Federalist #3 - John Jay - Federalist Friday

Federalist #3 - John Jay - Federalist Friday

Welcome to Federalist Friday! Today we discuss Federalist Paper #3.

The 3rd Federalist Paper is where the arguments for the Constitution really begin to take off. John Jay authors his second installment by discussing the reasons a Federal Government would maintain peace with foreign nations.

If you have not yet read one of our Federalist Fridays, you might want to read last weeks or go back and start from the beginning.

Federalist #3

November 3, 1787 - John Jay

The Same Subject Continued

In the Federalist #3, John Jay continues his discussion regarding the Constitution’s effect on foreign policy. Specifically, Jay submits that a Union of the States would help maintain peace.

Jay lists several reasons why a powerful nation could mitigate the causes of war and, therefore, eliminate most hostilities before they begin.

John begins by assuming that the main reason people come together under a government is to preserve their safety. Furthermore, he submits, that the best way to maintain safety is to aim at consistent ‘peace and tranquility’ with other countries.

Additionally, Jay says.

“The number of wars which have happened or will happen in the world will always be found to be in proportion to the number and weight of the causes…”

This quote is significant because Jay spends the rest of this Paper discussing why approval of the Constitution would dramatically reduce the ‘number and weigh of the causes.’

More Wise, Systematical, and Judicious

Jay’s first reason for why a Federal Government would be better at keeping the people secure are the politicians it would be able to select from. Since the Union would have more people than the separate States, it would therefore have more candidates to choose from as leaders.

This means more educated representatives with greater experience. In Jay’s words, ‘the national government will be more wise, systematical, and judicious than…individual States.’

Having leaders of this high caliber would give the United States a greater respect when treating with the nobility sitting in the courts of Europe.

Disinterest in Minor Offences

Jay continues by reminding us of the treaties the United States had already signed with several nations, as well as the naval power of those nations which could, if provoked, threaten an invasion. He goes on to point out that both Spain (in Florida and west of the Mississippi River) and Great Britain (in Canada) shared borders with the United States.

One or two individual States could easily escalate hostilities due to some real or perceived insult or border dispute.

This would lead to one of two outcomes. Either the other States would be dragged into a war they didn’t have a stake in or the Union would crumble, possible dissolving into a civil war.

The Federal Government, Jay argues, would take less offense over minor insults and, therefore, prevent small injustices from breaking out into war. This disinterest would mean the Constitution could preserve peace because national leader’s, ‘wisdom and prudence will not be diminished by the passions which actuate the parties immediately interested.’

International Respect

Jay closes by showing that, while a State may act hastily out of anger, the national government (comprised mostly of leaders from other States) would have cooler heads prevail.

Additionally, he points out that one small State would have a significantly more difficult time getting justice for perceived slights than a large powerful government.

To support this idea, he directs our attention to the Republic of Genoa. Genoa had been an independent State for 700 years when it insulted France. To be forgiven, Genoa had to send all of its Heads of State to France to apologize.

This was considered an horrific insult but Genoa was weak and had little option. This, Jay warns, could very well be any of the American States if they did not band together in Union.

Three or Four Confederacies

There is one last thing I’d like to draw your attention to. Several times in this Paper, John Jay mentions, ‘thirteen States, or…three or four confederacies.’

When he says ‘three or four confederacies,’ Jay seems to be assuming that at least SOME of the States will unite in SOME fashion. I found this interesting and I became curious as to which States he might be referring to. I cannot locate any specifics and therefore can only wager a guess.

Perhaps he thought the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Southern States would unite, but what was the fourth?

Maybe it was the Northwest Territory?

Perhaps he thought New York might break off and do it’s own thing? This wouldn’t be too surprising as the New York delegates had left the Constitutional Convention in disgust. Also, these very Federalist Papers were being written in New York City due to its being a stronghold of Anti-Federalism.

I’d like to hear from you. What States do you think would have formed confederacies if the Constitution had not been ratified? Let me know in the comments.

If you’d like to read more about members of the Federalist Party, check out our articles on Rufus King and Harrison Gray Otis.

Also, you might want to pick up a copy of ‘The Accessible Federalist’ through our affiliate link below. This text translates 16 of the most important Papers into modern English.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our email list for a new Founder every day.

Meriwether Lewis Explores A Continent

Meriwether Lewis Explores A Continent

Charles Wilson Peale Paints The Revolutionaries

Charles Wilson Peale Paints The Revolutionaries