Friday, January 28, 2011

The Case For The Constitution: Federalist Three

      In todays reading of the Federalist, we see John Jay attempting to explain to the people of New York why it is better for the separate states to band together instead of be separate entities. To Jay, the main concern is the safety of the people within those states; and he believes that a strong central and unified government would be better able to provide for the defense of the people than small confederacies.

     I have one major issue with Jay in this paper, and this might me being nit-picky. But, if anyone reads Federalist three, they are bound to wonder where Jay gets his logic. To him, war is only about defense and protection from without. He does not necessarily see the United States as being the instigator in war, and instead sees it as being the "victim" of other nations imperial designs. Thus, in Jay's mind, it IS essential that there is a strong national government - for the states would not be able to defend themselves individually against a stronger more wealthy power. Yet, the converse could also be true, that individual states could not instigate wars like a strong national government would be able too. While reading this I found that Jay did not fully think through the logic and the converse of his position. And if anyone studies American history, you can see that the converse DID play itself out quite frequently.

     This Federalist also gives a little insight into the position of the Founders in regards to who they thought would be running the nation. You see, we as Americans are all under the delusion that our Founders believed in the goodness of the people, and that the common man could rise up and become a leader. This was not necessarily the case, as shown by the tone of Jay's words in Federalist 3. For he states,
When once and efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but also will generally be appointed to manage it....hence it will result, that the administration, the political counsels, and the judicial decisions of the national government will be more wise, systematical and judicious, than those of individual states...
     Though he may be saying that the best will eventually rise to the top, who were the best men? Well, those who were able to get an education, had money, etc. As will be shown in further summary's of the Federalist Papers, our conception of the Founders may very well be skewed based upon preconceptions that we may have.  It is for these reasons that I am doing these surveys, for not only can we learn from the wisdom of these men, but we can also learn from the negative ideas that they espoused.

Questions:

1. Do you think that the Founding Fathers meant for the United States to be a government of the people and by the people - or were they specific in what type of "person" they wanted the government to be made of?

2. Does Jay's idea of a strong national government lend itself to encouraging conflict, rather than smaller state governments?

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