Recently, I’ve embarked on a quest to read the Federalist Papers, all 85 of them. About a year ago, I determined that I’d been shammed by high school and sadly, college curriculums that did not require me to read Madison, Jay and Hamilton’s brilliant defense of our very revolutionary founding document. Certainly, my high school government teacher and my many collegiate political science profs dabbled in the works of Publius, but the occasions were rare, and selected excerpts usually served only to buffer the instructor’s very liberal agenda.
For the longest time I remained naďve of the importance of this work. My professors didn’t stress the Papers, as I mentioned earlier, and I was content with reading more contemporary, ostensibly more applicable works from today’s academia. For the moment, my inherent conservatism had little anchorage; I wasn’t well versed in either the Constitution or the Federalist Papers and consequently I wasn’t able to rebut many of the big government arguments offered in class. For sure, authors that attempted to justify government’s expansion into every part of every Americans’ lives, and claim the supposed solidarity of this notion with the ideals of the Papers, struck me as leftist puppets. But I couldn’t provide an adequate defense "beyond my own experience and philosophy) of limited government to counteract what I knew to be mindless drivel. So while the vast majority of my fellow co-eds were seduced by the lies, I decided to delve into the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and see for myself if Publius intended to construct a gigantic federal leviathan or rather if he advocated a very limited national government of, for and by the people.
A great many months have passed since I set about this task of reading the Founding Document and Federalist Papers, and though having completed the former, I just commenced to read the latter. The first 16 servings of the Papers have confirmed my suspicions about the questionable assertions of today’s academia: The purveyors of the intrusive state are dead wrong! My conservatism has been strengthened and confirmed, and I’ve yet to read a fourth of the Papers!
One of the many illusions proffered by contemporary political experts revolves around our great Republic being purposed as a democracy. Indeed, democrats are fond of crying "democracy!" when it suits their agenda, but Publius wanted nothing to do with it. As John Jay says in Federalist #1, "I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars: …The conformity of the proposed Constitution to the true principles of republican government."
Jay, Hamilton and Madison recognized the superiority of republican government as opposed to the impracticality of a democracy. In Federalist #10, Madison considers the two regime types as far as their ability to control factions. The inability of the Articles of Confederation to quell anything, provided the impetus for this brilliance from Madison that exposes democracy for the utopian nonsense that it really is.
"…a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is such that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized their species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would at the same time be perfectly equalized in their possessions, their opinions and their passions."
Madison’s probing introspection into the fatal flaw of democracy leaves little to argue. Further, his grasp of human nature and the natural progression of the unfettered masses to infringe on the freedom of persons and upon private property have been vindicated time and again in just the last 8 years.
Conversely, a republic "opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking." Madison saw the Union of the states as being facilitated best by a republican government. He contends that a republic "refines and enlarges the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice we be at least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations." Instead of being governed by the whims of ignorant masses potentially led astray by a smooth talking demagogue, the best and brightest citizens are able to best represent the people by filtering issues and deliberating complex matters to arrive at an informed and reasoned conclusion. Democracy simply doesn’t allow for this.
For practical reasons, a democracy is unable to reign in large numbers of citizens from a great extent of territory, to go about the business of government. To gather together the citizenry to a regional locale, not to mention a single national seat, is virtually impossible. Unless a state is small, or unless we’re talking about a locality within a state practicing its own democracy, such a political philosophy is unfeasible. Even in today’s age, computers are not dispersed widely enough to nurture democratic voting, and even allowing that they were, the probable fraudulence of such a system renders the scheme unmanageable. Madison simplified the problem in Federalist #14:
"It is that in a democracy the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy, consequently must be confined to a small spot. A Republic…over a large region."
Publius understood, as well, the natural degeneracy of human beings. Madison in Federalist #10, correctly points out "the latent cause of causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man." He continues, "So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities that where no substantial occasion presents itself the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to…excite their most violent conflicts." What liberals fail to realize is that man is fallible, and that a pure democracy would only amplify this inherent sinfulness to an out-of-control level. The Founders understood that a Republic was the best regime type to corral wayward masses and subsequently give people the best opportunity to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
Taking the limitedness of man’s ability to establish just government, Federalist #14 deals with the idea taken to its conclusion, which is that "the general government" instituted by fallacious men can not and should not be expected nor compelled to be "charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects…" Madison recognized that a government is only as noble or just as the public officials comprising it; nothing more, and often times much less can be expected.
And so the leftist visions of a utopian American democracy can be debunked with a simple reading of the first 15 or so offerings of the Federalist Papers. The reasoned arguments put forth by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison provide ample ammunition for conservatives and/or libertarians in the battle with leftists over the intentions of our Founders. Every freedom lover and constitutionalist needs to grab a copy and proceed to prepare a ready defense against the leftist onslaught.
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