January 23, 2023

Federalist Philosophy

This from Koty Arnold:

Managed to snag this excellent book that normally goes for over $50 used online for only 75 cents at a used bookstore, and it was in perfect condition. James Banner's 1970 "To the Hartford Convention" is the best account of the philosophy of the New England Federalists and the intellectual origins of the Hartford Convention that I have encountered.

From the book:

"In the thinking of Massachusetts Federalists, virtue flourished when men sacrificed personal advantage for the general welfare and displayed a disinterested concern for the good of all. 'True republican rulers,' noted the Reverend John Thornton Kirkland, 'are bound to act, not simply as those who appoint them would, but as they ought.' But virtue, above all, implied dedication to religion. 'Religion makes men republicans,' declared Nathaniel Emmons, an outspoken clerical adherent of Federalism. Piety and good morals, wrote Tappan, 'invariably lead to national honor and prosperity, and in the ordinary course of things will ultimately secure them.' But 'every species of irreligion and vice contributes either directly or remotely, to disgrace, enfeeble, and destroy a community.

...Large republics, Federalists believed after Montesquieu, tended to disintegrate, and if they managed to retain their cohesion they do so only under the corrective force of military despotism. 'All history,' Federalists agreed, 'showed that great empires, whether monarchies or republics, had ultimately broken to pieces by their magnitude.' Before 1815, no Massachusetts Federalist was known to accept Madison's bold thesis, best expressed in the Tenth Federalist, that large territorial boundaries might be the very guarantor of republican government.

Nor did the Massachusetts Federalists accept the Madisonian notion of an inevitable, if managable struggle between the elements of a pluralistic society. They denied the existence of a natural contest between the upper and lower orders of society, between the productive classes, or among sections, religions, and different types of property. 'Our interests when candidly considered are one,' Theophilus Parsons declared. The inhabitants of remote agricultural towns often complained that disregard for commerce and shipping brought ruin to the whole republic. Northampton memorialists who petitioned Congress against the declaration of war in 1812 pointed out that 'residing in the interior of the country' they had no direct interest in opposing the government's trade restrictions. 'But the interests of the merchant are so closely blended with those of the mechanic and husbandman, that any measures hostile to the rights and happiness of either, maintain the same character in relation to all."

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 10:07 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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