Federalist 1

Federalist 1 – Introduction

by: Alexander Hamilton

(The Full Text of Federalist 1)

Obstacles to Ratification of the Constitution – Human Nature

Alexander Hamilton

In Federalist Paper No. 1 – Introduction, Alexander Hamilton introduces the purpose of this series of articles we now refer to as The Federalist Papers which is to explain the new Constitution that will replace the unworkable Articles of Confederacy. As Hamilton explained:

The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.” [Hamilton]

It is clear that the new citizens of The United States of America understood the historical importance of this new experience in self-government.

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. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind. “ [Hamilton]

From this statement we can be assured that the research required to produce our Constitution was profound. This was philosophical endeavor based upon not just knowledge of history, but the wisdom of applied knowledge of history, justice, human nature, political science, and the principles of good government.

Hamilton then goes on to discuss the importance of the end result of good government on the happiness of the people. Also note that Hamilton, as well as the other individuals involved in writing our Constitution considered their work not simply in the context of establishing a new nation for the citizens of the United States, but because this Constitution and nation was founded upon reason and therefore applied to all men, their work would affect all men in all nations throughout history.

The same can be said about the effectiveness of the Tea Party Movement as we reacquaint ourselves and our community of the principles of liberty could most assuredly affect the liberty of people in all nations.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth.” [Hamilton]

Hamilton lists certain characteristics of human nature to make the people aware of the methods that will be employed to oppose the ratification of the Constitution.

1.  …the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which my hazard a diminution of the power, emolument (salary), and consequence of the offices they hold..” [Self Preservation]

2.  …the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under one government.” [Big Fish in a Small Pond Ambition]

Hamilton then states that it would be wrong to suspect the opinions of men simply because they could benefit and then references three observations regarding the truth and human nature.

So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see (1a) wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, (1b) would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that (2)we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. (3) Ambition, avarice, personal animosity so numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society.” [Hamilton]

Hamilton uses the third observation of Human Nature to deliver another truth in regards to human nature regarding using power to alter the opinions and beliefs of man through force.

Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.” [Hamilton]

Taking the High Road

In Federalist 1 – Introduction, Hamilton lays out his plan to present the information about the proposed Constitution according to facts and reason, while eschewing the illogical and impassioned arguments of the opposition. Hamilton plans to leave it to the opposition to be “loud and bitter in their invectives”  acting in the “offispring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty.” In assuming the high road in this national debate, if Hamilton keeps to presenting the logic of the Constitution , he writes that he hopes that:

An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good.

Hamilton’s plan is to make clear that the motives of the opposition are rooted in human nature, rather than according to the principles of the public good.

Hamilton’s Indicators of Human Nature rather than Reason

  • torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose.
  • they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.
  • zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty.
  • over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good.
  • It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant (accompanies) of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust.
  • it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated
  • a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.”
  • History will teach us that the former [dangerous ambition] has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter [zeal for the rights of the people],”
  • those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.” [ Plato’s description of democracy]

Hamilton concludes this introductory article by giving his own reasons for approving of the proposed Constitution because of his regard for the future well-being and long-term public good and his own conclusion that the Constitution will enable, engender, and fulfill the needs of the people to live according to those principles defended in the Revolutionary War.

In the course of the preceding observations, I have had an eye, my fellow-citizens, to putting you upon your guard against all attempts, from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a matter of the utmost moment to your welfare, by any impressions other than those which may result from the evidence of truth. You will, no doubt, at the same time, have collected from the general scope of them, that they proceed from a source not unfriendly to the new Constitution. Yes, my countrymen, I own to you that, after having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion it is your interest to adopt it. I am convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I affect not reserves which I do not feel. I will not amuse you with an appearance of deliberation when I have decided. I frankly acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. The consciousness of good intentions disdains ambiguity. I shall not, however, multiply professions on this head. My motives must remain in the depository of my own breast. My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truth.” [Hamilton]

Description of the topics to be discussed in the Federalist Articles:

I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars:

    • — The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity
    • — The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union
    • — The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the attainment of this object
    • — The conformity of the proposed Constitution to the true principles of republican government
    • — Its analogy to your own state constitution
    • — and lastly, The additional security which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty, and to property.

In the progress of this discussion I shall endeavor to give a satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made their appearance, that may seem to have any claim to your attention.” [Hamilton]

The Ratification of the Constitution Will Preserve the Current Union of the States

It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer arguments to prove the utility of the UNION, a point, no doubt, deeply engraved on the hearts of the great body of the people in every State, and one, which it may be imagined, has no adversaries. But the fact is, that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those who oppose the new Constitution, that the thirteen States are of too great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the whole.1 This doctrine will, in all probability, be gradually propagated, till it has votaries enough to countenance an open avowal of it. For nothing can be more evident, to those who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative of an adoption of the new Constitution or a dismemberment of the Union. It will therefore be of use to begin by examining the advantages of that Union, the certain evils, and the probable dangers, to which every State will be exposed from its dissolution. This shall accordingly constitute the subject of my next address.” [Hamilton]

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It is interesting to note that each Federalist essay whether written by Hamilton, Madison, or Jay, all note that the greatest threat to the future of the nation was man’s own Human Nature. Human Nature was something every man not only clearly understood, but also agreed in the description and the effect of individuals or groups – factions – acting according to human nature.

Since Thomas Paine published Age of Reason in 1794 and 1796, man has been on a quest to deny the existence of God. Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848) insisted that atheism was a requirement to true social change and with Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859) the world has almost succeeded in rewriting reality. Atheism does not recognize the reality of human nature, preferring the partial reality of Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory. However, Darwin’s Law does not, nor can it explain the true nature of man – because while man can certainly behave as an animal, the true human experience of relationship and civilization itself not only requires, but indicates irrefutably that man must be something other than an instinctual animal looking out for Number 1.

It is therefore important to note that as the Tea Party Movement seeks to return to our nation’s philosophic founding, there is a larger issue being discussed due to the fall of the Soviet Bloc and the state required atheism of communism. As the philosophers and intellectuals try to make their way into defining and living in liberty, they have discovered – or rediscovered – the same principle that our Founding Fathers understood – that only a Created being is endowed by that Creative God with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This was the subject of former Czech Republic President, Vaclav Havel’s 4th of July speech – The Need for Transcendence in a Post Modern World (1994)

This is also an indication of why the current political discussion in the United States – and across the globe – is so polemical. Those vested in denying the existence of God have much to lose should the nation repent from its disbelief, repent, and proceeds  into the future as a nation that recognizes the reality of God. While it is the nature of all men to desire to live in open rebellion to God, the ability to call this rebellion evidence of intellectual superiority is truly a self-delusional opiate of massive proportions.

So, while in Federalist 1 – Introduction – Hamilton instructed the citizens of the United States of America in the 1780’s of the methods employed by human nature to prevent the ratification of the proposed Constitution:  power in the structure of government under the Articles of Confederacy, jealousy for ideas, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, greed, the potential for gaining power from the confusion created by a weak government, preconceived ideas and jealousy, as well as the well-meaning but just as corrosive to civil society, “honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears.” This list of the worst of human nature within the heart and character of citizens that most certainly had read the Bible cover to cover several times, attended worship services regularly, and believed in God and His Redeeming Son, Jesus Christ  when applied to our current situation of rebellion against God should give us just an inkling of how low and despicable the opposition to returning to our founding principles will become.

As Hamilton points out in Federalist 1, the louder and more shrill the voices of opposition, the less reason and logic they exhibit in their arguments. It should be noted that the very behavior of those opposing acknowledgment of God indicates the reality of the existence of a human nature beyond mere animal instinct of survival. While atheists claim to be the logical and reasoned-based intellectual superior class, the passion of their personal denial of God speaks otherwise.

Therefore, in reacquainting ourselves with the reality of human nature as well as the necessary reality of God’s existence as Creator and the source of man’s endowed rights, the Tea Party Movement will find both wisdom and strength to refute the opposition and return our nation to the principles upon which it was founded.

Additional Notes

This was a nation “conceived in Liberty” as President Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address because the United States came into being through reason rather than mere revolution. The difference is that it was agreement upon certain principles that established the need to separate from Great Britain. Certain books were pivotal in teaching and establishing these principles in the minds of the people:

  • The Geneva Bible – This was the Bible used by the Puritans, Pilgrims, and was common to all the various settlements on the new continent. The Geneva Bible was written in English and the first Bible to number scriptures. However, the most important aspect of the Geneva Bible were the marginal notes that provided commentary making it possible for the common man to read the Bible for himself as well as interpret scripture according to the entirety of the Holy Scripture. The Geneva Bible’s commentary applied scripture to teach the principles of good government, justice, endowed rights, civil society, human nature, liberty, economics, and the equality of all men.
  • Blackstone’s Commentary on English Laws – published in 1765-1769 – these 4 volumes based upon Natural Law  which was taught in The Geneva Bible commentary.
  • Wealth of Nations – applied the principles of Natural Law (Geneva Bible & Blackstone’s Commentary) to explain how man acting in his own interest not only provided for himself, but enriched his community and nation. Applied reason (adherence to the principles about good government, justice, etc taught in Geneva Bible and then supported by Blackstone) to understand how wealth was created.

The concept of applying these understood principles in order to achieve documented results describes the Age of Enlightenment. Because God was known as the source of Absolute Truth and Reason , men of the age of enlightenment applied principles to all fields of study with the firm conviction that logical results would follow application of logical truth. This age ended when Thomas Paine wrote Age Of Reason that negated both the need for and existence of God. It is my opinion that in someways Tom Paine could be both the seed for the creation of America in his biblical based Common Sense and it’s exterminator with Age of Reason that taught that man could be principally motivated without God.

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