Justice Antonin Scalia said on a television interview that he relies on The Federalist Papers to elucidate a lot of the meaning from the US Constitution. I haven’t read them in a long time, so I decided to start to try and read one a day. Around nine years ago, I read a biography of Alexander Hamilton, one of the authors, and found him to be an amazingly bright person. He wasn’t without the same human foibles we all have today, but his intellect was pretty incredible.
I read Federalist One, and this stuck out to me.
It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.
That paragraph in the opening part of the Federalist One shows that America was a great experiment. It was the first time a government had been organized this way. It also was organized so government was responsive to its “customer”. Just like a good start up company.
I also love the recognition early that government can be a corrupting power. Hamilton says that men will use government to their own advantage. “So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society”. Fascinating how they saw that happening. They understood the weaknesses of the government they were creating.
“Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties”
Obviously, both political parties that dominate American culture today are guilty. But, so were the parties of the past.
Before he finishes asking people to support the Constitution as the unifying document for our country, he says,