Posted by: Dr Churchill | July 11, 2012

“Good will come out of evil; these discontents nourish federal ideas” for a European Federal Union today…

History repeats itself and great learnings come from the men on whose shoulders we stand to be able to see further into the future…

Thus vision ensues about our current situation faced by the Union in Europe.

“Good will come out of evil – these discontents nourish federal ideas”  thus wrote  John Jay, the drafter of some of the keenest federal aspects of the Federalist Papers in support of the US constitution, the man of vision and justice, the practitioner of Realpolitik wise public diplomacy who also helped ratify the Constitution. He wrote this in a letter to Major General Lafayette, on July 15, 1785 when things looked rather gloomy for the American Union as well as for their influence at home and abroad. And he thought that the negative news of the impending crises bode well for strengthening the newly created American Union and the freshly minted Federal Government. The Republic had an uncertain present let alone a future and yet these wise men carried forth with the conviction that what they were creating will stand the test of time and history.

Such treacherous waters were the seas the nascent American Union was treading back in the 1780’s, that nobody was giving any credit to the then early born United States.

And so it seems are the waters, Europe treads on these days. Albeit Europe sails in these treacherous seas, without the benefit of steersmen like Jay, sans Madison, without Jefferson, nor Washington… Where are the great men of Europe today?  Blocked by career bureaucrats from ever surfacing in the public arena and serving justly the public dream and aspirations for a Federal Europe…

Still old Europe slowly yet surely prepares itself for a Federal Union while sailing the stormy seas, buffeted by economic difficulties, by lack of leadership and by constitutional crises. Yet still does it’s best, in order to strengthen itself and emulate the success of America and it’s last two hundred years of political, social, and economic development.

The current crisis will surely pass; but the foundation of the European Union will remain and thus maintain itself in the form of a strong federal Constitutional Union based on the economic common union, on the currency and on shared constitutional standards. This much is clearly evident to me…

Except that we need the enlightened CONSTITUTION that men of such ilk can draft and not one negotiated and written in legalese by Brussels bureaucrats. The compedium of treaties and European Union laws and regulations do not make a viable Constitution. We need that brilliant Constitution and we also need the European version of the Federalist Papers in order to explain the future we want to built to the Peoples of Europe. Still we need this Constitutional innovation urgently. We need it now in order to hold this rocky Union together.

At least that is the essence that I’ve gleaned from reading and meditating again upon the Federalist papers and the specific articles that Jay contributed to them and from witnessing the present European malaise.

And although much like me, Jay did not attend the Constitutional Convention, John Jay contributed the five most brilliant articles to The Federalist Papers. They are timeless and more relevant today for both the United States of America as well as for the United States of Europe — than ever before…

Jay’s correspondence and public papers as Secretary for Foreign Affairs reflected his concern about the impotence of the US Confederation government to shape foreign policy and the need for a central federal government that could act with speed, energy, and authority. As he observed to Thomas Jefferson in the summer of 1786, “Until our Affairs shall be more perfectly arranged, we shall treat under Disadvantages, and therefore I am not surprised that our negotiations with Britain and Barbary are unpromising. To be respectable abroad it is necessary to be so at Home, and that will not be the Case until our public Faith acquires more Confidence, and our Government more strength.” [Jay to Jefferson, July 14, 1786]

This is eerily similar to the difficulties and the seeming impotence that Europe demonstrates today, when dealing with the current slew of “Barbarians.” Because today’s Barbary Pirates are the financial risk raters, the manipulated sovereign bond markets and the bloody profiteers — all privateers working in tandem, and assaulting the weaker members of the Union. These Barbarians are feasting off the weaker members of the “herd” because the “herd” is not strong enough in it’s entirety — and it has no centrally strong defensive capacity.

What we see with the lost hope sovereign bond markets f Southern Europe, is a modern day piracy game with a great bounty attracting a great many pirates and adventurers — often times operating under foreign flags. It’s a real pestilence for the people and their local state economies, and it can’t be stopped by a single member state. Only a strong federal Union can project the necessary power and field the economic might, to block this piracy and punish the Barbarians.

Today the Barbarians are already inside the walls of the great citadel called Europe because of our indifference and lack of fecundity of federal ideas. And we need a strong federal European Union with a seaworthy powerful Navy that can hand these guys their asses back. These days a Central Economic authority is the navy that needs to come to existence in order to fend off these modern day “Barbary coast Pirates” and hang a couple of “heads” on the “City Gates” to warn other Pirates off. That is the only way, that we will sort things out, and turn the tide for the European Union. And thus we will also take advantage of the current crisis to create a strong federal Union and bring us all together in order to face the future challenges. Challenges, that are sure to come — much harder and much faster than what we experience now. Because the future crises to face this Union will make the current economic crisis seem like child’s play…

Nevertheless going back to John Jay and the days of the American Republic, we must say that Jay was hopeful that constructive results would ensue from seemingly negative circumstances. His studied nature and was always of a realized Realpolitik optimism. Such as when writing to Major General Lafayette, he adopted a cheerful tone, in reporting the growing resentment among American merchants of European restraints on American trade saying: “Good will come out of evil; these discontents nourish federal ideas.” This is simply what Jay remarked. [Jay to Lafayette, July 15, 1785].  Even the Algerian war episode with the Pirates of the Barbary coast, was viewed optimistically. He wrote to the President of Congress Richard Henry Lee: “That conflict does not strike me as a great evil. The more we are ill-treated abroad the more we shall unite and consolidate at home.” Jay, was a strong advocate of preparedness, and he conceived of a war with the Barbary pirates as providing “a nursery for seamen” and laying “the foundation for a respectable Navy.” [Jay to the President of Congress, Richard Henry Lee, on October 13, 1785]

Jay’s conviction about the need for a stronger union was bolstered not only by the weak posture of America in foreign affairs but by the instability and impotence he saw at home–paper money agitation, boundary conflicts between the states, the failure of the states to expunge from their books laws preventing full compliance with the treaty with Great Britain, and the chronic problem of raising adequate federal revenue by requisition. A sense of political malaise was transformed into a recognition of crisis by the outbreak of Shays’ Rebellion in the late summer and fall of ’86. What were needed were “federal measures,” Jay reiterated in letters to his correspondents. [Jay to Jefferson, August 13, 1785]

The rebellion in Massachusetts aroused Jay, as it did George Washington. “Justice must have a sword as well as a balance,” he commented to Edward Rutledge, [December 12, 1786] while on the very same day he addressed a lengthier letter to Jacob Read, lamenting the price that had to be paid to bring order out of confusion, “especially when a little virtue and good sense would procure it for us on very reasonable Terms.” [December 12, 1786]  Three weeks later, he informed William Carmichael that, although the “Commotion” in Massachusetts had not yet subsided, the “Government has manifested great Moderation, and condescended to hear the Complaints of the malcontents with much Respect.” The issue of the disturbances was still “far from certain,” he noted, while the “Inefficiency of the federal Government” became increasingly manifest. To amend the system of government now engaged the “serious attention of the best people in all the States …. Perhaps in a few months we will have a clearer picture of the prospects for a Convention.” Jay added.[January 4, 1787].

A sense of crisis and a burgeoning nationalism combined to shape Jay’s constitutional thinking in the months before the convening of the federal convention. With Gouverneur Morris he had concurred in the view that a “national spirit is the natural result of national existence.”[January 10, 1784]  To Lord Lansdowne Jay averred that “I cannot persuade myself that Providence has created such a nation, in such a country, to remain like dust in the balance of others.”[16 April, 1786]

Such is the greatness of John Jay’s vision of  Federal Union that to this day all his thoughts are clearly relevant and easily applied to this new Federal entity: The European Union.

And this is where his permanent political view and historical relevance shine more brilliant because Jay believed that through constitutional reformation America’s standing in the world could be enhanced. First of all, he held advanced views on centralization and the subordination of the states, views shared by Alexander Hamilton, perhaps alone among the Founding Fathers. In 1785 he wrote to John Lowell: “It is my first wish to see the United States assume and merit the character of one great nation, whose territory is divided into different States merely for more convenient government and the more easy and prompt administration of justice, just as our several States are divided into counties and townships for the like purpose” [May 10, 1785].  The following year he expressed to Adams his gratification over the recent marriages of Elbridge Gerry and Rufus King to women from states other than their own. These “intermarriages,” as he called them, “tend to assimilate the States, and to promote one of the first wishes of my heart, viz., to see the people of America become one nation in every respect; for, as to the separate [state] legislatures, I would have them considered, with relation to the Confederacy, in the same light in which counties stand to the State of which they are parts, viz., merely as districts to facilitate the purposes of domestic order and good government” [Jay to Adams, May 4, 1786].  Jay, in recognizing the depth of particularist tendencies, was more discreet than Hamilton about publicizing his views, and usually confined them to private correspondence. Nevertheless, his centralizing views would be evident in his later Supreme Court decisions, as Chief Justice, most notably in the Supreme Court’s decision on hearing the case of Chisholm v. Georgia; where the rights and the laws of the states were subhumed to the US Constitution, permanently and finally.

Secondly, although Jay had been one of the earliest and most consistent advocates of augmenting the powers of Congress in the areas of taxation and the regulation of commerce, he was concerned that an omnipotent Congress might be established. To prevent such a possibility he advocated the separation of powers and the creation f strong checks and balances. “I have long sought,” he wrote to Jefferson in 1786, “and become daily more convinced that the construction of our Federal government is fundamentally wrong. To vest legislative, judicial, and executive powers in one and the same body of men, and that, too, in a body daily changing its members, can never be wise. In my opinion, these three great departments of sovereignty should be forever separated, and so distributed as to serve as checks on each other” [August 18, 1786].  Again: “Let Congress legislate,” he wrote to George Washington in 1787. “Let others execute. Let others judge.” To the executive he would give a veto power over the acts passed by a dual-chambered legislature [January 7,1787].

Thirdly Jay’s commitment to the Democratic Republic was consistent with his support for popular sovereignty, which at this time manifested itself in his advocacy of a true constituent or plenipotentiary convention to be chosen by the people through state conventions and not by the state legislatures. Referring to the proposed Annapolis Convention, Jay advised Washington, “no alterations in the government should, I think, be made, nor if attempted will easily take place unless from the only source of just authority–the People.”   If the Philadelphia convention did not pursue the procedural steps he outlined in this letter, the means adopted for ratifying the Constitution reflected his own principles about the locus of sovereignty [January 7, 1787].

Finally, the supremacy clause of the Constitution drew its authority from the circular letter to the states adopted by Congress in April 1787 as drafted by Jay. In that resolution the point was made that a treaty “constitutionally made, ratified and published” by Congress was “immediately binding on the whole nation” and superseded the laws of the land. No state could abridge its obligations [Jay’s draft, April 6, 1787].

And all that is crucial and relevant for Europe today.

And the People’s discussion and education across the land for a European Constitution is paramount. Because without the People’s agreement none of this matter, as Jay demonstrated through his commitment to Democracy for the Republic. His consistent support for popular sovereignty, which in his time manifested itself in his advocacy of a true constituent or plenipotentiary convention to be chosen by the people, for the people and from the people — can teach us volumes for Europe today and the need to not be afraid of popular ballot referendums.

His commitment to Democracy and ancient philosophy are exemplified from his thoughts on Polybius, Epicurus and the Stoics, and was eagerly shown as Jay advanced some of the notions embodied in the “Polybius Histories” including enlarged powers for Congress and the President, separation of powers, and checks and balances.

Greek philosopher Polybius from Megalopolis, Arcadia had a great influence on all of the founding fathers. His political beliefs have had a continuous appeal to Democratic Republic  thinkers, from Cicero, to Charles de Montesquieu, to the Founding Fathers of the United States and all the framers of the Constitution.

And those Federalist Papers of yore need to be studied across Europe today because this European Union is in danger of cannibalizing itself.

Of course one needs to adapt the Federalist Papers, to current times, political circumstances and realities. And then one needs to disseminate them across Europe in a wide Town Hall type of discussion to lead to the wider possible acceptance of the Union and to the ratification of a strong Constitution.

And even though the European Constitution is a long way coming, and might never arrive as such — yet —  I’ve decided to do my bit. Or to do just that is needed… I shall start publishing my vision of a United Europe in the Federal style of the 21st century and in the humanist spirit of the new millennium, because Europe needs this dose of reality and  VISION right now.

All the new material and the Federalist Papers of Europe, will be serially published and then combined in a book form and ultimately published in their entirety, by the Oxford University Press as well as by the Democracy Institute.

So keep your eyes open and lend a hand if you are excited about the future of Europe and if inclined and moved to help and participate in this worthwhile endeavour.

The Federalist Papers were a series of articles published in New York, The Federalist Papers advocated the ratification of the Constitution while explaining its underlying theories. The Federalist Papers were vital to the passage of the Constitution in New York as well as in other states and thus ensuring the supremacy of the Federal Constitution over state constitutions across the land. Something of what we need to do in Europe this odd day…




By writing the five crucial articles of the Federalist Papers, Jay helped ensure the ratification of the Constitution across all states – more than any other man – and he was subsequently appointed the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court in order to uphold the Union..

Washington and all others chose him, and he thus became the leading diplomat for the Founding Fathers…

 Thomas Jefferson reflected that The Federalist Papers was “the best commentary on the principles of government ever written.”

George Washington who tapped Jay to serve as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court admired Jay’s work, and during his tenure, the Court issued the most important constitutional decision in “Chisholm v Georgia (1793)”  — a decision, which was a fundamental element in establishing the supremacy of the Constitution over the state governments and their local chapters.

While Jay was still serving as Chief Justice, Washington sent him on a critical diplomatic mission to Great Britain in order to negotiate a treaty regarding many festering, and still unresolved issues stemming from the American Revolution.

Jay negotiated a just treaty, which was controversially approved by the US Senate, and laid the groundwork for peaceful relations with Britain for several years to come.

These were the critical and crucial years for the peaceful maturity of the Union of these United States of America.

Do you think that we have the time in Europe to disregard these lessons?

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