Friday, October 23, 2020

THE FEDERALIST PAPERS PROJECT - A Commitment to Deep Thinking About our Political Origins in the Presence of Noise (Paper No. 8)


A link to Project Gutenberg's free source edition of The Federalist Papers

 If we are wise enough to preserve the Union, we may for ages enjoy an advantage similar to that of an insulated situation. Europe is at a great distance from us. Her colonies in our vicinity, will be likely to continue to much disproportioned in strength, to be able to give us any dangerous annoyance. Extensive military establishments cannot, in this position, be necessary to our security. But if we should be disunited, and the integral parts should either remain separated, or which is most probably, should be thrown together into two or three confederacies, we should be in a short course of time, in the predicament of the continental powers of Europe - our liberties would be prey to the means of defending ourselves against the ambition and jealousy of each other. 

Hamilton again writes about the superior safety of the united over the disunited model, however, he makes a novel point in Paper No. 8.  European nations have a history of maintaining armies perpetually ready to fortify their borders and defend themselves against conquest, he writes. Regular skirmishes erupt to breach borders. The advantage is a recent history not of long violent wars and toppled empires, but of small towns taken and re-taken, a constant drain on resources. But the relative youth of America means that borders are not yet fortified. The result in a disunited America will be the easy victory of more populous over sparsely populated states, and a constant state of war that would be "desultory and predatory."

However, the ultimate cost here is that each American state, like the nations of Europe, will establish standing armies to defend their borders.

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct.  Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war - the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty, to institutions, which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights.  To be more safe they...become willing to run the risk of being less free. 

The smaller and naturally weaker states will have the most urgent reason to build up a large military, constantly at the ready to defend themselves, and here he makes the most vital point, this will require strengthening the executive branch of government.  

It is the nature of war to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative authority.

Vigorous leadership emphasizing strength, with the assistance of disciplined armies, will progress over time toward despotism, as was seen in "the old world."  Monarchy is what the founding of America was trying to escape.  Whether leaving for the promise of practicing a minority religion or greater economic opportunity, the antidote to restricted freedom was going to be the establishment of a system of representative government. This newly drafted constitution promised to be the next step in that process.

Hamilton vividly contrasts nations rarely exposed to invasion with those living in constant fear of them. With those rarely exposed:

The laws are not accustomed to relaxations, in favor of military exigencies - the civil state remains in full vigor...the smallness of the army renders that natural strength of the community an overmatch for it; and the citizens, not habituated to look up to the military power for protection, or to submit to its oppressions, neither love nor fear the soldier...the army under such circumstances...will be unable to enforce encroachments against the united efforts of the great body of the people.  


The perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it - its armies must be numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military states becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories, often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees, the people are taught to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors.

Count on Alexander Hamilton writing in 1787 to put into words why Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump's assembling paramilitary forces composed of personnel from various Federal agencies to subdue vigorous protests is an outrageous infringement of Constitutional principle and not an invocation of "law and order" as usual. It reeks of despotism to subjugate American citizens' anger using military action carried out by forces in unmarked vehicles, wearing combat fatigues but with their insignia obscured, who are apparently not accountable to ranking military leaders.  One sees in action just what Hamilton spoke of - a shifting away from Legislative and toward Executive authority.

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