The Federalist No. 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.”

The quote above comes early in The Federalist No. 1, written by Alexander Hamilton. Modern versions of the Federalist Papers are actually a compilation of a series of letters to the editor of various newspapers in New York. Written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison under the pseudonym “Publius”, these papers were written in an attempt to persuade the people of New York to favor ratification of what is now the Constitution of the United States. While the first Federalist Paper is a simple introduction explaining the purpose of the letters and the intent of the “author,” there are several very keen insights within it. Much of Hamilton’s commentary is aimed at reminding his readers that there will be disagreements with his position on the new Constitution, and reminds us that

“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 upon those who oppose the right side of a question.”

In the course of his introduction, Hamilton does provide a useful bit of advice for those seeking to make converts of others, saying:

“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.”

Hamilton also provides a useful reminder about political disagreements, a statement that passionate and vigorous debate and disagreement are not unique to our time, saying:

“A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude, that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declarations, and by the bitterness of their invectives.”

This statement could very easily be made regarding debate on a wide range of issues, with both sides arguing (rather vociferously in many cases) that not only is the opposition wrong, but immoral or downright evil in their position.

In the course of The Federalist No. 1, Hamilton also reminds us of the basic need for government, saying that:

“…the vigour of government is essential to the security of liberty.”

He ends his letter with a reminder to his readers of why the Constitution is being proposed – namely, that the Articles of Confederation were insufficient for protection of the union of states, the Constitution’s conformance to true republican governance, and its ability to preserve political prosperity, liberty, and property, saying:

 “The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity – The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union – The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed to attainment of this object – The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government – Its analogy to your own state constitution – and lastly, The additional security, which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty, and to property.”

Published in: on December 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,