Federalist Essays Summary No. 16

 

Federalist Papers Summary No. 16

 
 

Federalist Papers Author Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton

Federalist Essays Summary Number 16

The Federalist Essay Summary No 16:  Hamilton
December 4, 1787

Hamilton returns to the argument begun in the last paper that the laws passed by Federal Government must apply to the individual citizens and not just to the States.  All examples of leagues (like that formed under the Articles of Confederation) from antiquity have failed.  Even the best of these, the Lycian and the Archaean leagues which were confederations of cities or regions failed when the only constitutional remedy for delinquencies among the members was force with the effect of civil war.  As an aside, the Lycian League of  168 BC was apparently a model for our form of representation in the House where the number of representatives is proportional based on the population of the individual States.

The discussion begins by examining how a league of States might fail and provoke military action from the Federal Government.  It would begin with a State resisting the general authority.  If the State was large it would have influence with others who would join the resistance.  If smaller, alliances would form prior to insurrection.  Eventually if Federal laws only compelled States to compliance and the only remedy to non-compliance was force, then “the first war of this kind would probably terminate in a dissolution of the Union”.  A more natural death than this violent death would be what is being experienced with the Articles of Confederacy where States in total join in non-compliance giving various excuses of inability to comply thus precluding military action.  And why would States favor a constitution where a standing army was required to enforce discipline?

The solution to this problem is a difficult argument for it requires States to yield their sovereignty to the Federal Government such that laws made by the Federal Government apply directly to the people and do not require actions or consent of the State Legislatures.  The protection against a Federal usurpation of authority in this case would be in the courts ability to render a verdict of being unconstitutional and in the body of the people “as the natural guardians of the constitution would throw their weight into the national scale” and decide the issue.  Tea Party members must love Hamilton’s phraseology such as, the people “as the natural guardians of the constitution” and his thoughts that the weight of the people can correct the usurpation of authority by the Federal Government.  

Once again it appears that Hamilton has worries about some mortal feuds that could spread throughout a whole nation.  He states “no form of government can always either avoid of control them.  It is in vain to hope to guard against events too mighty for human foresight or precaution and it would be idle to object to a government because it could not perform impossibilities”.

Summary Written by Donald Mellon

 

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