The Federalist Papers, No. 5 – Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence

The Same Subject Continued (Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)
For the Independent Journal Saturday, November 10, 1787
By: John Jay

In this paper, Jay begins by quoting from a letter from Queen Anne in 1706 regarding establishing a union of England and Scotland.

QUEEN ANNE, in her letter of the 1st July, 1706, to the Scotch Parliament, makes some observations on the importance of the union then forming between England and Scotland, which merit our attention.

“We most earnestly recommend to you calmness and unanimity in this great and weighty affair, that the union may be brought to a happy conclusion, being the only effectual way to secure our present and future happiness, and disappoint the designs of our and your enemies, who will doubtless, on this occasion, use their utmost endeavors to prevent or delay this union.”

He continues the theme by pointing out how obvious it would be to others that the relatively small island of Great Britain should be unionized in some way. For a long period of time, they were also divisive with each other rather than helpful. Jay posits that the same would happen in America.

Although it seems obvious to common sense that the people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another. Notwithstanding their true interest with respect to the continental nations was really the same, yet by the arts and policy and practices of those nations, their mutual jealousies were perpetually kept inflamed, and for a long series of years they were far more inconvenient and troublesome than they were useful and assisting to each other. Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations, would not the same thing happen?

Jay points to the human heart here. Should there be a small group of confederacies, “what human contrivance” could keep them together perfectly?

The most sanguine advocates for three or four confederacies cannot reasonably suppose that they would long remain exactly on an equal footing in point of strength, even if it was possible to form them so at first; but, admitting that to be practicable, yet what human contrivance can secure the continuance of such equality?

Jealousies and imputations would cause confidence to be fractured in such a situation of confederacies.

She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them. Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.

Even with the greatest of intentions, it would be likely that there would be constant bickering and wars between the confederacies.

Nay, it is far more probable that in America, as in Europe, neighboring nations, acting under the impulse of opposite interests and unfriendly passions, would frequently be found taking different sides. Considering our distance from Europe, it would be more natural for these confederacies to apprehend danger from one another than from distant nations, and therefore that each of them should be more desirous to guard against the others by the aid of foreign alliances, than to guard against foreign dangers by alliances between themselves.

He puts this out there for all to judge if they truly think that smaller confederacies would offer us greater security from foreign nations.

Let candid men judge, then, whether the division of America into any given number of independent sovereignties would tend to secure us against the hostilities and improper interference of foreign nations.

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