Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Federalist

by "Publius" (Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison)

There aren't better insights or more ingenious polemics anywhere than in these originals. --Hale Champion, The Harvard guide to influential books: 113 distinguished Harvard professors discuss the books that have helped to shape their thinking (1986), edited by C. Maury Devine, Kim D. Parrish, and Claudia Dissell, p. 44

This is the enigmatic great white whale among Founding-era documents.

Partisans of Senate (or congressional power) agree with Hamilton (or, at least, they think they agree with Hamilton). These commentators look back to the Tenure in Office Act and to any number of statements made on the floor of the House when statutory removal was first debated in 1789 -- all purportedly consistent with Hamilton's statement here. Partisans of presidential power disagree with Hamilton (or, at least, they think they do). They affirm that Hamilton erred. These commentators look to Myers v. United States [272 U.S. 52 (1926)] and to statements made by Madison on the floor of the House during the statutory removal debates. The consensus view, nay - the universal view, is that Hamilton was speaking to the issue of the "removal" of federal officers. --Seth Barrett Tillman, The Puzzle of Hamilton's Federalist No. 77: It Turns out Hamilton was Right After All, abstract of an upcoming article, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 33, pp. 1-15, 2010

After the New Deal in particular, policymaking power is often wielded by those with technical expertise—specialists in environmental protection, occupational safety, communications technologies, banking, financial stability, and much more. Some institutions—the Federal Reserve Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission—often seem to combine the power to legislate with the power to execute the laws. It is a serious question whether Publius's claims about republican government can easily coexist with modern bureaucratic structures. --Cass R. Sunstein, The Enlarged Republic—Then and Now, The New York Review of Books, March 26, 2009

When I began the series, I thought I might just pull out a pithy quotation here or there, and I doubted whether I would have something to say on each and every one of the 85 essays of Publius. But once I got going, I thought, why not every one? ...

One or two kind readers have told me that my series of itinerant observations makes a useful companion to The Federalist, for teaching or for private study. ... In the first essay of The Federalist, Publius invites us not to think about him but to think with him. That’s still a good suggestion to follow. --Matthew J. Franck, The Perennial Publius, January 22, 2007-May 29, 2007


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