Summary and Analysis Section XIII: Conclusions: Federalist No. 85 (Hamilton)



There remained two more points to be discussed: the analogy of the proposed constitution "to your own state constitution" (The Federalist papers, as noted before, were all addressed "to the People of the State of New York"), and the additional security which its adoption would afford "to republican government, to liberty and to property."

The New York State constitution contained as many "supposed defects," and many of the same kind, as those complained about in the proposed national constitution, and yet no great clamor had been raised about these.

Additional securities to republican government, liberty, and property under the proposed constitution would come chiefly "in the restraints which the preservation of the union will impose on local factions and insurrections . . . in the diminution of the opportunities to foreign intrigue . . . in the prevention of extensive military establishments . . . in the absolute and universal exclusion of titles of nobility; and in the precautions against the repetition of those practices on the part of the state governments, which have undermined the foundations of property and credit."

Certainly the proposed constitution was not a perfect thing, but it should be accepted as it was without prior modifications and amendments. The plan was the best that could be expected under the circumstances. Provision had been made for amending it later.

In an exhortatory conclusion, Publius (speaking through Hamilton) declared that all sincere friends of the union should be on guard "against hazarding anarchy, civil war, a perpetual alienation of the states from each other, and perhaps the military despotism of a victorious demagogue. . . . A NATION without a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT is, in my view, an awful spectacle."

No attempt should be made to revise the proposed Constitution. "I dread the more the consequences of new attempts, because I KNOW that POWERFUL INDIVIDUALS, in this and in other states, are enemies to a general national government, in every possible shape."

This was special pleading, and not true. Many venerable patriots of greater stature and longer standing than Hamilton at the time — Patrick Henry, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee, Governor George Clinton of New York, Sam Adams of Massachusetts, among others — did not object to a national government, but raised fundamental questions about whether the proposed constitution was as well designed as it might be to achieve that end.