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

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Alexander Hamilton began his Revolutionary War service as a member of a New York militia unit. He then joined the Continental Army as an artillery officer and became General Washington’s adjutant in 1777. After resigning that post, he persuaded Washington to give him a position as a field commander at the decisive Battle of Yorktown in 1781. From his experience as line officer and staff member, Hamilton was well aware of the capabilities of a trained army and those of the militia. More, in 1783, the Confederation Congress had appointed Hamilton to head a committee to investigate the creation of a standing army.

That background stands out in Federalist No. 25. Supporting Congress’s power to create a standing army, Hamilton rejects the argument that, if there is to be such an institution, it should be under the control of the states. Hamilton also rejects a more moderate position supported by Brutus and other Antifederalists that the national government be permitted to raise and keep troops for frontier duty and to counter threatened attacks, but not to keep armies generally during peacetime. He uses a rather trite “where-do-we-draw-the-line” argument to defend drawing no line at all. Brutus has a ready response: Just specify the purposes for which peacetime troops may be raised and kept, and require a two-thirds vote for Congress to act.

But, rejoins Hamilton, “how easy would it be to fabricate pretences [sic] of approaching danger?” A peacetime army might be kept up, through collaboration between Congress and the President, on the flimsiest of excuses and for however long they judge the danger to exist for their own political ends.” Hence, there should be no restriction on Congress’s power to raise and keep a peacetime army. Because a limited power might be abused, there must be an unlimited power? It is this logical leap that the Antifederalists reject.

Hamilton raises an important broader point here, namely, the use of contrived crises not only to justify military action, but any government action. As Publius notes in several other essays, government thrives on crisis, while individual liberty shrivels. Power flows from the individual to government, from local governments to the central government, and from the legislative and judicial branches to the executive. Such crises fuel an explosion of political energy that produce dangerously excessive unity over individuality, and conformity over liberty, at least temporarily. Government officials gain from such crises, be they real or contrived. “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” is a brilliantly apt aphorism of this phenomenon. Wars and natural disasters are real crises, but one frequently hears crisis terminology used to describe more run-of-the-mill political issues, from “wars” on poverty and drugs to health care and obesity “crises,” to justify government intrusion into individual autonomy. Not long ago, there was even a “hidden” child care crisis, with government efforts made all the more critical because the crisis was so insidious no one recognized it.

Hamilton also anticipates the assertion that the militia suffices for the national defense, an argument he roundly rejects. This was a particularly sensitive ideological issue for Americans of the time. The myth of the citizen-soldier was a powerful republican tale. The ideal soldier was Cincinnatus, the Roman consul-turned-farmer who was subsequently called to be dictator and general during a war, which offices he resigned upon successful completion of the military campaign. He then returned to his farm. Making this republican myth concrete for Americans was that they had their own Cincinnatus in the person of George Washington. Revolutionary War officers formed the Society of the Cincinnati to promote this republican ideal.

The militia embodies the ethos of the citizen-soldier. Hamilton pays due homage, but recognizes the inferiority of the militia to a regular army in sustained military operations. “The American militia, in the course of the late war, have, by their valour on numerous occasions, erected eternal monuments to their fame; but the bravest of them feel and know, that the liberty of their country could not have been established by their efforts alone, however great and valuable they were.” As he noted in Federalist 24, even in peacetime the militia would be unsuited to perform regular soldiering duties such as guarding the frontier. “The militia, in times of profound peace, would not long, if at all, submit to be dragged from their occupations and families, to perform that most disagreeable duty.” Worse, he declares, is the economic inefficiency of compelling the militia to such service, produced by a loss of labor and industrious pursuits and by the expense to the society of frequent rotation of the militia. Since militia service was universal for adult males of a wide age range, such burdens would be even more objectionable than if they fell on a body of citizen volunteers, such as today’s National Guard.

Our current military system depends on a combination of a professional standing army in active service and volunteers in the National Guard and in various reserve units. The system has advantages in training and professionalism, which become more important as the technology in fighting becomes ever more complex. The war-fighting skills of the massed citizen soldiers of the ancient Athenian hoplite formation or of the Roman legion were relatively simple to master. Today’s warfare is infinitely more complex, and continuous campaigns are measured in years, not weeks. Relying on citizen-soldiers, even volunteers in the National Guard, for long commitments produces hardships and economic dislocation, as news reports often point out. This is well worth remembering when politicians blithely call for a state’s national guard to be deployed to guard the frontier against trespassing aliens, or when cuts in the defense budget are proposed while the scope of military commitments abroad continues at a high level.

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

15 Responses to “June 1, 2010Federalist No. 25 – The Same Subject Continued: The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

  1. Susan Craig says:

    On an average there is at least one sentence per paper that brings me up short. This papers contribution is: “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state.”

  2. Ron Meier says:

    Some interesting stats to consider. About 60 years ago, before the Korean War, our population was about 150 million; today it’s about 310 million. Before the Korean War, we had a standing peacetime Army and Marines of about 15 Divisions; today, our standing Army and Marines, in time of war, is about 13 Divisions. Before the Korean War, we were not at war; today, we’ve been at war for 9 years and yet have not increased the size of our active Divisions. We’ve actually decreased them, in spite of a 100% increase in population. I don’t know what an appropriate size is of a standing military in time of peace, but it seems to me that, during a time of war, there should be some kind of increase. I don’t think our current military size is a threat to our population, given the 100% increase in popluation and the decline in the standing military, but I do think that it is inadequate to perform our multiple missions without having our professional volunteers burn out with family stress that comes from the multiple deployments that are today’s reality.

  3. W. B. Neate says:

    First let me add my thanks to Janine and Cathy for this wonderful forum.

    I would agree with Ron Meier that in the manner our military has been used our smaller force has caused undue hardship on those who serve and their families as well. I would suggest, however, that with our superior military technological capabilities, we have badly mismanaged the use of our forces.

    The scope and techniques of our armed forces activities are dictated by our political leaders. Of the 535 members of the 111th Congress only 121 are veterans. This is less than 25% and this percentage declines with each new congress. The major concerns seem to be political correctness and collateral damage. I don’t think political correctness was even a “buzz phrase” during WWII and had we been overly concerned about collateral damage we would have never dropped the atomic bomb which ended that great war. I am not a war monger but do believe that whatever might we have we should be willing to use if we are to engage in warfare and I am much less concerned about collateral damage in foreign lands than I am about the lives of our young men and women who serve so selflessly. War is hell and “playing nice” is not only too costly but encourages our adversaries.

    Having stated this position I would like to suggest that there exists at least three good reasons for required national service; 1) fresh troops to take some of the burden from our career military personnel, 2) a larger pool of those who have truly served our country from whom we might choose future leaders and 3) a larger number of future Americans with greater sense of national pride that can only be gained via service to country or close relationships with those who serve. As a Viet Nam era veteran I can assure you that I see this deep sense of patriotism diminishing as time goes by.

    Please note that in the preceding paragraph I used the phrase “required national service” as opposed to suggesting a re-institution of the draft. I think all young people should serve but also think they should have the choice of opting out of military service if they choose. We have plenty of other areas where service could be applied.

  4. Susan Craig says:

    @W.B., I agree about the ‘required national service’. If it can be kept out of the political paws, I think things like Vista and Peace Corps should be offered as viable options for national service.

  5. Jimmy Green says:

    It’s natural to accept a professional standing army as better equipped and trained than a militia and the control resting in the Federal Governments hands instead of the states is obvious to me. Hamilton’s experience in the military makes this quite clear. I believe he short changes himself somewhat by not heeding more seriously the concerns about the inherent dangers of our liberties that could result from a standing army. I have not yet read the anti federalist papers but the point mentioned by the Anti federalists according to Prof. Knipprath “that the national government be permitted to raise and keep troops for frontier duty and to counter threatened attacks, but not to keep armies generally during peacetime”. Seems to be a practical approach. This would be somewhat like a trip wire giving us warning of an approaching storm without incurring the high cost and inherent dangers of a continual standing army.

    Under the scenario of the Anti Federalists I wonder if our military would have been used in past conflicts such a Somalia or Bosnia or any U.N. police actions which I doubt the founding fathers would have agreed with. Also something that bothers me were incidents such as the Pennsylvania mutiny in 1783 by a small part of the Continental Army over pay. If I remember this was one of the reasons the Federal Government relocated away from Philadelphia and eventually established the federal district of Washington D.C. Is there any chance of this reoccurring if our economy takes a serious nosedive beyond anything we have experienced so far?

    George Washington in his farewell address stated “Overgrown military establishments are, under any form of government, inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.”

    Another General who became president, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in his farewell speech of 1961 “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

    I grew up as a kid on a Marine Corps base “Camp Lejeune” so I know the professionalism and power of our armed forces. In reading history it seems some of our most prominent members of America and other countries understood the value of a standing army but also gave us stern advice on the inherent dangers. Let’s hope we understand both clearly and use the military in the interest of our country only.

  6. On this Memorial Day season, I think it is appropriate to truly contemplate and think about the soldiers and families who have sacrificed their lives and loved ones, and given their time and dedication to our country.

    Sometimes it is beyond reach to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and feel, to the most heightened sense, what it would be like to say good-by to our loved ones for perhaps the last time. Do we take the time to feel empathy for the soldier who has to walk away from his family – mother, father, wife, husband, daughter, son – to be potentially killed out in the field – to die away from family – in perhaps some distant land, in enemy territory, on foreign soil? How frightening this would be.

    It is difficult in our daily lives that are hectic with work, pressures, commitments and family responsibilities to really pause to think about the sacrifice our men and women in uniform have made and are making to protect us. Our men and women in uniform were and are the brave, the special, the few and the truly great patriots. Without these soldiers, we, America and Americans, would not be here – plain and simple. The air we breathe, the land we walk, the sky we sketch, the country we call home, is because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.

    No matter which war they called their own, they all fought the enemy, whether near or far, whether boots were on the ground, in the air or on the sea, whether the enemy was present or premeditating. As Alexander Hamilton expressed in Federalist Paper No. 24, “ cases are likely to occur under our governments, as well as under those of other nations, which sometimes render a military force in the time of peace, essential to the security of the society.” Thus, an actual battle or a state of ready alert has served the same purpose – the enemy was to know and knew that he would not prevail against men and women who had the Divine right of liberty in their soul, passion in their hearts and the supreme strength of military readiness.

    Memorial Day is the day to set aside time and sit down with our children and teach them about our wars and war heroes. It is a time to teach them about the Revolutionary War and the reasons why we fought it. They should know about the soldiers who walked barefoot in the snow, leaving the stain of their blood on the ice and about those soldiers who died miserable deaths as POWs in the stifling bowels of the British ships at sea. They should know about heroes such as Paul Revere, Israel Putnam and Nathan Hale who said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

    We should take a moment during our Memorial Day season, and everyday, to pray for our men and women in uniform. We should teach our children about those who served in the War of 1812 when the British returned, how they burned down the White House and how President James Madison’s wife, Dolly Madison, ran to save the portrait of President George Washington.

    They should know about the Civil War, why we fought it and how thousands of our soldiers died from a new type of bullet that shattered their bones. They should know about the horrors of slavery, how it had permeated the world throughout history and yet how, according to William J. Bennett, “the westerners led the world to end the practice.” They should know about how Americans fought Americans claiming hundreds of thousands of soldier’s lives.

    They should know about World War I and how the soldiers lined up in rows, one after the other, to be shot or stabbed by swords. They should know about World War II and the almost inconceivable bravery of the soldiers who ran onto the beach to endure the battle of Normandy, which claimed thousands of American lives. They should understand what history has to teach us about the mistakes in politics that bred the tyrants who led millions to slaughter. As Publius teaches us, we should not rule with reason but upon the strong foundation of the lessons of history.

    They should know about the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Communist Regimes that ripped the souls from its people. They should know that our soldiers did not fight or die in vain in Korea or Vietnam because even though the enemy was physically in their field, the enemy’s propaganda permeated and thus threatened our field.

    They should know about the soldiers who stood on alert during the Cold War and their willingness to die. (My father is a West Point Military graduate and served in the Air Force. He was one of the first to fly twice the speed of sound, Mach II, in the 1960’s. He flew the B-58 Hustler and was ready to die on his mission to Russia when his country called him to do so.) The cold war was won by the ready willingness of our brave soldiers in uniform and a country who was militarily prepared.

    A prepared state is a winning state. Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 24, “Can any man think it would be wise, to leave such posts in a situation to be at any instant seized by one or the other of two neighboring and formidable powers? To act this part, would be to desert all the usual maxims of prudence and policy.”

    Today, we fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. We fight the insurgencies at our borders most especially in Arizona, Texas and California and we fight an elusive enemy that is creeping into our fields. They are creeping both from abroad with violence and from within with the slow usurpation of our founding principles. Alexander Hamilton warns in Federalist Paper No. 25, “For it is a truth which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are commonly most in danger, when the means of injuring the rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertained the least suspicion.”

    A strong and honest government based on the Constitution and ruled by the people through the Constitutional Republic will prevail but only if we, as citizens, know about it and only if our children are raised on the fruits of this knowledge. As Alexander Hamilton states in Federalist Paper No. 25, “It also teaches us, in its application to the United States, how little rights of a feeble government are likely to be respected, even by its own constituents.”

    Wars are fought physically and wars are fought mentally. As civil servants we must be alert to the enemy that is amongst us. Alexander Hamilton states in Federalist Paper No. 25, “…every breach of the fundamental laws, though dedicated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence, which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country…”

    On this Memorial Day season, we begin our mission with an education of the thesis and basis of our country – what we fight for – the United States Constitution and the wisdom, freedoms, righteousness and structure that it upholds.

    May God bless all of our service men and women past, present and future, who have fought valiantly for these principles.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    June 1, 2010

  7. W.B. Neate – I thank you for your kind words! And I thank all of you great patriots for joining us and for being a part of our blog. I am learning so much from your perspectives!
    God Bless.. Janine

  8. Susan Craig says:

    To Professor Joerg Knipprath: Thank you I look forward to each of you posting with anticipation.

  9. Great comments again, and, as Janine writes, especially fitting on Memorial Day. Susan, that quote is from Fed. 28, I believe, but it is a very important principle that many of the founders had actually lived. It also fits well with the historical purpose behind the Second Amendment, which protects people’s right to own weapons. Although that right extends to personal self-defense, those who adopted it were keenly aware of the right of self-defense against a tyranny by the people organizing themselves into a militia. Kind of a “nuclear option,” if all other means have failed. But that’s a whole other topic.

  10. Greg Zorbach says:

    Upon reading #24 this caught my eye: “…a conduct of this kind has too much the appearance of an intention to mislead the people by alarming their passions, rather than to convince them by arguments addressed to their understandings.” I found myself thinking not of today’s army or navy, but rather the current administration’s response to the immigration, financial and health care ‘crises’. Then today, right on cue, Professor Knipprath’s comments on #25: “Hamilton raises an important broader point here, namely, the use of contrived crises not only to justify military action, but any government action.”
    One of the basic differences between the two political parties, or if that is too confining for your tastes, for those on the left vs. those who are ‘conservative, is that the statists (as Mark Levin accurately calls them) believe that government is the answer to all problems. But the basic inconvenient truth countering that is that our country was founded on the premise of individual liberties and limited government. These days even the most sincere calls for civility and ‘bipartisanship’ can’t bridge that divide.
    That statist mentality is what leads the left to call for all solutions to be ‘comprehensive.’ How else could the government solve a problem if its not a total-control solution.
    I have detected a similar strain in some of these blogs. Don’t get me wrong, this forum and all of its participants are demonstrating exactly the kind of involvement required in these times. However, we cannot realistically expect a complete and immediate return to the kind of government we are reading about in these timeless papers.
    History teaches us a lot. And, it has much to teach us about the time that this great country has been in existence (i.e. since these papers were written). For instance, all of these concerns about standing armies have been proven to be groundless. As one of the Pope Pius’s put it (paraphrasing here) there has been no greater institution for good in the world than the United States Army. General Colin Powell put it this way: “In all the wars America has fought in this century, we have sought no more land in conquest than enough to bury our dead.”
    Re. Jimmy Green: George Washington also said this: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
    More applicable quotes:
    “Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready.” –Theodore Roosevelt
    “Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace.” –Thomas Jefferson
    “The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it.” — H.L. Mencken

  11. Juliette’s newest video about our contest:

    We are almost one month away from our We The People 9.17 Contest entry deadline of July 4. We need everyone’s help in recruiting kids to enter! We have been told email is the most effective means of recruiting entries and spreading the word, so please feel free to cut and paste this blog and circulate it to your email list.

    Constituting America is seeking high school students to submit entertaining short films, public service announcements, cool songs, and of course, essays by July 4th for our We The People 9.17 Contest!! We have a good number of essays, but not as many short films, public service announcements and songs as we were hoping for, so if you know any high school students who have a talent for making movies, or composing and singing songs, please direct them to: for more information, rules and to sign up online! Prizes for high schoolers include $2,000, a trip to Philadelphia on September 17 (Constitution Day), and Governor Huckabee has invited the contest winners on his show! The National Constitution Center has offered to show the winning short film in their theatre, and highlight our contest winners in their Constitution Day events.

    Constituting America is seeking Middle School Students to enter cool SONGS and well written essays!! We have a good number of essays, but not as many songs as we were hoping for! Please spread the word to any Middle School kids you know, especially those who like to compose and sing, and direct them to: for more details, and to sign up online!! Prizes for Middle School kids include gift cards, publicity on the Constituting America website, and other cool surprises!

    And, calling all Elementary Schools kids who like to write poems or draw! We need poems, and art for a holiday greeting card! Again, please see: for rules and details, and to sign up for the contest online!! Prizes for Elementary School kids include gift cards, publicity on the Constituting America website, and other cool surprises.

    If school is still in session in your area, please contact social studies teachers, art departments, music departments, and theatre/film departments! This is a great project to fill those last days of school when teachers have possibly run out of curriculum or want to give students a chance to earn some extra credit! Church youth groups are another possiblity. And if anyone has ideas or ways to get the word out to the military about this contest, we would love your help in doing so!

    As for Federalist No. 25 – first of all, thank you Professor Knipprath! I echo Susan in saying I always look forward to your posts. And what a beautiful essay Janine wrote on Federalist 24 & 25. I am not sure I have ever read a better tribute to the troops for Memorial Day. Like Greg, Professor Knipprath’s line: “Hamilton raises an important broader point here, namely, the use of contrived crises not only to justify military action, but any government action,” especially resonated with me. It seems that more and more frequently, “crisis,” is used to justify the government creeping into areas of our lives, and the marketplace, where our founding fathers never intended it to go.

    In Federalist 24, Hamilton used a phrase I love – he describes the American people as “so jealous of their liberties.” If we can once again become a people educated about and “jealous of our liberties,” we can begin to roll back some of the government encroachment the founding fathers tried to guard against. We must stay alert and awake!

    A hard task at 2:26 a.m. as I write this post!

    Good night and God Bless,

    Cathy Gillespie

  12. Susan Craig says:

    Oops caught me out; reading ahead the quote is as you say, Professor.

  13. ryan says:

    Professor Knipprath is my absolute favorite guest blogger. Today’s is particularly excellent!!

  14. Susan Craig says:

    I’m with you, Ryan. I especially like that he revisits his blogs and adds clarification and answers questions.

  15. Neb Witt says:

    Sorry for the delay in posting, I wanted to read the essay first. I must say these are really remarkable. They have debates a lot like my grandparents said used to happen when they were kids.

0 replies

Join the discussion! Post your comments below.

Your feedback and insights are welcome.
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *