August 4th, 2015

Alexander Hamilton: on Congress’ treaty power

From Federalist Paper #75 [emphasis mine]:

However proper or safe it may be in governments where the executive magistrate is an hereditary monarch, to commit to him the entire power of making treaties, it would be utterly unsafe and improper to intrust that power to an elective magistrate of four years’ duration. It has been remarked, upon another occasion, and the remark is unquestionably just, that an hereditary monarch, though often the oppressor of his people, has personally too much stake in the government to be in any material danger of being corrupted by foreign powers. But a man raised from the station of a private citizen to the rank of chief magistrate, possessed of a moderate or slender fortune, and looking forward to a period not very remote when he may probably be obliged to return to the station from which he was taken, might sometimes be under temptations to sacrifice his duty to his interest, which it would require superlative virtue to withstand. An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents. The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States.

To have intrusted the power of making treaties to the Senate alone, would have been to relinquish the benefits of the constitutional agency of the President in the conduct of foreign negotiations. It is true that the Senate would, in that case, have the option of employing him in this capacity, but they would also have the option of letting it alone, and pique or cabal might induce the latter rather than the former. Besides this, the ministerial servant of the Senate could not be expected to enjoy the confidence and respect of foreign powers in the same degree with the constitutional representatives of the nation, and, of course, would not be able to act with an equal degree of weight or efficacy…It must indeed be clear to a demonstration that the joint possession of the power in question, by the President and Senate, would afford a greater prospect of security, than the separate possession of it by either of them.

The highlighted sentence applies, of course, to Obama and his “legacy.”

But brilliant though he was, and relatively far-sighted as well, Hamilton thought it very likely that people of integrity would continue to fill the office of the presidency:

And whoever has maturely weighed the circumstances which must concur in the appointment of a President, will be satisfied that the office will always bid fair to be filled by men of such characters as to render their concurrence in the formation of treaties peculiarly desirable, as well on the score of wisdom, as on that of integrity.

And that’s mostly been true, to a greater or lesser extent, concerning presidents in terms of foreign policy. But Obama’s “treachery” in the Iran deal isn’t just for the purpose of his own personal “aggrandizement” (something Hamilton did envision as a possibility). It is for some other reason as well, about which many theories have been advanced. I offered my own some years ago, here, and I see no reason to change it now.

[NOTE: It is also to be remembered that at the time Hamilton and the Founders wrote, the plan was that the Senate was to be composed of people elected by the legislators of their respective states rather than elected in a popular vote. See this for the history of the 17th Amendment, which was adopted in 1913 and which made the switch to a directly elected Senate.]

19 Responses to “Alexander Hamilton: on Congress’ treaty power”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    Hamilton never contemplated the likes of the Clintons. As a married couple (allegedly), they work foreign governments and big multinationals for millions in bribes thinly disguised as speaking fees.

    The thing with HRC as POTUS, how would we know if she was doing some official act for private benefit?

    We wouldn’t.

    Hillary Clinton must be defeated.
    Carthage must be destroyed.

  2. neo-neocon Says:


    But I think Hamilton did envision the likes of the Clintons. There it is in black and white: “An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth.”

  3. George Pal Says:

    Unfortunately, the links expressing doubts and misgivings on the nature of power in the new Republic are as far removed from the present circumstances as Earth is from Andromeda. What links would purport to warn of anything approaching our present condition? Who would have warned us of the likes of Georg Lukac:
    ”I saw the revolutionary destruction of society as the one and only solution. The worldwide overturning of values cannot take place without the annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries.”

    and our own Charles A. Reich (Gay and Green):

    ”There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions and social structure are changing in consequence. It promises a higher reason, a more human community, and a new and liberated individual. Its ultimate creation will be a new and enduring wholeness and beauty — a renewed relationship of man to himself, to other men, to society, to nature, and to the land.
    This is the revolution of the new generation.”

    To quote Dubya: “Mission Accomplished.”
    It’s a Fait accompli, A new status quo, a new world order. Three thousand years of the making of Western Civilization of which the culmination was the USA, undone in fifty years (measure it if you like, from the start of the ’64 Civil Rights Act).

    The Three American Revolutions to overthrow the first:
    The Yankee Revolution (overthrowing the confederation of sovereign States)
    The Progressive Revolution (usurping the power of the People with Rule By Experts/Expertise)
    The Great Society Revolution (the undoing of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness)
    Civil Rights Act ’64 – Liberty, Freedom of association
    Roe v Wade ‘72 – Life
    Kelo – Pursuit Of Happiness (Property)

    Cicero warned us. Spenglers warned us. But who reads Cicero or Spengler… or knows who they are? A decade after our fall was evident and here I am still flabbergasted. Three thousand years undone in fifty. How much corruption does it take to do that? We are done and Obama is the least of our problems… he’s only a sumptom.

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    There’s a pretty funny story about the US CWI.

    Instead of wanting the federal government out of the slave state’s, what the slave owning states declared as their causes of secession, was that the federal government was too weak to enforce the Fugitive Laws in non slave states. They wanted the federal government to be stronger and to be under the control of a Democrat, in order to bring their property with two legs, back where they belonged.

    The ability to nullify federal laws, was something non slave states used on the Fugitive Fed laws.

    There was also the Democrat slave state desire to expand slavery to all the US territories.

    The Confederacy was created, I surmise, in order to allow a Democrat to unseat Lincoln and the abolitionist party, so that they could use federal power to crush non slave states and force them to enforce a federal law (much like Texas is forced to obey ACA and Hussein). The Confederacy also had stronger guarantees for their slave property rights than the US Constitution did, and seceding allowed slave states to welcome in US territories and make them into slave owning states too, increasing the power of the slave faction in the US.

    Although the slave states lost the war, the Democrats survived and became what we see they are now. CW I was won to keep the union, but slavery was not ended by CW I. That is for CW II to accomplish, similar to why WWII happened after WWI set up the problems.

    Most of the problem sources can be read by people online, in plain language. Want to see the hidden history that Democrats kept from much of America?

  5. Artfldgr Says:

    Dead white guys dont matter any more…
    and by extension, their evil ideas and words…
    at least thats the message recently

  6. Oldflyer Says:

    The men who designed this government were not only very smart, they were wise in the ways that power can be abused.

    They tried their very best to protect us.

    It is unfortunate that there is so little knowledge now of their motivation, and the genius of their design. Worse yet, there seems to be even less interest in educating the next generation of these values.

  7. Ymarsakar Says:

    The next generation will be sacrificed on the Left’s altar, to fuel their expansion into the next phase. America 2.0 the Evil Slave Empire shall rise.

  8. G6loq Says:

    The United States, designed by geniuses, ran be morons …. the voters that is.

  9. parker Says:

    The way things have been going during my almost 70 year lifespan, it appears that the republic can not be secured at the ballot box although I will continue to vote. Unintended consequences will eventually rule the day. Those without someone to watch your back should remain behind locked and fortified doors.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Indeed, parker is correct.

    If you don’t protect your family, Planned Profit will take all your females, breed them, and sell the excess parts off.

    My predictions are usually more prophetic than wrong, but then again, my open source intel networks already informed me that certain Leftist operations like Planned Profit, had been going on for decades. So that is no surprise. What is a surprise is that anyone could get evidence about it, even though many of us suspected. We suspected much more than even that. Feel free to call that insanity, paranoia, or crackpotted extremist stuff. It won’t be me that will bust down the doors… it’ll be the Left’s Organ Harvesting brigade. They will Teach You, whether what I predicted was true or not.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    That Libertarian guy’s analogy about the welfare government being the same as the farmer growing pigs to slaughter them, was hilariously on the mark. Although much more than he realized, Stephen did.

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    Some more crazy sauce, in my style.

    Virtue and liberty always came at the cost of the blood of tyrants and patriots. We are not lacking in tyrants in this darkness filled world. And we will soon see the patriots sacrificed to the blood gods of Planned Parenthood Profit: PPP.-pretty good for 2013

    Even if I may say so myself.

    You know you’ve met the Island of the Real Crazy when predictions made years ago, come out as closer to the truth than people ever wanted to imagine. And that was made with little inside data on Planned Profit. Just think about what’ll happen if I analyze the Left’s industries that I am more familiar with.

  13. charles Says:

    Cornhead: “Hamilton never contemplated the likes of the Clintons.”

    I’ll second Neo’s claim that Hamilton (and others) most certainly did contemplate the likes of the Clintons.

    As I get older and read more about the founders of this country – I’ve always liked history; but never read much in great detail about the individuals who helped to found this country until recently – I am amazed at the depth of understanding so many of them seemed to have.

    They weren’t just political radicals who were tired of an “oppressive” monarch. They were well educated, well-read, individuals who were truly renaissance men.

    They had such a great understanding of history, a great understanding of the enlightenment philosophers, etc. They, unlike so many of our educated elite today, actually read, wrote about, and no doubt discussed such great men as Locke, Descartes, Bacon, Voltaire, etc. How many of our educated today can truthfully make such claims?

    Yea, I’ll bet that many of our educated today can tell us who those folks from history are; but, can they debate the finer points of what those great men wrote about? I’d place my money on no, today’s educated elite (outside those specific disciplines) cannot. But, from what I’ve read many of the founders, including Hamilton could do so. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they were part of the “practicing” enlightenment in that they founded a system of government on those very principles.

    So, yes, I do believe that Hamilton and others could very well envision the likes of Clinton – and worse. And thankfully we today can benefit from their foresight in giving us a governmental framework, although far from perfect, that tries to take into account even the likes of the Clintons.

    The real problem is if our people in government actually follow those principles and don’t let political ideologies, or political/personal gains get in the way.

  14. Beverly Says:

    Neo, everyone: Robert Conquest just died, at 98. Author of “The Great Terror”: fearless opponent of Communist tyrannies.

    Conquest personified the truth that there was no anti-communist so dedicated as an ex-communist. His career illustrated also what the Italian writer Ignazio Silone, another former communist, meant when he said to the communist leader Palmiro Togliatti that “the final battle” of the 20th century would have to be fought between the two sides they represented.

    An ardent Bolshevik as a young man, Conquest became a bitter foe of Soviet “Socialism”. He had first visited Russia in 1937 as a youthful devotee of the great experiment. It was a half century before he returned in 1989, having spent his life between chronicling the horrors the country had endured, and emerging, in the view of the Oxford historian Mark Almond, as “one of the few Western heroes of the collapse of Soviet Communism”. “He was Solzhenitsyn before Solzhenitsyn,” said Timothy Garton Ash.

    When asked what he would change about The Great Terror for its re-publication (after the fall of the USSR and the opening of the KGB archives), Conquest acidly replied that he would change only the title: to “I Told You So, You F**king Fools.”

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    Some Leftists and SJWs may have heard of this site in relation to the Planned Profit Struggle. So if any land here and makes landfall to invade, just hold em off for now.

  16. Barry Meislin Says:

    As noted above, Hamilton indeed envisioned someone as unscrupulous and treacherous as Obama.

    (Next to Obama, the Clintons—bad enough, to be sure—are pikers.

    Which is why, Hamilton has to be removed from that $20 bill as soon as possible.

  17. Artfldgr Says:

    Ymarskar, in some places SJW means “Single Jewish Woman”…

    but on another note…

    Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called late last month for black Americans to “rise up” and “kill those who kill us” if the federal government fails to “intercede in our affairs.”

    The call for violence came during a July 30 speech the radical leader delivered at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Miami.

    “The Koran teaches persecution is worse than slaughter. Then it says, retaliation is prescribed in matters of the slain. Retaliation is a prescription from God to calm the breaths of those whose children have been slain,” Farrakhan said.

    “So if the federal government will not intercede in our affairs, then we must rise up and kill those who kill us. Stalk them and kill them and let them feel the pain of death that we are feeling,” he added.

  18. ConceptJunkie Says:

    The Founding Fathers foresaw the Clintons. What they didn’t foresee, or recognized they were powerless to do anything about, was a populace that could look at the Clintons, or Obama, or many others, in all their corruption and deceitfulness and respond, “Meh.” and pull the vote lever for them.

    And as for Farrakhan, he is able, for whatever reason, to be a lot less circumspect about the goals of the Left. He gets a pass because he’s Muslim, but he speaks wholly for the Left regardless.

  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    Ymarskar, in some places SJW means “Single Jewish Woman”…

    And pants don’t mean the outer layers in Japan, what is your point exactly? That different cultures have different ways to think about the same sounds in language?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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