th Amendment represents the cashing of the promissory note that Lincoln issued at Gettysburg in 1863.

The best way to analyze the 13th Amendment, therefore, is to recognize that it was adopted before the Reconstruction Congress took office. Then one may review the dramatic debates in the House of the Representatives and the Senate over the period from early 1864 until spring of 1865, when the resolution sending the 13th Amendment to the States was adopted. The debates of that era opened with a reports and discussion on “equality before the law,” “emancipation in the District of Columbia,” employment rights for American blacks, streetcar discrimination, and similar issues before eventuating in the direct discussion of national abolition.

What makes this progression of interest is that it reveals the Congress tentatively, cautiously, approaching the tricky question of national emancipation, although having a firm grasp of the fundamental rights at stake. What all conceded the Congress had the authority to legislate for the District of Columbia, some doubted that the Congress could even propose to the nation at large. In the end the idea of the authority of the people as a whole — the ultimate ratification authority — trumped arguments about “dispossession of property” and interfering with the “police power” in the states. The matter was sensitive not so much on account of the attitudes of the states in rebellion; it was sensitive because several Border States still held slaves but had been loyal to the Union. The idea of an uncompensated emancipation seemed a hard blow to many of their advocates and was, besides, a departure from the precedent of British emancipation in the West Indies a generation earlier The argument was summed up by Senator Lazarus Powell, Democrat from Kentucky, April 8, 1864:

“We were told by the Government in every form in which it could speak, at the beginning of this revolution, that whatever might be the result, the institutions of the States would remain as they were. The President in his inaugural address, announced that he had no constitutional power to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States. The Secretary of State announced it in a communication which he sent abroad. Congress, by a resolution, announced virtually the same thing when they declared that the object of the war was to restore the Union as it was and to maintain the Constitution as it is.”

Senator Henry Wilson, Free Soiler and Republican from Massachusetts, however, would have none of it. The question for him was a matter of setting the nation “right” and removing a fundamental flaw in its fabric:

Throughout all the dominions of slavery republican government, constitutional liberty, the blessings of our free institutions were mere fables. An aristocracy enjoyed unlimited power while the people were pressed to earth and denied the inestimable privileges which by right they should have enjoyed in all the fullness designed by the Constitution.

Senator Charles Sumner, Republican from Massachusetts, summed the matter up with the observation that the proposed amendment was nothing less than the fulfillment of a promise first expressed at the founding and periodically renewed (as in the Missouri Compromise) only with great controversy. He pointed out, accordingly, that the proposed amendment was nothing less than “the idea of reproducing the Jeffersonian ordinance.”

A quick comparison of the text of the 13th Amendment with the language of Article 6 from the Northwest Ordinance will reveal the point of Sumner’s observation. What Jefferson authored and the Confederation Congress adopted and the new government under the Constitution of 1787 solemnly re-affirmed was, effectively, the incompatibility of republicanism and slavery. While that early declaration applied only to the Northwest Territory, and subsequently, the territorial division established by the Missouri Compromise (1820), its purpose and language were to declare the fundamentals of republican government, as the Northwest Ordinance on the whole does expansively (leading some to call it the “first national bill of rights”).

Although the 13th Amendment avoids the Ordinance’s language with regard to fugitive slaves, that omission is understandable where the objective is no longer to admit slavery anywhere, rather than to temporize with it where it already existed. It is safe to say, therefore, that the meaning of the 13th Amendment is authoritatively to be recovered from the intentions and meaning of the Northwest Ordinance — not a mere administrative regulation concerning slavery, but rather a dramatic recovery of the fundamental meaning of republican freedom.

W. B. Allen is Dean Emeritus, James Madison College; and Emeritus
Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

Monday, April 23, 2012 

Essay #46 

Guest Essayist: W.B. Allen, Dean Emeritus, James Madison College; Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

Amendment 9 – Construction of Constitution. Ratified 12/15/1791.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The 9th Amendment to the Constitution was one of twelve submitted to the states for ratification in fall, 1789.  Ten of the twelve were ratified by December 15, 1791, and came to be known as the “Bill of Rights.”  An eleventh, the 27th Amendment, was ratified May 7, 1992.  The final of the twelfth, applying the relevant terms of the “Bill of Rights” to the states was never ratified.  However, the Supreme Court in the 20th Century adopted a doctrine of “incorporation” which imported many of the guarantees of the “Bill of Rights” as applying against the states through the 14th Amendment, adopted during the process of Reconstruction following the 1861-65 War for the Union.

The context for interpreting the 9th Amendment, therefore, is focused on the controlling ideas informing the “Bill of Rights.”  The Supreme Court has never provided clear guidance concerning the 9th Amendment itself.  A fundamental principle of constitutional interpretation, however, is that every article bears some intentional meaning which remains significant in understanding at minimum the intentions of the framers and the design of the institutions of self-government framed by the Constitution.  In that sense, we may take the 9th Amendment to refer primarily to the question of the breadth of the guarantees mentioned in the other articles of the “Bill of Rights.”  This follows the debate that took place over the ratification of the Constitution, in which the Antifederalists chiefly criticized the draft constitution as over-broad and threatening the rights of the people and their state institutions with the prospect of an unlimited federal/national government.  The defenders of the Constitution (the Federalists) responded that the guarantees of individual rights familiar in most of the state constitutions of the founding era should not be included in a federal constitution precisely because the federal constitution was not designed to convey the kind of police power (health, safety, and morals) that would imperil individual rights, reserving that jurisdiction to the states.  That argument is made most forcefully in essay number 84 of The Federalist Papers.  An additional argument made there is the argument that any determinate listing of guaranteed rights would bear the unfortunate implication that any specific guarantees omitted in the process of listing specific rights would imply the existence of a governmental power that had not been intended.

Once, therefore, the political compromise of adding a bill of rights to the constitution had been accepted, the authors of the amendments (mainly James Madison) thought it important to do everything possible to avert any unintended consequences of such an enumeration of rights.  The 9th of Amendment is the first of two deliberately intended to restrict the breadth of the application of those guarantees in such a manner as neither to imply unlimited power in the federal/national government nor to imply individual rights were exhausted by such an enumeration.  In that sense, the 9th Amendment creates a shadowy, unspecified realm in which certain additional rights may be discovered as reserved to the people and, to that extent, thus brought under the controlling language of the 1st Amendment, namely, that “Congress shall make no law respecting” such additional rights.  It is in that spirit that the Supreme Court in the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 decision discovered a constitutional “penumbra” within which a “right to privacy” sheltered and served to proscribe state prohibition of access to contraception.  It was because of the incorporation doctrine through the 14th Amendment that the Court was able to make use of the “Congress shall make no law respecting” the unspoken right to privacy language to enunciate a limit upon the states.  Though the Court has never said so, it should logically follow, therefore, that such a proscription against state policy can only be considered authoritative to the extent that it operates with equal effectiveness against the federal/national government.  For the language of the 9th Amendment is primarily a language of restriction on the federal/national government, as are all of the “Bill of Rights”, and in the absence of ratification of the drafted 12th amendment, applying the same terms to the states, the primary meaning of all such language must be that it is a limitation upon the government of the United States.  Besides contraception, the areas in which such application has occurred have been the parental right to educate children, the right to study a foreign language, the right to make and enforce contracts, etc.

W. B. Allen is Dean Emeritus, James Madison College; and Emeritus
Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University

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April 10, 2012

Essay #37

Interview with Janine Turner on the Janine Turner Radio Show

W. B. Allen, Dean Emeritus James Madison College, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University, and author of our “90 in 90” Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 Essay, visits with Janine Turner on the Janine Turner Radio Show, on Saturday, August 6, on DFW’s KLIF!

Listen as they discuss Professor Allen’s essay on Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 found in Constituting America’s Analyzing the Constitution project at this link:

Listen to Dr. Allen’s brilliant analysis of this often misunderstood clause of the U.S. Constitution!

Guest Essayist: W. B. Allen, Havre de Grace, MD

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1

1: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 the debate that produced this provision came to a head on August 21 and sustained tense development until its resolution on August 25 in a unanimous vote (nem contradicente) that succeeded several divided votes that preceded the eventual compromise. This short narration, however, conceals a tortured and tense struggle that emerged from the debates over democratic representation, permissible forms and apportionment of taxation, and the wisdom and morality of slavery itself. What occurred, in short, is that the Convention elected to affirm national authority to prohibit the importation of slaves but to limit any tax on this particular import to a modest sum, in recognition of strenuous and unyielding objections especially from South Carolina and Georgia to the exercise of any limit upon their discretion in the matter of slavery, even after having been granted a bonus effect by the counting of three-fifths of the total number of slaves in the calculation of representation in the House of Representatives.

This essay is too limited in space to permit unfolding the full dimensions of the debate in the Constitutional Convention. We urge readers to recur to the Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison for a thorough review of the debate in order to place in context the sometimes surprising positions of delegates as varied as Oliver Ellsworth, Luther Martin, and Roger Sherman as well as those of James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. A more general view of the question of slavery is at the following link:

As for the meaning of the constitution’s limitation on the power to import slaves, the most efficient way to comprehend it is to review the story of its implementation under the new government.

The first major debate over constitutional interpretation within the Congress took place in the House of Representatives on May 13, 1789. The subject was slavery, and it carried with it all of the ambiguous assumptions which freighted the several compromise provisions on the subject in the Constitution. It is to be remembered that the slave trade clause (Art. I, sec. 9), by which slavery could not be prohibited by Congress until the year 1808, but by which the Congress could impose an import tax on slaves, produced contrary interpretations even at the time, ranging from the more familiar southern claims that “we got all that we could” on behalf of slavery, to the less well known but extraordinary claim by James Wilson, that

I will tell you what was done, and it gives me high pleasure, that so much was done. . . [B]y this article after the year 1808, the congress will have the power to prohibit such importation, notwithstanding the disposition of any state to the contrary. I consider this as laying the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country; and though the period is more distant than I could wish, yet it will produce the same kind of gradual change which was pursued in Pennsylvania.i

The debate that occurred within the House of Representatives shows how far the hopeful interpretation prevailed over the shameful interpretation. On the surface it seems that the shameful interpretation prevailed, for the House voted by a large majority not to impose the constitutionally permitted impost on slaves. Further investigation reveals, however, that the vote was carried primarily by the northern and eastern antislavery votes, cast by those acting on the principle enunciated by men such as Fisher Ames and Roger Sherman that “no one appeared to be prepared for the discussion.”

Josiah Parker of Virginia introduced and pushed the measure, even to the point of eliciting a momentary attempt at a positive good argument for slavery from Jackson of Georgia. It was James Madison, however, who was most prepared to discuss the matter and most reluctant to yield to counsels of caution on a matter which others feared could abort the Union. His comments in this debate underscore his prior resort to slavery in order to move the Convention toward a Constitution almost two years earlier, for in 1789 the very existence of the Union weighs heavily in his reflections and promises the opportunity to act upon the question.

I cannot concur with gentlemen who think the present an improper time or place to enter into a discussion of the proposed motion . . . There may be some inconsistency in combining the ideas which gentlemen have expressed, that is, considering the human race as a species of property; but the evil does not arise from adopting the clause now proposed; it is from the importation to which it relates. Our object in enumerating persons on paper with merchandise, is to prevent the practice of treating them as such . . .

The dictates of humanity, the principles of the people, the national safety and happiness, and prudent policy, require it of us . . . I conceive the Constitution, in this particular, was formed in order that the Government, whilst it was restrained from laying a total prohibition, might be able to give some testimony of the sense of America with respect to the African trade. . .

It is to be hoped, that by expressing a national disapprobation of this trade, we may destroy it, and save ourselves from reproaches, and our posterity the imbecility ever attendant on a country filled with slaves . . . [I]f there is any one point in which it is clearly the policy of this nation, so far as we constitutionally can, to vary the practice obtaining under some of the state governments, it is this.

To Madison, it appears, the slavery option was such that it could, and should, be subject to calculated disincentives. An analysis of the vote on this measure, in a House of 59 representatives, ten of whom were present in the Constitutional Convention, reveals a preponderant disposition to treat slavery as an option to be discouraged but nevertheless a matter sufficiently sensitive as to make that difficult.

The next implementation event of the Founding era is the manner in which, when the constitutional prohibition had expired, the international slave trade was prohibited. The President and his Secretary of State initiated the process in 1807 with some apparent pleasure. They encountered a difficulty, however, which no one had anticipated. It centered on the question of what to do with any contraband (that is, ships and slave cargo) that may be apprehended. Jefferson’s original proposal envisioned a traditional disposal in the interest of the government. But other parties, especially Quakers, pointed to the grand paradox that would involve the United States in selling Africans as a means of denying that privilege to American citizens in the name of the rights of humanity. Madison’s speech of 1789—we treat persons as property in law in order to be able to prevent their being treated as property in practice—resonated loudly. It quickly became clear that Jefferson’s proposal involved a mere oversight. Yet, it was immensely difficult to discern what else might be done.

The counterproposal, that the Africans be freed rather than sold, was the immediate cause which touched off heated debate in 1807, but that debate, above all in the House of Representatives, produced the first compromise on slavery admitting the existence of irreconcilable differences between north and south. Here, for the first time, there was an explicit threat of civil war over the institution of slavery, and an accommodation which recognized that “Easterners” must not be asked to turn their backs on the Founding and principles of humanity, while “Southerners” must not be asked to condemn their own way of life. Therefore, the northern proposal to free the cargo within the United States and even within the slave states, was amended, first, to freeing them only in the north (i.e., indenturing them for a term of years at a stipulated wage), and ultimately, to remanding them on such provisions as the states might make, with only a tacit understanding that they were not to be dealt with as property.

It is interesting to speculate about what might have eventuated had Jefferson and Madison reflected initially on the impropriety of proposing legislation to handle the Africans as contraband. They may well have discovered the key whereby to unlock the door to the interstate commerce power as a device for regulating slavery. Not only did they not envision such a debate in 1807, however, but more importantly no one else did. Not even the Quakers, whose sharp-sightedness prevented a moral catastrophe, applied their principles in this way. It seemed in 1807 that no one at all, whether defender of slavery or abolitionist, looked at the “migration” language of Article I, section 9 as a probable means to resolve this difficulty.

This lends powerful credence to Madison’s 1819 claim that the language of the migration portion of the slave trade clause did not apply to slaves, though it may have regarded free blacks.ii His further remark, to the effect that any attempt so to construe it would have caused a brouhaha, helps explain the absence of recourse to it in 1807. As noted, the mild debate which did eventuate in 1807 produced threats of secession and war. Accordingly, Madison simply maintained that public opinion would not have abided such a turn, pointing to the one theme he consistently enunciated throughout his career, namely, the necessity of consent, not only to institute the government but to institute the fundamental change envisioned. This Madison explained repeatedly, as he did to Robert Evans in 1819.iii For Madison, the key to this progressive regime was consent, the index of which was public opinion. Whatever was to be accomplished had to be accomplished by that medium. So fervently did he believe this that he not only subordinated abolition to it, but, as he expressly recounted, all his labors to form the Democratic-Republican Party were predicated on that premise.

While public opinion in 1807 countenanced the prohibition of the slave trade, it did not countenance federal abolition of slavery. In the end, for Madison, the theory of republicanism is not a theory about institutional relations; it is a theory about the dependence of power on opinion. “Changes” in his views all took place at the surface, because, like planets, ideas about constitutionality wander about a fixed sun.iv

Efforts to implement Article I, Section 9, Clause 1, therefore, reveal a mosaic that captures all of the dimensions of the role of slavery and race in American politics. That role must be considered against the backdrop of the principles of the regime, because actions touching upon slavery and race bear heavy implications for those principles, and vice versa. This does not result from any cultural or traditional pattern so much as from the conscious choices with which Americans wrestled at every turn in our nation’s history, up to and including the decisions of the present generation.

It is especially obvious in the 1807 struggle over the prohibition of the slave trade: From the moment that slavery was in any degree limited, there arose to replace it the problem of how to handle the question of race. The answer to that question rests, in turn, not only on the fact that the consciously chosen principles of the regime entail equality and liberty for all humans but, far more importantly, on the question whether they require an open, heterogeneous society. The decisions that were made on this question in the aftermath of the War of American Union, in the form of the post-war amendments and civil rights legislation, indicate a positive response to the latter. But how far was that also true at the time of the Founding itself?

While it is inaccurate to assert that no one prior to the last half of the nineteenth century imagined an interracial society founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence, that question is of minimal concern here. First, it is of minimal concern because it is subordinate to the question of whether the Declaration was understood to include all human beings without regard to the practical social implications of that principle. Second, it is of minimal concern because the status of slavery and race under the Constitution or regime—and how to legislate in regard to it—is and has been a single question. Madison’s concern to avoid the “imbecility” of a country filled with slaves does not require the corollary of turning slaves into free citizens in the republic. As the 1807 slave trade debate reveals, however, that is the very question which arises the moment the freedom of the African is conceded. Hence, the debate was in fact a debate about whether and how to integrate Africans within the United States. The fact that Americans posed the same kind of question then and now points the way to an understanding of the dilemma we now face.


i Pennsylvania State Ratifying Convention, December 3, 1787.

ii Letter to Robert Walsh,, November 27, 1819, printed in Max Farrand, Records. op. cit., vol. III, p. 436.

iii Letter to Robert Evans,, June 15, 1819,, in The Writings of James Madison, ed. by Gaillard Hunt (New York: G. P. Putnam I s Sons, 1908), vol. VIII, pp. 439-441.

iv See especially Madison’s account of his “different” opinions on the constitutionality of a national bank, in the letter to President Monroe, December 27, 1817. Works, vol. III, pp. 55-56

W. B. Allen

Havre de Grace, MD


Guest Essayist: W. B. Allen, Havre de Grace, MD

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Amendment 14, Section 2: Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Amendment 26, Section1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

The so-called “three-fifths” clause of the U. S. Constitution is actually a provision for determining the number of representatives allotted to the several states in the Union. However, it provides the most frequently circulated charge against the Constitution. Simply put, for a long time almost everyone in America has misunderstood the three-fifths language in the Constitution. Here we speak directly and only to the origin of that language, in order to correct the record. We begin, however, by listing the Fourteenth Amendment and the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, because of their implications for the original text. Note that the Fourteenth Amendment supersedes the three-fifths clause, in particular directly tying the rule of representation to eligibility to participate in elections. That was not the case originally. Moreover, it ties eligibility to participate in elections (in relation to penalties for the denial of that privilege) to an age of majority listed as “twenty-one years of age.” However, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment establishes the age of eligibility for voting at “eighteen years of age” without having altered the language of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, once again the eligibility to vote has become disconnected from the rule of representation, as it was in the original constitution.

Now, regarding the three-fifths clause, the general account is that the Framers regarded black people as only three-fifths human (whatever that might mean). That, in turn, is supposed to prove that the Framers were bigots and that their opinion of black people was low indeed. The palpable surface of the framing documents reveals the truth. Consider what they did in fact mean, then judge how well the Framers confronted their moral dilemmas.

In April, 1783 (not 1787) in the Confederation Congress the three-fifths compromise emerged after six weeks of debate. An eighth article was proposed for the Articles of Confedration, apportioning expenses for the Confederation on the basis of land values as surveyed. There the discussion opened, only to reveal how difficult it was to assess land values 2

and, in the rude conditions of those times, to produce accurate surveys. Thus, they resorted to numbers instead, speaking of population as a rough approximation of wealth. Taking the numbers of people in the respective states, they hit upon the following language:

expenses shall be supplied by the several states in proportion to the whole number of white and other free inhabitants, of every age, sex, and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes in each state.

What, then, does three-fifths apply to? Slaves, carefully and legally defined. But re-read the opening clause, delimiting “the whole number of white and other free inhabitants.” To whom does that apply? Surely not whites only, nor only males, since “every age, sex, and condition” is further appended. Clearly, they aimed at every free human being, white and non-white. As is generally known, the only significant number of free non-whites in the United States in 1783 were American blacks (another 10,000 of whom were emancipated between 1776 and 1787). There were not in the United States of 1783, for example, any Asians. Thus, these legislators included American blacks among the free inhabitants; the following three-fifths clause applied not to blacks generically but rather to persons in the peculiar legal relation of slavery. Three-fifths of the number of slaves were counted, not in terms of their humanity but with respect to their legal status in the respective states.

The Confederation Congress fully affirmed the humanity of American blacks through the language of “white and other free inhabitants.” Was that recognition of humanity withdrawn when this same language was taken up again in 1787 in the Constitutional Convention? Here is the provision:

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The lapse of four years has brought changes. But what are the changes? On the surface the changes are primarily editorial, introducing economy and exactness of language. As any composition teacher would point out, the first thing to notice is the elimination of redundancy. Why should it be necessary to say the “whole number of white and other free inhabitants, of every age, sex, and condition,” when the “whole number of free persons” says the same thing? Further, “adding three fifths of all other persons” at the end is less awkward than the inclusion clause of 1783. Finally, the substitution of “Service” for “servitude” continues the liberal impulse of 1776. Moreover, this rule of representation says nothing about who gets the right to vote. Thus, 1787’s freedom language includes women and blacks; it does not exclude them.

W. B. Allen

Havre de Grace, MD

Posted in Analyzing the Constitution Essay Archives | 18 Comments »

18 Responses to “February 24, 2011 – Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: W. B. Allen, Havre de Grace, MD”

  1. Scott Miller says:

February 24, 2011 at 1:20 am

Wasn’t the three fifths clause also intended to prevent slave owning states from gaining an unfair advantage over free states by preventing them from including slaves in a count of a state’s population and giving the slave states permanent control of the House of Representatives?

This would go along with the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness clause of the Declaration of Independence which was originally written as “life, liberty, and property”, but changed to “life, liberty, and happiness” to prevent slave states from making the case that the word “property” must include slaves.

Between the two wouldn’t slavery have become constitutionally protected and recognized legal institution? It would have given the slave states permanent control of Congress because the slave state would have used control of Congress to insure that all future states admitted to the Union would have been slaves states, would it not?

  1. Joe Short says:

February 24, 2011 at 9:11 am

Why is the “indians not taxed” language included?

  1. Brad says:

February 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

“including those bound to Service for a Term of Years”

Of whom does the Constitution refer? These individuals do not appear to be identified as slaves, but rather a specific legal class of free persons.

?prisoners…? debtors?…

  1. Toni says:

February 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I think the majority of those who misunderstand or misinterpret this whole three fifths thing either do it on purpose to use to their advantage, or simply have not done the research to find out for themselves.

The first category knowingly and willingly try to change what was in the hearts of our founding father’s. This frustrates me to no end. I believe for America to continue to be free we must keep in mind the hearts and minds of our founding fathers. We must take the time to know their morals and deeply held beliefs.

We must also keep in mind that they were not from our time. We cannot judge them based on who we are today. We must see them and understand them in their own time for who they were then and what our country was like then. I love this stuff.

We’re having our First Patriot’s club on March 4th and I’m so excited to teach these young Patriots the constitution and their founding father’s. I believe we must know them as well as the document to gain true understanding.

  1. Susan says:

February 24, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Brad, at the time of the writing I think there was still indentured servitude. This was a contracted period of servitude for the payment of transport and relocation to America.

  1. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

February 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

@Joe Short: Indians not taxed are the Indians who ware not particularly US Citizens. The Indians were and are a protectorate of the federal government where the Indians were treated as a foreign country. It is interesting to note that during the Treaty of Paris meetings led by Benjamin Franklin that Franklin secured the welfare of the American Indians from the European powers citing that they were a people “not able to defend themselves.” The Treaty of Paris then kept Europe out of the affairs of the American Indian. Had this not been done; the perpetual European wars may have persisted to intermeddle with the American Indian affairs. As was then, and in the years afterward, there were intents among the British Crown to keep arming the American Indians and incite war with the American “rebels”.

@Brad: bound to Service for a Term of Years are those of indentured servants primarily from Europe. These are people who either contracted their fare of transport to the states or were in debt already and arrangements were made with the shipping companies conveying goods of trade to the Americas. Many were debtors who were subject to the ill-gotten practice of being jailed for their debt where they could not work off their debt and so in a somewhat not-by-choice fashion were made indentured servants to the shipping companies. The shipping companies then would sell the contract of labor in the Americas to bidders. The indentured servants typically served a term of no more than seven years under the Judeo-Christian ideal of a seven year’s release.

  1. Brad says:

February 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm

@Susan and Ralph: Thank you for the clarification. This dialogue is wonderful.

  1. Donna Hardeman says:

February 24, 2011 at 6:25 pm

You guys should look at David Barton’s explanation on utube. Fabulous.He explains how Frederick Douglas realized the 3/5 clause was an anti-slavery clause.Talks about Georgia, NC & SC wanting to count all their slaves so they could have more votes.Northern states came back saying – you want to count your “property” we’ll count our horses and goats!(All from the Constitutional Convention notes). The neat thing he points out is that the 3/5 clause actually applied to the population of slaves – not each individually meaning that a state would have to have 50,000 slaves to enable them to get one representative. That clause is so cool because it’s true – everyone misunderstands it – and it’s fun to set them straight!!

  1. Barb Zakszewski says:

February 24, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Interesting, so women and blacks had the right to vote since the beginning?? Yet were denied that right because of incorrect readings of the original Article within the Constitution? Am I understanding this correctly? that is amazing, if it’s true!! I had to re-read the explanation regarding the 3/5 clause several times, but it does make sense now.

  1. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

February 25, 2011 at 12:25 am

@Barb: That is correct; but the right to vote for women in particular was not uniform among the states. If you think about it; in order for their to be a women’s suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution there had to be 3/4ths states that ratified the amendement. Do you think that all of a sudden 3/4ths the states went from seeing the error of their ways to suddenly advocating a woman’s right to vote?

In colonial times, for example, Pennsylvania voting rights were orchestrated around property ownership to land holders. Men were the primary land-owners of estates; but if a woman’s husband passed away, then the property fell to her and she then had the right to vote in his stead. Later, states like Idaho made law that give women the right to vote without any such land-holding impediments and gave an cablanche right to vote for women. They did this to encourage women to risk pioneering the unclaimed lands mostly populated by men and populate the territory.

  1. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

February 25, 2011 at 5:27 am

The 3/5ths clause is a penchant play on political correctness.

Michele Backmann was right. The founders did wrestle with the slavery issue.

During the constitutional convention [or ConCon] debates August 21, 22, 1787 the premise was that each state was an independent nation and the auspices of the convention was not much more than a trade union. When it came to the issue on slavery there certainly were a variety of views and it was recommended to ban the importation of slavery and/or abolish slavery; but it was passed over to the states as a state matter as the purpose and scope of the convention was not that of religion, morality, or humanity. The original submitted draft of the Constitution brought to the ConCon 1787 actually forbade outright the blocking of the slave trade and forbade imposing a tax provision on the importation of slaves, so it appears. The draft evidently was revised to instead postpone the blocking of the slave trade and allowed a tax on the trade instead of none. So the end result of the draft constitution going into the ConCon was a marginally tougher instrument on slavery that what was proposed.

As James Madison made record in his ConCon notes, Mr. Rutledge noted: “Interest alone is the governing principal with nations. The true question at hand is whether the Southern States shall or shall not be parties to the Union.” Mr. Ellsworth noted: “The morality or wisdom of slavery are considerations belonging to the states themselves.” And, “[t]he old confederation had not meddled on this point, and he did not see…bringing it within the policy of the new one…” Mr. Sherman also noted that the slavery issue, being the purview of the several States, was already addressed by the abolition movement “and that the good sense of the several States would probably by degrees compleat [the abolition].”

So what we have on the table was the making of a stronger union versus a very loose, virtual one. The confederate congress really had no power to speak of and figuratively had to have permission of ten states to sneeze, and then had to have permission of ten states again to get a handkerchief. Yet, if the abolition of slavery was promulgated in the Constitution, then the southern states would not have ratified it. Hence, the 3/5ths compromise was retained in order to deter the southern states from not ratifying; and by implication, leaving the union. And abolition was allowed passively by the Constitution, by leaving with the states their own accord to abolish slavery as some statesmen like Mr. Sherman thought the abolitionist movement was already showing much success in that direction. Mr. Pickney also concurred thinking the Southern States will eventually block the importation of slaves of their own volition.

A comparitive could be if the USA, Canada, and Mexico took NAFTA and upgraded to a federal union while cartels still exist.

  1. Susan says:

February 25, 2011 at 9:51 am

I know that the women of New Jersey voted in elections up until about 1800 when sufferage was rescinded.

  1. Shelby Seymore says:

February 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

Personally, I am so annoyed with the excuse or the complaint, “The founding fathers only saw blacks as three fifths of a person.” No. Stop. Grow up. Fredrick Douglas figured this out. The founders put the three fifths clause into the Constitution so that the South wouldn’t have so much power. If slaves were counted as a whole person the founders knew they’d never get rid of slavery. It was a way to undermine slavery, not keep it going. Do your homework.

  1. yguy says:

February 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Interesting, so women and blacks had the right to vote since the beginning?? Yet were denied that right because of incorrect readings of the original Article within the Constitution? Am I understanding this correctly?

I think not. I see nothing in A1S2C3 that addresses suffrage, which was, like citizenship, left to the states to deal with originally.

  1. Ron Meier says:

February 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm

My take from what I read above, ignoring the “did they or didn’t they” this or that, is that the founders knew they couldn’t get rid of slavery in the new Constitution because the southern states would then not likely approve the Constitution. They figured that the growing abolition movement would eventually take care of the problem in the individual states, without federal involvement, so let’s not upset the cart and let’s get the Constitution we need into law now so the greater benefits would accrue to the weak, but growing nation. Let it be a state problem that will resolve itself. Unfortunately, they were not correct in this assessment, and the Civil War erupted 80 years later. It’s like life; you give it your best shot with your most pragmatic decision based on the greater good, and pray that you are making the optimal choice with respect to the things over which you have little or no control.

  1. Shannon_Atlanta says:

February 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Great dialogue!! Learning alot here.

  1. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

February 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Another tid-bit people don’t know is not only were the several states under the AoC considered separate countries, and that the Crown of England issued a treaty for each and every colony than that of the gamut moniker of “these United States of America”, is that Quebec was invited into the union twice. Quebec was simply viewed as another colony of British pesuasion…though it was also under control of the French for a time. Quebec was invited first under the AoC and invited a second time during the ratification of the US Constitution. Quebec choose not to but may very well have been another state in the US. To date, the border between the US and Canada has been arguably the most peaceful border between two countries in the history of the world. In WW1&2, and much of the NATO alliances thereafter, Canada has continued to be an ally. How Americans and Canadians managed border disputes is remarkable.

  1. Janine Turner says:

February 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Thank you, Mr. Allen for your enlightening essay! It is truly informative and powerful in it’s honest representation of what is to be interpreted from both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution on this subject. Your essay is a fabulous reference for those who choose to study our founding documents. Firstly, I am grateful that our founding fathers did not use land values to account for representation and instead used populace. Secondly, I am grateful for your interpretation and clarification of the 3/5 clause. Thirdly, I am eternally grateful that our founding fathers had the insight to leave to their posterity the right to amend the Constitution. They knew changes were going to be needed.

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.



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.



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