June 9, 2010 – Federalist No. 31 – Janine Turner
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Howdy from Boston! It is thrilling to be here in a city that has so much revolutionary history! Juliette and I walked around in the rain and saw State Hall and Park Church. (Be sure to watch our behind the scene video!) We also saw the graves of Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock. I spoke Samuel Adam’s words over his grave, “The pooling of property and redistributing of wealth are despotic and unconstitutional.” The bells then started to ring from Park Church so I said recited it again!
As I read Federalist Paper No. 31, I felt such a since of wonder and also such a sense of gratitude that I am having this opportunity to read the words of Publius. Understanding their interpretation of the United States Constitution and their vision of the country is empowering and incredibly relevant.
I am most intrigued with how the structure and checks and balances of our then newfound government were founded with such reason and based on the guidance and wisdom of history. As I read and digest their words, I am realizing how far we have strayed from their original intent. One of the ways is with the seventeenth amendment. This was a pivotal part of the balance of government. The seventeenth amendment was one of the ways that the states could keep their power. The senate was to represent the states and the house the people.
I wonder if the healthcare bill would have ever passed if the Senate had been left in its original intent? I also wonder if the Federal Government would ever have had the opportunity to become so vast and powerful if the Senators had continued to be elected by the state legislatures? Who has been looking after the states’ interest since the passing of the 17th Amendment?
The Federalist Papers reveal that Publius and our Constitutional forefathers never intended for the federal government to become so intrusive into the states’ rights, the states’ affairs or citizens’ lives. Alexander Hamilton writes in Federalist Paper No. 31, “I repeat here what I have observed in substance in another place, that all observations, founded upon the danger of usurpation, ought to be referred to the composition and structure of the government, not to the nature and extent of its powers. The state governments, by their original constitution, are invested with complete sovereignty.”
Do our states have complete sovereignty today?
Another interesting statement in Federalist Paper No. 31 is: “As in republics, strength is always on the side of the people; and as there are weighty reasons to induce a belief, that the state governments will commonly possess most influence over them, the natural conclusion is, that such contests will be most apt to end to the disadvantage of the union; and that there is greater probability of encroachments by the members upon the federal head, than by the federal head upon the members.”
Is this true today? I say it is not true today.
Alexander Hamilton’s last paragraph of Federalist Paper No. 31, is our call to action, “Everything beyond this, must be left to the prudence and the 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.”
“Everything beyond this must be left to the prudence and the firmness of the people; AS THEY HOLD THE SCALES IN THEIR OWN HANDS..” This quote has a tremendous amount of treasure. We, the American people must have prudence and firmness in regard to our governmental affairs. Publius talks often about the “genius of the people.” We should not underestimate ourselves. We should call upon our prudence in governmental affairs and we should be firm. The best way to do this is to be vocal and to vote. We the people rule… through our elected officials.
When I think about the shift in power in our governmental structure and checks and balances, I think about how our founding fathers would be greatly distressed. I, also, ponder upon the political environment during the years around 1913. Why was this amendment allowed to happen? Were our predecessors not firm, informed or prudent?
Of course, this will very likely be the thought process that our grandchildren may have about our generation? “Why did they allow our liberties to be constrained, our country to be diminished, by living beyond their means?”
It was we, the American people, who were to hold the scales in our hands. It was we who were to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the state governments. We the people. If our country fails it is because we the people have let it. Benjamin Franklin, when asked what he had constructed for the people during the Constitutional Convention, responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Do our children know that they are the, “we the people?”
Or do they think it is the, “we the government?”
It is by our actions, education and involvement that they will see the true intent of our founding fathers, our United States Constitution and a government of the people, by the people, for the people. May it not perish from the earth.