Monday, May 12, 2003

Society in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia
By Alexander Marriott May 12, 2003 History 460A: The Renaissance

Sir Thomas More’s Utopia lays out several important ideas that help us understand the political thought of both now and the Renaissance as well as providing us with a look into the conditions of sixteenth century Europe. The book primarily acts as a vehicle for More to explore several issues, ranging from the advising of Kings to the role of private property in society. More, who acts as a character of himself in the book, is told of the New World island of Utopia by Raphael Hythloday, the last name meaning “expert in nonsense,” which acts as a land of contrast and similarity to the Tudor England More had grown up in. More concludes rather contrarily at the end of the book, that while “quite a few of the laws and customs [Hythloday] had described as existing among the Utopians were really absurd,” (110) he “freely confess[ed] that in the Utopian commonwealth there are many features that in our own societies [he] would like rather than expect to see.” (111)

Working from the Robert Adams translation of the March 1518 Basel edition of Utopia it is fairly clear that More is making several arguments not only about contemporary political policy, but about the nature of government and the earlier attempts of Plato and Aristotle at crafting ideal states. Utopia is broken into two books; the first is a dialogue between Thomas More, Hythloday, and Peter Giles, who acts as the liaison between More and Hythloday. The second book is primarily Hythloday’s narrative description of the laws, customs, and people of Utopia. The first book is important though as an overt commentary on contemporary Europe and England specifically.
The main debate More and Hythloday have first revolves around the question of why Hythloday doesn’t advise Kings, a question More was dealing with at the time he wrote the book, as he had been invited to advise King Henry VIII. Hythloday objects because he would not be listened too, for Kings were only interested in using advisors for immoral and dishonorable deeds. (xxii) This presents a major philosophical and political issue, mainly, are expedient and moral action in conflict with one another or are they capable of being one and the same? The very fact that the second book doesn’t answer this question shows that perhaps More never came to a conclusion on the matter before his premature death.

The other question which emerges in this first dialogue concerns the punishment of thievery in England during More’s time, which was usually a trip to the gallows. Hythloday contends that the punishment is far too harsh and that it doesn’t deter anyone because the cause, poverty, is left unaddressed. His solution is to abolish private property and then make the punishment severe, but not death. Giles and More disagree with him insofar as they don’t think abolishing private property is appropriate, and this question is also not decided within the confines of the book, though More does take up the argument that abolishing private property would cause the collapse of civilized society. (40) The first book ends on this note and acts generally as an introduction to Hythloday, who will be the sole source of knowledge about the island.
The Utopian Government isn’t a unique one as far as literature or history goes in terms of its aims. The Utopians are concerned with societal well-being and instituting policies to maintain social harmony. The whole government is constructed with these goals in mind and thus the society of Utopia is highly planned, King Utopus (the first King) planned the whole city of Amaurot (the city Hythloday focuses on), and managed in order to assure that these goals are achieved in a number of ways. (47)
This is apparent in the realm of economics; the Utopian government is actively involved in the process of making sure everyone is working at one task or another. “Farming is the one job at which everyone works, men and women alike, with no exception,” (50) and this makes sense for the reasons that there is no private property or money in Utopia and therefore one has to gather food or starve. A telling aspect of the Utopian economy is encapsulated in Hythloday’s description of how the Utopians come to do the other jobs that people need to do if they are going to live in a civilized society, “Every person (and this includes women as well as men) learns one of the trades I mentioned. As the weaker sex, women practice the lighter crafts, such as working in wool or linen; the heavier jobs are assigned to the men.” (50) The point of interest is the word “assigned” as it points to the level of governmental management, as men are told what tasks they must perform. This is reinforced by the fact that the main function of their elected officials is to “manage matters so that no one sits around in idleness, and to make sure that everyone works hard at his trade.” (51) To be fair the Utopians only have to work a six hour day, but even their “free” time is restricted in that, “The other hours of the day, when they are not working, eating, or sleeping, are left to each man’s individual discretion, provided he does not waste his free time in roistering or sloth but uses it properly in some occupation that pleases him.” (51) Although is may be perfectly pleasing to just sit around and not do anything, this isn’t possible for one’s “free” time and is indicative of the planned economy of Utopia that is designed to maintain social order, which idleness undermines.

Collective harmony must be maintained through population control measures, as overpopulation will mean discomfort and under population will mean a labor shortage. The Utopian government “decreed that there shall be six thousand households in each [city], with each household containing between ten and sixteen adults.” (55) If a house has too few or too many adults in it or a city has too few or too many in aggregate then the extra adults are transferred to the deficient house or city. (56) The numbers they pick here seem totally arbitrary though and Hythloday doesn’t explain what gives the state the right to shuffle adults around like pawns on a chessboard. Not to mention this would require a great deal of bureaucrats to enforce the moving of people around. This policy characterizes a further micromanaging effort of the Utopian economy as labor is one the most fundamental aspects of any economic system. All of this merely reflects though upon the ethical code of the Utopian state to ensure collective well being without regard for the rights of mere individuals.

Travel for Utopians is a difficult and formidable task, requiring the equivalent of the infamous “travel papers” of totalitarian regimes to move about. Hythloday says that, “Anyone who wants to visit friends in another city, or simply to see the place itself, can easily obtain permission from his syphogrant and tranibor [elected officials], unless for some reason he is needed at home.” (60) The important part here is the fact that one needs permission to leave a city, which is described as easy, but if any of the economic planners or the Prince decides that one is needed at home then one cannot leave. Even if one does gain permission from the Prince one receives a letter from him “fixing a day of return.” (60) Not only can one not travel without permission, but one must also state the day that they will return. If someone decides to leave without permission and is caught they are “treated with contempt, brought back as a runaway, and severely punished.” (60) This is indicative of a collectivist society, the mere fact that one leaves a community without telling anyone is seen as a crime, not only that, but one that needs to be “severely punished.”

The moral code of the Utopian government or people, though the latter is a somewhat dubious concept (because if the Utopian people naturally agreed with all of these things what would be the need for all of the restrictive laws to force compliance, as shown in the previous example of not being able to travel?), is put succinctly when Hythloday says, “To pursue your own interests is prudence; to pursue the public interest as well is piety; but to pursue your own pleasure by depriving others of theirs is injustice. On the other hand, deliberately to decrease your own pleasure to augment that of others is a work of humanity and benevolence, which never fails to reward the doer over and above his sacrifice.” (70) Self-sacrifice is the value of the government, which is perfectly consistent with all of the other laws to this point. One can do nothing unless it is “useful” to the community, or leave without permission from the community, or sit around and do nothing, because one would then be hurting the community. In other words, selfishness is systematically being attacked in Utopian law and government. The order of morality isn’t self-evident though and Hythloday relays no justification for it other than, “God will recompense us for surrendering a brief and transitory pleasure here with immense and never-ending joy in heaven.” (71) This is reminiscent of Christian metaphysics and morality, even in a non-Christian nation like Utopia. The point here is simply for More to show that Christian morality can be derived by non-Christians through reason, thus vindicating it, somewhat similar to St. Thomas Aquinas’s attempts to prove the existence of God through the use of Aristotelian logic.

Yet another regulated facet of Utopian life is marriage, beyond the mere realm of contract enforcement. Women must be eighteen and men must be twenty-two before they can be married and “Clandestine premarital intercourse, if discovered and proved, brings severe punishment on both man and woman; and the guilty parties are forbidden to marry for their whole lives, unless the prince by his pardon mitigates the sentence.” (81) What happens for overt premarital intercourse? This sounds funny, but the punishment here is incredibly tyrannical, especially for such a highly enlightened people, as Hythloday claims them to be. But it doesn’t end here, “They punish [second offense] adulterers with the strictest form of slavery.” (83) Enslavement? Adultery is certainly a bad thing, constituting a breach of the marriage contract at the least, but can it warrant enslavement? This is especially amusing given Hythloday’s earlier excuses for thievery in contemporary England. Granted, thievery doesn’t warrant death, but his vaunted Utopians enslave adulterers, plus more broadly, have slavery! The slavery of Utopia is for those who break the law and prisoners taken in war, but it seems rather ironic that in a place without property people are held as such by the state.

Hythloday goes on to tell More and Giles that the Utopians, “Think it completely unjust to bind men by a set of laws that are too many to be read or too obscure for anyone to understand.” (85) This almost seems at odds with the previous accounts of economic planning, travel restrictions, and slavery unless one thinks of the English constitution and the common law. Though there are a great many things the government can and does do in those cases the actual number of codified laws was actually quite small as Hythloday says it is in the case of Utopia. This allows for a much easier changing process for any instances where the collective well-being is somehow subverted through some legal loophole. This is mere speculation though as the text merely says that there are few laws, but given that the number of things the state in Utopia does is quite large, it seems quite reasonable for there to be some sort of un-codified legal justification in place of written law.

Utopian foreign policy, especially the Utopian war machine can be sparked by surprisingly little; Hythloday says that, “If one of their own is maimed or killed anywhere, whether by a public official or a private citizen, they first send envoys to look into the circumstances; then they demand that the guilty persons be surrendered; and if that demand is refused, they are not to be put off, but at once declare war.” (88-89) This seems somewhat amusing considering how little regard the Utopian government pays its individual citizens while in Utopia, but if one is harmed in another land, even by what could be a random nutcase, war is considered an appropriate action if they aren’t given the perpetrator. What an odd rationale for declaring war. It’s one thing if a foreign government is either killing one’s citizens or condoning their killing, but to declare war on a country that would like to try and punish its own murderers seems absolutely irrational. The travel restrictions are starting to make a little sense. If the Utopian government wasn’t controlling how many people were leaving, to where, and for how long, they could find themselves at war with many different countries at once if any of their citizens were killed in multiple countries around the same time. Such a conflagration of conflict certainly wouldn’t help in their population control efforts very well, unless of course they had the enemy leaders assassinated (93) or hired a large army of savage mercenaries to fight their war for them. (91)

Free speech protection, being an individual right, doesn’t garner much respect in Utopia, not surprisingly given that the aim of the government is not individual, but collective, rights. It is mentioned early on that, “It is a capital offense to join in reaching private decisions on public business,” (49) and this seems quite injurious to anyone unlucky enough to be caught discussing and deciding on any open political affairs. Though this law is designed to halt any Catiline from conspiring against the government, it is easy to see how people might be scared of sending the wrong impression to the wrong people and therefore not discussing important public issues in private. Hythloday relates the story of a Utopian who recently converted to Christianity who, “condemned all others [religions] as profane, leading their impious and sacrilegious followers to the hell-fires they richly deserved. After he had been going on in this style for a long time, they arrested him. He was tried on a charge, not of despising their religion, but of creating a public disorder, convicted, and sentenced to exile.” (97) The man was warned that he was breaking the law and he was condemning the religious beliefs of others, an offensive act surely, but certainly not worthy of exile, especially as it isn’t explained how exactly how he was creating a “public disorder.” The man’s exile is consistent with European intolerance of free speech against state religion or just the state. But where is Hythloday’s condemnation? To him thievery deserves sympathy, but a person merely voicing their opinion on the stupidity of another religion can be justly exiled for it? Hythloday says King Utopus, who conquered the island of Utopia and gave it his name, recognized how divisive religion could be and thus established a precedent of religious toleration. (97) This is presented as the justification for exiling the man, but the only reason religion was divisive was because governments were favoring one religion or another as was the case for England’s religious divisiveness. Individuals don’t have to tolerate any contrary religions or opinions, and as long as they don’t initiate force against the contrary thinkers it doesn’t matter anyway. This is yet another example of the Utopian government putting the desire of the many to not have their beliefs offended or insulted before the right of an individual to speak out.

Hythloday concludes his description of the Utopian people by pointing out their greatest triumph over Europeans, saying, “And yet when these insatiably greedy and evil men have divided among themselves goods which would have sufficed for the entire people, how far they remain from the happiness of the Utopian Republic, which has abolished not only money but with it greed! What a mass of trouble was cut away by that one step! What a thicket of crimes was uprooted! Everyone knows that if money were abolished, fraud, theft, robbery, quarrels, brawls, seditions, murders, treasons, poisonings and a whole set of crimes which are avenged but not prevented by the hangman would at once die out. If money disappeared, so would fear, anxiety, worry, toil, and sleepless nights. Even poverty, which seems to need money more than anything else, would vanish if money were entirely done away with.” (109) Hythloday and the Utopians see money as the root of all evil, but they never ponder the question, “What is the root of money?” Money is only a medium of exchange by which people can voluntarily exchange amongst themselves for other goods. How it could be the cause of all brawls, quarrels, robberies, seditions, murders, treasons, and poisonings isn’t established at all and sounds absolutely absurd as a result. Money hasn’t been around forever so for this assertion to hold up there would have to have been none of these events before it was invented, a highly implausible occurrence.

Why did More write Utopia? Could he have thought this was a perfect society? Perhaps not, as More writes at the end about those things he had found absurd; “These included their methods of waging wars, their religious practices, as well as others of their customs; but my chief objection was to the basis of their whole system, that is their communal living and their moneyless economy.” (110) It is also notable, if More was serious, that he, like Plato and other Utopia writers conceived of circumstances that didn’t exist and then theorized how it would work, without any observable data to support it. The underlying premise of More’s Utopian state, the well-being of the society and not the protection of individual rights, has been made the stated goal of many states in the twentieth century and with policies very similar to the Utopians. Had Sir Thomas had access to this data four hundred years ago would he have been nearly as uncertain as to how to answer many of the questions he posed in his book? Given his intelligence it seems rather unlikely.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Interpreting the Republic: The Intellectual Legacy of Alexander Hamilton
By Alexander Marriott May 8, 2003 History 251: Historical Investigation

On July 14, 1804, mourners gathered at the funeral of Alexander Hamilton in New York City to hear his friend and fellow crafter of the United States Constitution, Gouverneur Morris, deliver the eulogy. Morris told the gathered crowd of Hamilton’s efforts to help the country and of his anti-democratic political philosophy by saying,
"You know how well he performed the duties of a citizen – you know that he never courted your favor by adulation or the sacrifice of his own judgment. You have seen him contending against you, and saving your dearest interests, as it were, in spite of yourselves." Hamilton, like many of the founding fathers, based his political philosophy on what he believed to be just and correct, not what was popular or politically expedient. His own brand of politics contributed to the important political disputes of the Early Republic, and to several of those after his death. The crafting and ratifying of the Constitution, the fight over the Bank of the United States, and the question of how to interpret the Constitution, were all areas where Hamilton offered a view contrary to that of the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Anti-Federalist ideas held by the majority of the American public. Despite these obstacles, Hamilton’s interpretation not only survived, but thrived in all branches of government and forced his enemies to confront his consistently reasoned approach. Hamilton’s propensity to speak his mind gained him more enemies than friends, even amongst the people who called themselves Federalists such as John Adams, and it incurred the wrath of his killer, Aaron Burr. His force of will was responsible for propelling his ideas like the central bank and the implied powers of the Constitution, unpopular as they were, into law and the minds of the jurists who sat on the Supreme Court. Though they were temporarily defeated after he was killed, these ideas would eventually be picked up and carried by others, albeit in a somewhat modified way, but the spirit of them still belonged, and belongs still, to Hamilton.

Alexander Hamilton’s intellectual contributions to the United States began in 1787, when a Convention was convened to revise the Articles of Confederation, but the aim of the Convention soon became the creation of an entirely new charter for the government. The framers of that charter decided early on that the government they would attempt to craft would be Republican in nature, something not tried with such a large country since the days of Rome. Hamilton, representing New York, stood out in the Convention when he advocated the idea of having an executive for life, but this was not taken up seriously by many, which was not very surprising considering most of the men at the convention (Hamilton included) had been heavily involved in winning independence from a monarch. The reason for Hamilton’s support of this idea was, chiefly, his fear of democracy and its potential to infringe on private property rights, as well as the potential of a temporary executive to be bribed by foreign powers in the hopes of staying in power longer. All of the founders realized these were potential problems in any Republic and, "In their quest to build a republican economy and society, therefore, they could perceive intimate connections between such seemingly remote and discrete matters as, for example, the need to open export markets for American produce and the need to sustain the virtuous character of a republican people."

“The virtuous character of a republican people,” was the concern of all the founders as a Republic was dependent upon the people to run, fund, and support it. If the people were to fall out of step with virtue and the ideals upon which the Republic was founded then its survival would be in jeopardy. Hamilton held this particular view dearly and was willing to risk his life in order to keep Aaron Burr, who he perceived to be a less than virtuous, from gaining official power.

Alexander Hamilton’s life ended just one year short of his fiftieth birthday on the dueling grounds of Weehawken, New Jersey. When the election of 1800 ended in a tie between Burr and Thomas Jefferson it went to the House of Representatives. Hamilton advocated the “contemptible hypocrite” Jefferson over Burr, whom he said was “One of the most unprincipled men in the [United States].” Whether Hamilton’s active lobbying against Burr had any effect on the outcome is uncertain, but certainly it gained him Burr’s attention.

In 1804, Burr ran for Governor of New York as an independent candidate, hoping to gain enough support from Federalists to secure victory, but again Hamilton was there to stop the “embryo-Caesar in the United States” from winning. In an address to a gathering of Federalists in Albany, Hamilton raised the specter of the French Revolution and Jacobins to characterize Burr and his political ambitions. This not only struck straight at the heart of Federalist fears about democracy, namely the destruction of property rights, but was also consistent with what Hamilton had been saying of Burr’s political philosophy since the 1800 election: "It is probable that if he has any theory ‘tis that of a simple despotism. He has intimated that he thinks the present French constitution not a bad one." This link of Burr to French Revolutionary thought is a continuing theme of Hamilton’s critiques and Federalist critiques of Jeffersonians in general. The egalitarian and democratic overtones of the French Revolution alarmed Hamilton and he was well aware that they alarmed his fellow Federalists as well.

Burr lost the 1804 election and soon afterwards came into possession of a published letter that Dr. Charles Cooper had written publicly to call out Hamilton’s comments about Burr as slanderous. In this letter Cooper alleged that Hamilton had insulted and expressed a “despicable opinion” of Burr in public. This precipitated Burr’s challenge and Hamilton’s acceptance on the grounds that his honor and future career couldn’t survive an apology or a refusal. Hamilton lost the contest and Burr’s political career ended as he was a man without political support and was charged for murder in both New Jersey and New York. Despite this seemingly ignominious end, not only of Hamilton, but of his ideas as well, they would both survive; Hamilton in memory, his ideas in active thought and governmental policy.

As soon as the Convention adjourned in September of 1787, Hamilton and John Jay approached James Madison, who had been the strongest supporter of the new constitution from the South, to write a series of essays to persuade the New York ratifying convention to accept the new Constitution. These essays soon found their way into papers all over the country, Hamilton authoring fifty-one of the eighty-five pieces. James Madison biographer, Ralph Ketcham, sums up Hamilton’s contribution this way, "Hamilton set the theme for the work, and expressed “Publius’” sense of mission and enlightened outlook, when he wrote in the opening essay that “it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide 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.”"

Although much of what Hamilton had proposed had been rejected in the Convention he realized that the new constitution was certainly closer to his theories than the Articles of Confederation and therefore he set himself to offering up consistent reasons for adopting the new charter. Thomas Jefferson theorized that Hamilton had wanted a British style system at the Convention, and failing to get it, decided to mold it out of the new constitution which Hamilton had said was, "A shilly shally thing of mere milk & water, which could not last, & was only good as a step to something better." This is indeed telling of what Hamilton’s ideas really meant in terms of Constitutional interpretation, for a “thing of mere milk & water” could be read any number of ways for any number of purposes. It also shows a disconnect between the founders, Hamilton merely thought the Constitution would serve as another Articles of Confederation, to be replaced by something more effective and presumably better later on. Whilst others like Madison thought the Constitution could serve indefinitely with an amending process to work out any serious flaws, the implicit endorsement of slavery for example, that were in it. But however the new constitution was to be interpreted later on, it was adopted due to the diligent intellectual efforts of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, who were all called Federalists at the time because they were all advocating the adoption of the new Federal Government. It didn’t take long however, after the new government was established, for this alliance to fall apart. Hamilton’s work as Secretary of the Treasury ensured this ideological split, with Madison and even other Federalists like John Adams.

George Washington appointed Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury because, according to Gouverneur Morris, Washington, "Sought for splendid talents, for extensive information, and above all, he sought for sterling, incorruptible integrity. All these he found in Hamilton." Hamilton faced a rather desperate situation in America’s finances, a tremendous war debt still existed, establishing the infrastructure for the new government would cost a great deal of money, and America’s credit was in poor condition. He proposed the creation of a National Bank to hold the government’s money and make it grow, like a private bank, which meant making loans and taking deposits from private and public entities. This proposal blew apart any alliances that may have still existed between Madison and Hamilton, and it drove a wedge into the Federalists, as the supporters of the Constitution had been called. John Adams later put the basic argument against the bank down in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, saying, "This System of Banks begotten, hatched and brooded by Duer, Robert and Gouverneur Morris, Hamilton and Washington, I have always considered as a System of national Injustice. A Sacrifice of public and private Interest to a few Aristocratical Friends and Favourites." Adams was pointing out that putting the Federal Government at the head of such a potentially powerful economic force invited immense corruption because whoever was in power could approve loans to whomever the current ruling executive thought were friends or had helped out in campaigning. That whilst the goal of fixing the nation’s finances was noble and urgently necessary, Hamilton’s solution only invited a whole host of new evils to combat and in due course, the corrupting of the entire government. Angering his Federalist colleagues wasn’t the only consequence of his National Bank proposal, it also drove other former Federalists like Madison and Jefferson to the intellectual fields of the Anti-Federalists, like George Mason and James Monroe, who saw a perfect opportunity to get back into the debate.

Historian Saul Cornell tells of how Madison moved towards the Anti-Federalist view of the constitution because of Hamilton’s Bank idea in that when the debate to ratify the constitution was taking place the Anti-Federalists demanded that the government be restricted to the powers laid out in the document itself. Madison initially fought back, agreeing with Hamilton, claiming that the government would be crippled by such a move and become as useless as it was under the Articles of Confederation. But when Hamilton proposed the Bank, Madison saw what was possible under this new doctrine of implied powers and promptly reversed course. Madison became more consistent in the process, arguing the Anti-Federalist position, that the government should stay within the expressed powers of the Constitution.

Thus Hamilton had the effect of showing Madison just how far from the enumerated powers of the Constitution one could go if the document wasn’t to expressly limit the authority of the government and instead be the “shilly shally thing” Hamilton had said it was. The financial situation was a matter that had to be dealt with though and, despite Jefferson’s advice that, "All that was ever necessary to establish our credit, was an efficient government & an honest one declaring it would sacredly pay our debts, laying taxes for this purpose & applying them to it," Hamilton’s Bank became law. Hamilton then advocated, through the Bank, the granting of privileges and protective tariffs for native industries to counter the effects of similar policies in Europe. Historian Drew McCoy shows the irony of this position by pointing to the fact that, while Europe was in upheaval and these very policies of privilege granting had brought much of Europe to its knees in war and economic collapse, Hamilton and the Federalists were trying to steer the United States down precisely the same course as if they weren’t paying any attention.

Regardless of the observable effects of similar policies in other parts of the world Hamilton proceeded with his economic plans and reforms until he resigned from the post in 1795. Though his economic policies lived on in various incantations, such as Henry Clay’s “American System” or even the current Federal Reserve System (while not precisely the same, both are predicated upon much of the same rationale that Hamilton’s Bank was), it was his method of interpreting the Constitution that angered many of his contemporaries and is the one of the most important parts of his intellectual legacy to the United States. Thomas Jefferson reflected upon the nature of Hamilton fourteen years after his death in saying, "Hamilton was indeed a singular character. Of acute understanding, disinterested, honest, and honorable in all private transactions, amiable in society, and duly valuing virtue in private life, yet so bewitched & perverted by the British example, as to be under thoro’ conviction that corruption was essential to the government of a nation."

Hamilton’s fixation with the British constitution is important because it helps in establishing why Hamilton advocated a “broad construction” of the Constitution. The British system, having no written charter aside from the Magna Carta, could technically come to do anything in terms of securing its viability and stability as a state. The Democratic-Republicans, as those who followed Jefferson and Madison came to call themselves, recognized Hamilton’s affinity for the British system and feared that,
"The subversion of the Constitution through constructive interpretation … Unchecked, Hamilton and the Federalists would destroy the federal system and create the sort of consolidated national government that Anti-Federalists had prophesied." The fear that Hamilton’s ultimate goal was some sort of Parliamentary Monarchy that would fail to protect individual rights and become irreversibly corrupted drove many people in the opposition and his own party to be wary of him and the ideas he forwarded which were seen as harbingers, by some, of British politics.

One such harbinger was Hamilton’s theory of “broad construction,” which rested upon the premise that the Constitution implied extra powers to the government, beyond the enumerated powers, in the “necessary and proper” clause at the end of Article One, Section Eight. Madison objected to this idea in the instance of the Bank because,
The doctrine of implied powers struck “at the very essence of the Government as composed of limited and enumerated powers.” The only safe role of interpretation was to take the word “necessary” seriously. If, as in the case of a national bank, there were other ways, clearly constitutional, to tax, to borrow money, and to regulate the currency, then a national bank was not necessary, and was therefore not constitutional. To argue, as Hamilton’s supporters did, that the bank’s “convenience” justified it was in Madison’s view to abolish all limits to federal power.

This makes sense because what is convenient is an entirely subjective concept, for while it may be “convenient” to some to expropriate land to raise an army, it is hardly constitutional or just. Yet this would seem to be Hamilton’s aim, to confirm the theories of Jefferson, that Hamilton wanted the British system in America and was trying to affect the necessary changes through the method of “broad construction.”

British mercantilism was marked by policies similar to the National Bank, and similar initiatives that allowed the government to dole out favors and become involved in a great number of things that were beyond its constitutional prerogatives. As Adams had told Jefferson, an Aristocratic class was created where private citizens would become enriched by public funds and corruption would spread throughout the government as people flocked to get favors and privileges. Even though Andrew Jackson would effectively kill the Hamilton version of the central bank, the underlying idea that created it as well as the constitutional justification for it would live to see more friendly people in power. Though Hamilton died, his ideas on economic policy and the limits of Federal power lived on through others like Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, both of whom heavily advocated internal improvement projects, protective tariffs, and a central bank. But with Hamilton’s death these ideas weren’t argued for consistently or all at once any longer and therefore reemerged piecemeal over time.

Still trying to reconcile the crowd, Gouverneur Morris implored the assembled mourners “to protect his fame,” for, "It is all he has left – all that these poor orphan children will inherit from their father. But, my countrymen, that fame may be a rich treasure to you also. Let it be the test by which to examine those who solicit your favor. Disregarding professions, view their conduct, and on a doubtful occasion ask, would Hamilton have done this thing." Hamilton had fought for British-style institutions and his own political philosophy at the Constitutional Convention, but he was defeated. He fought for a National Bank and for a “broad construction” of the Constitution and was successful, temporarily. It is ironic that Hamilton died trying to save the Republic from a “dangerous man” in Aaron Burr, when if one had asked Madison or Jefferson to name a dangerous man they would probably have pointed to Hamilton and his affinity for British government with its tendency towards corruption and lax limitation on governmental power.

Did Hamilton’s death amplify the impact of his ideas? It would be hard to believe that the absence of such an articulate and eloquent man could have had any net benefit for his vision of the American Republic. In fact the death of any person leading an intellectual argument can never be good, unless there is someone of equal ability to take their place. In Hamilton’s case there was no one immediately available to pick up the banner and run; Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams were never in power long enough to do so, nor did they accept his entire political philosophy anyway.

As to whether Hamilton’s ideas on constitutional interpretation lived on, the answer is “absolutely.” John Marshall and Joseph Story were both Hamiltonian in their approach to Constitutional interpretation and both served on the court for many years after the death of Hamilton. As a result the Court generally interpreted the Constitution broadly until Marshall was supplanted by Jackson appointee Roger Taney. But what is easily one of Hamilton’s most important legacies to the United States, “broad construction” theory has been and is still very prominent amongst constitutional scholars and jurists. It has been applied in almost every important constitutional case in the last century and a half, from antitrust suits to the use of the “interstate commerce” clause to justify a whole host of government activities not expressly granted in the Constitution.

Had it been anyone else uttering them, Hamilton’s ideas might have been rejected as the ramblings of some disaffected loyalist, but Hamilton’s persistence and logical consistency, as well as his heroic service in the Revolutionary Army, forced people to confront and answer him. Madison was forced to turn back on his earlier position regarding the question of how to interpret the Constitution when faced with the logical extension of it, in the form of Hamilton’s National Bank idea. Hamilton’s ideas were reasoned and logical and he forced his opponents to present reasoned and logical refutations of them.

The final irony in all of this is, that amidst all of this talk of reason and logic Hamilton died in a most irrational and illogical fashion on the dueling grounds of Weehawken, leaving a bleak legacy for his family and a bleaker one for his political partners, the Federalists, who all but disappeared a decade after his death.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Much has been made lately of the search, futile thus far, for weapons of mass destruction, and how if they are not found then President Bush and Prime Minister Blair will pay for it. How foolish these persons are, when pretext for war on weapons of mass destruction didn't exist based on their existence, but Saddam's historical non-compliance with weapons inspections. Also, Iraqi attacks on US Aircraft in the No-Fly Zones constituted an act of war that should have been responded to. Not to mention that in a War on Terrorism, a terrorist sponsoring state like Iraq was a fair target regardless of weapons of mass destruction.

Weapons of mass destruction were merely used to illustrate the severity of threat a regime like Saddam's could pose, but his training facilities, the hollowed out shell of an airplane being one of them, could be just as big a threat in creating more events like September 11. Also his blatant and undeniable support for Anti-American Palestinian terrorists was all the evidence one needed to go to war with Iraq. Freeing the people of Iraq became a viable reason to go to war when our troops were on the ground and it was easily within our power to do it. And, yes, it is still a viable reason to go to war with just about every country bordering Iraq.

Critics say that Syria and Iran and numerous countries in the region present the same threats as Iraq, why aren't we going to war with them? They are absolutely right, but why don't they advocate it? Most of the countries in the region are of the same character of Iraq and deserve to be eliminated, and hopefully it will be done sooner or later with our covert or overt help.

The fault in terms of Weapons of Mass Destruction lies with Saddam, even if he turned good, through expediency as he was warned by French Intelligence, it was his history of lieing and bad will that caused everyone to call him a liar once again. It was his continueing obsession with shooting down American jets that made us believe that cooperating wasn't his aim, rightfully so.

People shouldn't take the absence of weapons of mass destruction, based on the dubious assumption that none are found, that Saddam didn't have them, or wouldn't have produced them again someday. He may still have passed them to others countries or to terrorists, or he may have destroyed them when the inspectors got there, hoping international pressure would force the American government to back off. However his record of lieing, trying to kill American pilots and former Presidents came back to haunt him, finally, and he was eliminated as a threat to the world. This is all that is important about remembering the war, it was more than just and more than due in happening.

If we truely don't find any weapons then we must worry that terrorists or terrorists regimes in that region have them or that their destruction was just Saddam's last deceit. Either way this battle in the War on Terror was won and we now know more clearly who are friends are and who they aren't. It is time to consider the other five members of the Axis of Evil, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Cuba.

North Korea - I see two options. Destroy their nuclear facilities in air strikes or blockade the country and make it clear that we consider their sale of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction as sever as their being used on us by them and will respond accordingly.

Iran - There is no reason we can't or shouldn't go to war against the Iranian regime right now just as we did in Iraq. This country is the most active sponsor of terrorism in the world and it seems clear that most of the people in Iran dislike the ruling Mullahs.

Syria - Active sponsor of terror against our ally, Israel. They need to be taken out if Iran's destruction doesn't force them to comply with us.

Libya - Talk about a cake walk, we don't need any country's help for this one, giant cost line is rip for Marine Landings and carriers can easily launch unimpeded air strikes to eliminate this once "great" sponsor of terror.

Cuba - Right next to us killing and terrorizing its people and notorious in its international terror efforts, particularly in Africa. There is nothing to stop us here, we did it for much less a hundred years ago, it's time to do it again, hopefully the right way this time.

Of course this will mean military expansion, but that's is the government's main task and to do it properly will mean more men and equipment. If they need people, I'll join, but it must be done and soon so as to prevent the next 9/11 or a worse event from taking place.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Things to Watch For This Summer
By Alexander Marriott
UNLV Rebel Yell: May 5, 2003

School’s ending and a welcomed summer break is upon us, but what’s happening in politics this summer that should catch the attentions of us all?

War on Terrorism – There are still terrorist sponsoring regimes operating freely, Iran most notably. Whether Bush decides to win the war quickly or mold the war to fit political concerns will be something to watch for this summer.

Collapse of US-Franco Relations – As documents continue to be uncovered showing the intelligence ties of the Chirac government to Saddam Hussein, as recent as several months ago, the already strained relations of our country and France will continue to fall apart. It is clear that until our government or the French government changes there will be no chance for normalcy (nor should we want normalcy given the current leadership of France), and this summer it can only get worse.

Federal Tax Cuts – It appears we may get to keep more of our money over the next decade if the President is able to get his new tax cut plan through congress. This ten year tax cut was originally $750 billion, which would mean $75 billion a year, which would mean for 280 million people each of us would get $268 every year. But of course not everyone works and we don’t all pay the same amount in taxes so it will vary, but anytime you get your money back, or get to keep it in the first place, is a good day.

Nevada Tax Increases – After Assemblyman Bob Beers debunked Kenny Guinn’s $700 million budget shortfall claim it is looking increasingly like there won’t be any increases enacted by the legislature. However, given the legislature’s typical refusal to do its job, these tax increases will be put on the ballot and the special interest group commercials from the teachers and labor unions will try to convince us to pass taxes on ourselves.

Iraqi Reconstruction – This will be an interesting news story as we haven’t engaged in any project this ambitious since turning Feudal autocratic and irrational Japan and totalitarian Germany into free Republics. Things to watch out for are whether or not we demand a separation of church and state, and if their constitution is modeled after ours or Great Britain’s.

Democratic Presidential Hopefuls – With election year looming the eight guys and one gal trying to get the Democratic nomination will become increasingly hostile to one another in an effort to make their campaigns standout. The things to watch for this summer are defining issues. Dick Gephardt has chosen a socialism-lite healthcare plan as his central issue, but what will the others pick? Who knows, stay tuned to find out.

Summer Movies – X-Men opened of course, but there is also The Matrix sequel in a week to watch for. Also Terminator 3 is coming out this summer as well as what I’m sure will be a whole host of duds and crap that is usually the norm.

Independence Day – What ought to be the best day for every American, our freedom and the men who fought to secure it for us deserve great reflection upon this day. Without them we would not be a free people, and may have ended up like Canada. What a nightmare that would be, damn French-Canadians and regular Canadians everywhere. Our leader could end up being named Jean Chretian!!! One need not ponder this anymore for the sake of one’s stomach.

I would like to wish everyone a great summer vacation. I hope all of you did well in your classes and are able to return next semester as a result. If you’re graduating then I wish you luck in getting a job, or in your graduate studies. I had a great time writing this semester, I hope you had a great time reading and I hope we can do it again next semester.

To quote Adam Sandler in a particularly funny sketch on Saturday Night Live about rappers, “Peace! I’m outta here!”