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The Federalist Papers
- By: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
- Narrated by: Alastair Cameron
- Length: 19 hrs and 10 mins
Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers have long been considered to be some of the most important works in political science ever written. The Federalist Papers establishes a method of constitutional government that was the building block for the type of government the United States has operated under for over 200 years.
A Great Constitutional Refreshment
- By Charlie on 06-19-17
Not As Good As Its Reputation
Hamilton admits right at the beginning that he and Madison and Jay are writing as partisan defenders of the proposed constitution. But admitting the flaw is not the same as it not being there.
One grating feature is that they repeatedly argue that various features of the proposed constitution were the result of impartial consideration when we know that they were actually political compromises. An example is slaves counting as 3/5 of a voter in apportioning congressional seats. There was no rational reason for this whatever except that it was the product of a compromise. Since they could not vote there was no reason for them to have congressmen to represent them as voters. If they were to be represented as people, they were entitled to full representation. Defending 3/5 was ridiculous, Founding Father or no.
Also annoying is the fact that it was written specifically for the voters of New York since their ratifying vote was coming up, and addresses no other voters.
Another jarring note is that it was written before the inclusion of the Bill of Rights at the insistence of Rhode Island two years after the other states had all ratified. Hearing them insist that explicit guarantees of rights were not necessary is disturbing in view of the all the good things that have flowed from the Bill of Rights over the centuries, particularly the First Amendment. Considering how large a role the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments have played in our history, hindsight shows how very wrong they were.
Also their insistence that the rights of the people would be respected because if the proposed federal government behaved badly, the remedy of the people was revolution. That was a stupid argument even at the time, especially in New York, which of all the colonies had seen the least revolutionary activity during the Revolutionary War.
We see now how tragically wrong and short-sighted such a prescription was. From Gettysburg to Atlanta and Vicksburg, armies of the dead mutely testify to how unthinking the Founding Fathers were in suggesting revolution as a way to enforce the political contract underlying the constitution.
It is hard to imagine reading it without knowing of the war that was to come seventy years later, but to the extent that I could, it felt irresponsible and puerile. We marvel at how young the Foundiing Fathers were, but it was not always a virtue. I don't think older men would have been so cavalier.
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