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Federalist 2

Federalist 2
by John Jay

Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force & Influence

When the people of America reflect, that the question now submitted to their determination, is one of the most important that has engaged, or can well engage, their attention, the propriety of their taking a very comprehensive, as well as a serious, view of it, must be evident.

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[1] to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers.[2] It is well worthy of consideration, therefore, whether it would conduce[3] more to the interest of the people of America, that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, than 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.

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 formerly much opposed to it, are at present of the number.[4] 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.

It has often given me pleasure to observe, that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but that one connected fertile, wide spreading 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.

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 their 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.[5]

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 every where 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 them were bleeding in the field, 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[6], should on experiment be found greatly deficient and inadequate to the purpose it was intended to answer.[7]

This intelligent people perceived and regretted these defects. Still continuing no less attached to union, than enamoured of liberty, they observed the danger which immediately threatened the former, and more remotely the latter; and being persuaded 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 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 souls of men[8], undertook the arduous task. In the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects[9], they passed many months in cool uninterrupted and daily consultations; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passion, 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; but to that sedate and candid consideration, which the magnitude and importance of the subject demand, and which it certainly ought to receive.[10] But, as has been already remarked, it 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[11] 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 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, from the undue influence of ancient attachments, or whose ambition aimed at objects which did not correspond with the public good, were indefatigable[12] in their endeavours to persuade the people to reject the advice of that patriotic congress. Many indeed were deceived and deluded, but the great majority reasoned and decided judiciously; and happy they are in reflecting 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[13] in the public liberty and prosperity, and therefore that it was not less their inclination, than their duty, to recommend such measures only, as after the most mature deliberation they really thought 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 endeavours used to deter and dissuade them from it. But if the people at large had reason to confide in the men of that congress, few of whom had then 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 member of this convention, and carried into it their accumulated knowledge and experience.[14]

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.[15] 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. Thy 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 forseen 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.”


1828 Dictionary:

CEDE, v. t. [Fr. Ceder; Sp. Port. Ceder; It. cedere; L. cedo; W. gadu, gadaw; Eng. to quit. See Quit and Conge. This coincides also with the Gr. Cazw, ecadon]

To yield; to surrender; to give up; to resign; as, to cede a fortress, a province or country, by treaty. This word is appropriately used to denote the relinquishment of a conquered city, fortress, or territory, to the former sovereign or proprietor.

To relinquish and grant; as, to cede all claims to a disputed right or territory.

[2] I struggle with this statement by Mr. Jay. I agree that Government, in some form, is absolutely necessary; and in order for it to be effective, we must delegate to it some of the agency that we have because of some of our rights; however, I feel that the use of the word cede here puts too much power in the hands of government. Our rights are given us from God, not from government. They are a stewardship that has an accompanying agency. To cede these rights to government is inappropriate. The correct word to use here, I believe, is delegate. When we delegate, we do not relinquish any rights; we instead give the stewardship over those rights to government.

1828 Dictionary:

CONDU’CE, v. i. [L. conduco; con and duco, to lead; Sp. conducir; It. condurre.]

To lead or tend; to contribute; followed by to.

To Conduce to includes the sense of aiding, tending to produce, or furnishing the means; hence it is sometimes equivalent to promote, advance, or further. Virtue conduces to the welfare of society. Religion conduces to temporal happiness. Temperance conduces to health and long life.

In the transitive sense, to conduct, it is not authorized.

Meaning that many who were opposed to this idea have reversed the way they see it.

John Jay makes a good argument here for the UNION. What reason would there be, since all of the colonies share common land, language, religious tendencies if not religious sects, principles of government, to organize them selves into several different sovereignties instead of one UNION? They did have disputes, but I believe these were more over policy and issues than over basic principles of government or any other major reason that separates any other two sovereignties.

a. [in and auspicious.] Ill omened; unfortunate; unlucky; evil; unfavorable. The war commenced at an inauspicious time, and its issue was inauspicious. The counsels of a bad man have an inauspicious influence on society.

He’s saying that in the time of crisis, there was an obvious need for a union and it is not surprising that the governmental form that was created at the time was completely inadequate for the purposes, since there was very little time to deliberate and think on the issue.

[8] Is this a reference to “The Crisis” by Thomas Payne?

[9] I believe that the Lord provided this time when their minds did not have other pressing matters to demand their attention, in order that they might be more in tune with the spirit of revelation. This teaches us something about the necessity of clearing our mind of other matters when we are seeking for revelation and guidance from God.

The constitution was not presented as a “Do this or else,” nor as a “Just trust us and our research on this” plan. It was presented for the people to spend some serious time considering. The Federalist Papers are the attempt to persuade the people to adopt the Constitution.
This is one of the things that makes the US revolution more principle based than the French revolution, or the socialist revolutions. If someone did not agree with the US constitution, they were not treated like enemies to the state, but instead, efforts to persuade them to change their mind, through reason and dialogue were used. To my understanding, the opposite is true about socialist revolutions. If someone disagrees with them, they are considered enemies to “the cause” and killed or imprisoned.

San”guine (?), a. [F. sanguin, L. sanguineus, fr. sanguis blood. Cf.

1. Having the color of blood; red.

Of his complexion he was sanguine. Chaucer.

Like to that sanguine flower inscribed with woe. Milton.

2. Characterized by abundance and active circulation of blood; as, a sanguine bodily temperament.

3. Warm; ardent; as, a sanguine temper.

4. Anticipating the best; not desponding; confident; full of hope; as, sanguine of success. Syn. — Warm; ardent; lively; confident; hopeful.

INDEFAT”IGABLE, a. [L. indefatigabilis; in and defatigo, fatigo, to fatigue.]
Unwearied; not tired; not exhausted by labor; not yielding to fatigue; as indefatigable exertions; indefatigable attendance or perseverance.

Upborne with indefatigable wings.

Individually interested, not collectively interested. I believe this is an important distinction. Their individual interest led them to collaborate for the public liberty. It was not a majority vote of these men to fight for the public liberty, but it was a unanimous, and individually decided interest.

This is a good argument to me. If I had been alive at the time, I feel I would have good reason to trust the results of the convention.

Is this an argument for collectivism? It’s not a mastermind group since no one person is directing the nation. Is it not then a collective?


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