GrCr: Cyc Am Pol Thght ~ outlines #2 ~ Ch. 6-12 (synopsis separately)

February 10, 2018

Outline ~ Lecture Seven ~ Road to the Declaration of Independence…..29

I. The previous lecture looked at the historical road to the Revolutionary War.

  1. The path that it cut ultimately led from Concord to Yorktown.
  2. The road also took on philosophical substance as it meandered to nationhood.
  3. Both elements of the revolutionary road led through the Declaration of Independence.
    1. The declaration is the culmination of the petitioning process: a historical bill of particulars.
    2. It is an expression of the philosophical consensus forged among colonial elites.
    3. It became, in the hands of Lincoln, the sine qua non of Americanism.
  1. In this lecture, we will examine the evolution of the philosophical content of the American reaction to the British actions we discussed in the last lecture.
  2. This evolution went from an appeal to positive law to an appeal to natural law.
    1. The first wave of response was an appeal from British citizens to British law.
    2. The second wave of response was an appeal from American citizens to natural law.

II. The initial colonial response came from the perspective of the “rights of Englishmen.”

  1. These rights flowed from the historical struggle with the Crown.
    1. They were made part of English constitutional and common law in the agreements we reviewed in the second lecture.
    2. This appeal stemmed from the fact that American colonists had something of a dual citizenship: They were British subjects and citizens of their colonies.
    3. This response spoke to the commonality of the British colonial experience in America.
  2. James Otis (1725–1783), a lawyer in Massachusetts, penned “The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved” (1764) in response to the Sugar Tax.
    1. His argument was that which he had used in the Writs of Assistance Case in 1761.
    2. Paramount here was the contention that constitutional and common law, as well as colonial charters, put the rights of Englishmen beyond Parliament’s reach.
    3. Otis also invoked Locke, the theoretical chronicler of the Glorious Revolution.
    4. From this logic, he argued that natural rights were beyond Parliament’s reach.
    5. Regardless of the source of the right, the right was indisputable: Consent is required for taxation, and the taking of property without consent is a violation of right.
  3. John Dickinson’s (1732–1808) political career extended from the Stamp Act Congress (where he was a Pennsylvania delegate and prime contributor to its Declaration of Rights and Grievances) through the Jefferson administration.
  1. In response to the Townshend Acts, Dickinson wrote a series of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767–1768).
  2. More conciliatory in tone than Otis’s writings, Dickinson sounded similar themes.
  3. His second letter declared the acts “unconstitutional and destructive to the liberty of these colonies.”
  4. His fourth letter concludes them to be “unreasonable, and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British constitution.”
  5. He further made a nascent federalism argument in contending that Parliament had the authority to use duties to regulate its trade with its colonies, but did not have the authority to tax for purposes of raising revenue alone.

D. In these responses to parliamentary acts, positive (written, man- made) and natural (transcendent, natural or God-given) law were both cited, but the colonists led with positive law under the guise of the rights of Englishmen.

III. The tone of colonial responses shifted as Parliament continued to assert its authority.

  1. Arguments moved from resting on the rights of Englishmen to the rights of man.
    1. The colonists failed to gain British acceptance of their constitutional rights.
    2. Spurned, they turned to arguments pressing their rights under the law of nature.
  2. Sam Adams (1722–1803) was an early and leading revolutionary provocateur.
    1. A Bostonian and second cousin of John Adams, he is best known as a radical activist: organizer of the Sons of Liberty, creator of the Committees of Correspondence, and instigator of the Boston Tea Party.
    2. Adams also took up his pen, and the result was an appeal to universal principles.
    3. “The Rights of the Colonists” (1772) is representative of his arguments.
    4. He orders the three sections of his pamphlet from natural to positive rights.
  1. In what is otherwise a rehash of Locke, Adams pointedly rejects the argument that natural rights can be alienated.
  2. When they are suppressed, revolution is the only “natural” answer.

C. James Wilson’s (1742–1798) pamphlet, “Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament” (1774), rejected any parliamentary authority over the colonies.

  1. A Pennsylvania lawyer who was an original member of the Supreme Court, Wilson argued that the British constitution was legitimate because it was based on natural law and rights.
  2. While it accords liberty to its citizens, it has pushed Americans out of its orbit.
  3. The British can check their Parliament; Americans cannot.
  4. Without such a check—essential to secure and maintain consent—Parliament can have no authority over Americans.
  5. America’s only ties to England are through the constitutionally “checked” king.

D. Thomas Jefferson’s “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (1774) was written as instructions for the Virginia delegation to the Continental Congress.

  1. It made the same arguments as did Wilson’s “Considerations,” with one exception.
  2. Jefferson contended that the king was a creature of, and servant to, the people.
  3. If the king abuses his power, the people need not obey him.
  4. Here is a full measure of revolutionary Lockeanism.
  5. The contract is mutual, and obligations run both ways.

IV. The interaction of events and arguments framed American revolutionary radicalism.

  1. The core of American liberal philosophy formed in response to British actions.
  2. The colonists initially based their arguments on positive law conceptions of political legitimacy, but British recalcitrance led them to look beyond positive law and to its universalistic antecedents.

C. Material conditions change the basis and shape of political conceptions.

  1. This ushered in a revolution in both deed and word:
    1. A departure from an empire.
    2. A redefinition of once shared concepts, such as representation, consent, constitution, and sovereignty.
  2. American liberalism had transcended the British experience.

Suggested Readings:

Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.
Carl Becker, The Declaration of Independence.
Cass Canfield, Samuel Adams’ Revolution, 1765–1776.
Oliver P. Chitwood, Richard Henry Lee, Statesman of the Revolution.
J. Kent McGaughy, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia: A Portrait of an American Revolutionary.

Outline ~ Lecture Eight ~ A “Natural” Revolutionary—Thomas Paine…. 34

I. Thomas Paine (1737–1809) was a revolutionary man in revolutionary times.

  1. He is remembered as a pamphleteer and author of revolutionary tracts.
  2. His revolutionary yearnings led him to write and act.
  3. After coming to America, he wrote urging the colonists to revolt.
    1. Common Sense was published in January 1776 and sold 500,000 copies.
    2. His series The American Crisis (1777–1783) implored Americans to persevere in the struggle.
  4. With the end of the American Revolution, Paine went to France.

1. The Rights of Man (1791) extended the philosophical

arguments of Common Sense to meet the criticisms of liberal rationalism in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France.

2. In The Age of Reason, Paine extolled the virtues of deism, a “religion” of reason.

E. Paine was born to agitate and revolt and was restless in other settings.

  1. Unlike many of the American revolutionaries, Paine was a difficult, angry, embittered man who never found a secure place in society.
    1. He was born in poverty in England in 1737.
    2. His early life was a litany of misery and failure.
      1. He dropped out of school at age 12.
      2. He scuffled through a series of jobs, often losing them afterconfrontations with employers.
      3. His first wife died a year after their marriage.
      4. Ironically, the man who would later trumpet deism evensought appointment as a minister of the Anglican faith.
      5. His life in England was a series of restless meanderingsgrounded in instability.
    3. At the urging of Benjamin Franklin, Paine immigrated to America in 1774.
      1. His advocacy of revolution gave him purpose and prominence.
      2. So moving was his prose that Washington had it read to his troops.
      3. Yet Paine’s fame did not salve his restlessness.
    4. He sailed to France in 1791, published The Rights of Man, and was elected to the French National Convention.
      1. After initial success, he felt out of favor and was imprisoned by Robespierre.
      2. In prison, he believed that Ambassador Morris and President Washington had forsaken him.
      3. He was released from prison after Robespierre’s fall, ultimately returning to America in 1802.
      4. He died in New York, penniless and friendless.
    5. Paine was borne dispossessed, and he died that way.
  2. From the perspective of American political thought, Paine’s most important and durable work was Common Sense.

A. The title itself did double duty.

  1. For the educated, it tied his argument to the “common sense” school of thought of Scottish Enlightenment philosophers, such as Thomas Reid.
  2. For the common man, it was an appeal to the universal reason that made political principles knowable and actionable.
  1. Its rhetoric was simple, soaring, and substantial all at once.
    1. Of English kings, Paine wrote, “Could we take off the darkcovering of antiquity and trace them to their first rise, we should find the first of them nothing better than the principal ruffian of some restless gang.”2. Of American ties to Britain, he wrote, “There is something very absurd, in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island. In no instance hath nature made the satellite larger than its primary planet.”3. Of the exceptionalism within America’s grasp, he commented, “The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth…A new era for politics is struck—a new method of thinking hath arisen…Our duty to mankind at large, as well as to ourselves, instruct us to renounce the alliance.”
  2. The themes of Common Sense flowed from the logic of liberalism and the course of current affairs.
    1. America had sought through petition the redress of its grievances, to no avail.
    2. Respect for natural law and natural rights is necessary for free government.
    3. Reason reveals the centrality of liberty, equality, and property.
    4. Reason dictates that government must be limited and grounded on consent.
    5. Consent must be actively given, not passively conveyed.
    6. Legitimate government must be re-contracted with every generation.
  3. When reading Paine, one must always keep in mind that he was a revolutionary, a critic, not a constructor of governing institutions.
  4. When he wrote of governmental structure, he wrote as an idealist.

1. As with most revolutionaries, he seemed to believe that the revolution would cure all ills.

2. Recall the response of Karl Marx to the question of what communist society would look like: “I do not write cookbooks for history.”

F. Paine did, though, sketchily note the ingredients in the post- revolution political stew.

  1. Each state should have equal representation in Congress.
  2. These representatives should be delegates for the interests of their constituents.
  3. A president should be chosen by Congress from a slate drawn by list (at random).
  4. Elections for all offices should be held annually.
  5. Three-fifths votes should be required for passage of legislation.

IV. In all of Paine’s works, one finds a conception of exceptionalism.

  1. The geographic locus of this exceptionalism was America:
    1. The result of a secular virgin birth.
    2. The example for all of mankind.
    3. A repayment of a debt owed to nature itself.
  2. The last point above, though, shows that Paine’s real attachment was not to America per se but to liberalism itself as a revolutionary philosophy to throw off oppressors.
    1. Man, free and equal as nature intended, would always be exceptional.
    2. Circumstance gave America the burden of proving this to the world.

V. In the end, Paine’s attachment was not to a country but a cause.

  1. He always fell out of favor with the revolutionary leaders who once embraced him.
    1. He believed that Washington sold out the promise of the Revolution as president.
    2. He was insufficiently radical for Robespierre.
  2. His revolution knew no borders.

Suggested Readings:

Harvey J. Kaye, Thomas Paine and the Promise of America.
Scott Liell, 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to American Independence.
Thomas Paine, Common Sense and Other Writings (Gordon Wood, ed.).

 Outline ~ Lecture Nine ~ The Unconscious Dialectic of Crèvecoeur ……. 39

I. The story of J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur (1735–1813) is poignant and profound.

  1. He was not a philosopher per se but an aware participant-observer, something of an amateur social anthropologist.
  2. In his Letters from an American Farmer (1782), we see two things:
    1. A romantic picture of American possibilities.
    2. A tragic realization of the limits of human possibilities.
  3. In this juxtaposition of idealistic romanticism and tragic realism, we see an unconscious dialectic:
    1. America is new and virgin.
    2. America is old and tainted.

3. At the core of this is the nature of man.

4. It is this nature that becomes the focal point for the philosophical thought of the coming period of construction and founding.

D. In Crèvecoeur, too, we see the beginnings of the American romance with nature.

II. Letters describes a peculiar American odyssey: an immigrant to the New World, conveying stories about it to a European audience unfamiliar with frontier life.

III. The A.B. C.D. E.F.

A. B. Crèvecoeur not only provided a picture of life in America but also introduced the yeoman farmer.

Embedded in this story are quintessentially early American liberal themes:

  1. The nature of the “new” man, freed from the oppressions of the past.
  2. The natural liberty, equality, and sociability of man when unburdened by hierarchy.
  3. The moral market that results from self-interested pursuits.
  4. The exceptionalism of America, its centrality to the liberation of mankind.

context for the Letters merits a brief discussion.

Crèvecoeur was born Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur in France in 1735.

Educated by Jesuits, he came to America in 1755 as a surveyor for the French during the French-Indian War.

After the war, he stayed, becoming a farmer in New York and, later, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

He took the name John Hector St. John, married, and had children.

With the onset of the Revolution and the illness of his father, he returned to France.

While there, he published the Letters and became a minor celebrity.

  1. He gained entry into the French society of letters.
  2. Fame enabled him to secure appointment as French general consul to New York.
  3. Recalled during the French Revolution, he died there in 1813.
  1. Washington and Franklin recommended the Letters to potential immigrants as “a faithful, yet colored picture” of life in America.
  2. Embedded in the Letters are the liberal and optimistic values of the New World.
  1. Dominating the collection of letters is a notion of American exceptionalism.
    1. In America, human rebirth and regeneration occur as a matter of course.
      1. Man has escaped the corrupt past (Europe).
      2. Here, he is free from imposed classes and religion and falseconstraints.
      3. Freed from the blight of ancient regimes, American man livesaccording to nature.
    2. Living with nature takes the fetters off of human nature, and man is free and sociable.
      1. Self-interest, the rule of nature, governs human behavior.
      2. Individuality emerges as people work for themselves and are autonomous.
      3. Equality results from the common occupation of farming and status as citizens.
      4. Freedom allows all to pursue and satisfy their own desires.
    3. From this flows a moral market.
      1. In a competitive arrangement with nature and others, good results occur.
      2. Bounty and the good life exist for all.
      3. Community arises from self-interested pursuits.
  2. Beneath this, though—and perhaps without Crèvecoeur realizing it— an unconscious dialectic is at work that undermines the optimism of exceptionalism.
    1. In America, freedom reigns, but there are tensions.
      1. Nature can be brutal, as well as benevolent.
      2. Humans can be cooperative and social but also vicious and demeaning.
    2. Slavery gives the lie to liberty and equality.
      1. In Charlestown, Crèvecoeur revels in luxury.
      2. That luxury is made possible by slavery.

C. The Revolutionary War makes demands on all citizens.
1. The British and the Indians are enemies of the state but not of Crèvecoeur himself.
2. As with Hobbes, war brings about a return to a dire “state of nature.”
3. The self-interested social contract crumbles.
4. The only option is to exit—to run into the space of the west. 5. Even there, though, enemies abound.

D. Government puts too many demands on man.

  1. He loses his sovereignty.
  2. He loses himself.

VI. Crèvecoeur ends up raising more questions than he answers.

  1. His return to the past (Europe) relieves him of the requirement to deal with the future (America).
  2. Those who stay have no choice but to deal with the hopes and realities of life in the New World.
  3. In doing so, they deal with many of the same concepts treated by Crèvecoeur:
    1. The multifaceted nature of human beings.
    2. The role played by the space afforded by the frontier.
    3. The limits of governmental authority over the individual.

Suggested Readings:

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer.
Wilson Allen Gay and Roger Asselineau, St. John de Crèvecoeur: The Life
of an American Farmer.
D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, chapter 3.

Outline ~ Lecture Ten ~ John Adams—“Constitutionalist” …………………. 43

I. John Adams (1735–1826) is arguably the least heralded and most ridiculed of the founding fathers.

A. A listing of his service to America reveals the breadth of his dedication to it:

  1. Pamphleteer against the Stamp Act.
  2. Defense attorney for the British soldiers tried for the Boston Massacre.
  3. Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
  4. Delegate to the Continental Congress.
  5. Member of the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence.
  6. Member of the convention that wrote Massachusetts’s Constitution.
  1. Minister to France during the Revolution and Great Britain after it.
  2. First vice president and second president of America.
  1. Yet Adams is on no currency or mountain face, nor does he have a mini-series.
  2. This injustice likely results from his personal manner, occasional paranoia and pretension, and juxtaposition between Washington and Jefferson.
  3. We miss much of importance to American political thought, however, if we dismiss Adams as a chubby curmudgeon or brush him aside with blithe generalizations.
  1. Adams was arguably the most theoretically inclined American thinker of his time.
    1. He was a Lockean liberal with a great affection for the British system of government.
    2. He was a revolutionary who believed that the corruption in British governmental practice left him no other choice than revolution.
    3. In his zeal for revolution, he never let his reason outrun his emotional attachments or tint his lenses rose-colored.
    4. Russell Kirk understandably, but mistakenly, called Adams a philosophical conservative.
      1. Adams was a “traditional” revolutionary, put off by the excesses of the French Revolution and comfortable with removing the corruption from British politics and transplanting British politics to the United States.
      2. He was a student of the “science of politics.”
      3. He was a man of the Glorious Revolution in an age of enlightenment, a liberal distrustful of broad claims of reason at variance with experience.
  2. To sketch core elements of Adams’s political thought, we will sample from a diverse array of his writings, including “Thoughts on Government” (1776), A Defense of the Constitutions of the United States (1787), and his correspondence with Jefferson.

A. First and foremost, Adams was a constitutionalist.
1. His only book-length writing was his Defense of the Constitutions of the United States.

  1. He wrote it in response to what he saw as European condescension toward fledgling American experiments in self- government.
  2. To Adams, constitutions were needed to constrain the power of government and establish the stability necessary to ensure “the greatest degree of happiness to the greatest number of people.”
  3. The foundation of a just constitution is virtue.
  4. Unlike Paine and, as we will see, Jefferson, Adams believed that constitutions should outlive their authors.
  1. His partiality for enduring constitutions flowed from his conception of human nature.
    1. He saw much bad in it: indolence, selfish passions, vanity.
    2. Yet he also saw much good: reason, educability, and virtue.
    3. Virtue, a classical republican concept, made possible action for the public good.
    4. When constructing constitutions and governments, this mixed nature of man had to be respected.
  2. This led Adams to advocate a classical vision of republican government.
    1. Mixed government in the classical world refers to the representation of the one, the few, and the many.
    2. Sometimes confused with a preference for monarchy, this view sought to balance impartially the interests of the few and the many through law.
    3. Adams saw sovereignty as residing in the people.
    4. This gave them the ability to delegate to government the authority to rule.
  3. In Adams’s notion of mixed government, we see a desire to balance interests.
    1. He advocates a bicameral legislature, with the lower house reserved to the people and the upper chamber confined to the upper classes.
    2. Not unlike the British model, this would give all classes voice in governance.
    3. Each chamber would be able to check the other, as well as act in concert.
  1. The executive—the one—would be separate from the legislature and check it.
  2. Judges would be independent of both, acting as a further constraint on corruption.
  3. Legislative elections would be frequent, and offices should rotate.
  1. It is on this notion of mixed government that much “democratic” criticism of Adams hinges.
    1. Adams believed that this mechanism best ensured the voice of virtue in government.
    2. He sought to grow and enshrine a “natural aristocracy” as rulers.
      1. He did not see this aristocracy confined to the upper classes; he simply believed that the benefits of wealth would be more likely to produce it.
      2. He also advocated public education to promote a broad-based virtuous citizenry.
    3. Lest this make Adams seem inegalitarian, realize that Jefferson, as we will see in Lecture Sixteen, also believed that the natural aristoi (“best men”) should rule.
      1. A lovely exchange of letters in 1813 made clear their commonality on this point.
      2. Where they differed was in how the aristoi were to be selected.
  2. In the end, Adams tried to address the tensions in human nature identified by Crèvecoeur.
    1. He sought a mixed government to balance the interests of the classes in society.
    2. His goal was to ensure the rule of the best and the elevation of the rest.
    3. Through this structural arrangement, grounded in popular sovereignty, Adams sought to advance a public good—to promote the best characteristics of man while checking the worst.
    4. His emphasis on governmental structure and stability to control man’s passions drew on the lessons of the past and pointed toward the future.

E. In his goals, if not in the means of their realization, Adams stands as a bridge between the revolutionary and constitutional generations.

Suggested Readings:

John Adams, The Portable John Adams (John P. Diggins, ed.).
Zoltán Haraszti, John Adams and the Prophets of Progress.
David McCullough, John Adams.
C. Bradley Thompson, John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty.

Outline ~ Lecture Eleven ~ A Political Constitution……………………………. 48

I. The Constitution of 1788 was not the first American national constitution.

  1. The Articles of Confederation framed the national government from 1781–1789.
  2. The articles were perceived by many, but not all, to be a failure. 1. We will look at the anti-federalists in Lecture Fifteen.
    2. Here, we will briefly look at the perceived failings of the articles to set the context for our discussion of the adoption of the Constitution.
  3. The articles established a weak central government.
    1. The document had no power to execute and enforce the laws it passed.
    2. It had little authority to raise revenue.
    3. It could not keep the states from impairing commerce.
    4. It did not allow the national government to pursue a coherent foreign policy.
  1. Concerted national action was stymied by the rules the articles placed on legislation.
    1. Statutory legislation required a vote of three-quarters of the states.
    2. Amendments to the articles required unanimity.
  2. General elite unease with the articles became acute as the decade wore on.1. In 1786, Virginia called a conference of the states to address commercial issues at Annapolis, but only five states sent delegates, and the conference failed to gain a quorum.2. Shays’s Rebellion—an uprising of debt-ridden Massachusetts farmers, which was put down by a quasi-official militia on February 3, 1787—was the final straw.

    3. Congress called for a convention, on February 21, 1787, whose “sole and express purpose” was to draft amendments to strengthen the Articles of Confederation.

    4. Fifty-five men from 12 states convened in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787.

  3. The construction of the Constitution was very much a political battle.

II. From the outset of the convention, the Articles of Confederation were off the table.

  1. Central here was the Virginia delegation.
  2. Guiding it was James Madison (1751–1836).
    1. He was a Princeton graduate and veteran of the Virginia legislature, the Congress of the Confederation, and the Annapolis Conference.
    2. A sickly 36-year-old of small stature, he is often mislabeled as the “father of the Constitution.”
    3. Though his theoretical understandings of politics were superb, he did not act alone at the convention.
    4. Madison is better thought of as the “master strategist” of the convention.
    5. After months of study, he prepared the Virginia Plan.
    6. An early motion to use the Virginia Plan as the basis for discussions proved a strategic masterstroke and led to a final document strongly influenced by it.
  1. The Constitution resulted from general and more specific strategic concerns.
    1. Two overarching strategic needs were imposed by the process itself.
      1. The delegates had to craft a document to which they could agree.
      2. They also had to design a document that the states would accept and ratify.
      3. To help frame the solemnity of the event, Washington sat as the president of the convention, and Benjamin Franklin was a part of the Pennsylvania delegation.
    2. Specific strategic problems arose over disagreements among the delegations.
    3. The delegates used various strategic skills to work around them. 1. The status of new states upon admission was left vague (Art.IV, §3, §§1).
      2. The decision about who would vote was left to the states (Art.I, §2, §§1).
      3. The election of the president was vested in a convoluted Rube

      Goldberg mechanism, the Electoral College (Art. II, §1, §§2). 4. Slavery was skirted by log-rolling compromises (Art. I, §2,

      §3; Art. I, §9, §§1; Art IV, §2, §§3).
      5. The Connecticut Compromise defined representation and saved the convention (Art. I, §2, §§2; §3, §§1).
      6. The specific scope of the national government and the authority of the state governments were specified in part (Art. I, §8, §§18; 10th Amendment).

  2. The strategic decisions did not end with the drafting of the provisions of the Constitution.
    1. The delegates had to get ratification by the states.
    2. Under the Articles of Confederation, unanimity was required for amendment.1. This was an impossible hurdle to leap.
      2. Rhode Island did not even attend the convention.
    3. The answer: Write rules that favor ratification.
      1. Ratification would require a positive vote by only two-thirds of the states.

2. Instead of sending the Constitution to the Congress or state governments, the convention called for special ratification conventions to be held in the states.

  1. New York and Virginia had to ratify, or the new government would be a sham.
    1. Hamilton organized the writing of The Federalist Papers.
    2. This gave the federalists a coherent argument for the proposed Constitution.
  2. At the end of the ratification process, the first Congress added the Bill of Rights to buy off “soft” opposition to the new government under the Constitution.

V. This brief story of the Constitution as a political document is not intended to diminish its philosophical content but to establish the context of its creation.

  1. The next three lectures will focus on that content.
  2. This discussion frames some of the open points of controversy that will animate the cycles of American political thought in the future.
  1. Who were the parties to the creation of the national government?
  2. How powerful is the national government?
  3. What is to limit it?
  4. What position do the states have in the constitutional order?

C. Whatever the answers to these questions, the Constitution did what the Declaration of Independence did not do: constitute a national government.

  1. What kind of government this would become would, in part, be worked out over time.
  2. Much of the evolution of American liberalism, and the cycles it has experienced, developed within this “working out” process.

Suggested Readings:

Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation.
William C. Miller, The Business of May Next.
John Roche, “The Founding Fathers: A Reform Caucus in Action.”
Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic.

Outline ~ Lecture Twelve ~ A Philosophical Constitution—Faction ……… 53

I. The Federalist Papers were highbrow propaganda, produced for explicitly political purposes, but they were more.

  1. In a series of 85 papers, Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804), James Madison, and John Jay (1745–1829) laid out a defense of the proposed Constitution.
    1. Jay, a New Yorker of national repute, was seriously injured in a street riot.
    2. As a result, he contributed only five papers.
  2. The Federalist Papers were a concerted response to various arguments made against the Constitution by the anti-federalists (whose arguments we will examine in Lecture 15).
  3. They detailed, in pointed and well-researched fashion, the necessity of ratification.

1. Early papers focused on the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.

2. The middle part of the series examined the structural principles of federalism and the separation of powers.

3. The last third of the papers examined the three branches of the new government.

  1. The papers gave proponents of the Constitution fodder for arguments on its behalf.
  2. They provided a unified, coherent argument that helped gain ratification.
    1. They appeared anonymously from the quill of “Publius.”
    2. We call them The Federalist Papers.
    3. We will use the terms Publius and The Federalist interchangeably to refer to these writings.
  1. Noting the political utility of the papers should not diminish the philosophical arguments they advanced.
    1. Though published anonymously, they provide an impressive gloss on the reconstructed logic of the Constitution.
    2. They were not the musings of simple politicos.
      1. Madison’s preparation for the Constitutional Convention led him to closely study political theory and the history of prior efforts at self-governance.
      2. Hamilton’s education at King’s College (Columbia), his Revolutionary War service, and his practice of law gave him keen insight into affairs of state.
      3. The papers represent an impressive breadth and depth of knowledge brought to bear in explaining the Constitution and its fit with republican self-government.
    3. With Madison’s notes from the convention hidden from public view until after his death in 1836, The Federalist informed initial understanding of the Constitution.
  2. At the heart of the argument of The Federalist is what Hamilton calls the “science of politics.”

A. Prior efforts to build self-governing societies, Hamilton tells us in Federalist No. 9, had failed; they had ended in tyrannies.

  1. Fortuitous circumstance had made it possible for those who wrote the Constitution to address these problems in a manner that allowed for stable republican governance. As he puts it in Federalist No. 9, “The science of politics, however, like most other sciences, has received great improvement.”
  2. Hamilton cites four (previously understood) elements of the science of politics.
    1. The separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers into different departments protects liberty while preserving order.
    2. The “introduction of legislative balances and checks” helps confine the power of the government.
    3. Providing judicial tenure “during good behavior” frees the courts from political control and protects governance under law.
    4. “Representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election” allows for popular control and assurance against corruption.
  3. In the exceptional context of America, the framers were able to apply these canons of the science of politics.
    1. As Hamilton puts it in the first paper in the series:It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. (Federalist No. 1, emphasis added)
    2. The invention of America was an invention for mankind.
  4. Hamilton argues that not only have these previous principles (separation of powers, legislative checks and balances, independent judiciary, and representation) been given to us, but America adds one more element to the science of politics: the novel element of space (extent of territory).

1. Recall that Crèvecoeur found refuge for liberty in moving into open space.

2. Compare Hamilton’s take on this: “To this catalogue of circumstances that tend to the amelioration of popular systems of civil government, I shall venture, however novel it may appear to some, to add one more… the ENLARGEMENT of the ORBIT within which such systems are to revolve” (Federalist No. 9).

IV. Central to any understanding of The Federalist is the concept of faction and Madison’s argument in Federalist No. 10.

  1. Faction is “the mortal disease under which popular governments have everywhere perished.”
    1. Lecture Fourteen will look at the various ways scholars have interpreted The Federalist’s argument for controlling faction.
    2. Here, it suffices to lay out Madison’s understanding of it and the mechanisms by which it is controlled under the Constitution.
  2. As Madison defines the problem of faction, it has five parts:
    1. It is a group of citizens.
    2. This group can be a minority or majority.
    3. Their actions spring from “impulses of passion or interest.”
    4. It uses governmental power to encroach on rights andliberties.
    5. It opposes the public good.

C. The Constitution provides for controlling the effects of faction.
1. Its cause is in human nature and cannot be removed without destroying liberty.

  1. Minority factions pose no systemic difficulty, because majorities will defeat them.
  2. The difficulty is in controlling the effects of majority factions.
  3. Democracy cannot accomplish this.

D. The “republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government” lies in the teachings of the science of politics.

  1. Two of these are from the past and were catalogued by Montesquieu: representation and governmental structure.
  2. One of them—space—comes from the present and is purely Americans
Suggested Readings:

Martin Diamond, The Founding of the Democratic Republic.
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist Papers.
Richard Hofstadter, “The Founding Fathers: An Age of Realism,” in The American Political Tradition.
Richard K. Matthews, If Men Were Angels: James Madison and the Heartless Empire of Reason.