Life - Liberty - Property
Notes: Federalist Paper #20

Title: The Same Subject Continued (The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union)
Author: James Madison with Alexander Hamilton (Publius)
Date: December 11, 1787

Volume: 1 - The Union
General topic: The insufficiency of the Articles of Confederation
Specific topic: The Netherlands as a modern day failed confederacy

Big idea:

  • The Netherlands’ weak constitution is another example of how confederations just lead to tyranny and violence.

Favorite lines:

  • “What are the characters which practice has stamped on it [the Netherlands’ constitution]? Imbecility in the government; discord among the provinces; foreign influence and indignities; a precarious existence in peace, and peculiar calamities from war.”
  • “A weak constitution must necessarily terminate in dissolution for want of proper powers, or the usurpation of powers requisite for the public safety.”
  • “Tyranny has perhaps oftener grown out of the assumptions of power called for, on pressing exigencies, by a defective constitution, than out of the full exercise of the largest constitutional authorities.”
  • “With the tear that drops for the calamities brought on mankind by their adverse opinions and selfish passions, let our gratitude mingle an ejaculation to Heaven for the propitious concord which has distinguished that consultations for our political happiness.”
  • “Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.”
  • “A sovereignty of sovereigns, a government of governments, a legislation for communities, as contradistinguished from individuals, as it is a solecism in theory, so in practice it is a subversive of the order and ends of civil polity, by substituting violence in place of the mild and salutary coercion of the magistracy.”

Paraphrased outline:

  • The Netherlands are another telling example of a confederation.
  • The provinces of the Netherlands are co-equal, sovereign states. The States-General, their legislative body, has authority over diplomacy and trade. The stadtholder, their executive office, has authority over internal disputes and the military. And this arrangement is outlined on a constitutional document.
  • But as good as it looks on paper, the Netherlands function poorly as a confederation. 
  • Grotius, a Dutch scholar, said that the only thing that held the confederation together was the provinces’ mutual hatred for Austria.
  • Another scholar says that the provinces were rivals more than partners.
  • And a third scholar said that taxation within the confederation was impossibly unrealistic and had to be collected by threat of violence. 
  • Sir William Temple, an English diplomat, said the Treaty of Hanover was delayed by the Netherlands’ internal inefficiencies.
  • And the Treaty of Wesphalia, which declared the independence of the Netherlands, was even made in contradiction to their own constitution. (They left out the province of Zeeland.)
  • Such a weak constitution could only lead to either a loss of governmental power or to tyranny.
  • Historian Abbe Mably and Sir William Temple credit the stadholder with holding the Netherlands together. I think the threat of surrounding countries also held them together.
  • There have been four attempts to reform the Netherlands’ constitution, but the public councils couldn’t agree on the reforms, so these attempts went nowhere.
  • Let us mourn for the Netherlands and thank God that our own leaders have agreed on a better constitution.
  • The rest of the world is now watching as the Netherlands fall apart. Lets hope they are able to form a union and correct themselves.
  • The lesson we can learn from the Netherlands—along with the examples we gave before—is that confederations don’t work. In the end, they always lead to tyranny and violence.

Personal thoughts:

  • Madison should give the names of all the scholars he references and where to find their statements originally recorded.
  • He hints that “usurpation of power” is allowable in some cases if it is done for the “public safety”. I don’t agree. Tyranny is too often established on the basis of “public safety.”
  • Maddison comes across a little melodramatic when he gets emotional about the Netherlands’  situation. And it’s too obvious that he does so in an attempt to convince his reader want unity under the new constitution in the U.S.
  • But, as much as I don’t like the emotional appeal, I understand that rhetoric is often more effective than reason in changing the minds of the masses.
  • …and I concede that there has been enough reason presented in the past several papers that I am now more skeptical about confederation than I was.

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natgeofound:

The Statue of Liberty hails dawn over New York Harbor in 1978. Photograph by David Alan Harvey, National Geographic Creative

natgeofound:

The Statue of Liberty hails dawn over New York Harbor in 1978. Photograph by David Alan Harvey, National Geographic Creative

[HT: Rare]

Americangunfacts.com recently released an info-graphic with some shocking stats about guns in the United States. Shocking, if you are a liberal of course.

[citations in link above]

Important note:

It is dubious and unconstitutional for any level of government to require its citizens to purchase anything—be it firearms or health insurance.

But the point of the Kennesaw, Georgia, example isn’t the ethics of that policy but the implications of its effectiveness.

Just so we’re clear. ;)

theheritagefoundation:

What Happened to Chicago’s Crime Rate When Illinois Relaxed Gun Control Laws
via The Daily Signal

theheritagefoundation:

What Happened to Chicago’s Crime Rate When Illinois Relaxed Gun Control Laws

via The Daily Signal

Notes: Federalist Paper #19

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Title: The Same Subject Continued (The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union)
Author: James Madison with Alexander Hamilton (Publius)
Date: December 8, 1787

Volume: 1 - The Union
General topic: The insufficiency of the Articles of Confederation
Specific topic: Modern-day failed confederacies

Big idea:

  • The German Empire, Poland and the Swiss Cantons are all examples of modern-day confederacies that don’t work. We should replace our current confederacy with a Union.

Favorite lines:

  • “The imperial authority, unable to maintain the public order…”
  • “The fundamental principle on which it [confederacy] rests, that the empire is a community of sovereigns, that the diet [legislature] is a representation of sovereigns, and the the laws are addressed to sovereigns, renders the empire a nerveless body, incapable of regulating its own members, insecure against external dangers, and agitated with unceasing fermentations in its own bowels.”

Paraphrased outline:

  • There are also “existing” examples of confederations that can instruct us.
  • Following its independence from Charlemagne, the Germanic Empire was similar to our confederation: The legislature had power, the Emperor had power, and the Sovereigns had limits on their power.
  • Some would suggest that our confederacy could operate like this Germanic system, but the Germanic system doesn’t actually work. Germany’s history is a history of wars both within and without. 
  • A nation needs a strong, central government to coordinate its defense in times of war, but a confederacy has to go through political negotiation first.
  • Delegating judicial power to the members of a confederacy also doesn’t work, because they either neglect this power or abuse it. The Duke of Bavaria’s actions against the city of Donawerth is an example.
  • The only reason the German Empire is still intact is that its citizens are too intimidated to do anything about it.
  • Poland is also an example of a confederacy that doesn’t work. It is controlled by surrounding countries, because it is too weak to govern itself.
  • The “Swiss Cantons” are another poor example. They have no treasury, currency, defense or judiciary. Only their uniqueness and fear protect them. And any time conflicts arise, they turn to violence—sometimes forming opposite alliances with other nations.

Personal thoughts:

  • Madison goes into too much detail describing the Germanic Empire, which makes it hard for the reader to track with his argument.
  • At first, I thought Madison was using the German Empire as a positive example of the federal system he is proposing, but it looks more like he means it as a negative example of the confederacy he is criticizing. An editor should have told him to make this clearer.
  • Madison makes a good point about how a central government can coordinate defense better than a politicized confederation could.
  • But if the members of a confederacy can’t be trusted with judicial power, why should a centralized federal government be trusted with it?
  • I’m also surprised Madison argues against the effectiveness of delegating judicial power to local governments. Doesn’t that contradict one of Hamilton’s arguments in Paper 17?

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"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."
— Frederick Douglass, A Plea for Free Speech in Boston (1860)

"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."

— Frederick Douglass, A Plea for Free Speech in Boston (1860)

[Source:YAL]
Notes: Federalist Paper #18

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Title: The Same Subject Continued (The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union)
Author: James Madison with Alexander Hamilton (Publius)
Date: December 7, 1787

Volume: 1 - The Union
General topic: The insufficiency of the Articles of Confederation
Specific topic: Historical examples of confederacy and union

Big idea:

  • Our present confederation will be as weak as the Amphictyonic Counil, but a union would be as strong as the Archean League. We should unionize.

Favorite lines:

  • “Had the Greeks, says Abbé Millot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of closer union.”
  • “Had Greece, says an judicious observer on her fate, been united by a stricter confederation and persevered in her union she would never have worn the chains of Macedon; and might have proved a barrier to the vast projects of Rome.”
  • “…The popular government, which was so tempestuous elsewhere, caused no disorders in the members of the Archean republic, because it was there tempered by the general authority and laws of the confederacy.”
  • “Shame and oppression erelong awakened their love of liberty. …Their example was followed by others as opportunities were found of cutting off their tyrants.”

Paraphrased outline:

  • A great analogy for our present confederation is the Amphictyonic Council of ancient Greece.
  • Members had independence and equal votes in the council. And the council had the power to declare war, decide conflict between members and to protect the unity of the confederation.
  • In theory, the Council should have worked. But in practice, it didn’t.
  • Deputies [representatives?] from stronger cities used intimidation and corruption to overpower those from weaker cities. So a succession of different cities had full control of the council, and many were susceptible to bribery from enemies.
  • French historian Abbé Millot credits a lack of union for the eventual fall of the Amphictyonic Council.
  • Eventually, Athens and Sparta fought each other in the Peloponnesian Wars, and Philip of Macedon became “master of the confederacy.”
  • A great analogy for our proposed Union, on the other hand, is the Achean League of ancient Greece.
  • Cities had jurisdiction and equal representation in the Senate. The Senate had the power of war and diplomacy. And the Senate was led by chief magistrates whose power was checked by the senators. There was even a primitive Constitution.
  • From what we know of this league, its different parts operated with cooperation and deference to each other.
  • Historian Abbé Mably credits the league’s commitment to the authority of their laws for their peaceful government.
  • Because the Achean League was made up of weaker Greek cities, they were eventually overpowered. But even then it created a spark of rebellion against tyranny.
  • Eventually, The Acheans were forced to invite Roma to overthrow Philip of Macedon, and Rome ended their League—and their liberty.
  • I’ve provided these analogies for a couple reasons: One, to show the positive example of the Achean League’s constitution. And two, to show that federal bodies more often lead to internal anarchy than to tyranny.

Personal thoughts:

  • This paper presents a sound argument through solid historical examples.
  • At times, Madison gets a little too deep into the historical detail. That might add credibility to his historical claims, but it also looses a little of his argument’s momentum.
  • For the first time since I started reading these papers, I fully favor the idea of union over confederacy. Madison accomplished in one paper what Hamilton failed to do in several. 
  • The ending was pretty abrupt though. After so much historical detail, it would have been helpful for Madison to make his point more explicit.

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