As I discussed in a previous article, many “conservatives” today are actually “small-r republicans” instead. In many regards, people on the right are more concerned with the future of the republic than they are with conservative principles as espoused by thinkers like Edmund Burke.
However, one might wonder: what is the political philosophy of republicanism? Liberals have Marx. Conservatives–not “republicans”–have Burke and others. So, what thinkers of intellectual merit do republicans have in their corner?
Small-“r” republicans have Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison–the famous team that authored the Federalist Papers.
You might think: “The Federalists? If the federalists were actually republicans, why isn’t The Federalist named The Republic?”
Good question. Why aren’t the Democrats called the Socialists, the Marxists, or the Jacobins? Or even the Fabians? For that matter, why do you give your friends nicknames, or use embarrassing pet names with your significant other? The obvious answer is this: in life, as in politics, a single name never signifies the full meaning of an important idea.
The Federalist, for instance, fits this pattern. It’s a legal, authoritative name. After all, Hamilton was a prestigious New York lawyer and Jay was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Madison, though not a lawyer, served in the Virginia legislature and went on to become our fourth president.
Thus, since we’ve been formally introduced to the legal name of America’s political philosophy, we can lovingly introduce it by the endearing name of what it most affectionately expresses: republicanism.
And this republicanism is exclusive to the Federalist Papers. Consider, for example, ex-president Woodrow Wilson’s astute observation: “the Constitution contains no theories.” As he knew, the Constitution is meaningless without a theory explaining the Constitution’s world importance.
For Wilson, this insight presented an intriguing political opportunity. He knew many Americans were not concerned with the political theory, much less the political theory contained in The Federalist. Because of this, he introduced a new way of interpreting the Constitution as a “living document.” As a result, Wilson’s progressive reading of the Constitution introduced into American government: the administrative state.
The administrative state is Germanic and Europeanistic in its origins, and is not born out of America’s founding. It is a dangerous idea that “conservatives” have been unable to deal with. Thus, to avoid “progressive” attempts to introduce a foreign theory of politics, Constitutional republicans–not conservatives!–should be diligent in working to understand the founding political philosophy of America.
Likewise, Marxists, Communists, Democrats, and Socialists would also do well to read the Federalist Papers. In the name of equality–everyone, including republicans, deserves to have their voices heard!–these groups are obligated to do so. Furthermore, such a reading would make tactical sense. If young “revolutionaries” are going to overthrow the idea of America, they should first know just what is they’re overthrowing.
Perhaps, in doing so, these folks would learn something. Namely, they might learn that America is more revolutionary than the cartoon caricature they see in their heads.