Concluding Essays

The Federalist No. 84

This penultimate paper takes up four issues. The absence of a Bill of Rights is defended on grounds that the Constitution contains the crucial rights in its body or is itself a declaration of citizen rights, enforced through self-regulation and limitations; any additional limitations would arrogate to the federal establishment powers not granted it by the Constitution itself, hence would abrogate the principal of enumerated powers. The putative remoteness of the federal government will not confound popular knowledge, for such knowledge will be available in the same forms serving state governments, and state governments acting in natural sentinel capacities will ensure information access to federal operations to an extent likely greater than they are willing to divulge on their own. The Constitution will not dissolve state debts; it is an accepted rule that states neither lose their rights nor discharge their debts by a change in form. Finally, expenses of the new government will likely increase, but with compensatory reductions elsewhere, and in some ways the total of federal and state government will be more efficient than the government under the articles, minimizing the added costs.

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The Federalist No. 85

The two topics not covered explicitly—the analogy with the constitution of New York and the degree to which the new constitution secures personal liberty—have been covered in the interstices so thoroughly that no more words are needed. Relative to the New York constitution, many deficiencies claimed for the new federal constitution by New Yorkers also obtain in the New York constitution.  Personal liberty derives from the inherent limitations and constraints of the federal establishment under the proposed constitution.  After once again assailing his opponents for vicious motives and declaring his own innocence of such motives, Hamilton addresses the vexed question of amendments before ratification.  Prior amendments would be very difficult to achieve in a new convention, that new amendments would only require nine states to approve whereas a new constitution requires all states to approve (if all states approve), and that individual amendments would be easier to approve than a wholesale revision of the document itself.  Finally, time and experiece must be obliged to find and revise infirmities in the present admittedly imperfect document, though it be the best every written by man.

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