The New Federalist Papers.
This book was commissioned by the Twentieth Century Fund in the belief that the American Constitution is under unfair attack from both the political left and right. The left is unhappy that the national government has done too little to meet what they consider to be our most pressing national problems -- urban poverty, environmental deterioration, inadequate and expensive health care, racial and gender discrimination -- and blames the Constitution for these perceived failures. The right is unhappy because the national government has done too much to tax away our income, reduce savings, increase the deficit, regulate minute details of our business activity and personal behavior, and discriminate in favor of minority groups; it also blames the Constitution for these perceived excesses. Both left and right urge corrective constitutional amendments. As Fund President Richard Leone explains in a short introduction, what is missing from the debate is a defense of the Constitution as it stands. It is the intent of The New Federalist Papers Federalist papers
formally The Federalist
Eighty-five essays on the proposed Constitution of the United States and the nature of republican government, published in 1787–88 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in an effort to persuade to make that case.
The original Federalist Papers have become almost as famous as the Constitution they explicate. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote them to persuade the new American states to ratify the federal charter drafted by the Philadelphia Convention Historical context
Before the Constitution was drafted, those who came to be known as Federalists and Anti-Federalists both agreed about the government's failure to deal with commerce. . Originally published in the newspapers of the time, the Federalist Papers could easily have disappeared from view along with the rest of the daily news of the 1780s. Instead, they became our most important record of the formation of the republic. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that as the Bible is to the Creation, so the Federalist Papers are to the Constitution.
From time to time in our history, advocates and opponents of major changes in our political system have invoked the Federalist Papers Both North and South cited them during the run-up to the Civil War. After World War II, a group calling itself the World Federalists proposed a union of the major democracies around the globe (including China and South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. ). Boasting supporters such as Gen. George Marshall, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles Noun 1. John Foster Dulles - United States diplomat who (as Secretary of State) pursued a policy of opposition to the USSR by providing aid to American allies (1888-1959)
Dulles , Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts, and Sen. Estes Kefauver Carey Estes Kefauver (July 26, 1903 – August 10, 1963) was an American politician from Tennessee who opposed the concentration of U.S. economic and political power under the control of a wealthy, exclusive elite. , the group proposed a federal charter based largely on the American Constitution, under which the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. would be one of 20-odd constituent states. To advocate the idea, retired Justice Roberts Justice Roberts can refer to two separate United States Supreme Court justices:
Now we have another set of New Federalist Papers, written by a more scholarly triumvirate Triumvirate (trīŭm`vĭrĭt, –vĭrāt'), in ancient Rome, ruling board or commission of three men. Triumvirates were common in the Roman republic. : historian Alan Brinkley Alan Brinkley is the Allan Nevins Professor of History at Columbia University, where he is also provost. He is a progressive historian of the New Deal. Brinkley writes regularly in magazines such as Newsweek and The New Republic and is a strong advocate for progressive issues. , political scientist Nelson W. Polsby Nelson Woolf Polsby (October 25, 1934–February 6, 2007) was an American political scientist. He specialized in the study of the United States presidency and United States Congress. , and constitutional law professor Kathleen M. Sullivan. Far from advocating so fundamental a change in our political structure as the Roberts-Streit-Schmidt proposal, the message this time is essentially to leave well enough alone. (One is reminded of the first Reform Act that democratized the electorate and make-up of the British Parliament Noun 1. British Parliament - the British legislative body
British House of Commons, House of Commons - the lower house of the British parliament
British House of Lords, House of Lords - the upper house of the British parliament ; during the debate an opponent of the Bill argued: "Reform, Reform, why do we want Reform? Things are already bad enough as they are!")
A nonradical triad if ever there was one, Brinkley, Polsby, and Sullivan have written an admirable and highly readable volume of centrist political thought, providing a welcome antidote to what we've been hearing from the right and left. They see the flaws in our constitutional system, but they see its virtues as well. They recognize our failures to achieve policy outcomes as decisively as the parliamentary systems, but they blame these failures less on the Constitution than on the political structures that have evolved beneath it.
Polsby reminds us that while the framers modeled much of our Constitution on Montesquieu's concept of the "separation of powers separation of powers: see Constitution of the United States.
separation of powers
Division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government among separate and independent bodies. " among the executive, the legislature, and the courts, they departed from his theory in one crucial respect. They did not lodge the executive power solely in the president, having suffered from the unchecked power of King George King George has referred to many kings throughout history. When used, by Americans, without further reference it most often means George III of the United Kingdom, against whom the Whigs of the American Revolution rebelled. . Nor did they lodge the legislative power solely in the Congress; as much as they admired the British Parliament for resisting the King's demands, they had endured the injustice of the Stamp Act Stamp Act, 1765, revenue law passed by the British Parliament during the ministry of George Grenville. The first direct tax to be levied on the American colonies, it required that all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills, advertisements, and other and taxation without representation. And although they wanted the courts to protect them against the excesses of the other two branches, as a colony of religious dissidents and smugglers they feared being tried by judges appointed solely by the king.
For those reasons, the framers decided against three separate branches, each with absolute power in its own sphere; they opted instead for three separate departments with shared powers. Each department could exercise its principal power only with the consent of one or both of the other two. For example, laws passed by Congress were made subject to a qualified veto of the president and to review of the law's constitutionality by the courts. Appointments and treaties made by the president were subject to approval by the Senate. The jurisdiction and salaries of the judges were to be largely determined by Congress, and the power to appoint them was lodged in the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Obviously, under such a system, the three branches have to be in general agreement for the government to function effectively. But much as the Framers wanted effectiveness at the federal level -- the lack of effectiveness having been the basic structural flaw of the Articles of Confederation Articles of Confederation
Early U.S. constitution (1781–89) under the government by the Continental Congress, replaced in 1787 by the U.S. Constitution. It provided for a confederation of sovereign states and gave the Congress power to regulate foreign affairs, war, -- they feared a return to what they regarded as the tyranny of the British king and Parliament. This was the reasoning behind the framers' creation of what the original Federalist Papers described as a system of "checks and ballances."
When the three departments with shared powers do not generally agree, as happens frequently, the result is "gridlock Gridlock
A government, business or institution's inability to function at a normal level due either to complex or conflicting procedures within the administrative framework or to impending change in the business. ." How to reduce gridlock without creating the tyranny of a narrow ideological majority is the issue that has preoccupied the American polity ever since our independence as a nation was won. It is also the major subject of this book.
As Polsby points out, Madison sought to check the "rise of faction" -- his euphemism for the special interest groupings that dominated state legislatures -- by creating a national legislature overseeing a vast territory with numerous regionally based interests that differed sharply from one another and were thus difficult to combine into cohesive national parties with narrow ideological goals. The Constitution itself is strangely silent about political parties, their sole mention being the indirect reference to primary elections in the 20th-century amendment abolishing the poll tax. But the Framers themselves, including the authors of the original Federalist Papers, quickly formed national political parties to elect the members of their new federal government and to make it work. As Madison had predicted, these parties, while differing on broad lines of principle -- pro-federalist and anti-federalist -- included so many disparate groups with disparate interests that internal party discipline was weak and narrowly ideological majorities could not be formed. Jefferson's Democratic Republican party was deeply divided between Southern slave owners This list includes notable individuals for which there is a consensus of evidence of slave ownership. A
In the later years of the Articles of Confederation there was much agitation for a stronger federal union, which was crowned with split into a "don't rock the boat" Whig Party Whig party, one of the two major political parties of the United States in the second quarter of the 19th cent. Origins
As a party it did not exist before 1834, but its nucleus was formed in 1824 when the adherents of John Quincy Adams and Henry and a radical anti-slavery Republican Party. The resulting gridlock resulted in the Civil War.
The Civil War could fairly be blamed in large part on the principal weakness of the original Constitution -- the entrenchment of slavery. This fault was corrected by the post-Civil War 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. They were adopted despite the difficulties the Amendment Article places in the way of an amendment, because the defeated states of the Confederacy Confederacy, name commonly given to the Confederate States of America (1861–65), the government established by the Southern states of the United States after their secession from the Union. had essentially been put into receivership under "carpetbagger carpetbagger
Epithet used during the Reconstruction period (1865–77) to describe a Northerner in the South seeking private gain. The word referred to an unwelcome outsider arriving with nothing more than his belongings packed in a satchel or carpetbag. " Reconstruction governments.
Today's right and left currently propose a number of other amendments. The right endeavors to require super-majorities to unbalance the budget or raise taxes, to set limits on the number of terms members of Congress can serve, to ban flag burning, to ban abortion, to protect school prayer and the public funding Public funding is money given from tax revenue or other governmental sources to an individual, organization, or entity. See also
The authors devote a large portion of their book to marshaling the strong arguments against many of these proposals, as well as against the very idea of frequently amending the Constitution. The framers went out of their way to make it difficult to pass amendments, and they succeeded. After the first 10 amendments were adopted as the Bill of Rights immediately after the Constitution was ratified, we have been able to amend it only 17 more times during the succeeding two centuries, and we have never called another constitutional convention. Contrast this with the state constitutions, which are usually amendable by popular vote and by easily called constitutional conventions, with the result that most state constitutions have hundreds of articles and are hundreds of pages long.
The New Federalist Papers also make a convincing case against what Chief Justice Earl Warren used to call "junk amendments" that constitutionalize con·sti·tu·tion·al·ize
tr.v. con·sti·tu·tion·al·ized, con·sti·tu·tion·al·iz·ing, con·sti·tu·tion·al·iz·es
1. To provide with or make subject to a constitution.
2. a temporal economic or social policy (e.g. Prohibition) that turns out to be unwise but extremely difficult to repeal. Many of the current proposals, of course, fall into this category.
Students, politicians, and the citizenry at large should all be grateful for these New Federalist Papers. They will help us to appreciate the basic values of our enduring Constitution -- the most significant political achievement in the long history of what the framers would have called "mankind." The fact that the baton of Madison, Hamilton and Jay has passed to a trio including Kathleen Sullivan tells us all we need to know about how adaptable our remarkable constitutional structure has turned out to be.