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BL1Y Reads Federalist #7

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No. 7: The Same Subject Continued, by Hamilton

Yet another "same subject continued" one. It's like these guys are professors trying to buff their CVs. Anyways, previously on BL1Y Reads the Federalist Papers:

"We're all gonna kill each other if the union dissolves!"

No. 7 starts by asking supposing someone asked "what inducements could the States have, if disunited, to make war upon each other?" Hamilton succinctly answers, "Are you freaking kidding me?"

Of course it's not that succinct, but he does start off his response by saying all the same inducements that have ever induced anyone to make war on anyone else. But then he gets out of the realm of the theoretical, citing three specific things we would pretty quickly fight over.

The first is land. There was a bunch of territory that wasn't within the states. There's some discussion about the legal status of the land, if it became federal property through the Treaty of Paris (the crown's lands being passed to the federal government) or through other cessions. That might be a relevant legal point if the states were to dissolve, but the bigger point is that there'd be some fighting over it. States that originally possessed the land would want their land back. Other states would say it belongs to the nation and has to be divided among all the states. And, the states arguing the latter point would then argue about apportionment. Hamilton doesn't specify, but I presume he has a states vs. population dispute in mind.

To illustrate the point, Hamilton asks the reader to recall when Connecticut and Pennsylvania had a dispute over control of Wyoming.

Yeup. That happened.

Get out your maps. ...Okay? Yeah, you see it too?

Connecticut and Pennsylvania don't even touch each other, so they shouldn't be having a land dispute at all, least of all over Wyoming. I wasn't going to do any research in writing this series, but this was just too weird. Turns out there's a Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania that Charlies II gave to both Pennsylvania and Connecticut. This led to a series of not-too-bloody skirmishes called the Pennamite-Yankee Wars, starting in 1769. In 1773, George III resolved the dispute, giving the land to Connecticut, but the decision was reversed by the Continental Congress.

So, you know, if the union dissolves, it's reasonable we might end up fighting over land. Especially, as Hamilton points out, if there's no government authority that can put the dispute to rest. And really especially because we've already fought over it amongst ourselves before.


His second specific area for dispute is financial. New York needs to tax imports in order to fund itself. The people paying those imports will be the ultimate purchasers of the goods in Connecticut and New Jersey. Hamilton doesn't bring this up, but since Connecticut would be at the center of two distinct conflicts, it seems like maybe it's the problem state. If the Union should dissolve, Connecticut and Pennsylvania should be merged into on confederacy. This ends the territorial dispute, and the port in Philadelphia could import foreign goods and then ship them to Connecticut, bypassing New York's taxes.


Finally, there's the little issue of the national debt. The big question will be apportionment as the union dissolves. If it doesn't get paid, the new independent states will be screwed when it comes to getting foreign (or even domestic) credit. Just to make matters worse, some states weren't too dependent on lending for their finances.They'd have no incentive to pay their share, leaving the rest of the states with a bigger bill, or the other states ganging up and sending in troops to seize assets for payment of the debt.

[BL1Y Reads Federalist #6]

[Read more from BL1Y]

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