With so many sulfurous words spewing into the political atmosphere daily and a full 27 days left until the midterm elections, it seems high time to inject a few words of wisdom into the public dialogue. And with the Constitution on so many lips these days, what better source for those words than the Federalist, the famous New York newspaper essays written in 1788 to advocate adoption of the Constitution?
In an election year when honoring the Constitution “as constructed by its framers” is part of the political debate, the Federalist can be our guide, an explanation of the Constitution straight from the framers’ mouths. Sort of.
There were 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention. But the Federalist was written by just three men -- Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay – who shared the pen-name Publius. Jay wasn’t at the Convention, and Hamilton and Madison, who were, eventually parted political company, disagreeing about how the Constitution they constructed should be applied to the issues of their day.
As the historian Ron Chernow pointed out in the The New York Times last week, the founders were a disputatious bunch who seldom agreed on anything. And their words – even wise words written in 1788 -- aren’t likely to settle any of today’s controversies. But a journey through the Federalist may still be worth the trouble. If it won’t solve our problems, it may well offer a fresh perspective on them and provoke some needed dialogue.
So between now and Election Day, we will present in this space, twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, excerpts from the Federalist intended to elicit your comments. Call this a service of Publius 2.0.
Every Tuesday and Thursday Publius 2.0 will offer a modern take on the Federalist Papers.