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FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution, Federalist #15
A Publius/Billthedrill Essay | 29 April 2010 | Publius & Billthedrill

Posted on 04/29/2010 7:56:41 AM PDT by Publius

Hamilton Indicts the Current Union

In this long paper, Hamilton begins with a six-part diagnosis of the ills of the Union under the Articles of Confederation, doing so in the form of an indictment, no doubt influenced by John DeWitt, the anonymous Massachusetts lawyer who had also used the interrogatory method to make his case earlier. He finishes with the case for coercive government.

Federalist #15

The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union (Part 1 of 6)

Alexander Hamilton, 1 December 1787

1 To the People of the State of New York:

***

2 In the course of the preceding papers, I have endeavored, my fellow citizens, to place before you in a clear and convincing light the importance of Union to your political safety and happiness.

3 I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to which you would be exposed should you permit that sacred knot which binds the people of America together be severed or dissolved by ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation.

4 In the sequel of the inquiry through which I propose to accompany you, the truths intended to be inculcated will receive further confirmation from facts and arguments hitherto unnoticed.

5 If the road over which you will still have to pass should in some places appear to you tedious or irksome, you will recollect that you are in quest of information on a subject the most momentous which can engage the attention of a free people, that the field through which you have to travel is in itself spacious, and that the difficulties of the journey have been unnecessarily increased by the mazes with which sophistry has beset the way.

6 It will be my aim to remove the obstacles from your progress in as compendious a manner as it can be done without sacrificing utility to despatch.

***

7 In pursuance of the plan which I have laid down for the discussion of the subject, the point next in order to be examined is the “insufficiency of the present Confederation to the preservation of the Union.”

8 It may perhaps be asked what need there is of reasoning or proof to illustrate a position which is not either controverted or doubted, to which the understandings and feelings of all classes of men assent, and which in substance is admitted by the opponents as well as by the friends of the new Constitution.

9 It must in truth be acknowledged that however these may differ in other respects, they in general appear to harmonize in this sentiment, at least, that there are material imperfections in our national system, and that something is necessary to be done to rescue us from impending anarchy.

10 The facts that support this opinion are no longer objects of speculation.

11 They have forced themselves upon the sensibility of the people at large and have at length extorted from those whose mistaken policy has had the principal share in precipitating the extremity at which we are arrived, a reluctant confession of the reality of those defects in the scheme of our federal government which have been long pointed out and regretted by the intelligent friends of the Union.

***

12 We may indeed with propriety be said to have reached almost the last stage of national humiliation.

13 There is scarcely anything that can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent nation which we do not experience.

14 Are there engagements to the performance of which we are held by every tie respectable among men?

15 These are the subjects of constant and unblushing violation.

16 Do we owe debts to foreigners and to our own citizens contracted in a time of imminent peril for the preservation of our political existence?

17 These remain without any proper or satisfactory provision for their discharge.

18 Have we valuable territories and important posts in the possession of a foreign power which by express stipulations ought long since to have been surrendered?

19 These are still retained to the prejudice of our interests, not less than of our rights.

20 Are we in a condition to resent or to repel the aggression?

21 We have neither troops, nor treasury, nor government. *

22 Are we even in a condition to remonstrate with dignity?

23 The just imputations on our own faith in respect to the same treaty ought first to be removed.

24 Are we entitled by nature and compact to a free participation in the navigation of the Mississippi?

25 Spain excludes us from it.

26 Is public credit an indispensable resource in time of public danger?

27 We seem to have abandoned its cause as desperate and irretrievable.

28 Is commerce of importance to national wealth?

29 Ours is at the lowest point of declension.

30 Is respectability in the eyes of foreign powers a safeguard against foreign encroachments?

31 The imbecility of our government even forbids them to treat with us.

32 Our ambassadors abroad are the mere pageants of mimic sovereignty.

33 Is a violent and unnatural decrease in the value of land a symptom of national distress?

34 The price of improved land in most parts of the country is much lower than can be accounted for by the quantity of waste land at market and can only be fully explained by that want of private and public confidence, which are so alarmingly prevalent among all ranks and which have a direct tendency to depreciate property of every kind.

35 Is private credit the friend and patron of industry?

36 That most useful kind which relates to borrowing and lending is reduced within the narrowest limits, and this still more from an opinion of insecurity than from the scarcity of money.

37 To shorten an enumeration of particulars which can afford neither pleasure nor instruction, it may in general be demanded what indication is there of national disorder, poverty and insignificance that could befall a community so peculiarly blessed with natural advantages as we are, which does not form a part of the dark catalogue of our public misfortunes?

***

38 This is the melancholy situation to which we have been brought by those very maxims and councils which would now deter us from adopting the proposed Constitution and which, not content with having conducted us to the brink of a precipice, seem resolved to plunge us into the abyss that awaits us below.

39 Here, my countrymen, impelled by every motive that ought to influence an enlightened people, let us make a firm stand for our safety, our tranquillity, our dignity, our reputation.

40 Let us at last break the fatal charm which has too long seduced us from the paths of felicity and prosperity.

***

41 It is true, as has been before observed, that facts too stubborn to be resisted have produced a species of general assent to the abstract proposition that there exist material defects in our national system, but the usefulness of the concession on the part of the old adversaries of federal measures is destroyed by a strenuous opposition to a remedy upon the only principles that can give it a chance of success.

42 While they admit that the government of the United States is destitute of energy, they contend against conferring upon it those powers which are requisite to supply that energy.

43 They seem still to aim at things repugnant and irreconcilable: at an augmentation of federal authority without a diminution of state authority, at sovereignty in the Union and complete independence in the members.

44 They still, in fine, seem to cherish with blind devotion the political monster of an imperium in imperio.

45 This renders a full display of the principal defects of the Confederation necessary in order to show that the evils we experience do not proceed from minute or partial imperfections, but from fundamental errors in the structure of the building which cannot be amended otherwise than by an alteration in the first principles and main pillars of the fabric.

***

46 The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing Confederation is in the principle of legislation for states or governments, in their corporate or collective capacities, and as contradistinguished from the individuals of which they consist.

47 Though this principle does not run through all the powers delegated to the Union, yet it pervades and governs those on which the efficacy of the rest depends.

48 Except as to the rule of appointment, the United States has an indefinite discretion to make requisitions for men and money, but they have no authority to raise either by regulations extending to the individual citizens of America.

49 The consequence of this is that though in theory their resolutions concerning those objects are laws, constitutionally binding on the members of the Union, yet in practice they are mere recommendations which the states observe or disregard at their option.

***

50 It is a singular instance of the capriciousness of the human mind that after all the admonitions we have had from experience on this head, there should still be found men who object to the new Constitution for deviating from a principle which has been found the bane of the old and which is in itself evidently incompatible with the idea of government: a principle, in short, which, if it is to be executed at all, must substitute the violent and sanguinary agency of the sword to the mild influence of the magistracy.

***

51 There is nothing absurd or impracticable in the idea of a league or alliance between independent nations for certain defined purposes precisely stated in a treaty regulating all the details of time, place, circumstance and quantity, leaving nothing to future discretion, and depending for its execution on the good faith of the parties.

52 Compacts of this kind exist among all civilized nations, subject to the usual vicissitudes of peace and war, of observance and non-observance, as the interests or passions of the contracting powers dictate.

53 In the early part of the present century there was an [epidemic] rage in Europe for this species of compacts from which the politicians of the times fondly hoped for benefits which were never realized.

54 With a view to establishing the equilibrium of power and the peace of that part of the world, all the resources of negotiation were exhausted, and triple and quadruple alliances were formed, but they were scarcely formed before they were broken, giving an instructive but afflicting lesson to mankind how little dependence is to be placed on treaties which have no other sanction than the obligations of good faith, and which oppose general considerations of peace and justice to the impulse of any immediate interest or passion.

***

55 If the particular states in this country are disposed to stand in a similar relation to each other and to drop the project of a general discretionary superintendence, the scheme would indeed be pernicious and would entail upon us all the mischiefs which have been enumerated under the first head, but it would have the merit of being at least consistent and practicable.

56 Abandoning all views towards a confederate government, this would bring us to a simple alliance offensive and defensive and would place us in a situation to be alternate friends and enemies of each other as our mutual jealousies and [rivalries], nourished by the intrigues of foreign nations, should prescribe to us.

***

57 But if we are unwilling to be placed in this perilous situation, if we still will adhere to the design of a national government or, which is the same thing, of a superintending power under the direction of a common council, we must resolve to incorporate into our plan those ingredients which may be considered as forming the characteristic difference between a league and a government; we must extend the authority of the Union to the persons of the citizens, the only proper objects of government.

***

58 Government implies the power of making laws.

59 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.

60 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.

61 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.

62 The first kind can evidently apply only to men; the last kind must of necessity be employed against bodies politic, or communities, or states.

63 It is evident that there is no process of a court by which the observance of the laws can, in the last resort, be enforced.

64 Sentences may be denounced against them for violations of their duty, but these sentences can only be carried into execution by the sword.

65 In an association where the general authority is confined to the collective bodies of the communities that compose it, every breach of the laws must involve a state of war, and military execution must become the only instrument of civil obedience.

66 Such a state of things can certainly not deserve the name of government, nor would any prudent man choose to commit his happiness to it.

***

67 There was a time when we were told that breaches by the states of the regulations of the federal authority were not to be expected, that a sense of common interest would preside over the conduct of the respective members and would beget a full compliance with all the constitutional requisitions of the Union.

68 This language, at the present day, would appear as wild as a great part of what we now hear from the same quarter will be thought, when we shall have received further lessons from that best oracle of wisdom, experience.

69 It at all times betrayed an ignorance of the true springs by which human conduct is actuated and belied the original inducements to the establishment of civil power.

70 Why has government been instituted at all?

71 Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.

72 Has it been found that bodies of men act with more rectitude or greater disinterestedness than individuals?

73 The contrary of this has been inferred by all accurate observers of the conduct of mankind, and the inference is founded upon obvious reasons.

74 Regard to reputation has a less active influence when the infamy of a bad action is to be divided among a number than when it is to fall singly upon one.

75 A spirit of faction, which is apt to mingle its poison in the deliberations of all bodies of men, will often hurry the persons of whom they are composed into improprieties and excesses for which they would blush in a private capacity.

***

76 In addition to all this, there is in the nature of sovereign power an impatience of control that disposes those who are invested with the exercise of it to look with an evil eye upon all external attempts to restrain or direct its operations.

77 From this spirit it happens that in every political association which is formed upon the principle of uniting in a common interest a number of lesser sovereignties, there will be found a kind of eccentric tendency in the subordinate or inferior orbs, by the operation of which there will be a perpetual effort in each to fly off from the common center.

78 This tendency is not difficult to be accounted for.

79 It has its origin in the love of power.

80 Power controlled or abridged is almost always the rival and enemy of that power by which it is controlled or abridged.

81 This simple proposition will teach us how little reason there is to expect that the persons intrusted with the administration of the affairs of the particular members of a confederacy will at all times be ready, with perfect good humor and an unbiased regard to the public weal, to execute the resolutions or decrees of the general authority.

82 The reverse of this results from the constitution of human nature.

***

83 If, therefore, the measures of the Confederacy cannot be executed without the intervention of the particular administrations, there will be little prospect of their being executed at all.

84 The rulers of the respective members, whether they have a constitutional right to do it or not, will undertake to judge of the propriety of the measures themselves.

85 They will consider the conformity of the thing proposed or required to their immediate interests or aims, the momentary conveniences or inconveniences that would attend its adoption.

86 All this will be done, and in a spirit of interested and suspicious scrutiny, without that knowledge of national circumstances and reasons of state which is essential to a right judgment, and with that strong predilection in favor of local objects which can hardly fail to mislead the decision.

87 The same process must be repeated in every member of which the body is constituted, and the execution of the plans framed by the councils of the whole will always fluctuate on the discretion of the ill-informed and prejudiced opinion of every part.

88 Those who have been conversant in the proceedings of popular assemblies, who have seen how difficult it often is where there is no exterior pressure of circumstances to bring them to harmonious resolutions on important points, will readily conceive how impossible it must be to induce a number of such assemblies, deliberating at a distance from each other at different times and under different impressions, long to cooperate in the same views and pursuits.

***

89 In our case, the concurrence of thirteen distinct sovereign wills is requisite under the Confederation to the complete execution of every important measure that proceeds from the Union.

90 It has happened as was to have been foreseen.

91 The measures of the Union have not been executed; the delinquencies of the states have, step by step, matured themselves to an extreme which has at length arrested all the wheels of the national government and brought them to an awful stand.

92 Congress at this time scarcely possess the means of keeping up the forms of administration till the states can have time to agree upon a more substantial substitute for the present shadow of a federal government.

93 Things did not come to this desperate extremity at once.

94 The causes which have been specified produced at first only unequal and disproportionate degrees of compliance with the requisitions of the Union.

95 The greater deficiencies of some states furnished the pretext of example and the temptation of interest to the complying or to the least delinquent states.

96 Why should we do more in proportion than those who are embarked with us in the same political voyage?

97 Why should we consent to bear more than our proper share of the common burden?

98 These were suggestions which human selfishness could not withstand and which even speculative men, who looked forward to remote consequences, could not without hesitation combat.

99 Each state, yielding to the persuasive voice of immediate interest or convenience, has successively withdrawn its support, till the frail and tottering edifice seems ready to fall upon our heads and to crush us beneath its ruins.

***

[*] I mean for the Union.

Hamilton’s Critique

The calendar turns to December 1787, and it is clear from the tone of the Federalist essays that its authors are beginning to appreciate the depth of opposition to the proposed Constitution. In #14 it has torn from the normally dry and measured Madison a cry of passion, born perhaps of dismay. Here Hamilton, perceived as the less temperate, very clearly steps back, assesses the tactical situation and re-enters the lists from first principles.

There would be six parts to this set of essays, this being the initial, its function to set out the conditions in which the country found itself just after the War of Independence: rudderless, hamstrung by faction, unable to meet its just debts, and threatening to spin into fractionated chaos. That certain of the critics of the proposal seemed not only nonplused by this, but perfectly content to embrace it, points out a certain dark penchant for anarchy that has remained a part of the American political character.

Hamilton will have none of it, but from the tone of this essay it is likely he has now measured the opposition and finds it formidable.

Where to begin? With a summary of the “insufficiency of the present Confederation.” Thus the reader is treated to a litany of complaint about the existing Confederation Congress from a man who was not only a member frustrated by its impotence, but a representative of an unpaid military and an inconstant mercantile establishment.

13 There is scarcely anything that can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent nation which we do not experience.

Consider the specifics:

It is a long and depressing list.

38 This is the melancholy situation to which we have been brought by those very maxims and councils which would now deter us from adopting the proposed Constitution and which, not content with having conducted us to the brink of a precipice, seem resolved to plunge us into the abyss that awaits us below.

Here Hamilton lays the responsibility for the mess at the feet of the Constitution’s critics, and more to the point, to those principles held by them that have resulted in a thoroughly impotent government.

42 While they admit that the government of the United States is destitute of energy, they contend against conferring upon it those powers which are requisite to supply that energy.

That they have done, and in defense of the anti-Federalists, it seems fairly clear that they have done so in order to safeguard individual freedom from the potential abuses of federal power. Hamilton now proposes that, in fact, it is the very inability of the existing system to treat with individuals that is its downfall. It is a very interesting bit of political theory, and simply put, the argument is that the new government must be as able to coerce individuals as it is to protect them; that not to deal with them at all, but to deal strictly with the collective entities that are the states, is the foundational weakness of the current system.

46 The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing Confederation is in the principle of legislation for states or governments, in their corporate or collective capacities, and as contradistinguished from the individuals of which they consist.

This is, in fact, one facet of the fundamental difference between the individualist roots of American government and the collectivist roots of various alternatives. One sees its manifestation in the notion that a government whose very existence is contingent on the permission of the individual citizen must be able to make its claims directly on that citizen and not on any group, any collective, in which that citizen may or may not even acknowledge membership. It is, in Hamilton’s formulation, very much a two-way street, one that did not lead to the current government.

In Hamilton’s opinion, what the current arrangement did lead to was an extreme relationship in which the rule of law did not apply, and the rule of force must therefore take its place. As an explanation of why police states tend to form when the political relationships are confined to government and collective, it has few rivals and anticipates critiques of Marxism by more than a century. This is political theory far deeper than an initial impression might lead the reader to suspect, and it is quoted at length.

59 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.

60 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.

61 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.

62 The first kind can evidently apply only to men; the last kind must of necessity be employed against bodies politic, or communities, or states.

It is, on the face of it, a proposition unfounded in fact; surely there are examples of legal decisions binding collectives? But there is a subtle difference between such decisions binding collectives and being enforced upon their individual members – when that happens, the relationship really is strictly one of power. It was a point to be developed some two centuries later by the post-structuralist social critic Michel Foucault. The reader enters very deep waters indeed, and in them reside the fundamental relationships between individual and state.

65 In an association where the general authority is confined to the collective bodies of the communities that compose it, every breach of the laws must involve a state of war, and military execution must become the only instrument of civil obedience.

That, in short, is the price paid for the government’s relationship with the individual being filtered through the collective: a state of permanent war, a police state. The history of the 20th Century would appear to bear this point out.

66 Such a state of things can certainly not deserve the name of government, nor would any prudent man choose to commit his happiness to it.

Yet Hamilton, the Federalist, will not concede that a society of individual men might find virtue all on its own. A government there must be, and government is constraint.

71 Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.

But it is perfectly natural to resent the imposition of this constraint.

76 In addition to all this, there is in the nature of sovereign power an impatience of control that disposes those who are invested with the exercise of it to look with an evil eye upon all external attempts to restrain or direct its operations.

Thus the coercion must be fair and in such a form that men will accept it willingly in return for the benefits offered them, not to any ruling elite proposing to act in their best interest. That is a view of the Social Contract rather darker and more realistic than Rousseau’s.

Hence Hamilton’s conviction that a strong federal government must, in the end, be in the interest of the individual citizen, a citizen who might be called upon directly rather than through the auspices of a state that might have other interests in mind. He closes with a description of these alternative interests as he had seen them himself. In the absence of a strong federal government, the states might decline to respond to a crisis out of self-interest or out of the suspicion that they were bearing a disproportionate share of the burden – but decline to respond they would, and they had.

91 The measures of the Union have not been executed; the delinquencies of the states have, step by step, matured themselves to an extreme which has at length arrested all the wheels of the national government and brought them to an awful stand.

The case, then, for the deficiencies of the existing government had been made, and the case for remediating it through a new, stronger and more centralized federal government had been presented with considerable force. Whether the proposed Constitution would answer both deficiency and remediation was a topic to which Hamilton would turn next.

Discussion Topics



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Free Republic
KEYWORDS: 10thamendment; bloggersandpersonal; federalistpapers; freeperbookclub; iamafederalist; iamarepublican
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1 posted on 04/29/2010 7:56:41 AM PDT by Publius
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To: 14themunny; 21stCenturion; 300magnum; A Strict Constructionist; abigail2; AdvisorB; Aggie Mama; ...
Ping! The thread has been posted.

Earlier threads:

FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution
5 Oct 1787, Centinel #1
6 Oct 1787, James Wilson’s Speech at the State House
8 Oct 1787, Federal Farmer #1
9 Oct 1787, Federal Farmer #2
18 Oct 1787, Brutus #1
22 Oct 1787, John DeWitt #1
27 Oct 1787, John DeWitt #2
27 Oct 1787, Federalist #1
31 Oct 1787, Federalist #2
3 Nov 1787, Federalist #3
5 Nov 1787, John DeWitt #3
7 Nov 1787, Federalist #4
10 Nov 1787, Federalist #5
14 Nov 1787, Federalist #6
15 Nov 1787, Federalist #7
20 Nov 1787, Federalist #8
21 Nov 1787, Federalist #9
23 Nov 1787, Federalist #10
24 Nov 1787, Federalist #11
27 Nov 1787, Federalist #12
27 Nov 1787, Cato #5
28 Nov 1787, Federalist #13
29 Nov 1787, Brutus #4
30 Nov 1787, Federalist #14

2 posted on 04/29/2010 7:58:01 AM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Publius

Going to CSUN today and taking this along!

Thanks for your work, BTD and P!


3 posted on 04/29/2010 8:19:46 AM PDT by Loud Mime (initialpoints.net - - The Constitution as the center of politics -- Download the graph)
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To: Publius
The US was, in all probability, in a deep depression at the time of the Constitutional Convention.

War with Great Britain ended after six years in 1781. There should have been a nationwide boom as productive work replaced fear and destruction by the likes of Cornwallis and Tarleton.

The Articles of Confederation were little more than a treaty between independent, sovereign states. They were totally inadequate and the US was saved by our framers and the state ratifying conventions in the nick of time.

4 posted on 04/29/2010 8:41:40 AM PDT by Jacquerie (More Central Planning is not a solution to the failures of Central Planning.)
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To: Jacquerie

There was a deep deflationary depression because of the question of what constituted money and a complete lack of a coin of the realm. In the commentary to Federal Farmer #1, we have an essay expounding on the financial problems of the time.


5 posted on 04/29/2010 9:40:06 AM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Publius; little jeremiah; Lady Jag; Ev Reeman; familyof5; NewMediaJournal; pallis; Kartographer; ...

In the Articles, Congress had the power to regulate “the alloy and value of coin, struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective states,” which appeared in the Constitution in simpler form, “To coin Money, regulate the value thereof.” I see little effective difference between the two clauses, yet our economy was a gross failure under the Articles and grew with incredible speed under the Constitution.

As intended, the Constitution promoted the general welfare and secured the blessings of liberty for the people.


6 posted on 04/29/2010 10:45:36 AM PDT by Jacquerie (More Central Planning is not a solution to the failures of Central Planning.)
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To: Jacquerie
What changed the financial situation was the National Bank, the assumption of all state debts, and the Coinage Act of 1792. We finally had a coin of the realm and a way to regulate the money supply.

We also had a reliable system of credit. When Jackson began his campaign to let the charter of the Second National Bank expire, it was Henry Clay who said, "The United States were built on credit." He was right about that.

7 posted on 04/29/2010 10:49:15 AM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: TXHubbard

This is the latest Federalist/Anti-Federalist thread with links to all the earlier ones.


8 posted on 04/29/2010 11:15:07 AM PDT by r-q-tek86 (It isn't settled because it isn't science)
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To: Publius

Copied and reading. Thanks!


9 posted on 04/29/2010 11:31:49 AM PDT by pallis
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To: Jacquerie; Publius; Billthedrill; 17th Miss Regt; 2001convSVT; 2ndDivisionVet; A_Former_Democrat; ..
Thanks Jacquerie!

~~pinging~~ the group to a masterful series of articles by some of FR's own re the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate. A bit off topic but I want to make the 10th Amendment Division™ aware of their work. Well done!

10 posted on 04/29/2010 11:31:52 AM PDT by ForGod'sSake (You have just two choices: SUBMIT or RESIST with everything you've got!)
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To: Jacquerie

The Constitution establishe a necessary uniformity of many elements in the new nation. It missed a very important one: language


11 posted on 04/29/2010 11:41:06 AM PDT by Loud Mime (initialpoints.net - - The Constitution as the center of politics -- Download the graph)
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To: Loud Mime
Well, nobody bats 1,000.

IMHO, it is something of a miracle that a committee of politicians, with widely varying backgrounds from distant and mutually suspicious states, hammered out their differences over a summer to produce the greatest governing document ever devised. That they did so is indicative of how perilous the times were under the awful Articles of Confederation.

12 posted on 04/29/2010 11:52:02 AM PDT by Jacquerie (The children of citizens who died in battle should be maintained at the public expense - Aristotle)
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To: ForGod'sSake

Happy to have the Tenth Amendment Brigade on board. Just sign up, and I’ll put you in our ping list.


13 posted on 04/29/2010 12:03:30 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Loud Mime

Some governments establish an official language and ignore that law. A California law states that English is the official language of the state government, but that state gives its drivers license test in 34 languages.


14 posted on 04/29/2010 12:11:50 PM PDT by PhilCollins
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To: Publius
Hamilton: Have we valuable territories and important posts in the possession of a foreign power?

This statement in isolation may appear to matter little. It mattered very much.

The problem was that from our colonial beginnings in 1607 up through the time of the Constitutional Convention, France's foreign policy regarding the British colonies was one of containment. French and French inspired indian attacks throughout the 17th and until 1763 kept the colonies huddled along the Atlantic seaboard.

After the Revolutionary War, three nations worked to impede our westward progress, France, Britain and Spain. Our once protector, Great Britain replaced France as the primary impediment to western movement. Why? Well, it was in their interest. But they also fomented indian attacks and refused to turn outposts over to the US in direct violation of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War. They did this because under the Articles, they could not sue American debtors for pre-war British debt. States passed laws that precluded standing for Brit creditors.

Because of the deficient Articles of Confederation, there were no federal courts, no mechanism to implement the treaty. The states were free to conduct their own foreign policies. In retaliation, the Brits retained western outposts and instigated indian wars against us.

The new Constitution took care of this problem, enforced the Treaty of Paris and our western expansion began.

15 posted on 04/29/2010 12:23:49 PM PDT by Jacquerie (It is only in the context of Natural Law that our Declaration and Constitution form a coherent whole)
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To: Jacquerie
Uh, that would be 17th century.
16 posted on 04/29/2010 12:25:57 PM PDT by Jacquerie (It is only in the context of Natural Law that our Declaration and Constitution form a coherent whole)
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To: Publius
I'm really starting a passionate dislike of Hamilton.

The US is one of the most unlikely countries on the face of the earth.

It was populated largely by people wanting to get the hell out of Europe, with the forms of government of the intrinsic oppression of them.

It was peopled largely by the destitute wanting to build something by their own labor.

Hamilton wants the yoke back on, by force if necessary.

The US was blessed up until the 20th century with the means of unlimited expansion.

Daniel Boone moved deeper into wilderness when the smoke of fires from his neighbors became visible.

We are in a new position, one the US has never faced before...When the government becomes oppressive...there is no new territory to flee too.

I'm very surprised that the Anti-federalists didn't haul Hamilton out and hang him over his coercive model.

17 posted on 04/29/2010 1:24:02 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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To: TASMANIANRED
We see the first bits of Hamilton's coercive model with the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. More come on line with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

By 1800, Hamilton's "High Federalists" were occupying much less political ground due to John Adams' distrust of Hamilton, and the reaction of an angry populace leading to Jefferson's victory.

Hamilton was in bad shape politically after the contested election of 1800 because half his own party didn't trust him any longer. I'm not at all sure what his political career would have looked like had Burr not killed him. He had angered too many people.

18 posted on 04/29/2010 1:37:32 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Publius

Burr did the country a teriffic service.

He really appeared to like the police state model.


19 posted on 04/29/2010 2:08:51 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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To: Jacquerie

I think the suspicions played as much into the ratification as they played against it. Imagine States like Delaware looking at Pennsylvania and New York as independent powers.

There was a greater amount of security in the union.

Shortly after the Constitution was ratified, one of the Websters, I believe it was Noah, pushed for English as the National Language. People said we didn’t need it. Many also said we didn’t need the bill of rights. I hate to think what this President and his party would be like without the first ten amendments.


20 posted on 04/29/2010 2:17:57 PM PDT by Loud Mime (initialpoints.net - - The Constitution as the center of politics -- Download the graph)
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To: Publius
I'm not at all sure what his political career would have looked like had Burr not killed him.

He probably would have taken James Carville's job, or Dan Rather's.

21 posted on 04/29/2010 2:21:13 PM PDT by Loud Mime (initialpoints.net - - The Constitution as the center of politics -- Download the graph)
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To: Publius

Do you consider your state government to be coercive?


22 posted on 04/29/2010 2:35:22 PM PDT by Jacquerie (The cross is a cultural appurtenance of a religiously pluralistic society.)
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To: PhilCollins

And NY sends out a form asking if the no. of languages listed on there is sufficient. If not, you state what your native tongue is and the State of New York will accommodate you.


23 posted on 04/29/2010 2:59:58 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (My respect and admiration for Cmdr. McCain are inversely proportion to my opinion of Sen. McCain.)
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To: Publius

I’m surprised that no one else is fit to be tied on reading this. My pain meds might be distorting things.


24 posted on 04/29/2010 3:04:41 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (My respect and admiration for Cmdr. McCain are inversely proportion to my opinion of Sen. McCain.)
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To: Publius

I’m surprised that no one else is fit to be tied on reading this. My pain meds might be distorting things.


25 posted on 04/29/2010 3:04:48 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (My respect and admiration for Cmdr. McCain are inversely proportion to my opinion of Sen. McCain.)
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To: TASMANIANRED
Burr did the country a teriffic service.

Almost the exact words said to Burr by the young Andrew Jackson in 1805.

26 posted on 04/29/2010 3:10:00 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Jacquerie

Here in Washingotn state, it is coercive in the sense that it is a British-style nanny state, always poking its collectve nose into everybody’s private business.


27 posted on 04/29/2010 3:12:00 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: definitelynotaliberal
As more people read and grasp Hamilton's thought, the amount of traffic on this thread is expanding.

I love a good argument.

28 posted on 04/29/2010 3:14:01 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Publius

I am not aware of any government that is not ultimately, within its sphere of constitutional lawfulness, coercive.

As Hamilton said, “Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law that it be attended with a sanction.” The primary problem with the Articles, as with all treaties, was the absence of enforceable sanctions.

The Articles were incapable of improvement.


29 posted on 04/29/2010 3:31:42 PM PDT by Jacquerie (Lord, Make me chaste, but not yet - St. Augustine)
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To: Publius

He just might have written “The Communist Manifesto”


30 posted on 04/29/2010 3:37:14 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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To: Publius

Egad.. I hate to be in agreement with a progressive.


31 posted on 04/29/2010 3:38:19 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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To: TASMANIANRED
Hamilton was not a progressive, and he would have regarded Marx as an implacable enemy. But he was a statist, which is a different thing entirely.

Hamilton wanted a vigorous, activist federal government working on behalf of American business. This makes him the ideological father of Clay, Webster and Lincoln. He wanted a tariff to raise money and keep foreign goods at bay, so as to benefit business interests. Clay made this idea the basis of his "American Plan", which inspired Lincoln.

Hamilton believed in government, which is quite apart from the Jeffersonian impulse in American thought.

32 posted on 04/29/2010 3:54:16 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Publius
But he was a statist, which is a different thing entirely.

Mark Levin defines the statist as the "modern liberal."

He defines liberals as those who reject the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the order of the civil society.

33 posted on 04/29/2010 4:09:53 PM PDT by Jacquerie (Lord, Make me chaste, but not yet - St. Augustine)
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To: Publius
At 48, Hamilton uses the term “United States” as a singular noun, while other writers of the era used it in the plural sense. In fact, it was not until after the Civil War that the general usage of the term became exclusively singular. Is Hamilton alluding to something here, and what is it?

It looks like he wants it both ways:

Except as to the rule of appointment, the United States has an indefinite discretion to make requisitions for men and money, but they have no authority to raise either by regulations extending to the individual citizens of America.

This "United States is" vs. "United States are" question is complicated by the fact that the British still say things like "British Airways are" or "Her Majesty's Government have" (at least until very recently).

So I have to wonder, how much of the change relates to constitutional questions and how much had to do with the development of an American language as opposed to British English.

34 posted on 04/29/2010 4:11:19 PM PDT by x
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To: Jacquerie

Then how would you describe Hamilton, if “statist” is not the proper term?


35 posted on 04/29/2010 4:12:33 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: TASMANIANRED
The US was blessed up until the 20th century with the means of unlimited expansion.

Daniel Boone moved deeper into wilderness when the smoke of fires from his neighbors became visible.

Hamilton forsaw that such escape wasn't always going to be possible.

You couldn't live self-sufficiently like Daniel Boone once the country got too populated.

Hamilton also understood that any country that didn't have an army and navy was going to be fair game for other powers to pick clean.

36 posted on 04/29/2010 4:14:52 PM PDT by x
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To: Publius

I was speaking of Jackson being a progressive.


37 posted on 04/29/2010 4:16:28 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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To: x

Actually you can still live self sufficiently. You just can’t live that way in isolation.


38 posted on 04/29/2010 4:23:54 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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To: Publius

Hamilton stood up. He defended a Constitution drafted by representatives of twelve sovereign states. Over a period of +/- 150 years, the states developed governments composed of distinct, uniquely American legislative, executive and judicial branches. It was a short intellectual walk to do the same with a federal government.

The Constitution was not “his” any more or less than it belonged to the rest of the framers, and ultimately to the people who sent delegates to state ratifying conventions.

I think you would enjoy John Adams’ “Thoughts on Government” which he began in 1775. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch4s5.html


39 posted on 04/29/2010 4:40:55 PM PDT by Jacquerie (Natural Law is a reflection of eternal Law situated in the very structure of the rational mind)
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To: definitelynotaliberal
I’m surprised that no one else is fit to be tied on reading this.

LOL! Wait until you read the next two. You may want a seat belt.

Hamilton at this point was aware, perhaps for the first time, that continuing the argument merely by repeating imputations of nefariousness against the opponents of the proposed Constitution wasn't going to cut it, although that doesn't mean he's going to stop. So back to the beginning he goes. Here's a grossly oversimplified version of the process:

1. Hamilton, et al - the current government is inadequate in some very specific and dangerous ways. (I think this was pretty well-established, even among the anti-Federalists).

2. Hamilton - here is this proposed Constitution, dealing with those issues by establishing a centralization of power. It's the best compromise a very qualified group of men could come up with - not perfect, but as close as humans are likely to get. (I think this is at least arguable).

3. Anti-Federalists - but this plan has specifics that are rife for abuse concerning over-centralization. (I think this is absolutely true).

4. Hamilton - not at all, for the reason that the federal government will be restricted to its enumerated powers and can't go beyond them. (I think this has proven untrue).

5. Anti-Federalists - a federal government that deals directly with the citizens will make the state governments irrelevant. (Entirely credible at the time, but in practice very slow to eventuate, IMHO).

6. Hamilton - no, it won't.

That brings us up to date. Next we'll have to deal with a central issue in the debate - could the expansion of the federal government be forced to be restricted to enumerated powers by a Bill of Rights? Would it be a solution to a non-existent problem? Would it be a complete solution if the problem did exist? We're a third of the way into this thing and only now do we start getting a glimpse of what it's really all about.

It's about power, and how best to distribute it such that it least encroaches on the liberty of the individual citizen. We can't blame Hamilton too much for stating starkly that it's going to exist, whether in our own hands or in the hands of a foreign power should we not figure the thing out in time. Remember, he wasn't dealing with a clean slate, he was dealing in a very nasty world that was getting nastier by the day. A lot of Tories thought with the right change in government in London they could recoup their loss of the colonies or at least bend them to their will. The guillotines were about to start falling in Paris. Spain was about to turn Mexico and South America into a Habsburg preserve. Hamilton wasn't just doing this to create a tyranny.

But we're having to live with the upshot. A lot of people who even were Hamilton's nominal allies at the time - Jefferson, Madison - became opponents later when some of the downsides to federal power became apparent. There's a fundamental dynamic at work here, giants stirring, and our own struggles are exactly the same and are built into the system. Personally I find that intellectually exciting, but it's sure a challenge to live with.

40 posted on 04/29/2010 4:58:06 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Publius
We are about forty posts into this thread. Apart from a couple of mine, there are no additional on-topic posts regarding Hamilton's comments on the defects of the Articles of Confederation. Pity.
41 posted on 04/29/2010 5:01:58 PM PDT by Jacquerie (It is not slavery to live by the rule of a constitution; it is salvation - Aristotle)
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To: Billthedrill

That’s a good summary and a good illustration, I think, that plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose. You’re right. It *is* exciting. One hopes that the pen proves mightier than the sword.


42 posted on 04/29/2010 6:16:22 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (My respect and admiration for Cmdr. McCain are inversely proportion to my opinion of Sen. McCain.)
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To: Jacquerie

It could just be that passions have been excited and people are giving themselves some time to calm down and construct cogent arguments/commentaries.


43 posted on 04/29/2010 6:18:49 PM PDT by definitelynotaliberal (My respect and admiration for Cmdr. McCain are inversely proportion to my opinion of Sen. McCain.)
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To: Billthedrill; Publius; Jacquerie
Some passing thoughts and a question. First, I'm NOT a student of history so much of my opinion is just that and comes from limited study. The Founders were working from a clean slate more or less; ALL ideas re creating a new type of government were on the table. The debate essentially devolved into two schools: Those wanting a "national"(centralized) government and those wanting a "federal"(decentralized) government. Hamilton, et al were petitioning for a powerful national government. Regardless what contemporary label we place on them, they were about reducing the States to subdivisions of a national government.

Patrick Henry and his fellow patriots, proponents of a decentralized form of government on the eve of the Constitutional Convention was extremely uncomfortable with the direction the debate was going -- towards a national government. His famous "I smell a rat" was his reply when asked to attend the convention. He and his countrymen felt the "nationalists" had the upper hand going into the convention. History shows that Patrick Henry and his fellow patriots won the day--more or less. Through the years, Hamilton and his nationalist soul mates have been chewing at the edges ever since. That's my quick and dirty understanding.

Question: Why do we not hear longer and louder arguments for the notion that the amendments to the Constitution, and in particular the Bill of Rights, as being modifiers to the Constitution? Just as addendums to a contract modify and/or expand the original document. That is, the BOR especially should be looked to first when studying the context of the Constitution.

44 posted on 04/29/2010 8:02:06 PM PDT by ForGod'sSake (You have just two choices: SUBMIT or RESIST with everything you've got!)
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To: Jacquerie
Apart from a couple of mine, there are no additional on-topic posts regarding Hamilton's comments on the defects of the Articles of Confederation. Pity.

From what little I've studied I'll give you my impressions of Hamilton. First, that the Articles weren't nearly as bad as he and his fellow travelers(and future historians for that matter) have made them out to be. They had an agenda after all. There are those that are students of the subject(no saved links) who claim that with some tweaking, the Articles could have been made to work and work well. You'll recall, that was the original intent of the CC in the first place. Hamilton was a salesman, and a pretty good one it seems.

45 posted on 04/29/2010 8:21:15 PM PDT by ForGod'sSake (You have just two choices: SUBMIT or RESIST with everything you've got!)
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To: ForGod'sSake
History shows that Patrick Henry and his fellow patriots won the day--more or less. Through the years, Hamilton and his nationalist soul mates have been chewing at the edges ever since.

Now my view is much the opposite. Hamilton and Madison won the day in favor of a national govenrment. Jefferson, his Virginia followers, and Jackson took the argument in favor of a federal government, but Lincoln, thanks to the Civil War, took it back to the national government side. After Lincoln, there has been no cogent argument for a federal government, especially as the Roosevelt family took it totally in the direction of a national govenrment.

We are at a cusp in that argument, and the next few years will decide where things will go for the next two generations.

46 posted on 04/29/2010 10:25:48 PM PDT by Publius (Unless the Constitution is followed, it is simply a piece of paper.)
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To: Publius

ping


47 posted on 04/29/2010 10:29:53 PM PDT by o_zarkman44 (Obama is the ultimate LIE!)
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To: Publius

ping


48 posted on 04/29/2010 10:29:54 PM PDT by o_zarkman44 (Obama is the ultimate LIE!)
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To: Publius
Now my view is much the opposite.

Your view may technically be more accurate than mine; particularly in light of the fact the BOR was not exactly contemporaneous with the Constitution, only the promise of a BOR. The BOR added much needed chains on the new government that gave the States and The People additional muscle with which to deal with a runaway "national" government. I suppose we could agree the final product was a hybrid of sorts.

Still in all, it's my impression from my limited studies, Hamilton and his running mates were pretty well disgruntled with the whole affair because they felt too constrained by the new governing document(s), post BOR would be my guess.

49 posted on 04/29/2010 11:29:34 PM PDT by ForGod'sSake (You have just two choices: SUBMIT or RESIST with everything you've got!)
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To: Publius
Hamilton and Madison won the day in favor of a national govenrment. Jefferson, his Virginia followers, and Jackson took the argument in favor of a federal government, but Lincoln, thanks to the Civil War, took it back to the national government side. After Lincoln, there has been no cogent argument for a federal government, especially as the Roosevelt family took it totally in the direction of a national govenrment.

I am, as usual, late to the party but here are my thoughts on the matter.

IMHO Hamilton and his high federalist buddies LOST the argument initially but never stopped the process of undermining what had actually been put into place. They exploited every weakness of the new Constitution pointed out by the opposition in these very debates at every opportunity and thus moved the government in their direction by degrees. That process proved not to be adequate however as their opponents were on to them very soon and the protections provided by the Constitution were just too strong until Mr. Lincoln came along and, by force, just plain overthrew the Constitutional Republic of the founders and replaced it with one that the high federalist had sought all along. We have suffered the result of that continually since.

50 posted on 04/30/2010 6:14:07 AM PDT by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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