The Federalist #2

Jun 24, 2014 by

While each article is a standalone article, this article is part of a series of articles examining the Federalist Papers.  To read the first article in this series, go to “The Federalist #1″.

In Federalist #2, John Jay argues about about whether or not the United States should remain unified or break off into several confederacies.  In this paper, Jay begins by stating that government is necessary for the protection of liberties.  With this agreed upon, Jay provides his argument for why it is that the states should remain unified.  Jay begins his argument by stating that America’s very natural landscape is conducive to a unified nation.  With the waterways, fertile land, and diversity of products, the very landscape seems to encourage a unified nation.  Jay continues by arguing that not only is the landscape unified, but the people are unified as well.  These people share common language, religion, ancestors, principles of government, manners and customs, and have shared an experience of unity in war against Great Britain.  It is as thought this country and this people are made for each other as a united nation.

John Jay

John Jay

Jay then continues his argument by referring to the birth of this nation, the Declaration of Independence.  Jay argues that, since our very birth as a nation, we sought a union of our people.  With the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we became separate from Great Britain.  At this time, instead of remaining independent states merely allying against Britain, we immediately drafted the Articles of Confederation, a document joining the people and States in union under a national government.  However, though we desired union, we were in a state of war.  A drafting of a government requires cool-heads and intense thought and deliberation.  A state of war leaves these requirements in short supply.  Thus, is it any wonder that the Articles of Confederation had flaws?

Now, Jay continues, having recognized these flaws, the Constitutional Convention was convened to try and remedy these problems.  The purpose of Union is to better preserve liberty.  The purpose of the Articles of Confederation was to preserve Union.  However, the document was not in any condition to preserve union beyond the war for independence.  Thus, in order to fulfill the greater purpose, the convention drafted a new document, which would better preserve Union, and thus better preserve Liberty.

Jay then protects the intent of the convention.  Jay notes that the convention was made up of men who have proven to be for the cause of liberty and not personal gain.  Jay also points out that the document is being advised, not forced or blindly submitted before the people.  Jay also notes that in the past, good advice was given about ceasing trade with Britain by the Continental Convention as the war with Britain was starting up.  This advice was attacked ferociously by the papers, yet a majority of Americans heeded this advice.  The advice proved to be sound.  Now, at the time, these men were not well known, nor proven to be men of Liberty.  We trusted these men though and they proved to be prudent.  Many of these men helped draft and approved this Constitution.  Are we to not trust these men now, after knowing them and having proved themselves to be prudent men of Liberty?

Finally, Jay leaves off by stating that the Constitution, he believes, is the only means for preserving Union, and thus Liberty.  Thus, the question is not:  Should we adopt the Constitution or not?  The question is:  Should we be unified or not?  If we do not choose the constitution, our union will fail.  If the union should fail, our liberty, our greatness, will inevitably be lost.

The Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation

Now, in Federalist #2, Jay is making one major point:  The Constitution means a better preservation of Union and a better preservation of Union means a better preservation of Liberty.  Take a second to think about this logic.  Jay basically is stating that there are three levels of importance to consider.  The main thing that we wish to preserve, our nation’s greatness, is Liberty.  In order to preserve it, Union is the best course of action.  A unified America is better equipped to fight foreign powers and will have less internal fighting.  Now, in order to preserve Union, a national government is necessary.  Originally, in the fires of war, we quickly created the Articles of Confederation to fulfill this purpose.  In it’s time, this worked.  However, now it has become poisonous to Union with all of it’s flaws.  Thus, in order to preserve the greater principles of Union and Liberty, we must replace this document with a new, better crafted one.  In that sense, we are not really revolting against the Articles of Confederation, but replacing them so that their purpose might be fulfilled in a way greater they were capable of.

Now, let us apply this to our own day.  Is the overall goal of our nation still the preservation of Liberty?  If so, then, like Jay, we need to analyze the government from a standpoint of what the best course for preserving Liberty is.  Is it still Union?  Is it not?  If so, is the Constitution still the best means for preserving Union?  Does the Constitution preserve Union at the cost of the preservation of Liberty?  Like the Articles of Confederation, if some part of our levels of importance fulfills its immediate goal, at the cost of the overarching principle, it must be replaced with a better part.  Thus, look at our government.  Is there any parts that no longer serve the overarching goal?  If so, are they the problem, or is it the level above them?  It was not the Congress under the articles of Confederation that made Union difficult, but the Articles of Confederation itself.  Is there a cog in the machine?  Do we still try to best preserve Liberty?

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