Archive for the ‘Federalist Papers’ Tag

Federalist #4 – the necessity of good government

John Jay argued in Federalist #4 for a unified but wise America in the face of late 18th Century foreign threats. It’s a timely read after last night’s foreign policy Presidential debate:

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.

The warnings contained in the final paragraph of Federalist #4 are so applicable today that they warrant full citation here:

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.

modern US resources and finances rashly squandered

Federalist #3 – promoting a United America

Federalist #3 argued that a more United America would preserve long term “good faith and justice” to create a healthy tension against potentially shallow immediate concerns.  In this way, the national government would check and balance member States which might otherwise behave as reactionary, independent countries:

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.

United States in 1787

Continue reading

Federalist #2 – a most important question

The admonition of Federalist #2 ought to be carefully heeded in today’s political climate, although we face a different threat today.  Federalist #2 warned of the dangers of decentralization to the point of weakness.  This was a real risk at the time, because of Americans’ intense skepticism of centralized control by a king.

The pressure today (from both parties) comes from the other end of the spectrum than too little power at the Federal level.  We’re sleepwalking perilously close to the centralized control against which our Founding Fathers risked everything to escape.  Consider these excerpts of Federalist #2 as they apply to America today:

Continue reading

Federalist #1 – be courageous, seek substance

From the Federalist #1, published on October 27, 1787:

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.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: