Alliances, Confederations, and Republics

Alliances, Confederations, and Republics


Hamilton begins by reviewing the weakness of the American nation and the inconveniences and insults that follow from that weakness. He blames the Articles of Confederation but he doesn’t find fault with them, seeing provisions that are not as they should be and may be altered for the better. He holds out no hopes for improving or fixing the Articles of Confederation because they aren’t inadequate in certain particulars but they are inadequate by their very principle:

The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing Confederation is in the principle of LEGISLATION for STATES or GOVERNMENTS, in their CORPORATE or COLLECTIVE CAPACITIES and as contradistinguished from the INDIVIDUALS of whom they consist. Though this principle doesn’t run through all the powers delegated to the Union; yet it pervades and governs those, on which the efficacy of the rest depends. Except as to the rule of apportionment, the United States have an indefinite discretion to make requisitions for men or money: but they have no authority to raise either by regulations extending to the individual citizens of America. The consequence of this is, that though in theory their resolutions concerning these objects are laws, constitutionally binding on members of the Union, yet in practice they are mere recommendations, which the States observe or disregard at their discretion.

He find the present arrangement so unsatisfactory that an alliance between the several States may be no less pernicious and would at least be consistent and practicable. A man who defaults on his debts and breaks faith becomes generally distrusted and there are none who will loan him money or join with him in any enterprise. Yet countries will betray their allies and make a separate peace against the most solemn and binding assurances and they will be spurned and shunned for a period but eventually they will find other countries willing to treat with them. Before long they will be ardently courted. Why is this? Perhaps the number of nations is so few compared with the millions upon millions of men, and that there are too few for any one to be shut out in perpetuity. Perhaps an entire country will have resources and commodities that far outstrip even the wealthiest banker or industrialist.

This is true but it isn’t the reason. Nations may disavow the ministers who broke these treaties and in their own eyes and in the eyes of the world they are thus exonerated and completely innocent of any perfidy. What is more, the ministers who brought their country into dishonor are attainted as traitors. They brought disgrace upon their nation for the benefit of a few greedy souls, but their crimes are not passed down to future generations. The nation is something over and above its servants or officials.

The animate is distinguished from the inanimate because living things move themselves while inanimate bodies are moved only by forces from without. In their motions. Living things never depart from the laws of mechanics and in their obedience they are indistinguishable from the inanimate bodies around them. Yet somehow they are different and in their origins, their movements are more various and mysterious.

Similarly, the simplest organisms respond only to sensation. They come upon organic material and they absorb it to sustain their own metabolism. They act upon what they sense. Higher organisms form models of their environment and retain them, basing their behavior on these models. They don’t need to sense in order to act. They think. They can anticipate. A leopard will carry the body of an antelope he’s killed upon into a tree and wedge it between in a fork. Later it will return to that same tree. It may not be able to smell the antelope and view of the body may be obstructed by leaves. But the leopard is looking forward to enjoying a fine meal with no effort needed.

Yet because the animal is working from a model that accurately represents his environment, that model may be inaccurate. The animal may be wrong. Another leopard may have found the kill and taken it. The leopard springs up into the tree and finds nothing. He’d thought to find his dinner awaiting him but he was in error. The leopard is perplexed and disappointed by this reverse. Paramecia can never be perplexed or disappointed but leopards can be.


In comparison to adult humans, even intelligent animals and children are considered not quite fully rational. Their reason is imperfect or undeveloped. Men and women punish their pets and their children at their own discretion. The offender is being chastised by a wiser and more powerful being. But an adult holds the status of being fully rational and any punishment is a matter of law. The citizen is a rational member of the body politic and thereby has obligations and rights. Any punishment is a legal act.

When the accused stands before a judge, the judge may be wiser and more powerful, and this is often the case, but that is adventitious. The judge is the representative of the state itself. The accused must be shown to have transgressed the law and, if found guilty, will face a legal penalty.

Individuals when acting by themselves are animate and rational but acting in a collective or corporate capacities they are something more. When men and women bind themselves under law to form a state, in their collective body they become something over and above what they were as individuals. They are now the officers or citizens of a state and they are different from mere men and women just as the animate is different from the inanimate and the rational from the irrational. Their actions become policy.

A government can’t command an outside or a subordinate government as it can command a citizen. When the state commands an individual it is coercion of the magistries while to command another government it is coercion by arms. Coercion by the magistries is more than simple coercion, the domination of the weaker by the stronger, it is legitimate coercion. For a government to attempt to compel a subordinate government it must do so by force of arms. A body of many individuals will have much greater powers of resistance than one single individual but that isn’t the distinction. It isn’t that they’re a gang of malefactors and in the place of the two constables needed to arrest one miscreant, a posse of two thousand is required to round up a thousand. Rather their resistance is legitimate and it is far more forceful than the desperate and furtive resistance of the criminal.

Injudicious attempts to refer to wars as police actions have been met with ridicule and indignation. Wars are something far graver, hotter, and bloodier:

The gentle Archbishop of York is up with well-appointed powers: he is a man who with double surety binds his followers. My lord your son had only but the corpse, but shadows and the shadows of men to fight: for that same word, rebellion, did divide the actions of their bodies from their souls; and they did fight with queasiness, constrained as men drink potions; but their weapons only seem’d on our side, but their spirits and souls, this word, rebellion, it had froze them up, as fish are in a pond. But now the archbishops turns insurrection to religion:

The federal government cannot tax or compel State governments as it does individuals. If they attempt to do so the respective members on the state level will undertake to judge of the propriety of those measures. They will either consent or refuse boldly, overtly, and in good conscience. The federal government and any subordinate levels of government which it happens to comprehend must both rule in their constitutionally allotted spheres, separately and independently. In their rule, they will deal with the citizens directly without any intermediary and in so ruling, they will be answered with the obedience subjects render to their lawful government. The Governors of Florida and Illinois pay federal taxes just like everyone else, but the States of Florida and Illinois do not. All government, whether on the national level stretching from sea to sea or the most local falling well within the boundaries of a single county, is the give and take of the citizens with the government they’ve appointed to rule over them.




Recollection, Intuition, and Innate Ideas

Recollection, Intuition, and Innate Ideas


Most of the Meno is devoted to a discussion of virtue: whether virtue can be taught, whether it is one thing or many, whether there is a virtue for women and a virtue for men, a virtue for children and a virtue for grown ups, and why so many eminent Athenians were unable to teach virtue to their own sons. This are questions that are taken up in many other Socratic dialogues.

In the middle of the Meno, however, there is a lengthy digression. Meno has brashly claimed to know what virtue is, and like so many other brash young men that have come before, he’s being harried from one definition to the next. At a certain point, he turns on his pursuer and asks Socrates:

And how will you inquire, Socrates, into that which you do not know? What will you put forth as the subject of inquiry? And if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is the thing which you do not know?

This is a grave difficulty and if it can’t be overcome then there is no knowing and no use seeking to know. Socrates answers that the soul is immortal, and having been born many times, has knowledge of all things. All learning is merely a process of recollection. To prove this, Socrates agrees to a demonstration. Calling forward a young boy, Socrates asks a series of questions and the boy answers. He doesn’t tell or explain anything to the boy but merely elicits his opinions. Under questioning, he makes several true statements about geometry.

How is this possible? Socrates believes the boy knew these truths all along and in the course of dialectical question and answer, the truths were drawn out of him. Meno’s conundrum is inescapable, if we have knowledge already, we need not seek it, but if we don’t have it at all, we don’t where to look and we can’t recognize if it if we happen to come across it. The only solution is that we have knowledge we’ve forgotten and that we just need to recollect it. The boy possesses knowledge and they can awaken him into knowledge by putting questions to him.

One delightful consequence is that if the soul learns all things between lives, then the soul is immortal. Socrates has proved that knowledge is possible, and in so doing he’s also proved that the soul is immortal.

Immanuel Kant was challenged by the same problem. In his unique phrasing: how are synthetic a priori judgments possible? A synthetic judgment is one that adds something to a concept over and above its definition; it adds predicates to a subject. An a priori judgment is one that can be made any sensations based on pure intuitions alone. All knowledge arises with sensation, but a priori judgments are possible and they are more than generalization about similar objects or observed patterns.

When Kant wants to give an example of a synthetic a priori science, he turns to geometry, the very subject Plato uses for his dialectical demonstration. He extolls geometry as:

Geometry is a science which determines the properties of space synthetically, and yet a prior. What then must be the representation of space, to render such a knowledge of it possible? It must be originally intuitive; for it is impossible from mere concepts to deduce propositions which go beyond the concept, as we do in geometry. That intuition, however, must be a priori, that is, it must exist within us before any perception of the object, and must therefore be pure, not empirical intuition. For all geometrical propositions are apodictic, that is, connected with the consciousness of their necessity, as for instance the proposition, that space has only three dimensions; and such propositions cannot be empirical judgments, nor conclusions from them.

Because Plato believes that the soul learned geometry before it entered the body, does that make the science of geometry a posteriori? Socrates states that the soul sees all things that exist in this world or the world below. Does the soul remember its many births? Does it remember the countless deaths it’s suffered?

There are some therapists who believe that we remember past lives and that our phobias and anxieties stem from the tragedies we’ve lived through in previous incarnations. We may have fallen off a cliff or from some great height; we remember the plummet and the impact, and this horrific memory is the cause of our acrophobia. We may have been bitten by a poisonous snake and have died in agony and in this life we’re terrified of serpents but don’t know why.

Whether or not Plato believed that the events of a past life can be remembered in this one is hard to say. But these biographical details aren’t the kind of knowledge he’s trying to elicit through dialectics. He’s concerned with the universal not the particular, the necessary not the contingent. Before the soul entered the body, it had intuitions of the forms themselves. The soul knew the forms of the true, the just, the good, the beautiful, and it is this knowledge that must be recollected.

Plato believed the soul knew the forms directly without the body and apart from the senses, but for Kant there can be no intuition of concepts. A priori intuitions of the pure forms of intuition are possible, but concepts proceed from the understanding and cannot be intuited. Geometry can be conducted a priori because it’s an exploration of the very conditions that make experience possible, not an investigation of empirical objects.

Both Plato and Kant agreed that geometry was a priori. Kant mentions the fact that space has only three dimensions as an a priori and apodictic truth. In the present era, it’s argued whether space has three dimensions or many, many more, but the number of these dimensions is contingent and can ultimately only be settled by the outcome of an experiment.

Euclid’s reasoning was sound; his conclusions do follow from his premises, and they pertain under certain conditions. Euclidean geometry is apodictically valid but only empirically true. Deductive systems can be constructed and every link in the chain can be tested. Their validity can be determined by pure reason alone. Their existence must be found out in the real world.

An untutored mind can be walked through a deductive system of wugs, and whatses, and jabberwockies, and based on intersection, complements, negation, transitivity, and other principles of logic that novice can draw conclusions about thesm. Based on axioms and premises, an entire science of whatses, wugs, and jabberwockies can be built. That science will be logically sound and completely a priori. Validity is a matter of logic and the soundness of the system can be checked without any appeal to pure forms of intuition or recollection of forms. The truth as to whether this deductive system matches anything in the real world, whether whatses, wugs, and jabberwockies exist, must be decided a posteriori by an appeal to the world itself. But many of these systems that began merely as the logical connection and interlocking of symbols and concepts has turned out to be a description of a system that does in fact exist.

The Case of Daenerys Targaryen

The Case of Daenerys Targaryen


Having considered the legality, morality, and expediency of burning the Tarlys, we move from the act to the woman herself. The viewers of the show are unsure of her. No other character is so changeable, so unpredictable. Other characters have changed, and usually for the better, but Jaime and the Hound have changed slowly over a gradual arc. But Daenerys is noble and merciful one moment, cruel and murderous the next.

Daenerys is a killer but there are many killers on Game of Thrones and some are very popular. Bronn kills for money, and he’s made it quite clear he’d kill anybody for the right price. But he doesn’t make the viewers uneasy in the same way Dany does. He’s unrepentant but he doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not. He has no illusions about being good and he doesn’t hide what he is. Like his double from Rome, Titus Pullo, he acknowledges that killing is a dirty line of work but it’s the one thing he’s good at.

Perhaps her killing troubles us because she’s a woman. Women bring forth life, they don’t take it. We may admire homicidal prowess in a man, but in a woman it’s an abomination, a violation of her sacred function. No, that’s not it. Maybe in the past, but no longer. Brienne of Tarth is hugely popular as is Lagertha from Vikings, and both these women have killed again and again.

We admire Brienne not only as a fighter but also as a person. She’s killed but she’s always killed armed antagonists in the course of a fight. And she’s never dispatched any of her opponents in a deliberately painful or grisly fashion. Arya took both of Meryn Trant’s eyes before she finished him, Lagertha cut off her enemy’s penis, and Sansa fed Ramsay Bolton to his own dogs. All three women killed men who were their enemies, men who’d tried to kill them, men they had every reason to hate. Their revenge, however gruesome, doesn’t seem to trouble the viewer. Some had begun to worry that Arya was going down a dark path but that was because she’ll travel the length and breadth of Westeros to hunt down old enemies but she gives no thought to searching for surviving members of her own family.

Daenerys has burned and buried her enemies alive but the others have taken their own dreadful revenge. But for the other women, that enemy was an individual a man they knew all too well, a man who’d attacked her, raped her, or killed those she loved. Daenerys counts as enemies men she’s never met, men she doesn’t know and isn’t even certain of their identities. For Daenerys an enemy isn’t a face but a group: the masters, the slavers, Robert’s assassins, anybody who opposes her claim to the crown. She’s allowed or ordered the execution of men she didn’t know to be guilty, former supporters, her own brother.


Brienne, Lagertha, and Daenerys are admired because they are women who can contend with men. All three women are redoubtable but Brienne and Lagertha are formidable because they are superb fighters while Daenerys is formidable because she has dragons. But in fairness to Daenerys, she has many great qualities, compassion, rectitude, integrity, warmth.

Viewers were thrilled when she walked out of the flames unburnt dragons perched on her shoulder, when she freed the slaves of Astapor, when she saw Gray Worm, Missandei, and Tyrion for who they were and raised them to positions of power. But they were appalled by her frequent rages, her ingratitude to Jorah Mormont, her pompous declamations. Why does she flash from such kindness to such cruelty? How can she have such laudable intentions but, when thwarted, fly into unthinking fury?

We don’t know whether to love or hate her because we’re brought to love or hate her in turns. We never know which Daenerys we’re going to get. Why does such a fine woman let her anger blaze into tantrums, tantrums that are terrifying because of her propensity for violence and the forces at her command, her host of Unsullied and her menagerie of dragons?

Daenerys is very much like Alexander the Great. The same Alexander who treated the defeated Porus with such magnanimity, murdered one of his best friends in a drunken rage. The same Alexander who showed such kindness to the Darius’ widow, razed Thebes and Tyre for the obstinacy of their opposition. Peter the Great brought Russia into the modern world but he also strangled how own son and heir.

Kings take themselves to be greater than other men but men nonetheless. Their blood and their crown make them special but kings die and princes are born. The King is dead; long live the King. Alexander came to believe himself something more than a man, something more than a king even. He came to believe himself a god.

As Oswald Spengler remarked, Alexander was a vain and silly boy. No man could have his head turned by the flattery of a pack of insinuating priests and fawning courtiers. Yet in the end, Julius Caesar, the same Caesar extolled by Spengler, took to wearing red shoes. When adulation turns into veneration, and veneration to worship, how can any man keep his head, let alone a mere child. In the movie The Man who would be King, a man just like Bronn, a jaded man, a man who’d seen it all and done most of it twice, a man who had no illusions, a man who knew himself and the world for what they were, succumbed to the same illusions.

Daenerys grew up in fear. As a girl she was warned to stay hidden, to trust no one, to watch for danger everywhere. She moved from hiding place to hiding place, sometimes borne off in the middle of the night, fleeing a menace she didn’t understand. She was sheltered but terrified, utterly reliant on those around her but told that every hand was against her. Had she been brought up coddled and spoiled and completely innocent of the world and its perils, it would have been a far better nursery for a queen. To fear without understanding, to depend without trusting is far worse than to grow up vain and selfish and spoiled, yet loved and trusting as Sansa did.

Priests told Alexander he was a god and he believed them. Priests told Peter the Great he was Emperor of a Third Rome, the ruler of the holy and he believed them as well. Daenerys had far more than the encouragement of priests. It was more than words, it was miracles that convinced her she was more than just a woman. She alone could survive the fire. She alone can touch her dragons.

Titles are most useful. Voltaire may sneer at the costly and lavish pageantry of royalty but it is far better to rule through veneration than through terror. We wish that Daenerys should show some hint, the smallest and briefest of smirks, that she knows this long and ever growing list of titles is helpful but faintly ridiculous. But to her these are more than titles. The likes of Tommen is given titles: Protector…Andals and the First Men…Seven Kingdoms…etc. Tommen is but a boy who wears a crown; she is far more than just a queen. Daenerys Stormborn, the Breaker of Chains, the Mother of Dragons, the Unburnt: these aren’t titles, they’re epithets.

The simplest solution to the world’s ills is a righteous ruler who will right wrongs, break chains, feed the poor, strike down the oppressors however powerful they may be. This simple solution has never proved to be a workable one. We check our worst impulses because we fear the retaliation of our fellows. And what if there are no fellows, no equals of any kind. What if there will be no retaliation. From the Squire of Gothos to the monstrous child from It’s a Good Life, the result is terrifying.

Men as intelligent as Beethoven and Hegel were sure that Napoleon was going to found a new order, that he was more than just a conqueror. Tyrion and Varys want to believe that Daenerys will break the wheel, that she’ll fix what is wrong with Westeros, that she’s something more, something better than Aegon the Conqueror.

The fate of the world can’t hang on the beating of one heart. Every Trajan, Charlemagne, Ashoka, Henry IV, is only a short respite from the carnage and chaos. Even if you find that one astounding personality wise and virtuous enough to hold their pride and temper in check, strong enough to curb the mighty and kind enough to succor the weak, that prodigy will get you only a few good years. Men and women, good and bad, come and go. They are born and they grow and they fade and they die, all in the blink of an eye. It’s offices and institutions that last. Tradition holds them up and constitutions set them together so they mutually check and support one another.

In the very attempt to place all our eggs in one fragile and short-lived basket, to center all power in one frame, the king-maker must tear down all of these offices and institutions. For every Trajan, there are a thousand Joffries. The search for a savior who will fix this world destroys the framework necessary to establish a workable and long-lasting government. The workings of such a government are slow, and halting, and prosaic, but every generation builds upon the achievements of the last and what is built endures.

Sea Power and Mercantilism

Sea Power and Mercantilism


Nearly all of what Hamilton had written in the previous papers about the thirteen States on the Atlantic seaboard of the North American continent applied with an equal force to all nations on every continent. This paper shows the benefits that come from one powerful navy maintained by the states united in one nation, and how this one navy may contend with the fleets of the great naval powers of Europe. Up to this point, he’d attempted to show that, in general, extensive confederate republics are more stable, more prosperous, and more formidable than the puny democracies of the ancient world. Here, he’ll attempt to show that one confederate republic in particular, strung along the eastern coast of one particular continent, can defend its own ports and control its own waters. Properties specific to the geography of these American States: their great distance from their foes, their long coastline, their several great harbors, will allow them to defy the fleets of richer, more populous, and more experienced nations who will seek to stifle her commerce and dominate her markets.

It was principally Great Britain that Hamilton had in mind, the mother the American States had defied when she’d previously tried to control their trade, the country they’d fought to win their independence, the country that dominated the fleets of Europe. Geography favored the naval power of the British isles. The Dutch could reach the Atlantic only by squeezing through the English channel or by sailing far north into polar waters and going around Scotland. The North Sea became so shallow near their coasts that they couldn’t harbort the huge battleships that made up the Royal Navy. Any fleet that made its home in the Baltic could be bottled up in the Straits of Denmark. The French fleet in the Mediterranean was far too dependent on the one harbor at Toulon.

If the American States were separate and tried to take on the Royal Navy alone, they would suffer the same drawback. Few of the States had a deep-water port and none had more than one. If any of these States fought the Royal Navy alone, the British could use their whole strength to blockade that one port. Together the States had Boston, New York, Chesapeake Bay, and Charleston, along with many smaller, shallower inlets. Not even the Royal Navy could covert so many openings so widely separated.

Moreover, the whole eastern coast fronted open ocean. There were no straits that any enemy fleet can turn into bottlenecks. Ships leaving port can head north, south, or any point in between. And these ships can from harbors separated by hundreds of miles, an expanse so enormous that no fleet can ever track them.

If the British want to strike at the American mainland, they must cross the Atlantic Ocean, a long and wearing voyage that will foul their hulls, rot their sails, dishearten and enfeeble their crews. So far from their own shores, they can be resupplied and reinforced only with great effort and after long delay.

It may seem that Hamilton is unreasonably belligerent, or is at least unreasonably afraid of the belligerence of the maritime powers of Europe. But in this age, most of the trade of the world was carried by ship, and it was the commercial policy of most of these great maritime powers to gain a balance of trade favorable to themselves. If this balance of trade was inequitable and must be brought about by force, they were quite willing for the guns of their battleships to open markets to their own trade, close it to those of their rivals, and wring concessions from unwilling partners.

States united and guarded by a powerful navy may impose their own terms:

By prohibitory regulations, extending at the same time throughout the States, we may oblige foreign countries to bid against each other, for the privileges of our markets. This assertion will not appear chimerical to those who are able to appreciate the importance of the markets of three millions of people-increasing in rapid progression, for the most part exclusively addicted to agriculture, and likely from local circumstances to remain so-to any manufacturing nation; and the immense difference there would be to the trade and navigation of such a nation, between a direct communication in its own ships, and an indirect conveyance of its products and returns, to and from America, in the ships of another country. Suppose, for instance, we had a government in America, capable of excluding Great Britain (with whom at present we have no treaty of commerce) from all our ports, what would be the probable operation of this step upon her politics? Would it not enable us to negotiate with the fairest prospect for success for commercial privileges of the most valuable and extensive kind in the dominions of that kingdom?

The American States are fortunate in their size and their situation and together they may extract terms that are fair and maybe advantageous from the parasitic maritime powers of Europe. If they drift apart and confront these same powers separately, they will be overpowered, the terms of their own commerce dictated to them, their markets preyed upon by mercantilist exploitation, and their wealth siphoned off to another hemisphere.