Posts tagged ‘federalist papers’
So I have been on a mental break these past couple weeks. So many stressful things put me in a crabby mood. So I took as much of a break as I could from all things stressful. But alas, I need to get back to reality. There are so many topics right now that I have some major opinions and strong feelings on, but for tonight I am going to continue on my Federalist Papers. I decided to read letters 15-20 and post at the same time since they are dealing with the same topic.
This grouping of letters deals with the issue, Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union.
At this point no one is in disagreement that the present national system was unable to protect the Union. Not even the ones who were against the Constitution argued the basic premise. The country was at the bottom of the barrel as far as how they were viewed by other countries. “We have neither troops, nor treasury, nor government”
None of the states individually could effectively regulate themselves. They needed a government to help settle internal disputes. Another objection is the fear that the government would ultimately be too powerful.
There was a great passage in letter 15 regarding government. Here it is for your reading pleasure:
Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation. This penalty, whatever it may be, can only be inflicted in two ways; by the agency of the courts and ministers of justice, or by military force; by the coercion of the magistracy, or by the coercion of arms.”
I found this interesting given all of today’s politicians and celebrity figures who break the law and then do not pay the penalty. (ie. Geithner) It is true, laws should have consequences for all. But that was not really the main focus of the letters.
There was a great deal of historical background given into Grecian republics as well as German nations. All had strengths and weaknesses. Finally the author gives a history of the United Netherlands. All of this information was given to give historical background and precedent for setting up a national government and making the states into one Union. By studying societies of the past we can learn from their experience which provides truth and wisdom.
I have to say I am finding reading these to be very interesting. Seeing how some of the things they said correlate to our country today is amazing. Timeless principles of government.
Letter 12 – The Utility of the Union in Respect to Revenue
This letter deals obviously with streams of revenue for the country both with taxes and with trade. – “A nation cannot long exist without revenue.”
Commerce is the most useful, productive source of income and has such become important in political arenas. All craftsmen and laborers look forward to the reward that comes from the purchase of their created items. It is suggested that as commerce flourishes, land value rises. We know that is true.
“The ability of a country to pay its taxes must always be proportioned in a great degree to the quantity of money in circulation and to the celerity with which it circulates. Commerce must render the payment of taxes easier and facilitate the requisite supplies to the treasury. Tax laws have in vain been multiplied; new methods to enforce the collection have in vain been tried; the public expectation has been uniformly disappointed, and the treasuries of the States have remained empty.”
If the states remained smaller Confederacies there would be competition within them in the issue of lowering duties levied to other countries. As a United States we would only guarding one territory for trade – the Atlantic. This would allow us to patrol our own shores and make sure that there were no rogue operators seeking to interfere with trade.
This line sounds curiously like a Fair Tax precursor – “Personal estate, from the difficulty of tracing it, cannot be subjected to large contributions by any other means than by taxes on consumption.”
Letter 13 – Advantage of the Union in Respect To Economy in Government
This is a shorter letter, dealing with costs of Government. If the states are united into one Union there will only be one civil budget to operate. If they remain individuals states/countries then the expenses would be unnecessarily multiplied. As each group would necessitate a government on the same scale as the one being proposed for the Union. On size and population of the smaller entities alone it would be easy to see how they would struggle to compete with larger states. “Nothing can be more evident than that the thirteen states will be able to support a national government better than one half, or one third, or any number less than the whole.” – With that said, I am sure they never had ANY idea we would get ourselves into the economic mess that our government now is.
Letter 14 – Objections to the Proposed Constitution from Extent of Territory Answered
We open here with again alluding to the differences between a democracy and a republic and confusion that complicates this. “In a democracy the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic they assemble and administer it by their represetnatives and agents. A democracy covers one small spot . A republic can cover a large region.” The limitations of a democracy are that it assembles in one spot. That has easily been done with all the 13 states being in attendance at gatherings. With all the mathematical calculations of the states at the time, the territory was about as large as some European countries, not even much larger than Germany. Poland, France, Spain, Great Britian all with sizes comparable or inferior still have to travel as far for their governmental meetings.
Here is an intersting tidbit – “First, It is to be remembered that the general government is not to be charge with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdicition is limited. Subordinate governments retain due authority and activity.”
Second, “the immediate object of the Constitution is to secure the union of the thirteen primitive states, and to add to them other states.”
Third, “intercourse through the Union will be facilitated by new improvements – roads, travel accommodations, navigation on water, canals.”
Fourth, “and more important is that as almost every State will on one side or other be a frontier.” Even if it would be difficult to get their representatives to the seat of the national government they would find it more troublesome to try and defend themselves against intruders.” As one Union there would be great benefit and great reward.
Letter 10 – A continuation of The Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
As the title states, the letter deals with domestic faction. We are told that there are two ways to remove faction (Conflict within an organization or nation; internal dissension) - one is to remove it cause; the other is to control its effects. Put another way is to destroy the liberties needed for existence or by giving all citizens the same opinions, passions, and interests.
Obviously removing liberty is not truly an option as it would make the situation worse in the first place. The second is not practical either. All men have their own ideas, passions and interests and it could not ever be assumed that they would have the same naturally. The differences are a natural occurrence that make us all individuals.
Since it is not possible to actually prevent or control faction, ways are suggested to control the effects. When the faction is a minority it could easily be dealth with by a regular vote. However when the faction is the majority the public under the law would be forced to do as they would vote.
Publius suggests that with these things in mind, a true democracy would never work in this situation. Instead a repulic, a government in which the scheme of representation takes place – has promise for what our country was seeking. Here are two specific ways that a republic would differ from a democracy.
1. The delegation of the government , in the republic is to a small number of citizens elected by the rest
2. The great number of citizens and greater sphere of country over which the republic may be extended.
Basically in the democracy there are less people choosing what will happen to all the citizens. In a republic there will be more representatives chosen by the citizens to help make decisions. This was an interesting line: As each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for the unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried. I don’t think our candidates have problems running vicious elections these days. That is the norm.
Essentially the thought was with the republic would be easy to keep running smoothly with proper, equal representation provided by the Constitution. So the whole point of the confusing long letter was that as a United States we would be more able to control the effects of faction within the country since there would be more representation in place to protect the citizens.
Letter 11: The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relation and a Navy
This letter deals with our ability to arrange commerce with other countries through maritime uses. By working with other countries we can establish our own trade arrangements and agreements making such arrangements beneficial to all, but especially to ourselves. Another topic would be the necessity of creating a federal navy. We would need a respectable maritime army to help protect us against the other two major countries.
An active commerce, an extensive navigation, a flourishing marine, would then be the offspring of moral and physical necessity.
Naval protection and maritime commerce were both necessary to the country. There was no real option. A larger country working together would be more able to succeed in both of these arenas as opposed to each smaller confederacies or states. Europe had long dominated the other countries and we have the opportunity to change that. “It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race, and to teach the assuming brother moderation. Union will enable us to do this. Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen states, bound together in a strict and indissoluable Union, concur in erecting one great American system superior to the control of all transatlantic force or influence and able to dictate the terms of the connections between the old and the new world!”
I have to say these letters are still long and confusing. I am doing the best that I can to find interesting points in each letter. Overall I find the argument for a Union to make great sense. They are giving sufficient reasioning in my opinion that the states were better off as a United States.
So far so good on my quest to get through the Federalist Papers. It is slow going but one day I am sure I will be done. If I keep to two a day it would be around 38 more days. Maybe less if I read them earlier in the day. Then I might get through 3 a day.
Letter 8 – The Consequences of Hostilities between the States
Here we get into what would likely happen to the states fighting with each other if they remained separate countries. The larger, more populated states would easily over-run smaller neighboring states. The caution suggested is that each state would ultimately give more power to their executive branches bringing each state into a monarchy type of government. Then following suit they would wind up with the same situations that they came to the new world to escape.
The suggestion here is that, if they would be wise enough to preserve the Union then they would enjoy the benefits of an insulated country. Europe being a great distance away would be unlikely to be of too much danger. However if the country were split into even two or three confederacies, then they would end up at risk of constant fighting from jealousy and conflict with each other.
Also mentioned is this, the Constitution does not provide against standing armies leaving the inference that a standing army may exist. (I was unfamiliar with the term so here is the definition, standing army is an army composed of full-time career soldiers who ‘stand over’, in other words, who do not disband during times of peace.) Apparently this issue of an army is addressed in a later letter as well.
Letter 9 – The Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
Publius opens by saying that a firm Union would help prevent situations like the republics of Greece and Italy. The moments of glory for the nations are not enough to cover up for all the problems they have inside. People who thought government being run mostly through one leader or a specific group have not only issues with republican government but also against civil liberties. They decry free government as inconsistent with societies order. These are all things that they wanted to make sure that America did better.
“The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding 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 excellencies of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided.”
Apparently one of the chief arguments against the proposed Union is found in the writings of Montesquieu. However the problem lies in that the scale of Montesquieu’s republics were far short of the limits of all the 13 colonies on their own. So if the choice was to follow Montesquieu then they would embrace a monarchy or they would end up fighting constantly about everything. However as one United country they could in fact create a republic. His ideal view of a confederate republic is that of the republic of Lycia.
“It is very probable that mankind would have been obliged at length to live constantly under the government of a SINGLE PERSON, had they not contrived a kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of a republican, together with the external force of a monarchical, government. I mean a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC.” There is quite a bit more here that I could quote that lists more of these types of benefits that could be enjoyed if they were a republic.
The confederate republic is the assemblage of societies. “The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the state’s 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.“
Here is a great link to an outline for Letter 9 “Stupendous Fabrics:” Notes on Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 9
More on this subject tomorrow . . . .
Here is post two in my Federalist Paper series.
Letter 3 – a continuation of Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence
The premise here begins to explain why a United States as opposed to a divided state would be less likely to be involved in wars and conflict. The ability to maintain treaties and agreements with the six nations that had already made such arrangements with the states would be easier enforced by one nation instead of 13 individually governed countries. The national government would also benefit from having excellent minds for all the states serving the whole country. Theoretically giving a more balanced, wise government for the nation than each separate state might have from their own residents.
The arguement is made that, “as either designed or accidental violations of treaties and of the laws of nations afford just causes of war, they are less to be apprehended under one general government than under several lesser ones, and in that respect the former most favors the safety of the people.” So the premise is that countries we had negotiations and treaties with would be less likely to go to war with us as a nation in the case of a violation, than they would if an individual, smaller state violated the agreement. That one strong, good government afford more safety for the citizens than smaller individual countries. Letter three deals more with what would be considered “just” causes of wars and conflict.
Letter 4 – again more on the same topic, Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence
This letter deals more with wars created for “unjust” motives. More along the lines of personal issues, rivalries in trade or commerce (or even just imagined). A strong national government as opposed to smaller weaker governments would be more able to hold such conflicts at bay. The discussion continues to lay out reasoning why one United country would be better able to protect itself.
I thought this closing paragraph of letter 4 was a very good read. How applicable is this to today? Are we efficient, well run, credit-worthy, discreet in our finances, contented, etc?
“But whatever may be our situation, whether firmly united under one national government, or split into a number of confederacies, certain it is that foreign nations will know and view it exactly as it is; and they will act towards us accordingly. If they see that our national government is efficient and well administered, our trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented , and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment. If, on the other hand , they find us either destitute of an effectual government (each State doing right or wrong, as to its rulers may seem convenient), or split into three of four independent and probably discordant republics or confederacies, one inclining to Britain, another to France, and a third to Spain, and perhaps played each other by the three, what a poor, pitiful figure will America make in their eyes! How liable would she become not only to show they contempt, but to their outrage; and how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.“
So since everything else in the news is less than pleasant I thought that perhaps a reading of The Federalist Papers might be something inspiring. I have honestly never read them before and thought the idea of reading why the founding fathers drafted the Constitution would be interesting.
So here is a brief summary of what the papers are and who wrote them. Then I will start the first in my never-ending (well, not really – but it will take me awhile to read the whole thing) series of posts as I try to decipher these letters. The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles advocating the ratification of the United States Constitution. The Federalist Papers serve as a primary source for interpretation of the Constitution, as they outline the philosophy and motivation of the proposed system of government.The authors of the Federalist Papers wanted both to influence the vote in favor of ratification and to shape future interpretations of the Constitution. According to historianRichard B. Morris, they are an “incomparable exposition of the Constitution, a classic in political science unsurpassed in both breadth and depth by the product of any later American writer.” The articles were written by Alexander Hamilton , James Madison, and John Jay. Although all were written under the pen name of Publius. (thank you Wikipedia for the excellent summary of what the papers are.
So tonight, for my first delve into the papers I learned very quickly that it was going to take me awhile to read these. Not only are there 85 of them, but they are written in Old School English. Which means that I have to think really hard to try and understand exactly what they mean. Old English always seems to have some superfluous words thrown in there that you have to decide what to do with.
Letter 1- General Introduction
This one is basically just an opener. An introduction to the other 84 letters that are coming to give you a welcome into the discourse. As well it was my refresher course into reading things that are hard to understand. Just for frame of reference there are only 13 states at this time.
Letter 2- Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence.
This letter was setting some framework for why the country should become one Union as opposed to states becoming multiple confederacies. They gave history for how they worked together as a nation as one of the reasons for becoming a Union, “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.” Another message made clear is that the people of the country had chosen wise men, who had proved themselves to help try and solve the problems the fledgling weak government was facing to meet in Philadelphia in 1774.
I think the most interesting paragraph to me in this letter was this one, for everyone who likes to bring religion into play:
“With equal pleasure I have often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people -a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established their general liberty and independence.”
Perhaps by the time I get to number 85 I will have a better grasp on the English!