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FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution, Federalist #85
A Publius/Billthedrill Essay | 3 February 2011 | Publius & Billthedrill

Posted on 03/03/2011 3:37:35 PM PST by Publius

Hamilton Rests His Case

On 26 July, New York ratified the Constitution, which must have caused Hamilton no end of satisfaction and elation. His work done, the master lawyer summarizes his case to his jury, the people of New York.

Federalist #85

Conclusion

Alexander Hamilton, 13 August 1788

1 To the People of the State of New York:

***

2 According to the formal division of the subject of these papers announced in my first number, there would appear still to remain for discussion two points: “the analogy of the proposed government to your own state constitution,” and “the additional security which its adoption will afford to republican government, to liberty and to property.”

3 But these heads have been so fully anticipated and exhausted in the progress of the work that it would now scarcely be possible to do anything more than repeat in a more dilated form what has been heretofore said, which the advanced stage of the question and the time already spent upon it conspire to forbid.

***

4 It is remarkable that the resemblance of the plan of the Convention to the act which organizes the government of this state holds not less with regard to many of the supposed defects than to the real excellences of the former.

5 Among the pretended defects are the re-eligibility of the Executive, the want of a council, the omission of a formal bill of rights, the omission of a provision respecting the liberty of the press.

6 These and several others which have been noted in the course of our inquiries are as much chargeable on the existing constitution of this state as on the one proposed for the Union, and a man must have slender pretensions to consistency who can rail at the latter for imperfections which he finds no difficulty in excusing in the former.

7 Nor indeed can there be a better proof of the insincerity and affectation of some of the zealous adversaries of the plan of the Convention among us, who profess to be the devoted admirers of the government under which they live, than the fury with which they have attacked that plan for matters in regard to which our own constitution is equally or perhaps more vulnerable.

***

8 The additional securities to republican government, to liberty and to property, to be derived from the adoption of the plan under consideration, consist chiefly:

***

9 Thus have I, fellow citizens, executed the task I had assigned to myself; with what success, your conduct must determine.

10 I trust at least you will admit that I have not failed in the assurance I gave you respecting the spirit with which my endeavors should be conducted.

11 I have addressed myself purely to your judgments, and have studiously avoided those asperities which are too apt to disgrace political disputants of all parties, and which have been not a little provoked by the language and conduct of the opponents of the Constitution.

12 The charge of a conspiracy against the liberties of the people, which has been indiscriminately brought against the advocates of the plan, has something in it too wanton and too malignant not to excite the indignation of every man who feels in his own bosom a refutation of the calumny.

13 The perpetual changes which have been rung upon the wealthy, the well born and the great have been such as to inspire the disgust of all sensible men.

14 And the unwarrantable concealment and misrepresentations which have been in various ways practiced to keep the truth from the public eye have been of a nature to demand the reprobation of all honest men.

15 It is not impossible that these circumstances may have occasionally betrayed me into intemperances of expression which I did not intend; it is certain that I have frequently felt a struggle between sensibility and moderation; and if the former has in some instances prevailed, it must be my excuse that it has been neither often nor much.

***

16 Let us now pause and ask ourselves whether in the course of these papers the proposed Constitution has not been satisfactorily vindicated from the aspersions thrown upon it, and whether it has not been shown to be worthy of the public approbation, and necessary to the public safety and prosperity.

17 Every man is bound to answer these questions to himself according to the best of his conscience and understanding, and to act agreeably to the genuine and sober dictates of his judgment.

18 This is a duty from which nothing can give him a dispensation.

19 [It is] one that he is called upon – nay, constrained by all the obligations that form the bands of society – to discharge sincerely and honestly.

20 No partial motive, no particular interest, no pride of opinion, no temporary passion or prejudice will justify to himself, to his country, or to his posterity an improper election of the part he is to act.

21 Let him beware of an obstinate adherence to party; let him reflect that the object upon which he is to decide is not a particular interest of the community, but the very existence of the nation; and let him remember that a majority of America has already given its sanction to the plan which he is to approve or reject.

***

22 I shall not dissemble that I feel an entire confidence in the arguments which recommend the proposed system to your adoption, and that I am unable to discern any real force in those by which it has been opposed.

23 I am persuaded that it is the best which our political situation, habits and opinions will admit, and superior to any the revolution has produced.

***

24 Concessions on the part of the friends of the plan that it has not a claim to absolute perfection have afforded matter of no small triumph to its enemies.

25 “Why,” say they, “should we adopt an imperfect thing? Why not amend it and make it perfect before it is irrevocably established?”

26 This may be plausible enough, but it is only plausible.

27 In the first place, I remark that the extent of these concessions has been greatly exaggerated.

28 They have been stated as amounting to an admission that the plan is radically defective, and that without material alterations the rights and the interests of the community cannot be safely confided to it.

29 This, as far as I have understood the meaning of those who make the concessions, is an entire perversion of their sense.

30 No advocate of the measure can be found who will not declare as his sentiment that the system, though it may not be perfect in every part, is, upon the whole a good one, is the best that the present views and circumstances of the country will permit, and is such an one as promises every species of security which a reasonable people can desire.

***

31 I answer in the next place that I should esteem it the extreme of imprudence to prolong the precarious state of our national affairs and to expose the Union to the jeopardy of successive experiments in the chimerical pursuit of a perfect plan.

32 I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man.

33 The result of the deliberations of all collective bodies must necessarily be a compound, as well of the errors and prejudices, as of the good sense and wisdom of the individuals of whom they are composed.

34 The compacts which are to embrace thirteen distinct states in a common bond of amity and unions must as necessarily be a compromise of as many dissimilar interests and inclinations.

35 How can perfection spring from such materials?

***

36 The reasons assigned in an excellent little pamphlet lately published in this city1 are unanswerable to show the utter improbability of assembling a new convention under circumstances in any degree so favorable to a happy issue as those in which the late Convention met, deliberated and concluded.

37 I will not repeat the arguments there used, as I presume the production itself has had an extensive circulation.

38 It is certainly well worthy the perusal of every friend to his country.

39 There is, however, one point of light in which the subject of amendments still remains to be considered and in which it has not yet been exhibited to public view.

40 I cannot resolve to conclude without first taking a survey of it in this aspect.

***

41 It appears to me susceptible of absolute demonstration that it will be far more easy to obtain subsequent than previous amendments to the Constitution.

42 The moment an alteration is made in the present plan, it becomes, to the purpose of adoption, a new one, and must undergo a new decision of each state.

43 To its complete establishment throughout the Union, it will therefore require the concurrence of thirteen states.

44 If, on the contrary, the Constitution proposed should once be ratified by all the states as it stands, alterations in it may at any time be effected by nine states.

45 Here then, the chances are as thirteen to nine2 in favor of subsequent amendment, rather than of the original adoption of an entire system.

***

46 This is not all.

47 Every constitution for the United States must inevitably consist of a great variety of particulars in which thirteen independent states are to be accommodated in their interests or opinions of interest.

48 We may of course expect to see in any body of men charged with its original formation very different combinations of the parts upon different points.

49 Many of those who form a majority on one question may become the minority on a second, and an association dissimilar to either may constitute the majority on a third.

50 Hence the necessity of molding and arranging all the particulars which are to compose the whole in such a manner as to satisfy all the parties to the compact, and hence also, an immense multiplication of difficulties and casualties in obtaining the collective assent to a final act.

51 The degree of that multiplication must evidently be in a ratio to the number of particulars and the number of parties.

***

52 But every amendment to the Constitution, if once established, would be a single proposition and might be brought forward singly.

53 There would then be no necessity for management or compromise; in relation to any other point, no giving nor taking.

54 The will of the requisite number would at once bring the matter to a decisive issue.

55 And consequently, whenever nine, or rather ten states, were united in the desire of a particular amendment, that amendment must infallibly take place.

56 There can, therefore, be no comparison between the facility of affecting an amendment and that of establishing in the first instance a complete constitution.

***

57 In opposition to the probability of subsequent amendments, it has been urged that the persons delegated to the administration of the national government will always be disinclined to yield up any portion of the authority of which they were once possessed.

58 For my own part I acknowledge a thorough conviction that any amendments which may, upon mature consideration, be thought useful will be applicable to the organization of the government, not to the mass of its powers, and on this account alone I think there is no weight in the observation just stated.

59 I also think there is little weight in it on another account.

60 The intrinsic difficulty of governing thirteen states at any rate, independent of calculations upon an ordinary degree of public spirit and integrity, will in my opinion constantly impose on the national rulers the necessity of a spirit of accommodation to the reasonable expectations of their constituents.

61 But there is yet a further consideration which proves beyond the possibility of a doubt that the observation is futile.

62 It is this that the national rulers, whenever nine states concur, will have no option upon the subject.

63 By the Fifth Article of the plan, the Congress will be obliged “on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States [which at present amount to nine], to call a convention for proposing amendments, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof.”

64 The words of this article are peremptory.

65 The Congress “shall call a convention.”

66 Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body.

67 And of consequence, all the declamation about the disinclination to a change vanishes in air.

68 Nor however difficult it may be supposed to unite two-thirds or three-fourths of the state legislatures in amendments which may affect local interests, can there be any room to apprehend any such difficulty in a union on points which are merely relative to the general liberty or security of the people?

69 We may safely rely on the disposition of the state legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.

***

70 If the foregoing argument is a fallacy, certain it is that I am myself deceived by it, for it is in my conception one of those rare instances in which a political truth can be brought to the test of a mathematical demonstration.

71 Those who see the matter in the same light with me, however zealous they may be for amendments, must agree in the propriety of a previous adoption as the most direct road to their own object.

***

72 The zeal for attempts to amend, prior to the establishment of the Constitution, must abate in every man who is ready to accede to the truth of the following observations of a writer equally solid and ingenious: “To balance a large state or society [says he], whether monarchical or republican, on general laws, is a work of so great difficulty, that no human genius, however comprehensive, is able, by the mere dint of reason and reflection, to effect it. The judgments of many must unite in the work; experience must guide their labor; time must bring it to perfection, and the feeling of inconveniences must correct the mistakes which they inevitably fall into in their first trials and experiments.”3

73 These judicious reflections contain a lesson of moderation to all the sincere lovers of the Union and ought to put them upon their guard against hazarding anarchy, civil war, a perpetual alienation of the states from each other, and perhaps the military despotism of a victorious demagogue in the pursuit of what they are not likely to obtain, but from time and experience.

74 It may be in me a defect of political fortitude, but I acknowledge that I cannot entertain an equal tranquility with those who affect to treat the dangers of a longer continuance in our present situation as imaginary.

75 A nation without a national government is in my view an awful spectacle.

76 The establishment of a Constitution in time of profound peace by the voluntary consent of a whole people is a prodigy, to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety.

77 I can reconcile it to no rules of prudence to let go the hold we now have in so arduous an enterprise upon seven out of the thirteen states, and after having passed over so considerable a part of the ground, to recommence the course.

78 I dread the more the consequences of new attempts, because I know that powerful individuals in this and in other states are enemies to a general national government in every possible shape.

***

[1] [Titled] “An Address to the People of the State of New York.”
[2] It may rather be said ten, for though two-thirds may set on foot the measure, three- fourths must ratify.
[3] Hume’s “Essays,” Volume 1, page 128: “The Rise of Arts and Sciences.”

Hamilton’s Critique

Some ten tumultuous months ago, Alexander Hamilton had set quill pen to hemp paper in defense of the proposed Constitution and, in part, of the Convention and the men who had produced the document. The overall plan bears recollection, for the reader has arrived at its conclusion. In October 1787 Hamilton had laid it out.

#1-41 I propose in a series of papers to discuss the following interesting particulars:

Now, 85 papers later, the effort is ended. The final two topics, says Hamilton, have already been dealt with in the preceding documents and are in need of no further expansion at this date (3), partly because they have been overtaken by events – the “advanced stage of the question” was such at this point that they would be superfluous in any case. The Constitution is now law, ratified by eleven states, of which Hamilton’s New York was the most recent.

But the fight over the inclusion of a bill of rights is still raging. Here Hamilton repeats his measure of the new Constitution against that of the state of New York – the former, he says, despised for the same attributes for which the latter is praised (6).

He touches briefly on the last of the topics promised the previous October, that of the “additional securities to republican government,..liberty, and property” that the Constitution offered over the existing Confederation government and the states. The new government will, he states, help ensure against insurrection, foreign intrigue, rivalries between the states; it will, as well, guarantee the latter a republican form of government in the future and restrain them from past abuses against property and credit (8). Thus ends the original plan of analysis.

Hamilton now wraps up with a personal apologia.

11 I have addressed myself purely to your judgments, and have studiously avoided those asperities which are too apt to disgrace political disputants of all parties...

It is without a doubt the single most hilarious statement in the entire body of the Federalist Papers. Hamilton, the restrained? Precisely none of his opponents would have agreed, precisely none of his friends, and in fact Hamilton is about to admit that he wouldn’t either, not really. He pleads the exigencies of controversy, and he offers as mitigating circumstance the accusations on the part of opponents to the Constitution that he felt were unjust.

At last Hamilton admits the truth.

15 It is not impossible that these circumstances may have occasionally betrayed me into intemperances of expression which I did not intend...it must be my excuse that it has been neither often nor much.

It was, after all, those “intemperances of expression” that made Hamilton so popular on the New York dinner circuit. They were to a very great degree fundamental characteristics of the man and not merely a function of an advocate overstating his case, and in time their excess would lead him to a fatal confrontation with a bitter enemy on a dueling field in Weehauken, New Jersey. Here, however, is proof that he was far from unaware of this particular fault.

It is now, says Hamilton, up to the people (17), a position that seems curious inasmuch as at the time of publication New York had ratified, and there were only two of thirteen states yet to decide. It is perhaps a reflection of his position, held consistently throughout the Federalist Papers, that the voter is ultimately the source, justification, judge, and if necessary, the executioner of the government, a position that seems quite distant from the man who not so very long ago was proposing a monarchy. To outward appearances the ratification of the Constitution is now a clear cut Federalist victory; at closer examination it is apparent that through the months of relentless compromise, it is Hamilton himself who has come around.

He has also been forced to step back his lines of defense, from opposing any amendment to the Constitution at all, to opposing a bill of rights on the grounds delineated in his previous paper, still further to opposing Melancton Smith’s proposal to prepend the Constitution with a bill of rights. That particular momentum had swung toward the anti-Federalists, and it was now clear that something along those lines was about to be constructed in the same spirit of compromise that had typified the construction of the Constitution itself from the beginning. It was not, states Hamilton openly, a perfect plan because of this process of compromise.

34 The compacts which are to embrace thirteen distinct states in a common bond of amity and unions must as necessarily be a compromise of as many dissimilar interests and inclinations.

35 How can perfection spring from such materials?

Nor had it. The Constitution would be amended, and soon; that much was obvious. Hamilton’s line of defense is that later is better than sooner, both for reasons of process (41) and for his old fear that any amendment taken prior to ratification would constitute a new plan (42), hence the ratification process would need to begin anew.

Hamilton reminds the reader that nine states can petition Congress for a Convention for Proposing Amendments under Article V should they be sufficiently motivated, but only if the Constitution is in place (63). There is no room for political maneuvering on the part of Congress; the words of the article, says Hamilton, are “peremptory” (64), the overall point being that such a convention may be demanded by the state legislatures and is therefore a control placed in their hands against the “encroachments of national authority” (69). Once a Convention for Proposing Amendments is finished with its work, the proposed amendment, or amendments, would require the ratification of three-fourths of the states – ten – to become part of the Constitution. But the Constitution must be in place first. Thus, a bill of rights must come after the Constitution is ratified.

71 Those who see the matter in the same light with me, however zealous they may be for amendments, must agree in the propriety of a previous adoption [of the Constitution] as the most direct road to their own object.

Having admitted that the Constitution is imperfect, Hamilton now cites the Scottish philosopher David Hume to the effect that the process is to be one of correction of error (72). For a reader unacquainted with the evolution of Hamilton’s arguments over the preceding ten months, this must come as a considerable surprise: the man who earlier conceded not an inch of ground to his opponents is now arguing for the most graceful means of concession. The safest means, as well, for Hamilton is still convinced that time is of the essence and that the danger to the nation is real.

74 It may be in me a defect of political fortitude, but I acknowledge that I cannot entertain an equal tranquility with those who affect to treat the dangers of a longer continuance in our present situation as imaginary.

It is an argument meant to counter the cheery assurances of such figures as Patrick Henry that the Federalists were alarmists and that no danger to the Republic was in fact visible, and that, as a consequence, ratification of the Constitution in its present state would be premature. That was a blithe hope that Henry himself was later to refute in the light of the violence in Europe that was shortly to threaten to lap on American shores.

Hamilton deserves the final word, and here, for a moment, is a hint of awe and even humility from this most self-assured of men.

76 The establishment of a Constitution in time of profound peace by the voluntary consent of a whole people is a prodigy, to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety.

In fact, the consent of the “whole people” would follow the inception of the new government, not precede it, and would be to a very great degree contingent on those amendments whose inevitability Hamilton now conceded. But it was, and remains, a prodigy.

Discussion Topics



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Free Republic
KEYWORDS: federalist; freeperbookclub

1 posted on 03/03/2011 3:37:41 PM PST 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
1 Dec 1787, Federalist #15
4 Dec 1787, Federalist #16
5 Dec 1787, Federalist #17
7 Dec 1787, Federalist #18
8 Dec 1787, Federalist #19
11 Dec 1787, Federalist #20
12 Dec 1787, Federalist #21
14 Dec 1787, Federalist #22
18 Dec 1787, Federalist #23
18 Dec 1787, Address of the Pennsylvania Minority
19 Dec 1787, Federalist #24
21 Dec 1787, Federalist #25
22 Dec 1787, Federalist #26
25 Dec 1787, Federalist #27
26 Dec 1787, Federalist #28
27 Dec 1787, Brutus #6
28 Dec 1787, Federalist #30
1 Jan 1788, Federalist #31
3 Jan 1788, Federalist #32
3 Jan 1788, Federalist #33
3 Jan 1788, Cato #7
4 Jan 1788, Federalist #34
5 Jan 1788, Federalist #35
8 Jan 1788, Federalist #36
10 Jan 1788, Federalist #29
11 Jan 1788, Federalist #37
15 Jan 1788, Federalist #38
16 Jan 1788, Federalist #39
18 Jan 1788, Federalist #40
19 Jan 1788, Federalist #41
22 Jan 1788, Federalist #42
23 Jan 1788, Federalist #43
24 Jan 1788, Brutus #10
25 Jan 1788, Federalist #44
26 Jan 1788, Federalist #45
29 Jan 1788, Federalist #46
31 Jan 1788, Brutus #11
1 Feb 1788, Federalist #47
1 Feb 1788, Federalist #48
5 Feb 1788, Federalist #49
5 Feb 1788, Federalist #50
7 Feb 1788, Brutus #12, Part 1
8 Feb 1788, Federalist #51
8 Feb 1788, Federalist #52
12 Feb 1788, Federalist #53
12 Feb 1788, Federalist #54
14 Feb 1788, Brutus #12, Part 2
15 Feb 1788, Federalist #55
19 Feb 1788, Federalist #56
19 Feb 1788, Federalist #57
20 Feb 1788, Federalist #58
22 Feb 1788, Federalist #59
26 Feb 1788, Federalist #60
26 Feb 1788, Federalist #61
27 Feb 1788, Federalist #62
1 Mar 1788, Federalist #63
7 Mar 1788, Federalist #64
7 Mar 1788, Federalist #65
11 Mar 1788, Federalist #66
11 Mar 1788, Federalist #67
14 Mar 1788, Federalist #68
14 Mar 1788, Federalist #69
15 Mar 1788, Federalist #70
18 Mar 1788, Federalist #71
20 Mar 1788, Brutus #15
21 Mar 1788, Federalist #72
21 Mar 1788, Federalist #73
25 Mar 1788, Federalist #74
26 Mar 1788, Federalist #75
1 Apr 1788, Federalist #76
4 Apr 1788, Federalist #77
10 Apr 1788, Brutus #16
5 Jun 1788, Patrick Henry’s Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention #1
7 Jun 1788, Patrick Henry’s Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention #2
14 Jun 1788, Federalist #78
18 Jun 1788, Federalist #79
20 Jun 1788, Melancton Smith’s Speech to the New York Ratifying Convention #1
21 Jun 1788, Melancton Smith’s Speech to the New York Ratifying Convention #2
21 Jun 1788, Federalist #80
23 Jun 1788, Melancton Smith’s Speech to the New York Ratifying Convention #3
27 Jun 1788, Melancton Smith’s Speech to the New York Ratifying Convention #5
28 Jun 1788, Federalist #81
2 Jul 1788, Federalist #82
5 Jul 1788, Federalist #83
16 Jul 1788, Federalist #84

2 posted on 03/03/2011 3:39:12 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius

And there we have it. Publius and I have more remarks on the topic to follow - a summary, a list of recommended reading - but this marks an end to our treatment of the individual papers. Thanks for sticking with us.


3 posted on 03/03/2011 4:29:59 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill

It has been a wonderful exercise and I am far better off for having participated.

You guys did a masterful job!


4 posted on 03/03/2011 5:03:03 PM PST by Bigun ("The most fearsome words in the English language are I'm from the government and I'm here to help!")
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To: Billthedrill; Publius

Thank You both! These have been quite educational for me. Please continue to Ping me to any further discussions...


5 posted on 03/03/2011 5:12:08 PM PST by JDoutrider
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To: Billthedrill; Publius; Huck; Bigun; Jacquerie; LearsFool; All
FreeRepublic now has a thread that is near-eternal. I hope that I am not the only Freeper who plans on returning to these threads for study and continued debate and education.

Perhaps those of you who wish to continue the debate and add your 2 cents in the future will say so in this '85 thread.

6 posted on 03/03/2011 5:33:26 PM PST by Loud Mime (If it is too stupid to be said, people will listen to it, if sung - - Voltaire)
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To: Billthedrill; Publius
* Had you been a delegate to the New York ratifying convention at Poughkeepsie, would you have voted to ratify the Constitution or not, and why?

Essentially, the question is if we wanted a nation or not. I firmly believe that if the old nation had not unified under a strong government close to that time in history, it would not have survived. The Constitution was a good shot; I know that some here differ, but there was no viable alternative with a puff of momentum.

Some historians has said that the US may have split into as many as 4 nations. Who knows?

Was the timing good? What if the Colonies had waited another 10-20 years; would we have had the great land purchases that enabled the western lands to be newer States? Would Spain and England have asserted more influences in the Southern settlements? Would we have had Texas, or fought in WWII (Hawaii) for that matter?

Hamilton makes it sound easy to call a Convention for Proposing Amendments. In the essays accompanying Federalist #43, the authors have explained just how difficult that has turned out to be, and just how easily Congress has managed to avoid such a convention call. Based on the information contained in those essays and Hamilton’s final summation, would you fear the calling of a Convention for Proposing Amendments, and why?

I would fear the call to a convention with all my heart.

I do not trust the political powers present today. They have the backing of a populace that is woefully undereducated (falsely educated?) on the matters of government. Moreover, they are consumed with the idea of getting benefits from our government that were the result of the labors of others.

Just think, for a moment, the discourse that would be present on these forums if we could have taken some citizens from 1787 and placed them in front of a computer for a debate! It would have put the current crop of politicians to shame.....especially that Weiner guy from New York. He would have probably shut his mouth at Weehawken.

I grin when I think of such a debate; but shake my head when I acknowledge the meager (by comparison) debate that has followed the essays on the wonderful project.

Thanks for your work, gentlemen. May it last for decades.

7 posted on 03/03/2011 5:58:17 PM PST by Loud Mime (If it is too stupid to be said, people will listen to it, if sung - - Voltaire)
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To: Billthedrill; Publius

Good luck with the book. Congratulations seeing this thing through.

FReegards,

Huck


8 posted on 03/03/2011 7:31:55 PM PST by Huck (Antifederalist Brutus was right!)
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To: Loud Mime
I would fear the call to a convention with all my heart.

Purely from the standpoint of mechanics, I don’t. Whatever amendment proposals may emanate from a Convention for Proposing Amendments under Article V, it would take the legislatures (or ratifying conventions, if Congress so chose) of 38 states to get that amendment into the Constitution. All it would take is 13 states to say no, and that amendment is dead.

I do not trust the political powers present today. They have the backing of a populace that is woefully undereducated (falsely educated?) on the matters of government. Moreover, they are consumed with the idea of getting benefits from our government that were the result of the labors of others.

This cuts to the heart of Glenn Beck’s argument: Are the people capable of governing themselves? If you are correct, they are not. If they are not, then we will be governed either by some kind of socialist/union dictatorship, or by a military strongman – an officer at the Army War College called him General Brutus in a scholarly paper – who will establish a military dictatorship. In neither outcome does the Constitution survive.

9 posted on 03/03/2011 7:43:43 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Evening, Pub'! I think it's an educational issue, mainly. It's been a very long time since last the educational system contained Civics classes, and it seems to me that the transition to what in my day was termed "Social Studies" was a major watershed in the willingness of those with their hands on the curricula to advance the mechanics of American government and the ideas behind them. The loss is the students'.

I'll bounce this to the readers of the thread. How quickly do you think we could come up with a Civics curriculum, and what do you think ought to be in it?

10 posted on 03/03/2011 8:04:23 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill; Publius
I'll bounce this to the readers of the thread. How quickly do you think we could come up with a Civics curriculum, and what do you think ought to be in it?

Go to a good used-books Web site and look for items from the 1960s, that'll get you an idea of where to start.

Here's something from 1912:

CIVICS FOR AMERICANS IN THE MAKING BT ANNA A. PLASS TEACHER OF ENGLISH TO FOREIGNERS IN DAY AND EVENING SCHOOLS, ROCHESTER, N.Y.

11 posted on 03/03/2011 8:09:30 PM PST by thecodont
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To: Billthedrill
I'm a few years older than you, and I went through Social Studies in grade school and Civics in high school.

Social Studies was a waste of time. Who cares about lindsey-woolsey dresses when the Monroe Doctrine was far more important? Civics as presented was a waste of time, but it led me to read the Federalist Papers on my own.

It also gave me the chance to make some money. One of our assignments was to cut out political cartoons from the newspapers and write an interpretation. Most of my classmates were lost and didn't know their political Left from their political Right. On the other hand, I had just finished a leafletting effort for the Goldwater campaign. I was approached by classmates to write interpretations of the cartoons and hand them over to them so they could pass the homework off as their own. I charged a pretty penny and made a handsome profit on the deal. The teacher never got wise to the high quality of his students' prose.

It was my first dollar earned. A lot of them.

12 posted on 03/03/2011 8:18:35 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius

The latter part of my commentary was in reference to a ConCon; not government in general.


13 posted on 03/03/2011 9:59:37 PM PST by Loud Mime (If it is too stupid to be said, people will listen to it, if sung - - Voltaire)
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To: Publius; Loud Mime

I have to agree with Publius here on both counts.

Either we are capable of self government or we are not.

Alexander Hamilton never believed that we were but here we are some two hundred twenty years later still plugging along!


14 posted on 03/04/2011 12:34:59 AM PST by Bigun ("The most fearsome words in the English language are I'm from the government and I'm here to help!")
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To: Billthedrill
I'll bounce this to the readers of the thread. How quickly do you think we could come up with a Civics curriculum, and what do you think ought to be in it?

I suspect that I could do that fairly easily but only because of my high school history teacher (Mr. Terry Nowlin). He was a Korean War vet (Marine Corp) who, even then, could see where things were headed in our country and chose to make life miserable - or so we thought at the time - for his students. He took us FAR beyond the curriculum requirements of the day and I professed profound hatred for him at the time because of it but by the time I had finished my military service, which included a tour in Vietnam, and went back to school I had realized what a debt I owed that man and those who stood behind him back then.

Years later, to my great surprise and joy, the old man showed up at one of our high school class reunions and I had the opportunity to tell him in person of the regard that I now had for him. We both had a good laugh at the transformation! As that evening was ending we shook hands and spoke again for a moment. With tears in his eyes he said that he hoped what I had told him earlier was true and that I would do everything I could, for as long as I could, to preserve and restore this great republic. With tears now in MY eyes I assured him that I had meant every word and would do EXACTLY that.

Mr. Nowlin is no longer with us but I have never forgotten my promise and have endeavored, to the best of my ability, to fulfill it. I will never stop doing so for as long as I'm breathing.

15 posted on 03/04/2011 1:44:46 AM PST by Bigun ("The most fearsome words in the English language are I'm from the government and I'm here to help!")
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To: Publius
And once more for good luck:

ANTIFEDERALIST BRUTUS WAS RIGHT!

16 posted on 03/04/2011 3:58:04 AM PST by Huck (Antifederalist Brutus was right!)
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To: Bigun; Publius; Loud Mime
Either we are capable of self government or we are not.

True. But it depends what you mean by "we." I don't think that's supposed to mean EVERYONE. It's just supposed to mean ENOUGH of us. And even if there are enough of us, it doesn't mean we are prepared, intellectually or politically, to call a convention.

Hamilton and Madison had done their "due diligence" long before the convention met in Philly. They already knew what specific outcomes they wanted. They had already worked behind the scenes to ensure the critical political support they needed. They'd basically done their whip counts and their glad-handing.

Are we ready? Absolutely not. It doesn't mean we aren't capable. It just means right now, we aren't prepared. The GOP wants nothing to do with it. They are careerists. The grass roots aren't clamoring for it, because the radio talkers from whom they get their information are too busy slathering praise on the Constitution to see its obvious faults. And so the opportunity is there, but we aren't prepared for it.

As much as I criticize the Constitution, I give the framers great credit for this: They provided for amendments, and they provided for conventions. Obviously, if we wanted, we could do what they did, and call a convention wherein the existing government was sent out to pasture, and entirely replaced. Or, we could tinker with the existing system. They did leave us the legal right, in writing, to do that.

Maybe someday we'll take advantage. The day you hear Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh or Jim DeMint, or maybe even some unreconstructed nullifiers talking about FIXING our Constitution, and correcting some of the glaring errors, then you'll know the time is approaching. If we last that long.

17 posted on 03/04/2011 4:05:33 AM PST by Huck (Antifederalist Brutus was right!)
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To: Publius
I was approached by classmates to write interpretations of the cartoons and hand them over to them so they could pass the homework off as their own. I charged a pretty penny and made a handsome profit on the deal. The teacher never got wise to the high quality of his students' prose.

Publius, that's so funny! My sophomore year in high school I had a nice little cottage industry for a while selling Shakespearean sonnets! I did one free for a girl, word got around, I started charging, and made nice money off the Honors English students. I wrote them in study hall. Teachers were too stupid and lazy to recognize that those bland morons couldn't have written what I submitted.

18 posted on 03/04/2011 4:09:55 AM PST by Huck (Antifederalist Brutus was right!)
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To: Huck; Bigun; Billthedrill; Publius

I worked to get the vote out in this last election. We had a good candidate, a good platform and good timing. We have a genuine need to change to a candidate who understood economics and limited government.

We ended up with Jerry Brown as governor. It made me sick - - it taught me a hard lesson in politics.

Threads like this are rare and not representative of the general public. People have gone from reading Common Sense to watching BO read a teleprompter.

That is why I cringe when others say they do not fear a ConCon. If one thinks that a chance to change law would bring untold and unnumbered conservatives out of the closet, people who were not involved beforehand, why do you not consider that the uninvolved liberals could easily do the same?

This, my FRiends, is gambling; it is akin to an on-the-hop bet with an even-odds payoff.

I’ve noticed that not one thinker on this thread has offered some possibilities of what a ConCon would bring. Gee, why not?

Perhaps some should consider that we could LOSE from a ConCon. Have you not considered that some liberals may identify arguments from Conservatives and say “Look, even they don’t like our Constitution!” and then work for a pure democracy from that point - or repeal some limitations of the Executive, along with repealing some powers (checks) of the other branches as well?

Just as the BO phenomena brought out a substantial number of liberals for change, a ConCon could do the same. Think about it before you place your bets.


19 posted on 03/04/2011 5:18:07 AM PST by Loud Mime (If it is too stupid to be said, people will listen to it, if sung - - Voltaire)
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To: Loud Mime
I'm not arguing for one right now. I absolutely agree with you. Any Constitution written in the here and now would properly be written in crayon.

I'm just saying that we have the potential to be ready. We're nowhere near it, and even the think tanks, as far as I can tell, spend little time thinking about it. Conservative "thought" remains mired in the romantic beautification of the Framers and their product.

That's why the antifederalists are so important, and probably why they are also so totally ignored. They cut through the gauze and deal with the Constitution as it is, and deal with the framers for what they were--politicians.

But that doesn't fit the easily digested propaganda that serves as political talk. It's too complicated. Maybe when Glenn Beck grows up, he may progress to the point where he notices that there were great men who saw through the baloney even back then.

In the meantime, I agree. We're nowhere near ready, and our nation will probably crumble before that day ever comes. Good enough.

20 posted on 03/04/2011 5:26:38 AM PST by Huck (Antifederalist Brutus was right!)
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To: Loud Mime
Just as the BO phenomena brought out a substantial number of liberals for change, a ConCon could do the same.

Disagreement is no stranger to this exercise so here we go again.

Firstly, you are making an apples to oranges comparison. A con con would not be similar to a presidential election at all.

Secondly, you see the situation through the lens of California while I see it from a Texas perspective. The true overall landscape likely lies somewhere between the two.

Thirdly, I think there are a HELL of a lot more of us than there are of them! Obozo got elected because the alternative was no better and many folks on our side stayed home or voted for some third party candidate who had zero chance of winning.

21 posted on 03/04/2011 6:42:53 AM PST by Bigun ("The most fearsome words in the English language are I'm from the government and I'm here to help!")
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To: Huck

That is TREASON, Mr. Henry! The KING shall hear of this!!


22 posted on 03/04/2011 9:29:07 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Huck; Loud Mime

The antis got a lot wrong.

As Hamilton relates, no one thought the Constitution was perfect, for perfection was not to be found on this earth.

The Constitution was uniquely American. It did not just happen, but was the result of almost 180 years of experience in self government.

The Constitution fixed the farcical treaty known as the Articles and gave the world what would become a beacon of light and hope.


23 posted on 03/04/2011 10:43:31 AM PST by Jacquerie (Our Constitution is timeless because human nature is static.)
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To: Jacquerie

I cannot find where the Anti’s put forward a rational alternative.

In rereading Federalist 1, we can see that the Founders recognized that certain forces would oppose ANY new system. Well, here we are.

One point I embrace is that any system is designed to thwart the ambition of men, some better than others. Even if we had heeded the warnings of the AF’s, we may very well be in the same situation today because of the nature of man and the various perversions of constitutionalism that brought us here.

It is here that I treat the arguments of the AF fans with a great degree of skepticism, just as I do with the liberals who claim that socialism hasn’t worked because the right people haven’t tried it.


24 posted on 03/04/2011 11:58:47 AM PST by Loud Mime (If it is too stupid to be said, people will listen to it, if sung - - Voltaire)
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To: Loud Mime
It made me sick - - it taught me a hard lesson in politics.

I went through that experince as a high school junior during the Goldwater campaign. I truly believed that once people understood what was going on, they couldn't help but vote for Goldwater.

My political deflowering on election night 1964 was extremely painful, and I never let my heart get ahead of my head again. I've been a cold, calculating political SOB since then.

Sometimes the political tides roll against you.

25 posted on 03/04/2011 12:21:41 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
My political deflowering on election night 1964 was extremely painful, and I never let my heart get ahead of my head again. I've been a cold, calculating political SOB since then.

Ditto!

I literally cried that night. I somehow knew - don't ask me how - that we had turned a corner and that it would take a VERY long time to get well again.

I have often wondered what our country would be like today had that one election come out the other way.

26 posted on 03/04/2011 1:19:00 PM PST by Bigun ("The most fearsome words in the English language are I'm from the government and I'm here to help!")
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To: Bigun
I literally cried that night.

I didn't cry. I just felt terribly sad and sick. Things were not going to go well in Vietnam, we would spend ourselves into penury with entitlements, and we were headed into some kind of moral decay.

I have often wondered what our country would be like today had that one election come out the other way.

Unfortunately, that was impossible because the people just weren't ready for such a change. Things appeared to be going too well. It took national humiliation via defeat in a war, societal strife and stagflation before people were ready to try something as radical as Reagan and conservatism.

(I should note that Fiorello La Guardia, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie were also elected in extremis when things got so bad that there was no other rational choice.)

Back in 2002, the Atlantic Monthly published an article about how Goldwater had really won when viewed in the long run. I posted the article here, but after so many server changes, it has disappeared.

27 posted on 03/04/2011 1:44:59 PM PST by Publius
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To: Loud Mime
As for a rational alternative, the closest was the Patterson a/k/a NJ Plan offered at the Convention. It retained equal representation by states in Congress and allowed for federal armies to invade states to collect unpaid taxes. It was the best that could be done under an unworkable system.

Yeah, I get tired of the urban legend at these threads that the Federalists calculated to impose tyranny while the motives of the antis were pure.

Even Madison observed that the Constitution could not diminish the security of the people unless a majority of their representatives should concur in a violation of their rights. With power goes the possibility of abuse. A debauched people will send fellow dirtbags to represent them.

9 Thus have I, fellow citizens, executed the task I had assigned to myself; with what success, your conduct must determine.

Class act. Hamilton didn’t claim victory with ratification. The future conduct of his fellow Americans would determine success or failure.

28 posted on 03/04/2011 1:58:01 PM PST by Jacquerie (Secure Natural Rights and a country will prosper. Suppress them and the country will founder.)
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