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Show Notes: Richard Saunders and Publius

Does anonymity mean cowardice, does it equate to avoiding responsibility.  The Founder Fathers did always reveal their identities.

Richard Saunders

If you speak the truth, why should you ever be afraid?  We here that with every leader who takes to the media to direct us to register.  But so many of these elite leaders have no clue about the history of our founding.

Most of the Founding Fathers published documents under pseudonyms for various reasons.  For protection against retaliation as they spoke against political figures, and in some cases, to create a character to sell a product and provide a bit of indirection.  It also provides a persona.  Like perhaps The Mighty Humanzee.


Benjamin Franklin’s most successful business endeavor was his Poor Richard’s Almanac.  The first edition appear in 1733, published under the name Ricard Saunders.

The almanac was a best seller in the American colonies printing up to 10,000 copies a year. Its success brought wealth to Benjamin Franklin. Poor Richard’s Almanack was so popular that Napoleon ordered it translated into Italian and later it was also translated into French.

Franklin, while inventive, drew inspiration from the past.  Richard Saunders was a British doctor and astrologer who wrote under the anagram of “Cardanus Rider”.  Saunders, too, published an almanac called “Rider’s British Merlin”, a publication that circulated from 1626 to 1830s. 


Marketing and Targeting Competitors

Franklin was a prankster, and in the first edition of the Almanac predicted the death of his competitor, Titan Leeds, during the conjunction of the Sun and Mercury, and told his readers to stay tuned.  Despite the prediction not coming true, Franklin carried out the hoax for a few years.  When confronted by Leeds, Franklin claimed someone stole the Saunders name and was printing this publication without his knowledge.


Sometimes authors want to express an opinion and not have their name and or notoriety influence views of what they present.

Publius was the pen name adopted by the authors of the Federalist Papers.  Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison were the authors of over 64 letters to the editor that comprise the Federalist Papers.  This body of essays express the opinions of the 3 delegates to the Constitutional Convention and served as a means to draw out discussion and deal with arguments against the reformation of the American system of government.  The main thrust of the Federalist Papers were to argue for a new form of republic, one that represented a balance between centralized governing authority, state power and individual rights. However the authors who were know for the views of government removed their names in the hopes to dispel any prejudice by the who may reject a view publicly held already by Hamilton or Madison.

Articles of Confederation Were Failing

The Constitution was not the first governing document of the 13 new states, the Articles of Confederation were written to codify existing colonial and American law created during the Revolution.  At the time, Congress was unable to levy taxes, raise and army nor regulate commerce between the states.  It seemed likely that the new states would soon disband their unifying alliances because they could not organize appropriately when there was a need for a central body to an arbitrator.

But take this into perspective:  no other society at this time was willing to deliberate as the American people.  As noted by the historian De Tocqueville:

But it is new in the history of society to see a great people turn a calm and scrutinizing eye upon itself when apprised by the legislature that the wheels of it’s government are stopped, to see it carefully examine the extent of the evil, and patiently wait two whole years until a remedy is is discovered, to which it voluntarily submitted without its costing a tear or a drop of blood from mankind.

Shay’s Rebellion

Right after the American Revolution, debt was the most pressing issues for the new states.  Land owners, banks and creditors began to call in their loans, and the majority of population felt this extreme pressure.  Hard currency was demanded and farmers were particularly impacted as they lost land to debt collectors The new Congress under the Articles of Confederation did not have the power to collect taxes and pay the Continental army.  By 1786 unrest had spread to many of the states, but in Massachusetts when petitions from farmers to the government to assist with the crushing debt collection schedules went unanswered, Continental Army Captain Daniel Shays organized protests.  These grew in ferocity, and eventually a 1500 man force of militia was raised to put down the rebellion in 1787.

This was considered the final trigger which initiated the formation of the Constitution Convention to draw up a new, stronger form of government.

Republicanism versus Liberalism

These definitions have evolved to something different today.  In the 1780s they meant very things.

Republicanism – In order to preserve liberty, a preventative government is formed to ensure.  But history demonstrated the majority force in that republic soon become viewed as tyrannical as it sought to quell minority opinion.  Without sacrificing special interests, for public interest, republics became weapons of the majority and collapsed.

Liberalism – the individual exercising their freedom to the fullest extent possible was the primary goal.  Any governing body should make it’s main goal to ensure the rights of individual were maximized.

These two competing theories set the background for the Constitutional Convention, and many of the anti-Federalists main complaints were the lack of emphasis on individual rights.  The Federalists – Hamilton, Jay, Madison and others – were focused on constructing a union and preserving that union against attack from undermining factions. 

The Federalist Papers represent the arguments for creating that union while preserving the rights of the individual.  It doesn’t discuss the necessarily HOW the Constitution would operate once in place.  Hamilton was of the opinion that the states would encroach too much on federal power as opposed to a large, out of control federal system ruling over the individual states.  Hamilton was in favor of a bill of rights.


Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton was born into poverty in Jamaica.  Like many during this period, he was a man of great talent that he honed without the benefit of wealth or education.  He was very much a self made man.  However, many say that he aspired to aristocratic ends.  Hamilton envisioned a very different form of America, with a strong central government more powerful than the states, and one that favored trade, finance and manufacturing as opposed to Jefferson’s agrarian vision from the south.  Hamilton was selected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention representing New York with John Jay.  However, Hamilton did not have voting authority.  It is interesting that Governor Clinton of New York opposed a powerful central authority while Hamilton described a form of government that would unify all parties and prevent dissent from factions who would seek to destroy any current regime.

Hamilton’s Arguments in Federalist 9

Hamilton saw threats to unity:

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 perpetually vibrating between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy. If they exhibit occasional calms, these only serve as short-lived contrasts to the furious storms that are to succeed.

Government’s role was to take steps to prevent factions from forming in the first place, as a faction could generate violence and as Hamilton demonstrated, could end the stability of a government.  This illustrates a dichotomy between liberty and security.  The trouble with a majority rule is that it sewed the seeds for discontent that a dictator such as Napoleon could capitalize on. 

James Madison Answers Hamilton in Federalist 10

While advocating for a strong central government, Madison correctly identified that factions will always exist, and contrary to what Hamilton thought, taking steps to prevent their formation would foment more malcontent and realize the Founding Fathers’ worst fears.

Instead Madison thought that the effects of factions could be mitigated.

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

It could never be more truly said, than of the first remedy, that it is worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires.

Madison states that it is impossible to “give” everyone the same opinions.  He also states that factions are in fact natural and that one the most common causes is the disparity of property.

Now here is the strength of his wisdom, beyond what Hamilton was a proponent of:  you cannot rely on heroes to maintain stability.  We have forgotten this lesson.

It is vain to say, that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.

Madison states that majority rule and pure democracy only lead to chaos.  His solution is that the larger the republic, the larger the number of factions, and competition will balance out their ability to achieve their own ends.  In other words, self interest will need to be set aside to form coalitions.  This process will slow a movement, and will give time to deliberations as the sides express their views.

The two great points of difference, between a democracy and a republic, are, first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and the greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.



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