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Federalist No. 6

In Federalist No. 6, Hamilton picks up where Jay left off in 2 – 5. The difference in tone is immediately recognizable and the sentences grow ever longer as the essay progresses. Hamilton is also much more combative. He misses no opportunity to demonstrate his command of classical as well as European history, with some references that surely would have puzzled most of his readers.

Among the people that Hamilton refers to by way of example are three women: Madame de Maintenon, Duchess of Marlborough, and Madame de Pompadour.

Madam de Maintenon, to whom Hamilton refers as a “bigot”, was the influential second wife of Louis XIV. Perhaps he is referring to her devout Catholicism and influence on policies implemented to convert or expel the Hugenots in France. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a bigot is “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices”. This is almost certainly the meaning intended by Hamilton, rather than the modern connotation with racism.

The long-lived Duchess of Marlborough, whom Hamilton accuses of “petulance,” was famous for her influence with Queen Anne. Eventually they had had a falling out because of her outspokenness and attempts to manipulate the Queen’s support of the Whigs. Apparently, at one point, she even had the audacity to tell Queen Anne to “be quiet” when in an argument with her. This evidently offended the Queen!

Madame de Pompadour was the influential mistress of Louis XV. She was given an estate and made Marquise. She remained lifelong friends with the King and exercised considerable power behind the scenes. Her involvement with the Cardinal de Bernis and support of the duc de Choiseul after the 7 years war may be the cabals to which Hamilton refers.

The Federalist No. 6

Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States

[Alexander Hamilton]

To the People of the State of New York:

THE three last numbers of this paper have been dedicated to an enumeration of the dangers to which we should be exposed, in a state of disunion, from the arms and arts of foreign nations. I shall now proceed to delineate dangers of a different and, perhaps, still more alarming kind — those which will in all probability flow from dissensions between the States themselves, and from domestic factions and convulsions. These have been already in some instances slightly anticipated; but they deserve a more particular and more full investigation.

The last three essays enumerated the dangers from foreign nations, arising from being in a state of disunion. This paper will focus on dangers of a different sort, those arising from dissensions between the States themselves and from domestic factions and disputes. These are perhaps even more serious than the former. Although they have been touched upon briefly, they deserve a bit more elaboration.

A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations who can seriously doubt that, if these States should either be wholly disunited, or only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with each other. To presume a want of motives for such contests as an argument against their existence, would be to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages.

Only the most naive believer in Utopian expectations can seriously doubt that, if the States are not united, or are only united in partial confederacies, they would squabble. As separate entities, they are likely to engage in frequent and violent contests with each other. To think that there would be no motivation for such disputes is reason enough to think that they won’t occur, is to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. To expect continued harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, is to ignore what history has shown us as the normal course of human events.

The causes of hostility among nations are innumerable. There are some which have a general and almost constant operation upon the collective bodies of society. Of this description are the love of power or the desire of pre-eminence and dominion — the jealousy of power, or the desire of equality and safety. There are others which have a more circumscribed though an equally operative influence within their spheres. Such are the rivalships and competitions of commerce between commercial nations. And there are others, not less numerous than either of the former, which take their origin entirely in private passions; in the attachments, enmities, interests, hopes, and fears of leading individuals in the communities of which they are members. Men of this class, whether the favorites of a king or of a people, have in too many instances abused the confidence they possessed; and assuming the pretext of some public motive, have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquillity to personal advantage or personal gratification.

The causes of hostility among nations are innumerable. Some of these causes occur almost constantly throughout history wherever societies form. These include the love of power, the desire of dominion or jealousy of power, or perhaps the desire of equality and safety. There are other causes which are equally pernicious if more limited. These may be the rivalries and competition of trade between commercial nations. Finally, there are other causes which originate in the private passions; in the attachments, enmities, interests, hopes, and fears of leading individuals in the communities of which they are members. Men of this class, whether the favorites of a king or of a people, have in too many instances abused the confidence placed in them. In assuming the pretext of some public motive, they have not hesitated to sacrifice the national tranquillity to personal advantage or personal gratification.

The celebrated Pericles, in compliance with the resentment of a prostitute,1 at the expense of much of the blood and treasure of his countrymen, attacked, vanquished, and destroyed the city of the Samnians. The same man, stimulated by private pique against the Megarensians,2 another nation of Greece, or to avoid a prosecution with which he was threatened as an accomplice of a supposed theft of the statuary Phidias,3 or to get rid of the accusations prepared to be brought against him for dissipating the funds of the state in the purchase of popularity,4 or from a combination of all these causes, was the primitive author of that famous and fatal war, distinguished in the Grecian annals by the name of the Peloponnesian war; which, after various vicissitudes, intermissions, and renewals, terminated in the ruin of the Athenian commonwealth.

Let’s not forget the famous Pericles, who, at the behest of a vengeful prostitute, caused his countrymen to expend much blood and treasure to attack, vanquish, and destroy the city of the Samnians. That same man, motivated either by his irritation against the Magarensians (another nation of Greece), his desire to avoid prosecution for the theft of the statuary of Phidias, or in order to get rid of charges of buying votes with state funds, or perhaps some combination of all three causes, started the Peloponnesian war. This famous war ultimately culminated in the ruin of the Athenian commonwealth.

The ambitious cardinal, who was prime minister to Henry VIII., permitting his vanity to aspire to the triple crown,5 entertained hopes of succeeding in the acquisition of that splendid prize by the influence of the Emperor Charles V. To secure the favor and interest of this enterprising and powerful monarch, he precipitated England into a war with France, contrary to the plainest dictates of policy, and at the hazard of the safety and independence, as well of the kingdom over which he presided by his counsels, as of Europe in general. For if there ever was a sovereign who bid fair to realize the project of universal monarchy, it was the Emperor Charles V., of whose intrigues Wolsey was at once the instrument and the dupe.

The influence which the bigotry of one female,6 the petulance of another,7 and the cabals of a third,8 had in the contemporary policy, ferments, and pacifications, of a considerable part of Europe, are topics that have been too often descanted upon not to be generally known.

And then there is the ambitious cardinal, who was the prime minister to Henry VIII. He allowed his vanity to aspire to the papacy, which he hoped to obtain via the influence of the Emperor Charles V. In an effort to secure Charles’ favor and sponsorship, he caused England to enter into a war with France. This was contrary to the most obvious interpretation of policy and risked the safety and independence and in fact the very kingdom over which he presided in counsels. The peace of Europe as a whole was jeopardized by his actions. If there ever was a sovereign who stood a good chance of becoming ruler of the world, it was the Emperor Charles V. Wolsey served as both the instrument and dupe of his machinations.

Such personalities are not limited to men. Well known are the results of the bigotry of one woman, the petulance of another, and the conspiracies of a third. Much of Europe felt their effects.

To multiply examples of the agency of personal considerations in the production of great national events, either foreign or domestic, according to their direction, would be an unnecessary waste of time. Those who have but a superficial acquaintance with the sources from which they are to be drawn, will themselves recollect a variety of instances; and those who have a tolerable knowledge of human nature will not stand in need of such lights to form their opinion either of the reality or extent of that agency. Perhaps, however, a reference, tending to illustrate the general principle, may with propriety be made to a case which has lately happened among ourselves. If Shays had not been a desperate debtor, it is much to be doubted whether Massachusetts would have been plunged into a civil war.

It would be a waste of time to add more instances of such personal motivations as causes of national strife. Even those barely familiar with history should have no problem coming up with their own examples. Anyone who knows anything about human nature should need no further explanation to understand just how prevalent such causes are. However, perhaps one more reference is in order to put this matter to rest. Consider the situation in which we recently found ourselves. If Mr. Shays had not been deeply in debt, it is unlikely that Massachusetts would have been plunged into a civil war.

But notwithstanding the concurring testimony of experience, in this particular, there are still to be found visionary or designing men, who stand ready to advocate the paradox of perpetual peace between the States, though dismembered and alienated from each other. The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men, and to extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into wars. Commercial republics, like ours, will never be disposed to waste themselves in ruinous contentions with each other. They will be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of mutual amity and concord.

Regardless of the facts, and regardless of history, there are those who are still willing to argue for the paradox of perpetual peace between the States. Though these States be separate and alienated from each other, they believe, or would have us believe, that they will remain amicable. According to them, the genius of republics is peace. They contend that trade softens the manners of those engaging in it. Commerce is sufficient to dampen disputes which have otherwise led to wars. Commercial republics, like ours, won’t be likely to dissipate their energies and resources in ruinous disputes with each other. They will instead be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of mutual friendship and agreement.

Is it not (we may ask these projectors in politics) the true interest of all nations to cultivate the same benevolent and philosophic spirit? If this be their true interest, have they in fact pursued it? Has it not, on the contrary, invariably been found that momentary passions, and immediate interest, have a more active and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote considerations of policy, utility or justice? Have republics in practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? Are not the former administered by men as well as the latter? Are there not aversions, predilections, rivalships, and desires of unjust acquisitions, that affect nations as well as kings? Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities? Is it not well known that their determinations are often governed by a few individuals in whom they place confidence, and are, of course, liable to be tinctured by the passions and views of those individuals? Has commerce hitherto done anything more than change the objects of war? Is not the love of wealth as domineering and enterprising a passion as that of power or glory? Have there not been as many wars founded upon commercial motives since that has become the prevailing system of nations, as were before occasioned by the cupidity of territory or dominion? Has not the spirit of commerce, in many instances, administered new incentives to the appetite, both for the one and for the other? Let experience, the least fallible guide of human opinions, be appealed to for an answer to these inquiries.

Is it not (we may ask these political soothsayers) the true interest of all nations to foster the same benevolent and philosophical spirit? If this is indeed the case, have they pursued it? Of course not. On the contrary, it has always been that momentary passions and short term interest have held sway over the actions of human conduct. High minded considerations of policy, utility and justice are always secondary at best. Now consider, in practice have republics been less prone to war than monarchies? After all, aren’t they also administered by men? Do not nations share the same aversions, predilections, rivalries, and unjust desire of acquisition as men? Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities? Is it not common knowledge that their actions often spring from but a few powerful individuals? These individuals flavor their decisions with their own passions and views. Furthermore, is there any evidence that commerce has thus far done anything more than to change the goals of war? Isn’t the desire for wealth every bit as powerful as the desire for power and glory? Haven’t there been as many wars started because of commercial motives as were previously caused by the desire for territory or dominion? Hasn’t commerce simply provided new incentives for war? Experience, the least fallible guide of human opinions, should be considered as the basis for an answer to these questions.

Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Carthage were all republics; two of them, Athens and Carthage, of the commercial kind. Yet were they as often engaged in wars, offensive and defensive, as the neighboring monarchies of the same times. Sparta was little better than a well-regulated camp; and Rome was never sated of carnage and conquest.

Carthage, though a commercial republic, was the aggressor in the very war that ended in her destruction. Hannibal had carried her arms into the heart of Italy and to the gates of Rome, before Scipio, in turn, gave him an overthrow in the territories of Carthage, and made a conquest of the commonwealth.

Venice, in later times, figured more than once in wars of ambition, till, becoming an object to the other Italian states, Pope Julius II. found means to accomplish that formidable league,9 which gave a deadly blow to the power and pride of this haughty republic.

Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Carthage were all republics. Two of these, Athens and Carthage, were commercial in nature. Yet they were embroiled in war, offensive and defensive, just as often as the neighboring monarchies of the same times. Sparta was little better than a well-regulated camp; and Rome never tired of carnage and conquest.

Carthage, though a commercial republic, was the aggressor in the very war that ended in her destruction. Hannibal led her armies into the heart of Italy and the very gates of Rome. Then Scipio turned the tables on him and advanced into Carthaginian territory and conquered Carthage.

In later times, Venice was involved in more than one war of ambition. Finally, the other Italian states tired of the game and under Pope Julius II, formed alliances of sufficient strength to overcome this haughty republic.

The provinces of Holland, till they were overwhelmed in debts and taxes, took a leading and conspicuous part in the wars of Europe. They had furious contests with England for the dominion of the sea, and were among the most persevering and most implacable of the opponents of Louis XIV.

In the government of Britain the representatives of the people compose one branch of the national legislature. Commerce has been for ages the predominant pursuit of that country. Few nations, nevertheless, have been more frequently engaged in war; and the wars in which that kingdom has been engaged have, in numerous instances, proceeded from the people.

Until overcome with debt and buried in taxes, Holland took a leading role in the wars of Europe. They  contested with England for dominion of the sea, and were among the toughest opponents of France’s Louis XIV.

In Britain’s government the representatives of the people compose one branch of the national legislature. Commerce has been for ages the predominant pursuit of that country. Nevertheless, few nations have been more frequently engaged in war. What’s more, the wars in which that kingdom has been engaged have frequently proceeded from the people.

There have been, if I may so express it, almost as many popular as royal wars. The cries of the nation and the importunities of their representatives have, upon various occasions, dragged their monarchs into war, or continued them in it, contrary to their inclinations, and sometimes contrary to the real interests of the State. In that memorable struggle for superiority between the rival houses of Austria and Bourbon, which so long kept Europe in a flame, it is well known that the antipathies of the English against the French, seconding the ambition, or rather the avarice, of a favorite leader,10 protracted the war beyond the limits marked out by sound policy, and for a considerable time in opposition to the views of the court.

I dare say there have been almost as many popular, as royal wars. The demands of the people and pleading of their representatives have, on various occasions, dragged their monarchs into war. At times they have caused their rulers to continue at war even when they knew better. Sometimes this was not in the best interests of the State. Take for example, the rivalry between the houses of Austria and Bourbon, which kept Europe in flames for a long time. It is well known that the hatred of the English for the French supported the ambitions and greed of the Duke of Marlborough. This caused the war to drag on far beyond the limits of sound policy, and even for a long time in opposition to the views of the court.

The wars of these two last-mentioned nations have in a great measure grown out of commercial considerations, — the desire of supplanting and the fear of being supplanted, either in particular branches of traffic or in the general advantages of trade and navigation, and sometimes even the more culpable desire of sharing in the commerce of other nations without their consent.

The last war but between Britain and Spain sprang from the attempts of the British merchants to prosecute an illicit trade with the Spanish main. These unjustifiable practices on their part produced severity on the part of the Spaniards toward the subjects of Great Britain which were not more justifiable, because they exceeded the bounds of a just retaliation and were chargeable with inhumanity and cruelty. Many of the English who were taken on the Spanish coast were sent to dig in the mines of Potosi; and by the usual progress of a spirit of resentment, the innocent were, after a while, confounded with the guilty in indiscriminate punishment. The complaints of the merchants kindled a violent flame throughout the nation, which soon after broke out in the House of Commons, and was communicated from that body to the ministry. Letters of reprisal were granted, and a war ensued, which in its consequences overthrew all the alliances that but twenty years before had been formed with sanguine expectations of the most beneficial fruits.

The wars of these two nations have, for the most part, grown out of commercial considerations. They arose out of a desire for preeminence in either a particular variety of trade or of navigation and commerce in general. Sometimes they came about simply because they wanted to share in the commerce of other nations without their consent.

The last war but between Britain and Spain sprang from the attempts of the British merchants to conduct an illicit trade with the Spanish main. This caused a not unexpected antipathy toward the subjects of Great Britain on the part of the Spanish people. In retaliation, they exceeded the bounds of justice and were guilty of inhumanity and cruelty. Many of the English who were taken on the Spanish coast were sent to dig in the mines of Potosi. As is often the case when resentment rules, eventually even innocent British were sometimes thrown in the mix. Predictably the British merchants howled their indignities and kindled the flames of righteous indignation which ultimately spread to the House of Commons. This furor worked its way into the ministry and letters of reprisal were granted. The war that ensued destroyed the alliances of twenty years before. These alliances had been formed with every expectation of the most beneficial results.

From this summary of what has taken place in other countries, whose situations have borne the nearest resemblance to our own, what reason can we have 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? Have we not already seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those idle theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the imperfections, weaknesses and evils incident to society in every shape? Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?

Looking at what has taken place in other countries, why would we expect things to be different for us? Their situations were not dissimilar to ours as members of a confederacy or as different States. Haven’t we had enough of idle theories and fallacious promises of perfection in the ability to avoid the weaknesses and evils common to every society. It’s time to wake up from this deceitful dream of a golden age. We need to come to terms with the fact that, like the rest of the world, we are far from laying claim to perfect wisdom and perfect virtue.

Let the point of extreme depression to which our national dignity and credit have sunk, let the inconveniences felt everywhere from a lax and ill administration of government, let the revolt of a part of the State of North Carolina, the late menacing disturbances in Pennsylvania, and the actual insurrections and rebellions in Massachusetts, declare –!

Look at how far our national dignity and credit have sunk. Look at the results of lax and ill administration of government. Look at the revolt that occurred in the State of North Carolina and the recent disturbances in Pennsylvania and rebellions in Massachusetts. These things speak for themselves.

So far is the general sense of mankind from corresponding with the tenets of those who endeavor to lull asleep our apprehensions of discord and hostility between the States, in the event of disunion, that it has from long observation of the progress of society become a sort of axiom in politics, that vicinity or nearness of situation, constitutes nations natural enemies. An intelligent writer expresses himself on this subject to this effect: “NEIGHBORING NATIONS (says he) are naturally enemies of each other unless their common weakness forces them to league in a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC, and their constitution prevents the differences that neighborhood occasions, extinguishing that secret jealousy which disposes all states to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their neighbors.11 This passage, at the same time, points out the EVIL and suggests the REMED.

Those who try to tell us that we don’t have to worry about discord and hostility between neighboring States in the event of disunion, are far removed from reality. History shows us that the vicinity or nearness of situation leads to making nations natural enemies. An intelligent writer wrote: “NEIGHBORING NATIONS are naturally enemies of each other unless their common weakness forces them to league in a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC, and their constitution prevents the disputes that arise out of being neighbors. This eliminates the disposition that all states have to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their neighbors.” This passage both points out the problem and the solution.

PUBLIUS

1. Aspasia, vide Plutarch’s Life of Pericles.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid. Phidias was supposed to have stolen some public gold, with the connivance of Pericles, for the embellishment of the statue of Minerva.

5. Worn by the popes.

6. Madame de Maintenon.

7. Duchess of Marlborough.

8. Madame de Pompadour.

9. The League of Cambray, comprehending the Emperor, the King of France, the King of Aragon, and most of the Italian princes and states.

10. The Duke of Marlborough.

11. Vide Principes des Negociations par l’AbbĂ© de Mably.

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