Everybody agreed the Articles of Confederacy weren't working. Not everyone agreed how much needed to be changed.
Everybody agreed the Articles of Confederacy weren't working. Not everyone agreed how much needed to be changed.
Hello, welcome back for Federalist # 14, "Objections to the Proposed Constitution From Extent of Territory Answered."
You know, I do love reading these older works aloud for you. I like to think it adds a living energy to words to which you and I have paid far too little attention for far too long. I've mentioned that I don't read ahead very much, to keep the material fresh for me. I like suprises as much as you folks do. Much of the Federalist papers are rather calm, rather clerical, rather tame. The first part of this essay is much the same. But towards the end, there's quite a crescendo, lemme tell ya.
This one purports to be written by James Madison, though the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society argues that most or all were written by Hamilton. That's possible. But it seems to me the more firey essays do seem to be attributed to Madison. So it's an intriguing question. And it's nice to find an intriguing question about something written 230 years ago. Hope I do it justice.
Hello, we meet again, this time for Federalist # 13, "Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government."
Once again, the Federalist's primary argument for the Constitution is that it is the only way to preserve the Union, all the states working together. That argument is assumed throughout this essay. And once again, the Federalist gives us an answer to a question raised in our current era.
Hamilton contends that there are functions that must be carried out by the national government, whether that nation be one state, one of three or more confederacies, or a nation comprised of all the thirteen states. With that in mind, a single government would be most economical, without duplicating necessary national functions three times, or thirteen times.
Modern politicians often argue that the Federal government is too expensive and inefficient. I'd counter that people governing themselves is expensive and inefficient, and worth preserving. The alternative offered is not some better Federal government. It is a Federal government that doesn't actually perform the necessary work. When one completes half the work, or none of the work, one can sure save a lot of money. Monarchy or tyranny is relatively cheap, and can look a lot more efficient, what with the trains running on time, and all those parades of marching uniforms.
But I digress. Let's let Mr Hamilton speak for himself. Good day!
We all tell stories, and listen to stories, and learn from stories. And our stories tell us, too.
Hello again. Tonight is Federalist # 12, which is all about Revenue. Or in other words, tax collecting.
Naturally this one is written by Alexander Hamilton, the banker. He founded the Bank of New York. Later on, President George Washington appointed him as the first Secretary of the Treasury, and in that capacity he also founded the first Bank of the United States. So he would be the one to write an essay to convince the people of New York that the Constitution would be a great idea, because the government would be better at collecting taxes. I admit I got a bit of a chuckle out of that. Can't picture a modern legislator promoting anything with the idea it'd let the Federal government collect more taxes. Anyway, I found it a bit amusing. Then again, I also get many of the dirty jokes in Shakespeare.
The modern debates on reforming the tax code, basically started with the work of Alexander Hamilton.
But he does make some valid points. No government can do much without revenue, no one can, really. If it's got to be done, and it does, it ought to be done well. And he does say that most of that revenue would come from duties on imports, and not from landowners and especially not from farmers, who generally don't have much cash anyway. That had to go over rather well in a largely agrarian society.
This is a short one, but has value of it's own. Good day.
Hello again. Tonight I'm recording Federalist #11. This is not the most exciting essay to the modern ear, being primarily about international trade, especially by sea. The ending does get a bit firey.
I am not a trained historian, just a history fan, I suppose. In 1787 America didn't have much of a navy to speak of. And British naval power, or French for that matter, was much stronger. The only advantage we had was the very long way they had to travel to do much of anything to us, and the ongoing conflicts between Britain and France, which made conflict with us an inconvenient side issue in many ways. I find the coverage of American Naval potential interesting in the very different resources necessary for naval building in those days: tar, pitch, turpentine and the strong wood available from the southern states, oh, and some of the iron from the north, too.
The essay also mentions hypothetically cutting off direct trade with Britain, and how it might put us in a strong position negotiating a trade treaty with them. Twenty-five years later we were at war once again with Britain, after cutting off trade, in part due to trusting France, in part due to our still lacking a strong enough navy to keep Britain from kidnapping our merchant seamen and impressing them into the British navy. We won again, largely due to the internal lines of supply also discussed here, which same have also been the foundation of every war we've won, in my amateur opinion. We didn't always build the best of anything, but we sure built a lot of 'em in a hurry.
The most strongly worded part of this essay is at the end, suggesting a European opinion that America weakened anyone who went there. I wasn't around at the time, so I'll take Hamilton's word on that. We were still desperately vulnerable, and building a strong navy was probably a very good idea. But I believe what saved us was largely the French conflict with Britain, and our willingness to persist in fighting long enough that Britain couldn't sustain a war against us. And finally, it was the commercial side, internal and external trade, that allowed us to become a strong, viable nation.
And the Union, providing a framework for our internal cooperation, was essential to our later external strength.
Hello ladies and gentlemen.
This is David Grizzly Smith. You probably guessed that, of course.
I normally wouldn't do what I'm going to do tonight. This is rather unusual for Grizzly's Growls -- though Grizzly's Growls doesn't have a strict format, and besides it's mine, I can do what I want.
As you know, I've been getting a few episodes ahead in my recording of the Federalist Papers. Tonight I recorded Federalist #14, the whole of which you'll hear when it drops on February 1st. Every time I've recorded a book, it seems, there's that one part I have to record two or three times. It gets me right in the heart, and I break down a bit trying to get the words out. So I do it over till I can finish it intelligibly, more or less.
This time, so far at least, it was Federalist #14. It purports to have been written by James Madison, and I can believe that, it seems the most heartfelt essays came from Madison. Some sources'd say Hamilton really wrote them. I'd go with Madison, even so.
The first part of the essay is along the workmanlike likes of those just prior. And then I got to the last part. And I could hear in the words the voice of a warrior for American independence, and American innovation, at a time when Kings and Queens were the order of the day for much of the world. And at a time when some in this country were arguing for dividing us up into fragments, rather than preserving the Union which made the American revolution possible.
Seems to me there are those forces and those voices today who likewise would like to divide us. And we need words that express those fundamental values and that fundamental unity in which almost all of us believe. We are quarreling amongst ourselves, as families do sometimes. And there are certainly those who'd like to encourage those quarrels, to weaken us and strengthen their own grasp on their wealth and power over us.
I think James Madison said it well, so I'm going to let him say his piece. If you're interested, the background music is Johann Sebastian Bach's "Prelude in C Major" played by Kevin MacLeod, the theme music for the whole series. Enjoy. And I hope you take it to heart, as I did.
Hello again and welcome to Federalist #10. You may remember I mentioned I'd be recording this the same night as #9.
I was startled to notice that #9, "The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection" was written by Hamilton, and was rather intellectual. But #10, "The Same Subject Continued" came from James Madison, who seems so staid in the pictures, but who's a bit of a firebrand in this essay.
There's a lot to love about this one. Once again the author wrote a couple of centuries back, but seems to have watched TV last night. While I'm sure there was a temptation to high-flown rhetoric, Madison was cold-bloodedly pragmatic about the vulnerabilities of the Republic. He knew it wouldn't be perfect, but he knew it could be protected and made better.
I also noted Madison's reference to "the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction," which reminded me of John Stuart Mill's mention in On Liberty, Chapter One, of "the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority," more than a century later. Madison shows a realistic view of government one might not expect from the Federalist, if one approaches it as some sort of religious work, rather than what it is, a political work intended to convey rationally how one might form a durable republic, and to convince the citizens that this new Constitution would accomplish that.
It has been pointed out elsewhere that the founders assumed the citizens, if provided with the facts, would make intelligent choices. I'd expect that to be necessary in the foundation of any Republic. If the citizens aren't equipped to choose correctly, then you either equip them, or you choose a different form of government. But I think this essay makes clear that the founders understood the people could also make incredibly bad choices. The hope was that there'd be enough people making enough choices that it'd all come out fairly well even so.
I hope so, too.
Tonight I'm recording Federalist number 9. I'm sorry that I'm way behind the weekly recordings I originally planned. It was such a lovely plan, wasn't it? I'm going to try to record two tonight, so I can get caught back up.
I feel like there ought to be three aspects of this essay for me to comment about, but I can only think of two. First I note that Hamilton describes generally the best and worst of the ancient Greek and Roman republics. These descriptions feel all too well fitted around our own necks. Listen for yourself, tell me I'm wrong, because I'd like to be.
Secondly I note that Hamilton defends the new Constitution by pointing out new innovations in republican government that should prevent the worst excesses of past republics. He's quite right, they should. But these new ideas aren't magical incantations, inscriptions and annointings that will frighten off all possible future demons. These are practices and processes, habits and jobs. And these jobs must be done every day by those we've hired to do them, or there are no protections, there are no checks and there is no balance.
And now I see that third thing I figured must be there ... because there are always three things, ask anyone who's written a speech or an essay.
Hamilton's republic demands that we are lead by our best and brightest, who we choose from among ourselves. If our best aren't all that good, and our brightest not always very bright, we elect enough of them that they will improve their results by working together. If we trust a few who are not worthy of trust, the rest will demand better behavior of them, and check their worst abuses. But if we fail, if we choose representatives who will not act in the public interest, or who will not act at all unless marching obediently behind the fools they follow, there is no magical incantation in the Constitution that can save us.
No magic but time. If we and our Republic survive, perhaps we will have a chance to choose better next time.