Brief Reflection of Federalist Papers 9 & 10

Hamilton:

A “firm union” should balance power between a federal government and states represented in a Senate. This is necessary to prevent grievances caused by “domestic faction and insurrection,” while also protecting the ability of states to self-govern. The “petty republics” of history, or those that had a democratic nature and lacked unified authority, constantly experienced chaos, as their societies shifted “between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy.” They also failed to protect their citizenries from foreign invasions, since their militaries swore allegiance to rivaling confederacies within the nation-states, and seldom formed national alliances at the outbreak of war. Thus, Hamilton rejected the positions of the anti-Federalists that opposed the Constitution’s establishment of a strong federal republic in favor of a fragmented one.

The anti-Federalists misinterpreted Montesquieu’s advocation of a “small extent for republics,” by assuming he advocated for a republic divided by independent confederacies. The profound Liberal philosopher, although not an especially important champion of federalism, argued for “dimensions far short of the limits of almost every one of these [American] states.” This applied to a large nation like the United States would lead citizens to “take refuge at once in the arms of monarchy, or split ourselves into an infinity of little, jealous, clashing, tumultuous commonwealths…” While Montesquieu advocated for confederacies, he pointed out the necessity for a union wherein, “several smaller states agree to become members of a larger one, which they intend to form…” He argued this sort of republic would prevent “internal corruptions” yet enjoy “all the advantages of large monarchies,” as it would exercise strong authority necessary to balance powers and protect liberty. Thus, the anti-Federalists lacked legitimate claims of alignment with Montesquieu’s philosophies. Most of the other ideas he championed required recognition and protection from a union.

Hamilton did not oppose state governments; he supported the constitutional provisions that would give them “sovereign powers,” such as representation in the Senate and the ability to draft their own constitutions and laws, as long as they abided by a national framework. The Constitution would establish the states as “constituent parts of the national sovereignty,” since they would abide by one union, receive protection from a national military, and protect the citizenry’s natural rights, as all would be necessary to unite the nation in times of great strife; namely, states of war, insurrection, and economic turmoil. The states would never violently revolt against the union, or else their efforts would be crushed by the national military for the sake of order and peace. (This prevailed in the Civil War. One side fought for the sovereignty of states, while the winners fought for the emancipation of slaves who had been denied their constitutional rights, as if they only applied according to location. These sort of harmful divisions cause animosity towards a union, and in the case of the Civil War, they almost destroyed it, had it not been for President Lincoln’s leadership. Out of the all American presidents elected after the founding era, Lincoln best preserved the principles of a “firm union.”)

Madison:

“Popular governments” are prone to the “violence of faction,” because they sway to the whims of majorities instead of grounding themselves in eternal principles. Such mobs of popular governments, as articulated in Plato’s Republic, lack virtue, restraint, and reason. Rights of the minority are seldom protected in popular governments, and “adversaries to liberty” support this kind of overbearing majoritarian rule. They may believe they are championing the will of the people, but are really just advocating for a system that gives in to dangerous impulses, ones that inevitably will drown the minority’s voices out and lead to tyranny.

“Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which instantly expires.” In other words, all factions require liberty, yet abolishing it would be just as foolish as “to wish the annihilation of air,” an element of life, simply because it fuels destructive fires. Liberty is essential for virtuousness amongst societies, and with enough of it to promote peace and happiness amongst a commonwealth, there may well be few factions in the first place. It is when societies are somewhere in the middle of tyranny and liberty, that widespread unrest arises amongst their citizenries that lead to factions. When these events transpire, governments should wisely remain neutral and not give in to pettiness, unless factions become violent and illegally threaten the citizenry or government. When they get to this point, they should be squashed.

Representative government is necessary to “guard against the cabals of a few,” as most will serve their constituents well. If not, then they can be defeated in the next election.

Silly divisions between humans, such as political allegiances, identifications with leaders, religious argumentations, and other divisions, cause a breakdown of the civil society. All citizens must seek to agree upon the universal truths of Americanism propagated in the founding documents, lest they never unite under a social contract. Those who do not have no place in the society; they will always be a burden, a nuisance, a dark force. Not even “enlightened statesmen” can control them.

“No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.” This is why the government should play the role of a neutral arbiter, and when a problem cannot be dealt with through a criminal process, the Constitution allows Americans to file lawsuits against transgressors.

Both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison defended the United States Constitution and its federalist principles.

12 thoughts on “Brief Reflection of Federalist Papers 9 & 10

      1. Mainly with Hamilton. “The states would never violently revolt against the union, or else their efforts would be crushed by the national military for the sake of order and peace.”

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      2. It is an interesting debate you bring up. Does the Constitution permit secession? Not really. The states are bound to the union; they swear allegiance to it. The whole purpose of establishing the federal government was to preserve some benefits of monarchies, such as order and unity. I agree with Hamilton about the unconstitutionality of secession, but not on other things, like his national bank.

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      3. I agree about unconstitutionality. It’s the same with the Australian constitution. (Which is stupid, really.) It’s the sentiment about quashing “revolt” in favour of the greater good that I disagree with. Secession SHOULD be a right. (And as the Confederate states demonstrated in 1860 and 1861, if they want to, the Constitution won’t stop their independence. It’s the Union’s bayonet that drove them back in by force.

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  1. But when a secession illegally and violently threatens the common good, then the nation should practice self-defense. There is no right to revolt, as Locke once famously argued. You could argue that there is a right to peaceful secession, but even that becomes problematic. The nation will have to worry about what the state will do on its own, and if it will pose a threat as a separate sovereign. The South violated the law in the Civil War. One purpose of the founding was to prevent any need for secessions or rebellions. For that to happen, the states and Americans need to abide by the law.

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