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BL1Y Reads Federalist #5

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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 5: The Same Subject Continued, by Jay

Again for those of you just tuning in, the subject being continued (this is the fourth and final part of the series) is the dangers from foreign force and influence. We've seen a bit about foreign force, namely that foreign nations are less likely to pick a fight with the United States than with any of a number of smaller confederacies. What we're finally going to get to now is the foreign influence.

But first, Jay has some trouble with numbers. The numbers one and two, to be precise. He starts this essay by referencing a letter from Queen Anne to the Scotch Parliament in 1706, and says "I shall present the public with one or two extracts from it." Then he quotes two passages. Why not just say two? Was he trying to build up some surprise as the first passage drew to a close? Oh man, is he going to give us another excerpt from Queen Anne's 1706 letter? The suspense is killing me! What do the numbers mean? How did Kara Thrace come back to life? Is House ever just going to kill himself?

It's not as though these essays were dictated and published without edit and Jay wasn't yet sure how much he might quote Queen Anne. Publishing wasn't a cheap endeavor and you can bet these essays got a bit of rewriting. Once he'd finished the first draft, why not just scratch out the "or two?" It is a good precedent for Supreme Court justices though, to write without a clue where you're going, and to make sure the public can't follow you there.


Next, Jay goes on to discuss a rather obvious potential for conflict should the colonies form multiple nations: They might fight each other. Now, we did have a civil war and fight each other anyways, but the chance for an armed conflict is much reduced by having a single government, a single national identity, and a fair federal forum for dispute resolution. A single nation allows easier collaboration on setting tariffs and other trade regulations, and discourages a race to the bottom among several competing nations. We still get a bit of this with some states competing to be more "business friendly," but the conflict is much reduced by federal law.


Finally, at the end of part four, we get to the danger of foreign influence. England, France, and Spain are always starting shit with each other. If the colonies were to form three or four confederacies, it's quite plausible that they would favor different sides in the conflict. New England, wanting to maintain its profits from trade supports England. Also because of the namesake. The Confederacy of Gulf States, not wanting to disrupt Mobile's Mardi Gras celebration, supports France. Both England and France will pressure their allies to take up arms against the other American nation, and both nations will start to consider the benefit of ensuring that their ally wins.

Of course, with a united nation there will still be conflicts, with different regions standing to gain more by siding with one combatant over the other, but the odds of a conflict among Americans breaking out is greatly reduced. We go to Congress, vote on it, and if the side losing the vote is strong enough, it gets the folks across the aisle to make some concessions and compensate them for their losses. This is in fact what happened during the Adams presidency, with England and France continuing their historical cat fight. And, if you recall, it was another 60 years before we started killing each other, and it wasn't over which soccer team we favored.

[BL1Y Reads Federalist #4]

[BL1Y Reads Federalist #6]

[Read more from BL1Y]

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