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The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton
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Jun 01, 12

Read from April 06 to June 01, 2012

The Federalist Papers were written in that period between the time of the adjournment of the Constitutional Convention and its ratification by the states. The Founding Fathers knew that they had to go on the road to sell it to the various states and, since they couldn't go on the Sunday morning TV news programs or co-host "Saturday Night Live" they resorted to the only medium available to them--the newspapers.

This remarkable series of 85 letters was written between 1787 and 1788. They were written primarily by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. John Jay, not to be confused with the Cardinal outfielder, wrote a few of the papers. Most of the papers were published in two New York newspapers--the "Independent Journal" and the "New York Packet."

Here are some excerpts:

Against the argument of leaving each of the states as an independent nation, Jay wrote, "Apply these facts to our own case. Leave America divided into thirteen or, if you please, into three or four independent governments—what armies could they raise and pay—what fleets could they ever hope to have? If one was attacked, would the others fly to its succor, and spend their blood and money in its defense? Would there be no danger of their being flattered into neutrality by its specious promises, or seduced by a too great fondness for peace to decline hazarding their tranquillity and present safety for the sake of neighbors..."

Against the formation of an Athenian style democracy, Madison wrote,"From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions."

Interestingly, Hamilton was initially against a Bill of Rights (you will recall that it was later added by the first ten amendments). He wrote, "It has been several times truly remarked that bills of rights are, in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgements of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince. Such was MAGNA CHARTA, obtained by the barons, sword in hand, from King John. Such were the subsequent confirmations of that charter by succeeding princes. Such was the Petition of Right assented to by Charles I., in the beginning of his reign. Such, also, was the Declaration of Right presented by the Lords and Commons to the Prince of Orange in 1688, and afterwards thrown into the form of an act of parliament called the Bill of Rights. It is evident, therefore, that, according to their primitive signification, they have no application to constitutions professedly founded upon the power of the people, and executed by their immediate representatives and servants. Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing; and as they retain every thing they have no need of particular reservations. 'WE, THE PEOPLE of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.' Here is a better recognition of popular rights, than volumes of those aphorisms which make the principal figure in several of our State bills of rights, and which would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than in a constitution of government." In other words, he thought that a Bill of Rights would be redundant.

A great read if you're a fan of the Constitution.



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05/20/2012
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Kevin So far, I'm 17% completed.


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