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The Federalist Papers (1787-1789)

The Founding Fathers

Summary

Table of Contents

Context

This document (the Federalist) will provide all the reasons to support the new plan of government described in the U.S. Constitution, and responses to each of the criticisms of the plan.

Opponents to the new plan criticize it most on it creating a strong central government that will be abusive to individual liberty. However, an energetic government is crucial to the protection of individual liberty. The plan of government under the Articles of Confederation was unable to effectively protect individual liberties because it did not act directly upon the people, and had no authority to enforce its laws.

One of the biggest problems resulting from the Articles of Confederation was that there was no means to enforce unity amongst the states. This led to competition between the states over land, commerce, and repayment of public debt. Over time, this would naturally lead to further competition, and an inability to provide for the common defense. Additionally, individual states would seek to increase their own military strength to defend themselves against foreign invasions and invasions by their neighbors, leading to more wars, and to the suppression of civil liberties by military despotism.

The confederate republic form of government is ideal for the United States because it extends the advantages of popular government, in the form of the central government, without reducing the compactness, in the form of the state governments that retain much of their sovereignty. Factions are less likely in this form of government because the base of representation is spread over a much larger population.

The proposed plan of government will also improve commerce and the wealth of the nation because European nations will be compelled to follow uniform trade regulations enforced by a single navy. They will become inclined to negotiate for more mutually beneficial trade. The wealth of the nation will improve and the government's revenue will increase, thereby reducing the likelihood for property taxes.

The most important function of the government is to provide for the common defense, and the central government should be given as much power as necessary to match the responsibility of providing for the common defense. The confederacy failed to effectively provide for the common defense because the responsibility fell upon the central government, while the power rested with the states.

The central government must be able to maintain standing armies, provide for a national militia, and be able to levy direct taxes to support its common defense and provide for national prosperity. Fears about the central government becoming too powerful and abusing its military authority or right to tax should be soothed by understanding the role of legislature, or the representatives of the people, in determining the central government's authority to raise an army and levy taxes. Allowing both the federal and state government to levy taxes will ensure that they both have enough funds to effectively plan to meet their different needs

Critics claim that the Constitutional Convention was not authorized to remove the Articles of Confederation. In fact, resolutions of both the Annapolis Convention and the Confederation Congress allowed for any changes consistent with the needs of the nation. It contains many of the same powers, only strengthened, and differs only in the number of states required to ratify the changes, requiring only 9 instead of the formerly required 13.

Furthermore, the Constitution requires that the people, not the states, are needed to ratify the document and decide whether they will take the advice of the framers or not. The framers did the best within their abilities to provide a plan that would best ensure the happiness of the American people. Even if the convention was unauthorized, that does not mean that the states should not take the good advice of the delegates to the convention.

Each of the powers delegated to congress under the U.S. Constitution originate with the people themselves, are checked by the authority of other branches of government, or can be checked by the state governments. The powers delegated to the central government will best maintain the individual liberty of the citizens by providing for unified and enforced regulations and guidelines.

Plus, the state governments retain a large portion of their sovereignty under the new form of government, which is dependent on the state governments for its elections and its membership in the Senate. The state governments will always collectively overpower the central government due to the sheer number of state officials, and to the close connection of the people to their local governments.

The state and federal governments are not competing for power, but designed to effectively work together in protecting the common good. The state governments are responsible for internal affairs, and the federal for external affairs. They have the mutual authority to check the power of the other, through the power of the people. This will especially protect the state governments from usurpations of power by the federal government.

The division of the federal government into three distinct branches, each with the authority to effectively check the power of the others will also ensure the best protection of individual liberty. Although critics claim that a mixing of powers will potentially lead to all the powers amassed in one branch, the subdivision of authority on two levels, state and federal, provides a double protection for the rights of the people.

The unique characteristics of the American people make it perfect for self- government. The form of an extended republican government described by the U.S. Constitution will offer the best protection for the individual rights of citizens while having the power to work towards the common good.

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