Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton ****

I imagine authors expected most (New York state) voters to be able to read Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton. These eighty-five essays in favor of the U.S.  Constitution were published in various newspapers between 8/27/1787 and 5/28/1788. The authors assumed the readers were familiar with European, Greek and Roman history and could follow legal arguments.

In some cases, the authors were prescient when they addressed the issues of the subtleties of corruption, concerns about fake news and deceptions, the size of the federal government, and the power of the courts. In other cases, the were naive and idealistic where they assumed a homogenous population of voters who were patriotic and concerned about integrity and reputation.

If they returned today, they would be most surprised by our mass communications. Underneath many arguments is the assumption of geographically local communities and the difficulty of know someone who you do not meet face-to-face. On the other hand, I doubt they would have been much surprised by the civil war or the various states rights conflicts.

The other surprise would be how much the federal government has acquired dominion of so many governing functions. The writers of these papers mostly thought of the federal government as doing that which could *ONLY* be done by a central authority (war, treaties, interstate conflicts) and little else.

Still a fascinating read.

Closing caveat: Do not put these documents on a pedestal. They close with strong statements against term-limits, the bill of rights, and specific protection for freedom of the press. All of these things happened and most agree they were important.

Trivia: Just as an example, they mention the difficulties for a widow to control her husband's assets, not as a problem, but as a common practice that all would be familiar with, just like the history of Rome.

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