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Insights from The Federalist Papers

 
 
Reply Thu 30 Jun, 2011 11:23 am
The Federalist Papers is a collection of eighty-five essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. The essays were originally published in New York newspapers during 1787 and 1788 when adoption of the U.S. Constitution was being debated. The Federalist Papers explain various aspects of the federal form of government and are considered an important contribution to political theory. I would like to examine some of the ideas put forth by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 1,941 • Replies: 14
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Jun, 2011 11:28 am
In Essay No. 2, John Jay gives a preliminary explanation of why the States need to be united under a national government.

Quote:
Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers. It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to place in one national government.


Quote:
To all general purposes we have uniformly been one people; each individual citizen everywhere enjoying the same national rights, privileges, and protection. As a nation we have made peace and war; as a nation we have vanquished our common enemies; as a nation we have formed alliances, and made treaties, and entered into various compacts and conventions with foreign states.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 Jul, 2011 04:53 pm
In Essay No. 9 Alexander Hamilton describes how the ancient form of democratic republic has been refined by modern governing ideas.

Quote:
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: these are wholly new discoveries, or have made their principal progress towards perfection in modern times. They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided.


Quote:
The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Jul, 2011 06:13 pm
In Essay No. 10, James Madison examines the instability caused by conflict among differing factions. Moreover, when a faction has the support of a majority, there arises a threat to the liberties of those in a minority. A representative national government can minimize this danger.

Quote:
A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.


Quote:
When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.


Quote:
It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage. The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Jul, 2011 08:53 am
In Essay No. 23, Alexander Hamilton addresses functions that need to be provided by a federal government.

Quote:
The principal purposes to be answered by union are these -- the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.


Quote:
Is there not a manifest inconsistency in devolving upon the federal government the care of the general defense, and leaving in the State governments the effective powers by which it is to be provided for? Is not a want of co-operation the infallible consequence of such a system?


Quote:
The POWERS are not too extensive for the OBJECTS of federal administration, or, in other words, for the management of our NATIONAL INTERESTS; nor can any satisfactory argument be framed to show that they are chargeable with such an excess.
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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Jul, 2011 09:41 am
I find the FP very interesting. They are good windows into the spirit of the laws. So much, as far as intent goes, is focuses on the legalistic language or the laws, but the FP share a lot about the degree in which the FF thought about the challenges of governance.

A
R
T
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Jul, 2011 11:17 am
@failures art,
I read them a long time ago in college. I decided to re-read them now to see how much they differ from Tea Party propaganda. Of course the FP themselves were propaganda to get New York to adopt the new constitution. There is a lot of repetition in the FP and also a lot of criticism of the old Articles of Confederation that was more relevant in 1787 than now.
0 Replies
 
McTag
 
  2  
Reply Tue 5 Jul, 2011 01:40 pm
@wandeljw,

I think the Scots supported this because they don't like the English.
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Jul, 2011 02:09 pm
@McTag,
Also, many of the essays mention David Hume's writings on government.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Jul, 2011 08:30 pm
In Essay No. 37, James Madison describes the difficult task of balancing the ideals of liberty with the necessities of stability and security.

Quote:
On comparing, however, these valuable ingredients with the vital principles of liberty, we must perceive at once the difficulty of mingling them together in their due proportions. The genius of republican liberty seems to demand on one side, not only that all power should be derived from the people, but that those intrusted with it should be kept in independence on the people, by a short duration of their appointments; and that even during this short period the trust should be placed not in a few, but a number of hands. Stability, on the contrary, requires that the hands in which power is lodged should continue for a length of time the same.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Jul, 2011 09:19 am
In Essay No. 39, Madison explains how the new constitution allows for both centralized, national authority as well as equal representation for the individual states.

Quote:
...we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it....


Quote:
The House of Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America; and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular State. So far the government is national, not federal. The Senate, on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the existing Congress. So far the government is federal, not national.


Quote:
...the proposed government cannot be deemed a national one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Jul, 2011 07:31 pm
In Essay No. 47, Madison gives his assurance that the new constitution complies with Montesquieu's classic principle that executive, legislative, and judicial powers are separated.

Quote:
The magistrate in whom the whole executive power resides cannot of himself make a law, though he can put a negative on every law; nor administer justice in person, though he has the appointment of those who do administer it. The judges can exercise no executive prerogative, though they are shoots from the executive stock; nor any legislative function, though they may be advised with by the legislative councils. The entire legislature can perform no judiciary act, though by the joint act of two of its branches the judges may be removed from their offices, and though one of its branches is possessed of the judicial power in the last resort. The entire legislature, again, can exercise no executive prerogative, though one of its branches constitutes the supreme executive magistracy, and another, on the impeachment of a third, can try and condemn all the subordinate officers in the executive department.


The above actually provides separation of powers combined with checks and balances.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Thu 7 Jul, 2011 09:21 am
In Essay No. 48, Madison further examines the concept of checks and balances.

Quote:
It was shown in the last paper that the political apothegm there examined does not require that the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments should be wholly unconnected with each other. I shall undertake, in the next place, to show that unless these departments be so far connected and blended as to give to each a constitutional control over the others, the degree of separation which the maxim requires, as essential to a free government, can never in practice be duly maintained.

It is agreed on all sides, that the powers properly belonging to one of the departments ought not to be directly and completely administered by either of the other departments. It is equally evident, that none of them ought to possess, directly or indirectly, an overruling influence over the others, in the administration of their respective powers. It will not be denied, that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it. After discriminating, therefore, in theory, the several classes of power, as they may in their nature be legislative, executive, or judiciary, the next and most difficult task is to provide some practical security for each, against the invasion of the others. What this security ought to be, is the great problem to be solved.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jul, 2011 09:14 am
In Essay No. 51, Madison explains how the new constitution works to prevent too much power being concentrated in a single branch of government.

Quote:
In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others. Were this principle rigorously adhered to, it would require that all the appointments for the supreme executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the same fountain of authority, the people, through channels having no communication whatever with one another. Perhaps such a plan of constructing the several departments would be less difficult in practice than it may in contemplation appear. Some difficulties, however, and some additional expense would attend the execution of it. Some deviations, therefore, from the principle must be admitted. In the constitution of the judiciary department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist rigorously on the principle: first, because peculiar qualifications being essential in the members, the primary consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice which best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the authority conferring them.


Quote:
In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.


Quote:
But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 Jul, 2011 10:21 am
In Essay No. 78, Alexander Hamilton explains judicial review.

Quote:
...the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.


Quote:
This exercise of judicial discretion, in determining between two contradictory laws, is exemplified in a familiar instance. It not uncommonly happens, that there are two statutes existing at one time, clashing in whole or in part with each other, and neither of them containing any repealing clause or expression. In such a case, it is the province of the courts to liquidate and fix their meaning and operation.
0 Replies
 
 

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