World Anew

The Federalist Papers 11

So in Philadelphia he had failed in his efforts to secure private rights within the states by placing them under the direct guardian¬ship of the federal government. But that bitter experience had gready sharpened his understanding of the general problem of minority rights, and he applied that understanding at the national level in Federalist No. 10 with a brilliance that ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 10

But the issue was more general than that. Complexity and adver¬sarial institutions were instances of something broader. Tension— networks of tensions—was the fundamental necessity for free states. The whole of the Constitution, The Federalist made clear, was a great web of tensions, a system poised in tense equilibrium like the physi¬cal systems Newtonian mechanics had revealed. Administration within and among ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 9

But what would prevent one of the four elements of the federal gov¬ernment—the executive, the two branches of the legislature, and the judiciary—from dominating the others and thus establishing a one¬sided, autocratic regime? It could not happen, The Federalist replied. Each branch of the federal government had powers that could negate those of the others, and all four overlapped in ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 8

Madison replied to the fears of federal taxation by turning to the wording of the empowering clause in Article I, Section 8. One finds there, he said, no limitless authorization to tax. Yes, Congress is empowered to lay and collect taxes—that was one of the main rea¬sons for writing the Constitution—but only “to pay the debts and provide for the ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 7

So while attempting to calm the dark, unfocused fears that perme¬ated the political atmosphere, The Federalist took up the real, palpable threats posed by an enlarged and effective central government. Would not the federal government overwhelm the states, take over their powers, supersede their laws, and sacrifice their local needs to some abstract “general interest” that would be to no ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 6

“Brutus” saw a subtler, more insidious danger—in the federal gov¬ernment’s power to “borrow money on the credit of the United States.” With this power, he wrote, Congress “may create a national debt, so large as to exceed the ability of the country ever to sink. I can scarcely contemplate a greater calamity that could befal[l] this country than to be ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 5

In examining the provisions of the document, the critics had at times an eerie prescience. Some pointed to the supremacy clause in Article VI, which states that the Constitution and federal laws and treaties “shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 4

In this long and complicated process, the ratification debates—the second stage—have a peculiar importance, and provide the immedi¬ate context for understanding the Federalist papers. The initial publication of the Constitution on September 19,1787, and Congress’s call for the states to vote on ratification touched off one of the most extensive public debates on constitutionalism and on political principles ever recorded. ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 3

In this near-religious veneration for a series of political arguments that emerged from a frantic public struggle there is a strange and important paradox. The Federalist is an eighteenth-century docu¬ment, written in and limited by the circumstances of that distant time; yet it is seen now, and increasingly, as not merely relevant in some vague way to our postindustrial world ... Read More »

The Federalist Papers 2

There was something helter-skelter about the whole enterprise: there are “violations of method,” Hamilton confessed in the preface to the book edition, “and repetitions of ideas which cannot but displease a critical reader.” Which is hardly surprising, in view of the circumstances. Hamilton wrote the first number on board a river sloop traveling from Albany to Manhattan. The seventy-seven papers ... Read More »