The next series of Federalist Papers cover much the same ground as the second paper. Jay covers three main themes in these three papers: Union is necessary to secure safety; Union is necessary to secure peace; and Union will ensure stability. The three are inter-related, and that’s why I am combining them here.
In the third paper, Jay argues why a single Union will be a greater guarantor of peace and safety.
Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their SAFETY seems to be the first. The SAFETY of the people doubtless has relation to a great variety of circumstances and considerations, and consequently affords great latitude to those who wish to define it precisely and comprehensively.
At present I mean only to consider it as it respects security for the preservation of peace and tranquillity, as well as against dangers from FOREIGN ARMS AND INFLUENCE, as from dangers of the LIKE KIND arising from domestic causes. As the former of these comes first in order, it is proper it should be the first discussed. Let us therefore proceed to examine whether the people are not right in their opinion that a cordial Union, under an efficient national government, affords them the best security that can be devised against HOSTILITIES from abroad.
Jay posits that a united America will be less likely to pursue war. A dis-united America, broken out into multiple confederacies, will be more likely to break out into skirmishes with other countries.
The JUST causes of war, for the most part, arise either from violation of treaties or from direct violence. America has already formed treaties with no less than six foreign nations, and all of them, except Prussia, are maritime, and therefore able to annoy and injure us. She has also extensive commerce with Portugal, Spain, and Britain, and, with respect to the two latter, has, in addition, the circumstance of neighborhood to attend to.
It is of high importance to the peace of America that she observe the laws of nations towards all these powers, and to me it appears evident that this will be more perfectly and punctually done by one national government than it could be either by thirteen separate States or by three or four distinct confederacies.
A unitary foreign policy will help to ensure that cooler heads prevail. It may be argued that smaller states, because of their size, would be less likely to pursue war than a larger nation, but Jay answers that charge in the next paper. Jay’s point is that a single Union will be able to maintain a consistent policy and, because it will presumably be led by more enlightened leaders than local governments, will be less prone to engage in aggressive action.
Because when once an efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but also will generally be appointed to manage it; . . . Hence, it will result that the administration, the political counsels, and the judicial decisions of the national government will be more wise, systematical, and judicious than those of individual States, and consequently more satisfactory with respect to other nations, as well as more SAFE with respect to us.
Because, under the national government, treaties and articles of treaties, as well as the laws of nations, will always be expounded in one sense and executed in the same manner,–whereas, adjudications on the same points and questions, in thirteen States, or in three or four confederacies, will not always accord or be consistent; and that, as well from the variety of independent courts and judges appointed by different and independent governments, as from the different local laws and interests which may affect and influence them. The wisdom of the convention, in committing such questions to the jurisdiction and judgment of courts appointed by and responsible only to one national government, cannot be too much commended.
In Federalists 18-20, Madison (and Hamilton?) would discuss the history of warfare in the Greek confederacies, and so will enlarge upon the points Jay is making here. For now, Publius in the person of John Jay asserts that the national government will be a greater guarantor of peaceful relations.
But not only fewer just causes of war will be given by the national government, but it will also be more in their power to accommodate and settle them amicably. They will be more temperate and cool, and in that respect, as well as in others, will be more in capacity to act advisedly than the offending State. The pride of states, as well as of men, naturally disposes them to justify all their actions, and opposes their acknowledging, correcting, or repairing their errors and offenses. The national government, in such cases, will not be affected by this pride, but will proceed with moderation and candor to consider and decide on the means most proper to extricate them from the difficulties which threaten them.
Jay elaborates on this theme in the fourth paper, arguing that a single American nation will be less likely to invite hostile action.
But the safety of the people of America against dangers from FOREIGN force depends not only on their forbearing to give JUST causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to INVITE hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are PRETENDED as well as just causes of war.
Jay acknowledges that European nations often engage in warfare for both justified and spurious reasons, but that is precisely why it will be necessary for the Americans to offer a united front.
The people of America are aware that inducements to war may arise out of these circumstances, as well as from others not so obvious at present, and that whenever such inducements may find fit time and opportunity for operation, pretenses to color and justify them will not be wanting. Wisely, therefore, do they consider union and a good national government as necessary to put and keep them in SUCH A SITUATION as, instead of INVITING war, will tend to repress and discourage it. That situation consists in the best possible state of defense, and necessarily depends on the government, the arms, and the resources of the country.
As the safety of the whole is the interest of the whole, and cannot be provided for without government, either one or more or many, let us inquire whether one good government is not, relative to the object in question, more competent than any other given number whatever.
One government can collect and avail itself of the talents and experience of the ablest men, in whatever part of the Union they may be found. It can move on uniform principles of policy. It can harmonize, assimilate, and protect the several parts and members, and extend the benefit of its foresight and precautions to each. In the formation of treaties, it will regard the interest of the whole, and the particular interests of the parts as connected with that of the whole. It can apply the resources and power of the whole to the defense of any particular part, and that more easily and expeditiously than State governments or separate confederacies can possibly do, for want of concert and unity of system. It can place the militia under one plan of discipline, and, by putting their officers in a proper line of subordination to the Chief Magistrate, will, as it were, consolidate them into one corps, and thereby render them more efficient than if divided into thirteen or into three or four distinct independent companies.
In short, America will prove a more formidable enemy for foreign powers if it is united. America will be better prepared to defend itself if the militia is guided by one Executive Power, and will be more ready militarily. In some ways this may seem a contradiction of the points raised in the third paper, for now Jay is arguing that America will be a mightier military power as one than if it was divided into multiple confederacies. But Jay sees this instead as an inducement for peace. Again, foreign powers will be less likely to invade and instigate war if they have to deal with a unified front.
Apply these facts to our own case. Leave America divided into thirteen or, if you please, into three or four independent governments–what armies could they raise and pay–what fleets could they ever hope to have? If one was attacked, would the others fly to its succor, and spend their blood and money in its defense? Would there be no danger of their being flattered into neutrality by its specious promises, or seduced by a too great fondness for peace to decline hazarding their tranquillity and present safety for the sake of neighbors, of whom perhaps they have been jealous, and whose importance they are content to see diminished? Although such conduct would not be wise, it would, nevertheless, be natural. The history of the states of Greece, and of other countries, abounds with such instances, and it is not improbable that what has so often happened would, under similar circumstances, happen again.
As I said above, Publius will return to a discussion of Greek confederacies in later papers.
Jay continues with his argument in the fifth paper, and points to the example of Great Britain. He observes how discord between Ireland, Scotland and England divided the Nation and kept the disparate parts from assisting one another. He fears the same thing could happen here.
Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations, would not the same thing happen? Would not similar jealousies arise, and be in like manner cherished? Instead of their being “joined in affection” and free from all apprehension of different “interests,” envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most other BORDERING nations, they would always be either involved in disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.
This is another argument that Publius makes on several occasions. Inevitably fighting would break out between the states unless they were joined in one union. Of course the formation of the federal union didn’t prevent the outbreak of a Civil War, but at the same time the only instance of armed conflict within the United States was not a border dispute. Jay predicts that if separate confederacies formed on the American continent, one would inevitably become pre-eminent in power and gain ascendancy over the rest.
Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance, if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her importance; and would also restrain them from measures calculated to advance or even to secure her prosperity. Much time would not be necessary to enable her to discern these unfriendly dispositions. She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them. Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.
Of course regional dominance would occur from time-to-time, and my guess is that certain regional partisans would quibble over which section dominated. But in a situation involving separate confederacies, the weaker confederacies would have less recourse to protect itself from the stronger.
Finally, Jay closes on a note that echoes what he had written in the two previous papers.
When did the independent states, into which Britain and Spain were formerly divided, combine in such alliance, or unite their forces against a foreign enemy? The proposed confederacies will be DISTINCT NATIONS. Each of them would have its commerce with foreigners to regulate by distinct treaties; and as their productions and commodities are different and proper for different markets, so would those treaties be essentially different. Different commercial concerns must create different interests, and of course different degrees of political attachment to and connection with different foreign nations. Hence it might and probably would happen that the foreign nation with whom the SOUTHERN confederacy might be at war would be the one with whom the NORTHERN confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and friendship. An alliance so contrary to their immediate interest would not therefore be easy to form, nor, if formed, would it be observed and fulfilled with perfect good faith.
Nay, it is far more probable that in America, as in Europe, neighboring nations, acting under the impulse of opposite interests and unfriendly passions, would frequently be found taking different sides. Considering our distance from Europe, it would be more natural for these confederacies to apprehend danger from one another than from distant nations, and therefore that each of them should be more desirous to guard against the others by the aid of foreign alliances, than to guard against foreign dangers by alliances between themselves. And here let us not forget how much more easy it is to receive foreign fleets into our ports, and foreign armies into our country, than it is to persuade or compel them to depart. How many conquests did the Romans and others make in the characters of allies, and what innovations did they under the same character introduce into the governments of those whom they pretended to protect.
Separate confederacies would formulate distinct foreign policies, and would compound the liklihood that one would enter into a (for lack of a better term) foreign entanglement. Therefore, once again, a solitary Union would better guarantee peace than several independent entities. Think what you will of Jay’s assertion that the American confederacies would be more likely to stab each other in the back rather than come to one another’s aid, but certainly from the Federalists’ perspective, history had shown this to be a likely outcome.
And with that John Jay’s contribution to the Federalist Papers comes to an end, with one exception down the line. From here on in it is exclusively a joint project of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.