June 9, 2010 – Federalist No. 31 – Cathy Gillespie
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
“IN DISQUISITIONS of every kind, there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend. These contain an internal evidence which, antecedent to all reflection or combination, commands the assent of the mind.”
Federalist No. 31 has one of the strongest beginnings and endings of any of the essays I have read so far. Hamilton begins by reminding us of the importance of “primary truths,” and “first principles.” When our elected officials are guided by the first principles and truths upon which our country was founded, our freedom and prosperity will be protected.
Mr. Cooper makes an excellent point in his essay today, that instead of scrutinizing specific tasks the government takes on, our elected officials should start from the macro level, and apply first principles in every decision, asking the question, “is this task a legitimate function of the federal government?”
After laying out the importance of the guiding truths in discerning the legitimate functions of government, Hamilton makes the case for the federal government having the “unqualified power of taxation,” so it has the resources to fulfill those duties and powers for which it is responsible, according to the Constitution.
Our modern day problem is that the federal government has utilized its power to tax, to fund powers far beyond the scope of those enumerated in the Constitution.
Hamilton could not imagine the federal government’s modern day usurpation of powers because the checks and balances the founders designed were meant to curb governmental encroachment. Indeed, because of the power of the states in selecting U.S. Senators (before the adoption of the 17th Amendment), Hamilton envisioned States more likely to usurp federal powers, than the other way around.
Hamilton closes by reminding us that the responsibility to stop the encroachment of government at the state or federal level, rests with the people, thus ending Federalist 31 as strongly as he opens it. “We the people” must keep government within its proper scope and powers “delineated in the Constitution.” He states that the people “hold the scales in their hands,” and hopes they “will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the State governments.”
“Everything beyond this must be left to the prudence and firmness of the people; who, as they will hold the scales in their own hands, it is to be hoped, will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the State governments.”
How will “We The People,” adjust the scales to bring the constitutional equilibrium back into balance? It is clear the founders expect us to.
Good night and God Bless,