Saturday, October 01, 2016

For the Constitution

The Federalist PapersThe Federalist Papers 
by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, & John Jay

“Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power.”   
― James Madison

The arguments of Hamilton, Madison and Jay are just as relevant today as they were more than two hundred years ago. The authors of The Federalist Papers wanted to influence the vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution. However, the authors of the Federalist papers also had a greater plan in mind. According to Federalist 1:
"It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force."

They argue for improvements in the science of politics and the restraint of faction while invoking Montesquieu's idea of a confederate republic. Madison argues in Number 10 that a republic is superior to democracy and deals with the problem of factions. Hamilton is persuasive in his arguments that the confederation was inadequate to preserve the Union. He catalogs "public misfortunes" the result of "the great and radical vice of Confederation," namely, "the political monster of an imperium in imperio". He continues to argue that the Union needs the power of national defense, the power to tax, and others to avoid anarchy.

They present positive arguments for the ratification of the Constitution and, as Madison says in Paper No. 37, "They solicit the attention of those only who add to a sincere zeal for the happiness of their country,". What a thought and temperament, that zeal for happiness. One thing that impressed me on reading the papers was the classical education demonstrated by the authors with their articles filled with references to Cicero, Rome and Greece. Enlightenment thinkers were also evident with Montesquieu being a notable example. Certainly this is a book worth rereading with the current importance of the constitution in our political life.

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Brian Joseph said...

These papers are so essential in understanding the history of Republican government in general and in the United States specifically.

I am also in one hundred percent agreement that the issues raised in these papers are still very relevant today. So much of our current discourse on the role of government, politics, society, etc. were addressed in these papers.

R. T. (Tim) Davis said...

You remind me that I need to revisit the FPs now more than ever! I am currently reading a bio of Jefferson by Ellis, so the timing might be just right. Thanks for the reminder!
BTW, I have reinvented my blogging-self with a new address and new purpose; here is the link:
All the best from the Gulf coast,

James said...


Thanks for your observations. That this work can still be read with profit is a testimony to its' importance.

James said...


I enjoyed the Ellis biography of Jefferson and hope that you do as well. He undoubtedly agreed more with Madison's contributions to the Federalist Papers than Hamilton's.