Alexander Hamilton’s First Federalist Paper

1086 words - 4 pages

Alexander Hamilton’s First Federalist Paper

Alexander Hamilton’s first Federalist Paper endorses ratification of the proposed constitution. His unifying point is that the use of reason—in the form of the people’s "reflection and choice"—will lead to the truth, whereas their use of passion will lead to ruin. Hamilton attempts to persuade his readers to make the correct decision by reminding them of the sheer importance of the matter. He suggests that "good men" will want to make the correct choice in light of their "true interests" (33), while the adversaries of the Constitution will be ruled by passions, deceit, and even weak minds. He frankly warns his readers against "any impressions other than those which may result from the evidence of truth" (35); he offers them a chance to join him on the right side of the issue, which he implies he has arrived at by knowledgeable deliberation. Finally, Hamilton courts his audience by implying that they will use reason to reach the truth. By contrast, the opponents of the Constitution rely on their emotions and follow a "much more certain road to the introduction of despotism" (35).

In the first paragraph, Hamilton introduces the idea of truth—not in passing, but by asking whether "good government from reflection and choice" is at all possible (33). He indicates that the decision is of greater importance than just one country; the wrong decision would "deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind" (33). By broadening the implications of the question at hand, depicting it as "of the first magnitude to society" (34), and describing the Constitution as "the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness" (36) and "favorable to the discovery of truth" (33), Hamilton paints himself as a messenger of independence and veracity, while he paints his opponents as obstacles to the discovery of truth. He chooses his words with meticulous care in this plea in order to instill the reader with a sense of higher purpose and almost martyrdom. The voter must make his choice within himself using reason, but in application, the consequences will reach infinitely farther than himself.

Hamilton even begins to preach, comparing politics to religion in his fourth paragraph. He makes this connection with the phrase "heresies in either [politics or religion]can rarely be cured by persecution" (34). He refers to political converts as "proselytes" (34) and uses religiously underscored words like "enlightened zeal" (35) to characterize the desire for efficient government. The ratification question is so monumental—as monumental as religion—that "the cause of truth" is at stake, not to mention the people’s "happiness … dignity … [and] liberty" (36). The same refection which interprets the bible in religious questions, is also to interpret the facts as Hamilton presents them in the political question. Hamilton puts his reader in the position of a political zealot, who actively crusades for...

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