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The Federalist Papers: No. 9

On this day in 1787, Federalist Paper No. 9 is published. These papers argued FOR the new Constitution, then being considered for ratification by the states.

I am impressed that so many of you are persevering through the Federalist Papers with me! Today marks the anniversary of Federalist Paper No. 9. Yes, even though Hamilton just did one yesterday! And will do another tomorrow! Where did these guys find time for this?!

Today’s paper again defends the importance of Union. And it again shows the founding generation’s familiarity with history—a familiarity that modern Americans do not possess.

Publius agrees that some republics have failed, but defends the “excellences of republican government.” To support his position, he notes “wholly new discoveries” that help sustain republics: These protections include the “regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election.”

Yes, all these protections are in our own Constitution.

Then Publius goes a step further. Republics, he contends, can be stretched over even a large territory by the “consolidation of several smaller States into one great Confederacy.”

In short, he is laying the groundwork for the concept of federalism: The national government is powerful, but only in areas of national concern. States retain authority over local matters.

Pushing more people into one national government gives it more resources upon which to draw (especially for national defense); the national government arrives at “such a degree of power as to be able to provide for the security of the united body.” BUT — and its a big “but”! — leaving local matters to states allows each to its own “internal happiness.”

Publius’s arguments rely heavily on the work of Montesquieu—another name that should be familiar to Americans, but unfortunately isn’t. Montesquieu was a well-respected political thinker of the time.

My post with more background on the Federalist Papers and their authorship can be found in the Federalist Paper No. 1 summary (see October 27 history post, here).



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