Federalist Papers Summary 26
The Federalist Essays Summary No 26: Alexander Hamilton December 22, 1787
We return again to the issue of standing armies in peace time with this discussion beginning with why it is such a concern to Americans and then how the new constitution protects against these fears. The issue of standing armies is one of the energy of government versus the security of private rights; the trade-off still being argued today concerning the size of government versus individual rights. Hamilton believes it is one of trust in government and that there is a “solemn conviction in the public mind, that greater energy of government is essential to the welfare and prosperity of the community”.
The distrust of governments in control of standing armies arose among those sensitive to the English history of rulers possessing permanent armies. England removed the authority of a king to maintain an army in a time of peace by adding an article to the bill of rights requiring consent of Parliament to do so. Thus no prohibition was enacted but approval of the legislature was required. Americans have a “hereditary impression of danger to liberty from standing armies during peace time”, and some States have provisions in their constitutions that prohibit standing armies in time of peace without the consent of the legislature. But this is unnecessary for it is the legislature that must provide for the army. The argument is repeated that even if prohibited by law if required for public safety an army will be raised.
The paper concludes with a discussion of how the new constitution which allows for permanent armies if approved every two years by the congress will not jeopardize the liberty of the people. The two year approval requirement will make this issue transparent to the public and any attempt to increase the size of the army to the point it could threaten liberty would be noticed and stopped. It is interesting to compare the argument for the protection of our liberty made by Hamilton here with the reality of today. He believed a standing army under control of the executive large enough to threaten the liberty of the people and the Union would not be allowed to happen because the legislature elected every few years would become alarmed and stop funding the army. Today of course the congress continues to fund a military strong enough to subjugate not only our country but most of the external world. We allow this not because we trust the executive but because we trust the military, acting without authority if necessary, to protect our liberty against any and all who would take it from us.
Federalist Papers Summary 26 Written by Donald Mellon