Federalist Papers No. 1 – 17



General Introduction
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the
subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on
a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject
speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences
nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare
of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many
respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently
remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this
country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important
question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of
establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether
they are forever destined to depend for their political
constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the
remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be
regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a
wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve
to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.
This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of
patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and
good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice
should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests,
unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the
public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than
seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations
affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local
institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects
foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little
favorable to the discovery of truth.
Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new
Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the
obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist
all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument,
and consequence of the offices they hold under the State
establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men,
who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of
their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of
elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial
confederacies than from its union under one government.
It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this
nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve
indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because
their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or
ambitious views. Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men
may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted
that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may
hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless
at least, if not respectable–the honest errors of minds led astray
by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so
powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the
judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the
wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first
magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would
furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much
persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a
further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the
reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the
truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists.
Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many
other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as
well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a
question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation,
nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which
has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in
politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making
proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be
cured by persecution.
And yet, however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we
have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as
in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of
angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the
conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that
they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions,
and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of
their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An
enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be
stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and
hostile to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy
of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the
fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere
pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense
of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that
jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble
enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow
and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally
forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security
of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed
judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a
dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal
for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of
zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will
teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to
the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men
who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number
have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people;
commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.
In the course of the preceding observations, I have had an eye,
my fellow-citizens, to putting you upon your guard against all
attempts, from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a
matter of the utmost moment to your welfare, by any impressions
other than those which may result from the evidence of truth. You
will, no doubt, at the same time, have collected from the general
scope of them, that they proceed from a source not unfriendly to the
new Constitution. Yes, my countrymen, I own to you that, after
having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion
it is your interest to adopt it. I am convinced that this is the
safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I
affect not reserves which I do not feel. I will not amuse you with
an appearance of deliberation when I have decided. I frankly
acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you
the reasons on which they are founded. The consciousness of good
intentions disdains ambiguity. I shall not, however, multiply
professions on this head. My motives must remain in the depository
of my own breast. My arguments will be open to all, and may be
judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which
will not disgrace the cause of truth.
I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following
interesting particulars:
In the progress of this discussion I shall endeavor to give a
satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made
their appearance, that may seem to have any claim to your attention.
It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer arguments to
prove the utility of the UNION, a point, no doubt, deeply engraved
on the hearts of the great body of the people in every State, and
one, which it may be imagined, has no adversaries. But the fact is,
that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those
who oppose the new Constitution, that the thirteen States are of too
great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity
resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the
whole.1 This doctrine will, in all probability, be gradually
propagated, till it has votaries enough to countenance an open
avowal of it. For nothing can be more evident, to those who are
able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative
of an adoption of the new Constitution or a dismemberment of the
Union. It will therefore be of use to begin by examining the
advantages of that Union, the certain evils, and the probable
dangers, to which every State will be exposed from its dissolution.
This shall accordingly constitute the subject of my next address.
1 The same idea, tracing the arguments to their consequences, is
held out in several of the late publications against the new



Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
WHEN the people of America reflect that they are now called upon
to decide a question, which, in its consequences, must prove one of
the most important that ever engaged their attention, the propriety
of their taking a very comprehensive, as well as a very serious,
view of it, will be evident.
Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of
government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however
it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural
rights in order to vest it with requisite powers. It is well worthy
of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the
interest of the people of America that they should, to all general
purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they
should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to
the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to
place in one national government.
It has until lately been a received and uncontradicted opinion
that the prosperity of the people of America depended on their
continuing firmly united, and the wishes, prayers, and efforts of
our best and wisest citizens have been constantly directed to that
object. But politicians now appear, who insist that this opinion is
erroneous, and that instead of looking for safety and happiness in
union, we ought to seek it in a division of the States into distinct
confederacies or sovereignties. However extraordinary this new
doctrine may appear, it nevertheless has its advocates; and certain
characters who were much opposed to it formerly, are at present of
the number. Whatever may be the arguments or inducements which have
wrought this change in the sentiments and declarations of these
gentlemen, it certainly would not be wise in the people at large to
adopt these new political tenets without being fully convinced that
they are founded in truth and sound policy.
It has often given me pleasure to observe that independent
America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but
that one connected, fertile, widespreading country was the portion
of our western sons of liberty. Providence has in a particular
manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and
watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and
accommodation of its inhabitants. A succession of navigable waters
forms a kind of chain round its borders, as if to bind it together;
while the most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient
distances, present them with highways for the easy communication of
friendly aids, and the mutual transportation and exchange of their
various commodities.
With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence
has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united
people–a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same
language, professing the same religion, attached to the same
principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs,
and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side
by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established
general liberty and independence.
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.
Similar sentiments have hitherto prevailed among all orders and
denominations of men among us. To all general purposes we have
uniformly been one people each individual citizen everywhere
enjoying the same national rights, privileges, and protection. 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.
A strong sense of the value and blessings of union induced the
people, at a very early period, to institute a federal government to
preserve and perpetuate it. They formed it almost as soon as they
had a political existence; nay, at a time when their habitations
were in flames, when many of their citizens were bleeding, and when
the progress of hostility and desolation left little room for those
calm and mature inquiries and reflections which must ever precede
the formation of a wise and wellbalanced government for a free
people. It is not to be wondered at, that a government instituted
in times so inauspicious, should on experiment be found greatly
deficient and inadequate to the purpose it was intended to answer.
This intelligent people perceived and regretted these defects.
Still continuing no less attached to union than enamored of
liberty, they observed the danger which immediately threatened the
former and more remotely the latter; and being pursuaded that ample
security for both could only be found in a national government more
wisely framed, they as with one voice, convened the late convention
at Philadelphia, to take that important subject under consideration.
This convention composed of men who possessed the confidence of
the people, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by
their patriotism, virtue and wisdom, in times which tried the minds
and hearts of men, undertook the arduous task. In the mild season
of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many
months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation; and finally,
without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions
except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the
people the plan produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.
Admit, for so is the fact, that this plan is only RECOMMENDED,
not imposed, yet let it be remembered that it is neither recommended
to BLIND approbation, nor to BLIND reprobation; but to that sedate
and candid consideration which the magnitude and importance of the
subject demand, and which it certainly ought to receive. But this
(as was remarked in the foregoing number of this paper) is more to
be wished than expected, that it may be so considered and examined.
Experience on a former occasion teaches us not to be too sanguine
in such hopes. It is not yet forgotten that well-grounded
apprehensions of imminent danger induced the people of America to
form the memorable Congress of 1774. That body recommended certain
measures to their constituents, and the event proved their wisdom;
yet it is fresh in our memories how soon the press began to teem
with pamphlets and weekly papers against those very measures. Not
only many of the officers of government, who obeyed the dictates of
personal interest, but others, from a mistaken estimate of
consequences, or the undue influence of former attachments, or whose
ambition aimed at objects which did not correspond with the public
good, were indefatigable in their efforts to pursuade the people to
reject the advice of that patriotic Congress. Many, indeed, were
deceived and deluded, but the great majority of the people reasoned
and decided judiciously; and happy they are in reflecting that they
did so.
They considered that the Congress was composed of many wise and
experienced men. That, being convened from different parts of the
country, they brought with them and communicated to each other a
variety of useful information. That, in the course of the time they
passed together in inquiring into and discussing the true interests
of their country, they must have acquired very accurate knowledge on
that head. That they were individually interested in the public
liberty and prosperity, and therefore that it was not less their
inclination than their duty to recommend only such measures as,
after the most mature deliberation, they really thought prudent and
These and similar considerations then induced the people to rely
greatly on the judgment and integrity of the Congress; and they
took their advice, notwithstanding the various arts and endeavors
used to deter them from it. But if the people at large had reason
to confide in the men of that Congress, few of whom had been fully
tried or generally known, still greater reason have they now to
respect the judgment and advice of the convention, for it is well
known that some of the most distinguished members of that Congress,
who have been since tried and justly approved for patriotism and
abilities, and who have grown old in acquiring political
information, were also members of this convention, and carried into
it their accumulated knowledge and experience.
It is worthy of remark that not only the first, but every
succeeding Congress, as well as the late convention, have invariably
joined with the people in thinking that the prosperity of America
depended on its Union. To preserve and perpetuate it was the great
object of the people in forming that convention, and it is also the
great object of the plan which the convention has advised them to
adopt. With what propriety, therefore, or for what good purposes,
are attempts at this particular period made by some men to
depreciate the importance of the Union? Or why is it suggested that
three or four confederacies would be better than one? I am
persuaded in my own mind that the people have always thought right
on this subject, and that their universal and uniform attachment to
the cause of the Union rests on great and weighty reasons, which I
shall endeavor to develop and explain in some ensuing papers. They
who promote the idea of substituting a number of distinct
confederacies in the room of the plan of the convention, seem
clearly to foresee that the rejection of it would put the
continuance of the Union in the utmost jeopardy. That certainly
would be the case, and I sincerely wish that it may be as clearly
foreseen by every good citizen, that whenever the dissolution of the
Union arrives, America will have reason to exclaim, in the words of



The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
IT IS not a new observation that the people of any country (if,
like the Americans, intelligent and wellinformed) seldom adopt and
steadily persevere for many years in an erroneous opinion respecting
their interests. That consideration naturally tends to create great
respect for the high opinion which the people of America have so
long and uniformly entertained of the importance of their continuing
firmly united under one federal government, vested with sufficient
powers for all general and national purposes.
The more attentively I consider and investigate the reasons
which appear to have given birth to this opinion, the more I become
convinced that they are cogent and conclusive.
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.
The number of wars which have happened or will happen in the
world will always be found to be in proportion to the number and
weight of the causes, whether REAL or PRETENDED, which PROVOKE or
INVITE them. If this remark be just, it becomes useful to inquire
whether so many JUST causes of war are likely to be given by UNITED
AMERICA as by DISUNITED America; for if it should turn out that
United America will probably give the fewest, then it will follow
that in this respect the Union tends most to preserve the people in
a state of peace with other nations.
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.
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; for,
although town or country, or other contracted influence, may place
men in State assemblies, or senates, or courts of justice, or
executive departments, yet more general and extensive reputation for
talents and other qualifications will be necessary to recommend men
to offices under the national government,–especially as it will have
the widest field for choice, and never experience that want of
proper persons which is not uncommon in some of the States. 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.
Because the prospect of present loss or advantage may often
tempt the governing party in one or two States to swerve from good
faith and justice; but those temptations, not reaching the other
States, and consequently having little or no influence on the
national government, the temptation will be fruitless, and good
faith and justice be preserved. The case of the treaty of peace
with Britain adds great weight to this reasoning.
Because, even if the governing party in a State should be
disposed to resist such temptations, yet as such temptations may,
and commonly do, result from circumstances peculiar to the State,
and may affect a great number of the inhabitants, the governing
party may not always be able, if willing, to prevent the injustice
meditated, or to punish the aggressors. But the national
government, not being affected by those local circumstances, will
neither be induced to commit the wrong themselves, nor want power or
inclination to prevent or punish its commission by others.
So far, therefore, as either designed or accidental violations
of treaties and the laws of nations afford JUST causes of war, they
are less to be apprehended under one general government than under
several lesser ones, and in that respect the former most favors the
SAFETY of the people.
As to those just causes of war which proceed from direct and
unlawful violence, it appears equally clear to me that one good
national government affords vastly more security against dangers of
that sort than can be derived from any other quarter.
Because such violences are more frequently caused by the
passions and interests of a part than of the whole; of one or two
States than of the Union. Not a single Indian war has yet been
occasioned by aggressions of the present federal government, feeble
as it is; but there are several instances of Indian hostilities
having been provoked by the improper conduct of individual States,
who, either unable or unwilling to restrain or punish offenses, have
given occasion to the slaughter of many innocent inhabitants.
The neighborhood of Spanish and British territories, bordering
on some States and not on others, naturally confines the causes of
quarrel more immediately to the borderers. The bordering States, if
any, will be those who, under the impulse of sudden irritation, and
a quick sense of apparent interest or injury, will be most likely,
by direct violence, to excite war with these nations; and nothing
can so effectually obviate that danger as a national government,
whose wisdom and prudence will not be diminished by the passions
which actuate the parties immediately interested.
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.
Besides, it is well known that acknowledgments, explanations,
and compensations are often accepted as satisfactory from a strong
united nation, which would be rejected as unsatisfactory if offered
by a State or confederacy of little consideration or power.
In the year 1685, the state of Genoa having offended Louis XIV.,
endeavored to appease him. He demanded that they should send their
Doge, or chief magistrate, accompanied by four of their
senators, to FRANCE, to ask his pardon and receive his terms. They
were obliged to submit to it for the sake of peace. Would he on any
occasion either have demanded or have received the like humiliation
from Spain, or Britain, or any other POWERFUL nation?



The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
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
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.
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.
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. 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
From these and such like considerations, which might, if
consistent with prudence, be more amplified and detailed, it is easy
to see that jealousies and uneasinesses 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
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
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.
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? 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?
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. 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. 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 be
under four independent governments, and it is easy to perceive how
soon they would each dwindle into comparative insignificance.
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.
But admit that they might be willing to help the invaded State
or confederacy. How, and when, and in what proportion shall aids of
men and money be afforded? Who shall command the allied armies, and
from which of them shall he receive his orders? Who shall settle
the terms of peace, and in case of disputes what umpire shall decide
between them and compel acquiescence? 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.
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. 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. 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! 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.



The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
QUEEN ANNE, in her letter of the 1st July, 1706, to the Scotch
Parliament, makes some observations on the importance of the UNION
then forming between England and Scotland, which merit our attention.
I shall present the public with one or two extracts from it: “An
entire and perfect union will be the solid foundation of lasting
peace: It will secure your religion, liberty, and property; remove
the animosities amongst yourselves, and the jealousies and
differences betwixt our two kingdoms. It must increase your
strength, riches, and trade; and by this union the whole island,
being joined in affection and free from all apprehensions of
different interest, will be ENABLED TO RESIST ALL ITS ENEMIES.”
“We most earnestly recommend to you calmness and unanimity in this
great and weighty affair, that the union may be brought to a happy
conclusion, being the only EFFECTUAL way to secure our present and
future happiness, and disappoint the designs of our and your
enemies, who will doubtless, on this occasion, USE THEIR UTMOST
It was remarked in the preceding paper, that weakness and
divisions at home would invite dangers from abroad; and that
nothing would tend more to secure us from them than union, strength,
and good government within ourselves. This subject is copious and
cannot easily be exhausted.
The history of Great Britain is the one with which we are in
general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful lessons.
We may profit by their experience without paying the price which it
cost them. Although it seems obvious to common sense that the
people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that
they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were
almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another.
Notwithstanding their true interest with respect to the continental
nations was really the same, yet by the arts and policy and
practices of those nations, their mutual jealousies were perpetually
kept inflamed, and for a long series of years they were far more
inconvenient and troublesome than they were useful and assisting to
each other.
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.
The most sanguine advocates for three or four confederacies
cannot reasonably suppose that they would long remain exactly on an
equal footing in point of strength, even if it was possible to form
them so at first; but, admitting that to be practicable, yet what
human contrivance can secure the continuance of such equality?
Independent of those local circumstances which tend to beget and
increase power in one part and to impede its progress in another, we
must advert to the effects of that superior policy and good
management which would probably distinguish the government of one
above the rest, and by which their relative equality in strength and
consideration would be destroyed. For it cannot be presumed that
the same degree of sound policy, prudence, and foresight would
uniformly be observed by each of these confederacies for a long
succession of years.
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.
The North is generally the region of strength, and many local
circumstances render it probable that the most Northern of the
proposed confederacies would, at a period not very distant, be
unquestionably more formidable than any of the others. No sooner
would this become evident than the NORTHERN HIVE would excite the
same ideas and sensations in the more southern parts of America
which it formerly did in the southern parts of Europe. Nor does it
appear to be a rash conjecture that its young swarms might often be
tempted to gather honey in the more blooming fields and milder air
of their luxurious and more delicate neighbors.
They who well consider the history of similar divisions and
confederacies will find abundant reason to apprehend that those in
contemplation would in no other sense be neighbors than as they
would be borderers; that they would neither love nor trust one
another, but on the contrary would be a prey to discord, jealousy,
and mutual injuries; in short, that they would place us exactly in
the situations in which some nations doubtless wish to see us, viz.,
From these considerations it appears that those gentlemen are
greatly mistaken who suppose that alliances offensive and defensive
might be formed between these confederacies, and would produce that
combination and union of wills of arms and of resources, which would
be necessary to put and keep them in a formidable state of defense
against foreign enemies.
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
Let candid men judge, then, whether the division of America into
any given number of independent sovereignties would tend to secure
us against the hostilities and improper interference of foreign



Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE three last numbers of this paper have been dedicated to an
enumeration of the dangers to which we should be exposed, in a state
of disunion, from the arms and arts of foreign nations. I shall now
proceed to delineate dangers of a different and, perhaps, still more
alarming kind–those which will in all probability flow from
dissensions between the States themselves, and from domestic
factions and convulsions. These have been already in some instances
slightly anticipated; but they deserve a more particular and more
full investigation.
A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations who can seriously
doubt that, if these States should either be wholly disunited, or
only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which
they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with
each other. To presume a want of motives for such contests as an
argument against their existence, would be to forget that men are
ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. To look for a continuation of
harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties
in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course
of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience
of ages.
The causes of hostility among nations are innumerable. There
are some which have a general and almost constant operation upon the
collective bodies of society. Of this description are the love of
power or the desire of pre-eminence and dominion–the jealousy of
power, or the desire of equality and safety. There are others which
have a more circumscribed though an equally operative influence
within their spheres. Such are the rivalships and competitions of
commerce between commercial nations. And there are others, not less
numerous than either of the former, which take their origin entirely
in private passions; in the attachments, enmities, interests,
hopes, and fears of leading individuals in the communities of which
they are members. Men of this class, whether the favorites of a
king or of a people, have in too many instances abused the
confidence they possessed; and assuming the pretext of some public
motive, have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquillity to
personal advantage or personal gratification.
The celebrated Pericles, in compliance with the resentment of a
prostitute,1 at the expense of much of the blood and treasure of
his countrymen, attacked, vanquished, and destroyed the city of the
SAMNIANS. The same man, stimulated by private pique against the
MEGARENSIANS,2 another nation of Greece, or to avoid a
prosecution with which he was threatened as an accomplice of a
supposed theft of the statuary Phidias,3 or to get rid of the
accusations prepared to be brought against him for dissipating the
funds of the state in the purchase of popularity,4 or from a
combination of all these causes, was the primitive author of that
famous and fatal war, distinguished in the Grecian annals by the
name of the PELOPONNESIAN war; which, after various vicissitudes,
intermissions, and renewals, terminated in the ruin of the Athenian
The ambitious cardinal, who was prime minister to Henry VIII.,
permitting his vanity to aspire to the triple crown,5
entertained hopes of succeeding in the acquisition of that splendid
prize by the influence of the Emperor Charles V. To secure the
favor and interest of this enterprising and powerful monarch, he
precipitated England into a war with France, contrary to the
plainest dictates of policy, and at the hazard of the safety and
independence, as well of the kingdom over which he presided by his
counsels, as of Europe in general. For if there ever was a
sovereign who bid fair to realize the project of universal monarchy,
it was the Emperor Charles V., of whose intrigues Wolsey was at once
the instrument and the dupe.
The influence which the bigotry of one female,6 the
petulance of another,7 and the cabals of a third,8 had in
the contemporary policy, ferments, and pacifications, of a
considerable part of Europe, are topics that have been too often
descanted upon not to be generally known.
To multiply examples of the agency of personal considerations in
the production of great national events, either foreign or domestic,
according to their direction, would be an unnecessary waste of time.
Those who have but a superficial acquaintance with the sources from
which they are to be drawn, will themselves recollect a variety of
instances; and those who have a tolerable knowledge of human nature
will not stand in need of such lights to form their opinion either
of the reality or extent of that agency. Perhaps, however, a
reference, tending to illustrate the general principle, may with
propriety be made to a case which has lately happened among
ourselves. If Shays had not been a DESPERATE DEBTOR, it is much to
be doubted whether Massachusetts would have been plunged into a
civil war.
But notwithstanding the concurring testimony of experience, in
this particular, there are still to be found visionary or designing
men, who stand ready to advocate the paradox of perpetual peace
between the States, though dismembered and alienated from each other.
The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of
commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men, and to
extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into
wars. Commercial republics, like ours, will never be disposed to
waste themselves in ruinous contentions with each other. They will
be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of
mutual amity and concord.
Is it not (we may ask these projectors in politics) the true
interest of all nations to cultivate the same benevolent and
philosophic spirit? If this be their true interest, have they in
fact pursued it? Has it not, on the contrary, invariably been found
that momentary passions, and immediate interest, have a more active
and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote
considerations of policy, utility or justice? Have republics in
practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? Are not the
former administered by MEN as well as the latter? Are there not
aversions, predilections, rivalships, and desires of unjust
acquisitions, that affect nations as well as kings? Are not popular
assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment,
jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities?
Is it not well known that their determinations are often governed
by a few individuals in whom they place confidence, and are, of
course, liable to be tinctured by the passions and views of those
individuals? Has commerce hitherto done anything more than change
the objects of war? Is not the love of wealth as domineering and
enterprising a passion as that of power or glory? Have there not
been as many wars founded upon commercial motives since that has
become the prevailing system of nations, as were before occasioned
by the cupidity of territory or dominion? Has not the spirit of
commerce, in many instances, administered new incentives to the
appetite, both for the one and for the other? Let experience, the
least fallible guide of human opinions, be appealed to for an answer
to these inquiries.
Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Carthage were all republics; two of
them, Athens and Carthage, of the commercial kind. Yet were they as
often engaged in wars, offensive and defensive, as the neighboring
monarchies of the same times. Sparta was little better than a
wellregulated camp; and Rome was never sated of carnage and
Carthage, though a commercial republic, was the aggressor in the
very war that ended in her destruction. Hannibal had carried her
arms into the heart of Italy and to the gates of Rome, before
Scipio, in turn, gave him an overthrow in the territories of
Carthage, and made a conquest of the commonwealth.
Venice, in later times, figured more than once in wars of
ambition, till, becoming an object to the other Italian states, Pope
Julius II. found means to accomplish that formidable league,9
which gave a deadly blow to the power and pride of this haughty
The provinces of Holland, till they were overwhelmed in debts
and taxes, took a leading and conspicuous part in the wars of Europe.
They had furious contests with England for the dominion of the
sea, and were among the most persevering and most implacable of the
opponents of Louis XIV.
In the government of Britain the representatives of the people
compose one branch of the national legislature. Commerce has been
for ages the predominant pursuit of that country. Few nations,
nevertheless, have been more frequently engaged in war; and the
wars in which that kingdom has been engaged have, in numerous
instances, proceeded from the people.
There have been, if I may so express it, almost as many popular
as royal wars. The cries of the nation and the importunities of
their representatives have, upon various occasions, dragged their
monarchs into war, or continued them in it, contrary to their
inclinations, and sometimes contrary to the real interests of the
State. In that memorable struggle for superiority between the rival
houses of AUSTRIA and BOURBON, which so long kept Europe in a flame,
it is well known that the antipathies of the English against the
French, seconding the ambition, or rather the avarice, of a favorite
leader,10 protracted the war beyond the limits marked out by
sound policy, and for a considerable time in opposition to the views
of the court.
The wars of these two last-mentioned nations have in a great
measure grown out of commercial considerations,–the desire of
supplanting and the fear of being supplanted, either in particular
branches of traffic or in the general advantages of trade and
From this summary of what has taken place in other countries,
whose situations have borne the nearest resemblance to our own, what
reason can we have to confide in those reveries which would seduce
us into an expectation of peace and cordiality between the members
of the present confederacy, in a state of separation? Have we not
already seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those idle
theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the
imperfections, weaknesses and evils incident to society in every
shape? Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden
age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our
political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the
globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and
perfect virtue?
Let the point of extreme depression to which our national
dignity and credit have sunk, let the inconveniences felt everywhere
from a lax and ill administration of government, let the revolt of a
part of the State of North Carolina, the late menacing disturbances
in Pennsylvania, and the actual insurrections and rebellions in
Massachusetts, declare–!
So far is the general sense of mankind from corresponding with
the tenets of those who endeavor to lull asleep our apprehensions of
discord and hostility between the States, in the event of disunion,
that it has from long observation of the progress of society become
a sort of axiom in politics, that vicinity or nearness of situation,
constitutes nations natural enemies. An intelligent writer
expresses himself on this subject to this effect: “NEIGHBORING
NATIONS (says he) are naturally enemies of each other unless their
common weakness forces them to league in a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC, and
their constitution prevents the differences that neighborhood
occasions, extinguishing that secret jealousy which disposes all
states to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their
neighbors.”11 This passage, at the same time, points out the
EVIL and suggests the REMEDY.
1 Aspasia, vide “Plutarch’s Life of Pericles.”
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 ] Ibid. Phidias was supposed to have stolen some public
gold, with the connivance of Pericles, for the embellishment of the
statue of Minerva.
5 P Worn by the popes.
6 Madame de Maintenon.
7 Duchess of Marlborough.
8 Madame de Pompadour.
9 The League of Cambray, comprehending the Emperor, the King of
France, the King of Aragon, and most of the Italian princes and
10 The Duke of Marlborough.
11 Vide “Principes des Negociations” par 1’Abbe de Mably.



The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States)
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
IT IS sometimes asked, with an air of seeming triumph, what
inducements could the States have, if disunited, to make war upon
each other? It would be a full answer to this question to
say–precisely the same inducements which have, at different times,
deluged in blood all the nations in the world. But, unfortunately
for us, the question admits of a more particular answer. There are
causes of differences within our immediate contemplation, of the
tendency of which, even under the restraints of a federal
constitution, we have had sufficient experience to enable us to form
a judgment of what might be expected if those restraints were
Territorial disputes have at all times been found one of the
most fertile sources of hostility among nations. Perhaps the
greatest proportion of wars that have desolated the earth have
sprung from this origin. This cause would exist among us in full
force. We have a vast tract of unsettled territory within the
boundaries of the United States. There still are discordant and
undecided claims between several of them, and the dissolution of the
Union would lay a foundation for similar claims between them all.
It is well known that they have heretofore had serious and animated
discussion concerning the rights to the lands which were ungranted
at the time of the Revolution, and which usually went under the name
of crown lands. The States within the limits of whose colonial
governments they were comprised have claimed them as their property,
the others have contended that the rights of the crown in this
article devolved upon the Union; especially as to all that part of
the Western territory which, either by actual possession, or through
the submission of the Indian proprietors, was subjected to the
jurisdiction of the king of Great Britain, till it was relinquished
in the treaty of peace. This, it has been said, was at all events
an acquisition to the Confederacy by compact with a foreign power.
It has been the prudent policy of Congress to appease this
controversy, by prevailing upon the States to make cessions to the
United States for the benefit of the whole. This has been so far
accomplished as, under a continuation of the Union, to afford a
decided prospect of an amicable termination of the dispute. A
dismemberment of the Confederacy, however, would revive this
dispute, and would create others on the same subject. At present, a
large part of the vacant Western territory is, by cession at least,
if not by any anterior right, the common property of the Union. If
that were at an end, the States which made the cession, on a
principle of federal compromise, would be apt when the motive of the
grant had ceased, to reclaim the lands as a reversion. The other
States would no doubt insist on a proportion, by right of
representation. Their argument would be, that a grant, once made,
could not be revoked; and that the justice of participating in
territory acquired or secured by the joint efforts of the
Confederacy, remained undiminished. If, contrary to probability, it
should be admitted by all the States, that each had a right to a
share of this common stock, there would still be a difficulty to be
surmounted, as to a proper rule of apportionment. Different
principles would be set up by different States for this purpose;
and as they would affect the opposite interests of the parties,
they might not easily be susceptible of a pacific adjustment.
In the wide field of Western territory, therefore, we perceive
an ample theatre for hostile pretensions, without any umpire or
common judge to interpose between the contending parties. To reason
from the past to the future, we shall have good ground to apprehend,
that the sword would sometimes be appealed to as the arbiter of
their differences. The circumstances of the dispute between
Connecticut and Pennsylvania, respecting the land at Wyoming,
admonish us not to be sanguine in expecting an easy accommodation of
such differences. The articles of confederation obliged the parties
to submit the matter to the decision of a federal court. The
submission was made, and the court decided in favor of Pennsylvania.
But Connecticut gave strong indications of dissatisfaction with
that determination; nor did she appear to be entirely resigned to
it, till, by negotiation and management, something like an
equivalent was found for the loss she supposed herself to have
sustained. Nothing here said is intended to convey the slightest
censure on the conduct of that State. She no doubt sincerely
believed herself to have been injured by the decision; and States,
like individuals, acquiesce with great reluctance in determinations
to their disadvantage.
Those who had an opportunity of seeing the inside of the
transactions which attended the progress of the controversy between
this State and the district of Vermont, can vouch the opposition we
experienced, as well from States not interested as from those which
were interested in the claim; and can attest the danger to which
the peace of the Confederacy might have been exposed, had this State
attempted to assert its rights by force. Two motives preponderated
in that opposition: one, a jealousy entertained of our future
power; and the other, the interest of certain individuals of
influence in the neighboring States, who had obtained grants of
lands under the actual government of that district. Even the States
which brought forward claims, in contradiction to ours, seemed more
solicitous to dismember this State, than to establish their own
pretensions. These were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and
Connecticut. New Jersey and Rhode Island, upon all occasions,
discovered a warm zeal for the independence of Vermont; and
Maryland, till alarmed by the appearance of a connection between
Canada and that State, entered deeply into the same views. These
being small States, saw with an unfriendly eye the perspective of
our growing greatness. In a review of these transactions we may
trace some of the causes which would be likely to embroil the States
with each other, if it should be their unpropitious destiny to
become disunited.
The competitions of commerce would be another fruitful source of
contention. The States less favorably circumstanced would be
desirous of escaping from the disadvantages of local situation, and
of sharing in the advantages of their more fortunate neighbors.
Each State, or separate confederacy, would pursue a system of
commercial policy peculiar to itself. This would occasion
distinctions, preferences, and exclusions, which would beget
discontent. The habits of intercourse, on the basis of equal
privileges, to which we have been accustomed since the earliest
settlement of the country, would give a keener edge to those causes
of discontent than they would naturally have independent of this
enterprise, which characterizes the commercial part of America, has
left no occasion of displaying itself unimproved. It is not at all
probable that this unbridled spirit would pay much respect to those
regulations of trade by which particular States might endeavor to
secure exclusive benefits to their own citizens. The infractions of
these regulations, on one side, the efforts to prevent and repel
them, on the other, would naturally lead to outrages, and these to
reprisals and wars.
The opportunities which some States would have of rendering
others tributary to them by commercial regulations would be
impatiently submitted to by the tributary States. The relative
situation of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey would afford an
example of this kind. New York, from the necessities of revenue,
must lay duties on her importations. A great part of these duties
must be paid by the inhabitants of the two other States in the
capacity of consumers of what we import. New York would neither be
willing nor able to forego this advantage. Her citizens would not
consent that a duty paid by them should be remitted in favor of the
citizens of her neighbors; nor would it be practicable, if there
were not this impediment in the way, to distinguish the customers in
our own markets. Would Connecticut and New Jersey long submit to be
taxed by New York for her exclusive benefit? Should we be long
permitted to remain in the quiet and undisturbed enjoyment of a
metropolis, from the possession of which we derived an advantage so
odious to our neighbors, and, in their opinion, so oppressive?
Should we be able to preserve it against the incumbent weight of
Connecticut on the one side, and the co-operating pressure of New
Jersey on the other? These are questions that temerity alone will
answer in the affirmative.
The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of
collision between the separate States or confederacies. The
apportionment, in the first instance, and the progressive
extinguishment afterward, would be alike productive of ill-humor and
animosity. How would it be possible to agree upon a rule of
apportionment satisfactory to all? There is scarcely any that can
be proposed which is entirely free from real objections. These, as
usual, would be exaggerated by the adverse interest of the parties.
There are even dissimilar views among the States as to the general
principle of discharging the public debt. Some of them, either less
impressed with the importance of national credit, or because their
citizens have little, if any, immediate interest in the question,
feel an indifference, if not a repugnance, to the payment of the
domestic debt at any rate. These would be inclined to magnify the
difficulties of a distribution. Others of them, a numerous body of
whose citizens are creditors to the public beyond proportion of the
State in the total amount of the national debt, would be strenuous
for some equitable and effective provision. The procrastinations of
the former would excite the resentments of the latter. The
settlement of a rule would, in the meantime, be postponed by real
differences of opinion and affected delays. The citizens of the
States interested would clamour; foreign powers would urge for the
satisfaction of their just demands, and the peace of the States
would be hazarded to the double contingency of external invasion and
internal contention.
Suppose the difficulties of agreeing upon a rule surmounted, and
the apportionment made. Still there is great room to suppose that
the rule agreed upon would, upon experiment, be found to bear harder
upon some States than upon others. Those which were sufferers by it
would naturally seek for a mitigation of the burden. The others
would as naturally be disinclined to a revision, which was likely to
end in an increase of their own incumbrances. Their refusal would
be too plausible a pretext to the complaining States to withhold
their contributions, not to be embraced with avidity; and the
non-compliance of these States with their engagements would be a
ground of bitter discussion and altercation. If even the rule
adopted should in practice justify the equality of its principle,
still delinquencies in payments on the part of some of the States
would result from a diversity of other causes–the real deficiency of
resources; the mismanagement of their finances; accidental
disorders in the management of the government; and, in addition to
the rest, the reluctance with which men commonly part with money for
purposes that have outlived the exigencies which produced them, and
interfere with the supply of immediate wants. Delinquencies, from
whatever causes, would be productive of complaints, recriminations,
and quarrels. There is, perhaps, nothing more likely to disturb the
tranquillity of nations than their being bound to mutual
contributions for any common object that does not yield an equal and
coincident benefit. For it is an observation, as true as it is
trite, that there is nothing men differ so readily about as the
payment of money.
Laws in violation of private contracts, as they amount to
aggressions on the rights of those States whose citizens are injured
by them, may be considered as another probable source of hostility.
We are not authorized to expect that a more liberal or more
equitable spirit would preside over the legislations of the
individual States hereafter, if unrestrained by any additional
checks, than we have heretofore seen in too many instances
disgracing their several codes. We have observed the disposition to
retaliation excited in Connecticut in consequence of the enormities
perpetrated by the Legislature of Rhode Island; and we reasonably
infer that, in similar cases, under other circumstances, a war, not
of PARCHMENT, but of the sword, would chastise such atrocious
breaches of moral obligation and social justice.
The probability of incompatible alliances between the different
States or confederacies and different foreign nations, and the
effects of this situation upon the peace of the whole, have been
sufficiently unfolded in some preceding papers. From the view they
have exhibited of this part of the subject, this conclusion is to be
drawn, that America, if not connected at all, or only by the feeble
tie of a simple league, offensive and defensive, would, by the
operation of such jarring alliances, be gradually entangled in all
the pernicious labyrinths of European politics and wars; and by the
destructive contentions of the parts into which she was divided,
would be likely to become a prey to the artifices and machinations
of powers equally the enemies of them all. Divide et
impera1 must be the motto of every nation that either hates or
fears us.2 PUBLIUS.
1 Divide and command.
2 In order that the whole subject of these papers may as soon as
possible be laid before the public, it is proposed to publish them
four times a week–on Tuesday in the New York Packet and on
Thursday in the Daily Advertiser.



The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, November 20, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
ASSUMING it therefore as an established truth that the several
States, in case of disunion, or such combinations of them as might
happen to be formed out of the wreck of the general Confederacy,
would be subject to those vicissitudes of peace and war, of
friendship and enmity, with each other, which have fallen to the lot
of all neighboring nations not united under one government, let us
enter into a concise detail of some of the consequences that would
attend such a situation.
War between the States, in the first period of their separate
existence, would be accompanied with much greater distresses than it
commonly is in those countries where regular military establishments
have long obtained. The disciplined armies always kept on foot on
the continent of Europe, though they bear a malignant aspect to
liberty and economy, have, notwithstanding, been productive of the
signal advantage of rendering sudden conquests impracticable, and of
preventing that rapid desolation which used to mark the progress of
war prior to their introduction. The art of fortification has
contributed to the same ends. The nations of Europe are encircled
with chains of fortified places, which mutually obstruct invasion.
Campaigns are wasted in reducing two or three frontier garrisons,
to gain admittance into an enemy’s country. Similar impediments
occur at every step, to exhaust the strength and delay the progress
of an invader. Formerly, an invading army would penetrate into the
heart of a neighboring country almost as soon as intelligence of its
approach could be received; but now a comparatively small force of
disciplined troops, acting on the defensive, with the aid of posts,
is able to impede, and finally to frustrate, the enterprises of one
much more considerable. The history of war, in that quarter of the
globe, is no longer a history of nations subdued and empires
overturned, but of towns taken and retaken; of battles that decide
nothing; of retreats more beneficial than victories; of much
effort and little acquisition.
In this country the scene would be altogether reversed. The
jealousy of military establishments would postpone them as long as
possible. The want of fortifications, leaving the frontiers of one
state open to another, would facilitate inroads. The populous
States would, with little difficulty, overrun their less populous
neighbors. Conquests would be as easy to be made as difficult to be
retained. War, therefore, would be desultory and predatory.
PLUNDER and devastation ever march in the train of irregulars. The
calamities of individuals would make the principal figure in the
events which would characterize our military exploits.
This picture is not too highly wrought; though, I confess, it
would not long remain a just one. Safety from external danger is
the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent
love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The
violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the
continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger,
will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for
repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy
their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length
become willing to run the risk of being less free.
The institutions chiefly alluded to are STANDING ARMIES and the
correspondent appendages of military establishments. Standing
armies, it is said, are not provided against in the new
Constitution; and it is therefore inferred that they may exist
under it.1 Their existence, however, from the very terms of the
proposition, is, at most, problematical and uncertain. But standing
armies, it may be replied, must inevitably result from a dissolution
of the Confederacy. Frequent war and constant apprehension, which
require a state of as constant preparation, will infallibly produce
them. The weaker States or confederacies would first have recourse
to them, to put themselves upon an equality with their more potent
neighbors. They would endeavor to supply the inferiority of
population and resources by a more regular and effective system of
defense, by disciplined troops, and by fortifications. They would,
at the same time, be necessitated to strengthen the executive arm of
government, in doing which their constitutions would acquire a
progressive direction toward monarchy. It is of the nature of war
to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative
The expedients which have been mentioned would soon give the
States or confederacies that made use of them a superiority over
their neighbors. Small states, or states of less natural strength,
under vigorous governments, and with the assistance of disciplined
armies, have often triumphed over large states, or states of greater
natural strength, which have been destitute of these advantages.
Neither the pride nor the safety of the more important States or
confederacies would permit them long to submit to this mortifying
and adventitious superiority. They would quickly resort to means
similar to those by which it had been effected, to reinstate
themselves in their lost pre-eminence. Thus, we should, in a little
time, see established in every part of this country the same engines
of despotism which have been the scourge of the Old World. This, at
least, would be the natural course of things; and our reasonings
will be the more likely to be just, in proportion as they are
accommodated to this standard.
These are not vague inferences drawn from supposed or
speculative defects in a Constitution, the whole power of which is
lodged in the hands of a people, or their representatives and
delegates, but they are solid conclusions, drawn from the natural
and necessary progress of human affairs.
It may, perhaps, be asked, by way of objection to this, why did
not standing armies spring up out of the contentions which so often
distracted the ancient republics of Greece? Different answers,
equally satisfactory, may be given to this question. The
industrious habits of the people of the present day, absorbed in the
pursuits of gain, and devoted to the improvements of agriculture and
commerce, are incompatible with the condition of a nation of
soldiers, which was the true condition of the people of those
republics. The means of revenue, which have been so greatly
multiplied by the increase of gold and silver and of the arts of
industry, and the science of finance, which is the offspring of
modern times, concurring with the habits of nations, have produced
an entire revolution in the system of war, and have rendered
disciplined armies, distinct from the body of the citizens, the
inseparable companions of frequent hostility.
There is a wide difference, also, between military
establishments in a country seldom exposed by its situation to
internal invasions, and in one which is often subject to them, and
always apprehensive of them. The rulers of the former can have a
good pretext, if they are even so inclined, to keep on foot armies
so numerous as must of necessity be maintained in the latter. These
armies being, in the first case, rarely, if at all, called into
activity for interior defense, the people are in no danger of being
broken to military subordination. The laws are not accustomed to
relaxations, in favor of military exigencies; the civil state
remains in full vigor, neither corrupted, nor confounded with the
principles or propensities of the other state. The smallness of the
army renders the natural strength of the community an over-match for
it; and the citizens, not habituated to look up to the military
power for protection, or to submit to its oppressions, neither love
nor fear the soldiery; they view them with a spirit of jealous
acquiescence in a necessary evil, and stand ready to resist a power
which they suppose may be exerted to the prejudice of their rights.
The army under such circumstances may usefully aid the magistrate
to suppress a small faction, or an occasional mob, or insurrection;
but it will be unable to enforce encroachments against the united
efforts of the great body of the people.
In a country in the predicament last described, the contrary of
all this happens. The perpetual menacings of danger oblige the
government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be
numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for
their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and
proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military
state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of
territories, often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to
frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their
sense of those rights; and by degrees the people are brought to
consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their
superiors. The transition from this disposition to that of
considering them masters, is neither remote nor difficult; but it
is very difficult to prevail upon a people under such impressions,
to make a bold or effectual resistance to usurpations supported by
the military power.
The kingdom of Great Britain falls within the first description.
An insular situation, and a powerful marine, guarding it in a great
measure against the possibility of foreign invasion, supersede the
necessity of a numerous army within the kingdom. A sufficient force
to make head against a sudden descent, till the militia could have
time to rally and embody, is all that has been deemed requisite. No
motive of national policy has demanded, nor would public opinion
have tolerated, a larger number of troops upon its domestic
establishment. There has been, for a long time past, little room
for the operation of the other causes, which have been enumerated as
the consequences of internal war. This peculiar felicity of
situation has, in a great degree, contributed to preserve the
liberty which that country to this day enjoys, in spite of the
prevalent venality and corruption. If, on the contrary, Britain had
been situated on the continent, and had been compelled, as she would
have been, by that situation, to make her military establishments at
home coextensive with those of the other great powers of Europe,
she, like them, would in all probability be, at this day, a victim
to the absolute power of a single man. ‘T is possible, though not
easy, that the people of that island may be enslaved from other
causes; but it cannot be by the prowess of an army so
inconsiderable as that which has been usually kept up within the
If we are wise enough to preserve the Union we may for ages
enjoy an advantage similar to that of an insulated situation.
Europe is at a great distance from us. Her colonies in our
vicinity will be likely to continue too much disproportioned in
strength to be able to give us any dangerous annoyance. Extensive
military establishments cannot, in this position, be necessary to
our security. But if we should be disunited, and the integral parts
should either remain separated, or, which is most probable, should
be thrown together into two or three confederacies, we should be, in
a short course of time, in the predicament of the continental powers
of Europe –our liberties would be a prey to the means of defending
ourselves against the ambition and jealousy of each other.
This is an idea not superficial or futile, but solid and weighty.
It deserves the most serious and mature consideration of every
prudent and honest man of whatever party. If such men will make a
firm and solemn pause, and meditate dispassionately on the
importance of this interesting idea; if they will contemplate it in
all its attitudes, and trace it to all its consequences, they will
not hesitate to part with trivial objections to a Constitution, the
rejection of which would in all probability put a final period to
the Union. The airy phantoms that flit before the distempered
imaginations of some of its adversaries would quickly give place to
the more substantial forms of dangers, real, certain, and formidable.
1 This objection will be fully examined in its proper place, and
it will be shown that the only natural precaution which could have
been taken on this subject has been taken; and a much better one
than is to be found in any constitution that has been heretofore
framed in America, most of which contain no guard at all on this



The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
A FIRM Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and
liberty of the States, as a barrier against domestic faction and
insurrection. It is impossible to read the history of the petty
republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror
and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually
agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they
were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of
tyranny and anarchy. If they exhibit occasional calms, these only
serve as short-lived contrast to the furious storms that are to
succeed. If now and then intervals of felicity open to view, we
behold them with a mixture of regret, arising from the reflection
that the pleasing scenes before us are soon to be overwhelmed by the
tempestuous waves of sedition and party rage. If momentary rays of
glory break forth from the gloom, while they dazzle us with a
transient and fleeting brilliancy, they at the same time admonish us
to lament that the vices of government should pervert the direction
and tarnish the lustre of those bright talents and exalted
endowments for which the favored soils that produced them have been
so justly celebrated.
From the disorders that disfigure the annals of those republics
the advocates of despotism have drawn arguments, not only against
the forms of republican government, but against the very principles
of civil liberty. They have decried all free government as
inconsistent with the order of society, and have indulged themselves
in malicious exultation over its friends and partisans. Happily for
mankind, stupendous fabrics reared on the basis of liberty, which
have flourished for ages, have, in a few glorious instances, refuted
their gloomy sophisms. And, I trust, America will be the broad and
solid foundation of other edifices, not less magnificent, which will
be equally permanent monuments of their errors.
But it is not to be denied that the portraits they have sketched
of republican government were too just copies of the originals from
which they were taken. If it had been found impracticable to have
devised models of a more perfect structure, the enlightened friends
to liberty would have been obliged to abandon the cause of that
species of government as indefensible. The science of politics,
however, like most other sciences, has received great improvement.
The efficacy of various principles is now well understood, which
were either not known at all, or imperfectly known to the ancients.
The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the
introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of
courts composed of judges holding their offices during good
behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by
deputies of their own election: these are wholly new discoveries,
or have made their principal progress towards perfection in modern
times. They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences
of republican government may be retained and its imperfections
lessened or avoided. To this catalogue of circumstances that tend
to the amelioration of popular systems of civil government, I shall
venture, however novel it may appear to some, to add one more, on a
principle which has been made the foundation of an objection to the
new Constitution; I mean the ENLARGEMENT of the ORBIT within which
such systems are to revolve, either in respect to the dimensions of
a single State or to the consolidation of several smaller States
into one great Confederacy. The latter is that which immediately
concerns the object under consideration. It will, however, be of
use to examine the principle in its application to a single State,
which shall be attended to in another place.
The utility of a Confederacy, as well to suppress faction and to
guard the internal tranquillity of States, as to increase their
external force and security, is in reality not a new idea. It has
been practiced upon in different countries and ages, and has
received the sanction of the most approved writers on the subject of
politics. The opponents of the plan proposed have, with great
assiduity, cited and circulated the observations of Montesquieu on
the necessity of a contracted territory for a republican government.
But they seem not to have been apprised of the sentiments of that
great man expressed in another part of his work, nor to have
adverted to the consequences of the principle to which they
subscribe with such ready acquiescence.
When Montesquieu recommends a small extent for republics, the
standards he had in view were of dimensions far short of the limits
of almost every one of these States. Neither Virginia,
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, nor Georgia
can by any means be compared with the models from which he reasoned
and to which the terms of his description apply. If we therefore
take his ideas on this point as the criterion of truth, we shall be
driven to the alternative either of taking refuge at once in the
arms of monarchy, or of splitting ourselves into an infinity of
little, jealous, clashing, tumultuous commonwealths, the wretched
nurseries of unceasing discord, and the miserable objects of
universal pity or contempt. Some of the writers who have come
forward on the other side of the question seem to have been aware of
the dilemma; and have even been bold enough to hint at the division
of the larger States as a desirable thing. Such an infatuated
policy, such a desperate expedient, might, by the multiplication of
petty offices, answer the views of men who possess not
qualifications to extend their influence beyond the narrow circles
of personal intrigue, but it could never promote the greatness or
happiness of the people of America.
Referring the examination of the principle itself to another
place, as has been already mentioned, it will be sufficient to
remark here that, in the sense of the author who has been most
emphatically quoted upon the occasion, it would only dictate a
reduction of the SIZE of the more considerable MEMBERS of the Union,
but would not militate against their being all comprehended in one
confederate government. And this is the true question, in the
discussion of which we are at present interested.
So far are the suggestions of Montesquieu from standing in
opposition to a general Union of the States, that he explicitly
treats of a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC as the expedient for extending the
sphere of popular government, and reconciling the advantages of
monarchy with those of republicanism.
“It is very probable,” (says he1) “that mankind would
have been obliged at length to live constantly under the government
of a single person, had they not contrived a kind of constitution
that has all the internal advantages of a republican, together with
the external force of a monarchical government. I mean a
“This form of government is a convention by which several
smaller STATES agree to become members of a larger ONE, which they
intend to form. It is a kind of assemblage of societies that
constitute a new one, capable of increasing, by means of new
associations, till they arrive to such a degree of power as to be
able to provide for the security of the united body.
“A republic of this kind, able to withstand an external force,
may support itself without any internal corruptions. The form of
this society prevents all manner of inconveniences.
“If a single member should attempt to usurp the supreme
authority, he could not be supposed to have an equal authority and
credit in all the confederate states. Were he to have too great
influence over one, this would alarm the rest. Were he to subdue a
part, that which would still remain free might oppose him with
forces independent of those which he had usurped and overpower him
before he could be settled in his usurpation.
“Should a popular insurrection happen in one of the confederate
states the others are able to quell it. Should abuses creep into
one part, they are reformed by those that remain sound. The state
may be destroyed on one side, and not on the other; the confederacy
may be dissolved, and the confederates preserve their sovereignty.
“As this government is composed of small republics, it enjoys
the internal happiness of each; and with respect to its external
situation, it is possessed, by means of the association, of all the
advantages of large monarchies.”
I have thought it proper to quote at length these interesting
passages, because they contain a luminous abridgment of the
principal arguments in favor of the Union, and must effectually
remove the false impressions which a misapplication of other parts
of the work was calculated to make. They have, at the same time, an
intimate connection with the more immediate design of this paper;
which is, to illustrate the tendency of the Union to repress
domestic faction and insurrection.
A distinction, more subtle than accurate, has been raised
between a CONFEDERACY and a CONSOLIDATION of the States. The
essential characteristic of the first is said to be, the restriction
of its authority to the members in their collective capacities,
without reaching to the individuals of whom they are composed. It
is contended that the national council ought to have no concern with
any object of internal administration. An exact equality of
suffrage between the members has also been insisted upon as a
leading feature of a confederate government. These positions are,
in the main, arbitrary; they are supported neither by principle nor
precedent. It has indeed happened, that governments of this kind
have generally operated in the manner which the distinction taken
notice of, supposes to be inherent in their nature; but there have
been in most of them extensive exceptions to the practice, which
serve to prove, as far as example will go, that there is no absolute
rule on the subject. And it will be clearly shown in the course of
this investigation that as far as the principle contended for has
prevailed, it has been the cause of incurable disorder and
imbecility in the government.
The definition of a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC seems simply to be “an
assemblage of societies,” or an association of two or more states
into one state. The extent, modifications, and objects of the
federal authority are mere matters of discretion. So long as the
separate organization of the members be not abolished; so long as
it exists, by a constitutional necessity, for local purposes;
though it should be in perfect subordination to the general
authority of the union, it would still be, in fact and in theory, an
association of states, or a confederacy. The proposed Constitution,
so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes
them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them
a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their
possession certain exclusive and very important portions of
sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import
of the terms, with the idea of a federal government.
In the Lycian confederacy, which consisted of twenty-three
CITIES or republics, the largest were entitled to THREE votes in the
COMMON COUNCIL, those of the middle class to TWO, and the smallest
to ONE. The COMMON COUNCIL had the appointment of all the judges
and magistrates of the respective CITIES. This was certainly the
most, delicate species of interference in their internal
administration; for if there be any thing that seems exclusively
appropriated to the local jurisdictions, it is the appointment of
their own officers. Yet Montesquieu, speaking of this association,
says: “Were I to give a model of an excellent Confederate
Republic, it would be that of Lycia.” Thus we perceive that the
distinctions insisted upon were not within the contemplation of this
enlightened civilian; and we shall be led to conclude, that they
are the novel refinements of an erroneous theory.
1 “Spirit of Lawa,” vol. i., book ix., chap. i.



The Same Subject Continued
(The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and
From the New York Packet.
Friday, November 23, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a wellconstructed
Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its
tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend
of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their
character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this
dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on
any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is
attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability,
injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have,
in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments
have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and
fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their
most specious declamations. The valuable improvements made by the
American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and
modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an
unwarrantable partiality, to contend that they have as effectually
obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected.
Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and
virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith,
and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too
unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of
rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not
according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party,
but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.
However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no
foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny
that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a
candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under
which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our
governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other
causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes;
and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of
public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed
from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly,
if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which
a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether
amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united
and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest,
adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and
aggregate interests of the community.
There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the
one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.
There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction:
the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its
existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions,
the same passions, and the same interests.
It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that
it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to
fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could
not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to
political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to
wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life,
because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.
The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be
unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is
at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As
long as the connection subsists between his reason and his
self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal
influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which
the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties
of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an
insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection
of these faculties is the first object of government. From the
protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property,
the possession of different degrees and kinds of property
immediately results; and from the influence of these on the
sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a
division of the society into different interests and parties.
The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man;
and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of
activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society.
A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning
government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of
practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending
for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions
whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in
turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual
animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress
each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is
this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that
where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous
and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their
unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But
the most common and durable source of factions has been the various
and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who
are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.
Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a
like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a
mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests,
grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into
different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The
regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the
principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of
party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the
No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his
interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably,
corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body
of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time;
yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so
many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of
single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of
citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but
advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law
proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the
creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other.
Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties
are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous
party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be
expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and
in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are
questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the
manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to
justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the
various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require
the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative
act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a
predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every
shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a
shilling saved to their own pockets.
It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to
adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to
the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the
helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all
without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which
will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may
find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.
The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of
faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in
the means of controlling its EFFECTS.
If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is
supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to
defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the
administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable
to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.
When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular
government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling
passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other
citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the
danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the
spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object
to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the
great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued
from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be
recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.
By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of
two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a
majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having
such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their
number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect
schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be
suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious
motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found
to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose
their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that
is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.
From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure
democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of
citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can
admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or
interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the
whole; a communication and concert result from the form of
government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to
sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is
that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and
contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal
security or the rights of property; and have in general been as
short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of
government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a
perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same
time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions,
their opinions, and their passions.
A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of
representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises
the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in
which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both
the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from
the Union.
The two great points of difference between a democracy and a
republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the
latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest;
secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of
country, over which the latter may be extended.
The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to
refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the
medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern
the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of
justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial
considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that
the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people,
will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the
people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the
effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local
prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption,
or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the
interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small
or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper
guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of
the latter by two obvious considerations:
In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the
republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain
number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that,
however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number,
in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the
number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion
to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in
the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit
characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the
former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater
probability of a fit choice.
In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a
greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic,
it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with
success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried;
and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more
likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and
the most diffusive and established characters.
It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there
is a mean, on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to
lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the
representatives too little acquainted with all their local
circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you
render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to
comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal
Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great
and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local
and particular to the State legislatures.
The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens
and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of
republican than of democratic government; and it is this
circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to
be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the
society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and
interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and
interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same
party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a
majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed,
the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of
oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of
parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of
the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other
citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more
difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to
act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be
remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or
dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust
in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.
Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a
republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of
faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,–is enjoyed by
the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist
in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and
virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and
schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation
of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite
endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a
greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being
able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the
increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase
this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles
opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an
unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the
Union gives it the most palpable advantage.
The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within
their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general
conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may
degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy;
but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must
secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A
rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal
division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project,
will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a
particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is
more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire
In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we
behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to
republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and
pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in
cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.



The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE importance of the Union, in a commercial light, is one of
those points about which there is least room to entertain a
difference of opinion, and which has, in fact, commanded the most
general assent of men who have any acquaintance with the subject.
This applies as well to our intercourse with foreign countries as
with each other.
There are appearances to authorize a supposition that the
adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of
America, has already excited uneasy sensations in several of the
maritime powers of Europe. They seem to be apprehensive of our too
great interference in that carrying trade, which is the support of
their navigation and the foundation of their naval strength. Those
of them which have colonies in America look forward to what this
country is capable of becoming, with painful solicitude. They
foresee the dangers that may threaten their American dominions from
the neighborhood of States, which have all the dispositions, and
would possess all the means, requisite to the creation of a powerful
marine. Impressions of this kind will naturally indicate the policy
of fostering divisions among us, and of depriving us, as far as
possible, of an ACTIVE COMMERCE in our own bottoms. This would
answer the threefold purpose of preventing our interference in their
navigation, of monopolizing the profits of our trade, and of
clipping the wings by which we might soar to a dangerous greatness.
Did not prudence forbid the detail, it would not be difficult to
trace, by facts, the workings of this policy to the cabinets of
If we continue united, we may counteract a policy so unfriendly
to our prosperity in a variety of ways. By prohibitory regulations,
extending, at the same time, throughout the States, we may oblige
foreign countries to bid against each other, for the privileges of
our markets. This assertion will not appear chimerical to those who
are able to appreciate the importance of the markets of three
millions of people–increasing in rapid progression, for the most
part exclusively addicted to agriculture, and likely from local
circumstances to remain so–to any manufacturing nation; and the
immense difference there would be to the trade and navigation of
such a nation, between a direct communication in its own ships, and
an indirect conveyance of its products and returns, to and from
America, in the ships of another country. Suppose, for instance, we
had a government in America, capable of excluding Great Britain
(with whom we have at present no treaty of commerce) from all our
ports; what would be the probable operation of this step upon her
politics? Would it not enable us to negotiate, with the fairest
prospect of success, for commercial privileges of the most valuable
and extensive kind, in the dominions of that kingdom? When these
questions have been asked, upon other occasions, they have received
a plausible, but not a solid or satisfactory answer. It has been
said that prohibitions on our part would produce no change in the
system of Britain, because she could prosecute her trade with us
through the medium of the Dutch, who would be her immediate
customers and paymasters for those articles which were wanted for
the supply of our markets. But would not her navigation be
materially injured by the loss of the important advantage of being
her own carrier in that trade? Would not the principal part of its
profits be intercepted by the Dutch, as a compensation for their
agency and risk? Would not the mere circumstance of freight
occasion a considerable deduction? Would not so circuitous an
intercourse facilitate the competitions of other nations, by
enhancing the price of British commodities in our markets, and by
transferring to other hands the management of this interesting
branch of the British commerce?
A mature consideration of the objects suggested by these
questions will justify a belief that the real disadvantages to
Britain from such a state of things, conspiring with the
pre-possessions of a great part of the nation in favor of the
American trade, and with the importunities of the West India
islands, would produce a relaxation in her present system, and would
let us into the enjoyment of privileges in the markets of those
islands elsewhere, from which our trade would derive the most
substantial benefits. Such a point gained from the British
government, and which could not be expected without an equivalent in
exemptions and immunities in our markets, would be likely to have a
correspondent effect on the conduct of other nations, who would not
be inclined to see themselves altogether supplanted in our trade.
A further resource for influencing the conduct of European
nations toward us, in this respect, would arise from the
establishment of a federal navy. There can be no doubt that the
continuance of the Union under an efficient government would put it
in our power, at a period not very distant, to create a navy which,
if it could not vie with those of the great maritime powers, would
at least be of respectable weight if thrown into the scale of either
of two contending parties. This would be more peculiarly the case
in relation to operations in the West Indies. A few ships of the
line, sent opportunely to the reinforcement of either side, would
often be sufficient to decide the fate of a campaign, on the event
of which interests of the greatest magnitude were suspended. Our
position is, in this respect, a most commanding one. And if to this
consideration we add that of the usefulness of supplies from this
country, in the prosecution of military operations in the West
Indies, it will readily be perceived that a situation so favorable
would enable us to bargain with great advantage for commercial
privileges. A price would be set not only upon our friendship, but
upon our neutrality. By a steady adherence to the Union we may
hope, erelong, to become the arbiter of Europe in America, and to be
able to incline the balance of European competitions in this part of
the world as our interest may dictate.
But in the reverse of this eligible situation, we shall discover
that the rivalships of the parts would make them checks upon each
other, and would frustrate all the tempting advantages which nature
has kindly placed within our reach. In a state so insignificant our
commerce would be a prey to the wanton intermeddlings of all nations
at war with each other; who, having nothing to fear from us, would
with little scruple or remorse, supply their wants by depredations
on our property as often as it fell in their way. The rights of
neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an
adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even
the privilege of being neutral.
Under a vigorous national government, the natural strength and
resources of the country, directed to a common interest, would
baffle all the combinations of European jealousy to restrain our
growth. This situation would even take away the motive to such
combinations, by inducing an impracticability of success. An active
commerce, an extensive navigation, and a flourishing marine would
then be the offspring of moral and physical necessity. We might
defy the little arts of the little politicians to control or vary
the irresistible and unchangeable course of nature.
But in a state of disunion, these combinations might exist and
might operate with success. It would be in the power of the
maritime nations, availing themselves of our universal impotence, to
prescribe the conditions of our political existence; and as they
have a common interest in being our carriers, and still more in
preventing our becoming theirs, they would in all probability
combine to embarrass our navigation in such a manner as would in
effect destroy it, and confine us to a PASSIVE COMMERCE. We should
then be compelled to content ourselves with the first price of our
commodities, and to see the profits of our trade snatched from us to
enrich our enemies and p rsecutors. That unequaled spirit of
enterprise, which signalizes the genius of the American merchants
and navigators, and which is in itself an inexhaustible mine of
national wealth, would be stifled and lost, and poverty and disgrace
would overspread a country which, with wisdom, might make herself
the admiration and envy of the world.
There are rights of great moment to the trade of America which
are rights of the Union–I allude to the fisheries, to the navigation
of the Western lakes, and to that of the Mississippi. The
dissolution of the Confederacy would give room for delicate
questions concerning the future existence of these rights; which
the interest of more powerful partners would hardly fail to solve to
our disadvantage. The disposition of Spain with regard to the
Mississippi needs no comment. France and Britain are concerned with
us in the fisheries, and view them as of the utmost moment to their
navigation. They, of course, would hardly remain long indifferent
to that decided mastery, of which experience has shown us to be
possessed in this valuable branch of traffic, and by which we are
able to undersell those nations in their own markets. What more
natural than that they should be disposed to exclude from the lists
such dangerous competitors?
This branch of trade ought not to be considered as a partial
benefit. All the navigating States may, in different degrees,
advantageously participate in it, and under circumstances of a
greater extension of mercantile capital, would not be unlikely to do
it. As a nursery of seamen, it now is, or when time shall have more
nearly assimilated the principles of navigation in the several
States, will become, a universal resource. To the establishment of
a navy, it must be indispensable.
To this great national object, a NAVY, union will contribute in
various ways. Every institution will grow and flourish in
proportion to the quantity and extent of the means concentred
towards its formation and support. A navy of the United States, as
it would embrace the resources of all, is an object far less remote
than a navy of any single State or partial confederacy, which would
only embrace the resources of a single part. It happens, indeed,
that different portions of confederated America possess each some
peculiar advantage for this essential establishment. The more
southern States furnish in greater abundance certain kinds of naval
stores–tar, pitch, and turpentine. Their wood for the construction
of ships is also of a more solid and lasting texture. The
difference in the duration of the ships of which the navy might be
composed, if chiefly constructed of Southern wood, would be of
signal importance, either in the view of naval strength or of
national economy. Some of the Southern and of the Middle States
yield a greater plenty of iron, and of better quality. Seamen must
chiefly be drawn from the Northern hive. The necessity of naval
protection to external or maritime commerce does not require a
particular elucidation, no more than the conduciveness of that
species of commerce to the prosperity of a navy.
An unrestrained intercourse between the States themselves will
advance the trade of each by an interchange of their respective
productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants at home,
but for exportation to foreign markets. The veins of commerce in
every part will be replenished, and will acquire additional motion
and vigor from a free circulation of the commodities of every part.
Commercial enterprise will have much greater scope, from the
diversity in the productions of different States. When the staple
of one fails from a bad harvest or unproductive crop, it can call to
its aid the staple of another. The variety, not less than the
value, of products for exportation contributes to the activity of
foreign commerce. It can be conducted upon much better terms with a
large number of materials of a given value than with a small number
of materials of the same value; arising from the competitions of
trade and from the fluctations of markets. Particular articles may
be in great demand at certain periods, and unsalable at others; but
if there be a variety of articles, it can scarcely happen that they
should all be at one time in the latter predicament, and on this
account the operations of the merchant would be less liable to any
considerable obstruction or stagnation. The speculative trader will
at once perceive the force of these observations, and will
acknowledge that the aggregate balance of the commerce of the United
States would bid fair to be much more favorable than that of the
thirteen States without union or with partial unions.
It may perhaps be replied to this, that whether the States are
united or disunited, there would still be an intimate intercourse
between them which would answer the same ends; this intercourse
would be fettered, interrupted, and narrowed by a multiplicity of
causes, which in the course of these papers have been amply detailed.
A unity of commercial, as well as political, interests, can only
result from a unity of government.
There are other points of view in which this subject might be
placed, of a striking and animating kind. But they would lead us
too far into the regions of futurity, and would involve topics not
proper for a newspaper discussion. I shall briefly observe, that
our situation invites and our interests prompt us to aim at an
ascendant in the system of American affairs. The world may
politically, as well as geographically, be divided into four parts,
each having a distinct set of interests. Unhappily for the other
three, Europe, by her arms and by her negotiations, by force and by
fraud, has, in different degrees, extended her dominion over them
all. Africa, Asia, and America, have successively felt her
domination. The superiority she has long maintained has tempted her
to plume herself as the Mistress of the World, and to consider the
rest of mankind as created for her benefit. Men admired as profound
philosophers have, in direct terms, attributed to her inhabitants a
physical superiority, and have gravely asserted that all animals,
and with them the human species, degenerate in America–that even
dogs cease to bark after having breathed awhile in our
atmosphere.1 Facts have too long supported these arrogant
pretensions of the Europeans. It belongs to us to vindicate the
honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother,
moderation. Union will enable us to do it. Disunion will will add
another victim to his triumphs. Let Americans disdain to be the
instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen States, bound
together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one
great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic
force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection
between the old and the new world!
“Recherches philosophiques sur les Americains.”



The Utility of the Union In Respect to Revenue
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, November 27, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE effects of Union upon the commercial prosperity of the
States have been sufficiently delineated. Its tendency to promote
the interests of revenue will be the subject of our present inquiry.
The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by
all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most
productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a
primary object of their political cares. By multipying the means of
gratification, by promoting the introduction and circulation of the
precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice and
enterprise, it serves to vivify and invigorate the channels of
industry, and to make them flow with greater activity and
copiousness. The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the
active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer,–all orders of
men, look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to
this pleasing reward of their toils. The often-agitated question
between agriculture and commerce has, from indubitable experience,
received a decision which has silenced the rivalship that once
subsisted between them, and has proved, to the satisfaction of their
friends, that their interests are intimately blended and interwoven.
It has been found in various countries that, in proportion as
commerce has flourished, land has risen in value. And how could it
have happened otherwise? Could that which procures a freer vent for
the products of the earth, which furnishes new incitements to the
cultivation of land, which is the most powerful instrument in
increasing the quantity of money in a state–could that, in fine,
which is the faithful handmaid of labor and industry, in every
shape, fail to augment that article, which is the prolific parent of
far the greatest part of the objects upon which they are exerted?
It is astonishing that so simple a truth should ever have had an
adversary; and it is one, among a multitude of proofs, how apt a
spirit of ill-informed jealousy, or of too great abstraction and
refinement, is to lead men astray from the plainest truths of reason
and conviction.
The ability of a country to pay taxes must always be
proportioned, in a great degree, to the quantity of money in
circulation, and to the celerity with which it circulates.
Commerce, contributing to both these objects, must of necessity
render the payment of taxes easier, and facilitate the requisite
supplies to the treasury. The hereditary dominions of the Emperor
of Germany contain a great extent of fertile, cultivated, and
populous territory, a large proportion of which is situated in mild
and luxuriant climates. In some parts of this territory are to be
found the best gold and silver mines in Europe. And yet, from the
want of the fostering influence of commerce, that monarch can boast
but slender revenues. He has several times been compelled to owe
obligations to the pecuniary succors of other nations for the
preservation of his essential interests, and is unable, upon the
strength of his own resources, to sustain a long or continued war.
But it is not in this aspect of the subject alone that Union
will be seen to conduce to the purpose of revenue. There are other
points of view, in which its influence will appear more immediate
and decisive. It is evident from the state of the country, from the
habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point
itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums
by direct taxation. Tax laws have in vain been multiplied; new
methods to enforce the collection have in vain been tried; the
public expectation has been uniformly disappointed, and the
treasuries of the States have remained empty. The popular system of
administration inherent in the nature of popular government,
coinciding with the real scarcity of money incident to a languid and
mutilated state of trade, has hitherto defeated every experiment for
extensive collections, and has at length taught the different
legislatures the folly of attempting them.
No person acquainted with what happens in other countries will
be surprised at this circumstance. In so opulent a nation as that
of Britain, where direct taxes from superior wealth must be much
more tolerable, and, from the vigor of the government, much more
practicable, than in America, far the greatest part of the national
revenue is derived from taxes of the indirect kind, from imposts,
and from excises. Duties on imported articles form a large branch
of this latter description.
In America, it is evident that we must a long time depend for
the means of revenue chiefly on such duties. In most parts of it,
excises must be confined within a narrow compass. The genius of the
people will ill brook the inquisitive and peremptory spirit of
excise laws. The pockets of the farmers, on the other hand, will
reluctantly yield but scanty supplies, in the unwelcome shape of
impositions on their houses and lands; and personal property is too
precarious and invisible a fund to be laid hold of in any other way
than by the inperceptible agency of taxes on consumption.
If these remarks have any foundation, that state of things which
will best enable us to improve and extend so valuable a resource
must be best adapted to our political welfare. And it cannot admit
of a serious doubt, that this state of things must rest on the basis
of a general Union. As far as this would be conducive to the
interests of commerce, so far it must tend to the extension of the
revenue to be drawn from that source. As far as it would contribute
to rendering regulations for the collection of the duties more
simple and efficacious, so far it must serve to answer the purposes
of making the same rate of duties more productive, and of putting it
into the power of the government to increase the rate without
prejudice to trade.
The relative situation of these States; the number of rivers
with which they are intersected, and of bays that wash there shores;
the facility of communication in every direction; the affinity of
language and manners; the familiar habits of intercourse; –all
these are circumstances that would conspire to render an illicit
trade between them a matter of little difficulty, and would insure
frequent evasions of the commercial regulations of each other. The
separate States or confederacies would be necessitated by mutual
jealousy to avoid the temptations to that kind of trade by the
lowness of their duties. The temper of our governments, for a long
time to come, would not permit those rigorous precautions by which
the European nations guard the avenues into their respective
countries, as well by land as by water; and which, even there, are
found insufficient obstacles to the adventurous stratagems of
In France, there is an army of patrols (as they are called)
constantly employed to secure their fiscal regulations against the
inroads of the dealers in contraband trade. Mr. Neckar computes the
number of these patrols at upwards of twenty thousand. This shows
the immense difficulty in preventing that species of traffic, where
there is an inland communication, and places in a strong light the
disadvantages with which the collection of duties in this country
would be encumbered, if by disunion the States should be placed in a
situation, with respect to each other, resembling that of France
with respect to her neighbors. The arbitrary and vexatious powers
with which the patrols are necessarily armed, would be intolerable
in a free country.
If, on the contrary, there be but one government pervading all
the States, there will be, as to the principal part of our commerce,
but ONE SIDE to guard–the ATLANTIC COAST. Vessels arriving directly
from foreign countries, laden with valuable cargoes, would rarely
choose to hazard themselves to the complicated and critical perils
which would attend attempts to unlade prior to their coming into
port. They would have to dread both the dangers of the coast, and
of detection, as well after as before their arrival at the places of
their final destination. An ordinary degree of vigilance would be
competent to the prevention of any material infractions upon the
rights of the revenue. A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed
at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made
useful sentinels of the laws. And the government having the same
interest to provide against violations everywhere, the co-operation
of its measures in each State would have a powerful tendency to
render them effectual. Here also we should preserve by Union, an
advantage which nature holds out to us, and which would be
relinquished by separation. The United States lie at a great
distance from Europe, and at a considerable distance from all other
places with which they would have extensive connections of foreign
trade. The passage from them to us, in a few hours, or in a single
night, as between the coasts of France and Britain, and of other
neighboring nations, would be impracticable. This is a prodigious
security against a direct contraband with foreign countries; but a
circuitous contraband to one State, through the medium of another,
would be both easy and safe. The difference between a direct
importation from abroad, and an indirect importation through the
channel of a neighboring State, in small parcels, according to time
and opportunity, with the additional facilities of inland
communication, must be palpable to every man of discernment.
It is therefore evident, that one national government would be
able, at much less expense, to extend the duties on imports, beyond
comparison, further than would be practicable to the States
separately, or to any partial confederacies. Hitherto, I believe,
it may safely be asserted, that these duties have not upon an
average exceeded in any State three per cent. In France they are
estimated to be about fifteen per cent., and in Britain they exceed
this proportion.1 There seems to be nothing to hinder their
being increased in this country to at least treble their present
amount. The single article of ardent spirits, under federal
regulation, might be made to furnish a considerable revenue. Upon a
ratio to the importation into this State, the whole quantity
imported into the United States may be estimated at four millions of
gallons; which, at a shilling per gallon, would produce two hundred
thousand pounds. That article would well bear this rate of duty;
and if it should tend to diminish the consumption of it, such an
effect would be equally favorable to the agriculture, to the
economy, to the morals, and to the health of the society. There is,
perhaps, nothing so much a subject of national extravagance as these
What will be the consequence, if we are not able to avail
ourselves of the resource in question in its full extent? A nation
cannot long exist without revenues. Destitute of this essential
support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded
condition of a province. This is an extremity to which no
government will of choice accede. Revenue, therefore, must be had
at all events. In this country, if the principal part be not drawn
from commerce, it must fall with oppressive weight upon land. It
has been already intimated that excises, in their true
signification, are too little in unison with the feelings of the
people, to admit of great use being made of that mode of taxation;
nor, indeed, in the States where almost the sole employment is
agriculture, are the objects proper for excise sufficiently numerous
to permit very ample collections in that way. Personal estate (as
has been before remarked), from the difficulty in tracing it, cannot
be subjected to large contributions, by any other means than by
taxes on consumption. In populous cities, it may be enough the
subject of conjecture, to occasion the oppression of individuals,
without much aggregate benefit to the State; but beyond these
circles, it must, in a great measure, escape the eye and the hand of
the tax-gatherer. As the necessities of the State, nevertheless,
must be satisfied in some mode or other, the defect of other
resources must throw the principal weight of public burdens on the
possessors of land. And as, on the other hand, the wants of the
government can never obtain an adequate supply, unless all the
sources of revenue are open to its demands, the finances of the
community, under such embarrassments, cannot be put into a situation
consistent with its respectability or its security. Thus we shall
not even have the consolations of a full treasury, to atone for the
oppression of that valuable class of the citizens who are employed
in the cultivation of the soil. But public and private distress
will keep pace with each other in gloomy concert; and unite in
deploring the infatuation of those counsels which led to disunion.
1 If my memory be right they amount to twenty per cent.



Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
As CONNECTED with the subject of revenue, we may with propriety
consider that of economy. The money saved from one object may be
usefully applied to another, and there will be so much the less to
be drawn from the pockets of the people. If the States are united
under one government, there will be but one national civil list to
support; if they are divided into several confederacies, there will
be as many different national civil lists to be provided for–and
each of them, as to the principal departments, coextensive with that
which would be necessary for a government of the whole. The entire
separation of the States into thirteen unconnected sovereignties is
a project too extravagant and too replete with danger to have many
advocates. The ideas of men who speculate upon the dismemberment of
the empire seem generally turned toward three confederacies–one
consisting of the four Northern, another of the four Middle, and a
third of the five Southern States. There is little probability that
there would be a greater number. According to this distribution,
each confederacy would comprise an extent of territory larger than
that of the kingdom of Great Britain. No well-informed man will
suppose that the affairs of such a confederacy can be properly
regulated by a government less comprehensive in its organs or
institutions than that which has been proposed by the convention.
When the dimensions of a State attain to a certain magnitude, it
requires the same energy of government and the same forms of
administration which are requisite in one of much greater extent.
This idea admits not of precise demonstration, because there is no
rule by which we can measure the momentum of civil power necessary
to the government of any given number of individuals; but when we
consider that the island of Britain, nearly commensurate with each
of the supposed confederacies, contains about eight millions of
people, and when we reflect upon the degree of authority required to
direct the passions of so large a society to the public good, we
shall see no reason to doubt that the like portion of power would be
sufficient to perform the same task in a society far more numerous.
Civil power, properly organized and exerted, is capable of
diffusing its force to a very great extent; and can, in a manner,
reproduce itself in every part of a great empire by a judicious
arrangement of subordinate institutions.
The supposition that each confederacy into which the States
would be likely to be divided would require a government not less
comprehensive than the one proposed, will be strengthened by another
supposition, more probable than that which presents us with three
confederacies as the alternative to a general Union. If we attend
carefully to geographical and commercial considerations, in
conjunction with the habits and prejudices of the different States,
we shall be led to conclude that in case of disunion they will most
naturally league themselves under two governments. The four Eastern
States, from all the causes that form the links of national sympathy
and connection, may with certainty be expected to unite. New York,
situated as she is, would never be unwise enough to oppose a feeble
and unsupported flank to the weight of that confederacy. There are
other obvious reasons that would facilitate her accession to it.
New Jersey is too small a State to think of being a frontier, in
opposition to this still more powerful combination; nor do there
appear to be any obstacles to her admission into it. Even
Pennsylvania would have strong inducements to join the Northern
league. An active foreign commerce, on the basis of her own
navigation, is her true policy, and coincides with the opinions and
dispositions of her citizens. The more Southern States, from
various circumstances, may not think themselves much interested in
the encouragement of navigation. They may prefer a system which
would give unlimited scope to all nations to be the carriers as well
as the purchasers of their commodities. Pennsylvania may not choose
to confound her interests in a connection so adverse to her policy.
As she must at all events be a frontier, she may deem it most
consistent with her safety to have her exposed side turned towards
the weaker power of the Southern, rather than towards the stronger
power of the Northern, Confederacy. This would give her the fairest
chance to avoid being the Flanders of America. Whatever may be the
determination of Pennsylvania, if the Northern Confederacy includes
New Jersey, there is no likelihood of more than one confederacy to
the south of that State.
Nothing can be more evident than that the thirteen States will
be able to support a national government better than one half, or
one third, or any number less than the whole. This reflection must
have great weight in obviating that objection to the proposed plan,
which is founded on the principle of expense; an objection,
however, which, when we come to take a nearer view of it, will
appear in every light to stand on mistaken ground.
If, in addition to the consideration of a plurality of civil
lists, we take into view the number of persons who must necessarily
be employed to guard the inland communication between the different
confederacies against illicit trade, and who in time will infallibly
spring up out of the necessities of revenue; and if we also take
into view the military establishments which it has been shown would
unavoidably result from the jealousies and conflicts of the several
nations into which the States would be divided, we shall clearly
discover that a separation would be not less injurious to the
economy, than to the tranquillity, commerce, revenue, and liberty of
every part.



Objections to the Proposed Constitution From Extent of Territory
From the New York Packet.
Friday, November 30, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
WE HAVE seen the necessity of the Union, as our bulwark against
foreign danger, as the conservator of peace among ourselves, as the
guardian of our commerce and other common interests, as the only
substitute for those military establishments which have subverted
the liberties of the Old World, and as the proper antidote for the
diseases of faction, which have proved fatal to other popular
governments, and of which alarming symptoms have been betrayed by
our own. All that remains, within this branch of our inquiries, is
to take notice of an objection that may be drawn from the great
extent of country which the Union embraces. A few observations on
this subject will be the more proper, as it is perceived that the
adversaries of the new Constitution are availing themselves of the
prevailing prejudice with regard to the practicable sphere of
republican administration, in order to supply, by imaginary
difficulties, the want of those solid objections which they endeavor
in vain to find.
The error which limits republican government to a narrow
district has been unfolded and refuted in preceding papers. I
remark here only that it seems to owe its rise and prevalence
chiefly to the confounding of a republic with a democracy, applying
to the former reasonings drawn from the nature of the latter. The
true distinction between these forms was also adverted to on a
former occasion. It is, that in a democracy, the people meet and
exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and
administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy,
consequently, will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be
extended over a large region.
To this accidental source of the error may be added the artifice
of some celebrated authors, whose writings have had a great share in
forming the modern standard of political opinions. Being subjects
either of an absolute or limited monarchy, they have endeavored to
heighten the advantages, or palliate the evils of those forms, by
placing in comparison the vices and defects of the republican, and
by citing as specimens of the latter the turbulent democracies of
ancient Greece and modern Italy. Under the confusion of names, it
has been an easy task to transfer to a republic observations
applicable to a democracy only; and among others, the observation
that it can never be established but among a small number of people,
living within a small compass of territory.
Such a fallacy may have been the less perceived, as most of the
popular governments of antiquity were of the democratic species;
and even in modern Europe, to which we owe the great principle of
representation, no example is seen of a government wholly popular,
and founded, at the same time, wholly on that principle. If Europe
has the merit of discovering this great mechanical power in
government, by the simple agency of which the will of the largest
political body may be concentred, and its force directed to any
object which the public good requires, America can claim the merit
of making the discovery the basis of unmixed and extensive republics.
It is only to be lamented that any of her citizens should wish to
deprive her of the additional merit of displaying its full efficacy
in the establishment of the comprehensive system now under her
As the natural limit of a democracy is that distance from the
central point which will just permit the most remote citizens to
assemble as often as their public functions demand, and will include
no greater number than can join in those functions; so the natural
limit of a republic is that distance from the centre which will
barely allow the representatives to meet as often as may be
necessary for the administration of public affairs. Can it be said
that the limits of the United States exceed this distance? It will
not be said by those who recollect that the Atlantic coast is the
longest side of the Union, that during the term of thirteen years,
the representatives of the States have been almost continually
assembled, and that the members from the most distant States are not
chargeable with greater intermissions of attendance than those from
the States in the neighborhood of Congress.
That we may form a juster estimate with regard to this
interesting subject, let us resort to the actual dimensions of the
Union. The limits, as fixed by the treaty of peace, are: on the
east the Atlantic, on the south the latitude of thirty-one degrees,
on the west the Mississippi, and on the north an irregular line
running in some instances beyond the forty-fifth degree, in others
falling as low as the forty-second. The southern shore of Lake Erie
lies below that latitude. Computing the distance between the
thirty-first and forty-fifth degrees, it amounts to nine hundred and
seventy-three common miles; computing it from thirty-one to
forty-two degrees, to seven hundred and sixty-four miles and a half.
Taking the mean for the distance, the amount will be eight hundred
and sixty-eight miles and three-fourths. The mean distance from the
Atlantic to the Mississippi does not probably exceed seven hundred
and fifty miles. On a comparison of this extent with that of
several countries in Europe, the practicability of rendering our
system commensurate to it appears to be demonstrable. It is not a
great deal larger than Germany, where a diet representing the whole
empire is continually assembled; or than Poland before the late
dismemberment, where another national diet was the depositary of the
supreme power. Passing by France and Spain, we find that in Great
Britain, inferior as it may be in size, the representatives of the
northern extremity of the island have as far to travel to the
national council as will be required of those of the most remote
parts of the Union.
Favorable as this view of the subject may be, some observations
remain which will place it in a light still more satisfactory.
In the first place it is to be remembered that the general
government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and
administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain
enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic,
but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any.
The subordinate governments, which can extend their care to all
those other subjects which can be separately provided for, will
retain their due authority and activity. Were it proposed by the
plan of the convention to abolish the governments of the particular
States, its adversaries would have some ground for their objection;
though it would not be difficult to show that if they were
abolished the general government would be compelled, by the
principle of self-preservation, to reinstate them in their proper
A second observation to be made is that the immediate object of
the federal Constitution is to secure the union of the thirteen
primitive States, which we know to be practicable; and to add to
them such other States as may arise in their own bosoms, or in their
neighborhoods, which we cannot doubt to be equally practicable. The
arrangements that may be necessary for those angles and fractions of
our territory which lie on our northwestern frontier, must be left
to those whom further discoveries and experience will render more
equal to the task.
Let it be remarked, in the third place, that the intercourse
throughout the Union will be facilitated by new improvements. Roads
will everywhere be shortened, and kept in better order;
accommodations for travelers will be multiplied and meliorated; an
interior navigation on our eastern side will be opened throughout,
or nearly throughout, the whole extent of the thirteen States. The
communication between the Western and Atlantic districts, and
between different parts of each, will be rendered more and more easy
by those numerous canals with which the beneficence of nature has
intersected our country, and which art finds it so little difficult
to connect and complete.
A fourth and still more important consideration is, that as
almost every State will, on one side or other, be a frontier, and
will thus find, in regard to its safety, an inducement to make some
sacrifices for the sake of the general protection; so the States
which lie at the greatest distance from the heart of the Union, and
which, of course, may partake least of the ordinary circulation of
its benefits, will be at the same time immediately contiguous to
foreign nations, and will consequently stand, on particular
occasions, in greatest need of its strength and resources. It may
be inconvenient for Georgia, or the States forming our western or
northeastern borders, to send their representatives to the seat of
government; but they would find it more so to struggle alone
against an invading enemy, or even to support alone the whole
expense of those precautions which may be dictated by the
neighborhood of continual danger. If they should derive less
benefit, therefore, from the Union in some respects than the less
distant States, they will derive greater benefit from it in other
respects, and thus the proper equilibrium will be maintained
I submit to you, my fellow-citizens, these considerations, in
full confidence that the good sense which has so often marked your
decisions will allow them their due weight and effect; and that you
will never suffer difficulties, however formidable in appearance, or
however fashionable the error on which they may be founded, to drive
you into the gloomy and perilous scene into which the advocates for
disunion would conduct you. Hearken not to the unnatural voice
which tells you that the people of America, knit together as they
are by so many cords of affection, can no longer live together as
members of the same family; can no longer continue the mutual
guardians of their mutual happiness; can no longer be
fellowcitizens of one great, respectable, and flourishing empire.
Hearken not to the voice which petulantly tells you that the form
of government recommended for your adoption is a novelty in the
political world; that it has never yet had a place in the theories
of the wildest projectors; that it rashly attempts what it is
impossible to accomplish. No, my countrymen, shut your ears against
this unhallowed language. Shut your hearts against the poison which
it conveys; the kindred blood which flows in the veins of American
citizens, the mingled blood which they have shed in defense of their
sacred rights, consecrate their Union, and excite horror at the idea
of their becoming aliens, rivals, enemies. And if novelties are to
be shunned, believe me, the most alarming of all novelties, the most
wild of all projects, the most rash of all attempts, is that of
rendering us in pieces, in order to preserve our liberties and
promote our happiness. But why is the experiment of an extended
republic to be rejected, merely because it may comprise what is new?
Is it not the glory of the people of America, that, whilst they
have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other
nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity,
for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own
good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of
their own experience? To this manly spirit, posterity will be
indebted for the possession, and the world for the example, of the
numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of
private rights and public happiness. Had no important step been
taken by the leaders of the Revolution for which a precedent could
not be discovered, no government established of which an exact model
did not present itself, the people of the United States might, at
this moment have been numbered among the melancholy victims of
misguided councils, must at best have been laboring under the weight
of some of those forms which have crushed the liberties of the rest
of mankind. Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole
human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They
accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of
human society. They reared the fabrics of governments which have no
model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great
Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve
and perpetuate. If their works betray imperfections, we wonder at
the fewness of them. If they erred most in the structure of the
Union, this was the work most difficult to be executed; this is the
work which has been new modelled by the act of your convention, and
it is that act on which you are now to deliberate and to decide.



The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York.
IN THE course of the preceding papers, I have endeavored, my
fellow-citizens, to place before you, in a clear and convincing
light, the importance of Union to your political safety and
happiness. I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to
which you would be exposed, should you permit that sacred knot which
binds the people of America together be severed or dissolved by
ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation. In the
sequel of the inquiry through which I propose to accompany you, the
truths intended to be inculcated will receive further confirmation
from facts and arguments hitherto unnoticed. If the road over which
you will still have to pass should in some places appear to you
tedious or irksome, you will recollect that you are in quest of
information on a subject the most momentous which can engage the
attention of a free people, that the field through which you have to
travel is in itself spacious, and that the difficulties of the
journey have been unnecessarily increased by the mazes with which
sophistry has beset the way. It will be my aim to remove the
obstacles from your progress in as compendious a manner as it can be
done, without sacrificing utility to despatch.
In pursuance of the plan which I have laid down for the
discussion of the subject, the point next in order to be examined is
the “insufficiency of the present Confederation to the preservation
of the Union.” It may perhaps be asked what need there is of
reasoning or proof to illustrate a position which is not either
controverted or doubted, to which the understandings and feelings of
all classes of men assent, and which in substance is admitted by the
opponents as well as by the friends of the new Constitution. It
must in truth be acknowledged that, however these may differ in
other respects, they in general appear to harmonize in this
sentiment, at least, that there are material imperfections in our
national system, and that something is necessary to be done to
rescue us from impending anarchy. The facts that support this
opinion are no longer objects of speculation. They have forced
themselves upon the sensibility of the people at large, and have at
length extorted from those, whose mistaken policy has had the
principal share in precipitating the extremity at which we are
arrived, a reluctant confession of the reality of those defects in
the scheme of our federal government, which have been long pointed
out and regretted by the intelligent friends of the Union.
We may indeed with propriety be said to have reached almost the
last stage of national humiliation. There is scarcely anything that
can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent
nation which we do not experience. Are there engagements to the
performance of which we are held by every tie respectable among men?
These are the subjects of constant and unblushing violation. Do we
owe debts to foreigners and to our own citizens contracted in a time
of imminent peril for the preservation of our political existence?
These remain without any proper or satisfactory provision for their
discharge. Have we valuable territories and important posts in the
possession of a foreign power which, by express stipulations, ought
long since to have been surrendered? These are still retained, to
the prejudice of our interests, not less than of our rights. Are we
in a condition to resent or to repel the aggression? We have
neither troops, nor treasury, nor government.1 Are we even in a
condition to remonstrate with dignity? The just imputations on our
own faith, in respect to the same treaty, ought first to be removed.
Are we entitled by nature and compact to a free participation in
the navigation of the Mississippi? Spain excludes us from it. Is
public credit an indispensable resource in time of public danger?
We seem to have abandoned its cause as desperate and irretrievable.
Is commerce of importance to national wealth? Ours is at the
lowest point of declension. Is respectability in the eyes of
foreign powers a safeguard against foreign encroachments? The
imbecility of our government even forbids them to treat with us.
Our ambassadors abroad are the mere pageants of mimic sovereignty.
Is a violent and unnatural decrease in the value of land a symptom
of national distress? The price of improved land in most parts of
the country is much lower than can be accounted for by the quantity
of waste land at market, and can only be fully explained by that
want of private and public confidence, which are so alarmingly
prevalent among all ranks, and which have a direct tendency to
depreciate property of every kind. Is private credit the friend and
patron of industry? That most useful kind which relates to
borrowing and lending is reduced within the narrowest limits, and
this still more from an opinion of insecurity than from the scarcity
of money. To shorten an enumeration of particulars which can afford
neither pleasure nor instruction, it may in general be demanded,
what indication is there of national disorder, poverty, and
insignificance that could befall a community so peculiarly blessed
with natural advantages as we are, which does not form a part of the
dark catalogue of our public misfortunes?
This is the melancholy situation to which we have been brought
by those very maxims and councils which would now deter us from
adopting the proposed Constitution; and which, not content with
having conducted us to the brink of a precipice, seem resolved to
plunge us into the abyss that awaits us below. Here, my countrymen,
impelled by every motive that ought to influence an enlightened
people, let us make a firm stand for our safety, our tranquillity,
our dignity, our reputation. Let us at last break the fatal charm
which has too long seduced us from the paths of felicity and
It is true, as has been before observed that facts, too stubborn
to be resisted, have produced a species of general assent to the
abstract proposition that there exist material defects in our
national system; but the usefulness of the concession, on the part
of the old adversaries of federal measures, is destroyed by a
strenuous opposition to a remedy, upon the only principles that can
give it a chance of success. While they admit that the government
of the United States is destitute of energy, they contend against
conferring upon it those powers which are requisite to supply that
energy. They seem still to aim at things repugnant and
irreconcilable; at an augmentation of federal authority, without a
diminution of State authority; at sovereignty in the Union, and
complete independence in the members. They still, in fine, seem to
cherish with blind devotion the political monster of an imperium
in imperio. This renders a full display of the principal defects
of the Confederation necessary, in order to show that the evils we
experience do not proceed from minute or partial imperfections, but
from fundamental errors in the structure of the building, which
cannot be amended otherwise than by an alteration in the first
principles and main pillars of the fabric.
The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing
Confederation is in the principle of LEGISLATION for STATES or
contradistinguished from the INDIVIDUALS of which they consist.
Though this principle does not run through all the powers delegated
to the Union, yet it pervades and governs those on which the
efficacy of the rest depends. Except as to the rule of appointment,
the United States has an indefinite discretion to make requisitions
for men and money; but they have no authority to raise either, by
regulations extending to the individual citizens of America. The
consequence of this is, that though in theory their resolutions
concerning those objects are laws, constitutionally binding on the
members of the Union, yet in practice they are mere recommendations
which the States observe or disregard at their option.
It is a singular instance of the capriciousness of the human
mind, that after all the admonitions we have had from experience on
this head, there should still be found men who object to the new
Constitution, for deviating from a principle which has been found
the bane of the old, and which is in itself evidently incompatible
with the idea of GOVERNMENT; a principle, in short, which, if it is
to be executed at all, must substitute the violent and sanguinary
agency of the sword to the mild influence of the magistracy.
There is nothing absurd or impracticable in the idea of a league
or alliance between independent nations for certain defined purposes
precisely stated in a treaty regulating all the details of time,
place, circumstance, and quantity; leaving nothing to future
discretion; and depending for its execution on the good faith of
the parties. Compacts of this kind exist among all civilized
nations, subject to the usual vicissitudes of peace and war, of
observance and non-observance, as the interests or passions of the
contracting powers dictate. In the early part of the present
century there was an epidemical rage in Europe for this species of
compacts, from which the politicians of the times fondly hoped for
benefits which were never realized. With a view to establishing the
equilibrium of power and the peace of that part of the world, all
the resources of negotiation were exhausted, and triple and
quadruple alliances were formed; but they were scarcely formed
before they were broken, giving an instructive but afflicting lesson
to mankind, how little dependence is to be placed on treaties which
have no other sanction than the obligations of good faith, and which
oppose general considerations of peace and justice to the impulse of
any immediate interest or passion.
If the particular States in this country are disposed to stand
in a similar relation to each other, and to drop the project of a
general DISCRETIONARY SUPERINTENDENCE, the scheme would indeed be
pernicious, and would entail upon us all the mischiefs which have
been enumerated under the first head; but it would have the merit
of being, at least, consistent and practicable Abandoning all views
towards a confederate government, this would bring us to a simple
alliance offensive and defensive; and would place us in a situation
to be alternate friends and enemies of each other, as our mutual
jealousies and rivalships, nourished by the intrigues of foreign
nations, should prescribe to us.
But if we are unwilling to be placed in this perilous situation;
if we still will adhere to the design of a national government, or,
which is the same thing, of a superintending power, under the
direction of a common council, we must resolve to incorporate into
our plan those ingredients which may be considered as forming the
characteristic difference between a league and a government; we
must extend the authority of the Union to the persons of the
citizens, –the only proper objects of government.
Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to
the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in
other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be
no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands
which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than
advice or recommendation. This penalty, whatever it may be, can
only be inflicted in two ways: by the agency of the courts and
ministers of justice, or by military force; by the COERCION of the
magistracy, or by the COERCION of arms. The first kind can
evidently apply only to men; the last kind must of necessity, be
employed against bodies politic, or communities, or States. It is
evident that there is no process of a court by which the observance
of the laws can, in the last resort, be enforced. Sentences may be
denounced against them for violations of their duty; but these
sentences can only be carried into execution by the sword. In an
association where the general authority is confined to the
collective bodies of the communities, that compose it, every breach
of the laws must involve a state of war; and military execution
must become the only instrument of civil obedience. Such a state of
things can certainly not deserve the name of government, nor would
any prudent man choose to commit his happiness to it.
There was a time when we were told that breaches, by the States,
of the regulations of the federal authority were not to be expected;
that a sense of common interest would preside over the conduct of
the respective members, and would beget a full compliance with all
the constitutional requisitions of the Union. This language, at the
present day, would appear as wild as a great part of what we now
hear from the same quarter will be thought, when we shall have
received further lessons from that best oracle of wisdom, experience.
It at all times betrayed an ignorance of the true springs by which
human conduct is actuated, and belied the original inducements to
the establishment of civil power. Why has government been
instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to
the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint. Has it been
found that bodies of men act with more rectitude or greater
disinterestedness than individuals? The contrary of this has been
inferred by all accurate observers of the conduct of mankind; and
the inference is founded upon obvious reasons. Regard to reputation
has a less active influence, when the infamy of a bad action is to
be divided among a number than when it is to fall singly upon one.
A spirit of faction, which is apt to mingle its poison in the
deliberations of all bodies of men, will often hurry the persons of
whom they are composed into improprieties and excesses, for which
they would blush in a private capacity.
In addition to all this, there is, in the nature of sovereign
power, an impatience of control, that disposes those who are
invested with the exercise of it, to look with an evil eye upon all
external attempts to restrain or direct its operations. From this
spirit it happens, that in every political association which is
formed upon the principle of uniting in a common interest a number
of lesser sovereignties, there will be found a kind of eccentric
tendency in the subordinate or inferior orbs, by the operation of
which there will be a perpetual effort in each to fly off from the
common centre. This tendency is not difficult to be accounted for.
It has its origin in the love of power. Power controlled or
abridged is almost always the rival and enemy of that power by which
it is controlled or abridged. This simple proposition will teach us
how little reason there is to expect, that the persons intrusted
with the administration of the affairs of the particular members of
a confederacy will at all times be ready, with perfect good-humor,
and an unbiased regard to the public weal, to execute the
resolutions or decrees of the general authority. The reverse of
this results from the constitution of human nature.
If, therefore, the measures of the Confederacy cannot be
executed without the intervention of the particular administrations,
there will be little prospect of their being executed at all. The
rulers of the respective members, whether they have a constitutional
right to do it or not, will undertake to judge of the propriety of
the measures themselves. They will consider the conformity of the
thing proposed or required to their immediate interests or aims;
the momentary conveniences or inconveniences that would attend its
adoption. All this will be done; and in a spirit of interested and
suspicious scrutiny, without that knowledge of national
circumstances and reasons of state, which is essential to a right
judgment, and with that strong predilection in favor of local
objects, which can hardly fail to mislead the decision. The same
process must be repeated in every member of which the body is
constituted; and the execution of the plans, framed by the councils
of the whole, will always fluctuate on the discretion of the
ill-informed and prejudiced opinion of every part. Those who have
been conversant in the proceedings of popular assemblies; who have
seen how difficult it often is, where there is no exterior pressure
of circumstances, to bring them to harmonious resolutions on
important points, will readily conceive how impossible it must be to
induce a number of such assemblies, deliberating at a distance from
each other, at different times, and under different impressions,
long to co-operate in the same views and pursuits.
In our case, the concurrence of thirteen distinct sovereign
wills is requisite, under the Confederation, to the complete
execution of every important measure that proceeds from the Union.
It has happened as was to have been foreseen. The measures of the
Union have not been executed; the delinquencies of the States have,
step by step, matured themselves to an extreme, which has, at
length, arrested all the wheels of the national government, and
brought them to an awful stand. Congress at this time scarcely
possess the means of keeping up the forms of administration, till
the States can have time to agree upon a more substantial substitute
for the present shadow of a federal government. Things did not come
to this desperate extremity at once. The causes which have been
specified produced at first only unequal and disproportionate
degrees of compliance with the requisitions of the Union. The
greater deficiencies of some States furnished the pretext of example
and the temptation of interest to the complying, or to the least
delinquent States. Why should we do more in proportion than those
who are embarked with us in the same political voyage? Why should
we consent to bear more than our proper share of the common burden?
These were suggestions which human selfishness could not withstand,
and which even speculative men, who looked forward to remote
consequences, could not, without hesitation, combat. Each State,
yielding to the persuasive voice of immediate interest or
convenience, has successively withdrawn its support, till the frail
and tottering edifice seems ready to fall upon our heads, and to
crush us beneath its ruins.
1 “I mean for the Union.”



The Same Subject Continued
(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, December 4, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE tendency of the principle of legislation for States, or
communities, in their political capacities, as it has been
exemplified by the experiment we have made of it, is equally
attested by the events which have befallen all other governments of
the confederate kind, of which we have any account, in exact
proportion to its prevalence in those systems. The confirmations of
this fact will be worthy of a distinct and particular examination.
I shall content myself with barely observing here, that of all the
confederacies of antiquity, which history has handed down to us, the
Lycian and Achaean leagues, as far as there remain vestiges of them,
appear to have been most free from the fetters of that mistaken
principle, and were accordingly those which have best deserved, and
have most liberally received, the applauding suffrages of political
This exceptionable principle may, as truly as emphatically, be
styled the parent of anarchy: It has been seen that delinquencies
in the members of the Union are its natural and necessary offspring;
and that whenever they happen, the only constitutional remedy is
force, and the immediate effect of the use of it, civil war.
It remains to inquire how far so odious an engine of government,
in its application to us, would even be capable of answering its end.
If there should not be a large army constantly at the disposal of
the national government it would either not be able to employ force
at all, or, when this could be done, it would amount to a war
between parts of the Confederacy concerning the infractions of a
league, in which the strongest combination would be most likely to
prevail, whether it consisted of those who supported or of those who
resisted the general authority. It would rarely happen that the
delinquency to be redressed would be confined to a single member,
and if there were more than one who had neglected their duty,
similarity of situation would induce them to unite for common
defense. Independent of this motive of sympathy, if a large and
influential State should happen to be the aggressing member, it
would commonly have weight enough with its neighbors to win over
some of them as associates to its cause. Specious arguments of
danger to the common liberty could easily be contrived; plausible
excuses for the deficiencies of the party could, without difficulty,
be invented to alarm the apprehensions, inflame the passions, and
conciliate the good-will, even of those States which were not
chargeable with any violation or omission of duty. This would be
the more likely to take place, as the delinquencies of the larger
members might be expected sometimes to proceed from an ambitious
premeditation in their rulers, with a view to getting rid of all
external control upon their designs of personal aggrandizement; the
better to effect which it is presumable they would tamper beforehand
with leading individuals in the adjacent States. If associates
could not be found at home, recourse would be had to the aid of
foreign powers, who would seldom be disinclined to encouraging the
dissensions of a Confederacy, from the firm union of which they had
so much to fear. When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men
observe no bounds of moderation. The suggestions of wounded pride,
the instigations of irritated resentment, would be apt to carry the
States against which the arms of the Union were exerted, to any
extremes necessary to avenge the affront or to avoid the disgrace of
submission. The first war of this kind would probably terminate in
a dissolution of the Union.
This may be considered as the violent death of the Confederacy.
Its more natural death is what we now seem to be on the point of
experiencing, if the federal system be not speedily renovated in a
more substantial form. It is not probable, considering the genius
of this country, that the complying States would often be inclined
to support the authority of the Union by engaging in a war against
the non-complying States. They would always be more ready to pursue
the milder course of putting themselves upon an equal footing with
the delinquent members by an imitation of their example. And the
guilt of all would thus become the security of all. Our past
experience has exhibited the operation of this spirit in its full
light. There would, in fact, be an insuperable difficulty in
ascertaining when force could with propriety be employed. In the
article of pecuniary contribution, which would be the most usual
source of delinquency, it would often be impossible to decide
whether it had proceeded from disinclination or inability. The
pretense of the latter would always be at hand. And the case must
be very flagrant in which its fallacy could be detected with
sufficient certainty to justify the harsh expedient of compulsion.
It is easy to see that this problem alone, as often as it should
occur, would open a wide field for the exercise of factious views,
of partiality, and of oppression, in the majority that happened to
prevail in the national council.
It seems to require no pains to prove that the States ought not
to prefer a national Constitution which could only be kept in motion
by the instrumentality of a large army continually on foot to
execute the ordinary requisitions or decrees of the government. And
yet this is the plain alternative involved by those who wish to deny
it the power of extending its operations to individuals. Such a
scheme, if practicable at all, would instantly degenerate into a
military despotism; but it will be found in every light
impracticable. The resources of the Union would not be equal to the
maintenance of an army considerable enough to confine the larger
States within the limits of their duty; nor would the means ever be
furnished of forming such an army in the first instance. Whoever
considers the populousness and strength of several of these States
singly at the present juncture, and looks forward to what they will
become, even at the distance of half a century, will at once dismiss
as idle and visionary any scheme which aims at regulating their
movements by laws to operate upon them in their collective
capacities, and to be executed by a coercion applicable to them in
the same capacities. A project of this kind is little less romantic
than the monster-taming spirit which is attributed to the fabulous
heroes and demi-gods of antiquity.
Even in those confederacies which have been composed of members
smaller than many of our counties, the principle of legislation for
sovereign States, supported by military coercion, has never been
found effectual. It has rarely been attempted to be employed, but
against the weaker members; and in most instances attempts to
coerce the refractory and disobedient have been the signals of
bloody wars, in which one half of the confederacy has displayed its
banners against the other half.
The result of these observations to an intelligent mind must be
clearly this, that if it be possible at any rate to construct a
federal government capable of regulating the common concerns and
preserving the general tranquillity, it must be founded, as to the
objects committed to its care, upon the reverse of the principle
contended for by the opponents of the proposed Constitution. It
must carry its agency to the persons of the citizens. It must stand
in need of no intermediate legislations; but must itself be
empowered to employ the arm of the ordinary magistrate to execute
its own resolutions. The majesty of the national authority must be
manifested through the medium of the courts of justice. The
government of the Union, like that of each State, must be able to
address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals;
and to attract to its support those passions which have the
strongest influence upon the human heart. It must, in short,
possess all the means, and have aright to resort to all the methods,
of executing the powers with which it is intrusted, that are
possessed and exercised by the government of the particular States.
To this reasoning it may perhaps be objected, that if any State
should be disaffected to the authority of the Union, it could at any
time obstruct the execution of its laws, and bring the matter to the
same issue of force, with the necessity of which the opposite scheme
is reproached.
The pausibility of this objection will vanish the moment we
advert to the essential difference between a mere NON-COMPLIANCE and
a DIRECT and ACTIVE RESISTANCE. If the interposition of the State
legislatures be necessary to give effect to a measure of the Union,
they have only NOT TO ACT, or to ACT EVASIVELY, and the measure is
defeated. This neglect of duty may be disguised under affected but
unsubstantial provisions, so as not to appear, and of course not to
excite any alarm in the people for the safety of the Constitution.
The State leaders may even make a merit of their surreptitious
invasions of it on the ground of some temporary convenience,
exemption, or advantage.
But if the execution of the laws of the national government
should not require the intervention of the State legislatures, if
they were to pass into immediate operation upon the citizens
themselves, the particular governments could not interrupt their
progress without an open and violent exertion of an unconstitutional
power. No omissions nor evasions would answer the end. They would
be obliged to act, and in such a manner as would leave no doubt that
they had encroached on the national rights. An experiment of this
nature would always be hazardous in the face of a constitution in
any degree competent to its own defense, and of a people enlightened
enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal
usurpation of authority. The success of it would require not merely
a factious majority in the legislature, but the concurrence of the
courts of justice and of the body of the people. If the judges were
not embarked in a conspiracy with the legislature, they would
pronounce the resolutions of such a majority to be contrary to the
supreme law of the land, unconstitutional, and void. If the people
were not tainted with the spirit of their State representatives,
they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution, would throw
their weight into the national scale and give it a decided
preponderancy in the contest. Attempts of this kind would not often
be made with levity or rashness, because they could seldom be made
without danger to the authors, unless in cases of a tyrannical
exercise of the federal authority.
If opposition to the national government should arise from the
disorderly conduct of refractory or seditious individuals, it could
be overcome by the same means which are daily employed against the
same evil under the State governments. The magistracy, being
equally the ministers of the law of the land, from whatever source
it might emanate, would doubtless be as ready to guard the national
as the local regulations from the inroads of private licentiousness.
As to those partial commotions and insurrections, which sometimes
disquiet society, from the intrigues of an inconsiderable faction,
or from sudden or occasional illhumors that do not infect the great
body of the community the general government could command more
extensive resources for the suppression of disturbances of that kind
than would be in the power of any single member. And as to those
mortal feuds which, in certain conjunctures, spread a conflagration
through a whole nation, or through a very large proportion of it,
proceeding either from weighty causes of discontent given by the
government or from the contagion of some violent popular paroxysm,
they do not fall within any ordinary rules of calculation. When
they happen, they commonly amount to revolutions and dismemberments
of empire. No form of government can always either avoid or control
them. It is in vain to hope to guard against events too mighty for
human foresight or precaution, and it would be idle to object to a
government because it could not perform impossibilities.



The Same Subject Continued
(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
AN OBJECTION, of a nature different from that which has been
stated and answered, in my last address, may perhaps be likewise
urged against the principle of legislation for the individual
citizens of America. It may be said that it would tend to render
the government of the Union too powerful, and to enable it to absorb
those residuary authorities, which it might be judged proper to
leave with the States for local purposes. Allowing the utmost
latitude to the love of power which any reasonable man can require,
I confess I am at a loss to discover what temptation the persons
intrusted with the administration of the general government could
ever feel to divest the States of the authorities of that
description. The regulation of the mere domestic police of a State
appears to me to hold out slender allurements to ambition.
Commerce, finance, negotiation, and war seem to comprehend all the
objects which have charms for minds governed by that passion; and
all the powers necessary to those objects ought, in the first
instance, to be lodged in the national depository. The
administration of private justice between the citizens of the same
State, the supervision of agriculture and of other concerns of a
similar nature, all those things, in short, which are proper to be
provided for by local legislation, can never be desirable cares of a
general jurisdiction. It is therefore improbable that there should
exist a disposition in the federal councils to usurp the powers with
which they are connected; because the attempt to exercise those
powers would be as troublesome as it would be nugatory; and the
possession of them, for that reason, would contribute nothing to the
dignity, to the importance, or to the splendor of the national
But let it be admitted, for argument’s sake, that mere
wantonness and lust of domination would be sufficient to beget that
disposition; still it may be safely affirmed, that the sense of the
constituent body of the national representatives, or, in other
words, the people of the several States, would control the
indulgence of so extravagant an appetite. It will always be far
more easy for the State governments to encroach upon the national
authorities than for the national government to encroach upon the
State authorities. The proof of this proposition turns upon the
greater degree of influence which the State governments if they
administer their affairs with uprightness and prudence, will
generally possess over the people; a circumstance which at the same
time teaches us that there is an inherent and intrinsic weakness in
all federal constitutions; and that too much pains cannot be taken
in their organization, to give them all the force which is
compatible with the principles of liberty.
The superiority of influence in favor of the particular
governments would result partly from the diffusive construction of
the national government, but chiefly from the nature of the objects
to which the attention of the State administrations would be
It is a known fact in human nature, that its affections are
commonly weak in proportion to the distance or diffusiveness of the
object. Upon the same principle that a man is more attached to his
family than to his neighborhood, to his neighborhood than to the
community at large, the people of each State would be apt to feel a
stronger bias towards their local governments than towards the
government of the Union; unless the force of that principle should
be destroyed by a much better administration of the latter.
This strong propensity of the human heart would find powerful
auxiliaries in the objects of State regulation.
The variety of more minute interests, which will necessarily
fall under the superintendence of the local administrations, and
which will form so many rivulets of influence, running through every
part of the society, cannot be particularized, without involving a
detail too tedious and uninteresting to compensate for the
instruction it might afford.
There is one transcendant advantage belonging to the province of
the State governments, which alone suffices to place the matter in a
clear and satisfactory light,–I mean the ordinary administration of
criminal and civil justice. This, of all others, is the most
powerful, most universal, and most attractive source of popular
obedience and attachment. It is that which, being the immediate and
visible guardian of life and property, having its benefits and its
terrors in constant activity before the public eye, regulating all
those personal interests and familiar concerns to which the
sensibility of individuals is more immediately awake, contributes,
more than any other circumstance, to impressing upon the minds of
the people, affection, esteem, and reverence towards the government.
This great cement of society, which will diffuse itself almost
wholly through the channels of the particular governments,
independent of all other causes of influence, would insure them so
decided an empire over their respective citizens as to render them
at all times a complete counterpoise, and, not unfrequently,
dangerous rivals to the power of the Union.
The operations of the national government, on the other hand,
falling less immediately under the observation of the mass of the
citizens, the benefits derived from it will chiefly be perceived and
attended to by speculative men. Relating to more general interests,
they will be less apt to come home to the feelings of the people;
and, in proportion, less likely to inspire an habitual sense of
obligation, and an active sentiment of attachment.
The reasoning on this head has been abundantly exemplified by
the experience of all federal constitutions with which we are
acquainted, and of all others which have borne the least analogy to
Though the ancient feudal systems were not, strictly speaking,
confederacies, yet they partook of the nature of that species of
association. There was a common head, chieftain, or sovereign,
whose authority extended over the whole nation; and a number of
subordinate vassals, or feudatories, who had large portions of land
allotted to them, and numerous trains of INFERIOR vassals or
retainers, who occupied and cultivated that land upon the tenure of
fealty or obedience, to the persons of whom they held it. Each
principal vassal was a kind of sovereign, within his particular
demesnes. The consequences of this situation were a continual
opposition to authority of the sovereign, and frequent wars between
the great barons or chief feudatories themselves. The power of the
head of the nation was commonly too weak, either to preserve the
public peace, or to protect the people against the oppressions of
their immediate lords. This period of European affairs is
emphatically styled by historians, the times of feudal anarchy.
When the sovereign happened to be a man of vigorous and warlike
temper and of superior abilities, he would acquire a personal weight
and influence, which answered, for the time, the purpose of a more
regular authority. But in general, the power of the barons
triumphed over that of the prince; and in many instances his
dominion was entirely thrown off, and the great fiefs were erected
into independent principalities or States. In those instances in
which the monarch finally prevailed over his vassals, his success
was chiefly owing to the tyranny of those vassals over their
dependents. The barons, or nobles, equally the enemies of the
sovereign and the oppressors of the common people, were dreaded and
detested by both; till mutual danger and mutual interest effected a
union between them fatal to the power of the aristocracy. Had the
nobles, by a conduct of clemency and justice, preserved the fidelity
and devotion of their retainers and followers, the contests between
them and the prince must almost always have ended in their favor,
and in the abridgment or subversion of the royal authority.
This is not an assertion founded merely in speculation or
conjecture. Among other illustrations of its truth which might be
cited, Scotland will furnish a cogent example. The spirit of
clanship which was, at an early day, introduced into that kingdom,
uniting the nobles and their dependants by ties equivalent to those
of kindred, rendered the aristocracy a constant overmatch for the
power of the monarch, till the incorporation with England subdued
its fierce and ungovernable spirit, and reduced it within those
rules of subordination which a more rational and more energetic
system of civil polity had previously established in the latter
The separate governments in a confederacy may aptly be compared
with the feudal baronies; with this advantage in their favor, that
from the reasons already explained, they will generally possess the
confidence and good-will of the people, and with so important a
support, will be able effectually to oppose all encroachments of the
national government. It will be well if they are not able to
counteract its legitimate and necessary authority. The points of
similitude consist in the rivalship of power, applicable to both,
and in the CONCENTRATION of large portions of the strength of the
community into particular DEPOSITS, in one case at the disposal of
individuals, in the other case at the disposal of political bodies.
A concise review of the events that have attended confederate
governments will further illustrate this important doctrine; an
inattention to which has been the great source of our political
mistakes, and has given our jealousy a direction to the wrong side.
This review shall form the subject of some ensuing papers.

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