The Importance of Federalist #1

The Importance of Federalist #1

By Daniel Nesbitt ’18, Contributor

I believe that as American citizens, we should all read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, as they express integral ideas upon which our country was founded. For those unaware, the Federalist Papers were a collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in support of the ratification of the Constitution. All written under the pseudonym “Publius,” these papers are considered to have the greatest insight into the original intent of the framers of our Constitution. While I completely understand if one doesn’t want to read all 85 papers, I do hope that everyone reads what are considered the most important and famous ones: Numbers 10, 39, 51, and 84.

Why is Federalist #1 so important? This paper, written by Hamilton, outlines the ideal way that all political discourse should be done. He asserts that when engaging in discourse, if one hopes to make any progress at all in convincing others of one’s view, one must not ascribe them to have bad intentions. One must understand that, more often than not, the other side does have good intentions, maybe even the same intentions, but just happens to disagree on approach. He writes –

“Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.”

Here he makes the point that calling one’s opponent evil and ill-intentioned will only make them less likely to see it your way. I believe that these key ideas from Hamilton have been forgotten in today’s political sphere.

Modern America has become more polarized than ever across race, gender, and political parties. This drastic polarization is, in no way, beneficial to the country. While I think we should do everything in our power to improve relations between the two parties, both parties’ presidential candidate made this divide even worse. For example, at a fundraiser in New York City, then Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton said, “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call a basket of deplorables.” To suggest that half of Trump supporters (which after the vote amounts to more than 31 million people) are bad people simply because of who they vote for is asinine and purely divisive. Trump, by no means, is free of blame in this matter either. From referring to Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” and releasing an ad just after the Charlottesville incident that referred to Democrats and the Media as his “Enemies,” he has continued to make this divide more drastic. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 47% of surveyed Republicans and 35% of surveyed Democrats said that members of the other political party were more immoral than most Americans. By the same survey, about 40% of surveyed participants of both parties said that members of the other party were more dishonest than most Americans. Furthermore, one-third of the surveyed said that the members of the other party were less intelligent than most Americans. These numbers are simply staggering and show just how divided our country has become.

Now the important question: how can we fix this? Well, going back to Hamilton’s ideas in Federalist Paper #1, we all, as individuals, must stop thinking that people of the other side that disagree with us are immoral for doing so. We must find common ground with one another, despite our political differences, because we all have the same goal in mind: to make our country a better place.