August 5, 2010 – Federalist Papers No. 71 & Federalist No. 72 – Janine Turner
Thursday, August 5th, 2010
Howdy from, cooler because we had a mighty storm, Texas!
Federalist Papers No. 71 and 72 are fascinating as they represent Alexander Hamilton’s perspectives regarding the Constitutional lack of term limits for the office of the Presidency. Even with the lack of limits, it is amazing, upon reflection, that only one of our Presidents ever surpassed two terms and even then, it was due to the Great Depression and World War II. George Washington seems to have, once again, paved the way. By stepping down after two terms, he set the pace.
I don’t consider the readings of Federalist Papers No. 71 and 72 redundant, however. There are always pearls of wisdom within these hallowed pages. Federalist Paper No. 71 makes an interesting statement regarding maintaining the balance of the constitution.
“The tendency of the legislative authority to absorb every other, has been fully displayed and illustrated by examples in some preceding numbers. In governments purely republican, this tendency is almost irresistible. The representatives of the people, in a popular assembly, seem sometimes to fancy that they are the people themselves, and betray strong symptoms of impatience and disgust at the least sign of opposition from any other quarter; as if the exercise of its rights, by either the executive or judiciary, were a breach of their privilege and an outrage to their dignity. They often appear disposed to exert an imperious control over the other departments; and as they commonly have the people on their side, they always act with such momentum as to make it very difficult for the other members of the government to maintain the balance of the Constitution.”
This is a thought-provoking paragraph especially when I size it up to the relevancy of today. Our forefathers were greatly concerned about the power of the legislature. Yet, it appears that the legislature, the people’s representative branch, is being diminished by a more powerful executive branch and competing with the judicial branch – a branch that is more and more regularly legislating from the bench instead of merely interpreting the law.
Thus, the question is: how is the “balance of the Constitution” faring?
There is another statement that I find intriguing in Federalist Paper No. 71. It is stimulating in its simplicity.
“What but that he might be unequal to the task which the constitution assigns him.”
This is the maxim for all representatives of all branches to remember. Their mission, their task, is to serve their terms in relation to what the constitution assigns them.
The Constitution is to be their conscience.
The Constitution is the conscience of America.
One of the most important elements of the Constitution is the balance of power. If a representative in any branch of the government, whether elected or administrative, is not abiding by this preeminent principle of the Constitution then that representative is disregarding the constitution for his/her own benefit – which would be for none other than that all encompassing vice – power.
As for Federalist Paper No. 72, Alexander Hamilton prophesies a modem of operandi that is ever present within every changing of the guard in our country and is not always to our best interest.
“To reverse and undo what has been done by a predecessor, is very often considered by a successor as the best proof he can give of his own capacity and desert;”
Rare is the President who can say, “My predecessor did this very well, to him I give due credit and continue its course.”
Ego – the undoing of greatness.
To close, I underscore a statement of Alexander Hamilton’s, from Federalist Paper No. 72, that is both pertinent and amusing.
“Would it promote the peace of the community, or the stability of the government to have half a dozen men who had had credit enough to be raised to the seat of the supreme magistracy, wandering among the people like discontented ghosts, and sighing for a place which they were destined never more to possess?”
Hamilton had a sense of humor, yet this passage is painted with profundity. The peace of the community is best served when a former President leaves the country in the hands of the new one – for his legacy as President will be either be reduced or redeemed by history not by “wandering among the people like a discontented ghost.”