Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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Something From Federalist No. 26

Some of the Federalist Papers are, well, a tad bit dry. However, if you dig deeply enough, it seems that there is always something to consider, that there is always at least one paragraph that piques your interest. In Federalist No. 26, Hamilton pedantically explains how ill-founded are the concerns of his adversaries, the opponents of ratification.  The topic in this paper is the degree of government power with relation to the defense of the nation. After an exploration of why Americans have an almost hereditary suspicion of standing armies, Hamilton moves on to arguing why, under the proposed Constitution, legislative authority will be enough to keep them in check.

Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community require time to mature them for execution. An army, so large as seriously to menace those liberties, could only be formed by progressive augmentations; which would suppose, not merely a temporary combination between the legislature and executive, but a continued conspiracy for a series of time. Is it probable that such a combination would exist at all? Is it probable that it would be persevered in, and transmitted along through all the successive variations in a representative body, which biennial elections would naturally produce in both houses? Is it presumable, that every man, the instant he took his seat in the national Senate or House of Representatives, would commence a traitor to his constituents and to his country? Can it be supposed that there would not be found one man, discerning enough to detect so atrocious a conspiracy, or bold or honest enough to apprise his constituents of their danger? If such presumptions can fairly be made, there ought at once to be an end of all delegated authority. The people should resolve to recall all the powers they have heretofore parted with out of their own hands, and to divide themselves into as many States as there are counties, in order that they may be able to manage their own concerns in person.

It’s interesting to look both at the means by which government might succumb to corruption, and the solution that Hamilton proposes as the only fix for such a dire situation.  For the former, Hamilton describes the “progressive augmentations” of an ever larger army, and a Congress in which, upon entering office the representatives cease being responsive to their constituents.  For the latter, “The people should resolve to recall all the powers they have heretofore parted with out of their own hands,..” Was Hamilton right on both counts of his straw man?


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