Federalist No. 3

starI can’t help but love Jay’s opener to Federalist No. 3. Americans are “intelligent” and “well-informed” and they “seldom adopt and steadily persevere for many years in an erroneous opinion respecting their interests.” He was of course talking of the founding generation of Americans. I often wonder where 21st Century Americans stack up against them. We no doubt have a higher literacy rate, more educational opportunities and wealth, better technology and the hindsight of history; yet we persist in taking a course that restricts our liberty and prosperity and ultimately weakens us. From debt-ridden wealth to transforming the federal government into a welfare state, Americans have consistently, for decades now persevered in erroneous positions. Why? Are we not as well-informed and intelligent as the founding generation? I think we are as intelligent and we are well-informed but not about things that count. We know more about reality T.V. stars than the executive branch. We can name the seven dwarfs but have no clue about the nine Supreme Court Justices. We are as intelligent but need to focus our efforts on better things.

Jay continues his reasons why American needs one federal union and not three or four regional confederacies. I must admit, they are very good, solid reasons. One unified national government could do certain things better than thirteen states separately there’s no doubt. First and foremost: providing safety. Jay argues that a federal union would provide safety at home and against foreign invaders. Jay not only claims that one union is better equipped to defend all states but that the causes for war would actually decrease if such a political arrangement were affected. The states that border the territories of American Indians, Spain or Britain would no doubt be dragged into war faster and more often than other states. The causes for war, which Jay claims are violation of treaties and direct violence tend to be perpetrated more often at or around these border states. But if under one national government these border disputes would be handled by a stronger and in time more respected power, thus increasing the possibilities of a peaceful and just outcome. Jay writes about the “pride of the states” taking the states headlong into wars that they feel are just and how the national government would have a cooler head to handle delicate diplomatic situations. Also what foreign state would disrespect a national government such as France did to Genoa in making the small state come and ask forgiveness at some pretended offense. So it’s clear what Jay is arguing: a national, unified government displays a stronger front to foreign nations and limits the number of potential wars in local affairs.

What has happened in the last fifty or so years is really an expansion of this idea into areas it was never intended to apply. American foreign policy, by the pride of the national government, has been driven headlong into places and situations Jay never would have justified in his essay. Instead of regulating local affairs on our borders, like it was intended they do, the federal government has decided upon a course of intervention in the local affairs of foreign countries, while coeval neglecting our national borders! According to Jay, border defense is their first duty. Again this is yet another instance where the reality of our political situation is so far from what was intended that it is time for a massive shift back to the roots which give strength.

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