Federalist Papers Summary 9
The Federalist Essays Summary No 9: Alexander Hamilton November 21, 1787
Critics make two arguments that Hamilton addresses in this paper, Republicanism is not a peaceful form of government, and that the proposed Confederation is too large in land area to survive i.e. too many diverse interests. The history of the ancient republics of Greece and Italy does impose upon the reader “feeling sensations of horror and disgust” he admits. But the form of republican government has not been abandoned but instead improved from that of the ancients through the science of politics with innovations like, the distribution of power into distinct departments, the introduction of legislative checks and balances, the institution of courts composed of judges, and the representation of the people in the legislature. These improvements allow that “the excellencies of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided”.
The argument that the proposed Confederacy is too large in land area comes from an interpretation of the writing of Montesquieu, a French intellectual whose political ideas apparently had considerable influence among the writers of our constitution. In his book, “Spirit of Laws” published in 1748 he advocates a French Government of three parts, legislative, judicial, and executive with separate powers such that any two could not be overridden by the other. Critics seized on a part of his writing which implied that a Republic could only exist if small in area and the proposed Confederacy was anything but.
Hamilton begins the counter argument by pointing out that the territorial size for the limit for republics in the book was much smaller than almost every one of the states thus if using this criteria the Republic would be limited to “a Monarchy or splitting ourselves into an infinity of little jealous, clashing, tumultuous commonwealths”. He then states that the critics did not read far enough and that Montesquieu actually supported a Confederate Republic as the expedient for extending this sphere of popular government. He reprints several passages from the “Spirit of Laws” supporting this Union and defining an acceptable form of republican government. He introduces a theme to be carried on in the next paper that there is “the tendency of the Union to repress domestic faction and insurrection. The finality to the argument in this paper is that the proposed constitution meets the criteria established by Montesquieu.
Federalist Papers Summary 9 Written by Donald Mellon