Friday, January 4, 2013

Remember Morristown!


On this day, January 4th, in the year 1780, a major snow storm hit General Washington and his troops encamped at Morristown, New Jersey.  The weather from January through March was extremely cold with snow accumulating to 12 feet high in places. It is well that we remember the sufferings of the Revolutionary soldiers at that time. A brief account follows:

“Washington again decided upon Morristown for his winter encampment and on November 30th (1779), informed General Nathanael Greene of his decision. The various units marched to Morristown arriving between the first week of December and the end of the month. An area southwest of Morristown, called Jockey Hollow, was selected. It is estimated that 600 acres of forest were cut down to build more than 1,000 1og huts. It became known as "log-house city". Each hut was built to specifications required by General Washington measuring about 14 by 15 feet. The height at the eaves was 6 feet 6 inches. They were built of notched logs, with clay used as chink to seal the huts from the cold, and with a door at one end and a fireplace at the other. …Each hut held 12 men. The officers' huts were somewhat larger, with one to four officers, depending on rank to occupy each….

General Washington set up Headquarters at the Ford Mansion, some five miles from Jockey Hollow. Across what is now Morris Street, some 75 yards from Ford Mansion, the Commander-in-Chief's Guards constructed twelve huts of the same design as the main army and one officer's hut for Major Caleb Gibbs and Captain William Colfax. Gibbs, in personal correspondence, referred to his hut as "Gibb's Manor".

By 1780, the Continental Army had been at war six long years. It was in deplorable condition. Congress had exhausted all their resources, including the promised assistance from France. The Continental paper dollar had depreciated to 3,000 to 1! Even those supporting independence would not accept "Continentals", hence what money available to the army was worthless. The expression "Not worth a Continental" originated at this time.

George Washington wrote the Marquis de Lafayette on March 18th, 1780 from the Ford Mansion. "... The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before. "

When the Army arrived at Jockey Hollow, there was already a foot of snow on the ground. Doctor James Thacher, whose journal is one of the best sources of first person descriptions of events during the war, wrote: "The weather for several days has been remarkably cold and stormy. On the 3rd instance, we experienced one of the most tremendous snowstorms ever remembered; no man could endure its violence many minutes without danger to his life. ... When the storm subsided, the snow was from four to six feet deep, obscuring the very traces of the roads by covering fences that lined them. "

…General Johann de Kalb wrote: "...so cold that the ink freezes on my pen, while I am sitting close to the fire. The roads are piled with snow until, at some places they are elevated twelve feet above their ordinary level." 

Private Joseph Plumb Martin's memoirs, writing in the rollicking style of a soldier, reported: "We are absolutely, literally starved. I do solemnly declare that I did not put a single morsel of victuals into my mouth for four days and as many nights, except for a little black birch bark which I gnawed off a stick of wood. I saw several men roast their old shoes and eat them, and I was afterward informed by one of the officer's waiters, that some of the officers killed a favorite little dog that belonged to one of them." He then wrote that he wore "what laughingly could be called a uniform, and possessed a blanket thin enough to have straws shoot through it without discom­moding the threads "

…All roads were impassable and would stay that way until the snow melted. Not a single cart or wagon load of supplies could move.” The Continental Army was in danger of utter starvation.
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May we never forget the sacrifices of these early patriots for our precious liberty. 

http://www.revolutionarywararchives.org/coldwinter.html

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas at the White House 1800-1816

“When the second President of the United States, John Adams, moved into what would come to be known as the White House [in November 1800], the residence was cold, damp, and drafty. Sitting at the edge of a dreary swamp, the First Family had to keep 13 fireplaces lit in an effort to stay comfortable. It is in this setting that the cantankerous president held the first ever White House Christmas party in honor of his granddaughter, Susanna. It could be said that the invitations sent for this party were the very first White House Christmas cards, though in those early days, the building was referred to as the President’s Palace, Presidential Mansion, or President’s House.”

“The affair was planned in large part by the vivacious First Lady, Abigail Adams, and was considered a great success. A small orchestra played festive music in a grand ballroom adorned with seasonal flora. After dinner, cakes and punch were served while the staff and guests caroled and played games. The most amusing incident of the evening occurred when one of the young guests accidentally broke one of the First Granddaughter’s new doll dishes. Enraged, the young guest of honor promptly bit the nose off of one of the offending friend’s dolls. The amused president had to intervene to make sure the incident didn’t take an even uglier turn.”

Following in Adams’ footsteps, “Thomas Jefferson [the nation’s 3rd President] in 1805, six of his grandchildren and 100 of their friends – invited by Secretary of State James Madison’s wife, Dolley, who acted as official hostess – made for a tremendously enjoyable holiday party at which Jefferson played the violin for the dancing children. Christmas celebrations at the Jefferson White House were festive affairs where delicacies and local American foods were served.” “…These Christmas celebrations, hosted by the charming Dolley who made sure delicacies were enjoyed by all, continued through the years Jefferson was president.”

“When her husband [James Madison] succeeded his mentor as the master of the White House in 1809, the tradition of celebrating Christmas with White House parties – hosted by none other than Dolley – continued. Her holiday attire would usually include some purple peacock feathers atop a turban or cap covering her hair, along with her dress of lace and pink satin. Although there were neither White House Christmas cards exchanged nor a decorated Christmas tree in those years, the holiday tradition would include wonderful things to eat, as she would oversee the serving of seafood, stuffed goose, Virginia ham, and pound cake, as well as [fermented beverages]. She would lift her glass with the heartfelt toast, “Merry Christmas! God Bless America!”

http://www.whitehousechristmascards.com

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Gettysburg Address


By: J. David Gowdy

On November 19, 1863, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln was the second speaker at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A throng of fifteen to twenty thousand people crowded around the speakers' platform. Lincoln was preceded on the podium by the famed orator Edward Everett, who spoke to the crowd for two hours. Lincoln followed with his brief and now immortal Gettysburg Address. The following day, on November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

On the morning of November 19, President Lincoln rode in a train with his secretary, John G. Nicolay, his assistant secretary, John Hay, and three members of his Cabinet who accompanied him, William Seward, John Usher and Montgomery Blair, among others. Hay noted that during the speech Lincoln’s face was “sad, mournful, almost haggard.” After the speech, when Lincoln boarded the 6:30pm train for Washington, D.C., he was feverish and weak, with a severe headache. A protracted illness followed and he was diagnosed with a mild case of smallpox.

The extreme brevity of Lincoln's address caught his audience by surprise. As historian Doris Kearns Goodwin reported, one eyewitness said, “The assemblage stood motionless and silent.” Pennsylvania Governor Curtin stated, “He pronounced that speech in a voice that all the multitude heard. The crowd was hushed into silence because the President stood before them...It was so Impressive! It was the common remark of everybody. Such a speech, as they said it was!” Contemporary reactions in the press (while not all so positive) included these: 

Springfield (Mass.) Republican: “Surprisingly fine as Mr. Everett’s oration was in the Gettysburg consecration, the rhetorical honors of the occasion were won by President Lincoln. His little speech is a perfect gem; deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma. Then it has the merit of unexpectedness in its verbal perfection and beauty… Turn back and read it over, it will repay study as a model speech.” 

Providence Journal: "We know not where to look for a more admirable speech than the brief one which the President made at the close of Mr. Everett’s oration… Could the most elaborate and splendid oration be more beautiful, more touching, more inspiring than those thrilling words of the President? They have in our humble judgment the charm and power of the very highest eloquence." 

Chicago Tribune: “The dedicatory remarks by President Lincoln will live among the annals of man.”

Recited by schoolchildren and beloved by generations of Americans, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address stands as a timeless tribute to the principles of the Declaration of Independence -- that "all men are created equal," and to our Constitutional Republic -- "a government of the people":

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”


Sunday, November 11, 2012

History of Veterans Day

“World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month [or November 11, 1918]...

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"  The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m. …

An Act by the United States Congress approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars…

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible." ...

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97, which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans’ service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.” 


Monday, October 29, 2012

"I am President of the United States, clothed with immense power."


By: J. David Gowdy

The film “Lincoln” is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and covers the final four months of President Lincoln's life and the ending of slavery.  The film’s director, Steven Spielberg said that "what permanently ended slavery was the very close vote in the House of Representatives over the Thirteenth Amendment – that story I'm excited to tell."  In one of the movie trailers, with Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Abraham Lincoln, we see the President fighting against his opponents to abolish slavery. The trailer ends with a great line delivered by Lewis: “I am the president of the United States of America… clothed in immense power!”  Did Lincoln really say that and why?  The answer is found in history…

“While the Emancipation Proclamation was taking its effect in the field, as the Union army advanced, Lincoln also supported Radical Republicans who began to advocate a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery everywhere in the United States. On December 14, 1863, Ohio Congressman James M. Ashley introduced such an amendment in the House of Representatives. Senator John Brooks Henderson of Missouri, a border state that still sanctioned slavery, followed suit on January 11, 1864, courageously submitting a joint resolution for an amendment abolishing slavery.

The proposed amendment passed in the Senate on April 8, 1864, with a vote of 38 to 6. Two months later, however, it was defeated in the House of Representatives, 95 to 66 (or by another account, 93-65), shy of the 2/3 necessary for approval. Lincoln, not about to give up, made abolition a central plank of the National Union platform during his re-election campaign. He argued,

“When the people in revolt, with a hundred days of explicit notice, that they could, within those days, resume their allegiance, without the overthrow of their institution, and that they could not so resume it afterwards, elected to stand out, such [an] amendment of the Constitution as [is] now proposed, became a fitting, and necessary conclusion to the final success of the Union cause. Such alone can meet and cover all cavils…” (Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 7, 380).

Lincoln’s victory over McClellan in 1864 gave him a new mandate and enough seats in the House to eventually guarantee passage of the stalled amendment. Not content to wait until the new Congress met in March, the amendment’s supporters brought the measure to another vote in the House on January 31, 1865.

On being informed that the amendment was still two votes short, Lincoln is reported to have told the Republican Congressmen: “I am President of the United States, clothed with great power. The abolition of slavery by Constitutional provisions settles the fate, for all … time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come – a measure of such importance that those two votes must be procured.  I leave it to you to determine how it shall be done, but remember that I am President of the United States, clothed with immense power, and I expect you to procure those two votes ...” (John B. Alley, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, ed., Rice, 1886 ed., p 585-6. Per Goodwin, p. 687). [emphasis added]

The outcome of the vote was in doubt until the final hour. A Pennsylvania Democrat, Archibald McAllister, opened the debate by explaining why he had changed his vote from a “Nay” to an “Aye.” He had been in favor of exhausting all means of conciliation, McAllister stated, but was now satisfied that nothing short of independence would satisfy the Southern Confederacy, and that therefore it must be destroyed, and he must cast his vote against its cornerstone, and declare eternal war with the enemies of the country. Fellow Pennsylvania Democrat Alexander Hamilton Coffroth also changed his vote, and gave a speech advocating passage. Arguments continued until, finally, the votes were tallied. This time it passed, by a vote of 119 to 56, with 8 abstentions.  When Speaker Colfax declared the results, “a moment of silence succeeded, and then, from floor and galleries, burst a simultaneous shout of joy and triumph, spontaneous, irrepressible and uncontrollable, swelling and prolonged in one vast volume of reverberating thunder…” 

(Report of the special committee on the passage by the House of Representatives of the constitutional amendment for the abolition of slavery. January 31st, 1865: The Action of the Union League Club on the Amendment, February 9, 1865, in “From Slavery to Freedom.” American Memory, Library of Congress).” 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Federalist and Human Nature


By Tony Williams

The second installment of my series of essays on The Federalist will examine the understanding of human nature presented by Publius.  This topic is profoundly important because Publius’ view of the basic nature of man logically shaped the kind of government they were advocating. 

Across the ages, examining the basic presuppositions of political philosophers about the nature of man reveals what forms of government followed from those premises.  For example, Aristotle believed that man can form habits of vice or habits of virtue.   Therefore, a rule by a single leader could assume the best form of government in a just monarchy or it can be worst form of government under a corrupt tyrant.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that man was good and perfectible in his nature and corrupted only by institutions.  As a result, a unicameral legislature with no checks and balances was a logical form of government.  Finally, Thomas Hobbes posited that man was by nature evil and that life in a state of nature without law would be nasty, brutish, and short in the war of all against all.  Therefore, he advocated an unlimited sovereign, Leviathan, whose job was to enforce law and order. 

Thus, the view of human nature as presented in The Federalist is a crucial question for understanding the Constitution.  It should hardly surprise us that in an overwhelming Protestant nation of various denominations, Publius formed a generally pessimistic view of human nature based upon Original Sin.  Indeed, in Federalist #51, James Madison uses religious language to explore the basic nature of man.  Madison averred:

But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.[1]

The implicit conclusions Madison draws from his conditional (if-then) logical statements are plain.  Men are not angels, and therefore government is in fact necessary.  Moreover, men are not always governable by angels or God.  The people follow their passions and leaders suffer from ambition for power.  Thus, internal and external controls on government are necessary because men are governed by men. 

            Madison continues, explaining how to frame a republican government, considering his argument regarding human nature:

In framing government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.[2] 

The writers of the Federalist were also steeped in classical philosophy and believed that man was mired by passions, self-interest, and habits of vice but also capable of self-control, reason, and habits of virtue.  They believed, with Aristotle, that each person had an ethical duty and the reason to govern himself and restrain his vices to live a happy and free life.  So too could a people govern itself justly and virtuously in a republic. 

This influence is evident in Madison’s Federalist #55, where he even uses a classical allusion to illustrate his point about human nature:

In all numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason.  Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.[3]

            At the end of the same essay, Madison further discussed the subject.  He noted the heights and depths to which humanity could rise and sink.  The existence of republican self-government posited the better angels in our nature, but since humans were still subject to their passions, checks on human nature were still necessary.  He wrote:

As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.  Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.[4]

            Alexander Hamilton shared Madison’s sober view of human nature.  Passions and self-interest usually predominate over reason and self-control.  In Federalist #6, Hamilton asks two rhetorical questions that he believed were answered by practical experience and knowledge of human nature.   

Has it not, on the contrary, invariably been found that momentary passions, and immediate interests, have a more active and imperious control over human conduct than general  or remote considerations of policy, utility, or justice? . . . .

Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?[5]
           
Madison and Hamilton had great hope that Americans, and thereby humans, were capable of governing themselves by their own consent.  They believed that republican ideals of virtue and self-government as well as institutional checks and balances would provide the means for Americans to govern themselves and enjoy their natural rights and liberties. 

Not every Founding Father agreed.  Founders such as Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson often took a more liberal view of human nature.  Paine and Franklin supported unicameral legislatures because they did not believe that human nature needed many checks.  Such ideas were considered at the Constitutional Convention and rejected.  Jefferson, for his part, was in Paris, and more favorably disposed towards the ideals of the radical French Enlightenment and the French Revolution, which believed in the basic goodness of man and the evil of institutions. 

But, the writers of the Federalist was more realistic as were the Framers of the Constitution.  The next essay in this series will explore the institutional checks and restraints upon the government given their understanding of human nature as flawed but capable of aspiring toward higher ideals. 

(Next - 3rd installment in series - "The Federalist, Human Nature, and Forms of Government": http://wjmi.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-federalist-human-nature-and-forms.html)

See also: "Teaching the Federalist in Secondary Schools" -- http://wjmi.blogspot.com/2010/10/teaching-federalist-in-secondary.html
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[1] James Madison, Federalist #51, in Charles R. Kesler and Clinton Rossiter, The Federalist Papers (New York: Signet, 1999), 319. 
[2] James Madison, Federalist #51, ibid
[3] James Madison, Federalist #55, ibid., 340. 
[4] James Madison, Federalist #51, ibid., 343. 
[5] Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #6, ibid., 51, 53. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Origins of The Federalist

By: Tony Williams

        On September 17, 1787, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in the Philadelphia statehouse, Benjamin Franklin pointed at the president’s chair which was painted with a half a sun on it.  He told his fellow delegates: “I have . . . often in the course of the session . . . looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting.  But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”  The delegates then retired to the City Tavern for a farewell dinner and “took a cordial leave of each other,” as George Washington wrote in his diary.[1]

            Two days later, the Pennsylvania Packet and five other Philadelphia newspapers printed the Constitution.  Within three weeks, dozens of others across the country would submit the document to the American people for their consideration.  On September 28, Congress voted to send the handiwork of the Philadelphia Convention to the state legislatures to elect representatives to popular ratifying conventions. 

The ratification of the Constitution was to be an expression of popular sovereignty as the people’s representatives would deliberate on the merits of the new government in popular conventions rather than state legislatures.  The Constitution would be accepted as fundamental law if accepted by nine of the thirteen states rather than the unanimity of the Articles of Confederation.  This method of ratification would additionally preserve the principle of federalism as several devices in the Constitution sought to preserve a balanced sovereignty between the national government and the states. 

By the end of September, Franklin’s sanguine expectations seemed to be confirmed.  But, in October, the opponents of the Constitution rallied and published their criticisms in newspapers in different states.  The Pennsylvanian Independent Gazetteer published an article by “Centinel,” who warned the new government was the “most daring attempt to establish a despotic aristocracy among freemen, that the world has ever witnessed.”  The author was also deeply concerned that the document lacked a bill of rights that would secure such essential rights as liberty of the press.[2]  “Brutus,” meanwhile, in New York, warned that the new government would have unlimited power of taxation, which would destroy state government and act as “the great engine of oppression and tyranny.”[3]  These opponents of the Constitution were labeled “Anti-Federalists” though they believed they stood for a truly federal system rather than a consolidated one and were the true federalists. 

            In mid-October, Alexander Hamilton conceived of a series of essays in defense of the Constitution from its detractors on his journey from Albany to New York as he returned home from a session of the state supreme court.  When he arrived home, Hamilton consulted several friends about joining him in his project and John Jay and James Madison, who was in New York serving in the confederation congress, accepted Hamilton’s invitation. 

On October 27, the New  York Independent Journal published Hamilton’s first Federalist essay written under the pseudonym “Publius.”  Although addressed to the people of New York, Hamilton originally intended the essays to influence the ratification of the Constitution at the New York Ratifying Convention where he expected significant opposition among Anti-Federalists.  To put it in relatively crude modern terms, it was meant to be a piece of political propaganda persuading the Anti-Federalists to ratify the Constitution. 

          The Philadelphia Convention, The Federalist, Anti-Federalist essays, and ratifying conventions, in addition to the informal debates in taverns among ordinary farmers, artisans, and merchants were all part of an unprecedented and incredible moment of reflective deliberation in world history.  The people and their representatives understood the significance of their debate on the principles of republican self-government for their country and their posterity.    

Hamilton certainly realized the import of the American debate for countries around the world.  In a statement of American exceptionalism in the tradition of John Winthrop’s “City Upon a Hill,” Hamilton wrote in the very first Federalist essay:

It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether  they are forever destined to depend upon their political constitutions on accident and force.[4]

Hamilton thought that if creating a republican government by consent failed under such propitious conditions during the American founding, that perhaps mankind was not meant to govern itself. 

From October, 1787 to May, 1788, the triumvirate writing as Publius penned a total of eighty-five essays.  They were reprinted in other states and eventually bound in book form and shipped to states with particularly narrow support for the Constitution.  Madison himself ordered several copies to distribute to the delegates at the Virginia Ratification Convention to persuade them to support the new government.  

********************
This essay is the first in a series of essays on The Federalist and its principles by WJMI Program Director, Tony Williams, as part of our September teacher seminar on the Constitution, celebrating its 235th anniversary.  Having laid down the historical context for its composition, subsequent essays will explore the principles of government that it espoused in the defense of the new Constitution.  Thus, the essays will answer the question why Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia Board of Visitors included The Federalist, along with the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s Farewell Address, as the essential works for a proper understanding of the Constitution and an inculcation in the principles of American government in a true civic education. 


[1] Quoted in, Tony Williams, America’s Beginnings: The Dramatic Events that Shaped a Nation’s Character (Lanham, MD: Rowman Littlefield, 2010), 161.
[2] Quoted in, Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010), 76. 
[4] Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #1, Charles R. Kesler and Clinton Rossiter, eds., The Federalist Papers (New York: Penguin, 1999), 27.