The balance to solve the problems inherent in past democracies are addressed in the Federalist Papers. One topic that takes precedent is the idea of popular sovereignty and its dangers that can result in the tyranny of the majority. Whereas most Founders would agree that man is rational and capable of solving problems through reason, and that the will of the majority may be correct, this will is quite fallible. The recognition of this aspect of human nature lays the foundation upon which the Constitutionalists will devise the mechanisms and safeguards within government to allow for popular sovereignty to rule, but tyranny of the majority to fail.

The very fact that these Federalist Papers were penned and published reveals a trust and confidence in the American population to deliberate and reason. In the very first of them, Federalist Paper 1, John Jay sets the tone by directly relating to the consensus of all three social contract theorists’ (Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau) beliefs that men are rational and capable of solving problems with reason (Baradat 68). “My arguments will be open to all and may be judged by all” (Rossiter 30). Publius (pen name), in the next paragraph, lays out his topics of argument and rebuttal in a cogent, logical way.

Federalist Paper No. 6, written by Hamilton, recognizes the dangers of the motives of men as represented in republics and represented as individual kings. Hamilton reminds us in his discussion responding to the advantages of the Confederation would create more harmony, “…would be to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious” (Rossiter 48). Hamilton shared Madison’s distrust of human nature, but believed in people’s ability to overcome said deficiencies with reason. This tone seems to contradict Thomas Jefferson’s notion that the nature of man is generally good. Locke recognized the “dignity of human nature” (Baradat 71) whereas Hobbes distrusted it (69).

Thomas Jefferson, too, respected the dangers that lie within the hearts of men. In his first inaugural speech, Jefferson states, “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression” (16).

Federalist Paper No. 10 is Madison’s discourse on the dangers of the so-called factions that can oppress the minority’s rights. Madison, like Plato, was weary of democracy and distrusted the masses in a crisis. Madison points out throughout his writings the crisis point of a society deteriorating the democracy into a dictatorship.

Madison so distrusted the masses that he devised and defended the notion of the checks and balances in government. If enough people with the same motive and ambition organized, this so-called faction as he called it could rule, via democratic institutions, to the detriment of the minority. By having a centralized government with divisions of power in the legislature, and the executive and judicial branches, the possibility of enough people creating that single-minded majority is lessened. The danger of the faction does not mean that a pluralistic viewpoint and mechanism cannot produce good for the community. Elected officials would be charged with rendering government for the good of the people, not the local, temporary will of the people. By dispersing power, even if an elected official was not the statesman of integrity representing the good of the people, the mechanism of diversifying power offered a safeguard against that potential tyranny.

Unlike Rousseau who thought the majority can do no wrong—that the general will of the people is always good by definition of it being the will of the majority—Madison examined too many historical examples to the contrary. People needed material well-being first in order to ponder and reason with rationality and with an outlook for the greater good. Crisis is what caused the rational to turn to the mob. Ay protecting individual rights, freedoms, and property, man can be free to exercise their thought for the greater good.

Madison’s view of the American people can best be summed up by Robert Middlekauff in The Glorious Cause: “But underlying any successful constitutionalism there had to be a virtuous people. The Founders, especially Franklin, Madison, and Wilson, believed that the Convention must risk all, indeed risk the Revolution, by trusting the virtue of the American People” (653).

Madison viewed the risks involved in democracy of the tyranny of the majority to be less intense in America than in other nations or nation-states because of the size of its territory and diversity of population over that vast land made the possibility of any one faction dominating another less probable. The House of Representatives would be popularly elected. The removal of the Senate from popular control separated the majority from the potential tyranny. The belief in popular sovereignty tempered with the fear of the majority’s tyranny resulted in the remedied called the bicameral legislative branch.

These limits “protected the rights of the minority and of property, rights which had helped set the revolution process in motion in the 1760s” (Middlekauff 653).

Madison as well as other founders also recognized a Providence that seemed to guide humanity and the new nation. Jefferson reiterated this. Although Christianity or any particular religion was not inserted into the publication of the Federalist Papers nor the Convention itself, clearly an underlying virtue subject to an Almighty underscored the sentiments of most Americans and its founders. Religion was referenced as a commonality among men, but not a cure for its ills. “Yet the Constitution managed to capture some of the morality long common in American life and clearly present in the first days of the Revolution” (Middlekrau 652). As mentioned previously, Locke also held the assumption that men are accountable to a God who created them and the natural law.

The contradiction that Madison and other nationalists had to reconcile was the notion that popular sovereignty—the will of the people and self-government—was necessary and proper, but that the ills that could result (tyranny of the majority) needed advance remedies. The Constitution and the federal government it frames exalt the virtues and curtail the ills as best architected thus far in history. “It [the Constitution] aimed to thwart majoritarian tyranny, but it not deny that sovereignty resided in the people. Government should serve the people, and in the Constitution the delegates sought to create a framework which would make such service effective, though not at the cost of the oppression of the minority“(Middlekauff 652).

Moreover, “The delegates placed their trust in the people because they had no choice: a public had to found itself on the people. Their suspicions of popular power led to a preoccupation with restraints and curbs on the undue exercise of power by deedless majorities” (653). Popular sovereignty and the fear of the tyranny of the majority was therefore reconciled by an appeal to the people to approve the strong federal government under the Constitutional framework proposed.

James Madison penned a document called “Vices of the Political System of the United States” in April 1787. In this, he outlined his discontent with the Article of Confederations. This document reveals additional insight to the underlying beliefs Madison had regarding the nature of man and its ills when demonstrated in a democracy. Madison writes of the causes of injustice in the Laws of the States in two places: the Representative bodies and in the people themselves. Madison asserted that appointments to representative bodies have three motives: ambition, personal interest, and public good. He feared that the public good as perceived could be a mask for the first two. The people from whom the representative is elected are also a so-called danger in Madison’s eyes. In this discussion, Madison further points out that the factions can still choose a representative that will not seek a greater good over the passions of the locality. Madison views that even reputation and religion cannot overcome this propensity for self-interest at the expense of others. These ideas in this document Madison penned are reiterated in Federalist Papers Numbers 10 and 51. By broadening the sphere of the republic, the dangers herein expressed are lessened (Green 517-518). Federalist Paper No. 51 examines the role of the checks and balances within the branches to protect the people by controlling each of the other branches and itself. The checks and balances protect the people from the government, and from each other, and the government from itself.

Therefore, this dual nature of man, a species created by God and guided by Providence, a species with innate capabilities such as reason and rationality; whose character traits include virtue, integrity and a quest for the common good; whose very nature is of equal value to all others and contains ambition and a desire for happiness and improvement. This nature also holds the ability to veer into darker traits such as brutish force to violate the rights of another via oppression to achieve self-interest. Reconciling these seemingly contradicting forces provides the premise on which the construction of the Constitution of a national federal government was framed. Democracy is both endowed by Nature as the right form of government, yet it is the very nature of the governed makes democracy dangerous. In this, then, is born the brilliant mechanisms of the Constitution that illuminate the will of the people and protect against its ills: Separation of power via an executive, legislative (bi-cameral) and judicial branch.

Championed by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay in the Federalist Papers and propelled by fellow founders such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, this careful and meticulous examination of human nature brought forth a new paradigm on whose successes we enjoy liberty to this day.

Amy Zewe is a professor of English and the Humanities, completing graduate work at The George Washington University and Tiffin University. She is also a freelance writer and editor as a business communication specialist and offers commentary on political and social issues to various media outlets. Amy resides in Northern Virginia.

Works Cited

Baradat, Leon, P. Political Ideologies. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. Barron, Robert C. eds. Jefferson The Man in His Own Words. Golden CO: Fulcrum Publishers. 1998

Greene, Jack P. eds. Colonies to Nation 1763-1789 A Documentary History of the American Revolution. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 1967.

Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Macpherson, C.B. eds. USA: Hackett, 1980.

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789. New York: Oxford Press. 1982

Rossiter, Clinton, ed. The Federalist Papers. New York, NY: Signet, 1999.

Click Here to Read More Essays From This Year’s 90 Day Study!

General Introduction
For the Independent Journal.

Author: Alexander Hamilton

To the People of the State of New York:

AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth.

Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under one government.

It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views. Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable–the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

And yet, however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

In the course of the preceding observations, I have had an eye, my fellow-citizens, to putting you upon your guard against all attempts, from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a matter of the utmost moment to your welfare, by any impressions other than those which may result from the evidence of truth. You will, no doubt, at the same time, have collected from the general scope of them, that they proceed from a source not unfriendly to the new Constitution. Yes, my countrymen, I own to you that, after having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion it is your interest to adopt it. I am convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I affect not reserves which I do not feel. I will not amuse you with an appearance of deliberation when I have decided. I frankly acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. The consciousness of good intentions disdains ambiguity. I shall not, however, multiply professions on this head. My motives must remain in the depository of my own breast. My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truth.

I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars:


In the progress of this discussion I shall endeavor to give a satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made their appearance, that may seem to have any claim to your attention.

It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer arguments to prove the utility of the UNION, a point, no doubt, deeply engraved on the hearts of the great body of the people in every State, and one, which it may be imagined, has no adversaries. But the fact is, that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those who oppose the new Constitution, that the thirteen States are of too great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the whole.  This doctrine will, in all probability, be gradually propagated, till it has votaries enough to countenance an open avowal of it. For nothing can be more evident, to those who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative of an adoption of the new Constitution or a dismemberment of the Union. It will therefore be of use to begin by examining the advantages of that Union, the certain evils, and the probable dangers, to which every State will be exposed from its dissolution. This shall accordingly constitute the subject of my next address.



Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good, Villanova University

Senator Jefferson Davis’ response to William Seward’s State of the Country Speech was effectively a political speech- it was not meant to fully articulate the Southern cause of State’s Rights, nor was it a long-winded justification of that “peculiar institution,” slavery.  Rather, Davis’ goal was to respond to Seward’s earlier speech, which condemned slavery.  Within Davis’ speech, though, we find an idea more dangerous and pernicious than slavery as a positive good or that a State has rights; Davis rejected the central principle of the American Founding and Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Read more

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

Article V

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Article V, which provides the methods for formal amendment is, arguably, the most important provision in the Constitution outside the creation of the structure of government.  That article embodies a compromise over a very contentious issue that was grounded in conflicting doctrines of republicanism and higher law theory swirling during the Revolutionary War period.

On the one hand, 17th and 18th century republican theory called for decisions by majority vote, albeit under a restricted franchise.  This was a proposition that manifested itself in the post-Glorious Revolution English constitutional system in which a majority of the Parliament (effectively, the House of Commons) not only enacted “ordinary” legislation but controlled constitutional change, as well. Under the English system, there was no categorical distinction between ordinary laws and those of a foundational, i.e., constitutional, nature.  For example, the Charter of Rights did not become politically binding until passed in 1689 as a parliamentary bill. This was a manifestation of a “constitution” that, being unwritten, was considered solely a fundamental political ordering, rather than also a fundamental law.  Hence, there was no formal constitutional amendment process outside an appeal to Parliament to pass or repeal laws that were “constitutional” in the operative sense.

This English Whig republicanism had many adherents in the United States among leaders of the Revolution. For them, the problem was not the theory but the practitioners.  Not surprising, then, some early state constitutions, too, placed the amending power with the legislatures.  Even if a state constitution contained a bill of rights that was immune from legislative tinkering, any violation of that command was to be resolved through political action.  Moreover, anything outside that bill of rights was left to legislative change.

Yet, by the 1780s, an entirely different conception became dominant. To be sure, reaction against the entrenched constitutional order arose from the experience of Americans with the militant republicanism of the day embodied in legislative majorities that, in too many states, contributed to political and economic turmoil exacerbated by class warfare rumblings and the trampling of rights in property. Experience may have sufficed to cause disenchantment with the existing constitutional structure, but it was not enough to explain the emergence of the alternative.

Enter the “higher law” conception of constitutions. Americans had lived in colonies governed, directly or indirectly, by royal charters. By their thinking, Americans were in a contractual, and therefore “legal,” relationship with their proprietors and the Crown through these charters and patents, and Parliament simply had no control over them. Local laws were valid, as long as they conformed to the charter.

This emergent “higher law” constitutionalism also had religious and political roots. Focusing on the latter, it was a component of social contract theory. The republican version of the legitimacy of governmental action under the social contract focused on the political mechanism to be used after the commonwealth was formed, namely, legislative majorities. The higher law doctrine focused on the relationship of the majority’s act to the qualitatively superior action of creating the commonwealth. In a strict version of that view, unanimous consent was required to form the social contract.  In the American experience, the Mayflower Compact provided one such example. At the same time, looking at disparate social contract theorists, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, one finds much ambiguity and question-begging assumptions about how exactly the social contract’s obligations arise.

The colonial experience with royal charters fairly early suggested that such documents were first, law; second, fundamental; and third, not amendable as ordinary legislation. They were law because written and, being in the nature of contracts, binding on all signatories (and, perhaps, their successors). They were fundamental because they dealt with matters that went to the very organization of the political commonwealth. They were not amendable as ordinary laws because each free person had to consent to the changing of the deal that created the basis of political obligation and made the acts of government different from those of a brigand. If unanimity was impractical, at least a supermajority ought to be required. Thus, the charter for Pennsylvania as early as 1701 called for amendments to be adopted only upon 6/7 vote of the assembly.

A pure form of this approach was found in the Articles of Confederation. As the Articles can be considered the formal basis for the formation of a political commonwealth, the United States of America, and in light of the fact that the document repeatedly refers to that commonwealth as a “perpetual union,” it is a social contract.  As such, it could only be amended by the consent of all signatories to the compact, though, of course, a state might provide that a majority within its legislature sufficed to bind the state.

That unanimity requirement was quickly perceived as a parlyzing defect of the Articles.  When the Framers of the Constitution considered the matter, they believed that they had to find a way that avoided the potential for constitutional turbulence from radical republican majoritarianism as well as for constitutional sclerosis from rigid social contract-based unanimity. They urged that the supermajority requirements of Article V appropriately split the difference. This is not a matter readily settled.  The procedure has only been invoked successfully 18 times (the original ten amendments having been adopted at one time). What is clear, though, is that the relative difficulty of the procedure has allowed the unelected judiciary to take on the role of de facto constitutional amendment to a much greater extent than the Framers likely anticipated and than what is consistent with classic republican ideals.

Judging by early state experimentation, constitutional change was to occur, if anything, more directly through the people than Article V allows. Constitutions were typically the job of special conventions whose work would be ratified by popular vote.  Actions by such special bodies and by the people themselves were more immediate realizations of popular sovereignty than actions by legislatures, even by legislative supermajorities. George Washington characterized them as “explicit and authentic acts of the whole people.” It was impractical, however, at the national level, to have all people gather at town halls. Nor was it deemed practical — or wise — to have a national vote on amendments.

In Article V, the mechanism of popular participation is the convention. That mechanism is available for the proposal of amendments emanating from the states and the adoption of the amendments by the states. It is interesting, and perhaps disappointing from the republican perspective, that the first has never been used and the second has been used only to repeal another constitutional amendment, regarding alcohol prohibition. Instead, Congress typically proposes, and state legislatures dispose.

There is, however, an institutional reason why no constitutional convention has been called to draft amendments. Plainly put, Congress and the political elites fear that a convention could ignore any specific charge from Congress and draft a whole new constitution. That is, after all, what happened in Philadelphia in 1787. If a matter came close to receiving the requisite number of petitions from states, it is likely that the Congress would itself adopt an amendment and submit it to the states. That is precisely how Congress got around to proposing the 17th Amendment for the direct election of Senators after enough states submitted petitions to put them one short of the required 2/3. Currently, the proposed balanced budget amendment is just two states short.

More troubling to some is whether the people could go outside Article V to form a convention.  That was an issue raised, but not resolved, before the Supreme Court in 1849 in a case involving an insurrection in Rhode Island under the guise of adoption of a “popular constitution.”  Traditionalists point to Article V as providing the means the people have chosen to limit themselves, lest constitutional instability be the order of the day.  In response, republicans assert that American bedrock principles of popular sovereignty (found, among other places in the Federalist Papers) do not admit of so limiting the people’s power. The people ultimately control their constitution, not vice versa. James Wilson, no wide-eyed radical, speaking in the Pennsylvania ratifying convention, defended the Framers’ alleged departure from their charge by the Confederation Congress by declaring what was a self-evident truth to most Americans at the time, that “the people may change the constitutions whenever and however they please.”

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

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

We made it to the Federalist Papers! I hope you are as excited as I am to dive into these fascinating op-eds – the media and PR campaign for the Constitution! I am travelling today  – (Howdy from Texas!) And typing in the dark, in a hotel room in Austin, trying not to wake my daughter. So, please forgive the brevity of tonight’s post.

Federalist 1 is striking to me in that Alexander Hamilton’s view of the gravity of the crossroads America was at, is clear to him in a way that is rare for someone in the midst of current events of their time.  Looking back, with a 222 year perspective on the situation, it is easy to agree that had the States failed to ratify the new Constitution, it would most certainly have been a loss for mankind.  But for Hamilton to have the vision to see that, at the starting gate of the United States’ journey into the world, reveals him to be a visionary of the highest magnitude.

This quote near the beginning of Federalist #1 sums up the precipice the United States was teetering on:

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

Hamilton’s support of civil political discourse also resonated with me:

“Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

And yet, however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

This is the nature of man, and we can see that not much has changed in 222 years! But Hamilton is right about the ineffectiveness of angry discourse. Both  ends of the politcal spectrum were guilty of this in Hamilton’s era, just as some on both sides still utilize these tactics today. It is so refreshing and much more educational when political discussions can be had without anger and personal attacks.

I look forward to the coming 84 days.  I am embarking upon this journey with fresh eyes, having never read the Federalist from cover to cover, despite having a degree in Political Science! To think back to the days before the internet, Twitter, or Facebook, before 24 hour cable news, before radio, when communication by the spoken and written word (on real paper) was the only means of spreading a message, it is enthralling to read these papers and witness an 18th Century PR campaign, and to be able to look deeper into some of the founding fathers’ thoughts, values, principles and world views, as they set about to shape our Nation.

Good night!

Cathy Gillespie

7 Responses to “April 28, 2010Federalist No. 1Cathy Gillespie

  1. Not much has changed in 222 years? I’d say not much has changed in 50,000 years. One of my favorite movies is ‘Quest for Fire’, set back then. They’re just like us, with slightly less technology. And if you watch it, you will see the world’s first joke! (It involves a coconut.)

  2. Dale says:

    I am playing catch up as I have missed some reading “making a living” like each of us must do. To reflect back, these writers and framers of the US Constitution and the Federalist papers too, were people of business and commerce first. They were not career politicians with a guaranteed pay check from government/ you and I. What a unique perspective they brought to their thinking and actions compared to our present, so called leaders. They were scholars and statesmen with an outstanding view of the past, able to reflect their understanding into the present. Now, in our humble study of their great acts, may we spread the knowledge and fever of faith through out this great land.

  3. Kay says:

    Just bought my paperback copy of The Federalist Papers, and started underlining and taking notes. Hamilton, as Cathy noted, knew human nature, our passions, for good or ill, and acknowledges them. I like that…honesty about human nature.

  4. Kellie says:

    I have tried to read the Federalist Papers before, and had a hard time, mostly due to the language, it can be hard to follow. I am so thankful that Ms Turner and others have taken on this assignment for America, it is so vital that we understand the thoughts and theories that our founding fathers took into account while building our great nation. These blogs will help me better understand these theories and thoughts, and I think I will enjoy reading these papers much more than before. I agree with Kay’s post, in that is it fascinating how Hamilton began his papers with his emphasis on human nature and our passions as a people. I hope someday we can find leaders in this country who know and understand that and will be willing to fix what has broken.

  5. Rich_H says:

    I think the entire first paragraph could be applied to the American people today, with minor modifications, in an appeal to once again consider the importance of our Constitution:

    AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on [the] Constitution [of] the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of [a country] in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of [maintaining a] good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to [watch a good government system be undone by political contrivance] and force [by men of ill will towards freedom]. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

    Hamilton sure nailed this one: “that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.”

    How many times has the left abused the word “rights” to find what does not exist in the Constitution? From the right to privacy to justify abortions to the right to other peoples money (redistribution), health care, housing, etc.

  6. David Hamilton says:

    I too find myself late at the starting line, but I am committed now to catching up.

    I as well have to confess to owning a well “dog eared”, annotated, and coffee stained copy of the “Federalist Papers”, that I also have made previous forays into with the intended goal of a complete reading of these editorial pieces, editorial pieces that in fact are the detailed instructions that supplement the “Quick Start Guide” that is our Constitution.

    Many people express a level of frustration with understanding the writing style of the authors of these pieces. Despite being a prolific reader, I admit to having to stop and reread passages and dwell on them to gain a thorough understanding of their intent.

    Bearing in mind that these founding documents, The Declaration of independence, these Federalist Papers, and most especially The Constitution itself, were written not for any specific, highly educated body of people, but for the whole body of the people, to read, understand, and live by. It is a shocking display of the level of degradation of our usage and understanding of our own language, and the causes of this degradation being at least as vital, albeit separate, a topic for discussion as the documents themselves.

    Specifically addressing Federalist #1, I find myself struck with the sense that our Constitutional Republic has been under assault from within by Madison’s dreaded factions, from the beginning.
    From The “Alien and Sedition Acts” of John Adams, to the crippling of States Rights of Lincoln, on to the socialist policies of FDR, and now mandated health care.

    The current struggle to “restore” our constitutional republic is one the founders would little doubt readily recognize, but would certainly be flabbergasted by the extent to which civil discourse, and honorable intent has deteriorated.

  7. Tim Shey says:

    Back in 1994 I read the first 200 pages of “The Federalist Papers”.

    I “discovered” this website this past week–Jim Best sent me an email telling me about Constituting America. This looks like an excellent website. I am looking forward to reading more of it.

    I believe the U.S. Constitution was inspired by the Holy Ghost. It seems like the great leaders of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and the great intellectuals were Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Howdy from Texas. Speaking of Texas, be sure to watch tonight’s behind the scene Video Podcast! I filmed it at my ranch with Juliette. It’s fun.

So today is our first day of the Federalist! Federalist Paper #1 by the brilliant Alexander Hamilton! I wrote about his mother, Rachel Lavien Fawcett in my book, “Holding Her Head High.” Historians have not been very kind to her, but read my version. It is from a woman’s point of view. There is no doubt that she planted the seeds of greatness, determination and an entrepreneurial spirit in Alexander’s character.

I want to thank Horace Cooper for writing our wonderful essay today! Thanks, Horace. I love the quote from Benjamin Franklin when asked by a woman, “What have you given us?” and Benjamin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

This is our challenge today. We must step forward and stand up for our founding principles and demand that our Republic be vital and strong and that our Constitution be protected preserved and defended. The best way for us to do this is with a basis of knowledge about our country’s thesis. How lucky we are that it is so well documented in copious documents and books – the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and The Federalist being the foundation. (We will have to continue our scholastic adventure – the same forum with different documents and books!)

I hope you read today’s reading of the Federalist with your children and/or loved one and don’t forget to sign your children up for our contests! The high school students get a trip to Philadelphia, an appearance on Governor Huckabee’s show and $2000.00 scholarships – and we have cool categories such as: best short film, best hip song, best PSA and best essay about how the Constitution is relevant today! Spread the word. Entries due July 4th!

Speaking of relevant today, we are going to be amazed at the relevancy of the Federalist papers. For those who think the Constitution is antiquated and obsolete, I dare them to read the Federalist papers with us!!

The first thing that I love is that Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay came together for the good of the country. They did not agree on many things, and later became quite divided, but they united to accomplish the magnificent miracle of the Constitution and “The Federalist.” They saw the bigger picture and were able to forfeit their egos to better their country – and they had vision! They had vision and wisdom and determination and a sense of service. Great qualities that I dare say all of you have who are participating in our National Conversational/Blog Reading!

Another thing that I love is that they wrote it under the name of Publius after Publius Valerius, a founder of the Roman Republic. A Republic. They knew that they all had reputations that proceeded them for better or worse and they did not want the objectivity of their thesis to be tainted by preconceived notions. Smart. These men were very smart and they truly loved the United States of America.

This is what it’s going to take to awaken, educate and propel Americans to undertake the journey of Constituting America – a love for the United States of America and all she embodies – nobility, greatness of character, philanthropic communities with a genius for creativity and a gut for survival. We have a Republic and God save the ones who try to strip American’s of our inherent rights, rights that exist in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution and embody Americans today. God bless America.

And God bless our forefathers who sacrificed so much for their posterity – all of the great men and women who have fought throughout our history to maintain our dignity, freedom and inalienable rights.

Blessings and goodnight!

Tomorrow it’s Federalist Paper #2!

Janine Turner

6 Responses to “April 28, 2010Federalist No. 1Janine Turner

  1. I agree that once we are done with the Federalist Papers we should keep on going with other documents. Maybe the Anti-Federalist papers would be a good choice. I can’t say for sure, not having read them myself yet.

    But the Federalist Papers argued for a central government strong enough to be able to protect our country and be effective. That was in a time when the opposition wanted a more limited government, which might not have been much better than the government provided in the Articles of Confederation.

    Now our situation is different. Our government is much too large and has power over far too many aspects of our lives. It ignores our will, violates many principles that we and the founding fathers hold dear, and takes actions which weaken and endanger us.

    Maybe the arguments presented in the Anti-Federalist Papers would apply today.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    I will second Harry’s motion to do an reading of the con side to this argument!

  3. Louis Palermo says:

    Federalist #1 Excellent!!!!!!!!

  4. Louis Palermo says:

    Federalist #2 Excellent!!!!!

  5. Fredda R. Wigder says:

    I would sincerely doubt that the authors of the Federalist papers envisioned the type of big, bloated Federal Government that we have today. I have difficulty believing that they would have been in favor of that.

  6. Jesse Vardaman says:

    The founders would not be in favor the bloated government we have today. They were definitely against any form of government that tread on the inherent rights of its people. And they would definitely be aghast at the blatant disregard that our current representatives show for our Constitution and Bill of Rights today.

    As Janine quoted Ben Franklin, and I will repeat here. ” A republic if you can keep it.”

    Can we keep it America?

    “Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security” – Ben Franklin

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

The Federalist Papers were written from 1787 to 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.   They were published in several New York State newspapers to persuade New York voters to ratify the proposed constitution that had been crafted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787.  Numbering 85, the essays outlined the ways the new federal government would operate and why this type of government was the best choice for the United States of America. Each of the essays were signed “PUBLIUS” and they remain today as an excellent reference for anyone who wants to understand the United States Constitution.

Hamilton opens Federalist #1 with an introduction of the present state of affairs in the then existing United States of America and his plan to explain over a series of Papers why the new federal government created by the U.S. Constitution was necessary.  Premised in his argument is a fundamental foundation upon which our system of government is based — self-government or rule by the consent of the governed.  From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate.  Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.

At the time of the writing of Federalist #1 the United States of America is governed by the Articles of Confederation. Drafted by the Second Continental Congress in 1776, the Articles of Confederation had been submitted to the states for ratification in November of 1777.

As outlined by the Continental Congress, the federal government by 1787 had the authority to make war, negotiate diplomatic agreements and treaties, and acquire and oversee new territories that had not yet become full-fledged states.

However, by the time of the Philadelphia Convention that year many of the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation were obvious.  The government created by the Articles was incapable of providing the authority and power needed to be a fully functioning authority. Instead of a division of authority among three separate branches, the federal government exercised all of its authority through a unicameral legislature called the Congress of Confederation.   Ironically, such a concentration of power masked the overall weakness of the federal government.

In order to change or amend the Articles, it required unanimous approval of the states.  This standard made making any changes or reforms nearly impossible.  The federal government had no power to tax and as such could not meet even its most basic financial responsibilities.  A threshold requirement that nine of 13 states approve major laws passed by the Congress limited the ability of Congress to act on any but the most uncontroversial matters.  In addition, it is significant that the Articles provided no authority for Congress to resolve conflicts between the states or to set up countrywide rules to encourage merchants and commerce.

Hamilton along with many other of our Founders recognized that if the United States was ever to become an economic powerhouse capable of defending itself from enemies without and within it was essential that the changes proposed in the Constitution were adopted.  You see it was not simply dumb luck that we have this national charter.  Now more than 200 years later we Americans share in the legacy created by these men and women who had such foresight and wisdom.

The Philadelphia Convention convened in May of 1787 and did not finish until September.  When the convention finished Delegate Benjamin Franklin was approached by a woman.  She asked Mr. Franklin, “What have you given us?  A monarchy or a republic?”  He famously replied, “A republic…if you can keep it.”  Therein lies our task as citizens today.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

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

47 Responses to “April 28, 2010Federalist No. 1, General Introduction, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Horace Cooper, Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

  1. Peter says:

    It is particularly interesting to me that Hamilton and Madison, who worked so well together to produce the Constitution and see it through to ratification, later became the driving force behind the first two political parties (The Federalists & The Jeffersonian-Republicans, which today are known as the Democrats). United in the cause of bringing the nation into being, they later split over the direction it should take.

    It would be interesting to see how–and if–the differences that later developed between are foreshawdowed in The Federalist Papers. Perhaps some of the experts could build that analysis into their commentaries as the series moves forward.

  2. Lillian Harvey says:

    “…it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”

    I wonder how Mr. Hamilton would feel about the “power grab” enacted on the backs of the American people in the form of “Healthcare *access through mandated insurance purchase*” as an Individual Right? He certainly didn’t think much of the “rights” of people over the “firmness and efficiency” of government.

    It is clear that the anti-Federalists had a reason to be nervous for the future of our country and establishing a federal system without a clear delineation between the rights of individuals and the powers granted to government by those individuals. Without that rich debate, would we have ever gained the deep appreciation for the liberty and prosperity that was possible as this country grew? To even think that modern day Progressivism is in anyway aligned with the thinking of either of these schools of thought is absurd, imho. How far away they are from what the Founders were talking about and doing.

    Do our selected leaders of today really understand how far this process has strayed? I feel there are tricks and tyrants afoot.

    Are you all as blown away by what you are reading as I am? I studied these documents in school, of course. But I feel like I am finally understanding them because there are such contrasting ideas being practiced in our government today. Process is everything. I understand why these 1st Principles were adopted and why they fought so hard to enact them. Time to restore the Republic to 1st principles. No pain, no gain.

  3. Will says:

    @Lillian Harvey
    Yes, I’m pretty much blown away by understanding the deeper meanings in these documents. Until this project I never really understood how things like Social Security, Medicare and parts of the health reform bill really *are* unconstitutional, and should be abolished.

  4. Lillian Harvey says:

    Finding the reset button is one thing, but pushing it is another. Each day, I’m finding more courage to accept the consequences of doing just that. There are more of us to convince that we are on the wrong track and there will be sacrifices to get us straight. Projects like this one are our best hope to help us make the necessary case through educated and considered argument against the legislative waste passed for the “good of the people”.
    Donna had a great description of how the study of case law and rulings on precedents rather than original intent has assisted in getting us off track. Being able to see legislative proposals through the principles laid out in the Constitution demonstrates that most have no place being enacted at the Federal level. There is so much bloat in the Executive as a result. Of course “Washington is broken”. This structure was not designed to carry that extraordinary and unnecessary weight.

  5. Susan Craig says:

    From Ecclesiastes “There is nothing new under the sun”. It continues to amaze me at the well rounded understanding of the human condition that our Founding Fathers had. How our ‘education’ has failed us.

  6. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I made the comment to my husband last night, that since I started reading the Constitution again through this series, watching the news took on a complete new dimension. Listening to Congressmen discuss the Immigration Laws and the Goldman Sachs debacle, I am realizing that many have no idea what they are talking about. Congressman and newscasters alike are saying things like ‘This Law Makes it a Crime to be an Illegal Immigrant’. I had to clean out my ears when I heard that one. Surely I was mistaken. Sadly, I wasn’t.

    And I could have cried when I heard the congressmen grilling Goldman Sachs CEO’s. They had no idea what they were asking, and could not understand the answers. Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe Goldman Sachs is an innocent victim in this mess, but the dog and pony shows our Congress puts on is embarrassing. And it’s all for political gain. I find it hard to believe they will prosecute Goldman Sachs; just like passing an immigration law, it is to dangle the carrot in front of unsuspecting voters for the November election.

    Our country burns, while our Congress fiddles. I wonder if Benjamin Franklin knew how prophectic his words would be.

    On another note, I find it interesting that all the letters are signed PUBLIUS. Publius was the “Chief man of the Island of Malta” mentioned in Acts 28:7 (Another proof that our founders read the Bible). How appropriate that they used the name of the man who entertained Paul and his companions while they were shipwrecked on Malta, and were seeking a permenant place of residence. Paul and his companions stayed on the island until the stormy season had passed. Could our founders have felt that same way in trying to ratify the proposed Constitution? I find this very interesting and it sheds a new light on this process for me.

  7. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I forgot to add on my previous post, that I believe with Knowledge comes Responsibility. As we read and discuss the Constitution and Federalist Papers, we are being charged with passing what we learn to others. No more couch activists! If we are to help restore our country, we must step into it. Finding the perfect balance between teaching and not preaching, will be a challenge for me, I know. But I heard a great piece of advice that other day on the radio. The talk show host was talking to a priest who works out west. The priest said the difference between liberals and conservatives, is that liberals use their emotions for their arguments, while conservatives use facts. When dealing with feelings, one must tread carefully.

  8. Shannon Castleman says:

    Carolyn, right on. agree with you that Goldman Sach’s is not a Saint. However, if my Economics degree taught me anything, it is this: They have the right to short an invenstment just as we have the right to wait for that new pair of jeans to go on sale. (That is basically ‘shorting’ the position.)

    If people are wise stewards of their money, and diversify their investments like the BIBLE commands, they really wouldn’t be hurt by one bad apple.

  9. Susan Craig says:

    My ‘couch’ efforts have included posting the days revelation on my local news station’s blog site and calling the HS principle and ensuring that the HS was aware of the educational tools and contest available for his students.

  10. Maggie says:

    I, too, am embarrassed at the debacle going on with the grilling of Goldman Sachs…especially since the one doing most of the grilling (and using profanity) is from my district. I agree that those doing the grilling have no idea what they are talking about. Yes, something needs to be done about reigning in Wallstreet but how and at what cost? The government itself is up to its eyeballs in the cause of the financial mess we are in. Our founders KNEW that humans crave and seek power and that power corrupts (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”….John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton). That is exactly why they were so careful in their drafting of our Constitution and the follow up Federalist papers. The government was not MEANT to be Big Brother. Their “powers” were meant to be very limited. Government is neccessary to prevent anarchy, but “we the people” are the ones in power (alteast we are supposed to be).

  11. Robert Shanbaum says:

    What a curious commentary on Federalist #1! Mr. Cooper, could you have written less about the actual content of Hamilton’s essay?

    The bulk of the essay is not about government at all. It opens and closes with a bit about the importance of the decision. But in the middle five paragraphs, Hamilton gets to his main purpose, which is to “poison the well” – to try to bias the reader against the other side, which Hamilton expects to rise in opposition to the new Consititution, before he has a chance to speak. Look at the litany of characteristics that the opponents will have: “ambition, avarice, personal animosity…” They will have some personal interest in the preservation of more powerful state governments (“…power, emoluments, and consequences of the offices…”). Essentially, it’s an exercise in mudslinging – but it’s the most elegant and dignified mudslinging since Marc Antony’s eulogy in Julius Caesar.

    Federalist #1 doesn’t shed much light on the Constitution at all, except to the extent that it sheds light on the way politics worked in the Eighteenth Century. And when I read the following, in which Hamilton predicts how his adversaries will behave, I can’t help but think, this could have been written yesterday:

    “A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

  12. Robert Shanbaum says:

    Lillian, you do realize, do you not, that when Hamilton wrote that “a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people”, he was referring to people whom he expected would oppose the Constitution by arguing that it would give the government too much power to infringe on people’s rights? You realize, don’t you, that those people – the ones who argue that they’re interested in “the rights of the people” – those are the bad guys in Hamilton’s narrative?

    The good guys here, according to Hamilton, are the ones who promote the virtues of a government having “firmness and efficiency”.

    I ask because in your comment immediately following the citation, it sure looks like you could be positioning yourself as one of Hamilton’s bad guys when you argue that the government’s actions are a “power grab enacted on the backs of the American people.” That sounds to me like it could be characterized as a “zeal for the rights of the people.” Whether one would see it as a “specious mask” of the same is probably a matter of one’s political persuasion.

    You might want to read a little more about Hamilton. He’s something of a problem for those who are seeking support in the Constitution for de minimis government. In the Philadelphia Convention, for example, he proposed a centralized government in which the former states were stripped of their sovereignty altogether. (Importantly, to give you comfort, he did not prevail, obviously).

    Elsewhere in these blogs, Hamilton was referred to as “evil” because he favored centralized, powerful government (which he did indeed, to a greater degree than any modern progressive of whom I’m aware). But whether you like his politics or not, he was in fact one of the framers of the Constitution, and he apparently saw sufficient comportment (dare I say, “potential comportment”) between it and his politics to allow him to go to the trouble of working for its ratification by writing these articles.

    To answer your question about how Mr. Hamilton would feel about your alleged “power grab”, I’d say, he would be perfectly alright with it.

    On that same topic, it may interest you to know that in 1798, the fifth Congress created the Marine Hospital Fund, which established a network of federally-run hospitals along the eastern seaboard to care for sailors and seamen, financed by a federal tax on their wages of twenty cents per month. That system persisted into the 1980’s. I think that in addition to what the Founders and Framers wrote, it’s instructive to look at what they did.

  13. David Hathaway says:

    My interest in the Federalist Papers was begun when I read the recent biography of Alexander Hamilton, written by Ron Chernow. It was an interesting read, especially since Hamilton went on to found and The First Bank of The United States, the first Fed. I highly recommend this book.

    I’m sorry that I have delayed reading the Federalist Papers for so long. Thanks for the guided opportunity to make up for lost time.

  14. Karen Sherer says:

    I LOVE this opportunity to really refresh my understanding of the roots of our wonderful country by reading and blogging with all of you about the Constitution and the Federalist Papers! I’ve never blogged before so I was excited to finally find a topic I could respond to that offers something new and, perhaps, worthwhile. @ Carolyn Attaway: you provide so much food for thought, and maybe Madison did name Publius from the Publius of the Acts of the Apostles as the author of the Federalist Papers but the edition I am using had an insightful introduction by a man named Charles A. Kessler. He wrote that Publius Valerius Publicola was instrumental in establishing the republic of Rome. He called Publius the founder and savior of Rome and that Plutarch compares and contrasts this man with Solon the democratic lawgiver of Athens in “Parallel Lives”. Kessler wrote that Hamilton named the author of the papers “Publius” to trump the anti-federalists who were using “Cato” and Brutus” (also heroes of the Roman republic) as pseudonyms for their anti-federalist papers.
    Also @Carolyn: I hope to end my career as a “couch activist” as I become more able to defend my political belief with facts. And I also heard that interview on talk radio about the difference between liberals and conservatives and I find that really true.

  15. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Susan – Great “couch” activities! I didn’t even think about the local news station blog. Good idea.

    @Shannon and Maggie – I for one am glad that the GOP has stopped the Financial Reform from getting to the floor for debate. I do not trust this Congress with Financial Reform, especially since they will not even address Fannie and Freddie, or want to put more bailouts for Big Banks in this bill. That just scratches the surface. I would love for this Senate to stop anything from going through until after the election AND they address spending!

    And the Founders had it right about Congress should not be a full time job. I cannot even begin to describe my emotions when I heard Tim Geithner comment “I never had a real job”. Doesn’t that spike confidence in his abilities to help the ‘real’ world?

  16. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Karen – Awesome piece about Publius Valerius Publicola. I find it intriguing that the name Publius is close to the word Public, which can be defined as people constituting a community, state, or nation, or a particular group of people with a common interest, aim. I am really enjoying learning so much from everyone’s input about our founding documents.

    The hardest thing I have found about getting off the couch so far is pulling my friends with me.

  17. Thomas Soyars says:

    While true when written this part may be even more true today:

    “It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

  18. Ron Meier says:

    At my church, we are having a sermon series titled “Get off your donkey.” It is based on the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:34, who got off his donkey to serve his fellow man, even though the injured man was one others, including priests, avoided and refused to help. In like manner, by following this program, we should have the courage to get off our donkeys, armed with the knowledge of what our founders wanted this great country to be, and be ready to “fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish the race,” 2 Timothy 4:7. We have a lot of work to do, and it’s time to get off our own donkeys and force our leaders to get back on the track our founders placed us on more than 200 years ago. The tea parties are a good start, but only a start. Remember what Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”

  19. Ron Meier says:

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

  20. Ron Meier says:

    Interesting comment when Hamilton says: “a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.” It’s interesting to me that much of the rhetoric in DC today is supposedly based on making everything better for everyone other than the wealthy; it seems that this is a ruse to convince the people that having more government will make this happen, when the ultimate end game is to maximize control over the majority of the people. 50% don’t pay income taxes now; if the Administration and Congress can move that up to 70% or so, then they’ll have the people right where they want them.

  21. Jesse says:

    As I finished Federalist 1, I concluded that it set out the plan for the series of essays, what was to be discussed, and tried to debunk one of the first objections – that the individual states are better off without being under the umbrella of a nation.

    My personal belief is in line with Federalist 1 – America is a great country because of its ability to bring the talents, resources, opinions and people of the individual states together while allowing the states to experiment and maintain their individuality.

  22. Andy Sparks says:


    The Publius pseudonym used by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay was named for the Roman Consul Publius Valerius Publicola who supposedly helped form the Roman Republic. He lived around 500BC, well before the birth of Christ.

  23. Melanie says:

    How impressive you all are in your commentaries! I suspect the only thing our Founding Fathers would be proud of and respect today (were they to awaken to our current state) would be the new rebirth of patriotic activism, the passionate rediscovering of our heritage, and the determination of Americans to restore our great republic to it’s true form of constitutionally limited government of, by, and for The People.

    Lillian rightly appreciates how wise our Founders were in their understanding of human nature, and how delicate and difficult to maintain a limited government would be. I can never get over the profound wisdom of our Founders in that they not only understood the nature of their righteous endeavor, but they understood how unique in the annals of all human history their undertaking was! They were IN the moment, and they KNEW they were in the moment. How grand! Lillian, it does just blow one away.

  24. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Carolyn here is a question, if to become a naturalized citizen you must be able “to speak, write and read words in the English Language in their common usage” and it is violation of the law to vote if you are not a citizen, why do we need to print voting ballots in any language but English and provide interperters at voting places as is required by the Voting Rights Act of 1964? Is it because we knowing allow People who are not Citizens to vote?? I have ask this question of Congressmen in the past and have never received an answer.

  25. Shannon Castleman says:

    Chuck, great point. As a matter of fact, that is the main reason Obama and his ilk are against the AZ law-because many of their voting base will leave. The Democrats have to rely on illegal votes/ACORN tactics/the Black Panthers with their bats at a voting place in Philly, etc. to win an election.

    They cannot win on the merits of the debate.

  26. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Chuck – That is a good question. I do believe all official tests, such as citizenship, driver’s licenses, voting, etc, all should be in English. But keep in mind, there are many in Congress who do not want to make English the official language of the United States. As a matter of fact, do we even have an offical language yet?

    According to Congress.Org – ’2/26/2009–Introduced.National Language Act of 2009 – Makes English the official language of the U.S. government. Requires the government to: (1) conduct its official business in English, including publications, income tax forms, and informational materials; and (2) preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the United States of America. Provides that no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the government act, communicate, perform, or provide services or’
    Bill # H.R.1229

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

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

    Only 31 sponsors, pretty amazing huh?

  27. Horace Cooper says:

    Several commenters have mentioned that Hamilton’s repeated preference for an efficient central government meant that he would embrace the sizeable federal government that exists today. However no fair reading of Hamilton and his writings would yield this assessment. Hamilton’s arguments about a strong central government should be juxtaposed against the organizational handicaps of the government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. His view was that the government needed to more capable and agile in order to accomplish the limited set of objectives outlined in the Constitution — not the all encompassing objectives presently undertaken by the modern Federal Government. Additionally as a member of the burgeoning merchant class Hamilton believed that there was a fundamental responsibility of the federal government to encourage commerce. For him the lionshare of the regulatory state would be anathema.

    H Cooper

  28. Rob D says:

    @Robert S:

    Liberty basically means limiting other people’s power, and to do this effectively, you support a lesser power against a greater: the pope against the emperor, the king against the pope, the parliament against the king, and so forth.

    When the States dominated, it makes sense to strengthen the central government. Now the balance is tipped the other way, so we oppose Washington’s excesses.

    “Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have he same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress.” —Hamilton, Federalist #28

    Also, please let’s appreciate our guest commentators. If there’s more to add, then you can happily add it.

  29. Andy Sparks says:


    You are right on. The Federalist essays are propoganda! They were written specifically to convince New Yorkers to ratify the constitution because many parts of that state had anti-federalist sentiments. It’s important to remember that Madison and Hamilton were strong supporters of a more energetic federal government. Both had witnessed first hand the anemic government under the AOC as representatives from their respective states. They were not proponents of limited government (Madison would become so, but not at this time). In fact, Madison had proposed that the Constitution allow the federal government to negative any state law and was deeply concerned when it was not adopted. Hamilton all but proposed the government be an electable monarchy with the executive and Senate being elected for life. Hamilton, of all the founders, would probably be the most proud of how the USA became a world superpower.

  30. Debbie says:

    The signing of the the name Publius interested me enough that I looked up the definition in Wikpedia. The name Publius is a Roman masculine given name meaning “public” in Latin, one of the small group of common forenames found in the culture of ancient Rome.

    There are also references to other Publius names, such as: Publius Valerius Publicola (Roman Consul), Publius Clodius Pulcher (Republican politician), Publius Cornelius Scipio (Roman Consul), Publius Quinctilius, (Roman General and Politician), Publius Clodius Thrasea Paetus (Senator during Nero’s Reign), and Publius Aelius Fortunatus (Roman Painter).

    In actual fact we may never really know who was the real Publius, or was the name used because it meant public.

  31. I so love this, hello everyone. There is so much going on these days that you could almost lose your place if you didn’t press to maintain your focus . I am not complaining but I find the rapid fire of the political scene makes me ponder some of the tactics outlined in the book- Rules for Radicals -. This site is so helpfull,giving an intellectual boost via articulating my own as well as marinating my thoughts in all that is offered on this site.I watch and listen to cable news and radio programing to gather opinions,and while I value the points of view,this site has helped.
    Someone said that we should get rid of Social Security, Medicare and some of the Health care bill,I have to respecfully say if that were to happen, I would be mad as a hatter…. I have been paying into these (not health care )for well over 40 years, holy mackeral that would probably cause many of us older folks to get out our pitch forks.As I would be in the front line. I understand (I think) the point that was trying to be made but fair is fair.
    AZ,I am following this situation very closely and have heard things that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.Bottom line the Goverment has failed and in their failure have denied the citizens in boarder states and all states actually their Constitutional Rights. This group of people are not fullly included in the discussion of civil rights and I don’t think for one minute that it is a mistake.To stand the two groups side by side might provide too much lite on the subject for any real question to even be proposd.The Feds need to get off thier butts and do their jobs,.
    Debate debate debate is the name of the game ,what I find distressing is the demonizing of opposing opinions, . This keeps us honest, or should ,using tricks or slight of speech is a shame.
    Enough from me I guess I should get down off my soapbox. Good Night all.

  32. Shannon Castleman says:

    Andy, good comments. However, I take a different approach than you based on your comment: “It’s important to remember that Madison and Hamilton were strong supporters of a more energetic federal government.”

    It is my belief the reason they wanted a more energetic Federal Government is because under th AOC, the feds couldn’t even raise taxes in order to fund what the constitution stipulated.

    I would rather ask a different question: Pick the most ‘big government’ “Founding Father”, bring him bck to life, bring him to America in the year 2010, and ask him his thoughts.

    Tell that Founding Father that the feds and state governments want to tell me how much salt to eat, want to tell McDonald’s they can’t serve toys with Happy Meal, want to tell cops in AZ they can’t research someone’s citizenship who has been pulled over for a DUI, want to tell me I have to purchase health care insurance, and then record their thoughts.

    I don’t believe the quotes would be printable:)

  33. WeThePeople says:

    @Peter, I too find that interesting that Hamilton and Madison went on to be so influential. It’s odd that their beliefs, or at least one of them, changed. But wasn’t Andrew Jackson behind the creation of the democratic party?
    I think that by signing the papers by the name PUBLIUS, the actual writers separated themselves (all of them being significant political figures of the time) from the Federalist Papers, and made the connection back to the people. I think that, despite the elevated language, it would make the public feel more closely related to the topics addressed in the papers. It would make them feel like the concerns expressed here should be theirs as well.

  34. Tricia Revolinsky says:

    “From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate. Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.”
    What confuses me about this is that the creators of the Constitution decided that the Constitution was effective immediately and that the Articles of Confederation were debunk. They didn’t wait for all the states to ratify that the AOC was now null and void. They hoped that most of the states would ratify it and all the others would fall in behind them. Only after stubborn little Rhode Island ratified it, did it really become a true document formally accepted by the people. Until that point, the Constitution was in all respects, self-enacting.

  35. Carolyn Merritt says:

    The US Constitution that Hamilton, Madison & Jay defended has become one of the most copied and admired documents in the history of mankind. The Federalist itself was published in Spanish in 1811 by the Venezualan Manuel Garcia de Sana, along with copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Federalist influenced movements in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and in Europe.

    Hamilton believed in the future greatness of America and believed that our nation could and would be one of power and strength. He somehow knew the United States would be a world power. (And wouldn’t apologize for it either).

  36. the articles of confederation was an absolute disaster. The states didnt wait to ratify it and because of this many problems arose. Even after the constitution was formed these states were fihting over many other issues than the ge=reat compromise resolved. ONly after rhode island ratifed the constitution did the people of the new wnited states accept the constitution. Be fore this document was ratified howver, the articles did a bad job at holding the counrty together, and only after the constitution was formed did the US truely become a self sustaining nation.

  37. Greg Zorbach says:

    In response to the two posts by Robert Shanbaum, in no particular order:
    Of course “Federalist #1 doesn’t shed much light on the Constitution at all.” It is, after all, titled “General Introduction.” As Mr. Cooper points out, The Federalist Papers “were published in several New York State newspapers to persuade New York voters to ratify the proposed constitution that had been crafted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787.” It seems to me that to argue means to point out the superiority of your argument and the flaws in opposing ones, as well as any ulterior motives that may exist in those making those opposing arguments. I’m perplexed as to why you would find Mr. Cooper’s blog to be “curious.” He is after all, commenting on a general introduction to an 85-article two-volume set. It did not surprise me that: “The bulk of the essay is not about government at all.” It was billed as an essay on Federalist I, which got the process of persuasion under way. As Mr. Cooper put it: “Premised in his argument is a fundamental foundation upon which our system of government is based — self-government or rule by the consent of the governed. From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate. Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.” Messers Hamilton and Cooper were both setting the stage for what was/is to follow.
    The sense I got from this rereading of Article I was that Hamilton was attempting to introduce the Publius articles by remarking on the “mud-slinging” as you put it, that had marked debate to that point in order to keep that most-important public dialog (as Jay puts it in today’s reading – Federalist II) more substantive, and with candor, even good will. The history of politics is replete with evidence of Hamilton’s warning that those who would stand to lose power (the states’ legislators) under the new Constitution would oppose its ratification, regardless of the strength of the arguments for it. We see that same dynamic in play today: Congress will never vote for a flat tax or term limits: too much restriction on their power. (The closest to the exact opposite I can recall in my lifetime was the new Republican-led congress voting on the first day in session to limit the terms of its committee chairmen.) Hamilton goes on to admit that “Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions…blameless at least if not respectable.”
    As you point out, of course Hamilton was on the side of a more-powerful centralize government. That was the point of the Constitutional Convention: to fix the weaknesses in the governing Articles of Confederation and the resulting weak federal government. I do not believe that Hamilton was (or does in subsequent articles) see ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys.’ It is true though that, as you put it: “Whether one would see it as a “specious mask” of the same is probably a matter of one’s political persuasion.” After all during the previous administration dissent was characterized as patriotic. Today the Tea Partiers are accused (by a former president no less) of fomenting violence.
    I believe that a main genesis of our current exercise of rereading the Constitution and the Federalist Papers is rooted in how far the federal government has strayed from the Constitution, especially from the Tenth Amendment. In that regard, the Anti-Federalists and other skeptics were correct to insist on the Bill of Rights. Although the fact of the Tenth Amendment’s inclusion seems to have had no obvious effect on limiting the federal government’s powers to those enumerated in the Constitution.
    Upon rereading Lillian’s blog, I have no doubt that she understands where Hamilton’s views lie. After she lauds the Anti-Federalists, she makes the basic point of Article I (and our current civic exercise) quite nicely: “Without that rich debate, would we have ever gained the deep appreciation for the liberty and prosperity that was possible as this country grew?” You do realize, do you not, that it takes arguments from both sides of an issue to have a rich debate? Is not the point of any debate or series of articles on an important public issue to “to bias the reader against the other side”?
    As to the question of how Mr. Hamilton would feel about the healthcare “power grab” Lillian mentioned, I disagree in your conclusion. First, we don’t know how Hamilton felt about the issue of establishing hospitals for soldiers and sailors. (Since he served General Washington admirably and loyally, I can hazard a guess.) Secondly, the only thing that the concept of caring for those who flight our wars and/or defend our liberties has in common with the current government’s takeover of the entire nation’s healthcare system is that both are/were federally run. Enlisting in the armed forces requires one to give up significant personal rights and freedoms. In turn, the country, with the government as our agent, provides for those individuals. Not many of us who will see our healthcare choices inevitably restricted under the new law ‘enlisted’ in anything, but we will see our freedoms and liberties limited nonetheless. I believe that Hamilton would be perplexed, if not appalled. In fact, Shannon may be right: his reaction may not be printable.
    OBTW, very nice post, Melanie.

  38. Daniel Smith says:

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

  39. Andy Sparks says:

    @Shannon – Undoubtedly, you are right. But then again, Madison and Hamilton probably could not conceive that women and blacks would ever be elected as representatives of our government, or be able to even vote for that matter…

  40. Melanie says:

    Janine, the new series, “America, The Story of Us” is wonderful. The focus of the narration seems to be the deep faith, the independent spirit, and the determination of the Americans to live unfettered lives of limitless possibilities! I was thrilled to hear the commercial announcement that every school in America will receive the DVD series. Let’s hope it is put to good use. (And let’s hope its message remains unchanged.)

    The First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” when clearly understood, is so powerful! It makes me want to come to the defense of people of all faiths. If we don’t reclaim and assert our religious heritage, and stand up against the progressive secularization of our country, we will be lost as a nation, and the world will be lost. A little good news today… the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Mojave Desert WWI War Memorial to display the Cross.

    The more we study these writings, the more profound the gems we find.

  41. Robert Shanbaum says:

    Greg, thank you for responding to my comments.

    I did not write that I thought my observations were surprising, and I apologize for being critical of Mr. Cooper. However, I thought that remarks on Federalist #1 should probably include some comments on the content of Federalist #1, and not just reflections on its title, and that’s what I was trying to (happily) supply.

    I didn’t realize that the object here was to learn about “how far the federal government has strayed from the Constitution”, but to learn about the Constitution. An intellectual inquiry that begins with the former purpose may well find its object, but it will fail to understand its subject well, as only that which was sought will be revealed.

    I am not convinced that the oft-cited fourth paragraph has been well understood here. My use of the term “good guys” and “bad guys” was an attempt to use modern vernacular to describe that which is couched in the unfamiliar prose of another era. If you think that Hamilton was not trying to set up the debate as between what we would call “good guys” (his side) and “bad guys” (the other side) in that paragraph, what do you think he was saying?

    I do indeed realize that a debate requires two positions. A debate does not, however, require what Hamilton has done here; that is, attempting to demonize his opponents before the actual debate begins. I am not passing judgment on the use of this technique – I’m simply observing that that appears to be his main purpose here.

    By the way, the Marine Hospital Fund (and its related income tax) covered not just naval personnel, but merchant seamen as well. Also, I am curious about your comment that the healthcare plan will restrict your healthcare choices, and thereby limit your freedoms and liberties: if this or some other healthcare plan implemented by the government were to increase the number of choices available to you, would that expand your freedoms and liberties? Would that make it OK?

    I do agree that Hamilton’s reaction, and for that matter, the reactions of all of the founders and framers, to the modern federal government, and for that matter, the modern world in general, might well be perplexity and dismay (though I think sheer shock would be the most likely reaction); after all, those are reactions of many who have grown up in it.

    With regard to Mr. Cooper’s comment, wherein he disagreed with my conclusion as to what Hamilton’s possible reaction to healthcare reform might be, saying that Hamilton would have been attached to the enumerated powers in the Constitution, I refer both of you to Hamilton’s actual proposal for the new general government, which you can read here:

    Also, you may find his side of a debate with Jefferson regarding the chartering of a national bank informative:

  42. Dale Swartzel says:

    Wonderful article! I think I understand a lot more about what the founders were trying to say and why. Thanks so much.

  43. Ross Bigney says:

    To me the most important lesson from Federalist #1 is the importance of hearing again that even the greatest idea — for example the Constitution — isn’t valid unless the people consent. Our founding fathers were marvelous people — they had such foresight. And people like George Washington who were popular enough that he could have become king of our country but would not. They are truly marvelous people.

  44. Arizona lawmakers have approved changes to the state’s controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants. The changes were designed to answer charges made by protesters that it will lead to racial profiling by police. The original law stated police can conduct an immigration status check during any quote “lawful contact,” if they have reasonable suspicion a person is an illegal immigrant. It replaces “lawful contact” with “lawful stop, detention or arrest,” clarifying police may not stop people without cause. The revised law also removes the word “solely” from the phrase “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.” Read the new Arizona Immigration Law

  45. Kristine says:

    Please note, there is a great article enitled “Could the Constitution stop the new health-care law?” by Nathan W. Tucker in the Christian Science Montior Volume 102, Issue 23 (current issue..weekly publication.) In it he mentions that the enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8 do not mention the power to “legislate our health.” He goes on to discuss why the common claim by Congress that the Commerce Clause, and Tax and Spend Clause, and references to general welfare do not support the power grab of mandating the purchase of healthcare. He also mentions the “FEDERALIST PAPERS.”

  46. Rod Criscillis says:

    That is some inspirational stuff. Never knew that opinions could be this varied. Will all of the Federalist Papers be brought down to earth in such a compelling way? Thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here.

  47. Susan Craig says:

    I don’t know about the suffrage of other races but I see no reason that they couldn’t imagine the suffrage of women because women had suffrage in the late 1700 in the state of my birth New Jersey.

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Thank you Professor Knipprath for yet another enlightening essay!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to Federalist 10!

Cathy Gillespie


Guest Essayist: Kyle Scott, PhD, Professor in the Political Science Department and Honors College at the University of Houston

Federalist #71 continues with a discussion of the President, particularly the length of the presidential term in office. Hamilton lays out the concerns over term length at the beginning: if the term is too long the President will not do what is best for the nation but what is best for himself, and if too short, the President will have no incentive to do the job well, but merely bide his time until the end of term, but he will also be susceptible to undue influence from the people and congress if his term is not long enough. What might be surprising to some readers is that the concern is over how long the term should be where the real discussion should be on term limits. With the ability of incumbents to entrench themselves in office, it might not matter if the term is 2 years or 8 years; if the President keeps getting reelected the term in office could go on indefinitely thus bringing about the first set of negative consequences established by Hamilton. Remember, it was not until 1951 with the ratification of the 22nd Amendment that the President was limited to two terms.

However narrow-sighted #71 might appear at first blush, we should always remember that Hamilton warned in #1 that in writing he will keep his motives within the “depository of his own breast,” which means we should always be on the lookout for multiple lessons. One lesson in particular I find fascinating in #71 is his criticism of democracy. #71 is not just about how long a President should serve before coming up for reelection, but rather the competing preferences of rule by the elite or rule by the people.

In the second paragraph Hamilton mocks those who suggest the President should be moved by popular opinion. “But such men entertain very crude notions, as well of the purposes for which government was instituted, as of the true means by which the public happiness may be promoted. The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they intrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion.” The President should strive for the public good while keeping in mind that the public may not always know what is in its own good.

Hamilton would be abhorred by Bill Clinton’s “governing by the polls” in which he would pursue policies based on their popularity. Hamilton would also find it comical that we judge the quality of a sitting President by how well he does in public opinion polls. Presidents should be above such matters. Whether it is going to war in Iraq or looking to reform healthcare, Hamilton suggests that the President should not be influenced by popular opinion. While he was a member of parliament, Edmund Burke held a similar position when he said, “It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living.

These he does not derive from your pleasure; nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

The opinion of the people should not guide the elected President, thus, the President should have mechanisms in place to shield him from the public’s backlash, which is why the length of the term is so important to Hamilton. If the term is too short, the President would only do what was popular.

It was not just the people who the President should be insulated from, but congress as well. If he were in office for too short of a term, the President would fall to the whim of congress and thus violate the separation of powers model borrowed from Montesquieu. But, insulating the President from congress was another way of insulating the President from the undue influence—no matter how indirect—of the people.

We should not be shocked by what we read in #71, for it is well-established that Hamilton was in favor of a strong executive. But, Hamilton’s executive is not what the Constitution gave us, nor is Hamilton’s view the predominant view. Many of the Anti-Federalists, not to mention Madison and Jefferson, were in favor of a more populist position. #71, as much as any of the others, reinforces my claim that we cannot read the Federalist as authored by one Publius just as we cannot think of the founders as one group.

Hamilton recognized the capriciousness of the people. He recognized that the people could be petty and have a short-memory, thus something like presidential authority should be institutionally defined and insulated from popular influence. I do appreciate his suspicion of the popular opinion even if he did overestimate the wisdom of the President.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Kyle Scott, PhD teaches in the Political Science Department and Honors College at the University of Houston. His published research deals with constitutional interpretation and its relevance for contemporary politics. His most recent book, The Price of Politics, critically assesses the Supreme Court’s eminent domain decisions and explains the importance of property rights.