• Brutus I

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Essay I Essay I 1 Brutus Supporters of the Constitution dubbed their opponents "Anti-Federalists." Opponents resented the label, but it stuck. The Anti-Federalist author Brutus—most likely New York lawyer Robert Yates—penned this essay, the first of sixteen, a month after the Constitution was completed. Having attended the first month of the Constitutional Convention, Yates had left, disgusted with what he perceived as a plan that would give far too much power to the central government. October 18, 1787 To the Citizens of the State of New-York: When the public is called to investigate and decide upon a question in which not only the present members of the community are deeply interested, but upon which the happiness and misery of generations ...
  • Federalist 9

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 9 Federalist 9 1 Alexander Hamilton If too powerful, the central government would be tyrannical. If not strong enough, the Union would not hold together. In pointing out these problems, Publius argues that a solution has been found through a "great improvement" in the "science of politics." November 21, 1787 The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection A firm Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection. It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of ...
  • Federalist 15

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 15 Federalist 15 1 Alexander Hamilton Echoing earlier critiques of the Articles of Confederation, Publius disputes the notion that the national government must be weak in order for liberty to be secured. December 1, 1787 The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union In the course of the preceding papers I have endeavored, my fellow-citizens, to place before you in a clear and convincing light the importance of Union to your political safety and happiness. I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to which you would be exposed, should you permit that sacred knot which binds the people of America together to be severed or dissolved by ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation. In ...
  • Federalist 23

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 23 Federalist 23 1 Alexander Hamilton Publius argues that the Constitution creates a government limited in the objects it can pursue, but largely free to choose the best means to achieve those ends. December 18, 1787 The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union The necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the preservation of the Union is the point at the examination of which we are now arrived. This inquiry will naturally divide itself into three branches—the objects to be provided for by a federal government, the quantity of power necessary to the accomplishment of those objects, the persons upon whom that power ought to operate ...
  • Federalist 10

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 10 Federalist 10 1 James Madison Whereas democracy entails direct rule of the people, in a republic the people rule indirectly, through their representatives. A republic can therefore encompass a greater population and geographical area. This difference is decisive in the American experiment, Publius argues, for an expansive republic is able to control the inherent danger of majority faction. November 22, 1787 The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their ...
  • Federalist 39

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 39 Federalist 39 1 James Madison Responding to the Anti-Federalist charge that the Constitution will consolidate power at the national level, Publius sets up a five-prong test to demonstrate that the Constitution will establish neither a wholly national government nor one in which all the power resides with the states. A combination, he argues, creates the best chance for liberty. January 16, 1788 The Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles The last paper having concluded the observations which were meant to introduce a candid survey of the plan of government reported by the convention, we now proceed to the execution of that part of our undertaking. The first question that offers itself is whether the general form ...
  • Federalist 47

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 47 Federalist 47 1 James Madison Anti-Federalists argued that the Constitution violated the maxim of the French political philosopher Montesquieu that the three branches of government should be "separate and distinct" in order to guard against tyranny. Using Montesquieu's own examples and the examples of American state constitutions, Publius refutes the idea that partial overlap of the branches is dangerous to liberty. January 30, 1788 The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among its Different Parts Having reviewed the general form of the proposed government and the general mass of power allotted to it, I proceed to examine the particular structure of this government, and the distribution ...
  • Federalist 48

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 48 Federalist 48 1 James Madison Taking the argument of the previous paper one step further, Publius argues that overlapping branches are essential to the maintenance of separation of powers. Unless each branch possesses "practical security" against the other two, departmental boundaries will be mere "parchment barriers" and the legislative branch will likely absorb all power to itself. February 1, 1788 These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No Constitutional Control Over Each Other It was shown in the last paper that the political apothegm there examined does not require that the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments should be wholly unconnected with each other. I shall undertake, in the next ...
  • Federalist 49

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 49 Federalist 49 1 James Madison Thomas Jefferson proposed a direct appeal to the people as a method of solving constitutional disputes among the branches. Publius argues that in addition to being dangerous, such a system would inherently favor the legislative branch. What is more, such appeals would give the impression that the Constitution is defective, thus depriving it of veneration. February 2, 1788 Method of Guarding Against the Encroachments of Any One Department of Government by Appealing to the People Through a Convention The author of the Notes on the State of Virginia, quoted in the last paper, has subjoined to that valuable work the draught of a constitution, which had been prepared in order to be laid before a convention ...
  • Federalist 51

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Federalist 51 Federalist 51 1 James Madison Publius argues that the Constitution will maintain separation of powers by means of its "interior structure." The "great security" against tyranny is to give the members of each department the "necessary constitutional means" combined with the requisite "personal motives" to resist encroachments on their power. The fact "that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government" is a "reflection on human nature." February 6, 1788 The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments To what expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments as ...
  • Letter Transmitting the Constitution

     |  Rethinking Union and Government

    Letter Transmitting the Constitution Letter Transmitting the Constitution 1 George Washington As they affixed their names to the new Constitution, the Framers understood that their work had just begun. Four months of debate and compromise paled in comparison to the challenge of convincing the states to ratify. Unanimity was not necessary for the Constitution to go into effect—only nine of thirteen states were needed—but they knew that without the approval of the largest of the states, including New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, their work would be for naught. Congress sent this letter to each state to begin the ratification process. September 17, 1787 Sir: We have now the honor to submit to the consideration of the United States in ...
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