Kossack Something the Dog Said did an excellent series on the Constitution recently. This is something that I had also done on my blog. When I finished with the Constitution, I decided to continue the weekly feature by looking at the Federalist Papers - thought by most to be the definitive interpretation of the Constitution. StDS had mentioned attempting to tackle the Federalist Papers once he/she was done but now I see that isn't the case. So, I thought I'd cross-post my Federalist Papers entries here as well.
Federalist No. 1 below the fold.
Originally posted at my livejournal
You can find The Federalist Papers in their entirety at The Library of Congress website.
From 1781 until 1787 the United States was governed by The Articles of Confederation. This document held the states together loosely and the powers granted to the government we limited mainly to matters of defense. The Articles of Confederation gave the government no taxing authority resulting in a weak and ineffective government. The Federalists proposed a more powerful central government and were the driving force behind the drafting of the Constitution. Given that the United States had just freed itself from the King of England, many in the new nation were still wary of a strong central government authority. Shortly after proposal, articles and pamphlets appeared opposing the ratification of the Constitution. In response, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote a series of papers published in New York newspapers advocating for the ratification of the Constitution. The papers were meant to explain the Constitution and rationalize the need for a more powerful centralized government. All of the papers were published under the pseudonym Publius.
Federalist No. 1 was published by Alexander Hamilton on October 27th, 1787 and is essentially an introduction to the series outlining 6 concepts to be discussed in the ensuing papers:
- The utility of the Union to your political prosperity.
- The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve the Union.
- The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed to the attainment of this object.
- The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government.
- It's analogy to your own state constitution.
- The additional security, which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty and to property.
Hamilton stated upfront that he was biased to the ratification of the 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.
Hamilton intended to use the Federalist Papers as a means for rebutting the published arguments of the Anti-Federalists as well as to explain the rationale behind the Articles of the Constitution.
And as we approach the end of this election season, I thought that it was noteworthy that the same arguments that we have today about the balance between individual rights and the rights of the government were just as alive in 1787. And from the following passage, I think it is safe to say that Alexander Hamilton would not belong to the Conservative Party of today:
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.
Next week: Federalist No. 2 - if there's sufficient interest, that is.