John Jay continues with the theme of safety in the next Federalist essay and it is an essay which has particular relevant warnings for our time and our federal government. Jay puts forth what was already known by thinking men in his age that in addition to just causes of war, in which the federal government would help arbitrate among the states and foreign governments, there are also pretended causes of war. I think the military history of the last forty years has justified this statement. The causa belli for the Iraq War is pretended, whether or not it was just to liberate a people from oppression is irrelevant, as we saw in Federalist No. 3 that action was far out of the constitutional powers given to the executive as argued by Jay. A strong state, according to Jay, also has the obligation to its citizens not to “invite hostility or insult,” again something that we have done over the past forty years or so. Why do we have military bases in almost every country? Have the people of those nations called for it? As to the smaller states in the world, can they not be trusted to seek their own self-interest in defending themselves? Or must we ever deploy our military in defense of every cause that is just? Why, especially after the fall of the Soviet Empire do we still find it necessary to spread the Empire of Liberty by physical means? I do not blame America first for the problems of terrorism but the US military needs to redeploy its forces, to reflect a changing worldwide dynamic. Where is the promises of Mr. Obama in doing just that very thing? Not only does wisdom dictate such a course, the constitution demands it.
America has entered into a dangerous phase in her bright history. The federal government has more power than ever before, not only in the domestic sphere, such as to destroy the sovereignty of the states, but exercises such a power in foreign ones as well. I fear the US has succumb to Jay’s truism: “nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it.” When this becomes the case, that government that seeks to dominate will find any excuse whatever to go to war including a “thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts” (NATO, the UN?). Such was the case with countries like England and France in the 17th and 18th centuries, who reached the apex of their empire in overreaching, may we not follow the path they have trod.
Next Jay focuses on American trade and the advantages it has over other nations. This advantage caused jealousy and resentment from the great powers of the day and eventually, as Jay predicts culminated in the War of 1812. Hence, protection of shipping and the celerity with which one federal union could produce a navy and army capable of such protection are important reasons for preferring one nation to thirteen. One only look at the history of the Confederate States of America to see the disaster that ensues when many republics attempt to combine to fight an enemy. Hording of weapons and supplies, withholding of troops and money and a lack of general unity ultimately did in the CSA and many of the confederacies of history.
Jay closes the essay by painting the picture of a well balanced and regulated American political and economic system under the constitution, one in which there is balance between state and federal power, “our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented, and united,” and how this image and reality would be a great inducement for foreign nations to treat us with friendship. But what image does the world see from American shores today? Is it one of industry and a well balanced federalism, where our finances are discreetly managed? Or is it one of power and might, where once a well balanced sovereignty between state and national power was well managed and our economy sound but is no more? How might the image and reality we are projecting out into the world affect the actions and reactions of foreign countries? I pray that America will not become, in Jay’s words, “a poor, pitiful figure” in their eyes, not because of our weakness but because of opulent power.