Ask The Founders

Here’s one for Independence Day.  This is the thrid time I’ve posted this now, and I like it more each time I read it!

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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 to become our 4th president.

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

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