I've been interested in the founding of the USA off and on for a couple of years now. I really enjoyed reading Founding Brothers and A Brilliant Solution. It's been so long since I've read them though that I don't have any insight to share. I have however started on a new journey. After reading the U.S.Constitution and Declaration of Independence over the 4th of July I got interested in our nations earliest days again. So I have decided to read "Selected Federalist Papers" from Dover. This collects 35 of the 85 essays written to help convince the people of New York to ratify the U.S. Constitution. These essays were written individually by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. I figure there probably isn't a better place to find out why the Constitution is the way it is, other than maybe James Madison's extensive Constitutional Convention notes, than these papers. My goal is to slowly make my way through 35 essays here jotting down small notes or phrases I particularly enjoy. And then either read the rest of the essays or move on to a book that has in-depth commentary to help me out.
The first paper of course tries to set the stage, and is written by Alexander Hamilton. He sets out his goal explicitly with "Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good." And he of course recognizes the optimism in this statement, following it with "But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovate upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favourable to the discovery of truth." He is no idealist thinking that people will immediately see the beauty of what he has worked so hard to create. He understands that human nature will interfere with his plans. Then he goes on to extend an olive branch to his opposition, something you see so rarely in today's political atmosphere. "It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views. Candour will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable -- the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears." He ends with reassuring his readers that he has his own biases and those include his utmost support for the new Constitution and his plans to lay out the reasons for his decision. I eagerly await the next essay.