A matter of liberty has been the centre of disputes and disagreements between the government and people. No consensus has been reached concerning the definition of freedom of humans with regard to the limits of governmental power. As a result, many literary works are dedicated to uncovering the actual meaning of liberty of the individual in an attempt to defend their rights and introduce changes to existing legal and regulatory issues.
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The Federalist Papers presented by Hamilton and Madison, along with Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty form the exodus for further discussions concerning the role of government in shaping individuals’ rights and freedoms. What is more important is that these papers aim to defend the liberties of the individuals with regard to common moral and ethical codes.
At this point, John Stuart Mill is concerned with the rights of the individuals on personal sovereignty where their liberties are not limited unless other individuals suffer from their actions. Mill’s essay, therefore, is one of the first attempts to define the role of the harm principle. In their turn, Hamilton and Madison defend the Constitution as a powerful tool for protecting people from the tyranny of the government and for introducing positive changes to society.
Overview of Methods of Defense Exercised By Mill in His Essay On Liberty
Mill’s work relates to the Victorian era because the author was more concerned with economic and moral freedom of the individual from the government. According to the essay, the core of liberty consists in the fact that “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” (Mill, 1978, p. 9).
Mill was determined in opposing to the tyranny of the government through introducing greater control to ethics and morale that should be introduced to all social classes. Because society also constitutes a serious threat to the government, it can be considered as “a means of tyrannizing” (Mill, 1978, p. 4).
As result, the governmental power fails to predict the extent to which the society can rebel to existing penalties and restrictions. Consequently, the government should be aware of the dangers and establish acceptable limits for each individual in the society. In order to strike the balance between societal needs and those promulgated by the government, Mill advises to keep closer to the harm principle.
Hence, the principle is “that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection” (Mill, 1978, p. 9). Judging from the above-presented assumptions, the author emphasizes the greater role of the society in ruling the state. Further, Mill enumerates the advantage that can be enjoyed by the authorities if the concept of liberty is expanded.
Aside from the importance of protecting liberties of the individual, the author also places a specific emphasis on defining the actual concept of liberty.
At this point, Mill (1978) believes that human liberty contains “…the inward domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscience…liberty of though and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects” (p. 11). Most importantly, the essay attains much importance to the concept of pursing individual good, which should not interfere with the welfare of other individuals.
Understanding the techniques of defense presented in The Federalist Papers by Hamilton and Madison
While exploring the main positions upheld by Hamilton and Madison (2003), specific attention should be placed on the reasons for protecting the Constitution from criticism.
In particular, the author believes that the Constitution can define the strict boundaries of governmental influence on society and shed light on the actual rights and freedoms of people. While focusing on the necessity to introduce common laws and regulations, the authors also consider it vital to limit the power of government that creates obstacles to shaping the New Constitution. To defend the document, the new sets of regulations are represented through the themes discussed in essays.
In particular, The Federalist Papers cover several topics disclosing the utility of the ratification with regard to the political prosperity, inconsistent policy of the Confederation toward preserving the Union, the necessity of introducing the Constitution as a means of enhancing the power, evaluating the Constitution as the basis for the republican government, and enhancing security and liberty (Hamilton and Madison, 2003).
Judging from the content of essays, the authors strongly believe that the Constitution required solid defense in the press. Therefore, the essays are considered to be the most remarkable expositions of political thought. In addition, the papers provide a sufficient explanation for the main underpinnings to establish the Constitution and explain its advantages over other legal documents.
Apart from protecting the rights of the individuals, the given papers also reflect the authors’ intention to abolish the current government and establish a new form of rule. Specifically, Madison explains the basic differences in classes of people with regard to their right to property.
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In particular, Federalist 54 runs, “government is instituted no less for protection of the property than of the person of individuals” (Hamilton & Madison, 2003, p. 246). Regarding this perspective, it should be noted that this vision of the Federalist contradicts the socialists and communist views on the private ownership. Overall, The Federalist Papers support the idea of abolishing the government and introducing radical changes to the government system.
Contrast and Compare of Defense Approaches Used By the Authors
While discussing the defense arguments used by the writers to introduce political and social change to the governmental system, both authors confine their judgments to the rights of people, liberty definition and criticism of the power. In addition, both documents reveal the defense of the individual freedoms and rights against the state. There is one more connection between the papers that is based on the definition of liberty and its relation to other constituents.
At this point, the tenth paper presented in The Federalist Papers sheds light on the concept of faction as an inherent component of liberty. In this respect, the government would rather control the outcomes of factions rather than its causes. Hamilton and Madison argue that faction can be used as a means for suppressing freedom of expression. Similar to Hamilton and Madison (2003), Stuart Mill (1978) also provides explanations for freedom of expression and limitation imposed on it by the government.
Specifically, the author states that a person can never be confident that his/her opinion does not suppress others and, therefore, human ability to reason their actions is not perfect. Madison also considers liberty as indispensible tool for normal functioning of the government. Overall, nodes of discussion create several similarities between the texts under analysis, but there are a much greater number of differences between existing positions of defense.
While deliberating over the role of society in shaping the regulatory issues, Mill (2003) is more focused on utilitarian vision of liberty whereas Madison and Hamilton are more concerned with introducing the Constitution as the absolute law within the state.
At this point, Mill’s essay presents liberty with regard to social, cultural and national differences. In contrast, The Federalist Papers focus on the importance of establishing the document as the only source of judicial powers. In such a way, they believe that the government will also restrict its absolute power toward the society.
While presenting the arguments against the governmental power, Mill (1978) reflects on people as the leading power influencing the course of history. Therefore, the government should reckon with their goals and purposes while constructing their regulations. In contrast, Hamilton and Madison (2003) focus on consequences of ignoring human rights and freedoms for government. In this respect, the Constitution is a kind of measure and control for governmental actions toward the community.
Judging from the above assumptions, Mill (1978) chooses the concept of self-defense as the core means that justifies interference of either state or an individual into the liberties of others. While discussing the techniques used by both authors to defend their positions, specific attention should be paid to the reasons for protection.
In particular, Mill decides to introduce the concept of liberty to the government to understand that society is a powerful tool that should be limited by the government unless their action are harmful to others. Similar to Mill, Hamilton and Madison (2003) stand their position against the media and blame the government because that has greater influence in abolishing the Constitution.
Liberty of press is another viewpoint that is represented in both papers, but at different angles. Specifically, Mill (1978) stands for the freedom of press being “one of the securities against corrupt and tyrannical government” (p. 15). The Federalist Papers also touch upon the role of press in shaping legal regulations, but provide a negative criticism of the press. Specifically, the papers oppose the anti-federalist position concerning the threat of individual rights establishment to the government.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that both texts under analysis provide convincing and exhaustive arguments in support of authors’ ideologies and viewpoints. Hence, Stuart Mill argues that self-protection was the result of governmental influence of the right of individuals.
The author claims that human liberties should not be restricted by political powers unless they do harm to other individuals. In addition, Mill expresses his concerns with the definition of freedom, which is not congruent of the concept of absolute power and liberty, but is more related to moral and physical safety of the individuals. Looking through perspectives of governmental influence on the society, Hamilton and Madison believe that the Constitution can limit the power of authorities and provide equalities and rights to the individuals.
More importantly, the authors of The Federalist Papers insist on the idea that the Constitution is heavily opposed by the government because it can contradict their personal interests and goals that do not always coincide with societal needs. In general, both sides of defense are focused on protecting human rights and freedom from political influence.
Hamilton, A., & Madison, J. (2003). The Federalist Papers. In S. Woelfel Trulove, and J. Woelfel Trulove (eds). Patterns in Western Civilization vol. 2 UK: Pearson Custom Publishing.
Mill, J. S. (1978). On Liberty. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing.