June 3, 2010 – Federalist No. 27 – The Same Subject Continued: The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered, from the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Julia Shaw, research associate and program manager at the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

We are all familiar with the recent skepticism about government’s performance. Ever since Rick Santelli’s rant on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, Americans across the country have gathered in tea parties to discuss and protest the plethora of bad policies pouring forth from Washington. Frustration with government, though, is not limited to tea party participants. The recent oil spill in the Gulf Coast has renewed discussions on the left and the right about what the federal government can and should do in such emergencies.

How should we understand the recent frustration with government and skepticism about its role? Writing as Publius in Federalist27, Alexander Hamilton explains the cause of such dissatisfaction and the suggests a remedy to restore the people’s confidence in and affection for government.

In Federalist27, Publius addresses the charge that the new government “cannot operate without the aid of a military force to execute its laws,” ultimately because “people will be disinclined to the exercise of federal authority in any matter of an internal nature.” Publius counters the presumption that people will be disfavor this new government, arguing that  “I believe it may be laid down as a general rule that their confidence in and obedience to a government will commonly be proportioned to the goodness or badness of its administration.”

Publius rejects the notion that people arbitrarily despise their government. Instead, he argues that there is a relationship between effective administration of government and public affection for government. People have confidence in and affection for a well-administered government. Conversely, people distrust and become frustrated with a poorly administered government.

This is not an unfamiliar argument. President Obama acknowledged that Americans were desperate for a well-administered government. But when Obama proclaimed in his inaugural address, “the question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works,” he suggested that effective government is unrelated to the size and scope of government. Good administration is necessary for good government. But this does not mean that good administration is unrelated to the size of government.

But Federalist27 anticipates Obama’s argument.  Good administration is inseparable from limited government. Publius explains, in Federalist27 and throughout the entire Federalist, that the constitutional design of the government lends itself to gaining the affection of the people. In Federalist27, Publius highlights the expanded choice in election, the selection of the senate, and the reduction of factions as examples of the changes that will engender good will toward the new government. The rest of the Federalist discusses in greater detail the powers and limits on the new government. And, it is this limited government of enumerated powers that “the citizens are accustomed to meet with it in the common occurrences of their political life, [and] the more it is familiarized to their sight and to their feelings, the further it enters into those springs of the human heart, the greater will be the probability that it will conciliate the respect and attachment of the community.”

Considering that people have affection for good administration, and that good administration is inseparable from a limited government, it follows that people’s current dissatisfaction with government is ultimately rooted in the government’s abandonment of constitutional limitations. Every day, entitlement programs grow, government spending increases, and Washington bureaucrats issue new regulations to control our lives. It may be a difficult task to return to limited constitutional government, but, as Publius reminds us in Federalist27, the affection of the people and the long-term health of the country depend upon the such a return.

Julia Shaw is a research associate and program manager at the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies.

16 Responses to “June 3, 2010Federalist No. 27 – The Same Subject Continued: The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered, from the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Julia Shaw, research associate and program manager at the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies”

  1. Susan Craig says:

    Oops! “the more the operations of the national authority are intermingled in the ordinary exercise of government, the more the citizens are accustomed to meet with it in the common occurrences of their political life, the more it is familiarized to their sight and to their feelings, the further it enters into those objects which touch the most sensible chords and put in motion the most active springs of the human heart, the greater will be the probability that it will conciliate the respect and attachment of the community. Man is very much a creature of habit.” I fear that in arguing for the increased power of the central government also put his finger on the problem we face today. Via gradualism and how can you argue against the good of these mandates the creatures of habit have grown used to the meddling of the nanny state.

  2. Ron Meier says:

    In the town hall of Siena, Italy, is a very large classic fresco painting of the Effects of Good Government and the Effects of Bad Government, painted in the 14th Century. Now, I wish I had spent more time looking at it than I did. You can google that to find various descriptions. As I understand, Siena, at that time, was a republic. We might all benefit by spending some time examining the painting and its various meanings to better understand where we are today and what we have to do to get back to where we started. It would be good to have a reproduction of that painting in the Congressional Rotunda.

  3. Maggie says:

    This leapt off the page at me….”A government continually at a distance and out of sight can hardly be expected to interest the sensations of the people.” I do not think of this as “distance” in a literal sense, but rather “distance” in their understanding of the every day man. Our politicians have made careers out of being set apart rather than being one of us and governing as one of us.

  4. Jimmy Green says:

    Military force is not needed but honestly lets agree that many taxes and fees that are charged to us often unfairly would never be paid if their was no implicit threat of fines, incarceration ,loss of property, violence of some type by the federal or local government if you do not obey them. Sadly this coercion is being forced on us to accept unjust or unconstitutional laws.
    The administrative efficiencies of the government good or bad would have little bearing on us in a constitutionally run government. The issue as mentioned is the relative size and intrusive nature of it into our personal lives.
    No doubt the Federal Government was corrupt a hundred or more years ago but that corruption did not affect us much. The constitution was still in effect and the wall preventing the Federal Government from meddling in our private life was limited

    Most every serious problem in America today can easily be traced back to unconstitutional decisions the Federal Government made and the judicial system approved. Is there any limit to the government’s intrusion into our private life?
    Are we becoming wards of the government?. Each one of us should be furious about this. Unless you wish for a cradle to grave welfare state or maybe entered the country illegally then the Federal Government is the nightmare on Elm Street. Or from another great show “We are the Federal Government….Resistance is futile…..You will be assimilated
    You life as it has been is over. From this time forward you will service us” or something cool but scary like that.

    I believe our guest blogger Julia Shaw hits the nail on the head when she states “it follows that people’s current dissatisfaction with government is ultimately rooted in the government’s abandonment of constitutional limitations”. I believe this is primarily what we all tend to think and the comments I have read from you all tend to support that idea.

    Maggie says: “Our politicians have made careers out of being set apart rather than being one of us and governing as one of us.”
    Absolutely true, the only question of importance now is what are we willing to do to change this. What efforts or discomforts are we willing to accept for a restoration of the government and the constitution of the people.

  5. Susan Craig says:

    Jimmy, let me pose the question to you this way. Consider you and your neighbors homes to be a microcosm picture of two countries. Let us say that is common knowledge that both of you have on your properties something of great value. You are not armed, while your neighbor is known to have at least one gun. I consider this the individual equivalent of a national standing army. Which house is more vulnerable to thieves?

  6. Jimmy Green says:

    Okay Susan I give. Please explain your point and the relevence to essay 27.
    Thanks
    Jimmy

  7. “Man is a creature of habit. A thing that rarely strikes his senses, will have but a transient influence upon his mind.” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 27.

    Bingo. Once again, from the minds of Publius rings relevancy today. The United States Constitution is a thing that rarely strikes the senses because it is so infrequently discussed or taught. Consequently, it has but a transient influence upon American’s minds and passions. The mainstream American culture is basically void of any mention or remembrance of the United States Constitution. Hence, our calling, as concerned American’s who value our Constitutional Republic, is to rally our Republic and curb the tide of irreverence that is engulfing the United States Constitution.

    We must make it prevalent and relevant to the senses of our citizens. Knowledge is power. Culture is contagious. The United States Constitution is critical. Actually, it is in critical condition and its survival is the antigen to the disease of socialism. It embodies the vaccine that needs to be boosted in American society.

    Man is a creature of habit and without the awareness of the basic structure, the true intent and the proper application of the principles of our United States Constitution then our Republic will be but a fleeting memory.

    It is projected that by 2020 our economy will match the failing economy of Greece and democracy as we know it, America as we know it, will meet its demise. The spending must cease and the only way to accomplish this is to reinvigorate the can do spirit that built America. As John F Kennedy said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

    We must counter the culture. One way to do this is to have parties in your home to study the Constitution and encourage people to join our “90 in 90” or refer people to the essays that are in our “90 in 90” archives. Cathy and I want to build a library that will provide a richness of resources to be utilized at any time.

    Another way to counter the culture is with our children, the youth of our country. The culture is sending them the wrong message and the awareness of the Constitution is either vague, repugnant or nil. I thank you for getting your child, or a child you know, to join our contest. Taking the time out of “summer time slumber” or “summer time frenzy” is the first step to requisite better habits.

    Our sense of pride in our country needs to be rekindled, and the paramount awareness of our rights and our basic foundation needs to be reaffirmed, by infusing the culture the American grassroots way. If not by the culture or mainstream media, then by the sheer will of dedicated Americans, like you.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner

  8. Susan Craig says:

    Jimmy, and I quote ‘Military force is not needed’ even if it is not used it has a function.

  9. Susan Craig says:

    In America under ‘posse comitatus’ the standing military is not permitted to act internal to the boundaries of the union. The only ‘military’ body that may be called to internal action are the individual state guard units and that only at the behest of that states governor. Under the Constitution the military is purely an extention of foreign policy whether it is declared war or the ‘big’ stick that others know we have and are not afraid to use when provoked.

  10. Jimmy Green says:

    Susan, yes thats correct if I understand you correctly were talking about coercion. My statement of “Sadly this coercion is being forced on us to accept unjust or unconstitutional laws.”
    The government always gets what it wants by the implied threat of force, rarely the actual use of it. Hopefully I understood you correctly but maybe not.
    Jimmy

  11. Richard says:

    “I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts.” — Ronald Reagan

  12. Susan Craig says:

    Okay your point was [if I understand you right] is that for government coercion to occur our government has found a way to do it without military involvement? Okay there we can agree. One of our founding fathers said [and I probably paraphrase] ‘Where government fears the people you have liberty, where the people fear the government you have tyranny!”

  13. Peter says:

    This observation “Publius rejects the notion that people arbitrarily despise their government. Instead, he argues that there is a relationship between effective administration of government and public affection for government. People have confidence in and affection for a well-administered government. Conversely, people distrust and become frustrated with a poorly administered government.” is the central point of Federalist 27, in my judgment, and of much of the debate in which we find ourselves today. Big government is hard to administer, is arbitrary and ineffective – which is part of the reason people feel the way they do about the IRS, the Post Office, the EPA and, at the local level, the DMV. This point is certainly worht thinking about in the contemporary context.

  14. Adam Estep says:

    Enslavement:

    Though it be by whip and chain or by excessive common laws and many taxes its name does not change!

  15. Jesse Stewart says:

    I know this posting is late, but I’ve been unable to participate for a few days. I too was struck with “I believe . . . general rule that their [the people] confidence in and obedience to a government will commonly be proportioned to the goodness or badness of its administration.”

    The “badness” of our government over a long period of time has lead to the mistrust now felt by the people. I hope and pray that we will be able to reverse this trend, or we will be lost!

  16. Greetings from NYC. I am here, with Cathy and Juliette, and we are Constituting America. Be sure to tune in tomorrow to Fox News midday as I am going to be a guest on Megyn Kelly’s show. I will, also, be on Glenn Beck’s Show, the Founding Father’s Friday, on Friday! Yea! Great exposure for Constituting America and our “90 in 90” and our We the People 9.17 Contest for kids. Deadline for our contest entries is July 4th – so please continue to spread the word!

    I am glad to have Marc S. Lampkin back with us today, thanks Mr. Lamkin for your wonderful insights and I was also really happy to see some of our regular bloggers back today, such as Maggie and Carolyn, as well as some new bloggers…welcome!

    I find that I agree with Carolyn Attaway’s blog entry today. My favorite quote from today’s reading was the following:

    “Where in the name of common-sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our brothers, our neighbors, our fellow-citizens? What shadow of danger can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings, sentiments, habits and interests?”

    As Carolyn said, our military fights for our love of country not for the love of a leader. Our military also fights for a love of his countrymen. We are brothers and sisters, neighbors and fellow citizens. Our unity through diversity is what makes us unique. Our Constitutional forefathers gave us a brilliant structure, and roadmap, to keep us that way, to keep us unencumbered by the weight of heavy-handed government. Our freedoms have given us our opportunities and identity and breathed life into our bond as a brethren working together. Our limited government has given us the ability to dream. Our sense of adventure has flourished and made America great because Americans have not been censored. Rooted in this spirit is a moral compass that has guided our way. If we loose this, we loose everything.

    Alexis de Tocqueville summed it up best:

    “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies; and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast commerce, and it was not there. Not until I visited the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner
    June 7, 2010

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