Federalist No. 5

starThis is the shortest and last of Jay’s essays until No. 64, apparently ill health kept him from writing more, which is a shame because he possessed a masterly pen. Really this essay is his concluding statement to the essays written before it. He reiterates that “weakness and divisions at home would invite dangers from abroad;” and I wonder if corpulence and arrogance might not do the same.

Under several regional confederacies, Jay argues, “envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits.” This is true enough but the solution to the problem of narrow state interests by the writers of the Federalist Papers was not a unitary national government in which the states bow to every whim and wish of the federal government. But that is just the de facto system of government we have in America today. The states have lost their voice under the destructive 17th Amendment and they are wholly subservient to the federal government for money, protection and anything the national government decides upon; all without any avenues for petition or recourse. Some read the Federalist Papers today under the current system and pervert the meanings of the essays or pick out only those selections that seem to justify the complete dominance of the federal over the state. Those who would take such actions need to read the essays in their entirety to grasp the full and complete meaning of them.

Jay concludes the short essay by claiming that if the states break off and form their own alliances that the northern region would be the most prosperous and in turn dominate the whole of America. In addition, the North might align itself with Britain and the South with a different foreign power thus becoming pawns in a game of international power politics. This has more or less happened, albeit to a limited degree during the Civil War, with Britain forming a quasi-alliance with the South for a brief period.

In the end, Jay is absolutely correct, a federal union was and is the best system of government for America. And while there have been significant differences and problems associated with states seeking their own self-interest (such as slavery and civil rights), those problems can by no means be allowed to trump the federal system of shared sovereignty set up in the constitution and laid out in the Federalist Papers. It is time we, black and white, stop being hostages to race where every little incident is some major issue, as certainly was the case with the Harvard police and Henry Gates. May we learn from their example and come together to try to work out our problems over a pint but do so not at the White House but at the State House.  I do not deny that there are pockets of racism in America but I also know we have made great progress in that department and it is time to devolve to the states their hijacked power. It’s time to restore federalism and once again reap the liberty and prosperity set up by the founders.

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