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FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution, Federalist #4
A Publius/Billthedrill Essay | 15 March 2010 | Publius & Billthedrill

Posted on 03/15/2010 8:36:16 AM PDT by Publius

America’s Position in the World

John Jay had served in the diplomatic jungles of Europe and had seen what designs the great European powers held for America. Here he explains just how parlous America’s position was in the world. It’s not a pretty picture, and Jay describes it in terms of diplomatic realism. From his perspective, the Union was the only hope of keeping Europe’s predators at bay.

Federalist #4

Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence (Part 3 of 4)

John Jay, 7 November 1787

1 To the People of the State of New York:

***

2 My last paper assigned several reasons why the safety of the people would be best secured by union against the danger it may be exposed to by just causes of war given to other nations, and those reasons show that such causes would not only be more rarely given, but would also be more easily accommodated, by a national government than either by the state governments or the proposed little confederacies.

***

3 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.

***

4 It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans.

5 These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.

6 But independent of these inducements to war, which are more prevalent in absolute monarchies but which well deserve our attention, there are others which affect nations as often as kings, and some of them will on examination be found to grow out of our relative situation and circumstances.

***

7 With France and with Britain we are rivals in the fisheries and can supply their markets cheaper than they can themselves, notwithstanding any efforts to prevent it by bounties on their own or duties on foreign fish.

***

8 With them and with most other European nations, we are rivals in navigation and the carrying trade, and we shall deceive ourselves if we suppose that any of them will rejoice to see it flourish, for as our carrying trade cannot increase without in some degree diminishing theirs, it is more their interest and will be more their policy to restrain than to promote it.

***

9 In the trade to China and India, we interfere with more than one nation, inasmuch as it enables us to partake in advantages which they had in a manner monopolized, and as we thereby supply ourselves with commodities which we used to purchase from them.

***

10 The extension of our own commerce in our own vessels cannot give pleasure to any nations who possess territories on or near this continent because the cheapness and excellence of our productions, added to the circumstance of vicinity and the enterprise and address of our merchants and navigators, will give us a greater share in the advantages which those territories afford, than consists with the wishes or policy of their respective sovereigns.

***

11 Spain thinks it convenient to shut the Mississippi against us on the one side, and Britain excludes us from the Saint Lawrence on the other; nor will either of them permit the other waters which are between them and us to become the means of mutual intercourse and traffic.

***

12 From these and such like considerations which might if consistent with prudence be more amplified and detailed, it is easy to see that [jealousy and uneasiness] may gradually slide into the minds and cabinets of other nations, and that we are not to expect that they should regard our advancement in union, in power and consequence by land and by sea, with an eye of indifference and composure.

***

13 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.

14 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.

15 That situation consists in the best possible state of defense and necessarily depends on the government, the arms and the resources of the country.

***

16 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.

***

17 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.

18 It can move on uniform principles of policy.

19 It can harmonize, assimilate and protect the several parts and members, and extend the benefit of its foresight and precautions to each.

20 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.

21 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.

22 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.

***

23 What would the militia of Britain be if the English militia obeyed the government of England, if the Scotch militia obeyed the government of Scotland, and if the Welsh militia obeyed the government of Wales?

24 Suppose an invasion: would those three governments, if they agreed at all, be able, with all their respective forces, to operate against the enemy so effectually as the single government of Great Britain would?

***

25 We have heard much of the fleets of Britain, and the time may come, if we are wise, when the fleets of America may engage attention.

26 But if one national government had not so regulated the navigation of Britain as to make it a nursery for seamen, if one national government had not called forth all the national means and materials for forming fleets, their prowess and their thunder would never have been celebrated.

27 Let England have its navigation and fleet, let Scotland have its navigation and fleet, let Wales have its navigation and fleet, let Ireland have its navigation and fleet, let those four of the constituent parts of the British Empire be under four independent governments, and it is easy to perceive how soon they would each dwindle into comparative insignificance.

***

28 Apply these facts to our own case.

29 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?

30 If one was attacked, would the others fly to its succor and spend their blood and money in its defense?

31 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?

32 Although such conduct would not be wise, it would nevertheless be natural.

33 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.

***

34 But admit that they might be willing to help the invaded state or confederacy.

35 How and when and in what proportion shall aids of men and money be afforded?

36 Who shall command the allied armies, and from which of them shall he receive his orders? 37 Who shall settle the terms of peace, and in case of disputes what umpire shall decide between them and compel acquiescence?

38 Various difficulties and inconveniences would be inseparable from such a situation, whereas one government, watching over the general and common interests, and combining and directing the powers and resources of the whole, would be free from all these embarrassments and conduce far more to the safety of the people.

***

39 But whatever may be our situation, whether firmly united under one national government or split into a number of confederacies, certain it is that foreign nations will know and view it exactly as it is, and they will act toward us accordingly.

40 If they see that our national government is efficient and well administered, our trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment.

41 If on the other hand they find us either destitute of an effectual government – each state doing right or wrong as to its rulers may seem convenient – or split into three or four independent and probably discordant republics or confederacies, one inclining to Britain, another to France and a third to Spain, and perhaps played off against each other by the three, what a poor, pitiful figure will America make in their eyes!

42 How liable would she become not only to their contempt but to their outrage, and how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.

Jay’s Critique

The topic once again is war, and the reader encounters the veteran of late 18th Century diplomacy, struggling to make his country understand what would shortly be required of it, if it were not to be submerged in a tide of European power politics. This relates to the plea in the future farewell address of George Washington against “entangling alliances”, and it connects to the fact, cited by Jay in a previous piece, that the country already had treaties with no fewer than six European powers before the Constitution had even been ratified.

From this, Jay derives the argument that, for a number of different reasons, it would be best to present a united front to the outside world. At the time the difference between Great Powers and Lesser was that the former could raise their own armies and build their own navies; the latter had to hire the job out to supplement native forces too small to contend with the forces of the Great Powers on their own. For them it was engage in treaties, hire mercenaries – or submit. Occasionally those treaties could result in such grotesqueries as the Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus fighting the Bavarians under Wallenstein for possession of ground in which neither of their respective peoples had the slightest direct interest.

That was what Jay was trying to avoid with respect to a hopefully United States. His previous piece delicately suggested that contending regional governments were more likely than one unified government to give offense both to European and Native American nations. Their reply he loosely categorizes as “just war”. There is, of course, another category, the “unjust” war, and it is Jay’s contention that a unified country is more likely to dissuade foreign machinations in that direction than regional governments with their separate interests.

4 It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it

Indeed, the Thirty Years’ War, alluded to above, began over the issue of who would rule rather than what would happen to their respective peoples in the deciding. That turned out to be remarkably grim. To a great degree, the subsequent contentions of the 18th Century – the War of Spanish Succession, and the Seven Years’ War, whose tendrils reached to America as the French and Indian War – were the direct result of national power alignments that were the fruit of the Thirty Years’ War.

To Jay, this was not merely recent history, but the current diplomatic status quo. This would circumscribe the development of the new country, and in the next century it would end, weirdly, in the accession of the Austrian Archduke Maximilian to the head of the Mexican government. Clearly the separation of an ocean would be little protection.

What could excite such aggression on the part of European nations? Commercial interests, for one.

7 With France and with Britain we are rivals in the fisheries and can supply their markets cheaper than they can themselves...

8 With them and with most other European nations, we are rivals in navigation and the carrying trade>/i<…

There is another one which will make historians of the late 20th Century smile.

9 In the trade to China and India, we interfere with more than one nation, inasmuch as it enables us to partake in advantages which they had in a manner monopolized, and as we thereby supply ourselves with commodities which we used to purchase from them.

It is ironic how very prescient Jay was in the matter, but one must recall that his point was that European countries would resent lost markets enough to start trade, or military, wars with the new United States. In fact, within a half century Great Britain would go to war in China over commercial interests. Lest one become overly condemnatory of the Opium Wars, one must recall that at the very same time the Royal Navy was putting a stop to the Atlantic slave trade, twenty years before Americans would slaughter one another wholesale over the issue.

In any case, these were difficulties better faced, in Jay’s opinion, by one united government instead of several squabbling regional ones. He already had evidence.

11 Spain thinks it convenient to shut the Mississippi against us on the one side, and Britain excludes us from the Saint Lawrence on the other...

Both would be dealt with by diplomacy and by force of arms. The case of the latter would find Washington City – as it was called then – occupied and burnt, a reminder that even a united government must contend with others such as Great Britain’s that were artists at force projection, and were so as a result of a unified government.

26 But if one national government had not so regulated the navigation of Britain as to make it a nursery for seamen, if one national government had not called forth all the national means and materials for forming fleets, their prowess and their thunder would never have been celebrated.

Classicist that he was, Jay reminds that:

33 The history of the states of Greece and of other countries abounds with such instances

He alludes here to a Greece capable of defeating the enormous Persian Empire when it managed a united front, and less than a century later, falling to regional fratricide during the Peloponnesian War. Most educated readers of the day did not need to be reminded that the Persians were still around to pick up the pieces afterward. Jay closes:

40 If they [foreign nations] see that our national government is efficient and well administered… our people free, contented and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment.

Jay was far from a xenophobe, but he was a realist. The Romans had a symbolic representation of his argument, the fasces, in which a bundle of birch rods too weak individually to compose a weapon could, once bundled together, form the handle of an axe. It is a symbol still to be found throughout the federal government of the United States.

One notes that this particular piece is far more a plea for unification under any constitution than an argument for the form and particulars of the proposed one under discussion. Those battles were yet to be fought, but Jay has made his case for a single government, instead of several regional governments, and his case seems as strong today as when he made it.

Discussion Topics



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Free Republic
KEYWORDS: constitution; federalist; federalist4; federalistpapers; freeperbookclub; history

1 posted on 03/15/2010 8:36:16 AM PDT by Publius
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To: 14themunny; 21stCenturion; 300magnum; A Strict Constructionist; abigail2; AdvisorB; Aggie Mama; ...
Ping! The thread has been posted.

Earlier threads:

FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution
5 Oct 1787, Centinel #1
6 Oct 1787, James Wilson’s Speech at the State House
8 Oct 1787, Federal Farmer #1
9 Oct 1787, Federal Farmer #2
18 Oct 1787, Brutus #1
22 Oct 1787, John DeWitt #1
27 Oct 1787, John DeWitt #2
27 Oct 1787, Federalist #1
31 Oct 1787, Federalist #2
3 Nov 1787, Federalist #3
5 Nov 1787, John DeWitt #3

2 posted on 03/15/2010 8:38:08 AM PDT by Publius (The prudent man sees the evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.)
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To: Publius
Well obviously John Jay was a warmongering Neo-Con RINO!

/JUST kidding

3 posted on 03/15/2010 8:43:33 AM PDT by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus (We bury Democrats face down so that when they scratch, they get closer to home.)
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To: Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus

Perhaps you would like to try your hand at the first discussion topic.


4 posted on 03/15/2010 8:52:45 AM PDT by Publius (The prudent man sees the evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.)
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To: Publius

Hello Friend. Just received a very good read from a friend at work last Friday. If you want options, I strongly encourage you to read “The Grey Book.” It is a well written plan for an alternative to the corrupt gang ruling from DC.


5 posted on 03/15/2010 9:18:31 AM PDT by Neoliberalnot ((Freedom's Precious Metals: Gold, Silver and Lead))
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To: Publius
The Federalist controversy happened when American States were in charge of the Federal government.. and how much power the federal government had and retained was an issue.. on a number of issues..

The current situation is the federal government has all the power and the States have become mere provinces like in Canada.. mere vassals.. The States now serve the federal government not the other way around...

The political poles are those that want the (1)federal government to have even more power and the States LESS, and those that want the (2)States to have more power and the federal government LESS....

This dichotomy is NOT championed well.. These issues are clouded in reams of mush mouth and verbiage.. Its quite simple really.. We need some word butchers that can get down to the bone.. and trim the fat..

BUT; we would need some people that even know that this is the problem first..
Then it would fairly easy to butcher those mired in the quicksand of words..

6 posted on 03/15/2010 9:26:16 AM PDT by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole....)
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To: Publius

Funny, we didn’t need consolidation to beat the Brits. And of course, we already WERE the United States before the constitution.


7 posted on 03/15/2010 9:28:48 AM PDT by Huck (Q: How can you tell a party is in the majority? A: They're complaining about the fillibuster.)
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To: hosepipe
The current situation is the federal government has all the power and the States have become mere provinces like in Canada.. mere vassals.. The States now serve the federal government not the other way around...

The Constitution was designed to produce just such a result:

"Thus I apprehend, it is evident that the consolidation of the States into one national government (in contra- distinction from a confederacy) would be the necessary consequence of the establishment of the new constitution, and the intention of its framers-and that consequently the State sovereignties would be eventually annihilated, though the forms may long remain as expensive and burdensome remembrances of what they were in the days when (although laboring under many disadvantages) they emancipated this country from foreign tyranny, humbled the pride and tarnished the glory of royalty, and erected a triumphant standard to liberty and independence. "

Antifederalist 39, A Farmer

8 posted on 03/15/2010 9:31:29 AM PDT by Huck (Q: How can you tell a party is in the majority? A: They're complaining about the fillibuster.)
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To: hosepipe

Well said Hose!

What we need is a FEW good men who will stand up for the Constitution and require strict adherence to the thing!

Instead we have those who seek to undermine the Constitution making steady progress!


9 posted on 03/15/2010 9:43:58 AM PDT by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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To: Huck
The Constitution was designed to produce just such a result:

I don't believe that to be true but there are those who, from the very beginning, sought to bring about that result and they are currently winning!

10 posted on 03/15/2010 9:48:01 AM PDT by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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To: Huck
[ The Constitution was designed to produce just such a result: ]

If that was the aim NO STATE would have signed on..
The intent was for a confederation not a central government..
The States considered themselves sovereign, Sovereign States..
The federal government was intended for certain specific limited purposes..

The result has been in the STATES having certain specific limited purposes..
Democracy is Mob Rule.. by mobsters.. i.e. strong central government weak provinces.. even weaker local governments..

11 posted on 03/15/2010 9:50:06 AM PDT by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole....)
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To: Publius
Why did Jay get it wrong?

Did he take into account human nature, and the tendency on the part of those in power towards self-aggrandizement?

12 posted on 03/15/2010 10:24:06 AM PDT by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus (We bury Democrats face down so that when they scratch, they get closer to home.)
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To: Bigun
[ Instead we have those who seek to undermine the Constitution making steady progress! ]

Thats why I am a radical not a conservative Bigun..
I'm looking for radical change back to the Republic from a democracy..
Restoring the Constitution to orginal intent..

Conservative change or modification WILL NOT DO IT..
It will take a radical change.. removing a few amendments..

13 posted on 03/15/2010 10:41:49 AM PDT by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole....)
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To: hosepipe; Huck
What is fascinating is that federalism has made a comeback as an issue. Until recently, the debate was about who would control the all-powerful federal government and receive its support and money -- large business interests, the people, or both. This was in large part because the Civil War discredited federalism as a concept.

Forrest McDonald's States' Rights and the Union covers the debate over federalism for the first one hundred years of the Republic, and it's a must-read for those who want to write about federalism.

What I find astonishing is that issues that were considered settled as far back as 1832 have come to the surface again. Thanks to the Tea Party movement, a rebalancing of the federal-state relationship may be in the cards.

14 posted on 03/15/2010 10:42:20 AM PDT by Publius (The prudent man sees the evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.)
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To: Publius
[ Thanks to the Tea Party movement, a rebalancing of the federal-state relationship may be in the cards. ]

Would take a States Rights Caucus to do it..
Parties seem to be becoming obsolete...

BUT a strong caucus would trump any Party...

15 posted on 03/15/2010 10:46:03 AM PDT by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole....)
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To: Huck; Publius
Funny, the Articles of Confederation didn't go into effect until just a few months before Yorktown.

The Articles were so effective that Virginia was on its own as Cornwallis and the infamous Tarleton cut a swath of destruction unequaled until the ravages of Sherman. The Virginia government had to flee across the Shenandoah. The situation was so bad a military dictator named Thomas Nelson was appointed. He confiscated stores and various supplies without regard to the law, from civilians to assist Washington and the French forces.

We won at Yorktown despite, not because of the totally inadequate Articles.

16 posted on 03/15/2010 11:04:13 AM PDT by Jacquerie (It is only in the context of Natural Law that our Declaration & Constitution form a coherent whole)
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To: EdReform

bookmark


17 posted on 03/15/2010 11:13:50 AM PDT by EdReform (Oath Keepers - Guardians of the Republic - Honor your oath - Join us: www.oathkeepers.org)
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To: hosepipe
The intent was for a confederation

That's incorrect. They had a confederation. They replaced it with a consolidated national gubmint.

18 posted on 03/15/2010 11:50:09 AM PDT by Huck (Q: How can you tell a party is in the majority? A: They're complaining about the fillibuster.)
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To: Huck
They replaced it with a consolidated national gubmint.

That is simply untrue and I defy you to produce the evidence that the participants of the Philadelphia convention intended any such thing!

19 posted on 03/15/2010 11:59:44 AM PDT by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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To: Bigun; Huck
...I defy you to produce the evidence that the participants of the Philadelphia convention intended any such thing!

Actually, that was what Alexander Hamilton was pushing for in his 5 hour speech that opened the Convention. (Imagine five hours without a bathroom break!) Hamilton was pushing the idea as far as he could take it as a means of framing the issue, but no one really wanted to follow up on his suggestions. He had gone too far for most of the delegates.

20 posted on 03/15/2010 12:21:08 PM PDT by Publius (The prudent man sees the evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.)
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To: Publius
Jay was an experienced diplomat who saw the danger of remaining an association of thirteen petty states. The foreign policies of the European powers was one of containment of the little, suspicious, American nations.

Jay clearly explains that to remain a loose and weak association was to invite more war.

The first duty of government is protect its citizens, a task the Articles were incapable of.

21 posted on 03/15/2010 12:29:53 PM PDT by Jacquerie (It is only in the context of Natural Law that our Declaration & Constitution form a coherent whole)
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To: Publius
Actually, that was what Alexander Hamilton was pushing for in his 5 hour speech that opened the Convention. (Imagine five hours without a bathroom break!) Hamilton was pushing the idea as far as he could take it as a means of framing the issue, but no one really wanted to follow up on his suggestions. He had gone too far for most of the delegates.

That is true and even Hamilton admitted that the result was a federal confederacy! Didn't stop him from trying to undermine that result at every opportunity however.

22 posted on 03/15/2010 1:10:58 PM PDT by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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To: Publius

Marker


23 posted on 03/15/2010 4:49:57 PM PDT by JDoutrider (Send G. Soros home! Hell isn't half full!)
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To: Publius

Bump for later.


24 posted on 03/16/2010 4:38:06 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (Liberals are educated above their level of intelligence.. Thanks Sr. Angelica)
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