Federalist No. 5

Today we discuss Federalist No. 5. This is the fourth, and final, in the series of contributions by John Jay that we will be covering in our thirty-six part blog series. In this essay, Jay concludes his discussion of the dangers of foreign force and influence while writing to the people of the State of New York in the Independent.

In this piece Jay reminds us 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. In this essay, he reminds us that although it seems obvious to common sense that the people of such an island [as Great Britain] should be but one nation, 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. Then he asks would not the same thing happen if the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations. After all, 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.

After spending time noting how likely this would be to happen when one of the confederacies became unquestionably more formidable than any of the others, Jay then goes on to note that the proposed confederacies [of the time] would be DISTINCT NATIONS and 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.

You’d have a situation where one confederacy was ready to declare war on a foreign nation for hostile actions, while another would want to do everything to preserve peace with its foremost trading partner. Just like neighbouring nations in Europe, acting under the impulse of opposite interests and unfriendly passions, would frequently be found taking different sides, so would the confederacies. What a nightmare! And given 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, a situation of divided loyalties is the last situation you want to have on a continent.

So, to maximize safety, you need one nation, one Union. And for that Union to be true, the citizens must be of one mind and one heart. And, furthermore, so should the officials they represent to elect them. But that is a topic for other posts.

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