What Would Madison Think?


Over The Atlantic, Jeffrey Rosen offers a nice primer on how America is now living “James Madison’s worst nightmare.”  Here is a taste:

Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms have accelerated public discourse to warp speed, creating virtual versions of the mob. Inflammatory posts based on passion travel farther and faster than arguments based on reason. Rather than encouraging deliberation, mass media undermine it by creating bubbles and echo chambers in which citizens see only those opinions they already embrace.

We are living, in short, in a Madisonian nightmare. How did we get here, and how can we escape?

Rosen still has hope:

To combat the power of factions, the Founders believed the people had to be educated about the structures of government in particular. “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both,” Madison wrote in 1822, supporting the Kentucky legislature’s “Plan of Education embracing every class of Citizens.” In urging Congress to create a national university in 1796, George Washington said: “A primary object of such a national institution should be the education of our youth in the science of government.”

The civics half of the educational equation is crucial. Recent studies have suggested that higher education can polarize citizens rather than ensuring the rule of reason: Highly educated liberals become more liberal, and highly educated conservatives more conservative. At the same time, the National Assessment of Educational Progress has found that citizens, whether liberal or conservative, who are educated about constitutional checks on direct democracy, such as an independent judiciary, are more likely to express trust in the courts and less likely to call for judicial impeachment or for overturning unpopular Supreme Court decisions.

These are dangerous times: The percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a liberal democracy is plummeting, everywhere from the United States to the Netherlands. Support for autocratic alternatives to democracy is especially high among young people. In 1788, Madison wrote that the best argument for adopting a Bill of Rights would be its influence on public opinion. As “the political truths” declared in the Bill of Rights “become incorporated with the national sentiment,” he concluded, they would “counteract the impulses of interest and passion.” Today, passion has gotten the better of us. The preservation of the republic urgently requires imparting constitutional principles to a new generation and reviving Madisonian reason in an impetuous world.

Read the entire piece here.

The Author’s Corner with Kate Brown

brownKate Brown is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Huntington University. This interview is based on her new book, Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law (University Press of Kansas, 2017).

JF: What led you to write Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law?\

KB: I have been fascinated with Alexander Hamilton since high school—long before Hamilton, the musical, made him a household name—so it was pretty much guaranteed that Hamilton would be a primary subject for my first book.  When I realized in graduate school that historians virtually ignore the legal side of Alexander Hamilton’s career—that is, Hamilton as legal and constitutional theorist, Hamilton as an in-demand lawyer, Hamilton’s thriving New York legal practice—I knew that I wanted to explore his accomplishments through the lens of the law.  This book does just that.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law?

KB: 1) We are familiar with Hamilton’s political efforts to shape policy in the young republic; my research demonstrates how Hamilton used common law and constitutional law, more so than politics, to successfully accomplish his policy goals and statecraft.  (Each chapter details a particular Hamiltonian policy goal and the legal toolbox Hamilton used to accomplish it.)

 2) Alexander Hamilton’s legal legacy—that is, his influence on the jurisprudence of federalism, individual rights, judicial and executive power—is far-reaching and foundational, extending well into the nineteenth and occasionally the twentieth centuries.  For these reasons, Hamilton should be considered a true founding father of American law.  

JF: Why do we need to read Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law? 

KB: My insights into the ways Hamilton used law to accomplish his policy goals—achieving unity through union, creating economic prosperity and public creditworthiness, encouraging commerce and manufacturing, and developing judicial and executive authority, to name a few—offer a wholly novel perspective on Hamilton. Scholars and biographers before me had largely ignored or written off Hamilton’s legal career, yet I demonstrate that not only was his legal practice influential, but Hamilton’s legal legacy lasted for decades after his death.  By writing this analytical biography through the lens of law, I offer a completely unique perspective and analysis of an otherwise well-known founding statesman.

 (A quick note:  you do not have to be familiar with law or be a lawyer to understand Hamilton’s legal arguments and the legal history I’m writing here.  I minimize jargon, I explain my arguments in terms that do not require legalese, and I always emphasize the big, important points about Hamilton’s legal legacy over any legal minutiae.) 

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian? 

KB: I caught the early-republic bug in high school, when I found Hamilton to be so remarkable (and seemingly uncelebrated, as compared to his contemporaries like Washington and Jefferson).  I did not formally decide to make history my profession, however, until I decided to go back to graduate school after a first career in corporate America. But once I decided to become a historian, there was no doubt that I would study American history, with a sub-specialty in legal history. Not only is American history fascinating, but its continued relevance for our informed understanding of twenty-first century politics and current events makes the study of history an indispensable public service. 

JF: What is your next project? 

KB: When researching Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law, I noticed that Hamilton kept making appearances in this important, and really unique, appellate court in New York state:  the Court for the Correction of Errors.  This court was so distinctive because it was the highest court in the state—trumping New York’s Supreme Court, and deciding hugely important cases dealing with matters relating to commerce, marine insurance, federalism, and individual rights—and yet it was consciously modelled after England’s House of Lords. The Court of Errors (as contemporaries called it) mixed the judicial and legislative powers inextricably—both the highest judges in the state and the state senators presided over the Court of Errors making judicial decisions.  And so, for almost 70 years, this court shattered norms about the separation of powers—and that is one reason I am so intrigued by it—but it also attracted the best legal talent in the early republic (including, of course, Hamilton).  The Court of Errors was a unique venue for lawyerly talent, as well as a recruiting ground of sorts for the U.S. Supreme Court.  Despite all of this, scholars have ignored the court and its influence on judicial power in the early republic.  I intend to change that by writing an institutional biography of the court, the legal professionals arguing in and presiding over it, and its formidable impact on early-republic jurisprudence

JF: Thanks, Kate!



The Author’s Corner with Carol Berkin

Carol Berkin is residential Professor of History at Baruch College and a member of the history faculty of the Graduate Center of CUNY, Emerita. This interview is based on her new book, The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties (Simon & Schuster, May 2015).

JF: What lead you to write The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties?

CB: I wanted to challenge many of the myths that surround the first ten amendments. I knew that many Americans thought they were written at the constitutional convention, or that they were unanimously advocated by all the ‘founding fathers’ or that, from the moment they were ratified, they became the American credo. None of this was true — and the true story was far more fascinating. I knew I had to carefully read the debates in Congress over these amendments and to understand them in the context of 18th century America. Only then, could I share the story of these amendments with the reading public.
JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties?
CB: The Bill of Rights was Madison’s brilliant tactic to crush the strong opposition that continued even after the Constitution was ratified. In modern parlance, he hoped to separate the opposition’s base [the many Americans who honestly worried about a strong central government and its potential for tyranny] from its leadership [men who wanted to eviscerate the power of the new government, taking away its right to tax and regulate commerce]. Madison believed a bold statement of the rights of the people would calm popular fears even though the federal government actually had no power to enforce those rights in 1789. Most of Madison’s fellow Federalists thought a bill of rights was unnecessary, even useless but Madison persisted and eventually won.

JF: Why do we need to read The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties?
CB: I think readers will find the book tells a fascinating story. As the men in Congress debated Madison’s proposals, they drew on their memories of British abuses and expressed their anxiety over the future of the new republic. They argued over the proper balance of power between the federal government and the state governments, an argument that still resonates today. Tempers flared; egos were exposed; foolish comments abounded. Following these debates, we can see that these men understood what a great gamble the creation of a republic was, how fragile the peoples’ liberties actually were, and how heavily the burden of preserving the new nation lay on their shoulders.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?
CB: I decided to become an American historian while I was a student at Barnard College. I loved the idea that History was a form of time travel and I wanted to visit the past and try to understand people whose views and perspectives were so different from mine. I chose the history of my own country so that I could better understand the origins of issues that matter to us today.

JF: What is your next project?
CB: My next project, The Republic in Peril, is a reevaluation of the first decade of the nation under the Constitution. It looks at how fragile this experiment in representative government was and how worried its leaders were that the experiment might, despite their best efforts, fail. I am going to look closely at four crises the Federalist in power faced, two domestic challenges to the federal government’s authority and two foreign challenges to its sovereignty and independence. As in my two previous books— A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution, which looks at debates at the constitutional convention, and The Bill of Rights: the Fight to Secure America’s Liberties— I want to show the men who founded the nation as ordinary human beings, aware of their great undertaking, concerned that they might fail but determined to persevere.

JF: Thanks Carol.

And thanks to Megan Piette for facilitating this installment of The Author’s Corner

On Writing a History of the American Bible Society: Update #25

Theodore Frelinghuysen, ABS President 1846-62

Want to get some context for this post? Click here.

Week two in the ABS archives is in the books.  I have pushed myself through the anti-Catholic years of the Bible Society Record and I am now ready to start next week with the Civil War in view.  I am a little behind schedule, but the 1840s and early 1850s were so rich in material that I am not too worried about it.  The book will be better for taking the time to dig into the material from these decades.

And we also have Tom Van Dyke, one of the greatest game show contestants in the history of American television, on board with the project!  (See some of his comments on previous ABS History Update posts).  My weekend is made.

This weekend I continue to write chapter one, exploring the intersection of Federalism, millennialism, Christian nationalism, evangelicalism, and the Second Great Awakening.  Jonathan Den Hartog–I need your book on patriotism and piety in the early republic!  Can you convince University of Virginia Press to speed up the publication date?

Stay tuned and enjoy the weekend.  Thanks again for reading, tweeting, and posting.

On Writing a History of the American Bible Society–Update #2

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On Saturday afternoon I got about three or four free hours to work on the American Bible Society (ABS) project in my Messiah College office.  I spent most of the time reading through addresses and reports (mostly from 1815-1817) from a few dozen local and state Bible societies.

When the American Bible Society was founded in 1816, its managers asked these local societies to connect with them as “auxiliary” societies.  These auxiliaries could buy Bibles at a discount rate from the national headquarters in New York and distribute those Bibles according to local needs. In exchange, these local societies changed their constitutions to reflect their auxiliary status and promised to send all surplus revenue to the ABS.

There are so many parallels between the creation of the ABS and the creation of the United States Constitution.  I am not sure whether I want to run with this comparison, but there were some local Bible societies–Philadelphia and Baltimore come to mind–that did not want to join the ABS because their leaderships believed that the distribution of the Bible was done best at the local level by distributors who understood local needs.  The fact that many of the founders of the ABS were Federalists or National Republicans makes this even more interesting.

I hope to begin writing the first chapter soon.  On Saturday I spent a lot of time making editorial notes (very similar to the prose that will eventually appear in the chapter) using the “comments” tool in Microsoft Word.

I feel like we are making progress, but it is still very, very early.  I have a meeting with Katie Garland on Tuesday to discuss her progress on the 1865-1918 section of the book.  Stay tuned.

Kazin: "If Republicans Love States’s Rights So Much, Why Do They Want to Be President?

Interesting question from Georgetown’s Michael Kazin. He discusses briefly the history of federalism and states rights and points out some major historical flaws in the logic of the GOP candidates for president.  Here is a taste of his article in The New Republic:

Whatever their differences, the leading Republican candidates all swear that they love states’ rights. If elected president, Rick Perry vows to “try to make Washington as inconsequential as I can.” Mitt Romney declares his faith in the Constitution, which, he says, declares that the government “that would deal primarily with citizens at the local level would be local and state government, not the federal government.” Michele Bachmann “respect[s] the rights of states to come up with their own answers and their own solutions to compete with one another.” With lots of help from the Tea Party, the Tenth Amendment which, not so long ago was familiar mainly to constitutional lawyers and scholars, may now be as popular as the First or the Second. But, what this resurgence of federalism overlooks is not just the historical consolidation of federal power but also the inanity of attempts to reverse it….

And another taste:

When you look more broadly at their promises, the GOP hopefuls reveal the emptiness of their own rhetoric. Bachmann, never a paragon of consistency, supports a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, as well as the right of individual states to legalize it. In 2007, before Romney got in trouble for his Massachusetts health care law, he predicted, “that all these states … who follow the path that we pursued will find it’s the best path, and we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.” Rick Perry favors federal action to stop gay marriage and restrict abortion—and, last month, asked President Obama to speed up aid to stop wildfires from burning up whole sections of his vast state. Like a lot of other Americans, these ambitious conservatives like to rail against Washington in the abstract but cannot imagine how the nation would operate without a strong central government. And the specifics of their smaller hypocrisies are underscored by one giant irony: They’re all running for president.

Federalism in America

Federalism can be a confusing topic for undergraduates.

The first Federalists were people like Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay–the authors of the “Federalist Papers” and the men who, in the late 1780s, wanted to replace the Articles of Confederation with the United States Constitution.

“Federalists” is also the name given to the political faction that ran the United States government through most of the 1790s and largely faded out of national politics after the War of 1812.  Theses Federalist favored a strong national government, tended to be pro-British in foreign policy, and supported a National Bank, excise taxes to pay off the national debt, and tariffs to protect American manufacturing.  Many of the original pro-Constitution Federalists from the 1780s were part of this group, but others–James Madison comes immediately to mind–were not.

“Federalism” is also a political philosophy that emphasizes state rights.  It is also the subject of an interesting essay by Vanderbilt historian Gary Gerstle in the Fall 2010 issue of Dissent.

Here is a taste:

We hear a lot today about federalism, the doctrine that emphasizes the rights and powers of the states versus those of the federal government. The political Right expresses alarm at the dramatic expansion in central government power that began under George W. Bush during the 2008 financial crisis and that continued during Barack Obama’s first eighteen months in office, first through the government’s bailouts of financial institutions and the auto industry and then through the passage of the landmark national health care bill. Liberal groups, on the other hand, have turned to federalism in response to the perceived failure of the federal government during the Bush years to address major economic, social, and ecological challenges. Progressive Californians, for example, have been pushing ecologically friendly bills in their state, given the obstructions such legislation has faced in Congress. Massachusetts enacted its own government health care bill in response to a long period of federal inaction on the issue. Many gay marriage and marijuana legalization advocates now believe that they can accomplish more in state rather than national arenas. These advocates want to “free” their states from the grasp of federal authority on the issues that matter most to them. In this essay I explore the historical background to the current interest in federalism and argue that the powers possessed by state governments throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were more capacious, influential, and resilient than we customarily recognize them to have been. The durability of the states as a force in economic, social, and cultural affairs can only be understood by reference to an expansive and constitutionally sanctioned doctrine of police power. Police power endowed state governments (but not the federal government) with broad authority over civil society for at least the first 150 years of the nation’s existence. The Civil War posed a sharp challenge to this doctrine, and, for a time, it seemed as though Reconstruction would inter it. But in the late nineteenth century, state legislatures, backed by the federal courts, rehabilitated this doctrine to attack and, in many cases, to reverse the centralization of power in the federal government that the Civil War seemed to have done so much to advance. Federalism finally did weaken in the 1930s and 1940s, but not until the 1960s and 1970s can we say that the central government had superseded the states as the premier center of political authority in America. Federalism’s demise, then, is still a relatively recent phenomenon, a fact that fuels the hopes of those who want to see it revived.

Maybe America Was Meant to be a Christian Nation After All

This morning I was reading an old news story about a newly elected councilman in Asheville, North Carolina who refused to say “so help me God” or place his hand on the Bible during his swearing in ceremony. The man in question–Cecil Bothwell–is an atheist. Unfortunately for him, the North Carolina constitution (written in 1868) disqualifies from public office “any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” As you might imagine, conservative Christians are invoking this clause to remove Bothwell from office.

As it turns out, there are six other states that require officeholders to believe in God. They are Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. My favorite is the Texas state constitution, which states:

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.


Actually, these state constitutions are quite liberal when compared to the religious restrictions placed on officeholders in some of the original state constitutions. For example:

The 1776 Pennsylvania state constitution required officeholders to subscribe to the following declaration: “I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder to the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.” When the constitution was revised in 1790, the language was toned down a bit to limit office holding to those who acknowledge “the being of God, and a future state of rewards and punishments.”

Or consider Vermont. Today’s Green Mountain State liberals might be surprised to learn that the original 1777 Vermont constitution declared that all citizens of the state “have a natural and unalienable right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences and understanding, regulated by the word of GOD.” It also secured basic civil rights to anyone who “professes the protestant religion.” It further noted that “every sect or denomination of people ought to observe the Sabbath, or the Lord’s day, and keep up, and support, some sort of religious worship, which to them shall seem most agreeable to the revealed will of GOD.” Finally, officeholders in Vermont had to make the following affirmation: “I believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the scriptures of the old and new testament to be given by divine inspiration, and own and profess the protestant religion.” When the constitution was amended in 1786 and a new constitution was written in 1793 (following Vermont’s entrance into the Union), all of these religious provisions remained in place.

Only Virginia and New York did not place any religious restrictions on officeholders.

It is clear that most of these original state constitutions privileged Christianity and, in many cases, Protestantism.

How do these state constitutions fit into the larger debate over whether or not the United States was founded as a Christian nation?

It would seem that those who argue for a “Christian America” based on the Christian nature of the state constitutions have a pretty good argument. While the United States Constitution says that there can be no religious tests for office-holding (Article 6) and the First Amendment forbids a religious establishment and secures religious freedom for all, it is quite obvious that none of these restrictions applied to the individual states. As a principle of federalism, the states were given the authority to handle the relationship between church and government in their own way. Massachusetts and Connecticut, for example, upheld religious establishments well into the nineteenth century.

Those who want to debate whether or not America was founded as a “Christian nation” have fought long and hard over what makes a nation “Christian,” but they say very little about what constitutes a “nation.” For example, is the “nation” called the “United States of America” defined by the United States Constitution? If so, then one would be hard pressed to say that the framers wanted to establish a uniquely “Christian” nation.

But to what extent did the Constitution really serve as a marker of national identity in the eighteenth century?

In one of my favorite historical articles, “A Roof Without Walls”: The Dilemma of American National Identity,” Princeton historian John Murrin argues that the Constitution provided a very weak form of nationalism because it could not overcome the individual identities, rooted in colonial history, of the states. “In a word,” Murrin writes, “the Constitution became a substitute for any deeper kind of national identity. American nationalism is distinct because, for nearly its first century, it was narrowly and peculiarly constitutional. People knew that without the Constitution, there would be no America.” In other words, “Americans had erected their constitutional roof before they put up the national walls.”

If Murrin is right, and the Constitution failed to create a strong or “deep” sense of nationalism, then the people would continue, as they did under the Articles of Confederation, to find their most meaningful and important sense of political connection to the states in which they lived. And most of these states privileged Christianity in a way that many of today’s conservative Christians would welcome.

So let’s go back to the original question: Was American founded as a Christian nation? I would hesitate to say “yes” to this question because not all of the states had Christian establishments or forbade non-Protestant Christians from holding office (see Virginia and New York), but it would seem to me that the early republic was closer to being a Christian “nation” than some might be willing to admit.

John Jay: Christian Providentialist

This morning I read an excellent essay by Jonathan Den Hartog on the religious beliefs of John Jay–Founding Father, Federalist, diplomat, Supreme Court justice, and promoter of Christian voluntary societies. I have been talking a bit about Jay in my U.S. survey course this week and I am trying to write part of a chapter on his religious beliefs for my book on Christian America, so the timing could not have been any better.

Den Hartog’s essay appears in a valuable new collection entitled The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life (Notre Dame, 2009), edited by Daniel L. Driesbach, Mark David Hall, and Jeffry Morrison The book sets out to examine the religious beliefs of those men and women who the editors call “The Forgotten Founding Fathers.” While I think the title is a bit of a stretch (can we really say that Samuel Adams, Abigail Adams, Thomas Paine, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and Patrick Henry are “forgotten?”), it offers a study of the religious beliefs of the so-called “Founders” that takes us beyond the usual suspects: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. In addition to Samuel Adams, Abigail Adams, Paine, Jay, and Henry, the book includes essays on Oliver Ellsworth, Edmund Randolph, Roger Sherman, and Mercy Otis Warren. I am looking forward to reading some of these essays. The editors of this volume have done a real service for those of us who think, teach, and write about religion and the American Revolution. Mark Noll writes the book’s foreword.

After reading Den Hartog’s essay in this book, it is hard not to see Jay as one of the most self-consciously Christian “Founders.” He clearly connected his orthodox Protestant beliefs to the moral good of the new United States and even advocated for a “Christian nation.” (Although for Jay this meant an orthodox PROTESTANT Christian nation. He actually went out of his way at times to prevent Catholics from participating in the political life of the country). Jay’s religious roots were Calvinist (Huguenot), but he spent most of his religious life in the Anglican Church. If you read Jay’s religious rhetoric, especially during his stint later in life when he served a number of Christian voluntary societies, he sounds very, very evangelical. He regularly wrote about the workings of “Providence” in the world. (Den Hartog explains that when Jay wrote about “Providence” he meant it in an orthodox Christian way, as opposed to the more rationalist views of “Providence” employed by Washington, Franklin, or Adams). In fact, Jay even used this language of Providence in Federalist Paper #2 where he connected national unity to the plan of God.

Den Hartog’s essay is the best thing I have ever read on Jay’s religion. I know that Jay is an important player in Den Hartog’s current book project on Federalist religion–a book I am eager to read.


As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am in Boca Raton for a few days conducting a Gilder-Lehrman workshop on the early American republic for American history teachers from Palm Beach County Schools. The administrators asked me to spend two mornings delivering four lectures on the period. Today, I lectured on recent interpretations of the Federalists and the place of religion in the Early Republic.

I am also privileged to be working with Gloria Sesso, a veteran teacher and the co-president of the Long Island Council for the Social Studies. Gloria is an old friend from graduate school. We went out to dinner tonight and shared stories about our grad school advisor, complained about the way that history education is being overtaken by “social studies,” and talked about our shared interest in early American history and religion.

The twenty-three teachers attending the workshop are a spirited and inquisitive bunch–a great group. We have a nice mix of 8th grade, 11th grade, and AP American history teachers. The morning included some deep discussions about how to teach historical thinking, whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation, and the way Federalists thought about women, the west, slavery, and conservatism. Gloria brings it all home in the afternoon sessions by trying to connect this content with pedagogical concerns.

Current Temperature in Grantham, PA: 52 degrees
Current Temperature in Boca Raton, FL: 77 degrees

History and the Republican Convention

Here are a few thoughts about the use of the past from the “first night” of the Republican National Convention.

First, the evening started with the playing of GOP Convention 2008 Video. I thought the video was very well-done, but I found it revealing, and a bit odd, that the first image shown was the cover page of the Federalist Papers. Rather than begin with Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, the first image we saw was a document (actually a collection of documents) that sought to limit the power of the states and establish a stronger centralized government. From a historical perspective this is an odd choice because many in the Republican Party today are strong supporters of states rights over the power of the federal government.

Of course the real lesson here for students of American history is that much of the political philosophy of “federalism” that we hear so much about today looks a lot like the view and beliefs of the “Anti-Federalists“–those in the 1780s who opposed centralized power and the eighteenth-century equivalent of “big government” and favored states rights. (Although you could make an argument for the political philosophy of federalism from Federalist Paper #51). The political philosophy of federalism as it is applied and discussed in today’s politics (John McCain, for example, claims to be a “federalist”) is associated with the idea that decisions about things like religion, marriage, abortion, or anything else not addressed in the Constitution should be made by the states. By celebrating the “Federalist Papers,” the Republican Convention video seems to be celebrating the current political philosophy of federalism more than the historical context in which these documents were written. (I also might add that the Federalist Papers opposed the Bill of Rights, a document which was also exalted in the Republican Video).

Second, Joe Lieberman quoted George Washington’s farewell address on the temptation of placing party spirit over the good of the country. While Lieberman was generally correct in using Washington’s address to buttress his decision to break with party lines and support John McCain, it is important to remember that Washington would not only have condemned “senseless partisanship” but would have condemend the very idea of political parties to begin with.

Third, and finally, today’s New York Times has published an op-ed about the Palin “vetting” by the prolific Garry Wills. The article focuses on the last time a vice presidential candidate was not properly vetted. This was George McGovern’s 1972 selection of Thomas Eagleton, a first term Missouri senator who was removed from the ticket when it was learned he had received electroshock therapy for depression and nervous exhaustion. (He was replaced with Sargent Shriver). Wills message: There are too many skeletons in Palin’s closet that the McCain campaign failed to uncover or investigate thoroughly and as a result Palin “should withdraw before she is nominated and let Senator McCain turn again to one of his more experienced options.” I doubt this will happen, but Wills’s remains provocative.