Guest Blogger: Allison R. Hayward, Vice President for Policy at the Center for Competitive Politics

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Federalist 24

Allison R. Hayward

Federalist 24 continues Hamilton’s argument in favor of strong national government for national security purposes.  Here, he addresses the explicit complaint that the Constitution would permit standing armies in peacetime.

Critics of the Constitution feared that standing armies would become either a tool for those in power to seize power in perpetuity, or a means to usurp elected government with a military one.  Colonists in America were not far removed from the days of Oliver Cromwell, who after prevailing in the English Civil War became Lord Protector of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Quite possibly the families of many of the colonists reading the Federalist Papers migrated to the New World to escape Cromwell’s Britain (or the Restoration aftermath, plague, fire, and general 17th century misery).  Certainly many were familiar with the fall of the Roman Republic at the hands of the Roman General, Julius Caesar.   In any case, popular opinion would have feared standing armies as a destabilizing force and a threat to democracy.  This is thus a powerful argument that the Federalists need to answer.

Hamilton responds to these critics in several ways.  First he implies that these critics misinterpret the constitutional separation of powers.  He reminds them that the Constitution places the responsibility for raising an army with Congress, not the President.  Moreover, any appropriation may be for no longer than two years.  Under this division of authority, the election branch – Congress – which is most responsive to the public, must consent to military mobilization.  Unlike the Roman and English examples, sole military authority is denied the American Executive.  Moreover, the existing regime under the Articles of Confederation contains no standing army limit.  This fact allows Hamilton to imply that the anti-Federalist criticisms are disingenuous.

Moreover, notes Hamilton, the world poses security dangers to America apart from “formal” war.  The nation is bordered by territories of Britain, Spain and France, and much of the frontier is inhabited by native Americans.  Any of these could threaten Americans (and America) if the nation relaxed its guard.  Frontier garrisons in particular require support even during “peace.”  Finally, for American to meet its potential as a commercial power, it needs to build a navy, which requires outlays for dockyards –even in peacetime.  Hamilton argues that the Constitution properly leaves these decisions to Congress, the people’s elected representatives.

Today, the Pentagon’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year is $708 billion, including a $56 billion “black budget” for classified programs.  About 1.5 million individuals are in the active service, about 560,000  in the Army alone.  Notwithstanding concerns voiced through time about the size, expense, and “military industrial complex” the United States has, since World War II, maintained a large professional armed force.  Moreover, it has done so under the supervision of the Executive – not, as Hamilton contended, under Congress.

Further, military spending is seen by many Congressmen as an important part of their representative role – not simply to keep the country safe, but to keep constituent military contractors profitable.  One wonders what Hamilton might have made of the current political “war” over the military’s budget, in which the Defense Secretary has demanded the end to certain programs.  Yet Congress insists on keeping them.

Allison R. Hayward is the Vice President for Policy at the Center for Competitive Politics.

7 Responses to “May 31, 2010Federalist No. 24 – The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Allison R. Hayward, Vice President for Policy at the Center for Competitive Politics.”

  1. gianna cerullo says:

    Great Job Janine! I am impressed with your determination tho I am not at all surprised!

    I share your views : )

    Juliette is gorgeous !

  2. Susan Craig says:

    I have long felt that America has had a schizophrenic relationship with its military. Stemming from two factors: desire to be a most Christian nation living in peace, and a recognition of human nature. On one hand experience and faith (the insult of the British quartering of troops, desire to live in peace and threaten no man, and a belief that a military in the hands of a tyrant would threaten our liberty) inclined us to wish to do away with standing armies. On the other hand the recognition that the proven, visible ability to fend off invaders and threats allows for security and freedom (freedom requires vigilance). Out of these factors come our constant debate on things military. The Articles of Confederation left it in the hands of the States. In effect in today’s world it would be as if there were no regular army, navy or air force just the various guard units in each state. The opposing view was a standing force sole under Federal jurisdiction a permanent military such as was in existence at the time, uneducated and owing allegiance to the leader a separate ‘career’ path or class. What has developed is an amalgam of these two views a small voluntary standing military which depends in time of strife on a ready militia (national guard). The oath our military takes its oath from top to bottom “protect, preserve and defend the Constitution”. It, also, chooses from educated or those who wish to be educated not from those lacking knowledge or understanding. All of those in the military are instructed as to what is or is not a lawful order and are encouraged to resist any unlawful instruction. Yet to this day we still have the debate how much is sufficient and necessary. We continue to think that a “Peace Dividend” is to be had by the reduction and/or elimination of a standing military.

  3. Fred Mars says:

    I am a Philadelphia-born Constitutional Libertarian, which is to say that I am not talking about a political party, I am referring specific ideology and not a party platform.

    Above all, I feel that the Constitution as it was written, including the Bill of Rights, which is part of the Constitution, And the articled of Confederation from which this nation was born, are the only things that stand between freedom and tyranny. That being said, it is also as relevant today as it was in 18th Century America, that we still require the vigilance of citizens to protect the liberties granted to the people at this nation’s founding.

    Sometimes it seems that we are being attacked from many sides, and I do not doubt that it is accurate. We have always been loved and hated by other nations, but mostly we are resented for the very freedoms we enjoy.

    All Americans must stand together as one voice in demanding that our Congress repeal the damage caused by the 16th and 17th Amendments, charge Congress with it’s obligations to coin (and print) currency and set the value thereof (and use gold/silver to give it real value) and end the extortion of the Federal Reserve System and it’s collection agency the Internal Revenue Service.

    Return the selection of Senators to the State legislatures, who we have elected to represent us in our sovereign States, and remove the two party system from its monopoly on the electoral process.

    Instead of election day, each State may have an election week, and hand-written ballots used instead of electronic machines and mail-in ballots. Because of the importance of votes, it must be done in such a way as to insure the integrity of the system for all citizens.

    We must save our nation by restoring Constitutional integrity to the federal government, and control of the armed forces returned to Congress. The President only assumes status of Commander in Chief when a war is declared by Congress, and then power is voided after the war is over or two years unless Congress acts too extend the war and hence Presidential powers beyond two years. But not in perpetuity.

  4. It is interesting that in the early days of the republic, people feared a standing army. The Pennsylvania and North Carolina Constitutions went so far as to say, “As standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, THEY OUGHT NOT to be kept up.” This was a legitimate fear, based on history, as Allison Hayward points out in her essay today. (Thank you, Allison, by the way, for your second Guest Blogger essay!! We appreciate your insights!!)

    Our founders addressed this possible threat to the peoples’ liberty by placing the power of Commander in Chief with the executive branch (Article II, Section II of the Constitution), but the power to raise armies with the legislative branch (Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution). And they even included a clause which forbade the appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer period than two years, as a precaution to keeping troops without necessity.

    Today, on Memorial Day 2010, most Americans look at our military not with the suspicious eye of our forefathers, but with heartfelt pride and gratitude. Two days ago Rasmussen announced a poll showing that 74% of Americans have a favorable view of the U.S. Military. Only 12% had an unfavorable opinion and 13% weren’t sure.

    I believe part of this strong support for our troops is due to the founding fathers’ wise use of checks and balances in structuring their control. The abuses that the anti-federalists feared have not come to pass.

    An equally important factor responsible for American support of our troops is the quality of the men and women who, since the elimination of the draft, have chosen to serve. These are brave, selfless men and women – fathers and mothers – who leave their families for years at a time to go to foreign lands and defend freedom. These members of the armed services make sacrifices in their personal life, their financial life, their physical and mental health, and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice, all to defend our liberty. I am honored and blessed to count many active duty members of the military as friends, and I cannot think of any people with higher character, sense of patriotism and duty to country than these service members.

    God bless those who have sacrificed their lives in defense of our freedom, may God be with their families, and may God be with and bless our active duty military and veterans. Our country owes you all a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

    Cathy Gillespie

  5. Susan Craig says:

    @Fred, welcome. I consider myself a fiscal and social conservative with libertarian leanings. As I continue to read the Federalist debate and early American History while watching the shenanigans of today, I must say I could inveigh against all factionalism along with the most vehement of our Founding Fathers. I see it in the stasis in Washington and it is part and parcel of the intellectually incurious who have voted the line since Methuselah was in diapers.

  6. Gary Tillery says:

    As a veteran, I stand with other Veterans who have served this nation with dignity, courage, and honor. In our time, which young people today see as antiquated, we saw the Constitution as a document representing the very heart of America. Even though we were divided by different beliefs in life the Constitution was the very umbrella that kept us united as one people. Different states (republics) but one nation. It was to be honored,cherished, and respected. Due to that belief, when we as veterans went to battle to serve our nation we did so with committment, dedication, pride. Unfortuinatley, people today do not talk this way anymore for they have so taken the Constitution and freedom for granted that they, as we speak, are in danger of losing their freedom.
    The Constitution is like the Ten Commandments – When we look at them both is reveals to us the goals we strive to reach. Yet, at the same time it shows us our weaknesses and vulnerablities. When we vote, we should look and ask each candidate their interpretations of the Constitution and how their campaign is based on the Constitution. Yes, They need to prove themselves from here on out. We can no longer take their word for anything. I would be interested in how many of our politicians today truly can tell you about the FEDERAL PAPERS and the CONSTITUTION. Because by the actions of our some current government officials they do not mind violating it.
    It is our obligation, as young and old Americans, to protect the Constutution and remove any politician that violates it. That is why we all, old and young, need to know the Constitution and keep it in the forefront of our minds when it comes to politics. For those of us who served, risked, and watched friends die, it is heart wrenching to see the real threat of Socialism creeping in the back door knowing that all the sacrifice could be for nothing if our children/grandchildren live under any other form of government than a Constitutional Democracy. For God and Country. God give the youth of today the courage to stand for Democracy.

  7. Maggie says:

    @ Gary….I agree with everything you said, with the exception of our children living under a Democracy. We are NOT a democracy…we are a Republic. This is one of the big problems we have today. People don’t even realize what form of government we are supposed to have. How, then, can they protect and keep it?

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 *