Ask The Founders

A couple of semesters ago, a poli-sci major in my English 102 class gave me an article from a major Democrat-activist professor at another college, about why the Constitution needs to be interpreted anew in each generation as a “living document.”  I try to keep my politics well under cover in school (I can’t stand teachers who preach–I find it baldly unethical), but I guess somehow this fella figured out this article might rile me.

The article’s primary defense of its thesis was simply that the Founders had left no explication of the document and that there was no objective way to arrive at its “true” meaning.

Poppycock!  Had this esteemed professor never heard of the Federalist Papers?  The Federalist Papers are a collected series of essays that originally appeared in New York newspapers during the period of debate and ratification for the new Constitution.  In them, the series’ three authors–Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay–very clearly explain the nature of the Constitution and how it was to implemented. 

Their authority is, of course, unimpeachable.  Hamilton would become the first Secretary of the Treasury.  Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the United States.  And Madison, the primary architect of the Constitution itself, would go on the become our 4th president.

(By the way, I also love to refer to the Federalist Papers as an example of America’s depleted tradition of literacy.  The intricate, refined prose and thought of these essays were once the fodder of general interest newspaper materials; today, we’re lucky if we see them briefly mentioned in a college class and, even when we do, many of us marvel at how hard they are to read.  Alas.)

So, with no further ado, in anticipation of America’s 232nd annual “See ya later, England!” celebration, here are some of our most auspicious Founders’ answers to the pressing issues of the present day:

  • Is America a multicultural society, or a basically homogeneous Christian nation?

Answered by John Jay: “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country, to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs…”  –Federalist #2

  • Should American government be more Democratic (populist) or Republican (representative) in nature?

Answered by James Madison: “A pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischief of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole….A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  –Federalist #10

“In a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.  A democracy consequently will be confined to a small spot.  A republic may be extended over a large region.”  –Federalist #14

  • Can America ensure that its citizens have equal success and comfort?

Answered by James Madison: “Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government [pure democracy], have erroneously supposed, that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions…”  –Federalist #10

  • Does America recognize itself a religiously-founded nation?

 Answered by James Madison: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it [the success of the Constitutional Convention], a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.”  –Federalist #37

  • Should the national government be a vast bureaucracy with nearly infinite departments and programs?

Answered by James Madison: “The number of individuals employed under the Constitution of the United States, will be much smaller, than the number employed under the particular States.”  –Federalist #45

  • So, will the majority of governing be done by the federal authorities or by more localized government?

Answered by James Madison: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined.  Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite.  The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negociation [sic], and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected.  The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and property of the State.”  –Federalist #45

Answered by Alexander Hamilton: “The state governments will in all possible contingencies afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority.” –Federalist #28

  • Does that mean that the government should take away less of people’s property and wealth; that people have a right to retain as much of it as possible?

Answered by James Madison: “Government is instituted no less for protection of the property, than of the persons of individuals.”  –Federalist #54

  • Does that also mean that the laws should be fewer and simpler than they are today?

Answered by James Madison: “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”  –Federalist #62

 

No wonder liberal activists ignore the Founding Fathers!  Leftist ideology is bluntly refuted by their precisely-delineated logic.  This rejection of America’s obvious heritage is no secret: on July 4, 2006, the Los Angeles Times had the temerity to publish a scurrilous essay by Mark Kurlansky that ridiculed our nation’s foundation based on nothing more than the wild, ignorant biases he revealed.

Meanwhile, those of us who still revere and study the Founders know that our nation is a conservative bastion of enlightened policy; in Lincoln’s words, “the last best hope.”

To close on a somewhat tangential note, I’d like to share my love for the fact that Latter-day Saints are duty bound to honor the Constitution.  In our April 1935 General Conference, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. of the First Presidency, said, “That statement of the Lord, ‘I have established the Constitution of this land’ (D&C 101:80), puts the Constitution of the United States in the position in which it would be if it were written in this book of Doctrine and Covenants [a collection of revelations to Church prophets by Jesus Christ] itself.  This makes the Constitution the word of the Lord to us.”

2 comments on “Ask The Founders

  1. When I was in High School, we read the a good selection of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers in History class. Not summaries, the actual essays. This was not an AP History class.

    Now that I teach Freshman composition at the College level – most of my students don’t even know what the Federalist papers are. But they’ve all heard of Karl Marx.

    *Sigh*

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