Thursday, March 15, 2018

John C. Miller - The Federalist Era (Book Review)

In the preface the author remarks that the historian almost has to choose between Hamilton and Jefferson.  He says that he favors Hamilton on some issues and Jefferson on some issues.  Nice equivocation.  His themes are Union and Liberty.

Interesting question: to what extent do the political controversies of the 1790's have relevance for today?

The first Congress spent its first three weeks talking about titles mostly about what to call the President.  VP Adams gets laughed at over this.

Washington, though not a monarchist, had no intention of making his new office a man of the people. P. 10

Celebration of the President's birthday.  P. 11

Should I purchase other John C. Miller books?

Washington scrupulously avoided exceeding his Constitutional mandate.  P. 13

Sectional differences began in the struggle over revenue to run the new country, tariffs and tonnage.  P. 13-22

Producing a Bill of Rights came before establishing a judiciary system.  P. 22

Madison's initial idea was to embed the amendments into the body of the Constitution, but changed his mind after Roger Sherman suggested keeping them separate.  Good thing.  P. 23

President Washington scrupulously avoided any semblance of nepotism.  When his nephew, Bushrod Washington, applied for a job as a district attorney, Washington turned him down.  "The eyes of Argus are upon me," he said.  Washington's aim was to draw the first characters of the country into the new government.  P. 31

In setting a template for the office of President, President Washington scrupulously avoided any semblance of nepotism. When his nephew, Bushrod Washington, applied for a job as a district attorney, Washington turned him down. "The eyes of Argus are upon me," he said. Washington's aim was to draw the leading characters of the country into the new government. He knew how important it was to earn the affection and respect of the people in setting an example for future Presidents.
John C. Miller, "The Federalist Era," p. 31
My, how far we have fallen since our beginning.

The Federalists considered themselves the better people who ought to govern.  P. 32

Hamilton believed that threats to liberty came mostly from the states and not the national government.  P. 33

The threat to equilibrium came from the states and not from an energetic national government.  P. 35

This book is indispensable reading.

Even in his most nationalistic phase, Madison never ceased being a Virginian.  P. 35

Even in his most nationalistic phase, James Madison never ceased being a Virginian.
-John C.Miller, "The Federalist Era," P. 35

This author leads to a great point. No matter how life unfolds, you can never completely take the South our of the native Southerner. (From Facebook)

"It was not merely Hamiltonianism to which Madison objected---he now recoiled from the whole of a strong, centralized government which he had advocated at the Constitutional Convention. True, Madison did not publicly confess his errors and repent his transgressions against 'true republicanism,' but after 1790 he made clear that his principal objective was to redress the balance (which he himself had helped to establish) in favor of the states." P, 57

Washington consulted, but ultimately made his own decisions. P. 58

The Bank was a supreme test of enumerated vs. implied powers in the Constitution. P. 58-59

Under "necessary and proper" the Constitution under John Marshall was expanded to give the national government greater and greater powers. P. 59

Madison moved to saying the Constitution had only specified powers to a government of limited power. P. 66

How to read the preamble is the key. P. 66

Hamiltonianism stabilized the new country. P. 68-69

Jefferson's great faith in education and the "people." P. 71

Jefferson became the advocate of minimal government. He was so determined to constrict the powers of the national government that he ignored its potential as a constructive force for the public welfare. P. 72

Jefferson professed to love farming, but he probably never grabbed a hoe in his life. His love of farming was poetic rather than real. Happiness was found on a farm. Farmers were God's Chosen People. A Republican was a man with a hoe and a hundred acres. P. 73

If rightly informed, Jefferson's people would always do right. P. 75

Jefferson did not understand finance. P. 76

No doubt Jefferson did believe in a monarchial conspiracy, he who was full of republican purity. P. 78

Federalist thought ran more toward oligarchy than monarchy. What Jefferson called incipient monarchy was actually energetic government for the common good. P. 79

Jefferson was defending HIS brand of Republicanism. His opponents were not monarchists but were trying to achieve an economy to promote commerce and manufacturing to create a strong a vibrant country. P. 79

For Hamilton the primary weakness of Republicanism was its tendency to create demagogues and the proclivity of the people to follow these Pied Pipers of democracy. The road to political office was to flatter the prejudices of the people, excite their jealousies and apprehensions, and throw the country into chaos. While he absolved Jefferson and Hamilton from such intentions, he felt that their policies would create this inevitable result. P. 80

Monarchy vs. elevating the separate powers of the states. P 81

According to Hamilton, liberty was extinguished not by executive encroachments but by the licentiousness of the people. Good government comes from an energetic executive. Hence, he believed in broad implied powers in the Constitution. P. 81

At no time did Hamilton attempt to violate the Constitution and not once were his interpretations of powers granted the Federal government by the Constitution nullified by Supreme Court decisions. P. 82

Hamilton set the country in the right direction. P. 84

Jefferson conceded Hamilton everything except that his policies weren't right. P. 87

Jefferson seldom looked people in the eye when he addressed them. P. 88

Federalism was more a state of mind than a fixed set of policies. P. 99

Characteristics of the Federalists. P. 100

Madison more than Jefferson for the Republicans. P. 103

Behind every Southerners distrust of a strong national government lay the fear that such a government could interfere with slavery. P. 103

"One of the most striking anomalies of American political history was the emergence of the great slaveholding planters of the South as the leaders of the party which prided itself upon its liberalism, its devotion to republican institutions, and its concern for the welfare of the masses. . . . In a conflict with northern finance capital, the farmers, large and small, of the South rallied around the aristocratic leaders who spoke in the name of American agriculture. P. 104

Republicanism was a grassroots happening. Federalists was born in the cities. Republicanism: fear of a strong central government, of the rule of financiers, and fear of a large national debt. Advocates of states rights vs. national rights. At the same time, with no sense of incongruity, they spoke in the name of slavery and in defense of the the South's peculiar institution. P. 104

Dr. Johnson remarked that the loudest yelps for liberty came from the drivers of Negroes. These same drives would extoll the virtues of liberty. P. 107

The Federalists were the champions of an ideal without which the country would not have survived. P. 110

Federalists disdained "the people." P. 110

The people were not a threat unless incited by a demagogue. P. 112

Property rights were central for Federalists. P. 117

Federalism did not trend toward liberalism. P. 117

To the extent that Federalists became isolated in the 1790's, they became more conservative. P. 118

Gouverneur Morris was convinced that it was impossible to instill wisdom in the people. You might as well preach religion to unbelievers. They are affected only by adversity and suffering. P. 118

Noah Webster advocated raising the voting age to 45. P. 121

Then there was Jefferson's naive faith in the wisdom of the people. P. 123

The political balance of power was upset by 1795 from Hamilton's proposals. 124

The Genet story doesn't much interest me. P. 127

Jay's Treaty proved to be good in the long run. P. 165

Madison crosses Washington on the interpreting the Constitution. P. 173

Beard on the Jay Treaty. P. 174

Effects of the Jay Treaty. P. 176

The House voted to implement the Jay Treaty. P. 176

The Jay Treaty helped explode the growth of the cotton industry in the South. P. 177

Washington's Farewell Address contains the essence of Federalism. P. 196

The end of the Federalist Era---Citizen Genet, The X.Y.Z Affair, the near war with France, and the Alien an Sedition Acts do not readily engage my interest. However, the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions deserve continued interest.

The Federalist Era ended tragically with the election of Thomas Jefferson and yet we owe the Federalists the successful beginning of our country. They made a parchment into a workable instrument of government. They were honest, efficient administrators. They proved that the powers of the federal government could work for the welfare of the people. The Federalists united the people for the common good. P. 277

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