Spiffy thoughts

The thoughts of a recovering disappointment.

  • I am a Mormon

  • TJEd

    Thomas Jefferson Education
  • Teaching Self Government

    Teaching Self Government
  • Archives

  • Recent

  • Advertisements

Federalist 3

Federalist 3
by John Jay

The Same Subject continued

It is not a new observation that the people of any country (if like the Americans intelligent and well informed) seldom adopt, and steadily persevere of many years, in any erroneous opinion respecting their interests.[1] That consideration naturally tends to create great respect for the high opinion which the people of America have so long and uniformly entertained of the importance of their continuing firmly united under one federal government, vested with sufficient powers for all general and national purposes.

The more attentively I consider and investigate the reasons which appear to have given birth to this opinion, the more I become convinced that they are cogent and conclusive.

Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their safety seems to be the first. The safety of the people doubtless has relation to a great variety of circumstances and considerations, and consequently affords great latitude to those who wish to define it precisely and comprehensively.

At present I mean only to consider it as it respects security from the preservation of peace and tranquility, as well against dangers, from foreign arms and influence, as against dangers arising from domestic causes. As the former of these comes first in order, it is proper it should be the first discussed. Let us therefore proceed to examine whether the people are not right in their opinion, that a cordial union under an efficient national government, affords them the best security that can be devised against hostilities from abroad.[2] The number of wars which have happened or may happen in the world, will always be found to be in proportion to the number and weight of the causes, whether real or pretended, which provoke or invite them. If this remark be just, it becomes useful to inquire, whether so may just causes of war are likely to be given by united America, as by disunited America[3]; for if it should turn out that united America will probably give the fewest, then it will follow, that, in this respect, the union tends most to preserve the people in a state of peace with other nations.

The just causes of war for the most part arise either from violations of treaties, or from direct violence. America has already formed treaties with no less than six foreign nations, and all of them, except Prussia, are maritime, and therefore able to annoy and injure us: She has also extensive commerce with Portugal, Spain, and Britain, and with respect to the two latter, has the additional circumstance of neighbourhood to attend to.

It is of High importance to the peace of America, that she observe the law of nations towards all these powers; and to me it appears evident that this will be more perfectly and punctually done by on national government, than it could be either by thirteen separate states, or by three or four distinct confederacies. For this opinion various reasons may be assigned.

When once an efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but will also generally be appointed to manage it; for although town, or county, or other contracted influence, may place men in state assemblies, or senates, or courts of justice or executive departments; yet more general and extensive reputation for talents and other qualifications, will be necessary to recommend men to offices under the national government, especially as it will have the widest field for choice, and never experience that want of proper persons, which is not uncommon in some of the states. [4] Hence it will result, that the administration, the political counsels, and the judicial decisions of the national government, will be more wise, systematical and judicious, than those of individual states, and consequently more satisfactory with respect to the other nations, as well as more safe[5] with respect to ourselves.

Under the national government, treaties and articles of treaties, as well as the laws of nations, will always be expounded in one sense, and executed in the same manner: whereas adjudications on the same points and questions, in thirteen states, or in three or four confederacies, will not always accord or be consistent; and that as well from the variety of independent courts and judges appointed by different and independent governments, as from the different local laws and interests which may affect and influence them. The wisdom of the convention, in committing such questions to the jurisdiction and judgment of courts appointed by, and responsible only to one national government, cannot be too much commended.[6]

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; and those temptations not reaching the other states, and consequently having little or no influence on the national government, the temptations will be fruitless, and good faith and justice be preserved.[7] The case of the treaty of peace with adds great weight to this reasoning.

If even the governing party in a state should be disposed to resist such temptations, yet as such temptations may, and commonly do, result from circumstances peculiar to the state, and may affect a great number of the inhabitants, the governing party may not always be able, if willing, to prevent the injustice mediated, or to punish the aggressors. But the national government, not being affected by those local circumstances, will neither be induced to commit the wrong themselves, nor want power or inclination to prevent, or punish its commission by others.

So far therefore as either designed or accidental violations of treaties and of the laws of nations afford just causes of war, they are less to be apprehended under one general government, than under several lesser ones, and in that respect, the former most favors the safety of the people.

As to those just causes of war which proceed from direct and unlawful violence, it appears equally clear to me, that one good national government affords vastly more security against dangers of that sort, than can be derived from any other quarter.[8]

Such violences are more frequently occasioned by the passions and interests of a part than of the whole of one or two states than of the union.[9] Not a single Indian war has yet been produced by aggressions of the present federal government, feeble as it is; but there are several instances of Indian hostilities having been provoked by the improper conduct of individual states, who, either unable or unwilling to restrain or punish offences, have given occasion to the slaughter of many innocent inhabitants.

The neighbourhood of Spanish and British territories, bordering on some states, and not on others, naturally confines the causes of quarrel more immediately to the borderers. The bordering states, if any, will be those who, under the impulse of sudden irritations, and a quick sense of apparent interest or injury, will be most likely, by direct violence, to excite war with those nations; and nothing can so effectually obviate that danger, as a national government, whose wisdom and prudence will not be diminished by the passions which actuate the parties immediately interested.[10]

But not only fewer just causes of war will be given by the national government, but it will also be more in their power to accommodate and settle them amicably. They will be more temperate and cool, and in that respect, as well as in others, will be more in capacity to act with circumspection that the offending state. The pride of states as well as of men, naturally disposes them to justify all their actions, and opposes their acknowledging, correcting or repairing their errors and offences. The national government in such cases will not be affected by this pride[11], but will proceed with moderation and candour, to consider and decide on the means most proper to extricate them from the difficulties which threaten them.

Besides it is well known that acknowledgments, explanations and compensations are often accepted as satisfactory if offered by a state or confederacy of little consideration or power.

In the year 1685 the state of Genoa having offended Louis XIVth, endeavoured to appease him. He demanded that they should send their doge or chief magistrate, accompanied by four of their senators, to France, to ask his pardon and receive his terms. They were obliged to submit to it for the sake of peace. Would he on any occasion either have demanded or have received the like humiliation from Spain, or Britain, or any other powerful nation?[12]


“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.” (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 29:26)


It is the proper role of government to protect natural rights from infringement, but that protection is most effective when done at the most local level possible. Thus threats from a source outside of the national boundaries are under the jurisdiction of the national government.


“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 11:29- 30)


This statement seems to disregard the effect that the larger the area of coverage, the less likely one individual is to be well known and have a good reputation. This is the problem with the current national offices. When someone runs for president, that individual only becomes familiar and gains a reputation based on the events of the campaign, rather than on any objective source of credibility.


“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755.—The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, vol. 6, p. 242 (1963).


The importance of having a standard interpretation of laws and national values


This is a check on the power of the states to be swayed by faction.


The larger the collective, the easier it is to protect the safety of the members.


The fickle nature, because of the effect of factional control, of smaller collectives is checked by the less fluctuating opinion of the larger collective. It is harder to get a strong and powerful faction in a larger collective.


The national government will not be swayed by local prejudice and emotional attachment, and can therefore make a more objective judgment about what should be done.


It is only in seeking to defend our own interest and to not violate that of others, that a true win-win situation is achieved.


Is this an argument for being a powerful nation? So that we don’t have to submit ourselves to humilitation?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: