Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Federalist Papers

I just started reading The Federalist Papers for the first time.  I am a late bloomer.

The Federalist Papers are a series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in an effort to drum up support to ratify the document we now know as the United States Constitution.

These essays were published under a common pseudonym, Publius.  They were written and published at a break-neck pace.  Today we would call it blogging.

The quality of their thoughts and their ability to transmit it via the written word is awe inspiring.  They did not dummy down any of their arguments.  Their audience was the opinion leaders of New York.  One suspects that literate people were....well....more literate back then.

Example of writing by Hamilton:

Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under one government.  -Third paragraph of the first essay.

According to the grammar checker in Microsoft Word, this paragraph has a Flesch reading ease of 7.5 and a Flesch-Kincaid reading level of 25.  Obviously, this was written for literate audience; people who are capable of focusing and integrating complex ideas.  It was not written for stupid people or for people who multitask or otherwise allow themselves to be distracted.

One comment from the introduction stands out:

...the message of The Federalist reads: no happiness without liberty, no liberty without self-government, no self-government without constitutionalism, no constitutionalism without morality - and none of these great goods without stability and order.  Clinton Rossiter, 1961

It is instructive that Constitutional scholars of fifty years ago had no inhibitions stating that morality is a critical link in the chain that binds civil society.  Today, "scholars" perform verbal rain dances to "prove" that morality is a quaintly old-fashioned concept best tossed into the dust bin.  Their vision includes some metaphysical (cannot be rationally described or mathematically modeled) transformational process whereby the shear mass and inertia of our State guarantees perfection on this side of eternity.

My money is on Hamilton, Madison, Jay and Jefferson.  You can keep the change.

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