Sunday, August 1, 2010

A long reading project is done!

I have felt for some time I wanted to know more about the founding of our country. I've read some history books from that period and read articles that have provided information on the times. However, about two and a half years ago I took on the task of reading the Federalist Papers. Mostly written by Hamilton, Madison and Jay I looked forward to being enlightened concerning the intent our founders had in creating the constitution of our country. The Federalist Papers are a series of articles published in the New York papers explaining the intent of the authors of the constitution as there was a widespread debate raging in the country over the upcoming election of ratify the constitution.

It was tough reading. The English language of the day does not read easily, the sentence structure is confusing, and there far more references the the latter or the preceding that left me having to try and go back and see which was which. The Federalist Papers are a wonderful sleep aid. I tried to read a letter in one sitting, sometimes that was too much. I am done, just finished a week or so ago. I feel a sense of triumph in having stuck with it. I feel a sense of disappointment in that I don't feel much more knowledgeable than I did before. I also feel relief in that I no longer have to pick that book out of a sense of task, but to reread upon occasion for understanding.

I think now I shall look for a text that helps me understand the writings and the context in which they were written.

What did I learn?

The men who wrote the constitution were a strong group. Their values and opinions were diverse and ran deep. The founding fathers were astute when it came to politics, human behavior and very aware of systems of government in place in other parts of the world. I think they had a strong sense of evolution of issues and left parts of the constitution vague for that very purpose. Succeeding generations would interpret and make their own sense of things.

I do not think these men were states rights folks and wanted a necessarily small federal government, but I think that had an idea of what they could propose and successfully pass the electorate at the time. I think they showed profound wisdom when they argued that the federal government needed to be responsible for making treaties, enforcing treaties, providing for the common defense and had to right to raise funds to provide for the services provided.

I found their reasoning for using trial by jury in most cases to be most profound. Juries are to provide a check on the corruption of the judges, and the judges are a check on the corruption of the jury. They men understood human nature and our tendency to always act in our own best interests.

I intend to go back and study further. I want first hand knowledge that I have developed instead of assholes interpreting the constitution for me. I am glad that I am done. I do have a sense of accomplishment even though I don't feel a great sense of knowledge, but at least I know where to look.

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