Hamilton poses the question in Federalist #15… “Why has Government been instituted at all?”
Of course, he went on to answer his own question… “Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.”
The Anti-Federalist known as “Brutus” contended in his “Essay Four” (29 November 1787) that “the object of every free Government is the public good, and all lesser interests yield to it.”
In Federalist #23, Hamilton, commenting upon the advantages of Union over having 13 separate sovereignties, lists several purposes to be served by a National Government. “The principal purposes to be answered by Union are these…
1) “the COMMON DEFENCE of the members”
2) “the preservation of THE PUBLIC PEACE, as well against internal convulsions as external attacks”
3) “the regulation of COMMERCE with other nations and between the States;”
4) “the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with FOREIGN countries.”
Madison offered his own list of Governmental purposes in Federalist #41…
1) security against foreign danger
2) regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations
3) maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States, including the restraining the States from certain injurious acts
4) certain miscellaneous objects of general utility [?]
In Federalist #10, Madison wrote that “the diversity in the faculties of men” give rise to “different and unequal faculties of acquiring property,” and “the FIRST OBJECT of Government” is “the protection of these faculties.” So is Madison saying that the maintenance of a system of unequal property distribution is the “first object” of Government? A few paragraphs later he reiterates, saying that… “the regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the PRINCIPLE TASK of modern legislation.”
I found this whole line of reasoning one of the more bizarre issuing from Madison’s pen– not only his general contention that the Government’s primary job is to defend the unequal distribution of property, but that he considered this the “first object” of Government.
Nevertheless, by Federalist #51, Madison is asserting that “JUSTICE is the end of Government.” This broad phraseology plays well to every region and to every class. Yet, in a sense, the broader the principle, the less it means. “Justice” is of course a term that can mean different things to different people. For Madison, it apparently meant the continuation and protection of unequal distributions.
But Madison is not finished declaring the “first object” of Government. In Federalist #62, he held that “the object of Government” is “the HAPPINESS of the People.” Sounds like, to Madison, regulating different interests, providing “Justice,” and granting “Happiness” are synonymous terms. And why not? They’re vague enough to contain just about anything within them.
Hamilton, in Federalist #80, offered his own set of goals of a General Government… “Whatever practices may have a tendency to disturb the harmony between the States are proper objects of Federal superintendence and control,” he stated. He also wrote that the National Government would have responsibility for… “the unviolable maintenance of that equality of Privileges and Immunities to which the citizens of the Union will be entitled.”
In Federalist #14, Madison held that the jurisdiction of the Federal Government should include “certain enumerated objects which concern all the members of the Republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of either.”
If Madison believed that such was the total jurisdiction of the Federal Government, that would be one of the more restrictive views of the proper domain of activity for the National Government. Today’s Federal Government far surpasses such a limited domain. Every decade, more or less, the Federal Government of the United States takes over more functions previously administered and regulated by the States.
Also in Federalist #14, Madison shared his vision of a General Government which “facilitated” commerce and connection throughout the Union by undertaking the construction and improvement of such things as: roads, accommodations, canals, and modes of “interior navigation.”