Constitution Sunday: “Publius,” The Federalist XIV

“Publius,” The Federalist XIV [James Madison]

New-York Packet, November 30, 1787

With the draft Constitution having been published for consideration by the residents of each state in 1787 came questions about whether and how the federal government would effectuate its responsibilities given the vast land that the states and territories had already comprised—which James Madison found to be framed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River. Madison, in The Federalist XIV, articulated the reasoning behind the Constitution’s model for government, and at the heart of that reasoning was that this new form of government was not going to be a pure democracy of yore but rather a modern republic: “The true distinction” between a democracy and a republic is “that 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.” Read more

Constitution Sunday: “Philanthrop” to the Public

“Philanthrop” to the Public

American Mercury (Hartford), November 19, 1787

Following are excerpts from an article in the American Mercury, located in Hartford, Connecticut:

“Let us for a moment call to view the most specious reason that can be urged by the advocates for anarchy and confusion, and the opposers to this glorious Constitution, and see what weight a rational man could give Read more

Election of 1840: The Rhetoric

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William Henry Harrison. By: Albert Gallatin Hoit.

The Election of 1840 juxtaposed the Whig Party’s policies against the Democratic Party’s more fluid policies. The Whigs “possessed a more coherent program: a national bank, a protective tariff, government subsidies to transportation projects, the public lands treated as a source of revenue, and tax-supported public schools.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 583-84. The Democrats did not have such rigid policies, relying instead on the “emotional bond” they they had with their followers, rather than policy initiatives. Id. at 584 citing Matthew Crenson, The Federal Machine: Beginnings of Bureaucracy in Jacksonian America (Baltimore, 1975), 29.

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A Moral Reformation

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Patrick Henry. By: George Bagby Matthews.

As eluded to in Virtue as a Principle and Foundation, vices had come to plague American society shortly after the American Revolution. Patrick Henry said, in 1780, that he “feared that our Body politic was dangerously sick,” as from top to bottom, society appeared to be embracing vice. Patrick Henry to Jefferson, Feb. 15, 1780, Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, III, 293.

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The Emergence of American Principles and Tempers

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Thomas Paine. By: Laurent Dabos.

As the American Revolution approached “most Americans had become convinced that they were ‘aptly circumstanced to form the best republicks, upon the best terms that ever came to the lot of any people before us.'” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 98 quoting Phila. Pa. Packet, Feb. 12, 1776; Purdie’s Wmsbg. Va. Gazette, May 17, 1776.

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Virtue as a Principle and Foundation

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John Adams. By: Gilbert Stuart.

At the time of the Revolution, republicanism was permeating political discourse and political theory. John Adams asked in 1776 that “[i]f there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?” He continued by explaining that a republican constitution “introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal.” John Adams, Thoughts on Government, Adams, ed., Works of John Adams, IV, 194, 199.

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Hamilton’s Ideal Politician

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Alexander Hamilton. By: John Trumbull.

It is no secret that Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton disliked each other. That rivalry culminated in the infamous duel in 1804, leaving Hamilton to die just days later. However, prior to that, Hamilton’s dislike of Burr led Hamilton to pontificate on which individuals would make the best politicians in America. See Gordon Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, 237.

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