The Federalist Papers

Hamilton on property in #70

three main ideas

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Since Hamilton considers the individual's protection the end of the government, an explanation of the protection principle can be derived from his specification of that end. In other Federalist Papers, Hamilton claims that with government being instituted for the distribution of justice, the end of government is "the public happiness" or the "public good." More specifically, the people's happiness means the protection of their "general liberty," their "rights." From his distinction between liberty and property and life and property follows Hamilton's classification of those rights into the categories commonly used in his time, namely, the rights of life, liberty, and property.

Of these rights, those of property are most important. Their greater weight, as compared with the rights of liberty, follows Hamilton's enumeration, in order of importance, of the advantages of an energetic executive. He mentions, first, the protection of the community against foreign attacks; second, the steady administration of the laws; third, the protection of property against irregular and high-handed combinations that sometimes interrupt the ordinary courts of justice; and fourth, the security of liberty. Hamilton thus puts the protection of property before the security of liberty and connects it more closely with that all-embracing end of government, justice. The prevalence of property before liberty is confirmed when Hamilton states that among vested rights, those concerning life and property are most important. When, finally, he refers hardly ever to the right of life and very often to that of property, the conclusion can be drawn that either he considers the right of life to be already accepted, or he attributes a greater weight to the right of property, which he once referred to as "the great and fundamental distinction of society."