Our last post began our discussion of the dangers from dissensions between the states that is covered by Hamilton in Federalist No. 6 and Federalist No. 7. In that post, we discussed how Hamilton noted that we had no reason 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 given that men are subject to aversions, predilections, rivalships, and desires of unjust acquisitions and popular assemblies [are] frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities. This has been proven again and again throughout history as Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Carthage were all republics and were as often engaged in wars, both offensive and defensive, as the neighbouring monarchies.
However, if the stats form a union that is a Confederate Republic and their constitution prevents the differences that neighbourhood occasions, it will extinguish that secret jealousy which disposes all states to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their neighbours and thereby minimize the dangers of dissension between the states.
In this essay, Hamilton addresses the inducements the States could have, if disunited, to make war upon each other. He starts by noting that territorial disputes have at all times been found one of the most fertile sources of hostility among nations and that this cause would exist among us in full force as we have a vast tract of unsettled territory within the boundaries of the United States. And there still are discordant and undecided claims between several of them them, and the dissolution of the Union would lay a foundation for similar claims between them all. 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. … A dismemberment of the Confederacy, however, would revive this dispute, and would create others on the same subject.
In addition, the competitions of commerce would be another fruitful source of contention. The States less favourably circumstanced would be desirous of escaping from the disadvantages of local situation, and of sharing in the advantages of their more fortunate neighbours. As a result, 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.
And this would be amplified by the public debt of the Union [which] would be a further cause of collision between the separate States or confederacies. How would it be possible to agree upon a rule of apportionment satisfactory to all? And these, as usual, would be exaggerated by the adverse interest of the parties. But, more importantly, 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. When all is said and done, 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.
When all is said and done, and you add up the chances of territorial disputes, commerce disputes, and debt disputes, you see that the 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. In other words, if the states do not form a union that is a Confederate Republic, the dangers from dissensions between the states would be very real.
When you put it all together, it truly is a case of united we stand, and divided we fall. And if we don’t work together we divide, and then we fall.
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