Monday, 8 March 2010

Federalists, antifederalists, founding fathers and regionalists.

Here's another rather slap-dash offering for the Wessex regionalist forum that might be worth sharing.

"Recently I've been study American politics at uni and been doing an essay on the
origins of the US constitutions through which I've been reacquainted with the
federalists, antifederalists and founding fathers, all of which I'm convinced
have something to aid us regionalists and decentralists.

These figures are of interest to Wessex regionalists for several reasons.

I think importantly they deal with constitution making and nation building
which is an important area for us regionalists and they tend to do so not in the
fanciful, abstract way of the Jacobins but in a far more measured and
historically minded way. Particularly when taken together the federalists,
antifederalists and founding fathers, particularly Jefferson and John Adams,
show an encyclopedic scope of interest and ideas, perhaps due to their living
before the growth of modern ideologies, but still seem to retain that necessary

This is particularly true with their solution to the problems of a federal
system and one where the central gov't is limited in size and scope. There is a
difference in the individual authors but they deal ably with the need for unity
in diversity, this in my opinion is particularly true of the abler
antifederalist writers such as Brutus, the federal farmer, Cato and Centinnel
who deal with the need to limit central gov't power and deal with the individual
branches of gov't(Brutus deals particularly well with the judiciary.). Balanced
with the federal papers, just so the need for some central coordination and how
to best manage this is not forgotten, and Jefferson and John Adams and I can
imagine few better guides to regionalists and decentralists in the mechanics of
subsidiarity and "federalism".

What is also good for us Englishmen is the level of reliance these figures tend
to place on the English political tradition which may help us to remember and
reformulate our own traditions of political liberty and balance. Blackstone,
Magna Carta and Coke for instance are as important to the debates around the
constitution as Locke and Montequieu. Which brings me to the final positive
which is a more personal one, they actually, through some alchemy manage to
produce some good from the likes of Locke, Hume, Montesquieu and such who in my
opinion have very little offer otherwise.

There are obviously a few negatives though. The major ones are they deal mainly
with politics and not so much society and economics, although these both are
touched on quite a bit and even quite masterfully at times particularly by John
Adams(also Thomas Paine's only worth, in my opinion, is his economic ideas but
these go halfway to making up for the rest.). However the emphasis is still very
much on the more narrow task of constitution and nation building, although you
can't have everything of course.

Another negative is that although they largely manage to avoid the naive and
crude radicalism of the philosophes and Jacobins there is still a lack of overt
traditionalism and that vein of Burkean conservatism that is necessary for a
complete perspective on politics and society, particularly for decentralist.
However there is enough implicit traditionalism and the overt and extremely
insightful conservatism of John Adams to partially make up for this,
particularly if one takes into account John Randolph of Ranoake from the next

Some of the key documents including the federalist and anti-federalist papers
are available online:

Otherwise the political writings of Jefferson, John Adams, Madison and Paine's
Agrarian Justice are all very much worth reading as Wessex regionalists and
simply as those interested in politics.

What the antifederalists were? By Hertbert Storing,and The library of America's
debates on the constitution parts one and two(which contain most of the key
primary documents of both sides.) are good works of reference as well."

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