Federalist Papers – Essay #84

In Essay #84, Certain General and Miscellaneous Objections to the Constitution Considered and Answered, Alexander Hamilton the proposed Constitution and its provisions designed to protect individual liberties. Concern for individual liberties was one of the anti-federalist’s main objections to the new Constitution. Hamilton’s aim was to alleviate these concerns and promote ratification.

This paper served as a comprehensive reminder to the people of New York that the Constitution would faithfully address these concerns.

Hamilton in this and other essays discussed eight important principles regarding the Constitution and liberty:

  • Unity
  • Large Republic
  • Popular Sovereignty
  • Separation of Powers
  • Checks and Balances
  • Bicameral Legislature
  • Energetic President
  • Courts with Judicial Review

The Constitution specifically was designed to do the following:

  • To protect the people against executive and judicial abuse of power, the Constitution provides the power to impeach.
  • To ensure that individuals have the right, if they are arrested, to be informed of the charges against them and have the right to report an unlawful detention or imprisonment before a court (habeas corpus) – the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless, when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it;
  • Bills of attainder (a legislative act which declares a named person guilty of a crime, particularly treason) and ex-post-facto laws (after the fact) are prohibited;
  • Titles of nobility are prohibited;
  • The right to trial by jury in all criminal cases; and
  • Treason is very carefully defined in the Constitution – the distinction between political dissent and treason and efforts to prevent working hardships on a traitor’s family.

Hamilton addresses the concern of the people of New York (and others) that the Constitution does not contain a “Bill of Rights.” He writes that such a bill is not needed and, in fact, could be dangerous. “Why declare that things might not be done where there is no power to do?”

He points out that some states – including New York – do not have a Bill of Rights and are having no adverse consequences. The Constitution IS the Bill of Rights, he argues. He argues that the Preamble of the Constitution is a better recognition of popular rights than all the bills of rights put together.

And finally, all should be reminded that the sovereign is the people – and the government is responsible to the people.

Credit for the summary and analysis of Essay #84 is given to Brittany Nelson and Christopher Higgins (second revision 09/15/2011). Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “The Federalist Papers Essay #84 Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 30 December 2011 Web. 20 February 2019.

You can read a summary and analysis of Essay #84 by clicking HERE.

You can read the entire text of Essay #84 by clicking HERE.

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