The Netherlands vs The Articles of Confederation - James Madison - Federalist Fridays
In Federalist #20, James Madison compares the United States under the Articles of Confederation to the Netherlands (aka the Dutch Confederacy).
December 11, 1787
The Same Subject Continued
With Federalist #20, we finally come to the end of six consecutive Papers which compare the Articles of Confederation to other Republics, past and contemporary, in an effort to point out deficiencies in the government.
This time, James Madison writes about the Netherlands. At the time, the Netherlands was perhaps the foremost confederacy in the western world.
Madison points out that the Netherlands are governed by representatives from each of the separate States, not dislike the United States under the Articles.
In this fashion, the Netherlands’ union makes laws which govern the States, instead of laws which govern the citizens.
In Madison’s opinion, it is more important for the Supreme Authority to make laws which apply directly to individuals. If not, the States will not (and should not) obey the National regulations.
Who Do The Laws Regulate?
Because the Netherlands are loosely affiliated States, according to Madison, disagreements could quickly escalate into civil war.
Furthermore, when forming treaties with other nations, the Netherlands’ officials often have to overstep their authority just to get anything done. Madison points out several instances where this took place.
This would sound familiar to many of the Founders he was writing to, as the Americans almost had to do the same thing just to sign the Treaty of Paris and end the Revolutionary War.
At the risk of repeating myself, the Anti-Federalists would have argued against this Paper in much the same way they did in the last several installments.
Their argument would have gone something like this: “So, what!”
Many of the Anti-Federalists would have preferred no union at all over a large government that issued the same laws for all citizens. It is important to keep in mind that United States citizens in the late 18th century did not call themselves ‘Americans,’ they called themselves ‘New Yorkers’ or ‘Virginians’ or ‘New Hampshirites.’
Self-image is a tough thing to change, and in the United States, that would not actually happen until after the Civil War.
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