Federalist No. 4

Today we discuss Federalist No. 4. This is the third in the series of four contributions by John Jay that we will be covering in our thirty-six part blog series. In this essay, Jay again addresses the dangers from foreign force and influence while writing to the people of the State of New York.

In this essay, published in the Independent Journal, Jay notes that 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. As Supply Management professionals, this essay hits close to home because Jay begins to explain this statement by noting that with France and with Britain 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. Furthermore, 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.

Wow! Jay essentially predicted the global dominance, at least in GDP, that America, a country that did not yet exist, would attain 84 years before it happened! And he predicted the challenges America would face when it attained this dominance. Not bad. Plus, he realized that inducements to war may arise out of these circumstances. (Which they did. Thee was the Franco-American War which consisted of the French privateer attacks on U.S. Shipping, the War of 1812 brought partially about due to trade restrictions, the Mexican-American War, etc.)

As a result, he argues the need for a a union and a good national government … to put and keep the people of America in SUCH A SITUATION as, instead of INVITING war, will tend to repress and discourage it. A situation that consists in the best possible state of defence which can only be realized in a Union because 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
and move on uniform principles of policy. Plus, It can apply the resources and power of the whole to the defence 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. In addition, 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.

But, at least in this author’s view, the heart of the article appears in the last paragraph. 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

In other words, if a country wants to be safe, and free, it needs a well administered national government that effectively organizes its militia, discreetly manages its resources and finances, and prudently regulates trade. As a result, it is important to elect officials that maintain a militia that is large enough to defend the country from perspective threats (but not so large that the military becomes a driving force), know how to balance the budget (and maintain a good credit rating), and believe in fair global trade (which should not be too protectionist or completely free of tariffs, especially considering that tariffs are still a significant part of the tax-base in many nations). And while appropriately regulated and fair is open to interpretation, that interpretation needs to be congruent with what the majority of countries that participate in global trade (which today participate in the United Nations) more-or-less accept as reasonable. And just like an extremist government will not minimize the chance of hostility (and maximize the safety of its people), neither will an extremist candidate.

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