Archive for March, 2009
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 today Obama lifted a ban on Embryonic Stem Cell research that was previously in place under President Bush. He stated the following . . .
“In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values,” Obama said during the signing ceremony. “In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”
My quick question . . . How is this sound science when after nearly ten years of research, there are no approved treatments or human trials using embryonic stem cells. Science is a trial and error proposition. Life either is or isn’t. You can not play it both ways. Not to mention the promise of expanded funding. How many jobs is that going to create in today’s hurting marketplace? Not too many I think. In every argument for stem cells they say it can, it might, it may, perhaps, nothing gives a definitive. I have no problem with using cord blood harvested at birth, adult stem cells, or even if they happen to get stem cells from miscarried pregnancies – not from embryos created just for this purpose. There should be plenty of people willing to donate to help further this research.
I see this more as an opportunity to just take back anything and everything that Bush put into place as a matter of principle. Congressional Democrats are now gearing up to make it permanent and ensure that future presidents will be helpless to put research bans in place.
A quick break from my Federalist Papers to review a children’s biography on none other than . . . Nancy Pelosi. I could not help myself from checking out to read myself. I am amazed at all these biographies that are popping up on the current politicians. There are tons of books on Barack and Michelle Obama already. These would not even cover his presidency. He has not done anything yet. Why not wait until he has actually been in office for a period of time to discuss his career? I never got around to posting this picture from the bookstore the day of the inauguration there were so many different biographies out for Obama. Remember, this was also around Lincoln’s birthday celebration this year too and there was no big display about him.
I was shocked and awed that there was even a biography about Pelosi. In case you had not followed any of my previous posts, I am not what I would call a fan. The book is titles, Political Profiles – Nancy Pelosi by Sandra H. Shichtman. The publisher also has titles for the following: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Al Gore, Rudy Giuliani, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I get that she is the first woman speaker of the house, (which actually frightens me a good bit that she is third in line for chain of command) so maybe that is why she has a children’s biography. But here is what I learned:
Nancy’s dad was a 5 term congressman and three term mayor. It clearly defined her father as a New Deal Democrat under FDR, because they “believed that the government should help people who needed it.”
The most notable thing in the book to me just confirmed what I have always believed Nancy can not be bi-partisan. It is not part of her, it is not in her blood. She just can’t do it. There is a story of a worker for the GOP giving 7 year old Nancy a toy elephant at a polling location. Nancy gave it right back to the man and when she was asked about it now . . . “He thinks I don’t know what this is. I was offended. In our family it was about whose side you are on; the whole idea of working for families and the opportunity they had.” It goes on to say how even when she was young Nancy knew that the Democratic Party was her party. (please note the italics on her are taken directly from the text, not from me to imply spoken language.)
So her whole family was in politics, she worked in politics her whole life helping promote other candidates, etc. Then when her own children were grown she ran for office the first time. This was in 1987. Would just like to remind people that she has been voted in since then. You keep sending her back. Nancy is very anti-Bush to put it nicely. She has had nothing good to say about him and in act has been pretty nasty. I had never heard this fine quote of hers, “President Bush in an incompetent leader. In fact, he’s not a leader . . He’s a person who has no judgment, no experience, and no knowledge of the subject he has to decide on.” Nice Nancy.
So I gave you what I saw as some major points in the biography. It does chronicle what her different positions are and what she has “done” in office. I use that a bit loosely as I do not agree with ANY of her viewpoints. In fact I have not come up with one thing that she supports that I agree with. I will have to keep looking. I don’t think she can move to the center. Growing up with a father who is very pro New Deal I am not surprised at all at Pelosi’s quick leap into promoting other New Deal type initiatives. Even though historians and economists all say that the New Deal actually prolonged the depression rather than actually helping. Frankly I think we are recreating the exact same thing. The Depression ended when the war began.
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 . . . .
Back again with another installment of The Federalist Papers.
Letter 5 – Wrapping up the topic of Considering Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence
This final letter in the 4 letter series explaining why a Union was necessary focuses on the likelihood that if the states formed into many separate smaller nations they would likely be at odds with each other quite a bit and even oppose each other in times of war with other nations. They were using their knowledge of the workings of Britain and other European countries and the manner in which they in such close proximity fought with each other. There would be no greater ally than the 13 states becoming one Union to protect itself from other countries.
Letter 6 – Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States
Publius (pen name used by all 3 authors) begins by suggesting that there is no doubt that if the states are not united as one nation there is no doubt that they will end up rivals and fighting amongst themselves. Multiple examples of a neighboring friendly country inviting war against a friend was given to show that it has historical basis. Pericles and numerous issues and the cardinal under Henry VIII precipitating war with England (that reminds me a bit of The Three Musketeers movie) being the two mentioned.
Also stated . . . “Commercial republics, like ours . . .will be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of mutual amity and concord.” I am not sure that I feel like we are still governing this way.
Then the writer goes on to list multiple wars between republics in Europe and how they were started between the countries that should be getting along and that we should be cautious to remember that what is said between friendly nations to one another is not always how things play out in the long term.
Here is another spectacular line, “Let the point of our extreme depression to which our national dignity and credit have sunk, let the inconveniences felt everywhere from a lax and ill administration of government . . .the actual insurrections and rebellions declare ——!” (i have no idea what the dashes are supposed to imply. but the beginning just fired me up enough to what our country is currently experiencing.)
Letter 7 – Finishing up Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States
Opens by providing items which would most likely be causes of disputes between the states should they remain independent Nations. First example is territorial disputes. That seems like a given countries have always historically fought for land (they still do!) Especially considering how much more land there was in North America at the time that would have been crazy fodder for internal fighting between the confederacies as each tried to take more land.
A second issue that would arise should the states be independent would be commerce. Each state would most likely specialize in some sort of enterprise and each would try to outdo they other in trade. With no respect or reason to honor the others trade agreements there would be conflict here as well. As one united nation though, with everyone working together all would benefit.
Third, different states had duties paid that would only be levied on imports. Multiple states paid these duties. Should the states have become independent countries, these necessary taxes would have to be worked out.
The national debt is the next consideration. If the states were separated how would they divide the debt up between them? Not only that, but they would actually have to accept the responsibility and actually make the payments on time. With each smaller unit handling their own finances the odds of things getting worse were much higher. This could easily lead to conflict and war between neighboring states.
Non-uniform laws from state to state would be hard to enforce. There would be no national over-riding rule to protect the person who was wronged.
This wraps up their argument for this section . . Stay tuned for tomorrows edition, it deals with consequences of hostilty.