So Brilliant, and Yet So Naive..
I was reading from the Federalist (#46) a couple nights ago, and I must say, it never ceases to amaze me just how much foresight and vision the Founding Fathers (James Madison, in this case) really had:
The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger. That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of time, elect an uninterupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should, throughout this period, uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism. Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger.
Of course, the State governments have been all but absorbed into the Federal Collosus, more especially since Nixon's Executive Order 11647 which carved up the nation into 10 Federal "New States". Read the $25 Million Constitution for more details.
James Madison, Contributor to the Federalist
But, supposing that such a military-industrial complex does one day arise (which it long since has).. How does Madison propose we meet the threat? He continues:
Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.
So the protection lies in the Second Amendment.
Wonder how James Madison would feel about the fact that private ownership of handguns is banned in Washington, D.C., and that San Francisco desires to follow suit?
A few other quotes from the Federalist that I thought were striking. In the opening lines of Federalist #3, John Jay writes:
It is not a new observation that the people of any country (if, like the Americans, intelligent and well-informed) seldom adopt and steadily persevere for many years in an erroneous opinion respecting their interests. That consideration naturally tends to create great respect for the high opinion which the people of America have so long and uniformly entertained of the importance of their continuing firmly united under one federal government, vested with sufficient powers for all general and national purposes.
There are few figures in early American history for whom I have more distaste than John Jay. Yet, his words here are telling. It seems there was a time and a place when Americans were in fact regarded as highly intelligent and well-informed. How far off that day now seems!
Jay also seems to be giving posterity a little too much "benefit of doubt" when it comes to adopting and steadily persevering "for many years in an erroneous opinion respecting their interests."
The final work I would like to comment on is Federalist #1, by Alexander Hamilton, wherein he writes:
It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.
Americans would be wise in these days to give grave weight to these important words..