Category Archives: Federalist

Federalist No. 26

In Federalist No. 26, Hamilton considers the idea of restraining the legislative authority in regard to the common defense.

This particular essay has one of the most interesting starts:

IT WAS a thing hardly to be expected that in a popular revolution the minds of men should stop at that happy mean which
marks the salutary boundary between POWER and PRIVILEGE, and combines the energy of government with the security
of private rights
. The concern herein is that A failure in this delicate and important point is the great source of the inconveniences we experience and while we may try change after change within such a system, we shall never be likely to make any material change for the better.

In this piece, in which Hamilton argues that the idea of restraining the legislative authority, in the means of providing for the national defense, is one of those
refinements which owe their origin to a zeal for liberty more ardent than enlightened
, he states that if experience has not wrought a deep and solemn
conviction in the public mind, that greater energy of government is essential to the welfare and prosperity of the community
before going on to give us more history lessons.

He gives us the example of England, where authority of the monarch was almost unlimited after the Norman Conquest, until the revolution of 1688 where English liberty again reigned triumphant with the introduction of a bill of rights that included an article that said the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, UNLESS WITH THE CONSENT OF
PARLIAMENT, was against law
. In that kingdom, no security against the danger of standing armies was thought requisite, beyond a prohibition of their being raised or kept up by the mere authority of the executive magistrate. This caused the armies to swell to massive numbers, almost 30,000 under James the II, which gave the monarch too much power. As a result, England needed this rule. However, this does not justify a similar provision in the US Constitution as there are no monarchs, or representatives thereof, who have great power that can be abused as all power in a republic rests in the hands of the people. The people elect the legislature, and the legislature, on their behalf, determines the need for standing armies and military strength. Plus, the fact that the proposed constitution restrains the appropriations of money for military purposes to the period of two years means that the legislature of the United States will be OBLIGED, by this provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon
the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the
matter, by a formal vote in the face of their constituents
. Thus, no further restraint is needed.

Federalist No. 25

In Federalist No. 25, Hamilton continues his consideration of the powers necessary to the common defense, which he began in the last instalment where he determined that restraints upon the discretion of the legislature in respect to military establishments in time of peace, would be improper to be imposed as here has been a constant necessity for keeping small garrisons on our Western frontier and that alone justifies the need for standing armies, even in peace-time.

In this piece he noted that the territories of Britain, Spain, and of the Indian nations … encircle the Union from Maine to Georgia and that the danger, though in different degrees, is therefore common. And the means of guarding
against it ought, in like manner, to be the objects of common councils and of a common treasury

If power was instead to be imbued in State governments, rivalships could form, due to the inherent love of power possessed by any assembly, and in any contest between the federal head and one of its members, the people will be most apt to unite with their local government. Plus, if the ambition of the members should be stimulated by the separate and independent possession of military forces,
it would afford too strong a temptation and too great a facility to them to make enterprises upon, and finally to subvert, the
constitutional authority of the Union
. As a result, the liberty of the people would be less safe in this state of things
than in that which left the national forces in the hands of the national government

And if the need for a national army under the control of the federal government is not yet clear, we can obviate this consequence by noting that the United States would then exhibit the most extraordinary spectacle which the world has yet seen, that of a nation
incapacitated by its Constitution to prepare for defense, before it was actually invaded

Federalist No. 24

In Federalist No. 24, Hamilton further considers the powers necessary to the common defense, and, in particular, the specific objection that proper provision has not been made against the existence of standing armies in time of peace. In Hamilton’s view, this objection rests on weak and unsubstantial foundations, and this is easy to show.

In the proposed constitution, the whole power of raising armies was lodged in the LEGISLATURE, not in the EXECUTIVE; that this legislature
was to be a popular body, consisting of the representatives of the people periodically elected
. Furthermore, restraints upon the discretion of the legislature
in respect to military establishments in time of peace, would be improper to be imposed, and if imposed, from the necessities
of society, would be unlikely to be observed

Furthermore, previous to the Revolution, and ever since the peace, there has been a constant necessity for keeping small garrisons on our
Western frontier. No person can doubt that these will continue to be indispensable
. In addition, If we should not be willing to be exposed, in a naked and defenseless
condition, to
the insults and encroachments of Britain and Spain, we should find it expedient to increase our frontier garrisons in some ratio to
the force by which our Western settlements might be annoyed

Thus, standing armies will be needed in times of peace, and it will be up to the Legislature to determine how big they need to be.

Federalist No. 23

In Federalist No. 23, Hamilton takes up the topic of the necessity of a government as energetic as the one proposed to the preservation of the union.

In order to facilitate this inquiry, Hamilton determines that there is a need to address:

  • the objects to be provided for by the federal government,
  • the quantity of power necessary to the accomplishment of those objects, and
  • the persons upon whom that power ought to operate
  • .

And to note that the principal purposes to be answered by union are:

  • the common defence of the members,
  • the preservation of the public peace as well against internal convulsions as external attacks,
  • the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States, and
  • the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries

Breaking these down, we find that the authorities essential to the common defence are:

  • the raising of armies,
  • the building and equipping of fleets,
  • the prescription of rules for the government of both,
  • the direction of their operations, and
  • the provision of their support.

Thus, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, these powers and authorities ought to exist without limitation, provided that the power is coextensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances. In addition, defective as the present Confederation has been proved to be, this principle appears to have been fully recognized by the
framers of it; though they have not made proper or adequate provision for its exercise

Furthermore, if you accept that the circumstances of our country are such as to demand a compound instead of a simple, a confederate instead of a sole, government and carry the argument further, you come to the conclusion that the government of the Union must be empowered to pass all laws, and to make all regulations which have relation to them. The same must be the case in respect to commerce, and to every other matter to which its jurisdiction is permitted to extend. In this situation, the POWERS are not too extensive for the OBJECTS of federal administration, or, in other words, for
the management of our NATIONAL INTERESTS

When you consider the arguments put forth in this essay and the preceding twenty two, the need for an energetic government becomes clear when you consider that no other can preserve the Union of so large an empire, especially given the requirements outlined in this piece.