Federalist No. 7

Hamilton continues his enumerations of the possible and at times the actual contentions between the states, hoping to gain support for a strong federal union. The thought that strike me today about this essay and the others was that they are vry much concerned about the states. The writers do their utmost to protect and uphold the states as centers of powers. From time-to-time the writers, especially Hamilton voice their frustration with the anti-federalists and sometimes lash out at what Jay called the “pride of the states”.

But in Federalist No. 7 Hamilton empathetically understands why Connecticut was upset after they lost a decision involving territory also claimed by Pennsylvania, after all, “She no doubt sincerely believed herself to have been injured by the decision” and that “nothing here said is intended to convey the slightest censure on the conduct of that State.” This may be one reason the Federalist Papers seem so hard to grasp for many modern Americans, we who have such a diminished respect and understanding of state power might find it difficult to read and grasp the importance of essays that deal heavily with the subject. We read them and see only those passages that deal with federal or national power and think, “Well that makes sense, yes I believe and understand that.”

And this essay might be just that type wherein Hamilton lays out several reasons why a federal government is preferable to local confederacies of totally independent states. First, as mentioned above, territorial disputes would drive the states to make war upon each other and need the arbitration of a higher power to solve such sticky entanglements that have developed in the colonial period. This is sound reasoning, no doubt the states would have and did grow warm with contention on this issue. Whether they would have come to blows is hard to say with complete verity but not hard to believe probable.

Another cause of contention was trade. The natural advantages bestowed upon se states and not others were sources of jealousy and the duties on imports or a tax imposed to use a road in another state hat happened to lie within trade routes were all sore spots in the relations of the states. Certainly, one federal union solved many of these basic economic concerns.

War debt was another bone of contention between the states. How should such debts be paid back or should they at all? Even though all the states benefited from the successful prosecution of the American Revolutionary War, some states paid very little and took out fewer loans than others, what do you do with the free rider states? Also, state laws that violate other state’s laws and contracts were a source of contention. This legal hornets nest could easily be remedied by a stream-lined federal judiciary.

In reviewing all of these problems above and we could add our problems today to the list, modern politicians and apparently with the majority election of Barack Obama, a great number of citizens would say that the solution to these problems is a unitary system of government. One national government ruling over all the states and forcing them into conformity with its wishes has worked well for some 70 odds years now, what’s the problem? The problem is that this was not the solution that the writers of the Federalist Papers laid out. This relatively new politically reality in Washington, with its pusillanimous Congress, which represents not one single state and its cult of the presidency and activist judges have somehow, somewhere become the true interpretation of the dreams of Hamilton, Madison and Jay. But this was not their dream. We will one day soon wake up, too weak in submission to do anything about it, and realize the current political reality is a nightmare.


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