This series is a bit of an experiment. I'll be reading each of the Federalist Papers, and providing a reaction to each one. I haven't read them before, and I'm not doing any research, so I'm armed with nothing more than some knowledge about the Constitutional Convention, a legal education that's gathering dust, and the benefit of hindsight. I aim to do 1-2 of these a week, and there are 85 total, so here goes what will likely be a year-long venture into a series of nation-shaping essays that have been reduced to a common knowledge that factions are mentioned somewhere, and are bad.
No. 2: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence, by Jay
Given the title, you'd think this might have something to do with foreign force and influence. Surprisingly not.
Like, really surprisingly. Foreign nations aren't mentioned at all, other than a passing reference to how we all banded together to defeat our common enemies. That's it. So what's the deal?
This essay is actually about the necessity of remaining a single nation, rather than breaking in to three or four or thirteen individual confederacies. We might each become our own foreign nation, guarding against the dangers from the others.
John Jay explains how Providence has provided us with a nation that has all it can need, diversity of lands and ample waterways, and keeping those natural resources united is to the benefit of us all. ...But that same reasoning would apply to Canada as well. Why not add in their resources and make the whole of the American colonies stronger? After all, Article XI of the Articles of Confederation allowed for Canada to elect to join, while the Constitution the Convention is proposing to the nation does not give Canada this opt-in (not explicitly excluded either, but I don't recall the US ever making a sincere effort to have Canada join).
Jay has an answer about Canada. The thirteen colonies are joined not just by geographic fortune, but also by common language, common religion, and common struggle against our enemies (the one mention of dangerous foreign powers). So, sorry about that you French speaking Catholic pinheads.*
*The opposite of Patriots. So sayeth Bill O.
Jay also gives a completely unrelated (so to speak, as the whole thing is unrelated to the stated topic) talk on how governments forged in times of war and great national crisis tend to be pretty bad. It's a lesson we ought to remember these days. Serious government business is better done in "the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects."
Of course, we can't just put war and other pressing matters (like a global financial crisis) on hold for months while we get down to governing. But we should just be presently aware of how these things make bad policy. When every election is presented as nothing less than the most important decision for not only our nation, but the entire world, and public opinion is clouded by fear and an endless campaign cycle, we need to be much more careful in the policy decisions we make. No one approves of a national grope'n'poke policy during times of peace.