Excerpts from the Federalist Papers Regarding Lycia

The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison in 1787-88.  They were published to urge New Yorkers to ratify the proposed United States Constitution. 

For the complete papers, click here.

 

FEDERALIST No. 9

Alexander Hamilton

The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
For the Independent Journal.
Alexander Hamilton

In the Lycian confederacy, which consisted of twenty-three CITIES or republics, the largest were entitled to THREE votes in the COMMON COUNCIL, those of the middle class to TWO, and the smallest to ONE. The COMMON COUNCIL had the appointment of all the judges and magistrates of the respective CITIES. This was certainly the most, delicate species of interference in their internal administration; for if there be any thing that seems exclusively appropriated to the local jurisdictions, it is the appointment of their own officers. Yet Montesquieu, speaking of this association, says: `Were I to give a model of an excellent Confederate Republic, it would be that of Lycia.' Thus we perceive that the distinctions insisted upon were not within the contemplation of this enlightened civilian; and we shall be led to conclude, that they are the novel refinements of an erroneous theory.

Federalist No. 16


The Same Subject Continued:
The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union

From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, December 4, 1787
Alexander Hamilton

THE tendency of the principle of legislation for States, or communities, in their political capacities, as it has been exemplified by the experiment we have made of it, is equally attested by the events which have befallen all other governments of the confederate kind, of which we have any account, in exact proportion to its prevalence in those systems. The confirmations of this fact will be worthy of a distinct and particular examination. I shall content myself with barely observing here, that of all the confederacies of antiquity, which history has handed down to us, the Lycian and Achaean leagues, as far as there remain vestiges of them, appear to have been most free from the fetters of that mistaken principle, and were accordingly those which have best deserved, and have most liberally received, the applauding suffrages of political writers.
 

Note: It should be pointed out that although Hamilton admired the Lycian league, he feared a weak federal government that would fall prey to foreign conquest or internal dissolution and gave examples from the Lycian and Achaean leagues to the German diet. (from Hamilton's Paradox by Jonathan A. Rodden).

 

Federalist No. 45


James Madison

The Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State Governments Considered
For the Independent Journal
James Madison

We have seen, in all the examples of ancient and modern confederacies, the strongest tendency continually betraying itself in the members, to despoil the general government of its authorities, with a very ineffectual capacity in the latter to defend itself against the encroachments. Although, in most of these examples, the system has been so dissimilar from that under consideration as greatly to weaken any inference concerning the latter from the fate of the former, yet, as the States will retain, under the proposed Constitution, a very extensive portion of active sovereignty, the inference ought not to be wholly disregarded. In the Achaean league it is probable that the federal head had a degree and species of power, which gave it a considerable likeness to the government framed by the convention. The Lycian Confederacy, as far as its principles and form are transmitted, must have borne a still greater analogy to it. Yet history does not inform us that either of them ever degenerated, or tended to degenerate, into one consolidated government. On the contrary, we know that the ruin of one of them proceeded from the incapacity of the federal authority to prevent the dissensions, and finally the disunion, of the subordinate authorities. These cases are the more worthy of our attention, as the external causes by which the component parts were pressed together were much more numerous and powerful than in our case; and consequently less powerful ligaments within would be sufficient to bind the members to the head, and to each other.