eBook Reflection: Federalist 30-40

My Enlightenment-era political reading has slowed down recently, not least because I’m at home, with all the distractions that come with that.  Besides that, Federalist 30 through roughly 35 stated and reiterated the same argument, over and over.  It was quite tedious.  Let me save anyone wanting to read these documents the trouble: the federal government should not have any limits set in stone keeping it from collecting funds directly from the people.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Things got interesting around paper 36 or so (I’m not looking at the document at the moment, so that’s probably not exactly where the taxation section ends).  Taking a philosophical turn, Madison-Publius starts to examine the extent to which the Constitution does in fact set up a Republic.  Taking as the primary criteria the temporariness of office on one hand and the avoidance of mob rule on the other, Madison cites the staggered terms of Congressmen, Senators, and Presidents along with the direct election of Congressmen as opposed to the indirect of Senators and Presidents as evidence that such a system can in fact reflect not the wills of a few powerful men but the people as a whole. Moreover, he looks to such staggering of national-style and federal-style elections (i.e. elected by the people versus elected by the states) as a barrier against partisan spirits.

Once again the times have changed.  I’m no historian of American political elections, but I know that in my own lifetime I can remember the emergence of the term “swing states,” several Senatorial elections in states where I didn’t live that got far more attention in the papers than did local races, and mobs being bused into contested states to intimidate poll workers.  Again I wonder whether fast transportation, lightspeed communications, 24-hour television news, and other developments in the last two hundred thirty years or so haven’t mucked up some of the Enlightenment wisdom.

I’m not sure how fast I’ll read papers 41-50, but I do know that in the next block I’ll hit the halfway point.  Cool.

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1 Comment

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One response to “eBook Reflection: Federalist 30-40

  1. Joanaliese

    First: It is a marvolusly good choice to read the Federalist Papers.

    The tricky bit with the Federalist Papers is that there are three authors (mostly Madison and Hamilton with just 5 by John Jay).

    Madison and Hamilton, while fighting for a common cause– the passage of the Federal Constitution– had remarkably different opinions politically and philosophically. They even went on to become leaders in opposing political parties.

    To clarify, the Federalist Party originally stood for simply the passage of the Constitution, with out a Bill of Rights as an attached document. Members either wanted to never have a Bill of Rights at all, or (as Madison wished) wanted the Bill of Rights to be added later, to protect the Constitution from drastic structural change by Antifederalists (those who prefered weaker central government, or even went so far as to support the creation of direct democracy). Later, after the passage of the Constitution (with a Bill of Rights), the Federalist party (led by Hamilton) became one that supported infinatly larger centralized government, commerical interests, and stricter control over the people’s lives. The Democratic-Republican party (led by Jefferson and Madison) arose to combat the new Federalists. They generally stood for a balanced approach to government, in which the central government should retain a decent amount of power, but should be checked by the States and by the People. They also generally supported the idea that Minority and Majority interests should be balenced in order to prevent the tyranny of one over the other.

    Madison stood for balance, justice, and liberty.
    Hamilton stood for private interest, and himself.

    Madison was a philosopher.
    Hamilton was a politician.

    Keep that in mind when reading, and, may I suggest Federalist #10?

    As to how this relates to the current, muddled world of politics, I think what we need to remember is that politics should never be severed from philosophy, which is, unfortuantly, what I see occuring today.

    ~ Joanaliese

    PS: It might be interesting for you to also read some of the Antifederalist papers (the good ones, some are nonsense). One that I enjoyed was Federalist Farmer by Melancton Smith. A quote from it is:

    “It is natural for men, who wish to hasten the adoption of a measure to tell us, now is the crisis– now is the critical moment which must be seized, or all will be lost; and to shut the door against free enquiry, whenever conscious the thing presented has defects in it, which time and investigation will probably discover. This has been the custom of tyrants and their dependants in all ages.”

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