Federalist Papers Summary 85
The Federalist Essays Summary No 85: Alexander Hamilton May 28, 1788
This paper makes the argument that the draft Constitution should be ratified now. He begins with two subjects; “the analogy of the proposed government to your own state constitution” (meaning New York where the papers were first published) and “the additional security which its adoption will afford to republican government, to liberty and to property”. He then goes on to compare the state constitution to the national plan which has a remarkable resemblance. I will not repeat the similarities but he notes that many of those against the national plan are devoted to the state plan.
The additional securities to republican government, to liberty and to property to be derived from the adoption of the plan are chiefly the result of the task of preserving the union. This will restrain local factions and insurrections, and the ambition of powerful individuals who become despots of the people, in reducing foreign intervention, in preventing the military establishments that would result from wars between the states in a divided situation, in the guarantee of a republican form of government, in the exclusion of titles of nobility, and in the elimination of many practices of the state governments that have created mutual distrust in their citizens.
Having now fulfilled the task he assigned himself, he apologizes for having occasionally betrayed himself “into intemperances of expression” but the charges of conspiracy against the liberties of the people and other charges against the wealthy and well-borne “have been of a nature to demand the reprobation of all honest men”.
Every man is now bound to decide for himself from all that has been written if the constitution should be ratified. “Let him reflect that the object upon which he is to decide is not a particular interest of the community, but the very existence of the nation”.
A final thought is whether to continue the process of drafting the constitution to make it perfect as some would prefer or to ratify it now and make amendments later. Even the friends of the draft have admitted it is not perfect and this has given the enemies the opportunity to suggest we should make it perfect before ratification. But the nation is in jeopardy because we are not united and amending the plan now before adoption will delay the process for every modification to the draft creates a new draft which will then be an entirely new consideration which will require unanimous approval of the convention (presumably a result of the article of confederation) whereas if adopted now then amendments can be approved by nine of the thirteen states. And there is a process included in the draft for making amendments even if the congress does not agree. Two thirds of the states can call for a convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution and congress must do so. Further with this process “we may safely rely on the disposition of the state legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachment of the national authority”. We wish that were true.
His final plea for ratification begins with “A NATION without a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT is in my view an awful spectacle. The establishment of a constitution in time of profound peace is a PRODIGY to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety. I can reconcile it to no rules of prudence to let go the hold we now have, in so arduous an enterprise, upon seven out of thirteen states (that have already ratified the plan I guess); and after having passed over so considerable a part of the ground to recommence the course. I dread the more the consequences of new attempts because I KNOW that POWERFUL INDIVIDUALS are enemies to a general national government in every possible shape.”
Federalist Papers Summary 85 Written by Donald Mellon