An Allusion to Anacyclosis in The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers is a series of essays appearing in New York newspapers during 1787-1788 arguing for ratification of the newly-drafted federal Constitution. Authored by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist, as it is also known, is now ranked among the greatest of American political writings. Hamilton wrote most of the essays with No. 84 (defending the omission of a bill of rights from the original Constitution) perhaps making the cleverest arguments, but as works of political theory, Madison’s contributions have today probably become the most highly regarded, particularly Nos. 10 (on domestic popular faction) and 51 (on checks and balances).

We will publish short posts from time-to-time elaborating on the various connections between the world of Anacyclosis and this celebrated series of essays. The first we will consider appears in No. 9, by Hamilton: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection.

Of the 85 essays comprising The Federalist, Nos. 9 and 10 are devoted to the question that America’s authoritarian political trajectory now compels us to return: the ability of our political system to suppress domestic popular faction. Alexander Hamilton opened this topic in this allusion to Anacyclosis:

A FIRM Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States, as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection. It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy. If they exhibit occasional calms, these only serve as short-lived contrast to the furious storms that are to succeed. If now and then intervals of felicity open to view, we behold them with a mixture of regret, arising from the reflection that the pleasing scenes before us are soon to be overwhelmed by the tempestuous waves of sedition and party rage. If momentary rays of glory break forth from the gloom, while they dazzle us with a transient and fleeting brilliancy, they at the same time admonish us to lament that the vices of government should pervert the direction and tarnish the lustre of those bright talents and exalted endowments for which the favored soils that produced them have been so justly celebrated.

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