Federalist Papers Summary 84
The Federalist Essays Summary No 84: Alexander Hamilton May 28, 1788
This paper covers a few subjects which did not fall under previous heading or were forgotten. They include the Bill of Rights, issues regarding the location of the seat of government, and issues related to expenses. He begins by trying to defend the fact that a Bill of Rights is not included in the draft constitution.
He claims that many of the rights contained in a Bill of Rights are already in the plan of the convention. He sites the article and section number for many such provisions and repeats the words of the plan and compares this to the New York Constitution which also does not have a Bill of Rights. In particular the plan contains the establishment of a writ of habeas corpus, the prohibition of ex post factor laws and of titles of nobility which are not contained in the New York constitution. He states what he believes is the purpose of the Constitution “which is merely intended to regulate the general political interests of the nation than to a constitution which has the regulation of every species of personal and private concerns”. It does not need a detailed right for every liberty for every citizen.
Perhaps more interesting is his belief that including a Bill of Rights in the Constitution would be dangerous. It would claim various exceptions to powers that were not delegated and this would provide a pretext for the Federal Government to claim more than was granted. For example why should it say the the liberty of the press shall not be restrained when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? This statement if included affords a clear implication that a power to prescribe proper regulations concerning it was intended to be vested in the national government. And Hamilton says what is the liberty of the press? What definition would not leave room for evasion? As an aside, this same argument was made regarding the tenth amendment which gave powers not delegated to the national government to the states. The question was should they enumerate the state powers or leave the wording general. It was left general because if enumerated then anything left out was not a state power and it was feared even the enumerated powers could be regulated.
The next objection is that the seat of government is so far removed from many of the people that they cannot have adequate knowledge of the conduct of the representative body. In any seat of government only those people close by will have knowledge of the personable behavior of the officials, all others will obtain their information from the public press, correspondence with the representatives, or people who live nearby. It is state legislatures that will closely monitor the national representatives and they will be certain to report any ill behavior to the population.
Another objection is that there is no provision respecting the debts due to the union. To answer this he quotes a doctrine of political law “States neither lose any of their rights nor are discharged from any of their obligations by a change in the form of their civil government”.
The last objection turns upon the article of expense which some claim will be increased by the adoption of the plan. The new government will have very few members in either the house or the senate and many of the departments are the same as those that already exist under the articles. Tax collectors are new but that will be in many cases just and exchange to federal from state personnel. So where is there going to be an additional expense? Judges, yes but much of the new functions of government have the same people as in the articles but now doing different functions. Also in the previous government the state legislatures did much of the work for the United States and now the federal congress will do that function so the total cost will not increase significantly.
Federalist Papers Summary 84 Written by Donald Mellon