Thursday, April 2, 2009

Federalist Papers

I am struggling through the Federalist Papers. I've been at it off and on for about a year. There are over eighty letters each describing some facet of the proposed Constitution of the United States some 230 years ago. It is a project I wanted to do for a long time. I have felt we, Americans, do not study or know much about the roots of out country. I've read a history book about the Revolutionary War and now am tackling the Federalist Papers. It is a daunting task. I am not accustomed to the language and legalistic arguments used. The way ideas are expressed seem a little grandiose and are difficult for me to follow. I have a hard time staying with the thoughts being expressed as they tend to be arguments used to explain the intent of the document creators in the development of the Constitution. I read one letter and I can't recall the content. I am getting the general impression of things but the effort is taxing. I may read a few letters over the course of several evenings, then put it down for a month while I read for entertainment. However, I am determined to push my way through and I hope then to study the material a little to see if I can grasp the intent a little more firmly.

At this point I am convinced the Federal Government has grown in way and size never intended by the framers of the constitution. It is also evident that the state legislators were intended to elect the President and the Senate, the Legislature was the only body to be directly elected by the people. I don't know if that arrangement would've been workable over the long haul and perhaps the evolution of direct election of all of those offices would be too much to hope for, but it is clear that the will of the people is paramount. This is not the case today.

I shall continue my quest. I am only one man and must admit my ability to influence the political animal that towers over us is minimal, but I do believe that the citizenry of this country have an obligation to be informed, aware, and involved in our political process. I do not feel that is the situation today, and we are paying for it by a Congress that is bloated with special interests and does not reflect the will of the people.

1 comment:

  1. Keep going! The Federalist Papers are fundamental documents that helped get the Constitution ratified. Reading them, while perhaps a daunting task, is quite rewarding. Some letters are of more import than others, some better written than others, but all of them help you understand the early struggle to create the government we have today.
    The underlying question is, of course, why should the independent states give up their sovereignty to become part of a "Federal" system? But there are many other issues explored in the letters.
    Might I recommend The Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History edited by Michael Kammen? He includes some of the Federalist Papers, but also some of the Anti-Federalist writings that were contemporary - it can help you understand what the Federalist Papers were arguing for if you know what they were arguing against. There are also letters between founding fathers that shed light on the process. It's a great resource for anyone interested in the Federalist period, as it's all source documents from the men themselves. Becomes clear by reading, though, that the intent with the election of the Senate by state legislatures and then their election of the President was to insulate the government FROM the will of the people! The unwashed masses were feared by many of the more aristocratic founders, led by Alexander Hamilton (who actually proposed a constitutional monarchy w/Washington as king, at one point). Pay close attention to references to the "tyranny of the majority" as you read the FPs - the reason for representative democracy as opposed to direct democracy is to insulate minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Also instructional to read the condemnation of "factions" in the Federalist Papers, which calls for a political system without political parties!
    Congrats again on deciding to tackle the Federalist Papers - IMHO they should be required reading a few times throughout the school years.