Founding Fathers, Socialist?

@moiracathleen @d_kuehn well i just want “socialism” to have some sort of meaning. if public works=socialism, then the word is meaningless

— Isaac Marmolejo (@TheLachmannian) June 6, 2013

In a twitter exchange, we were discussing this article, which tried to make the case that the Founding Fathers were socialists. Basically, what the author is saying is that the Founding Fathers thought that public works were necessary, thus they were socialists.

To me, the use of the term “socialism” in this article is just way too broadly defined. It basically has no meaning if one is going to define it that way. Just because socialists think public works are needed, doesn’t mean it is a solely socialistic idea, and those that think public works as necessary are thus socialists.

This is almost like calling Keynes a fascist because the Nazis and Keynes had some similarities between them. No, as with “socialism”, to define fascism this way to think that Keynes was an advocate of such philosophy is too broadly defined, and thus with no meaning to make any sense of the word.

Chambless on Hamilton: Round 2


This is part 2 of my critique of Jack Chambless’ lecture on Hamilton titled, “The Curse of Alexander Hamilton”. I should note that it would help to listen to this lecture and then read what I have to say about specific points. It might be less confusing to follow this way. On with the show…


Necessary is a matter of opinion

Chambless goes to say that there is this objective definition of what necessary means, sure we can go to dictionaries and pick out definitions all day but Hamilton is not necessarily arguing that this word is a matter for subjectivity. What he means is that the implications of necessary action is different for a lot of people, it is a matter of opinion.

For example, the early Democratic-Republic party did not want to see the rise of American industry for they believed this would lead to unintended consequences that they did not want to face. The Federalists wanted to promote American industry, and for them, to achieve this goal, they needed a national bank, among other things. So to Democratic-Republicans, it was necessary for them to strike down national bank policies because they had a different goal than the Federalists, to promote solely the agricultural sector, and also they saw the encouragement of industry bad for the country. For the Federalists, this was of course different, so the Union doesn’t crumble, they felt they needed the encouragement of industry to make America more independent. So it was necessary for them to call for banking policies to be put in place.

And this is exactly how the Necessary and Proper clause is defended in The Federalist Papers, but instead uses the example of taxation and how government action can be justified to achieve the end of getting taxes by the Necessary and Proper clause. Here is a passage from The Federalist Papers No. 33:

What is a power, but the ability or faculty of doing a thing? What is the ability to do a thing, but the power of employing the means necessary to its execution? What is a LEGISLATIVE power, but a power of makingLAWS? What are the means to execute a LEGISLATIVE power but LAWS? What is the power of laying and collecting taxes, but a legislative power, or a power of making laws, to lay and collect taxes? What are the proper means of executing such a power, but necessary and proper laws?

To put this passage and article in context, we have to look at why this was written. The authors of the Federalist Papers had the tough task in trying to convince people that a stronger role for government was necessary. Most were still used to the limited role of the central government in the Articles of Confederation. The authors remind the citizens that a true government is one that has the ability to pass binding legislation, otherwise, the government is not really a government (like the central government of the Articles of Confederation). A strong government was needed to preserve the Union, thus the ratification of the Constitution was needed to preserve America.


“Everything that Hamilton stands for was indeed what Madison warned about.” -Chambless

Ah, but historical facts presents a much different story. Part of the lecture till this point focused on Hamilton’s economic recommendations. The two biggest recommendations being the establishment of a national bank and the introduction of (moderate) tariffs to encourage industry. These, I guess, fall under as part of the things that “Madison warned about”, at least according to Chambless. Well, it should then shock Chambless to know that Madison signed into law the Second Bank of the United States and also introduced tariffs laws while Madison was president. And not only did Madison sign tariffs into law, but he went further than Hamilton’s moderate tariffs proposals, Madison supported protectionist tariffs , hence the signing of the first protective tariff is by none other than Madison. So it looks like even Madison ignored his own warning, right?


You’re trying to show us that no where in the Constitution did the Congress say anything about providing for healthcare. Prof. Chambless, how could the Congress possibly have known what healthcare was going to be like in 2012?

The above is a view that Chambless claims some of his students have. Very smart objection too. Chambless responds to this by saying that the Founders did know because of the tyranny they experienced with King George III. They had a long time to think of these principles in other words. But this is merely appeal to emotion and not historical analysis.

This also goes to show that Chambless does not know the basic reasonings to why the Constitution was put in place, and why it is so vague and short. Ambiguity was used because the Constitution was written to provide for a general structure of government. It was not supposed to go into details about how every little thing in the government was supposed to be ran. It was written like this so it can be adapted to provide for solutions to problems we will have as time goes on. Thats it. They did not know of the problems we would face today, nor did they pretend to know, which is why the Constitution was general and short.


Lets take a look at Chambless’ example on this segment. Chambless asks his students whether they want the President to obey the oath of office, which is an oath to uphold the Constitution. Most students would say, “Of course.” Chambless goes on and tells the students to imagine Cuban refugees that come to the Miami and government approves of giving aid to these refugees. The students would then respond, “What does this have to do with the Constitution?” Chambless goes on to say that Madison disapproved of giving aid to St. Domingo refugees saying, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” So Chambless asks again whether they agree that the President should stay true to the oath of office because granting aid is supposedly unconstitutional. Two big problems with this:

  1. He is appealing too much on Madison, as if what Madison says about the Constitution, goes because he is the “principle author”
  2. Madison contradicts himself because he approved of giving aid to foreigners during his presidency.

On 1: he is just appealing too much on Madison. Chambless is basically saying, “If the principle author of the Constitution is telling you it is unconstitutional, it is such!” But not even Chambless believes this premise. As I have stated, Madison approved of protectionist tariffs and signed into law the 2nd Bank of the United States. Is the libertarian Chambless ready to admit that National banks and protection tariffs are constitutional because Madison approved of them? I highly doubt it.

On 2: This basically destroys Chambless example because Madison approved of giving aid to foreigners. He did not apply the same “lay my finger on that article” logic that he did with the St. Domingo refugees. Madison approved of the first foreign aid policy in US history, 1812 Venezuela, look it up.

Thats good enough for now, I’ll stop here.


Epstein on the Role of the Constitution

So Richard Epstein got interviewed by Russ Roberts over at EconTalk about the Constitution. Yes, more libertarians talking about the Constitution, my favorite. I might comment on the whole interview later but I want to discuss the first question and answer to this interview.

Roberts asked Epstein, “How has the role of the Constitution changed in the United States since the founding? How has our understanding of it evolved, good and bad? And that, of course, we could spend 7 or 8 hours on, but why don’t you open us up with a general overview of the biggest trends.”

Epstein response is reasonable I guess, though it is very general, so it is hard to point out what he means on certain points.  Of course one major thing I disagree with him on his his view that Alexander Hamilton championed protection tariffs. Not only is there not evidence to support that Hamilton ever supported protection tariffs, but Hamilton also directly refuted protection tariff policies (look at “Would Hamilton Advocate Protectionism?” for more info).

Epstein is also right that the Constitution was drafted as a way to deal with the disadvantages produced in the Articles of Confederation. But then here is where he puts his libertarian spin. Starting at 4:20ish he states:

The Constitution was drafted as a way to get rid of the defects in the Articles of Confederation, rather than to create the modern welfare and New Deal State.

In a way, this is true but misleading. We get the implication that this so called welfare state was against Constitutional principles, for it was not drafted for that reason. And this is how Epstein concludes his summary:

Its a huge difference.. a classical liberal state, small government, strong property rights to a large state with heavy administration law, concurrent jurisdiction and lots of discretion thats being given to agents of all levels of government. Its a really very very big change that took place.**

Over at Cafe Hayek, Roberts copied and pasted the first question he asked Epstein and told his readers what they thought Epstein answer was. Roberts said, “I was prepared for him to say that over time, we’ve increasingly ignored the Constitution and done whatever we want. That wasn’t his answer.”

But that was exactly Epstein’s answer to Roberts’ question. Epstein is basically saying, “The Constitiuion was drafted for classical liberal purposes, but over time the American government has turned into this welfare New Deal state! Its a really very very big change.” In essence, Epstein is trying to get the readers to note that this “welfare New Deal state” was not the reason why the Constitution was drafted, so therefore this “welfare New Deal” state goes against Constitutional principles that the American Founding Fathers envisioned. In other words, Epstein is saying that over time, we have lost sight on what the implications of the Constitution were.

I obviously disagree with this answer too. Even back then, people did not know how big the size of government should be. There was always constant debate about that, let alone what constituted the size of government as big or small. For example, the Anti-Federalists thought that the more centralized Constitutional government was too big, even comparing it to the monarchial British system.

I would have answered Roberts’ question differently. I would have said something like, “The Constitution was drafted (and authors of The Federalist Papers defended its ratification) because many were concerned that under the Articles of Confederation, America was going to crumble somehow, at worst, it would have a civil war with the different ‘confederacies’ fighting because the structure of the central government was too loose. It was drafted, in other words, to preserve the Union at all costs. In modern times, many peoples’ understanding of the Constitution is that of viewing the Constitution as a document of representing a “classical liberal” or a limited government view, and that there is no room in the Constitution giving the government the power to adapt to unexpected change as time goes on. This is to say, granting the government power to adapt to the problems of the time in the attempt to solve them.”

I only had time to listen to the first 6 minutes or so, so I can’t comment on the rest of the interview, though I will finish hearing it sometime soon.

** I like Epstein’s “really very very” emphasis

When Libertarians Do History…

When Libertarians do history, it is a mess most of the time. Typically what ends up happening in the work of some libertarian scholars is some kind of conspiracy theory of the mainstream trying to hide the truth, and usually these things turn out to be assertions. Nothing but statements without evidence and this is bad. Case in point is the lecture by Jack Chambless on Alexander Hamilton.

Starting at 0:13:10 Chambless says :

In the Federalist Papers, it appeared much of what Hamilton wrote was in support of a limited government, and warned the American people of a government that was given too much power, but before the ink on the parchment was dry, Alexander Hamilton took a completely different course to undermine everything what limited government was supposed to stand for…

Alexander Hamilton was a genius in that the only way he could ever achieve the objective of a monarchy… was to have a Constitution ratified filled with enough clauses that could be interpreted by future governments in their own way so as to slowly bring about the objective that he wanted to achieve. The five hour speech failed to established anything that he wanted done in the Constitutional Convention. So why not support the Constitution as its written and then bit by bit, whether it was in support of Supreme Court justices, or the support of the Bank of the United States. Why not go bit by bit if you can’t get it all done.

I am not really sure what Chambless means by ‘limited government’ so I can’t really go ahead and rebut this claim that The Federalist Papers supported such a position. What I can tell you though is how The Federalist Papers and how the Constitution came about. In short, the Constitution was written as a new form of government to improve the system that we had, which was in the Articles of Confederation. All three of the authors in The Federalist Papers agreed that the powers of the central government were too limited in the Articles of Confederation. So, at least given this, all three authors had the intention to have a greater sized government than in the Articles. And this is exactly the position they defended in their 85 articles in The Federalist Papers. The reason for the advocacy of the Constitution was so that the Union would be preserved, and if it meant to give more power to the central government, so be it. This was the purpose of the government in the Constitution and in The Federalist Papers. To have a united nation, and not some confederacy where each State can make their own rules ignoring the rules listed in the central government. If this is what is implied in Chambless’ “limited government” label, then yes, The Federalist Papers support such a position, but I have a feeling that this is not what he is talking about when he means “limited government”.

And of course The Federalist Papers contain passages criticizing the role of “too much government”. But this criticism can be made by people in multiple political positions. Is Chambless implying that the only people who talk of “too much government” comes from those who are active in praising themselves in support of “limited government”? To apply this in historical context though, Americans were bothered from the fact that Britain failed to give the American colonies some type of representation in Parliament. So when Britain enacted taxes on the colonies, Americans felt that this was unjust because we didn’t have a representative giving “our side of the story”, we were just ordered to pay the taxes or else… This is an example of government going beyond its limits and its the type of government that the Americans at the time rebelled against, hence The Revolutionary War.

And it is equally puzzling when he mentions Hamilton’s advocacy for a Bank of the United States or support for supreme court justices and implying that this was just some steps made by Hamilton to transform the United States into this “monarch” system. I could only assume that he thinks of Jefferson and Madison as people who opposed such measures and considered them unconstitutional. But I’ll just give one example, which shows why these claims are without merit.

Here is James Madison in one of his most popular anti-bank quotes:

History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.

I am sure Chambless looks at this and goes, “Right on, the author of the Constitution was against central banking, see its unconstitutional!” Though, it was the same James Madison who signed into law the Second bank of the United States in 1816. It took the aftermath of a war, the War of 1812, to show to Madison that banks were needed for an economy. So maybe, it was Madison, not Hamilton, that envisioned the future state of the United States to be a monarchy for his signing of the 2nd Bank of the United States! Or (even better) Madison and Hamilton had this plan all along to blind people and make them believe that they were political rivals but in reality, they thought exactly the same! Of course the last two claims are absurd but that is exactly how Chambless views Hamilton when he states that Hamilton was a genius in making believe people he was anti-monarchy but in reality thought of monarchy as a supreme system and slowly implemented it by his support of the 1st Bank of the United States among other things. Like I said in the beginning of the post, many libertarians feel like they have to incorporate some type of conspiracy theory, for reasons that I can only speculate on. It is very horrible scholarship to do this and I really question FEE if they really believe that this guy is giving a true historical account of Hamilton, and not some libertarian fairy tale of Hamilton.

Would Hamilton Advocate Protectionism?

Protectionism’s first American theorist was Alexander Hamilton — the man on the $10 bill, the first Treasury Secretary, and America’s first technocrat. – Ian Fletcher, America Was Founded As A Protectionist Nation (2010)

In that way, British protectionism was a significant cause of the Revolution… Having achieved independence,however, many Americans advocated protectionist policies similar to those they had earlier condemned. Alexander Hamilton, the principal advocate of import restrictions, based his proposals on the alleged needs of infant industries.  – Bruce Barlett, The Truth About Trade in History

Initially few Americans were convinced by Hamilton’s argument. After all, Adam Smith, the father of economics, had already advised Americans against artificially developing manufacturing industries. However, over time people saw sense in Hamilton’s argument, and the US shifted to protectionism after the Anglo-American War of 1812. – Ha- Joon Chang, Protectionism… The Truth is on a $10 Bill (2007)

Alexander Hamilton’s famous Report on Manufactures occupies an odd place in the history of economics. He advocated for protectionist tariffs to allow American industry to develop without too much foreign competition, so this put him at odds with the views of the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith. – David Kidder,  Alexander Hamilton’s Economics (2008)

Short answer is no. Many want to claim that Alexander Hamilton was the father of the American protectionist system for his obvious support for tariffs in his Report on Manufactures, but this is such a short sighted view. Just because Hamilton advocated tariffs does not mean that he was a protectionist. I am of the position that Hamilton’s position on tariffs is at least partially influenced by his reading of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and specifically Book 4. Not many people know this, because they do not bother reading the book, but Smith advocated moderate tariffs, and so did Hamilton. And advocating moderate tariffs does not mean one is protectionist. Actually, it was Hamilton’s rivals that advocated for protectionist tariffs, James Madison was indeed the first person to actually enact a protective tariff in American History.

And it is not like Hamilton was indifferent about protectionism, he was opposed to it and it is quite obvious in some of his writings, the most popular source would be in The Federalist Papers No. 35, in which Hamilton says:

There are persons who imagine that [import duties] can never be carried to too great a length; since the higher they are, the more it is alleged they will tend to discourage an extravagant consumption, to produce a favorable balance of trade, and to promote domestic manufactures. But all extremes are pernicious in various ways. Exorbitant duties on imported articles would beget a general spirit of smuggling; which is always prejudicial to the fair trader, and eventually to the revenue itself: they tend to render other classes of the community tributary, in an improper degree, to the manufacturing classes, to whom they give a premature monopoly of the markets; they sometimes force industry out of its more natural channels into others in which it flows with less advantage; and in the last place, they oppress the merchant, who is often obliged to pay them himself without any retribution from the consumer.

Here, Hamilton is clearly opposing huge tariffs for they “would beget a general spirit of smuggling” and give rise to premature monopolies.

This next source is a less popular work by Hamilton, but it continues this critique on huge tariffs that protectionists like. From Hamilton’s The Continentalist No. 5 (1782) :

Experience has shown that moderate duties are more productive than high ones. When they are low, a nation can trade abroad on better terms, its imports and exports will be larger, the duties will be regularly paid, and arising on a greater quantity of commodities, will yield more in the aggregate than when they are so high as to operate either as a prohibition, or its an inducement to evade them by illicit practices.

As stated above, Hamilton advocated moderate tariffs because he thought “imports and exports would be larger” while a protectionist would never use this reason to support a tariff, nor did Hamilton want to use a tariff as a “prohibition”. It is worth noting that the advocates of the American School of Economics (ASE) see Hamilton as their “patron saint” but fail to realize that Hamilton was very critical of protectionist policy. It also seems to me that the advocates of the ASE like to have this “us -v- them” mentality with the British system and of Smith’s writings, though they fail to see that Hamilton was very much influenced by the British system, and was very much influenced by Adam Smith. At best, the advocates of ASE, and of protectionism, are just paying lip service to a great Founding Father.

Chambless on Hamilton


I will do this critique of Chambless’s research on Hamilton in parts. Judging by this first post, it seems like this might be a long series of post. I will critique his lecture starting from 0:07:30 and ending in 0:13:20. There is just so much wrong with his research that I feel like Chambless did the error of starting from a bias conclusion and then try to support this conclusion. The conclusion being that Alexander Hamilton was a curse. Any serious scholar of Hamilton would know that this is of course false, at least historically speaking. Hamilton was essential in the creation of the Constitution and essential in its ratification. It would simply be hard to imagine the Constitution as it is today without the influence of Hamilton. The main point that I want to get across in this post, a point which Chambless either does not know or chooses to ignore, is that Madison was very much in line with Hamilton during this time. This is to say, during the time when Madison attended the Constitutional Convention, wrote the bulk of the Constitution and participated in The Federalist Papers, he and Hamilton were philosophical allies. They understood that if America was to survive as a nation, it needed a stronger role for the central government. Madison gradually converted to a Jeffersonian point of view but this was after he wrote the Constitution and The Federalist Papers. The pre-Jeffersonian Madison was a proto-Federalist. This even makes sense by just looking at the people he worked with at the time. Look at the work he did with Hamilton and John Jay. Look at the close ties he held with the Virginian Governor Edmund Randolph. All of which were strong Federalists when the party emerged. There is clearly more evidence to support this but I am merely pointing out that it is easy to see Madison’s ‘Federalist’ side. And this fact is crucial because it shows that Madison held two major opposing views in his lifetime, so this affected how he interpreted the Constitution. I choose to hold Madison’s proto-Federalist interpretation of the Constitution as more valid than his later Jeffersonian interpretation because when he wrote the Constitution or The Federalist Papers, he was hardly a Jeffersonian.


First off, Thomas Jefferson had no part in the construction of the Constitution. To appeal to what he said about it is pointless. This is a clear example of appeal to authority. Now I understand that appeal to authorities isn’t a fallacy per se, but when one points out that this ‘authority’ did not know what the hell he was talking about, then it becomes a fallacy. Jefferson envisioned the Constitution as one that provides strict rules on how the Federal Government should be handled. If it does not say that the Government should specifically do X, then the Government should not do X. But this is not how the Constitution was meant to be interpreted. I cannot stress this enough, but the Constitution was meant to provide for implied powers, powers that are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. The best source for this would be The Federalist Papers, and specifically read James Madison’s article number 44. Keep in mind that Madison at this time was aligned philosophically to that of Hamilton, which is why they work together to produce The Federalist Papers, the main defense of the Constitution (Chernow 2004: 223). Not only this, but I really do not see why we are still having this debate on ‘what the Constitution really means’. The Federalist Papers, as papers written to persuade people to support the Constitution, should be the main source as to what the Constitution means.


The letter mentioned here written by Madison was written in April 20, 1831, Madison died five years later. The year of which Madison wrote the letter is important here because (as I said in the introduction) I am of the position that the Madison that wrote the Constitution and provided several articles in its defense is almost completely different, philosophically, from the Jeffersonian Madison. To merge these two different Madison’s together is a fallacy because Madison changed his thinking when he started to become the head of the Democratic – Republican Party. But this is important because this means that Madison’s meaning of the Constitution changed for him. The late 1770’s Madison recognized that the United States had to have a strong central government in order for the Union to be preserved. This idea he shared with Hamilton and Jay when writing The Federalist Papers. It is the same Madison that wrote the justification to implied powers in article number 44.


It is also worth saying something of that Madison quote on how charity is not the duty of Government. First off, it is funny to state that Madison would contradict himself approximately 2 decades later. When Madison said this, he was debating one of the leading Federalists at the time, Elliot Boudinot, on whether aid should be provided for St. Domingo Refugees. Madison cried, “NO!” there are not explicit powers mentioned in the Constitution for this and stood his ground on the principle that Government was not a charity. Though, Madison would approve aid to Venezuela in 1812, a year that Madison was president. Secondly, this is one of many debates with Boudinot that Madison had. Another more important debate was on establishing a national bank. Of which, Madison (again) responded that the rights to establish a bank is not granted in the Constitution, therefore it should not be done. Boudinot in response quoted Madison from The Federalist Papers article 44, which shows Madison providing justification for implied powers. The bill was passed and Madison had to have felt defeated by his very own words. This is one of several examples of how Madison’s visions of Government changed drastically over time. Again, the Madison that wrote the Constitution and The Federalist Papers is not the same Madison that was aligned to the Democratic – Republican Party.


Also, yes, Hamilton disagreed with Madison’s Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan. But disagreements were common at this convention. I thought this fact would be common sense. This convention was about starting the structures of Government from scratch. I could only imagine several different propositions on the ‘right’ structure which to follow. Nevertheless, what good is it in pointing this out? By the time the Constitution was in its final form, Hamilton was a fierce supporter; why else would he write 50+ articles out of the 85 articles in support of the Constitution in The Federalist Papers? Nevertheless, Chambless makes it sound like the rest of the people at the convention had a similar view of how Government should operate while Hamilton was the odd man out and had a different view when he states, “Hamilton disagreed with the other founding during the convention.” The truth is, is that there were several ideas put on the table as to how the newly formed government should operate. And yes, this implies much debate.

It should also be noted that yes, no one supported Hamilton’s plan but that does not mean it wasn’t influential. For example, Hamilton’s plan introduced the idea that supreme judges should be there for life to minimize conflicts in regards to politics, this is to say, so they did not have to fear to be elected. The Articles of Confederation provided no such authority for federal judges.  It is also worth pointing out that just because no one agreed with Hamilton’s plan full heartedly does not mean that the other delegates just ignored what Hamilton had to say. Gouverneur  Morris (a founding father that wrote parts of the Constitution) stated of Hamilton’s speech as “the most able and impressive he had ever heard”.  William Samuel Johnson stated that Hamilton’s plan won “praise by everyone.” Though I am sure Johnson exaggerated a bit (Chernow 2004: 233).

Also believing that the executive should serve for life does not mean that he supported a monarchy. This does not follow at all. Sure it might be a description out of many of a monarchy but to support a life term executive is completely different than supporting a monarchy, which Hamilton never did. Actually, this criticism (that the executive was equal to a King) was used by the Anti-Federalists when talking about the Constitution. They felt that the President’s powers extended too far in the Constitution, so far that they saw no difference between a President and a King. Starting at Article 67 of The Federalist Papers (which Hamilton wrote), the Federalists discuss the nature of the executive power, and they also try to make clear that to consider the executive the same as a King is a gross misrepresentation. As Hamilton states early in the article:

Here the writers against the Constitution seem to have taken pains to signalize their talent of misrepresentation. Calculating upon the aversion of the people to monarchy, they have endeavored to enlist all their jealousies and apprehensions in opposition to the intended President of the United States; not merely as the embryo, but as the full-grown progeny, of that detested parent.

It is also worth pointing out that Madison, George Mason, and Edmund Randolph approved of Hamilton’s presidential proposal during the Constitutional Convention (Chernow 2004: 234).

It seems that Chambless mentions the point that Hamilton never returned to the convention because of the lack of success of his speech.  But it was pretty common for delegates to return home.  Only about 30 of the 55 delegates were present much of the time (Chernow 2004: 229). It was typical for delegates to return home for business.  Though there is another explanation for why Hamilton had a small influence in the convention.  Hamilton was part of the committee that made the rules for the convention. Hamilton proposed that every individual vote be recorded, but instead the small committee denied his proposal and decided to have a one vote one state policy (Chernow 2004: 228). This was a problem for Hamilton since the other two delegates from New York were John Lansing Jr and Robert Yates, both political rivals of Hamilton. Thus, Hamilton’s voice would not be heard because both Yates and Lansing disagreed with Hamilton about 99.9% of the time. So it was pointless for Hamilton to stay at the convention because his vote was always outnumbered. Though keep in mind that Hamilton was the only one of the three delegates from New York to sign the Constitution.

And I am not quite sure that Chambless knew Madison’s position on states’ rights at the time. I say this because Chambless makes the claim that Hamilton disagreed with the other founders on states’ rights (as if the delegates all thought the same on states’ rights). But if we look at some of Madison’s work, Madison, too ,had the opinion that federal authority dampens states’ rights. For example, look at Madison’s piece “Vices of the Political System of the United States” and specifically part 4. Here is Madison:

Paper money, instalments of debts, occlusion of Courts, making property a legal tender, may likewise be deemed aggressions on the rights of other States. As the Citizens of every State aggregately taken stand more or less in the relation of Creditors or debtors, to the Citizens of every other States, Acts of the debtor State in favor of debtors, affect the Creditor State, in the same manner, as they do its own citizens who are relatively creditors towards other citizens. This remark may be extended to foreign nations. If the exclusive regulation of the value and alloy of coin was properly delegated to the federal authority, the policy of it equally requires a controul on the States in the cases above mentioned. It must have been meant 1. to preserve uniformity in the circulating medium throughout the nation. 2. to prevent those frauds on the citizens of other States, and the subjects of foreign powers, which might disturb the tranquility at home, or involve the Union in foreign contests.

Please Chambless, if you are going to down play Hamilton on states’ rights, then at least to the same with Madison. Or what about this statement by Madison (I take this from Bowen’s book Miracle in Philadelphia):

“Let the national government be armed with a positive and complete authority in all cases where uniform measures are necessary. Let it have a negative, in all cases whatsoever, on the legislative acts of the states,  as the King of Great Britain heretofore had,” (Bowen [1966] 1986: 14).

“… as the King of Great Britain heretofore had?!” What a nasty monarch that Madison was, huh.


Again, Chambless appeals to the claim that the Constitution was meant to only provide those rights that are only explicitly mentioned, even though it was Madison that wrote the defense for implied powers in article 44. General Welfare was meant to be loosely interpreted. Though finally Chambless makes his first correct statement about Hamilton (and one of the purposes of the Constitution), that current powers of the Government granted by the Constitution should not restrict future Governments to improve the lives of its citizens.


Chambless claims that The Federalist Papers were written to seem it was in support of a limited government, and that Hamilton differed from the other writers. This is not so. I highly doubt that Chambless has even read The Federalist Papers now. The whole point of The Federalist Papers was to give support for a much larger authority for the central government to do its duty than what was proposed in the Articles of Confederation. I seriously do not know where Chambless makes this assertion. He is either pulling stuff out of his ass or a really bad scholar on Hamilton (or The Federalist Papers for that matter). He makes it seem like there is this Hamiltonian conspiracy for a return to a monarchy and total power to a central government. Chambless is ultimately trying to make the Constitiution into a libertarian document, but as the facts show us, the Constitution is a Republican document (thank god).

That is enough for now. This lecture is going to make me pull out my hair if I keep listening to this, and I have a lot of hair.


Bowen, Catherine Drinker. [1966] 1986. Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787. Boston: Little Brown.

Chernow, Ron. 2004. Alexander Hamilton. New York:The Penguin Press.

Hamilton, Alexander, John Jay, and James Madison. [1787] The Federalist Papers. New York: The Modern Library.

Madison, Hamilton, and Implied Powers

I just finished reading Alexander Hamilton (2004) by Ron Chernow and it is by far one of the best biographies I have ever read. Chernow is a writer that makes one feel like they have a personal connection to the particular person he is writing about.

What is particular interesting is the fact that even back then, the founding fathers of this country debated on what was constitutional. At least for me it is interesting because we had statesmen and politicians that had direct influence on the development of the Constitution, and yet there were debates on what the Constitution meant and what we can imply from its meaning.

In this video, Chernow talks very vaguely about his book and of Hamilton, which is worth a watch. But I have a little quibble, at 17:42, Chernow contradicts himself in saying, “He [Alexander Hamilton] comes up with the so called theory of implied powers.” Hamilton did no such thing, if anything, he can be seen as a person to use implied powers of the Constitution quite often. It was James Madison to actually develop the theory of implied powers, and Chernow makes this claim in his book, here is Chernow:

Later defined as a ‘strict constructionist’ of the Constitution, Madison set forth the doctrine of implied powers that Hamilton later used to expand the powers of the federal government. It was Madison who wrote in Federalist number 44, ‘No axiom is more clearly established in law or in reason than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorized.’ At this juncture, they could make common cause on the need to fortify the federal government and curb rampant state abuses (Chernow 2004: 252). (my emphasis)

It is important to note Madison’s Jeffersonian interpretation of the Constitution (what would make Madison a strict constructionist of the Constitution) only came after he wrote the Constitution and The Federalist Papers. So while Madison and Hamilton did have a huge feud on what was constitutional later on, it is clear that during the time of the development of the Constitution, the two were similar philosophically (Chernow 2004: 223). It follows that it was Madison that changed his views about what the Constitution implied and Hamilton staying the most consistent of the two on the view of a strong central government. The change in views later on was a personal blow to Hamilton. Once good friends and political allies, now bitter rivals that represented opposing views on just about everything. In other words, Hamilton saw Madison’s opposition as “a perfidious desertion of the principles which [Madison] was solemnly pledged to defend,” (Chernow 2004: 306).

What is funny is that Madison’s own defense of the necessary and proper clause in paper 44 came to bite Madison “in the behind” when he switched to his Jeffersonian stance. Madison, in opposition to a national bank, stated that after reviewing the Constitution, ‘it was not possible to discover in it the power to incorporate a bank.’ Elias Boudinot, a Federalist Congressman, responded by reading the “necessary and proper” clause and how paper 44 of The Federalist Papers defends the clause (remember, Madison wrote that paper), and explicitly stating the ‘No Axiom is more clearly established…” quote (Chernow 2004: 350). One could only imagine that Madison felt embarrassingly defeated by his very own words.


Chernow, Ron. 2004. Alexander Hamilton. New York:The Penguin Press.

Hamilton, Alexander, John Jay, and James Madison. [1787] The Federalist Papers. New York: The Modern Library.