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BL1Y Reads Federalist #3

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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.

You can get a free Kindle edition of the Federalist Papers here.


No. 3: The Same Subject Continued, by Jay

Previously on The Federalist Papers: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence.

Okay, if you're just joining us, now you know what the same subject we're continuing is. Except that in the first part of this series, Jay didn't discuss foreign force and influence, and once again, it's not really the subject of this essay.

The premise of Federalist #3 is pretty straightforward, more countries equals more wars. It's easier to get a small nation, with only its own regional concerns, to support a war, than it is to get a large nation with varied interests to reach a consensus.

Take the issues along the US-Mexico border right now with the drug gangs. They smuggle drugs across the border into the US, and occasionally there are cross-border shootings. If there were no United States, but rather a number of smaller nations, the Republic of Texas might respond to this situation with a military expedition into northern Mexico to wipe out the drug gangs (not too different from US military action along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border). Mexico also wants the drug gangs gone, but sees this as an infringement on its sovereignty, and then there are some civilian collateral casualties and war is declared against the Texan invaders.

With a single, united nation this is less likely to happen. The voices of the rest of the nation have a bit of a cooling effect. Or rather, they don't care so much, and because of that, they aren't going to commit to getting into a conflict with Mexico over something so small. To get a large nation to go to war, you need a much larger offense.

There is an obvious criticism which Jay does not discuss. While numerous small nations are more likely to find occasion to go to war, less of us end up involved in the war. When Mexico declares war on the Republic of Texas, Texas will probably find aid from its allies the Republic of California, and the Confederacy of Gulf States. But, New England, the Republic of Ohio, and the Democratic Republic of Washington aren't likely to get involved. With many small nations, the likelihood of there being some war somewhere goes up, but the likelihood of being dragged into someone else's war goes way down. Washington may see more of its fortune and young men wasted in wars by being part of the same nation as war-mongering Texas.


So far, none of this has really been about foreign force and influence. It's more about domestic war mongering than foreign nations trying to start a fight. But, Jay eventually does get down to that:

In the year 1685, the state of Genoa having offended Louis XIV, endeavored to appease him. He demanded that they should send their Doge, or chief magistrate, accompanied by four of their senators, to France, to ask his pardon and receive his terms. They were obliged to submit to it for the sake of peace. Would he on any occasion either have demanded or have received the like humiliation from Spain, or Britain, or any other powerful nation!

If you're small, the big kids will push you around. That's got a lot of common sense to it.

Unfortunately, history has taught us that being large and powerful does not keep you out of war. Having some power acts as a deterrent to war. Having too much power makes other nations perceive you as a threat.

Further, we've seen that when a nation has power it tends to use it. Small nations don't build empires. They don't get involved in policing the world. They stay at home and tend to their own affairs, and in doing so, they don't make enemies that they are then obliged to fight.

[BL1Y Reads Federalist #2]

[BL1Y Reads Federalist #4]

[Read more from BL1Y]

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