Summary and Analysis Section XIII: Conclusions: Federalist No. 84 (Hamilton)



The two chapters in this section pick up, and in places extend, the arguments made before. Nothing materially new is added in these chapters. For obvious reasons, summary and commentary have been combined here.

This essay first takes up the objection that the proposed constitution contained no Bill of Rights. To this Hamilton replied that the constitutions of many states (including his own, New York) contained no specific bill of rights.

Hamilton then proceeded to beg the question by citing what rights were guaranteed under the Constitution — judgment in impeachment cases should not involve more than removal from office; all trials, except in cases of impeachment, would be held by jury; the writ of habeas corpus was not to be suspended except in cases of invasion or insurrection where public safety required it; no titles of nobility were to be granted. "Nothing need be said to illustrate the importance of the prohibition of titles of nobility. This may truly be denominated the comer stone of republican government" said Hamilton.

As an argument, this was ridiculous and divertive. What average Americans wanted to know was what constitutional guarantees they would have to enjoy freedom of religion, liberty of the press, freedom of speech, the right of people to assemble peaceably and to petition the government for redress of grievances, the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, the right of all people "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures." These rights were soon stated concretely, and adopted as the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

To his credit, let it be said, Madison promised that, if elected to the new Congress, he would use his every effort to see that, as a first order of business, a Bill of Rights was appended to the Constitution, and he carried out his pledge. As noted earlier, it was Madison who largely drafted the amendments and did the political engineering that brought about their adoption.

As for Hamilton, he stated explicitly in this essay that a Bill of Rights was not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, "but would even be dangerous" — another reflection of his deep-grained antidemocratic attitudes.

The essay next replied to the objection (a minor one) that the seat of the national government, wherever placed, would be far from many parts of the country and the people there would have difficulty in keeping track of what was going on. Well, said Hamilton, if there was to be a national capital, it had to be located somewhere, and the people in more distant parts had ample means of communication and sources of information to enable them to check up on what their representatives were doing in the capital.

On another point, it was being argued that the establishment of a national government would entail additional expense and higher taxes. This would not be so, at least not in the beginning. The national government would take over the expense of performing functions and maintaining offices that the states were already supporting by requisitions made upon them under the Articles of Confederation. It would be merely a change of paymasters entailing no additional expense except in one respect. Support of the proposed new national judicial system would entail a small extra expense, but it was well worth it.