The Federalist #3

Jul 1, 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 #3, John Jay continues his argument in favor of a union of the states from a different angle than in Federalist #2.  Here, Jay begins by stating that an informed people, like Americans, rarely maintain an ill-informed opinion for long, yet we have maintained a belief in union and a national government.  Thus, Jay would like to examine the reasons for this opinion.  Of the things that a free people desire, protection of their safety seems to be the highest.  In the current issue, this would take the form of security against foreign invasion and domestic acts of violence.  All wars have causes.  Thus, would a unified America cause as many just causes for war as a dis-unified America?  If it does not, than it would be safer, and thus more desirable, to sustain a Union.

Treaty of Paris TerritoryJust causes of war have two sources:  treaty violation and direct violence.  America, currently has many treaties and borders with several powerful nations who could do her harm.  It is less likely that a national government would cause just cause of war against any of these nations than state governments.  The reason being first and foremost the character of the men who would be in charge of this.  When it comes to state governments, there is a limited pool of people to choose from.  However, the importance of the national government as well as the widened field of choices for positions in such government would mean that a better breed of men would be elected to national government.  A better breed of men would choose better courses of action.  Thus, peace would be better protected.

Under the National Government, the independence of the court system means violations of treatise are not subject to the whims of local opinion.  These whims of the local States would cause them to turn away from “good faith and justice”.  However, these whims would not be present in the other states.  Thus, in a national government,  the whim of a state is isolated to that state, and cannot effect the national decision on whether or not to uphold a treatise.  Jay offers an example where the national government desired a treatise be followed, but the individual states violated that treatise by citing the peace treaty with Great Britain.  The treatise commands that British Creditors be paid by American Debtors and the restoration and protection of Loyalist (Americans who sided with Britain) land.  Several states violated or failed to enforce these parts of the treatise.

Jay adds that even if the governing party of a state stave off the temptation to violate a treaty, the state government feels sympathy for violators and does not enforce the treaty.  However, the national government, removed from the local passions, would not want to violate, nor keep from enforcing a treaty.  Thus, all these reasons considered, it seems less likely that a Union would violate treaties with foreign powers than several States.

The borders of Early America

The borders of Early America

As to direct violence, Jay argues that one government is still more advantageous than several.  Such acts come more often from the States than the national government.  Here, Jay cites the wars with Indians where locals would encroach on and attack local Indian settlements, against the wishes of the national government.  Secondly, we have Spain to the South and Britain to the North as neighbors.  Bordering States would have impulse to invade, from irritation, advantage, or injury.  However, the national government, made up not only of border states, will be able to maintain a cool nature, and not assault their neighbor.

It will also be more advantageous in the case of settling wars.  First, a unified nation is not going to allow local passion to influence if a war continues or not.  Moreover, a unified nation is given more respect than a small state or a confederacy.  Here, he cites the French King demanding that the Doge (Elected Ruler) of Genoa and his top officials come to Paris and submit to the King’s terms in order to end a war.  Such a thing would never be asked of Britain or Spain.  Thus, it is more advantageous towards peace to maintain a unified nation than several states or confederacies.

In Federalist #3, Jay’s main point is that a large, unified nation can maintain a cool head in trying times while a State government is subject to their own whims.  Think about a group of people working on a project.  If everyone was in charge of making their own projects, each project would be stylized towards the individual person’s tastes, not towards the overall goal.  This is because everyone has a little bias in their opinions.  However, when the entire group works together, you are able to pool your minds so that when each person suggests something that would work against the project, everyone else can outvote that person.  In the end, you wind up with a better project.

Now, apply this to your every day life, both personally and nationally.  When you have a problem, don’t merely get the opinions of those who agree with you.  Go out and get a diversity of opinions, that way you can way the true pros and cons.  When it comes to the national government today, think about whether or not there is a diversity of opinion.  Are we diverse enough in our opinion that a leading party is not easily subject to the mere whims of the locals?  Or, is opinion so confined that an imagined slight can keep us from seeing the true course of action for maintaining peace?

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