After trudging through Hamilton’s complicated prose, it was a pleasure and a relief to read Jay’s Federalist 2. John Jay was the author of five of the Federalist Papers. Four are devoted to the need for a strong union and the danger of foreign influence. Illness prevented him from a greater contribution. That is unfortunate because his reasons are clear and so well stated that his essays require little if any elaboration. However, for the sake of making this project complete, they could not be left out.
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.
When the people of America consider that they must decide a question that is one of the most important that they have ever faced, they will realize how necessary it is that they take a comprehensive and careful look at what is proposed.
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.
Government is unquestionably necessary. It is undeniable that whenever and however a government is instituted, the people must transfer some of their natural rights to it so that government has sufficient power to function. It is worth consideration, whether it would be better for the people of America to be governed as one nation, under one federal government, or by separate confederacies. In the latter, each confederacy would be be given the same kind of powers which are proposed for 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.
Until very recently, it has been universally agreed that the prosperity of the American people depends on remaining firmly united. It is to this purpose that all the hopes and efforts of the best and wisest of our citizens have been directed. But now, we have politicians who say that this is wrong, and that dividing the union into separate confederacies or sovereignties is a better means of protecting our security and happiness. As strange as it seems, this new doctrine has its supporters. In fact, some who formerly opposed it are among its present adherents. Regardless of why these men now support this position, it would be a mistake for the people at large to adopt these beliefs without being certain that they are based 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.
I’ve often been pleased to consider that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories. Instead it is one contiguous fertile expanse of country. It is our good fortune to be blessed with a variety of soils, innumerable streams, and natural resources. Its borders are surrounded by a chain of navigable waterways, situated as though to hold it all together. The most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient distances, provide highways for easy transportation, communication and trade.
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.
Equally pleasing to me is that we have been blessed with one contiguous country populated by people of the same ancestry, culture, and religion. These people have nobly fought side by side to win a long and bloody war and establish 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.
This country and this people seem to have been made for each other. It appears as if it was the design of Providence that this combination should never be split into a multiple 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.
Up until now we’ve shared similar ideas and traditions. For all intents and purposes we have been one people, with each individual citizen 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 well-balanced 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.
A strong sense of the advantages and value of union have motivated the people to institute a federal government to preserve and perpetuate it. They formed it almost as soon as they had a political existence. Actually, they formed it even as their homes were in flames, when many among them were bleeding, and in the midst of war when there was little opportunity for calm reflection on the best way to form a wise and well-balanced government for a free people. It is no wonder that the government instituted under such conditions would be found deficient and inadequate.
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 intelligent people perceived and regretted these defects. Still convinced of the need for union and in love with liberty, the people saw the danger threatening the former and possibly the latter. Once convinced that security for both union and liberty could only be found in a better designed national government, united in that thought, they convened the recent convention at Philadelphia to address the issue.
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.
This convention was composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people. Many of these men were highly distinguished by their patriotism, virtue and wisdom. In times which tried the minds and hearts of men, they undertook the arduous task of constructing a new government. After passing many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation, 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.
Realize that this plan is only recommended and not imposed. It is presented for candid and calm consideration, which is as it should be for a subject of this magnitude and importance. But as was mentioned in the previous paper, this calm and honest consideration is more to be wished for than expected. We’ve learned not to expect too much. After all, it was well-grounded fears of imminent danger that induced the people of America to form the memorable Congress of 1774. That body recommended certain measures to their constituents, and events proved them right. But, we can still remember how soon the press began to teem with pamphlets and weekly papers against those very measures. It wasn’t only government officials, but also the self-interested, others who merely misjudged the situation or who felt unduly attached to the previous system, and the ambitious who were not motivated by the public good. These voices were all tireless in their efforts to persuade the people to reject the advice of that patriotic Congress. Many were deceived and deluded by their efforts. But, the great majority of the people reasoned and decided wisely and are now happy 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 advisable.
The people realized that that Congress was composed of many wise and experienced men. They knew that because they came from different parts of the country, they brought a variety of useful information and shared it. In the course of the time they spent together in inquiring into and discussing the true interests of their country, they were able to discern how best to advance those interests. These men were conscientious and scrupulous in their duty. They would only recommend such measures they really thought were most prudent and advisable.
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.
These and similar considerations encouraged the people to rely on the judgement and integrity of that Congress. In spite of the strategies devised against it, they took Congress’s advice. If the people at large had reason to trust in the men of that Congress, few of whom had been tested or who were well known, then they have even more reason to trust the judgement of the men of the convention. This convention was composed of some of the most distinguished members of that Congress; men who have since been tried and tested and who have proven their patriotism and abilities. These are men who have grown old in acquiring political information, and carried into this convention 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 poet: “FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL TO ALL MY GREATNESS.”
It is worth noting that not only the first, but every successive Congress, as well as the recent convention have all agreed with the people that the prosperity of America depends on its Union. This convention was convened by the people to preserve and protect the Union, it is also the goal of the plan formulated by it that the people are being asked to adopt. How can deprecating the importance of the Union be justified? Why is it even suggested that three or four confederacies would be better than one? I am convinced that the people have always gotten this right and that their universal appreciation for the Union is well justified. I will attempt to explain their reasons in subsequent papers. Those promoting the idea of substituting a number of distinct confederacies in place of the current plan put the continuance of the Union in the utmost jeopardy. Should the dissolution of the Union transpire, America will have reason to exclaim, in the words of the poet: “FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL TO ALL MY GREATNESS.”