Federalist #6 - Alexander Hamilton - Federalist Fridays
Federalist #6 was written by Alexander Hamilton and is a discussion of the jealousies which might lead to war between the States if the Constitution is not approved.
Truthfully, I am of the opinion that Hamilton must have written this Paper in haste, as it is more disorderly in it’s flow than we are accustomed to from this author.
November 14, 1787
Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States
In Federalist #6, Hamilton elaborates on Jay’s point from the previous essay. Demonstrating that nations who share borders will inevitably go to war, Hamilton states:
“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.”
Hamilton’s essay travels through history, picking out republics which were similar to that of the United States and then uses these examples to display how neighboring nations generally fight with each other.
An History Lesson
Hamilton begins the third paragraph of this Paper with, “The causes of hostility among nations are innumerable.”
He the proceeds to numerate them.
The bulk of Federalist #6’s content are examples of wars in which a republican nation was involved. He gives an history lesson which takes us from Peloponnesia to Ancient Greece up through contemporary Europe.
I will not recount them all here as this article would grow very long (and boring). However, what follows are some key points which should be noted.
First, while discussing how self interest leads to warfare, Hamilton gives an example ‘which has happened lately amongst ourselves’ stating:
“If Shays had not been a DESPERATE DEBTOR, it is much to be doubted whether Massachusetts would have been plunged into a civil war.”
This peculiar reference to Shays’ Rebellion is attempting to demonstrate that people acting out of their own self interest start wars. However, in a Paper discussing warfare between neighboring nations, pointing out a revolt from within seems out of place.
Alexander doesn’t elaborate on this point at all. It’s just the one sentence.
He also ignores that there were hundreds of desperate debtors, not just Daniel Shays. Does the Constitution help suppress rebellions? Perhaps. But that is not the charge of this paper and he doesn’t discuss it any further at all.
Next, Hamilton uses a very modern-day-24-hour-news tactic by presenting his opponents argument for them:
“The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men…”
Hamilton’s tone here is extremely snarky, making his opponents sound like idealists with their heads in the clouds.
He continues by asking question after question after question. How does he answer these questions? More examples from history of course.
Throughout this section, Mr. Hamilton’s overall point is that having trade agreements and friendly relationships would not keep separated States from warring with each other. In fact, he believed, the opposite would likely be true.
While reading Federalist #6, what really stands out (to me at least) is how poorly written it is.
After reading four, well-reasoned articles by John Jay, Hamilton comes out with a Paper that is aggressive and hostile. He seems more interested in shouting down his opponent than presenting logical arguments which would win undecided citizens to his side.
Additionally, #6 is all over the place. Alexander jumps into and out of historic examples quickly. Also, there a several sentences throughout that seem out of place (like the aforementioned Shays quote).
In my opinion, this is the worst Federalist Paper we’ve covered so far due to the style it was written in, coupled with its hostility against those whose support it is designed to win. It is hard to believe this is (literally) a chapter in one of the most important books in American History.
Give it a read and let me know if you agree.
If you don’t have a copy of the Federalist Papers in your home, may I suggest the Signet Classics edition. It is the copy I have used most readily in my life and I highly recommend it. You can pick it up from Amazon through the affiliate link below.
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