The United States now has a ninth justice on the Supreme Court, making a full complement -- at least for now. Reactions to Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation were as predictable as the 52-48 party-line Senate vote.
"The American people will never forget this blatant act of bad faith," Minority Leader Charles Schumer told Republicans. "They will never forget your complete disregard for their voices, for the people standing in line right now, voting their choice, not your choice."
"Bad faith" isn't quite the right phrase, as Mitch McConnell and his GOP colleagues were keeping faith with the voters who had sent them to Washington. A more precise way to describe what happened on Capitol Hill yesterday is that it was an exercise in raw power politics, the very expression used by Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim.
McConnell didn't deny it. "The reason we were able to do what we did in 2016, 2018 and 2020 is because we had the majority," McConnell replied to Schumer. "No rules were broken whatsoever. So all of these outlandish claims are utterly absurd, and the louder they scream, the more inaccurate they are."
Is this the way democracy is supposed to work? That's an interesting question considering today's date: It was on Oct. 27, 1787, that the first installment of the Federalist Papers appeared in a New York newspaper.
The article appearing 233 years ago today in the Independent Journal carried the byline of "Publius." Astute readers assumed that it came from one or more Federalists, most likely Alexander Hamilton, which proved to be true. Publius put his readers on notice that this introductory essay was but the first of many, all in the service of convincing New Yorkers and Americans in the other 12 colonies to replace the unwieldy Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution -- recently drafted in Philadelphia -- that would bind the young nation into a stronger Union.
Federalist No. 1 would be the first of 85 such essays, now called the Federalist Papers. Hamilton would write the bulk of them -- 51 in all, most scholars believe -- with James Madison contributing another 29.
Among Madison's contributions is Federalist No. 10, a brilliant paper Americans are still arguing about today. That is the subject of another note. This morning I'm interested in the Fifth Beatle, and by that I mean the oft-forgotten third author who wrote only five of the Federalist Papers. You can win a bar bet, even in New York, where the man served as governor, by recalling his name. It is John Jay, one of the men who negotiated the peace treaty with Great Britain after the end of the Revolutionary War.
Jay is the author of Federalist No. 2. In it, he expresses an optimism about this fledgling country that 20th century Americans would associate with someone like Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan: Even way back then, Jay is appealing to a shared sense of national purpose.
"This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties," Jay wrote.
He went on to remind late-18th-century former colonists of all that they had accomplished, implying that they could do so much more if united under a national government: "As a nation we have made peace and war; as a nation we have vanquished our common enemies; as a nation we have formed alliances, and made treaties, and entered into various compacts and conventions with foreign states."
The Constitution was subsequently adopted, of course, and Gen. George Washington was chosen as the United States' first chief executive. President Washington appointed Jay as the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, along with five associate judges (talk about court packing), although the first high court did not evolve into the fully equal third branch of government under Chief Justice John Jay. Nonetheless, in the fourth and final case Jay heard -- the only jury trial in the history of the high court -- he instructed the jury to deliberate "without any impressions of favor or prejudice for the one party or the other; weigh well the merits of the case, and do on this as you ought to do on every occasion, equal and impartial justice."
Justice Jay, I suspect, would be impressed with the promise Amy Coney Barrett made yesterday to the people of this country.
"A judge declares independence not only from Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her," she said. "My fellow Americans, even though we judges don't face elections, we still work for you."
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.