The Federalist President


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Virginia Grant, Culture Editor

Sometimes, and it is happening with increasing frequency, I find that the average citizen possesses a profound lack of understanding regarding the most basic precepts of American democracy. Part of the blame rests in our education system. For generations we have passed on a revisionist history that, although false, is more widely accepted than the truth. A standard textbook teaches that in Colonial and Early American times only white men of property could vote. While false students must learn this as fact to past the course and pass the course to earn a degree. Acceptance of lies as acceptable alternative facts is the path to advancement. This perversion has led to our current state of free fall corruption.

I have heard endless debates regarding the intent of one passage or another in the Constitution. In most cases those issues could be easily resolved by reading the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison between October 1787 and May 1788 and published in newspapers under the name “Publius. “The intent was to explain particular provisions of the Constitution in detail with the aim of convincing New Yorkers to ratify the proposed United States Constitution. They have since been compiled in several editions, one of which is available on the website, another in the site. They are not hard to find, any Google or Bing search will turn up a plethora of sites that offer full text versions of the Federalist Papers.

Now if anyone wants to hear the facts about the powers and responsibilities of the Presidency, before they go spouting impassioned opinions here is what Madison had to say in Federalist No. 69 as he compares the American President to the King of England.

The President of the United States would be an officer elected by the people for four years; the king of Great Britain is a perpetual and hereditary prince. The one would be amenable to personal punishment and disgrace; the person of the other is sacred and inviolable. The one would have a qualified negative upon the acts of the legislative body; the other has an absolute negative. The one would have a right to command the military and naval forces of the nation; the other, in addition to this right, possesses that of declaring war, and of raising and regulating fleets and armies by his own authority. The one would have a concurrent power with a branch of the legislature in the formation of treaties; the other is the sole possessor of the power of making treaties. The one would have a like concurrent authority in appointing to offices; the other is the sole author of all appointments. The one can confer no privileges whatever; the other can make denizens of aliens, noblemen of commoners; can erect corporations with all the rights incident to corporate bodies. The one can prescribe no rules concerning the commerce or currency of the nation; the other is in several respects the arbiter of commerce, and in this capacity can establish markets and fairs, can regulate weights and measures, can lay embargoes for a limited time, can coin money, can authorize or prohibit the circulation of foreign coin. The one has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction; the other is the supreme head and governor of the national church! What answer shall we give to those who would persuade us that things so unlike resemble each other? The same that ought to be given to those who tell us that a government, the whole power of which would be in the hands of the elective and periodical servants of the people, is an aristocracy, a monarchy, and a despotism.

Now this makes it clear that the President is not above the law. That he does not have the right to unilaterally declare war. That he must work with the Legislature to make treaties and appointments to offices. That he can make no rules concerning commerce or currency and does not have the King’s ability to lay embargos, coin money or establish markets. It explicitly states that the President “has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction.” This was Madison’s summary of the powers of a periodical and elective servant of the people.

If we are to remain true to the spirit of the Constitution, and not just interpret its words to suit our intent, we must take the time to learn the intent behind its construction. It is not hard to find, nor is it an exceptionally long read. Unfortunately most of us are better informed of the governance issues in Westeros than in the foundations of the United States Government.