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The Federalist Papers and Today (1)

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Brad
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0 posted 11-12-2007 04:41 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

FederalistPapers

Mike called me on this and so here it is. The idea is simple:

Do these essays have relevance today?

Rereading 1 yesterday was a bit of a shocker for me. I believe they do. Change a few words, maybe tone down the 'fate of the Union' rhetoric -- though they weren't rhetorical at the time of publication -- and I hear the same things we talk about today.

Things haven't changed much.

But of course they have.

Written between 1787 and 1788, the goal was to gain support for the constitution, our constitution, the one we take for granted (we being US, United States citizens but in a larger sense anybody who cares about freedom.). They are penned by Publius, a pen name for John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. While it is not always clear who wrote what, I find them pleasing to my ear if a little bit long winded (But anybody who's read Ron or Noah or one of Mike's longer poems should be comfortable with that.)

I'm going to go in order until everybody's bored to death, but if you want to jump around, please do so. Just put the essay number on the thread so we don't repeat ourselves, okay?

Let's begin at the beginning:
Federalist1

quote:
AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. 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. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.


TomMark
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1 posted 11-12-2007 05:10 PM       View Profile for TomMark   Email TomMark   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for TomMark

I have no idea about those papers. But the last sentance made sense.
Ringo
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2 posted 11-12-2007 10:49 PM       View Profile for Ringo   Email Ringo   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Ringo

quote:
AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting dictatorial government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for Iraq. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. 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. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

I realize that I am taking a HUGE leap, here; however, it seems to fit (well, to my gray haired old mind, anyhow). And, to show that the world is a smaller place than most might imagine, the original lines still fit the country today.
If we continue to allow certain factions of the government to dispel "facts" that have no basis in truth (and I am not going to name any particular faction, because this is- to a point- true of everyone in power), then we are going to end up no better than any other nation on the planet, and will be forced to be reactive instead of proactive in our own government.

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rwood
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3 posted 11-13-2007 07:50 AM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

Brad,

Awesome thread.
Federalist 15

This still speaks to me and it would read eerily prophetic, too, if it weren’t for the natural progression of a truth being true, logically & timelessly appealing.
quote:
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.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. 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. 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. 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.

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

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?

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

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


Of course there’s more, if one wants to read on, but incidentally, the “main pillars of the fabric” are expounded upon in 22.

Federalist 22

This deals directly with one of my main concerns of today.

quote:
In this review of the Confederation, I have confined myself to the exhibition of its most material defects; passing over those imperfections in its details by which even a great part of the power intended to be conferred upon it has been in a great measure rendered abortive. It must be by this time evident to all men of reflection, who can divest themselves of the prepossessions of preconceived opinions, that it is a system so radically vicious and unsound, as to admit not of amendment but by an entire change in its leading features and characters.

The organization of Congress is itself utterly improper for the exercise of those powers which are necessary to be deposited in the Union. A single assembly may be a proper receptacle of those slender, or rather fettered, authorities, which have been heretofore delegated to the federal head; but it would be inconsistent with all the principles of good government, to intrust it with those additional powers which, even the moderate and more rational adversaries of the proposed Constitution admit, ought to reside in the United States. If that plan should not be adopted, and if the necessity of the Union should be able to withstand the ambitious aims of those men who may indulge magnificent schemes of personal aggrandizement from its dissolution, the probability would be, that we should run into the project of conferring supplementary powers upon Congress, as they are now constituted; and either the machine, from the intrinsic feebleness of its structure, will moulder into pieces, in spite of our ill-judged efforts to prop it; or, by successive augmentations of its force an energy, as necessity might prompt, we shall finally accumulate, in a single body, all the most important prerogatives of sovereignty, and thus entail upon our posterity one of the most execrable forms of government that human infatuation ever contrived. Thus, we should create in reality that very tyranny which the adversaries of the new Constitution either are, or affect to be, solicitous to avert.

It has not a little contributed to the infirmities of the existing federal system, that it never had a ratification by the PEOPLE. Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the several legislatures, it has been exposed to frequent and intricate questions concerning the validity of its powers, and has, in some instances, given birth to the enormous doctrine of a right of legislative repeal. Owing its ratification to the law of a State, it has been contended that the same authority might repeal the law by which it was ratified. However gross a heresy it may be to maintain that a PARTY to a COMPACT has a right to revoke that COMPACT, the doctrine itself has had respectable advocates. The possibility of a question of this nature proves the necessity of laying the foundations of our national government deeper than in the mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.


Brad
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4 posted 11-13-2007 10:20 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ringo,

I've read that, I don't know, maybe ten times and I still don't get it. If you're arguing that Iraq should, we should, let its own people decide, I agree. If you're saying that the Federalist papers somehow mandate a democatization manifesto, I don't see it.

Sorry for being so thick (need more coffee) but if you have the time could you clarify that for me.

Thanks.
jbouder
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5 posted 11-16-2007 01:27 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Interesting thread, Brad.

As I've mentioned to you, I've been absent from the Blue Pages mainly because of my advocacy work promoting new legislation, so such topics are of particular interest to me these days.

Hamilton seems to be saying that the Union was at a critical point in history in which its choice would test the notion that men are capable of thoughtfully developing effective forms of government that are resistant to tyranny.  For the most part, I think we have.  At the same time, the Constitutional paradigm creates smaller-scale opportunities to make a striking number of pivotal legislative and public policy decisions that can positively or negatively impact people's lives.

What is truly remarkable about this system is that it is accessible to anyone willing to work hard to access it.  Working within the Constitutional framework, a kid who grew up in a row-house in Southeastern PA can envision, promote, and move toward passage legislation that will have a direct or indirect effect on millions of people.  The process is by no means easy and those with money seem to be able to advance their positions with far less energy than those without, but ultimately hard work and perseverence can prove to be more effective than Political Action Committee dollars in moving a deliberative body to action.

Regarding the Iraqi situation, they do seem to be at a similar crossroads as the United States were in the late 1700s.  Sure there are differences, but their choices today will certainly influence whether democracy or tyranny (whether dictatorial or oligarchic) are the prevailing forms of government in their country.

I'll try to offer more in the coming weeks.

Jim
Brad
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6 posted 11-26-2007 03:15 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

from James Madison:

quote:
If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.

No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.

War should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits.

Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations.

[This message has been edited by Brad (11-26-2007 04:43 PM).]

jbouder
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7 posted 11-26-2007 03:46 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Brad:

What was Madison's position on suppressing the Barbary pirates?  Assuming he supported the naval blockades and military actions against the pirates, does this make him inconstant?

Jim
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8 posted 11-26-2007 03:54 PM       View Profile for Ringo   Email Ringo   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Ringo

Brad-
Actually, it was my ever so feeble attempt to use our own history to explain to someone who glances at our pages, yet is not a member, why it is that I feel we are in Iraq. The quote you used was allowed to be made because people from other countries helped us to get to that stage by assisting us in our quest to be free from a tyranny-ridden regime (as we saw it). So, what makes that country any different in wanting the same things, and needing the same help.

My apologies for not making myself clearer.

What would you attempt to do...if you knew you could not fail?.
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Brad
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9 posted 11-26-2007 04:58 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ringo,

That helps a lot. I think you know my position here so let me just say, the French didn't stay!

Jim,

Why would that be inconstant? I guess we would call it a police action today.
Brad
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10 posted 11-26-2007 05:06 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.


Most of FED 1 is actually fairly simple:

1. There are bad people.
2. Bad people support bad things.
3. Good people support good things.
4. Bad people support good things.
5. Good people support bad things.
6. We don't know who is good or bad.
7. I'm being sincere but you don't know that so listen to the argument.

I think there's one more good quote from FED 1 and then we'll start FED 2.
 
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