Federalist Paper XXXIX part 2 – A National or Federal Government

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, History | Posted on 09-04-2010


In the first part of Federalist Paper XXXIX, Madison talked about what a republic is, and I posed the question “Are we a republic?” While in the first part Madison talks about what a republic is, in the second part of the paper he discusses whether our government is a national (democracy) government, where states no longer hold power, or whether our government is a federal government meaning it is divided into “sovereign States”.

“But it was not sufficient,” say the adversaries of the proposed Constitution, “for the convention to adhere to the republican form. They ought, with equal care, to have preserved the FEDERAL form, which regards the Union as a CONFEDERACY of sovereign states; instead of which, they have framed a NATIONAL government, which regards the Union as a CONSOLIDATION of the States.” And it is asked by what authority this bold and radical innovation was undertaken? The handle which has been made of this objection requires that it should be examined with some precision.

First, one must ask why those who just fought the revolutionary war wanted to preserve the “FEDERAL form”. The reason is individual states knew that their values, ideas, industry, etc were not the same. Just like individuals with different backgrounds value things differently, so did the states. They knew that if the states gave into a national government, they would have outright democracy where the majority rules over the minority. While you would still have democracy on the state level, those within the individual states would have similar backgrounds and interests. If on the other hand it was a national government, meaning a nationwide democracy, the highly populated states could force their values and economics on a larger number of lesser populated states. Quickly the more heavily populated states would control the government, and you would have tyranny. By keeping the “CONFEDERACY”, states could govern the way their people wanted to be governed. Southern states could have low tariffs to help export tobacco, while northern states could raise tariffs hoping to boost domestic industry. If the government is national, it would favor the populated states at the expense of lesser populated states.  It would and unfortunately it did raise tariffs, which was one of the reasons for the civil war. The southern economy suffered under tariffs that were put into place to support northern industry.

Without inquiring into the accuracy of the distinction on which the objection is founded, it will be necessary to a just estimate of its force, first, to ascertain the real character of the government in question; secondly, to inquire how far the convention were authorized to propose such a government; and thirdly, how far the duty they owed to their country could supply any defect of regular authority.

First. In order to ascertain the real character of the government, it may be considered in relation to the foundation on which it is to be established; to the sources from which its ordinary powers are to be drawn; to the operation of those powers; to the extent of them; and to the authority by which future changes in the government are to be introduced.

On examining the first relation, it appears, on one hand, that the Constitution is to be founded on the assent and ratification of the people of America, given by deputies elected for the special purpose; but, on the other, that this assent and ratification is to be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent and ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in each State, the authority of the people themselves. The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a NATIONAL, but a FEDERAL act.

That it will be a federal and not a national act, as these terms are understood by the objectors; the act of the people, as forming so many independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation, is obvious from this single consideration, that it is to result neither from the decision of a MAJORITY of the people of the Union, nor from that of a MAJORITY of the States. It must result from the UNANIMOUS assent of the several States that are parties to it, differing no otherwise from their ordinary assent than in its being expressed, not by the legislative authority, but by that of the people themselves. Were the people regarded in this transaction as forming one nation, the will of the majority of the whole people of the United States would bind the minority, in the same manner as the majority in each State must bind the minority; and the will of the majority must be determined either by a comparison of the individual votes, or by considering the will of the majority of the States as evidence of the will of a majority of the people of the United States. Neither of these rules have been adopted. Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.

Here Madison highlights that it is the states as “distinct and independent States” that are ratifying the Constitution. It is not automatically ratified by a majority, but it must be unanimous, meaning that is it not democratic. States, if they did not want to ratify the Constitution, would not be compelled into membership by the majority. It would appear that membership into the union is voluntary, which would mean that it is not democratic. Democracy is not voluntary for those who disagree with the majority.

The next relation is, to the sources from which the ordinary powers of government are to be derived. The House of Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America; and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular State. So far the government is NATIONAL, not FEDERAL. The Senate, on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the existing Congress. So far the government is FEDERAL, not NATIONAL. The executive power will be derived from a very compound source. The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society. The eventual election, again, is to be made by that branch of the legislature which consists of the national representatives; but in this particular act they are to be thrown into the form of individual delegations, from so many distinct and coequal bodies politic. From this aspect of the government it appears to be of a mixed character, presenting at least as many FEDERAL as NATIONAL features.

The difference between a federal and national government, as it relates to the OPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT, is supposed to consist in this, that in the former the powers operate on the political bodies composing the Confederacy, in their political capacities; in the latter, on the individual citizens composing the nation, in their individual capacities. On trying the Constitution by this criterion, it falls under the NATIONAL, not the FEDERAL character; though perhaps not so completely as has been understood. In several cases, and particularly in the trial of controversies to which States may be parties, they must be viewed and proceeded against in their collective and political capacities only. So far the national countenance of the government on this side seems to be disfigured by a few federal features. But this blemish is perhaps unavoidable in any plan; and the operation of the government on the people, in their individual capacities, in its ordinary and most essential proceedings, may, on the whole, designate it, in this relation, a NATIONAL government.

Here Madison is just saying that the government powers will be exercised nationally, because they ultimately are laws on individuals. They would not be applied to individuals in one state and not another. Also, they would not be laws on the States.

But if the government be national with regard to the OPERATION of its powers, it changes its aspect again when we contemplate it in relation to the EXTENT of its powers. The idea of a national government involves in it, not only an authority over the individual citizens, but an indefinite supremacy over all persons and things, so far as they are objects of lawful government. Among a people consolidated into one nation, this supremacy is completely vested in the national legislature. Among communities united for particular purposes, it is vested partly in the general and partly in the municipal legislatures. In the former case, all local authorities are subordinate to the supreme; and may be controlled, directed, or abolished by it at pleasure. In the latter, the local or municipal authorities form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy, no more subject, within their respective spheres, to the general authority, than the general authority is subject to them, within its own sphere. In this relation, then, the proposed government cannot be deemed a NATIONAL one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects. It is true that in controversies relating to the boundary between the two jurisdictions, the tribunal which is ultimately to decide, is to be established under the general government. But this does not change the principle of the case. The decision is to be impartially made, according to the rules of the Constitution; and all the usual and most effectual precautions are taken to secure this impartiality. Some such tribunal is clearly essential to prevent an appeal to the sword and a dissolution of the compact; and that it ought to be established under the general rather than under the local governments, or, to speak more properly, that it could be safely established under the first alone, is a position not likely to be combated.

Here Madison lays out some great points about a national versus a federal government. In a national government, the national government is the ultimate power. It rules over all other governments, including local governments. It would have the power to abolish those governments and tell them how to operate. Under a federal government, the federal government is not all powerful. It cannot exercise power over states, municipalities, or even the local school board. This is why you see our government use other measures. It long ago found a way around this limitation. By stealing our incomes through the income tax, it is now able to to use that money to bribe states and local governments. If states and municipalities want federal funding, they have to submit to the federal government’s will and do what they tell them do to. If they don’t, they basically have their money stolen and handed to the other governments who bow down to their master. They are then bribing the other states to participate in what they disagreed with.

If we try the Constitution by its last relation to the authority by which amendments are to be made, we find it neither wholly NATIONAL nor wholly FEDERAL. Were it wholly national, the supreme and ultimate authority would reside in the MAJORITY of the people of the Union; and this authority would be competent at all times, like that of a majority of every national society, to alter or abolish its established government. Were it wholly federal, on the other hand, the concurrence of each State in the Union would be essential to every alteration that would be binding on all. The mode provided by the plan of the convention is not founded on either of these principles. In requiring more than a majority, and principles. In requiring more than a majority, and particularly in computing the proportion by STATES, not by CITIZENS, it departs from the NATIONAL and advances towards the FEDERAL character; in rendering the concurrence of less than the whole number of States sufficient, it loses again the FEDERAL and partakes of the NATIONAL character.

Lastly, Madison goes into how the government is changed. The amendment process is not federal, because it does not require each state to ratify it. It is not democratic either, because it requires more than a simple majority to ratify an amendment. Also, it is not ratified directly by the people. It is ratified by the states.

I think Madison points out in most instances it’s federal with some national hues to it. Unfortunately, I think he thought it would remain this way. We have moved further and further toward national government where every issue now becomes national. Every law, idea, etc is pushed to the national level and implemented on the whole of the people. We are no longer more federal than national, and while Madison’s argument was compelling at the time, I think those who opposed the Constitution were more prescient.

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Federalist Paper XXXIX part 1 – Are we a republic?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, History | Posted on 29-03-2010


Over the weekend, I was reading some of the Federalist Papers. In particular, I was reading Madison’s Federalist Paper XXXIX, which discusses whether the proposed Constitution would create a national government, basically a democracy where the majority rules, or a federal government, where the government in broken down into a “confederacy of sovereign States”. He begins by discussing whether the proposed government is a republican government.

The first question that offers itself is, whether the general form and aspect of the government be strictly republican. It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government. If the plan of the convention, therefore, be found to depart from the republican character, its advocates must abandon it as no longer defensible.

After highlighting how many other nations claimed to be republics, while at the same time having all or parts of their government ruling over the people without the people bestowing those powers unto them, Madison explains that the Constitution is not just claiming to be a republic in words but in action.

If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. It is SUFFICIENT for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified; otherwise every government in the United States, as well as every other popular government that has been or can be well organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican character.

So, how are we stacking up as a republic these days? Do we have people administering the offices for a limited period of time and good behavior? Does Ted Kennedy or Robert Byrd ring a bell as to if our officials serve for limited time periods and good behavior? Madison explains what happens when you do not have time limits on those serving, when he says it “would be degraded from the republican character”, meaning those serving would no longer represent the people.

Also, does our government get it’s powers from the “great body of society” or from “inconsiderable proportions, or a favored class”? Between Wall Street and the enslaved entitlement recipients, I’d say it now gets it’s powers from the latter. What does Madison say that leads to? If it’s the latter “a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.” Sounds about right to me. While our government still claims to be a republic, it does not represent the people. It now has structured privileged classes that do not look out for the “great body of society” but enslaves a large enough portion to maintain the appearance of a republic, while at the same time favoring those who grease the palms of elected officials.

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Federalist Papers – Hamilton argues for a free market

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government, History | Posted on 03-11-2009


In the Federalist Paper No. 12, Hamilton is arguing for the Constitution and the Union by discussing the benefits of the Union to raising revenue for the government. Quickly, Hamilton highlights something modern day socialists somehow forget, that through self interest, what they call greed, all members of society benefit.

Hamilton writes, “The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen,” except for modern day socialists, “to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of their political cares.” What Hamilton is saying is all enlightened (educated) men of this time period recognize that commerce (free trade) is the best way to build national wealth. Because this is known to be true, enabling free trade has become the object of their policy.

He continues, “By multiplying the means of gratification, by promoting the introduction and circulation of the precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice and enterprise, it serves to vivify and invigorate all channels of industry and to make them flow with greater activity and copiousness.” Here Hamilton is stating the government should encourage trade by “multiplying the means of gratification”. He talks about precious metals as “those darlings objects of human avarice and enterprise”. Basically, he is saying money and the want of more money (avarice or as socialist like to say, greed) drives people to work more and to produce more for society (enterprise).

“The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer – all orders of men look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to this pleasing reward of their toils.” What? You mean all these men look forward to earning profits? Those bastards! Hamilton recognizes that it is the reward of profits that causes the merchant, the farmer (husbandman), the mechanic, and the manufacturer to be productive, and the more reward the more productive they will be. He uses words such as assiduous (unrelenting) merchant, laborious (extreme effort) husbandman, active (involving physical effort)  mechanic, and industrious (working energetically) manufacturer.  He uses these words to emphasize it’s the profit motive that creates these behaviors. With no profit motive, you do not have the productiveness of these men.

Next Hamilton discusses how everyone benefits from the free market, even those who think they don’t. “The often-agitated question between agriculture and commerce (basically labor and businessmen) has from indubitable experience received a decision which has silenced the rivalship that once subsisted between them, and has proved, to the entire satisfaction of their friends, that their interests are intimately blended and interwoven.” Notice that Hamilton basically says that the interest of both labor and businessmen are interwoven. Government cannot benefit the laborers by punishing the businessman. In doing so, he also punishes labor.  He continues, “It has been found in various countries that in proportion as commerce has flourished land has risen in value. And how could it have happened otherwise? Could that which procures a freer vent of products of the earth, which furnishes new incitements to the cultivators of land, which is most powerful instruments in increasing the quantity of money in a state – could that, in fine, which is faithful handmaid of labor and industry in every shape fail to augment the value of that article, which is the prolific parent of far the greatest part of the objects upon which they are exerted? It is astonishing that so simple a truth should ever have had an adversary;” Apparently, it still has it’s adversary in modern day politicians, socialists, and labor unions, who believe that free markets don’t help everyone. But Hamilton explains, how could you increase the value of one without increasing the value of the other? You can’t increase the value of what labor produces without increasing the value of labor. Both parties benefit.

Lastly, “and it is one among a multitude of proofs how apt a spirit of ill-informed jealousy, or of too great abstractions and refinement, is to lead men astray from the plainest paths of reason and conviction.” Wow, Hamilton points out that jealousy leads men astray from reason and conviction. How true is this in modern society? While everyone truly knows that government produces nothing, many today still want the government to intervene in the free market because of jealousy. They are jealous of the rich. Because of their jealousy, they are blinded to reason which would highlight the errors of their ways. Does this remind you of the tax the rich argument? They need to pay their fair share! Who cares if they have benefited society more by creating jobs, services, products, etc. They don’t deserve that much more than the poor. Low and behold though, when government takes more of their money, they don’t create as many jobs, services, products, etc, and we are all worse off because of it. These are simple truths, but jealousy, as Hamilton points out, leads us astray from reason.

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Thanks Uncle Sam for driving more small businesses out of business

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government | Posted on 31-10-2009


Here is more proof of the idiocy of the Federal government. Because the congress has to show how much they care, they are going to drive these small toy makers out of business.

By LESLIE WAYNE | New York Times

October 30, 2009

For 35 years, William John Woods has made wooden toys for children. Each one of the 2,000 or so he makes each year passes through his hands at his shop in Ogunquit, Maine, and no child, he said, has ever been hurt by one of his small boats, cars, helicopters or rattles.

But now he and others like him — makers of small toys and owners of toy resale shops and boutique stores — say their livelihood is being threatened by federal legislation enacted in the last year to protect children from toxic toys through more extensive testing. Big toymakers, including those whose tainted imports from China led to the recall of 45 million toys and spurred Congress to take action, have more resources and are able to comply with the new law’s requirements.

“This is absurd,” said Mr. Woods, whose toys are made of maple, walnut and cherry and finished with walnut oil and beeswax from a local apiary. He estimates it would cost him $30,000 — a figure he calculated from having to pay $400 in required tests for each of the 80 or so different items he produces — to show that they are not toxic.

“I use beeswax,” Mr. Woods said. “The law was targeted at large toymakers using lead. There was no exclusion for benign products.”

via Federal Government Putting Small Toymakers Out of Business | Ron Paul 2012 | Campaign for Liberty at the Daily Paul.

This is just more proof that so called government protection is not only not necessary, but they are harmful to the little guy and all Americans. Without government intervention, 45 million toys were recalled for having traces of lead. Private businesses, in order to protect their reputation and customers, acted without coercion to remove these toys from the market. This is proof that you do not need all these government regulators and protection agencies in order to protect the public.

If there was no government agency to interfere in the free market, you would still have private watch dogs such as Consumer Reports. When they discovered lead in a toy, the media would be alerted, and the problem would be blasted out to the public, as it was when these toys were discovered to have led. Once the news breaks, in order to protect their future business, businesses will react to rectify the problem. All of this takes place without the need for government coercion. This all works efficiently with the least amount of cost to all parties involved.

But of course, the government decides they need to show they are looking out for “the people” (read my post about what the Federalist Papers say about this). In doing so, they drive up the cost on each toy produced. They drive the little guy out of business, despite the fact he uses nothing that could even contain lead. They drive up the price of toys for everyday Americans. In general they make it harder for the “little guy”.

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Federalist Papers – Hamilton asks why we think we can ignore history?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, History | Posted on 21-10-2009


While reading the Federalist Paper No. 6, I came across another great Hamilton quote that we should keep in mind.

In No. 6, Hamilton was arguing that in order to prevent unnecessary wars both internally between the colonies and externally between the colonies and foreign nations, they should ratify the Constitution to form the Union. With the Union, there would be rationality in calming the fervor for war with other nations, because one area of the country may be hurt by the war that another part of the country was calling for. With seperate colonies or three or four confederacies, one confederacy or colony could start a war without regard to the others. This would lead to more wars.

Internally, he was arguing with separate colonies or confederacies, there would more than likely be wars between them. He used examples of Britian’s wars with Scotland.

After laying out the historical proof, Hamilton was calling for the dismissal of the arguments to remain separated. He started by asking what would make us think that despite the history of similar nations’ experiences with inter-quarreling we would be able to have peace with separate confederations or colonies.

To shut down the claims from the anti-federalist, Hamilton wrote the following quote to ask why we think that we are different.

“Have we not already seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those idle theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the imperfections, the weaknesses, and the evils incident to society of every shape? Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virture?”

Hamilton is basically saying. We aren’t  different. These human traits that have led to war for other nations will not forgo us simply because those who want to maintain the separate colonies say so.

While, Hamilton was talking about war, I think the quote fits perfectly into our modern context. It fits in respect to the our further slide towards socializing as much as possible in our country. Surely, history has laid out the disaster of socialism whether it be the famine in China that killed countless millions, the never ending impoverishment of Cuba, or the horror stories of health care in Britain and Canada. If Hamilton was writing about our governments taking over banks, car companies, possibly newspapers and health care, I am guessing he would say what makes us think we are different? Why do we think we can ignore history?

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Federalist Papers – Using “the people” to hide your dangerous ambitions

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, History | Posted on 18-10-2009


Today I finally picked up my own copy of The Federalist Papers at Half Priced Books for $3.48. Thank God For The Free Market #TGFTFM as I like to say on Twitter. Anyways, I only made it to the third page before I found my first gem.

Alexander Hamilton wrote, “.. that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of goverment. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants”

What he was saying here is there are people who will benefit from weak or inefficient government, and those people will use their fake concern for the people to hide their bad intentions. While I don’t believe our government is weak. It would have been weak if the Constitution was not ratified. In that circumstance there would have been people who benefited from the chaos. There were those who argued against the Constitution to maintain the weak Articles of Confederation. Many of them claimed to be looking out for the people, but they were really trying to maintain their status and power.

What we can take from this is the warning about inefficient government and the warning about those who are excessively for “the people”.  Surely, in our current day and age we can see how inefficient our government is compared to the government that our founders envisioned. How many times have you heard of unaccounted for billions in HUD, the department of education, or medicare?

Surely, you can recall how those who pushed these inefficient programs screamed their great attentions, “zeal”, from the rooftops. They are looking out for the people, the down trodden, or the most often group of concern, “the children”. How about this one? “We have to bail out Wall Street in order to bail out Main Street.” Really? It’s not because you want to bailout your buddies at your former companies? That’s right. Of course, not. It’s for the people.

The waste is horrible, but the second part of Hamilton’s warning is more disturbing. He warns that listening to the people who proclaim to be the champions of the people are the ones who more often than not are the ones who overturn liberties and become tyrants.

Keep this in mind next time you hear politicians claiming to be looking out for the people with health care, student loans, jobs, or the myriad of other government programs. The next three years are sure to be a case study on the warning above from Alexander Hamilton.

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