Hamilton: Federalist Papers Background

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Hamilton: Federalist Papers

Background: Remember that, following the Revolution, the new United States of America was organized under the Articles of Confederation. Many thought that the Articles of Confederation did not provide a strong enough government. A group of representatives met in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft a new organizing document. They were concerned about developing a government strong enough to defend the nation and promote a healthy economy, but not one that would be so strong as to infringe upon individual’s liberties.

Published in newspapers and pamphlets, The Federalist Papers tried to convince the citizenry that this new Constitution would create a better, stronger nation and should be adopted. The following show Alexander Hamilton’s argument for why the proposed powers would serve the country well.

From Federalist No. 75 (Independent Journal, March 26, 1788 – you can read the full document at http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa75.htm)

The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States.

From Federalist No. 69 (New York Packet, March 14, 1788 – you can read the full document at http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa69.htm)
The President is to be the "commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the

United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States….

The President will have only the occasional command of such part of the militia of the nation as by legislative provision may be called into the actual service of the Union. The king of Great Britain and the governor of New York have at all times the entire command of all the militia within their several jurisdictions. In this article, therefore, the power of the President would be inferior to that of either the monarch or the governor.

Secondly. The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the DECLARING of war and to the RAISING and REGULATING of fleets and armies, all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.1 The governor of New York, on the other hand, is by the constitution of the State vested only with the command of its militia and navy. But the constitutions of several of the States expressly declare their governors to be commanders-in-chief, as well of the army as navy; and it may well be a question, whether those of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, in particular, do not, in this instance, confer larger powers upon their respective governors, than could be claimed by a President of the United States.

From Federalist No. 70 (New York Packet, March 18, 1788 – you can read the full document at http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed70.asp)

Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy….

A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.
Taking it for granted, therefore, that all men of sense will agree in the necessity of an energetic Executive, it will only remain to inquire, what are the ingredients which constitute this energy? How far can they be combined with those other ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense? And how far does this combination characterize the plan which has been reported by the convention?
The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers.
The ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense are, first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility.

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