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 the grievous damages 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, or those who opposed the Constitution’s establishment of a strong federal republic in favor of a fragmented confederate one.

The anti-Federalists misinterpreted Montesquieu’s advocation of a “small extent for republics,” by assuming he advocated for a nation-state 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 this union 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 actually triumphed 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 heroic 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. The minority is not protected in popular governments, and “adversaries to liberty” support this kind of majoritarian rule. They may think they are championing the will of the people, but are really just advocating for a system that gives in to dangerous impulses.

“Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which instantly expires.” In other words, all factions require liberty. However, liberty is an essential component of good societies, and with enough of it, there will be no need for factions in the first place. It is when societies are somewhere in the middle of tyranny and liberty, that widespread unrest arises in their citizenries that lead to factions. The government should always act as a neutral arbiter; the only time factions should be squashed is when they become violent and illegally threaten the citizenry or government.

Silly divisions between humans, such as political allegiances, identifications with leaders, religious argumentations, and other divisions, cause a breakdown of the civil society. All citizenries must conform to at least some universal truths, particularly in this instance Americanism; otherwise, they will never unite. Immigrants must adapt to American culture; schools must teach Americanism, and parents must teach their children good citizenship. Those who don’t uphold the social contract 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.

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

Both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison championed the United States Constitution and the federalist principles that it stood for. In response to anti-federalists who opposed it, they defended the Founding.

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10 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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