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.