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Federalist 1

Federalist 1

by Alexander Hamilton


After full experience of the insufficiency of the existing federal government, you are invited to deliberate upon a New Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in it consequences, nothing less than the existence of the UNION[1], the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire, in many respects, the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked, that I seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide, by their conduct and example, 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, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.[2] If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may, with propriety, be regarded as the period when that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act, may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.[3]

This idea, by adding the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, will heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must first feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, uninfluenced by considerations foreign to the public good.[4] But this is more ardently to be wished for, than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations[5], affects too many particular interests, innovates[6] upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects extraneous[7] to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favourable to the discovery of truth.[8]

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.[9]

It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men into interested or ambitious views, merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion.[10] Candour will oblige us to admit, that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted, that much of the opposition, which has already shown itself, or that may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources blameless at least, if not respectable … the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgement, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions[11], of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would always furnish a lesson of moderation to those, who are engaged in any controversy, however well persuaded of being in the right.[12] And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection, that we are not always sure, that those who advocate the truth are actuated by purer principles than their antagonists.[13] Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives, not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support, as upon those who oppose, the right side of a question.[14] Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill judged than that intolerant spirit, which has at all times, characterized political parties. For, in politics as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.[15]

And yet, just as these sentiments must appear to candid men, we have already sufficient indications, that it will happen in this, as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude, that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts, by the loudness of their declamations, and by the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government, will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of power, and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretence and artifice … the stale bait for popularity at the expense of public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant[16] of violent love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is too apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten, that the vigour of government is essential to the security of liberty[17]; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well informed judgment, their interests can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious[18] mask of zeal for the rights of the people, than under the forbidding appearances of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.[19] History will teach us, that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism, than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career, by paying an obsequious[20] court to the people … commencing demagogues[21], and ending tyrants.[22]

In the course of the preceding observations it has been my aim, fellow citizens, to put you upon your guard against all attempts, from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a matter of the utmost moment to your welfare, by any impressions, other than those which may result from the evidence of truth. You will, no doubt, at the same time, have collected from the general scope of them, that they proceed from a source not unfriendly to the new constitution.[23] Yes, my countrymen, I own to you, that, after having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion, it is your interest to adopt it. I am convinced, that it is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I affect not reserves, which I do not feel. I will not amuse you with an appearance of deliberation, when I have decided. I frankly acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. The consciousness of good intentions disdains ambiguity. I shall not however multiply professions on this head. My motives must remain in the depository of my own breast: my arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit, which will not disgrace the cause of truth.

I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars … The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity … the insufficiency of the present confederation to preserve that Union … The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the attainment of this object … The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government … Its analogy to your own state constitution … and lastly, The additional security, which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty and to property.

In the progress of this discussion, I shall endeavour to give a satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made their appearance, that may seem to have any claim to attention.

It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer arguments to prove the utility of the UNION, a point, no doubt, deeply engraved on the hearts of the great body of the people in every state, and one which, it may be imagined, has no adversaries.[24] But the fact is, that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those who oppose the new constitution, that the thirteen States are of too great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the whole.[25] This doctrine will, in all probability, be gradually propagated, till it has votaries[26] enough to countenance[27] its open avowal[28]. For nothing can be more evident, to those who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative of an adoption of the constitution, or a dismemberment of the Union. It may, therefore, be essential to examine particularly the advantages of that Union, the certain evils, and the probably dangers, to which every state will be exposed from its dissolution. This shall accordingly be done.[29]


[1] The UNION is an entity unique from the individuals who comprise it just as water is an entity unique from either Oxygen or Hydrogen. But just like it is ridiculous to get pure water by filtering out all the Oxygen and Hydrogen, it is ridiculous to say that the interest of the UNION must be considered without regard to the interest of the individual.

[2] While in theory we can imagine and invent all sorts of “good government.” Experience and human nature tells us that most people prefer to leave such things to other people and live their life day to day without worrying about the form or shape of government, as long as it doesn’t become inconvenient. This is the brain-off conspiracy. No form of government will work effectively in the long term without a willingness of the participants to be involved and make a conscious choice as to what is the best form to follow in government

[3] “Wrong” election: Right and wrong are subjective terms. The standard that is inferred is right and wrong according to God, or as violating principles which govern the “fortune of mankind.” The “misfortune of mankind” is determined by violation of principle. Mr. Hamilton is here showing that the form of government must comply with true principles in order to affect the fortune of mankind in a desirable way.

[4] I very much like the way that he explains public good and individual interests. “A judicious estimate of our true interests” will never be “foreign to the public good.” There is no public good that exists exclusive of private interests. Public good is nothing more than a conglomeration of individual interests. However, public good is in the true interest of the individual.

[5] Referring to the Constitution

[6] From 1828 Dictionary:

IN’NOVATE, v.t. [L. innovo; in and novo, to make new, novus, new.]

1. To change or alter by introducing something new.

2. To bring in something new.

[7] From 1828 Dictionary:

EXTRA’NEOUS, a. [L. extraneus.]
Foreign; not belonging to a thing; existing without; not intrinsic; as, to separate gold from extraneous matter.

[8] Basically he is saying that because there are several changes made to the way things have been done and touches so many topics that the discussion will likely involve many topics that have nothing to do with the Constitution, and also involve emotionally charged issues and diversions which are not usually conducive to discovery what it true.

Divide and conquer.

3 Nephi 11: 29 – For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Don’t judge someone out of a stereo typing or just because someone’s position might tend toward a negative motivation does not necessarily mean that they automatically do.

This is an interesting statement. Who determines which side is the “right” or the “wrong” side of any question? There always must follow the question, to what end result? Which questions beg the question, who wants that end result and why do they get to decide for everyone? I believe that most people who use these words imply the answer to the subsequent questions: What is “right,” is right according to the aims of God, and He is the one wanting that end result.

Psalms 24:1 – The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

He therefore has the ultimate authority on what is “right” or “wrong.”

Habit number 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Seeking for what is true rather than seeking for what is right. What is right must be true, but what is true isn’t always right. The search for truth is not the most pure intention. It is better for us to seek for what is right.

We all have weaknesses and are all subject to the “natural man.”

D&C 121:41 – No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.

1828 Dictionary

CONCOM’ITANT, n. A companion; a person or thing that accompanies another, or is collaterally connected. It is seldom applied to persons.

Is this true? I feel that the vigour of government is often the concomitant and precursor of tyranny.

1828 Dictionary

SPE’CIOUS, a. [Fr. Specieux; It. Specioso; Sp. especioso; L. speciosus]

1. Showy; pleasing to the view.

2. Apparently right; superficially fair, just or correct; plausible; appearing well at first view; as specious reasoning; a specious argument; a specious objection; specious deeds. Temptation is of greater danger, because it is covered with the specious names of good nature, good manners, nobleness of mind, etc.

[19] I don’t think this statement is true. There is just as much “dangerous ambition” behind the one as the other. If there is any, I would say that the safer bet is with less control on individual lives than on more through government.

1828 Dictionary

OBSI’QUIOUS, a. [fro L. obsequium, complaisance, from obsequor, to follow; ob and sequor]

1.Promptly obedient or submissive to the will of another; compliant; yielding to the desires of others, properly to the
will or command of a superior, but in actual use, it often signifies yielding to the will or desires of such as have no right to control.

2. Servilely or meanly condescending; compliant to excess; as an obsequious flatterer, minion or parasite.

Funeral; pertaining to funeral rites.

DEM’AGOGUE, n. demagog. [Gr. dhmagogoe, from dhmoe, the populace, and agw, to lead]

1. A leader of the people; an orator who pleases the populace and influences them to adhere to him.

2. Any leader of the populace; any factious man who has great influence with the great body of people in a city or community.

[22] RickKoerber could be considered a demagogue; time will tell if he will end a tyrant.

To Do: Bring up Federalist 1 in the on-going discussion about the organizational structure of the Free Capitalist project.

He believed that there were no open adversaries to the need for the UNION and that the general populace would think it odd that he would submit an argument for the benefits of a UNION.

Included footnote, “The same idea, tracing the arguments to their consequences, is held out in several of the late publications against the New Constitution.

1828 Dictionary

VO’TARY, n. One devoted, consecrated or engaged by a vow or promise; hence more generally, one devoted, given or addicted to some particular service, worship, study or state of life. Every goddess of antiquity had her votaries. Every pursuit or study has now its votaries. One is a votary to mathematics, another is a votary to music, and alas, a great portion of the world are votaries of the sensual pleasures.

1828 Dictionary


1. To favor; to encourage by opinion or words

2. To aid; to support; to encourage; to abet; to vindicate; by any means.

3. To encourage; to appear in defense

4. To make a show of.

1828 Dictionary

AVOW’AL, n. An open declaration; frank acknowledgement.

My general sentiment as I read Federalist 1 which were not reflected in the other annotations were of my recent comments, thoughts and impressions about the organization of the Free Capitalist movement, as well as my own impressions about forming an organization with the purpose of encouraging more civic involvement on an individual level. If the Free Capitalist movement is more about helping people become financially independent, then there still exists a place where I see a demand. I believe that the partisan nature of today’s politics is one of the damaging things to the freedom of our nation. I believe that many people are disillusioned by the sentiment that because of partisan politics they can’t have any real effect for change. I have seen many people choose not to vote because they believe the rhetoric that tells them that unless they vote for one of the two major party affiliated candidates that they are wasting their vote. I want to change this by starting an organization which encourages involvement at the municipal level and grows to involve even federal politics. I believe that an organization patterned after the form of the Anglo-Saxons and the ancient Israelites would affect such a change. In order to do this, I must first seek to know what it will take to start such an organization.


2 Responses to “Federalist 1”

  1. Onika Nugent said

    Thanks for posting this. It’s more interesting with the definitions and your comments. It was hard for me to find this page though…


  2. Ammon said

    I’ll see if I can make it easier to find. Have you read through Federalist 2 as well?


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