What Was Containment?


In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, much of the globe was divided between the allied powers who were victorious in the war. Particularly, the United States and Soviet Union carved up the map placing areas of influence in the hands of each other. Arguably, the most famous of the post war spoils was Germany. The Allied Powers divided Germany, particularly Berlin, into East and West with Berlin divided into three districts occupied by England, the United States and the Soviet Union. It quickly became apparent to the West that the Soviet Union was not satisfied with simply taking their spoils. United States President Harry S. Truman felt it necessary for the US to have a policy concerning the Soviet Union’s appeared designs on Empire. From the Soviet threat came the American policy of Containment. What Containment was, largely rests with the theory’s architect: George Kennan. Kennan was an important diplomat in the post World War II era including stints as Ambassador to Russia and Yugoslavia. He was also placed in the US State Department under Secretary of State Marshall. From Kennan’s writings came three important policies during Truman’s presidency: The Truman Doctrine, The Marshall Plan and NSC-68. Together, these three policies shaped American policy towards the Soviet Union in particular and Communism in general.

The Truman Doctrine, or the Truman Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, was the official US policy to Communism. The doctrine entailed that the United States would meet the spread of Communism wherever it was to be found in order to stop it. This doctrine directly placed the United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War and lead to US involvement in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In the aftermath of the Truman Doctrine, President Harry S. Truman directed Secretary of State Marshall to create a plan to help stimulate the European economies. Initially, the plan was to offer aide to all European Countries (including the Soviet Union.) However, the USSR and her satellites refused to accept the money. Together with the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan’s economic angle played directly to George Kennan’s theory of Containment. Yet, NSC-68 was largely against Kennan’s theory and ultimately led him to leave government. At the heart of NSC-68 was the gradual coercion of the Soviet Union through massive peace time military spending and largely the abandonment of diplomatic and economic strains of the Containment Policy. In addition, NSC-68 also blurred the line between Communism in general and the Soviet Union; ultimately the two would be seen as part and parcel of each other under the policy.

However, these do not get at the heart of what exactly Containment was meant to be as George Kennan conceived of it. In his book, American Diplomacy, Kennan outlines his theory of how to contain the Soviet Union. At the heart of Kennan’s argument is the need for the US to have a sound policy in dealing with other countries such as the Soviet Union. Kennan states, “the idea of the subordination of a large number of states to an international juridical regime, limiting their possibilities for aggression and injury to other states, implies that these are all states like our own…”[1] Of course here Kennan is speaking of the newly formed United Nations, whose main goal was to provide a means of peaceably settling differences between sovereign nations. However, as Kennan points out, the United Nations does not assume the differences between regimes and treats all as the same.

This does not, of course, mean that the United States needs only to develop a military answer to possible Soviet aggression. Kennan’s argument does not imply that the Soviet Union was not a military threat to the United States; they had detonated their first Atomic Bomb in 1949. It does, however, reflect Kennan’s view of Marxist theory in the form of Soviet Communism. At the core of Soviet Communism, “has always been in the process of subtle evolution.”[2] It is for this reason that Kennan believed that a purely militaristic approach to the Soviet Union was unnecessary. Kennan identifies that the Soviet Union has, in the past, relaxed its policy of intervention in economics. When they had done this the capitalistic elements of the Russian economy flourished. And as long as these elements could survive they would, “always constitute a powerful opposing element to the Soviet regime and a serious rival for influence in the country.”[3] For this reason Kennan incorporated an economic element into his theory of Containment. By supporting the capitalistic elements of the Soviet economy, we would provide them with a lifeline to challenge the state controlled government.

The most important element of Kennan’s theory of Containment encompassed one basic principal: the Soviet Union will eventually dissolve if left to its own devices. As Kennan states, “The Kremlin has also proved able to accomplish its purpose of building up in Russia, regardless of the interests of the inhabitants…” In which case, the Soviet Union destroyed its best men in attempting to prop up the state through, “labor camps and other agencies of constraint…”[4] Every aspect of the Soviet system of government placed unnecessary constraint on the people of Russia. Change in Russia depended on these internal constraints on the people and economy, but also on the American government’s influence on Russia:

But the United States has it in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy must operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and circumspection than it has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.[5]

The policy of Containment required both the Soviet Union to continue on its path of self destructive and the United States to influence the Soviet Union through economic, diplomatic and military policies. So what was Containment? It was the official policy of the United States government to prevent the spread of Soviet style Communism to the rest of the world. The policy of Containment encompassed economic, diplomatic and military aspects against the Soviet Union. Despite many changes to the policy, and the emphasis on different aspects at different times, Containment was the official policy that helped bring down the Soviet Union.


[1][1] George F. Kennan. American Diplomacy, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.) 97

[2] Ibid. 107

[3] Ibid. 110

[4] Ibid. 121

[5] Ibid. 127

Alienation in Post World War America


World War II ended with the surrender of the Japanese Empire in August 1945 leaving a wake of destruction on almost every continent. America was elated, not only had they defeated the Nazis but the Japanese were defeated as well. Yet, America’s place in the world changed as a result of the war in a way very few people would have thought possible. Only an up and coming nation in the last World War, the United States emerged from World War II as the preeminent world power. Amidst the jubilation of victory in both theaters of war, Americans had to come to grips not only with America’s new place in the world, but with what had happened in the war to America. The story of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye demonstrates the alienation some particular Americans felt in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The beginning of The Catcher in the Rye takes the reader to a boarding school and a character named Holden Caulfield. Holden is arguably one of the most controversial characters in literature, but his story is an important one as it is the story of America after World War II. Holden’s alienation from the rest of the world is central in his story. Throughout most of the story Holden is unable to find the good in the world and insists that everyone he knows or meets is a phony. Holden is a confused young man who is attempting to reconcile the world of his childhood with the world of his young adulthood. At sixteen when the story takes place, Holden was born two years after the stock market crashed and was still too young when the United States entered the Second World War in December, 1941. America, in a lot of ways, has grown up rapidly in the span of Holden’s short life.

The main antagonists in Holden’s life are his roommate Stradlater, his neighbor Ackley, a friend from home Sally, and a pimp and a prostitute he meets while staying in New York. In each case, the antagonists choose to ignore the realities of life by distracting themselves with sex, money or theater. Holden faults each character for being a phony, and considers his dead brother Allie, and his younger sister Phoebe as two of the only real people he has ever met. Holden has been affected by the war and its aftermath and maintains a child-like opinion of the world. In fact, he states, “Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”[1] Holden is alienated from those who are his age, or close because of his own inability to grow up. The various encounters Holden ha leave him more alienated than before. In the case of Sally, Holden contacts her and makes a date only to alienate himself from her by saying:  “You give me a royal pain in the ass…”[2] Holden is completely unable to maintain friendships and continues to draw further and further away from the world.

As Holden is unable to maintain friendships with anyone he meets, he is also a contradiction. At the beginning of the book he states, “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies.”[3] And yet he goes to see a movie at Radio City after his date with Sally. He goes into the bar at his hotel and has a low opinion of everything about it from where they seat him, to the band, to the patrons.[4] Holden constantly belittles people, places and things only to turn around and immerse himself in them. This further alienates him from the world and people around him as they view him as an immature person.[5] His sense of superiority, which results in his alienation, prevents Holden from having any meaningful relationships with anyone aside from his sister and dead brother Allie.

Holden is so disillusioned with the world around him that the only thing he can think to do is protect those who he views as innocent. Holden’s depression is lifted whenever he is around kids. The first instance the reader sees this is in the streets of New York. On his way to find a record store open on Sundays, Holden follows a family of three. The parents are on the sidewalk and immediately gain the disapproval of Holden when he says, “They looked sort of poor, which implies that Holden views the family, at least the parents, as beneath him. The child, however, entertains Holden as he is walking behind the family. The child is in the street singing, “‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’” The child and song make Holden, “feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more.”[6] Holden is not alienated from children the way he is from those closer in age to him because he is able to find a truth in children that doesn’t exist for him in his contemporaries.

Holden’s alienation goes even further, to a desire to remove himself completely from society. At first, Holden pleads with Sally to, “drive up to Massachusetts or Vermont….We’ll stay in these cabin camps and stuff like that till the dough runs out…I could get a job somewhere and we could live somewhere with a brook and all….I could chop wood in the wintertime and all.”[7] His feeling of superiority has alienated him not only from any meaningful relationships but also a desire to quit society almost all together. Later on he says, “Everybody’d think I was just a poor deaf-mute bastard and they’d leave me alone. They’d let me put gas and oil in their stupid cars, and they’d pay me a salary and all for it, and I’d build me a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there the rest of my life.”[8] Both times, Holden suggests leaving society to live away from a world he doesn’t fully believe he belongs to.

Holden’s alienation also drives him to attempt to save those he believes he cares most about. In his first desire to leave society, he invites Sally to go with him only to alienate himself from her when she refuses to go with him. Holden also feels a need to assist a roommate at a previous school before he ultimately rejects him. His roommate Dick Slagle is poorer than Holden and doesn’t have as fancy of luggage as he has. As Holden describes the situation: “The thing is, it’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs…”[9] But he goes on to clarify, “You think if they’re intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don’t give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do.”[10] Holden both creates his own alienation, as in the case of Sally, and is a victim of society’s mandated alienation as was the case with the former roommate. Yet in both cases, Holden attempts to save that person from the phony world as Holden perceives it.

Finally, Holden’s struggle not to care about what others think or do and his desire to save people from their phoniness comes to a head. His sister Phoebe questions whether or not Holden actually likes anything, or if he simply hates everything.[11] As he avoids Phoebe’s questions, she finally prompts him, “All right, name something else. Name something you’d like to be.”[12] And it is here that Holden admits to his desire to protect children and to allow them to maintain their innocence when he tells Phoebe, “I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”[13] Holden’s alienation from friends closer in age; his hatred of cars and movies all stem from his own desire to return and protect the innocence of childhood.

Yet, it takes Holden until he has nearly broken down psychologically that he realizes he can’t protect everyone from everything. While on the way to  deliver a note to Phoebe at her school, Holden notices writing on the walls outside the school. He desires to protect the innocence of the children from the writing  and dreams of killing the person responsible for writing obscenities on the school’s walls. The second time he finds the obscenities, however, he realizes that it has been craved into the wall.[14] It is at this point that Holden comes to the realization, “If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘Fuck you’ signs in the world. It’s impossible.”[15] He finally realizes that things won’t return to how they were when he was a child and life was simpler. Holden recognizes that the world is full of things he hates and wants to protect others from but it is a fool’s mission to try to protect the world from all the bad.

The story of Holden Caulfield could be analogous to the story of the United States after World War II. Like Holden, the United States was alienated from the rest of the world, including our allies. As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States had a responsibility not shared by her allies. Both the Soviet Union and the allies of the United States differed from the U.S.and did not seem to share many beliefs held by America. The United States, as well as Holden, had to come to grips with the reality of the world. Holden was never going to achieve living in a world where people were to be exactly as he wanted to be more ready to believe exactly what he believed. Holden is defined by his alienation from the world and weather he is finally able to reconcile himself with both the world and people around him.


[1] Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye(Boston: Little Brown and Company 1951) page 122.

[2] Ibid. 133

[3] Ibid. 2

[4] “they gave me a lousy table anyways…”, “The band was putrid”, “show-offy-looking guys with their dates.” Ibid. 69

[5] “Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?” Ibid, 144

[6] Ibid. 115

[7] Ibid. 132

[8] Ibid. 199

[9] Ibid. 109

[10] Ibid.

[11] “You don’t like anything that’s happening.” Ibid. 169

[12] Ibid. 172

[13] Ibid. 173

[14] “I saw something that drove me crazy…”, “I went down by a different staircase….” Ibid. 201, 202

[15] Ibid.

 

How the Constitution provides for energy and stability while maintaining liberty and republicanism through separation of powers.


Energy and stability have been the greatest questions in government since the ancients first developed the polis. Prior to the United States, no country made better efforts to perfect the art of separation of powers than England has made. Publius describes in Federalist 37 the need for stability and energy in the new government, while at the same time protecting the liberty of the people and the republican way of life. The Constitution of 1787 achieves these aims through a separation of powers between the three branches of the Federal government and the specific make up of the departments.

In order to understand Publius’ argument better, it would be best to take his argument in Federalist 37 first, followed by his discussion of the relationship between the three branches of government. Lastly I will view his discussion of the specific make up of the various branches of the United States Government.

Publius argues for the necessity of a separation of powers in the new government in order to provide for the necessary stability and energy in government while protecting liberty and republicanism. In order to do this he argues that there most be present a separation of powers between the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government. Furthermore, there must be a separation of powers between that of the States and Federal governments. Publius says, “Among the difficulties encountered by the convention, a very important one must have lain in combining the requisite stability and energy in government with the inviolable attention due to liberty and to republican form.”[1] The first attempt at creating a republic with the Articles of Confederation failed due to a lack of energy and stability within the government, thus it was pertinent to create in the new government fixes for these problems. Publius then goes on to explain:

The genius of republican liberty seems to demand on one side not only that all power should be derived from the people, but that those intrusted with it should be kept in dependence on the people by a short duration of their appointments; and that even this short period the trust should be placed not in a few, but in a number of hands.[2]

This is the genius of the new Constitution according to Publius, it has attained the short periods of appointment and dividing the government among many hands. In order that the liberty of the people is not offended, they must remain the source of power for the government.

Yet this is not enough, in order to understand how this present in the Constitution Publius explains further in papers 47-51. In the first of these papers, Publius addresses the allegations by opponents of the proposed plan that it lacks a separation of powers. Publius explains Montesquieu’s argument for the separation of powers by saying, “he did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency in, or no control over, the acts of each other.”[3] The magistrate must have the authority to not only enforce the laws passed by the legislative, but also to veto laws that violate the Constitution, and the judicial cannot create laws but can advise the legislative.[4] Publius then goes on to demonstrate that the various Constitutions of the states provide for more blending of the branches of government than the proposed Federal Constitution.

And then in Federalist 48 Publius describes how the Federal Constitution provides a defense through a moderate blend of the branches of government. At first he argues:

But in a representative republic where the executive magistracy is carefully limited, both in the extent and duration of his power, and where the legislative power is exercised by an assembly, which is inspired by a supposed influence over the people with an intrepid confidence in its own strength; which is sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a multitude, yet not so numerous as to be incapable of pursuing the objects of its passions by means which reason prescribes; it is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the people out to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.[5]

So in order to prevent the encroachments of the legislative on the rights and liberties of the people, the executive and judicial branches must have authority to reign in the power of the legislative. The legislative is also apt to encroach on the power and freedom of the other branches through pay[6], and thus they must be limited on how they are able to alter the pay of these other branches. Publius provides examples of Virginia and Pennsylvania where the powers of the legislative were not protected against and the judicial and executive branches were usurped by the authority of the legislative. Having demonstrated the dangers of allowing unbridled power to exist within the legislative branch, Publius goes on to explain how it might be possible to prevent the encroachments of one branch on the power of another.

Federalist 49 provides for this explanation and Publius defines that the people alone are the source of charter for the Constitution and its parts. Thus the people alone should be consulted when the powers of the Constitution are in question as to demolishing them, or creating a new power.[7] Appeals to the people are necessary in order to prevent the encroachments of power by the various branches. Yet frequent appeals are insufficient in protecting the freedom of the society. Not only this but it is impossible, as Publius explains, “The members of the executive and judiciary departments are few in number, and can be personally known to a small part only of the people.”[8] Yet the legislative is many in number and can be known by a larger number of the people.[9] Thus the legislative would be most likely to take advantage of the appeals from the people and thus encroach on the various powers of the other branches. As such frequent appeals of the people could turn out to be bad for the stability, energy and liberty of the society as the legislative might take their appeals as a mandate. And so how this can be moderated is discussed next by Publius.

Publius states at the beginning of Federalist 50, “It may be contended, perhaps, that instead of occasional appeals to the people, which are liable to the objections urged against them, periodical appeals are proper…”[10] In order to achieve this, Publius argues that a fixed period for appeals to the people could be detrimental to the purpose of those appeals. If they are too close together Publius argues, “the measures to be reviewed and rectified will have been of recent date, and will be connected with all the circumstances which tend to vitiate and pervert the result of occasional revisions.”[11] Yet by the same token, if they are too far apart then the people are likely not to know each other and to be unaware of the circumstances which lead to the need for revisions. [12] To demonstrate his point, Publius once again looks to the states for an example. He tells of how in Pennsylvania there had been a meeting of censorial council to remedy the defects of their Constitution. He elucidates however that the members of the council were prominent citizens who were members of the parties within the state. Secondly, some of the members of the council had served in the legislative and executive departments. Third, the proceedings of the council were disrupted by the factionalism of the members themselves. And finally, the council either did not understand the limits placed on the legislative and executive, or the legislative completely ignored the changes made by the censorial council.[13] Publius demonstrates properly the difficulty of having occasional or frequent appeals to the people for the remedy of the defects for the Constitution.

And so Publius goes on to discuss in Federalist 51 the structure of the government in regards to checks and balances. He states, “it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others.”[14] The importance of each department having its own will is demonstrated in the preceding papers, where Publius demonstrates the likely chances of an encroachment and usurpation by the legislative. In order to achieve this, Publius also states, “It is equally evident that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others for the emoluments annexed to their offices.”[15] Thus the departments must have a will of their own and should not be made dependent on the other departments for their pay. But at the same time Publius argues that the members of the various departments must be given the constitutional means and personal motives to protect against the encroachment of another department on their own.[16] Publius argues, “The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It must be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.”[17] However, Publius also reminds the reader that the legislative must be predominant in republics. In order to properly control the legislative against usurpation Publius argues:

The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.[18]

By dividing the authority of the legislative, a republic is capable of controlling the growth of power and influence of the legislative. Yet this is not enough, as Publius points out it is important in a “compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments.”[19] By dividing the legislative, you weaken its ability to encroach on the authority of the other branches. But by dividing the government into two different governments and allotting them different powers a republic can prevent the creation of a tyranny.

However, one question still remains and that is how the different bodies of government are erected for the purposes presented in Federalist 51. The various branches must be provided with different powers so that no one branch can consolidate that power. The branches must also have varying degrees of separation from the people, so that the passions of the majority cannot rule in society. In regards to the legislative branch, the branch should be split into two distinct houses with one having more of a dependence and response to the people than the other. As the legislative branch is closest to the people, and thus lays one of legislative threats, it is proper that it be divided so as to limit this closeness with the people. The first branch of the legislative Publius discusses is thus the House of Representatives, which is designed to be the department most dependent on the people. Publius describes, “As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.”[20] The House of Representatives will only share in the legislative authority of the government and will be able to respond to the passions of the people while the upper house will be able to filter out the reason. This great authority constitutes a need for a shorter duration of power as Publius states, “It is a received and well-founded maxim that where no other circumstances affect the case, the greater the power is, the great out to be its duration…”[21] Further, the House of Representatives will be watched not only by the people through its direct dependence on them, but also by the collateral branch of the legislative.

Next Publius discusses the Senate, which serves as the connection between the States and the Federal government as directed by the un-amended Constitution.  On this Publius states, “It is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.”[22] So that the States retain some type of authority under the new Constitution, it is important that they be given the authority to appoint the members of the Senate. The advantage of this stands that now law cannot be passed without the consent of both the people and the States.[23] And it also serves as a way to prevent members of the legislative body from forgetting their constituents by requiring the laws to be passed by both distinct bodies. Publius goes on to say:

The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by the factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.[24]

The Senate’s mutability is important as well, so that the members restrain their passions and tyrannical nature. By having the Senate elected by the States, the States have their own elections for government offices. By changing the government representatives in the States, the Senate will be apt to change and thus opinions will be changed. Their length of office will allow the Senate the opportunity to learn the laws of the nation as well, and so that they are not constantly changing and that the opinions and measures remain some what consistent.[25] The importance of the Senate within the make up of checks and balances and separation of powers is clear. It serves as a check on the passions of the people, while balancing the representation of the States within the Federal government. Further the two branches of the legislative provide for stability and energy in the new government by removing the passions of the people and allowing for competition within the branches.

Thus next Publius discusses the executive branch, by far the most controversial of the day and most in need of defense by Publius. Publius discusses the mode of electing the President in Federalist 68. As with the legislative, the mode of electing the President must have a way of preventing the passions of the majority from ruling. Thus the Electoral College was devised as a way of preventing the encroachments of the people’s passions from entering into the election of the President. Publius describes, “It was equally desirable that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation.”[26] By doing this the Electoral College is made up of a small number of individuals so that deliberation is permitted in the election of the new President. Publius says, “This process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of the President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”[27] As for the proper place of the executive in the stability and energy of government, he is of the most importance. As Publius says, “A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory must be, in practice, a bad government.”[28] The executive must be strong and energetic in order to properly execute the laws he is charged to enforce. Publius calls “united; duration; an adequate provision for its support; and competent powers”[29] to be what constitutes an energetic executive. Energy is found in unity as in a single person the powers of the executive can be carried out quickly without delay. If the executive power were divided among more than one person, it would be subject to deliberation which will prevent an energetic executive. [30] Likewise, the President’s tenure of office is important for his energy. The duration of office is also an important element in the stability of the executive. If he stays too long, then he is apt to be too firm and possibly encroach on the powers of the legislative. Yet if he is tenure is too short then he is apt to fall prey to the legislative.[31] Shortness in the tenure of office is also likely to prevent the interest of the executive from performing his duties. This is also the argument used by Publius in Federalist 72 in regards to the reelection of an executive; by allowing him to run for reelection, he will watch how he acts in office so that the people look upon him favorably.[32] These are the aspects which allow for an energetic and stable executive, without which the government as a whole would lack stability and energy.

Lastly, Publius discusses the importance of the Judiciary in the make up of the new Constitution. Publius calls the Federal judiciary, “the best expedient which can be devised in any government to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws.”[33] The purpose of the Federal judiciary he proposes is to prevent “the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body.”[34] Publius counters the fears of judicial usurpation by asserting that the Federal judiciary will be the weakest of all the branches as it lacks power over the purse and sword. Publius further argues:

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.[35]

The Judicial branch will have no authority over the purse or over the sword, but instead only over judgment.[36] It will thus be able to prevent against legislative and executive encroachments by striking down laws which are contrary to the Constitution and the laws and treaties of the United States. The separation of the judicial from the legislative is also important so as to allow the judges to exercise their judgment without fear of reprisal by the legislative branch. Thus, the salaries of the judges cannot be lowered so as not to influence their opinions.[37] Their tenure of office also allows for freedom of judgment in judicial matters. Their appointment is for during good behavior, which prevents their judgment from being dependent on reelection, which may have a negative effect on their opinions. Thus through the judicial department is called upon to be safeguard against the encroachments of the representative and executive bodies. It will further only have the power of judgment, not the power of the purse or the sword. And it will further lack dependence on the legislative branch because their salaries cannot be lowered and their tenure of office is during good behavior, not apt to reelection.

The Federalist lays out a discussion of how energy and stability will be present in the new Constitution without violating the principles of republican government and the liberties of the people. As such, the basic necessity to ensure this requires a separation of powers. Publius describes how the various departments of the new government participate and uphold the principles of the separation of powers. He further demonstrates how the people and States partake in the controlling of the new government by their participation in the election of the houses of the legislative. Publius properly upholds his argument in Federalist 37 in his discussion of the following papers.


[1]Federalist 37, in Alexander Hamilton et al., The Federalist Papers, ed. Clinton Rossiter, introduction and notes by Charles R. Kesler (New York: New American Library, Mentor, 1999), 194.

[2] Federalist 37, 195

[3] Federalist 47, 270

[4] Federalist 47, 271

[5] Federalist 48, 277

[6] “as the legislative department alone has access to the pockets of the people…”Federalist 48, 278

[7] “As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power…” Federalist 49, 281-282

[8] Federalist 49, 284

[9] “The members of the legislative department…” Federalist 49, 284

[10] Federalist 50, 285

[11] Federalist 50, 286

[12] “If the periods be distant from each other…” Federalist 50, 286

[13] “Pennsylvania in 1783 and 1784, was, as we have seen….” Federalist 50, 286

[14] Federalist 51, 289

[15] Federalist 51, 289

[16] “But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several…” Federalist 51, 289

[17] Federalist 51, 290

[18] Federalist 51, 290

[19] Federalist 51, 291

[20] Federalist 52, 295

[21] Federalist 52, 298

[22] Federalist 62, 345

[23] Federalist 62, 346

[24] Federalist 62, 347

[25] “The mutability in the public councils…” Federalist 62, 348

[26] Federalist 68, 380

[27] Federalist 68, 382

[28] Federalist 70, 391

[29] Federalist 70, 392

[30] Federalist 70, 392

[31] “Duration in office has been mentioned…”Federalist 71, 399

[32] “The first is necessary to give the officer himself….” Federalist 72, 404

[33] Federalist 78, 433

[34] Federalist 78, 433

[35] Federalist 78, 433

[36] Federalist 78, 433

[37] Federalist 79, 441

Battle in New York: The Question of the Federal Judiciary


 A simple observation of the Federal court system would beg the question whether our courts are a mere mechanism of the giant leviathan of present-day government, or whether the courts have remained unaffected by changes in government. From the fall of 1787 until the spring of 1788 a battle was waged in New York between two factions: the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist. The Federalists were led by the magnanimous Publius and the Anti-Federalists were led by Brutus. Their discussions on the Federal judiciary are the most important carried out between Publius and Brutus. It appears that neither of them had a firm grasp of the Federal judiciary and the possible outcome of the power granted to this branch of government. Two-hundred years after the discussions were held, in America we are left with what appears to be a corruption of the then proposed Federal judiciary as Brutus predicted, but also a Federal judiciary that Publius in many aspects predicted would develop.

            In order to properly evaluate the arguments made by both Publius and Brutus we must begin our observation from the question of the nature and extent of judicial power and whether it poses any threat to the other two branches. We shall also observe the discussion between Brutus and Publius concerning the other matters in which the Federal judiciary holds authority and their relation to the extent of judicial power.

            What is the nature of the power granted to the Federal judiciary by the Constitution of 1787? Article III of the Constitution is a scant three sections long, by far the shortest article of the Constitution that deals with the branches of government. Concerning the direct power granted to the Federal judiciary the Constitution says, “The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority.”[1] Despite the scant manner in which the Constitution outlines the powers granted to the Federal judiciary, Publius and Brutus spend an enormous amount of time devoted to this very question. Publius calls the Federal judiciary, “the best expedient which can be devised in any government to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws.”[2]  The purpose of the Federal judiciary he proposes is to prevent “the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body.”[3]  One can see that this has been the case on a number of occasions throughout American legal history, most specifically during the New Deal. But for many in the fall of 1787 the ability of the Federal judiciary to prevent these encroachments was further from their minds as to the power of the Federal judiciary. Publius once again counters these fears by asserting that the Federal judiciary will be the weakest of all the branches as it lacks power over the purse and sword. Publius further argues:

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. [4]

 Brutus attempts to refute this argument made by Publius, asserting that this Federal judiciary will not be a protector and defender of our rights but instead will be just as apt to destroy them as either of the other branches.

            The main authority granted to the Federal judiciary according to Publius and Brutus is the power to strict down laws that are not made in pursuit of the Constitution of the United States. This is the point of contention for Brutus, for he believes that this power alone will give the courts unfettered access to destroy the rights of the people.[5] That the Federal courts will attempt to use their authority to strike down laws to bring it more power is not an unintelligent argument made by Brutus. In fact, it is the better argument made by the two authors. The last half century has seen an attempt by the courts to usurp their constitutionally appointed authority and the authority of both the legislative and executive branches. Brutus also asserts, “This power in the judicial will enable them to mould the government, into almost any shape they please.”[6] Clearly Brutus believes that the meek department of the Federal judiciary argued by Publius is not at all the true nature in which the courts will possess. The notion that the Federal courts will simply attempt to ascertain the meaning of the Constitution and to prevent the encroachment of the legislative power on that of the people held true until the latter half of the twentieth century, when what Brutus predicted came to fruition.

            Next shall be the question of the other powers of the Federal judiciary granted by the Constitution of 1787. Brutus’ main point of contention with these other powers can be summed up in these words, “For, I conceive that the judicial power should be commensurate with the legislative. Or, in other words, the supreme court should have authority to determine questions arising under the laws of the union.”[7] He contends that the Federal judiciary may not have the power to declare what the powers of the legislative branch are, but to merely declare acts of the legislative unconstitutional.[8] When it comes to treaties, Brutus holds that the Federal judiciary may play a role if the treaty in question harms the rights of individual citizens. However to declare the intentions, meaning or nature of the treaty is a power that Brutus wishes not to see in the hands of the Federal judiciary. As Brutus states:

For as treaties will be the law of the land, ever power who have rights or privileges secured by treaty, will have aid of the courts of law, in recovering them. But I do not understand, what is meant by equity arising under a treaty. I presume every right which can be claimed under a treaty, must be claimed by virtue of some article or clause contained in it, which gives the right in plain and obvious words; or at least, I conceive, that the rules for explaining treaties, are so well ascertained, that there is no need of having recourse to an equitable construction. If under this power, the courts are to explain treaties, according to what they conceive their spirit, which is not less than a power to give them whatever extension they may judge proper, it is a dangerous and improper power.[9]

Likewise, Brutus is against the provisions of the Constitution granting jurisdiction of the Federal judiciary to matters stemming from a state and a citizen of another state.[10] Brutus argues, “It is improper, because it subjects a state to answer in a court of law, to the suit of an individual. This is humiliating and degrading to a government, and, what I believe, the supreme authority of no state ever submitted to.”[11] This argument by Brutus is horrible; to assert that the source of government’s power ought not to have the authority to reign in it under a court of law is ludicrous. He goes on to argue:

The evil consequences that will flow from the exercise of this power, will best appear by tracing it in its operation. The constitution does not direct the mode in which an individual shall commence a suit against a state or the manner in which the judgement of the court shall be carried into execution, but it gives the legislature full power to pass all laws which shall be proper and necessary for the purpose. And they certainly must make provision for these purposes, or otherwise the power of the judicial will be nugatory. [12]

 Brutus’ argument is not totally unfounded though, as he fears that citizens of one state will attempt to prevent another state from operating properly. Brutus uses the example of the debts owed by the states to their citizens. He believes that the notes given by the states to their citizens can get into the hands of a citizen of another state, allowing for that citizen to take the state to court in order to recoup the money owed them. Long story short, Brutus asserts this will cause the states to go bankrupt and ultimately make them submit to the Federal government.[13]

            Publius on the other hand argues that the authority granted to the Federal judiciary to handle cases in regard to treaties as totally legitimate. He states:

As the denial or the perversion of justice by the sentences of courts, as well as in any other manner, is with reason classed among the just causes of war, it will follow that the federal judiciary ought to have cognizance of all causes in which the citizens of other countries are concerned. This is not less essential to the preservation of the public faith than to the security of the public tranquility.[14]

 Publius is fearful that a foreign nation will take offense if a citizen of their country is sentenced to serve time in another nation. This would certainly cause a breach of public safety, if that other nation wished to wage war or institute other means of punishing them. The ability of the Federal judiciary to oversee matters concerning cases in which treaties are concerned is certainly a matter that Publius thinks need not be contested. If the commonwealth of Massachusetts were to convict a man from France for a crime, it would fall under the Union as a whole to protect the commonwealth from repercussions by the sovereign nation of France. As to the issue concerning one state and the citizen of another, Publius wholly disagrees with Brutus’ assessment. Publius states, “The power of determining causes between two States, or between one State and the citizens of another, and between the citizens of different States, is perhaps no less essential to the peace of the Union than that which has been just examined.”[15] If two states were to enter into disagreement over any trivial matter, it could result in a private war between the two states and possibility of a civil war throughout the whole country. For the Federal government to assert itself into matters between two states or between the citizens of one state against another state is for the protection of the peace and public safety of the whole country. Furthermore, Publius argues, “No man ought certainly to be judge in his own cause, or in any cause in respect to which he has the least interest or bias.”[16] Under this assertion, Publius believes that the Federal judiciary ought to be given authority over such matters as the impartial judge.

            Clearly it can be seen that both Brutus and Publius were passionate about the subject of the Federal judiciary. Neither men make arguments that are clearly accurate, however that at times both men seem to have the better argument over the other. Brutus’ contention is that the power to rule laws unconstitutional may in fact allow for the Federal judiciary to usurp the authority of the other two branches. However, Publius wins the argument when it comes to matters of treaties and matters arising from the various states. It is based on these observations that it cannot be said that the Federal judiciary has become a mechanism for the leviathan of present-day government. But that it has in many ways remained the vision of Publius, as the impartial protector of individual rights against the usurpation of the Federal and state governments, albeit at times it has come dangerously close to losing itself in the leviathan.


[1]Kesler, Charles R., ed. The Federalist Papers.
[2]Article III Section II of the U.S. Constitution of 1787.

[3]Kesler, Charles R., ed. The Federalist Papers. Federalist #78

 [4]Kesler, Charles R., ed. The Federalist Papers. Federalist #78

 [5]Kesler, Charles R., ed. The Federalist Papers. Federalist #78

 [6]“From these considerations the judges will be interested to extend the powers of the courts, and to construe the constitution as much as possible, in such a way as to favour it; and that they will do it appears probable.” – Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution Brutus’ Essay number XI.

[7]Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution Brutus’ Essay number XI

 [8]Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution Brutus’ Essay number XIII

[9]Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution Brutus’ Essay number XIII

 [10]Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution Brutus’ Essay number XIII

 [11]Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution Brutus’ Essay number XIII

[12]Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution.  Brutus’ Essay number XIII

 [13]Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution Brutus’ Essay number XIII

 [14]Kesler, Charles R., ed. The Federalist Papers. Federalist #80

 [15]Kesler, Charles R., ed. The Federalist Papers. Federalist #80

 [16]Kesler, Charles R., ed. The Federalist Papers. Federalist #80

On the meaning of patriotism


What does it mean to be a patriot? This is a central issue throughout the history of Political thought. A patriot simply put can be defined as a good citizen, and thus the question now becomes what does it mean to be a good citizen.

In 2007 a movie named Blue State was made in an attempt to consider this question. Starring Brekin Meyer and Anna Paquin as John and Chloe, Blue State explores what it means to be a good citizen of a republic while showing the audience the examples of bad citizens.

The movie begins in the midst of the 2004 Presidential Election among supports and staff of Democratic candidate John Kerry. John plays an outspoken supporter of the Kerry campaign and hater of the Bush administration. He believes it is not only his right, but his duty to speak out against the policies and administration of President Bush.  One night, during a drunken stupor, John makes a pledge that if President Bush wins a second term as President that he will move to Canada. Now, during every Presidential election season, we hear people proclaim, “if so and so wins the election, I’m moving to (name your country.)”  Well, as one suspects, in November of 2004 President Bush won reelection and John is forced to deal with his promise he made to move to Canada. After realizing he cannot get out of his promise, John is resolved to move to Canada; but first he places signs around town in hopes of finding someone who will go with him.

Enter Chloe, who we see for the first time putting blue streaks in her hair and piercing her right nostril.  She meets with John at a local coffee shop and tells him that she worked for the DNC on the election campaign for John Kerry and that she is a gym teacher. John accepts Chloe as his companion and so begins their journey to Canada. We later find out that Chloe in fact did not work for the DNC but rather she is an apathetic. This brings us to the first point of a good citizen.

John replies to Chloe’s apathy that politics does matter. Aristotle defines politics in the Nicomachaen Ethics as the supreme activity, all other activities are aimed at politics. Why is this? Because politics is aimed at the ultimate good, which is happiness.  The question of whether it is better to engage in politics or in a life of contemplation is also central in this quest. John declares that to engage in politics is the best possible life one could partake in. A good citizen certainly has an obligation to take part in his or her given regime; a citizen according to Aristotle is the person who is capable of governing within the polis. Thus in our republic we are all citizens, once we reach the age of 18, and are capable of ruling. To be apathetic in our regime is to neglect one’s citizenship duties- to be a bad citizen.

Next we have to understand why John and Chloe choose to flee to Canada as the ultimate act of patriotism. John leaves primarily because he swore to do it when drunk; this should teach anyone being drunk is a bad idea. But there is something deeper in why John has chosen to flee his place of birth. John doesn’t agree with the administration and believes the country is lost and wants to make a political statement by leaving our regime in favor of the Canadian regime. But is this true citizenship? The Declaration of Independence makes it clear, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” John is directly contradicting the Declaration’s mandate, if he truly and sincerely believes that our government is defective it is his duty as a citizen to work towards the institution of  a new regime for the future happiness and safety of the American people. This is a lesson that John only learns later on, at the same time when Chloe fully realizes what it means to be a true citizen.

Chloe’s reasons for fleeing America might be considered much more reasonable than John’s. Chloe admits before they cross the border that she is in the U.S. Army and facing a second tour in Iraq. Her fleeing the United States is not only a political statement, but a Federal crime. Chloe knows full well she can never return to the place of her birth. Instead they shes goes with John to Winnipeg,  where a group called “Marry a Canadian” is located to help disaffected Americans find a spouse so they can start their process of becoming a Canadian citizen. When they realize that it is a crack brain idea, they vow to head to Vancouver.

On their way to Vancouver we witness yet another mistake of John’s misguided principles when they run out of gas because John refuses to buy gas that uses oil from the Middle East.  They encounter a man who offers to give them a place to stay for the night and gas to continue their journey. We come to learn that this man fled the United States back in the 1970’s when he was to be drafted and sent to Vietnam. He admits that if he had the chance to do things all over again, he would. His fleeing to Canada was not a political statement, because people in America could careless that he left. He left America because he was fearful for his own well being. He looks down upon the soldiers who flee America because of the war in Iraq because it was their choice to join the military, they were not compelled as he would have been. Thus Chloe resolves to return to the U.S. and face a court martial for going AWOL.

Being a good citizen means that you stay and fight for what you believe in. This is exactly what John realizes as he returns to America and resolves that instead of running away from what he disagrees with he’ll stay and attempt to change things from within; he becomes a California Senator. To be a good citizen one must realize that they have a duty to ensure that the government has not become destructive of the ends it was established for, and further,that if it does, a good citizen will work to correct the ills of their government. John  and Chloe come to realize that fleeing to another country is a cowardly act; it is a selfish act.

To be a good citizen you must be active in politics, and you cannot simply turn your back on your country when it has turned its back on you. You must stay and fight, become directly involved in the government. Ultimately, to be apathetic is the sign of a bad citizen because it proves they do not care for their country. John and Chloe are prime examples of two forms of apathy at the beginning of Blue State. John is unwilling to help change the government, but instead flees at the first sign of trouble. Chloe doesn’t care about politics, she doesn’t realize that politics is the most essential part of human life.  Being a patriot, being a good citizen means being active in politics.

For those who are interested you can find more information about the movie Blue State at:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780486/

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