For the Constitution #1: The Federalist

By Mateo Portelli, Contributor and Editor

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[alert type=“default or success or info or warning or danger”]Contributor’s Note: This is part one of a series of mine, For the Constitution. This article is inspired by The Federalist Papers, specifically Federalist No. 1, written by Founding Father and First Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.  I have done my best to keep the spirit of The Federalist Papers here, but as is the nature of abridgments or simplifications, there are elements that I cannot perfectly reflect. As such, I implore you to take a read of The Federalist Papers yourself, expand your knowledge, and form your own opinions. Please enjoy.[/alert][hr gap=”1″]

You are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America.

Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton, 1787

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Nicknames are fun, no? I’ve been called Poortelli, Mateo Tortellini, Mataters, and plain olMatt. But I am more disposed to those which relate to an attribute of mine. Take, for example, my deep fervor for jurisprudence and studying the Constitution. Aside from being called “that kid who loves the Constitution,” I find its abbreviated version far more enjoyable. Thus, being called “The Constitution Kid” in my Congressional Debate circles is enjoyable. Nevertheless, I’ve come to the conclusion, after witnessing almost a year and a half of the perversion of the Constitution in the medium of debate, along with the recent explosion of arguments left and right against the 2nd Amendment and seemingly complete willful ignorance for the nature and For, well, the Constitution itself, I want to take a more direct approach. To direct this, why don’t we step back to the 18th century into the pen and ink of a time where the ideological discourse was rampant and yellow fever aplenty. Let’s dive into the Federalist Papers, shall we? and see indeed what our Federalist Founding Fathers’ thoughts were primarily concerned with.

To the People of the Next Generation:

After the complete failure of the Articles of Confederation to unite and protect all of America, the People of the United States were asked to deliberate on the new Constitution for the country. Now, the importance of the matter was obvious. The new structure and form of government would affect every part of the nation and every person within the country. The entire notion of the Constitutional Convention, then, was an experiment — a test, to see if a people of a nation could really set up a government of their own design. If there was to be an answer, then the ratification, or lack thereof, of the new Constitution would have spoken plainly enough.
The creation of a new form of government by the People includes all aspects of both good and bad moral character, reaching to the very souls of the patriots and statesmen of a nation, and to the common citizen and worker. It would be fantastic if every time a new government was to be formed, the people would vote on logic and reason, not emotions or passion, but of course, it would be foolish to expect emotion and passion not to exist in the minds of voters, because it simply affects too many parts of every person’s life. Perhaps the toughest challenge for the new Constitution to face was the irrational selfishness of the People. To put it another way, how can a good government be formed without being tainted or manipulated with each voter’s own self-interests? At the time, of course, there were men who would object to the adoption of the Constitution because it may have threatened or jeopardized their own personal interests.
Nevertheless, the purpose here isn’t to focus on the malicious nature of man. In truth, those who stood against the ratification of the Constitution may not have done so for purely malicious intents, and rather similarly held very strict personal beliefs for arguably good reasons. So passionate these men were that it would be wrong to suggest that any man with fervor standing on the opposition on what we view as correct may indeed be wise and correct themselves. We can’t just ignore others’ opinions just because they are passionate and happen to disagree with us. I’ve actually said something to this effect before — do not deny someone’s humanity simply because they disagree. To those who stood against the new Constitution, they may have believed that a stronger, central federal power was an intrinsic danger to the freedom and security of the People. To them, the threat would have been the monopolization of power. To those in favor of the new Constitution, they may have believed that a weaker, decentralized form of government was an intrinsic danger to the freedom and security of the People, similarly. To them, the threat would have been the lack of order and unity among the People
Regardless of how true the former sentiments have been, it was self-evident to the Federalists of the time that the status quo of the Articles of Confederation was unacceptable. To resolve the aching of the country that came about a lack of national unity, the arguments for and against the Constitution were explosive, to say the least, and brought about some of the best use of ink perhaps in Foundational American history. Thus, my purpose for this article is to relay a similar spirit of unity proposed by the Founding Fathers, of Treasurer Alexander Hamilton, President James Madison, and Chief Justice John Jay.
It was then outlined that it would be forgotten, during the time of deliberation, that jealousy goes together with love, and similarly, the faithful pursuit of liberty is so often with distrust. It would be equally forgotten that good government is defined by its ability to safeguard the rights of the People. History has shown, however, that the first of these two misremembrances is far better at bringing about tyranny and despotism to a country than the second.
In knowing this, then, Alexander Hamilton had a want — a burning passion, arguably — to persuade his fellow citizens to influence them to vote in favor of the ratification of the new Constitution. He pushed upon them dozens of arguments in the coming weeks to justify the adoption of the newest framework of government, and was “convinced that [the Constitution was] the safest court for [their] liberty, [their] dignity, and [their] happiness.” He plainly stated that he would explain what he believed and why he believed such things.
He then proposed, in a series of papers we now know as the Federalist Papers, to discuss the following:

  • The benefit that the new Constitution would have to the People of America
  • The complete failure of the Articles of Confederation
  • The need for a government to be just as energetically supported as the Constitution
  • The relationship between the Republicanism of the federal Constitution and the People’s respective States’ constitutions
  • The protections of the People’s liberty and property through a new government

It would be unnecessary to argue the benefit of a united country, a notion which of course was in the hearts and minds of almost every person in American during this time. But the fact was, then, there were people who opposed the new Constitution, who argued that the new Thirteen States of American was far too large in both size and political diversity to unite under one system, who believed that a confederacy of states was the extent of unification that could have been achieved. As you and I now know, the system worked, and has for almost 2 and a half centuries. Nevertheless, the most proper place to start the justification of a national unifying Constitution would be to evaluate the advantages of the Union, as well as its evils and dangers. This, then, sets the stage For the Constitution.
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I always open myself to critique or compliment when I put content out to the public forum. So, if you’d like to chat, let me know below, and I’ll get back to ya!


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