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Other Defects of the Present Confederation
For the Independent Journal.

Author: Alexander Hamilton

To the People of the State of New York:

HAVING in the three last numbers taken a summary review of the principal circumstances and events which have depicted the genius and fate of other confederate governments, I shall now proceed in the enumeration of the most important of those defects which have hitherto disappointed our hopes from the system established among ourselves. To form a safe and satisfactory judgment of the proper remedy, it is absolutely necessary that we should be well acquainted with the extent and malignity of the disease.

The next most palpable defect of the subsisting Confederation, is the total want of a SANCTION to its laws. The United States, as now composed, have no powers to exact obedience, or punish disobedience to their resolutions, either by pecuniary mulcts, by a suspension or divestiture of privileges, or by any other constitutional mode. There is no express delegation of authority to them to use force against delinquent members; and if such a right should be ascribed to the federal head, as resulting from the nature of the social compact between the States, it must be by inference and construction, in the face of that part of the second article, by which it is declared, “that each State shall retain every power, jurisdiction, and right, not EXPRESSLY delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.” There is, doubtless, a striking absurdity in supposing that a right of this kind does not exist, but we are reduced to the dilemma either of embracing that supposition, preposterous as it may seem, or of contravening or explaining away a provision, which has been of late a repeated theme of the eulogies of those who oppose the new Constitution; and the want of which, in that plan, has been the subject of much plausible animadversion, and severe criticism. If we are unwilling to impair the force of this applauded provision, we shall be obliged to conclude, that the United States afford the extraordinary spectacle of a government destitute even of the shadow of constitutional power to enforce the execution of its own laws. It will appear, from the specimens which have been cited, that the American Confederacy, in this particular, stands discriminated from every other institution of a similar kind, and exhibits a new and unexampled phenomenon in the political world.

The want of a mutual guaranty of the State governments is another capital imperfection in the federal plan. There is nothing of this kind declared in the articles that compose it; and to imply a tacit guaranty from considerations of utility, would be a still more flagrant departure from the clause which has been mentioned, than to imply a tacit power of coercion from the like considerations.

The want of a guaranty, though it might in its consequences endanger the Union, does not so immediately attack its existence as the want of a constitutional sanction to its laws.

Without a guaranty the assistance to be derived from the Union in repelling those domestic dangers which may sometimes threaten the existence of the State constitutions, must be renounced. Usurpation may rear its crest in each State, and trample upon the liberties of the people, while the national government could legally do nothing more than behold its encroachments with indignation and regret. A successful faction may erect a tyranny on the ruins of order and law, while no succor could constitutionally be afforded by the Union to the friends and supporters of the government. The tempestuous situation from which Massachusetts has scarcely emerged, evinces that dangers of this kind are not merely speculative. Who can determine what might have been the issue of her late convulsions, if the malcontents had been headed by a Caesar or by a Cromwell? Who can predict what effect a despotism, established in Massachusetts, would have upon the liberties of New Hampshire or Rhode Island, of Connecticut or New York?

The inordinate pride of State importance has suggested to some minds an objection to the principle of a guaranty in the federal government, as involving an officious interference in the domestic concerns of the members. A scruple of this kind would deprive us of one of the principal advantages to be expected from union, and can only flow from a misapprehension of the nature of the provision itself. It could be no impediment to reforms of the State constitution by a majority of the people in a legal and peaceable mode. This right would remain undiminished. The guaranty could only operate against changes to be effected by violence. Towards the preventions of calamities of this kind, too many checks cannot be provided. The peace of society and the stability of government depend absolutely on the efficacy of the precautions adopted on this head. Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of the people, there is the less pretense for the use of violent remedies in partial or occasional distempers of the State. The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men. A guaranty by the national authority would be as much levelled against the usurpations of rulers as against the ferments and outrages of faction and sedition in the community.

The principle of regulating the contributions of the States to the common treasury by QUOTAS is another fundamental error in the Confederation. Its repugnancy to an adequate supply of the national exigencies has been already pointed out, and has sufficiently appeared from the trial which has been made of it. I speak of it now solely with a view to equality among the States. Those who have been accustomed to contemplate the circumstances which produce and constitute national wealth, must be satisfied that there is no common standard or barometer by which the degrees of it can be ascertained. Neither the value of lands, nor the numbers of the people, which have been successively proposed as the rule of State contributions, has any pretension to being a just representative. If we compare the wealth of the United Netherlands with that of Russia or Germany, or even of France, and if we at the same time compare the total value of the lands and the aggregate population of that contracted district with the total value of the lands and the aggregate population of the immense regions of either of the three last-mentioned countries, we shall at once discover that there is no comparison between the proportion of either of these two objects and that of the relative wealth of those nations. If the like parallel were to be run between several of the American States, it would furnish a like result. Let Virginia be contrasted with North Carolina, Pennsylvania with Connecticut, or Maryland with New Jersey, and we shall be convinced that the respective abilities of those States, in relation to revenue, bear little or no analogy to their comparative stock in lands or to their comparative population. The position may be equally illustrated by a similar process between the counties of the same State. No man who is acquainted with the State of New York will doubt that the active wealth of King’s County bears a much greater proportion to that of Montgomery than it would appear to be if we should take either the total value of the lands or the total number of the people as a criterion!

The wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes. Situation, soil, climate, the nature of the productions, the nature of the government, the genius of the citizens, the degree of information they possess, the state of commerce, of arts, of industry, these circumstances and many more, too complex, minute, or adventitious to admit of a particular specification, occasion differences hardly conceivable in the relative opulence and riches of different countries. The consequence clearly is that there can be no common measure of national wealth, and, of course, no general or stationary rule by which the ability of a state to pay taxes can be determined. The attempt, therefore, to regulate the contributions of the members of a confederacy by any such rule, cannot fail to be productive of glaring inequality and extreme oppression.

This inequality would of itself be sufficient in America to work the eventual destruction of the Union, if any mode of enforcing a compliance with its requisitions could be devised. The suffering States would not long consent to remain associated upon a principle which distributes the public burdens with so unequal a hand, and which was calculated to impoverish and oppress the citizens of some States, while those of others would scarcely be conscious of the small proportion of the weight they were required to sustain. This, however, is an evil inseparable from the principle of quotas and requisitions.

There is no method of steering clear of this inconvenience, but by authorizing the national government to raise its own revenues in its own way. Imposts, excises, and, in general, all duties upon articles of consumption, may be compared to a fluid, which will, in time, find its level with the means of paying them. The amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be at his own option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources. The rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal; and private oppression may always be avoided by a judicious selection of objects proper for such impositions. If inequalities should arise in some States from duties on particular objects, these will, in all probability, be counterbalanced by proportional inequalities in other States, from the duties on other objects. In the course of time and things, an equilibrium, as far as it is attainable in so complicated a subject, will be established everywhere. Or, if inequalities should still exist, they would neither be so great in their degree, so uniform in their operation, nor so odious in their appearance, as those which would necessarily spring from quotas, upon any scale that can possibly be devised.

It is a signal advantage of taxes on articles of consumption, that they contain in their own nature a security against excess. They prescribe their own limit; which cannot be exceeded without defeating the end proposed, that is, an extension of the revenue. When applied to this object, the saying is as just as it is witty, that, “in political arithmetic, two and two do not always make four

.” If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds. This forms a complete barrier against any material oppression of the citizens by taxes of this class, and is itself a natural limitation of the power of imposing them.

Impositions of this kind usually fall under the denomination of indirect taxes, and must for a long time constitute the chief part of the revenue raised in this country. Those of the direct kind, which principally relate to land and buildings, may admit of a rule of apportionment. Either the value of land, or the number of the people, may serve as a standard. The state of agriculture and the populousness of a country have been considered as nearly connected with each other. And, as a rule, for the purpose intended, numbers, in the view of simplicity and certainty, are entitled to a preference. In every country it is a herculean task to obtain a valuation of the land; in a country imperfectly settled and progressive in improvement, the difficulties are increased almost to impracticability. The expense of an accurate valuation is, in all situations, a formidable objection. In a branch of taxation where no limits to the discretion of the government are to be found in the nature of things, the establishment of a fixed rule, not incompatible with the end, may be attended with fewer inconveniences than to leave that discretion altogether at large.

PUBLIUS.

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Well, small business profits are on the decline and government provided benefits are on the rise. Carolyn, I read your blog and I also heard about these frightening statistics today. Socialism is rearing its ugly head. Next will be the general demise of spirit and motivation in our country. This exact scenario was predicted by Samuel Adams in his warning over two hundred years ago, “The pooling of property and redistributing of wealth are both despotic and unconstitutional.”

As duly noted in last night’s reading of Federalist No. 20. We must learn from the experience of history. It makes no sense, and has been proven by history, that if a country becomes a nanny state and feeds the people’s every whim, punishes the hard working enterprising people, snuffs the spirit of business by taking over their free enterprise then the country and her citizens become mired down with a lack of motivation.

If motivation is at a minimum, productivity ceases to prevail and if productivity ceases to prevail then there is no money for the nanny. If the nanny does not provide then the people rebel. When the people rebel then there is a need for a strong force to control. Enter Tyranny. Good-bye Democracy. Good-bye Republic.

Carpe Diem. We must seize the day and reverse course while we can. This begins with knowledge and fortification. Wisdom whispers in the words of Publius.
The answers are in the United States Constitution.
Spread the word.

God Bless,

Janine Turner
P.S. I thank you Horace Cooper for joining us today and for your brilliant insights

 

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For those who are unhappy with the course of our country, there is solace in Alexander Hamilton’s words:

Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of the people, there is the less pretense for the use of violent remedies in partial or occasional distempers of the State. The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men.

Thanks to our Constitution, and our republican form of government, there is a structure in place to change the course of the country, and get back onto the path envisioned by our founders, the path of individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise.

Tough times in 1787 sparked an amazing document that has guided our country for over 200 years, now the oldest federal constitution in existence.

What positive outcome will the tough times of 2010 produce?  I am praying it will be a rekindled passion for the United States Constitution, and the founding principles of our country – the principles that have allowed us to be, in Janine Turner’s words, “America the beautiful, America the hope.”

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

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

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The Federalist #21: In Defense of Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Ron Meier says:

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

  2. Maggie says:

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

  3. Charles Babb says:

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

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

    http://www.constituting.staging.wpengine.com/

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

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

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

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

  4. Susan Craig says:

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

  5. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

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

  6. Susan Craig says:

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

  7. Roger Jett says:

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

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

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

  8. Roger Jett says:

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

  9. Carolyn Attaway says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. Susan Craig says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For those who are unhappy with the course of our country, there is solace in Alexander Hamilton’s words:

    Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of the people, there is the less pretense for the use of violent remedies in partial or occasional distempers of the State. The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men.

    Thanks to our Constitution, and our republican form of government, there is a structure in place to change the course of the country, and get back onto the path envisioned by our founders, the path of individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise.

    Tough times in 1787 sparked an amazing document that has guided our country for over 200 years, now the oldest federal constitution in existence.

    What positive outcome will the tough times of 2010 produce? I am praying it will be a rekindled passion for the United States Constitution, and the founding principles of our country – the principles that have allowed us to be, in Janine Turner’s words, “America the beautiful, America the hope.”

    Good night and God Bless!

    Cathy Gillespie

  12. Debbie Bridges says:

    I was really surprised when I read the argument for the Consumption Tax. We have this same idea being raised and fought for today with the Fair Tax. The IRS has become way to powerful and invasive and the tax system in our country is broken just as it was back when we were under the Articles of Confederacy. I have been learning so much from these posts and will continue to read and eventually catch up with everyone.

Guest Blogger: Dr. Will Morrisey, William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

The Federalist #22: In Defense of Politics

Publius here concludes his critique of the old constitution, the Articles of Confederation, a critique he began with Federalist #15.  To understand this critique, we need to step back and consider the problem the Founders intended to solve: Can modern states practice politics?  This seems an odd question.  There seems to be no shortage of politics in the modern world.  And why should politics—messy, compromising, frustrating, roiling politics—be something anyone would want to encourage, anyway?

Undeniably, politics has aroused the interest of the greatest minds: Plato titles his most famous dialogue Politeia, which means “regime”; Aristotle devotes an entire book to politics.  In that book, Aristotle points to the family as the embryo of politics; in the household we can see the DNA of political life.  Aristotle identifies three kinds of rule within every family: the rule of master over slave, whereby the ruler commands the ruled for the benefit of the ruler; the rule of parent over child, whereby the ruler commands the ruled for the benefit of the ruled; and the reciprocal rule of husband and wife, in its proper form a consensual rule animated by discussion and compromise—“ruling and being ruled,” as Aristotle puts it.  An overbearing spouse acts like a master or parent toward one who does not by nature deserve to be treated like a slave or a child.  Genuinely political rule consists of this consensual rule, rule along the marital rather than the masterly or parental model.  In human societies only tyrants attempt masterly rule, only kings attempt to rule as if they were fathers of their countrymen.

The small, ancient polis and the larger feudal communities lent themselves readily to political rule.  In a polis, where everyone knows everyone else, unquestioned rule of one over many seldom lasts.  Under feudalism, the presence of numerous titled aristocrats, each with his own independent source of revenue and of military recruits, will not submit to tyranny forever, as King John of England should have learned at Runnymede, but didn’t.

By contrast, the political engine of the modern world, the state, threatens to put an end to political rule, to make all rulers rule in masterly/tyrannical or parental/ authoritarian modes.  Large and centralized, the state can mortally compromise all independent bases of authority in its domain, repressing any need to discuss or compromise.  At the same time, the very power the modern state marshals requires all neighboring societies to institute states of their own, upon pain of conquest.

The Founders thus attempted something that seemed impossible: To constitute a modern state that is sufficiently powerful to defend itself against other states but nonetheless political, not masterly or tyrannical.  They solved the problem in principle by adopting and refining the idea of federalism.  A single, centralized state stunts political life, but if that state can be made to consist of a set of smaller communities, each with governing to do—townships, counties, and smaller states, all with their own responsibilities, and their own elected representatives—then politics can continue to flourish in the modern world.

Why should we want it to?  Because, as Aristotle argues, human beings differ from all the other animals in their capacity to speak and reason: If I say `Jump’ and allow you to say no more than, `How high?’ you may be speaking but you are not reasoning.  Your character as a human being suffers.  In political life, you can talk back. To be sure, at some point, you will run up against the `being ruled’ side of the Aristotelian equation.  But so will everyone else.

The Articles constitution tried to protect political life by keeping most of the American states small enough to feature political life but strong enough to be sovereign—even as, in federation, they multiplied their strength to fend off enemy states.  As Publius has argued in this series, however, the Articles constitution contradicted itself.  The general or federal government could only raise revenues and soldiers with the consent of the member states.  But there can be no “sovereignty over sovereigns.”  Disunion threatened.  Foreigners sneered and circled for the kill.

Publius lists seven additional defects of the Articles, all of them flowing from this overarching defect.  As seen in #21, the first three of these defects are the lack of sanctions for violations of federal law; the lack of any guarantee of mutual aid in case of usurpation within any one state; and the lack of any common standard for determining the revenues each state owes to the general government that protects them.

Publius now turns to the remaining defects, both material and moral.  Materially, the structure of government under the Articles constitution impedes national commerce by allowing member states to enact protective tariffs against one another.  Morally, this inclines each state to treat others as “foreigners and aliens”—the way Europeans do. Materially, the federal government also wields inadequate military strength, as states remote from the battlefields have little incentive to contribute men or material; morally, this leads to “inequality and injustice among the members.”

Speaking of inequality and injustice, equal representation of each state in the unicameral Articles Congress “contradicts that fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.”  Why will—why should—New York and Virginia long tolerate a government that allows tiny Delaware or Rhode Island to hamstring it?  Especially if the legislatures of the small states were to fall under the influence of foreign powers, and not republican ones.

To these economic, military, and political defects of the existing government, Publius adds another problem with the legal system.  Not only does it have no power to enforce Congressional laws, it lacks a federal judiciary to oversee “a uniform rule of civil justice.”  Without a federal judiciary, encroachment of federal authority by the states can find no defenders beyond the military; force, not law, will rule.

The Articles government has only one ruling institution, the Congress.  The absence of other independent but complementary branches of government might have undermined genuinely political life in the United States, except that the framers of the Articles made the Congress more or less impotent vis-à-vis the member states.  But this caused another problem.  Unqualifiedly sovereign member states will incline to violate the fundamental law of contract, of government by consent: That no party to any contract may excuse himself from the terms of the contract without the consent of the other parties.

Therefore, the new constitution will require ratification not by the governments of the states but by the people of each state, and moreover by the people of states now to be united by the only true rulers of a republican regime.  This new governing contract, “flow[ing] from that pure, original source of all legitimate authority,” will supply the national means needed to secure the national ends listed in the Preamble.  Therefore, also, the new and more powerful wielder of those means, the federal government, can no longer rest in the hands of one ruling institution, but in the tripartite structure of legislative, executive, and judicial branches.  This newly-devised institutional structure for American self-government can preserve politics, reciprocal ruling-and-being-ruled, at the highest level of American government without necessarily exposing Americans to conquest by imperial monarchies.

Will Morrisey is William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College.

14 Responses to “May 27, 2010Federalist No. 22 – The Same Subject Continued: Other Defects of the Present Confederation, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Dr. Will Morrisey, William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College

  1. Shannon Castleman says:

    There are some people who condemn people like Hamilton for being the “first types of big government politicians, because of the desire for a National Bank, and stronger central government.

    In my opinion, these groups of Federalist essays proves those naysayers wrong.

    The “Federalists” didn’t want BIGGER goverment, they wanted a WORKABLE governmet. We need to put ourselves in Hamilton’s shoes, where we see a government not even strong enough to raise revenues, or strong enough t raise a military. Of course we needed a “bigger” government a that time, or we woul have gone the way of Europe.

    Hamilton would in no way support “bigger” government if he awakened in 2010 America.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    Genuinely political rule consists of this consensual rule, rule along the marital rather than the masterly or parental model.  While Publius makes a great argument against the Articles of Confederation, I seriously doubt that he wanted the political pendulum to have swung so far that the power to exercise it in a paternalistic manner [such as today]. Professor Morrissey is profound when he points out that A single, centralized state stunts political life, but if that state can be made to consist of a set of smaller communities, each with governing to do—townships, counties, and smaller states, all with their own responsibilities, and their own elected representatives—then politics can continue to flourish in the modern world.
    American states small enough to feature political life but strong enough to be sovereign—even as, in federation, they multiplied their strength to fend off enemy states.

  3. Charles Babb says:

    Hamilton seems to be saying that, if the proposed new constitution is not adopted and if the existing foundation of government (Articles of Confederation) can survive the aggression of greedy, self serving men, it will evolve, bit-by-bit, into a structure of government not desirous by anyone.

    Is this not exactly what has happened to our Constitution? Have not (career) politician’s ignored the obvious wishes of the electorate, hiding behind (and serving instead) the power of political parties. No longer do they just overstep Constitutional authority, they thumb their noses at us and stomp all over it.

    If this were not so, why would an elected official have to hide what goes on in her office from view of the “public” she (or he) swore an oath to serve.

    Few of them today, would acknowledge that “The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.”

  4. Sorry guys, I thought I posted this last night.. I’ll check in later on Federalist Paper No. 22 :)

    Well, small business profits are on the decline and government provided benefits are on the rise. Carolyn, I read your blog and I also heard about these frightening statistics today. Socialism is rearing its ugly head. Next will be the general demise of spirit and motivation in our country. This exact scenario was predicted by Samuel Adams in his warning over two hundred years ago, “The pooling of property and redistributing of wealth are both despotic and unconstitutional.”

    As duly noted in last night’s reading of Federalist No. 20. We must learn from the experience of history. It makes no sense, and has been proven by history, that if a country becomes a nanny state and feeds the people’s every whim, punishes the hard working enterprising people, snuffs the spirit of business by taking over their free enterprise then the country and her citizens become mired down with a lack of motivation.

    If motivation is at a minimum, productivity ceases to prevail and if productivity ceases to prevail then there is no money for the nanny. If the nanny does not provide then the people rebel. When the people rebel then there is a need for a strong force to control. Enter Tyranny. Good-bye Democracy. Good-bye Republic.

    Carpe Diem. We must seize the day and reverse course while we can. This begins with knowledge and fortification. Wisdom whispers in the words of Publius.
    The answers are in the United States Constitution.
    Spread the word.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    P.S. I thank you Horace Cooper for joining us today and for your brilliant insights

  5. Susan Craig says:

    Power corrupts, the founders tried to hedge the access to power so that absolute power could not be concentrated to corrupt absolutely.

  6. marjay says:

    The problem with the National Bank is that when it was created in 1913, it was privatized. Jefferson warned again that. The Federal Reserve Bank is not an entity of the federal government at all. It is a privately owned and operated business. This fact is not commonly known. The bankers who own it have benefit of the interest derived therefrom, coming from loans to the federal government, using money the bank has CREATED. That interest money belongs in the nations coffers, not in the hands of the bankers. Article 1, Section 8, gives CONGRESS the power to coin money and determine its value, not private BANKERS, which is how Lincoln financed the Civil War, after private bankers refused to loan him money. Giving congress that power was a marvelous arrangement, subject to voter approval every two years at election time. That power was delivered up to what I would call “tyrants” when my grandparents were children. The Federal Reserve has never been audited. No doubt such an audit, which should be mandatory, would reveal an amazing history.

  7. Roger Jett says:

    Charles Babb, While I can readily agree with much of what you said in your post earlier today, I have to ask you to rethink on a couple of things. First of all, I wished you had worded a little differently your phrases, ” The fabric of the American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority”. Some might think that I’m arguing semantics , but I don’t think that the two words, “American” and
    “empire” should ever fall side by side when the subject is regarding our government. Empires have a single sovereign ruler and they are usually referred to as an “emperor”. I believe what you are saying …. the point that you are emphasizing is that ” the people” are the legitimate authority upon which our elected government officials gain their powers. As Dr. Morrisey points out as he quotes Hamilton, that it is fundamental to a republican form of government which “requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.” However, I’d like to emphasize that under our Constitution there are protections of unalienable rights for the individual as well as rights to the minorities, that government must respect. What may become deemed as the “CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE”, is not necessarily a determinant of what is fair and in the interest of justice. Under that concept, a majority of my neighbors might up and decide to take some of my property for public benefit without making effort to give me just compensation. Fortunately the Constitution even protects us from ourselves in that sense. The stream you speak of is in reality not that pure.

  8. Charles Babb says:

    @Roger Jett; I certainly can’t argue that point; that was just a copy and paste of Mr. Hamilton’s words. That’s why I included the quotation marks.

  9. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I find it amazing that with all the writing of how America should form a Federal Government to ensure commerce and national security, the founders wanted to keep the integrity of the free market system sound and thriving. If we travel back to Jamestown, many historians debate that with the Virginia Company being a publically traded company, English America was a corporation before it was a country. Our roots are founded in the entrepreneurial spirit of risk, hard work, and reward.

    To borrow the words from the novel “Love and Hate in Jamestown” by David A. Price: In their war for independence and their struggle to create a constitution, the Founders themselves had shown the same pragmatic qualities of mind that rendered Smith a hero. The actions of Smith, like the actions of the Founders, also point to a shared outlook on life; one in which a person does not look inward and wait for life to reveal its answers, for life itself is the one carrying out the interrogation. More than most people, Smith and the Founders attempted to answer the questions that life was constantly asking them-or, rather, the single question it asked them, and asks us, over and over. Life presented them with a series of astonishing possibilities and all-engulfing obstacles, all the while whispering to them:
    What are you going to do?
    What are you going to do?
    What are you going to do?

    Have we come to that place in history again?

    One has to wonder when our country is being invaded by illegal immigrants of many nationalities by crossing the southern border, and you hear news like this:

    “US National Guard troops being sent to the Mexican border will be used to stem the flow of guns and drugs across the frontier and not to enforce US immigration laws, the State Department said Wednesday. The clarification came after the Mexican government urged Washington not to use the additional troops to go after illegal immigrants. President Barack Obama on Tuesday authorized the deployment of up to 1,200 additional troops to border areas but State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters, “It’s not about immigration.” Link: http://www.breitbart.com

  10. Jimmy Green says:

    Hamilton’s desire to have a Federal Government regulate commerce between the states seems reasonable at first, forgetting momentarily of the disaster this has lead to today. It would I think allow developing a more standard set of trade rules and I suppose it would give foreign nations more confidence in one regulated system instead of dealing with thirteen colonies, or would it. I would almost suggest that left alone the states would develop a set of mutually advantageous trade rules to simply improve trade. Although still for foreign nations it is easier to negotiate one treaty not thirteen.

    I think more insightful of weakness in a confederacy is as Hamilton states “want of a judiciary power”. A federal court system with a Supreme Court that unifies and enforces the states with a uniform set of laws is paramount. Again momentarily forgetting the disaster those unelected oracles in robes unleashed on the states via the commerce act among others. It seems obvious any united anything requires a federal court system, or does it.

    On the issue of “equal suffrage among the states” it seems correct that in the Union through representation by numbers it would be better balanced. The state with a larger population would have more house members then a state of lesser population. However Hamilton’s belief that giving the minority the ability to stop or hinder the majority is wrong is not always practiced. In the legislature the filibuster by a single congressman is used to delay or obstruct a vote on some proposal or bill.

    Interestingly in the U.N. the Security Council is comprised of 5 countries but India with the second largest population after China is not one of them. I’m not sure how the U.N. would be classified. It’s a bizarre organization of the worst kind more akin to a dysfunctional feudal system then anything else.

    Many of Hamilton’s beliefs were correct in theory. With hindsight we can trace many of the losses of state sovereignty back directly to these arguments that Hamilton would have not imagined. However the expansion of the Federal Government is, I believe, a simple result of the complacency of the states and people resulting in a power vacuum the Feds were more then happy to fill.

  11. Roger Jett says:

    Charles Babb, Please accept my apology for the earlier post. As Andy Griffith once said, “the rest of the family is eating chicken for supper, but I’m having crow.” Also, just in case you are wondering, my foot size is a twelve and yes it was a tight fit even in my big mouth.

  12. Kay says:

    Thank you Dr. Morrissey for walking us through Federalist No. 22! Publius certainly covers a lot of ground in this Federalist Paper! If only our current elected officials would take the time to methodically explain major proposed legislation in this manner. Our “sound bite” culture and collective short attention span does not lend itself to deeply and thoroughly understanding the many issues facing us.

    The weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation were many: lack of federal regulation of commerce, including foreign commerce and interstate commerce; the weakness of the state quota system for raising armies; problems of equal suffrage among the states; the weaknesses of the 2/3 majority requirement for important resolutions ; lack of “one Supreme Tribunal,” and overall so many problems with the Articles of Confederation that they were not deemed fixable by amendment. Publius goes on to point out the weakness of a Congress with only one legislative body, and the final and most important flaw: The people never ratified the Articles of Confederation. It is with this final point that my favorite quote from Federalist 22 appears:

    “The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.”

    One of the things I have enjoyed most about reading The Federalist are the quotes like the one above, that leap off the page, and speak to us so clearly, 223 years later. They encapsulate principles that our country has drifted from, and remind us of the intent of the founders. When these principles are followed, our country flourishes. When we drift from them, we stagnate.

    If only our founding fathers could come back today, and write a series of Federalist Papers where they analyze our current governmental structure in the same manner they analyze the Articles of Confederation, and methodically itemize all the places our country has deviated from their original founding principles. I have a feeling they would have a hard time confining their essays to 85!

    Good night and God Bless!

    Cathy Gillespie

  13. Why write many paragraphs when a few lines will do, three lines to be exact, from Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 22?

    1. Though the genius of the people of this country..

    2. Its opposition contradicts that fundamental maxim of Republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority shall prevail.

    3. The fabric of American empire out to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE.

    Are these words being honored in our American government today?

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    May 27, 2010
    I thank our guest scholar, Dr. Will Morrisey, for joining us today!

  14. Jesse Stewart says:

    Shannon – thanks for your insight re: “big government Hamilton”; it helps to put it in perspective!

    What a wonderful group of commenters, what a wonderful exercise! I’m telling everyone I know about Constituting America.