Federalist No. 25

Hamilton’s cynicism is our reality. We have fallen victim to a collusion, not one of direct complicity between the legislature and the executive but one of acquiescence. From Korea to Iraq, the national legislature, with the brief exception of the immediate aftermath of Vietnam, has given the president everything he wanted from tacit permission in launching wars to the appropriations needed to continue them. This is all done not under the pretext of invading Indians but of invading communists, terrorists or other subversives. Hamilton mocks “parchment barriers” that protect liberty as well he should, for we in the 21st century have lacked the will to hold our representatives to account for the gross violations of such wise protections.

Mr. Hamilton continues the subject of military matters under the proposed constitution in this essay. His basic thesis is that the national government ought to be in charge of the military. Because if each state was in charge of raising its own military, Hamilton foresaw that a few members of the confederacy would gain a disproportionate martial force because of the dangers inherent in their geographic locations, whether it be American Indian tribes or European empires. As Hamilton explains,

In this situation, military establishments, nourished by mutual jealousy, would be apt to swell beyond their natural or proper size; and being at the separate disposal of the members, they would be engines for the abridgment or demolition of the national authority.

Note the irony for the readers of the 21st century. His fear was that military establishments would grow disproportionate large and unruly if left in the hands of the states. But the very opposite has come to pass. Now, under the central and centralizing national government the military establishment is the largest in the world and has grown almost without measure.

After discussing the need for national control of the military, an argument that makes logical sense, Hamilton resumes his attacks on those that question and caution against the maintenance of standing armies. Here he reveals the basic philosophic differences between a nationalist/broad construction of the constitution and the more local/strict construction of Jeffersonian republicanism. He mocks the Anti-Federalists who desire to lay down “parchment barriers” which in his view will only be violated the first moment a pretense can be found, or as he argues a necessary cause. Hamilton, ever the broad constructionist argues against any provision banning standing armies from being inserted into the constitution as worthless and without teeth. How will one prevent a standing army from forming? How will parchment protect against a collusion of the executive and legislative branches intent on warmongering. Indeed, “how easy would it be to fabricate pretenses of approaching danger!” writes Hamilton. “Indian hostilities, instigated by Spain or Britain, would always be at hand. Provocations to produce the desired appearances might even be given to some foreign power”. Hamilton’s cynicism is our reality. We have fallen victim to a collusion, not one of direct complicity between the legislature and the executive but one of acquiescence. From Korea to Iraq, the national legislature, with the brief exception of the immediate aftermath of Vietnam, have given the president everything he wanted from tacit permission in launching wars to the appropriations needed to continue them. This is all done not under the pretext of invading Indians but of invading communists, terrorists or other subversives. Hamilton mocks “parchment barriers” that protect liberty as well he should for we in the 21st century have lacked the will to hold our representatives to account for the gross violations of such wise protections.

The myriad violations not only of the war powers of the constitution but of nearly every restraint placed upon the national government laid down in Article 1, section 8 have produced the sorrowful state in which many understand the fundamental American law encapsulated in the constitution as “rules and maxims calculated in their very nature to run counter to the necessities of society.” What are our needs? Surely with the type of government we live under today it is one of insatiable appetite. One that seeks security in ruling rather than living in liberty. What are necessities for us today, mainly the maintenance of bases worldwide and acting in the role of international stabilizer, threatens to render or has already rendered the very fabric of the document that should be at the center of our political lives. With increasing centralization at home and maintenance of an empire of stability abroad that document drafted in the summer of 1787 is no longer fit to the necessities we have created for ourselves.

How many “wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed, because they know that every breach of the fundamental laws, though dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country, and forms a precedent for other breaches where the same plea of necessity does not exist at all, or is less urgent and palpable.” This is why so many preach a “living constitution,” one that can be altered easily, can adapt to the growing demands of an ever-expanding national authority. For the lovers of liberty, this is a time of crisis and we must stand up or the constitution itself becomes a mere paper barrier.

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2 Responses to Federalist No. 25

  1. Very interesting article, thanks. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you very much for sharing this. I have subscribed to your RSS feed. Please keep up the good work.

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