by W.B. Allen, emeritus dean and professor of Political Philosophy at Michigan State University

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Having established the “utility” of the Union for avoiding foreign wars, Publius proceeds to reinforce the argument in essay number four. In the second paragraph he acknowledged the claim that the United States should avoid inviting hostilities, insults, from other nations. But the third paragraph shows how difficult that might be.  It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it, nay that absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it but for purposes and objects merely personal… These and a variety of motives, which affect only the mind of the Sovereign often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice, or the voice and interests of his people. What this suggests is that many of the wars that arise will do so because people having the power to make war or to a void war yield to temptations that we find perfectly ordinary in human nature. People see opportunities and try to take advantage of them.

We should question the causes of war and the premise that if we knew the causes it would be easier to avoid war. In this point, though, it seems that the very resource we relied upon in the beginning == namely, the people with the power to decide — is also one of the chief causes of war. People in office who yield to temptation happen to be one of the chief causes of war, and Publius reminds us of this.

This is not an aberration. All we need do is to expect leaders to be human to expect these causes to operate. That is not the exclusive cause of war. Publius is clear about this, but it is the most difficult to deal with. And in that respect we ask once again is the Union better at dealing with the causes of war? will the Union make it less likely that notional office holders yield to personal illusions that carry their nation into war? The significance of this is that with the national union our personal illusions come packed wait a far greater punch In spite of that, Publius argues that, yes, in spite of greater fire power, the greater temptations, the greater illusions, the answer is yes. How?

Publius does not claim to alter human nature one bit. He suggests, though, that we need to pay as close attention to the effect of the new government upon the governed as upon those who govern. There is a deterrence theory in essay four that suggests the response: “Wisely, therefore, do they consider union and a good national government as necessary to put and them in in such a situation as, instead of inviting war, will tend to repress and discourage it.” Then he repeats the argument from essay three, namely, that a Union will foster the involvement of the “experience of the ablest men” in the entire nation in guiding the nation. But he adds a caveat that was not in essay number three, namely, that “it can harmonize, assimilate, and protect the several parts and members, and extend the benefit of its foresight and precautions to each.” That is a new argument, an argument that a government for the union can in fact create homogeneity where diversity existed previously: e pluribus unum.

Professor William B. Allen is emeritus dean and professor of Political Philosophy at Michigan State University.

28 Responses to “May 32010 – Federalist No4 – The Same Subject ContinuedConcerning Dangers from Foreign Forceand Influence, for the Independent Journal (Jay) – Guest BloggerWilliam BAllenemeritus dean and professor ofPolitical Philosophy at Michigan State University

  1. Ron Meier says:

    Those bumper stickers “War is Never the Answer,” and similar slogans always bother me because they assume that there are no humans who would ever choose war over peace. History proves that this simply is not true. I don’t know where I read it, but I remember reading sometime in the past several years that there have been at least two wars going on somewhere in the world every year of recorded history.
    The idealistic left assumes that peace is normal and conflict is abnormal; in my analysis of history, conflict is normal and peace is an anomaly. We don’t even have to look at the history of nations; we can look at families, homeowners associations, clubs, and the like, and what we find is that conflict is normal and peace is not. When good nations have unilaterally disarmed in the name of peace, we normally find that war comes shortly thereafter. Therefore, we should always be prepared with a strong defense.

  2. Shannon Castleman says:

    My question to you all: After reading #2-#4, Do you believe our Founders-if the came here in a time machine-would support or not support our being in the Middle East right now?

    Most of me says no, but a small part of me says maybe. Any thoughts??

  3. Susan Craig says:

    I find it very telling that the first four papers in defense of the new Constitution dealt solely with mutual defense and security! It is almost as if they wished the primary and dare I say almost the only purpose of the Federal government was dealing with external influences leaving the internal to the individuals and their respective States?

  4. Jeff James says:

    Isn’t it interesting that one of the main points in Federalist #4 is the balance of trade and the U.S. ability to supply ourselves with commodities once supplied by India and China. Times sure hve changed!

  5. Roger Jett says:

    In answer to Shannon, who posed the question ….” would our founders support or not support our being in the Middle East right now? I think that at least some insight can be obtained by studying our involvement in the “First Barbary War 1801-1805″ and the “Second Barbary War 1815″. Based upon the bold actions taken by the young United States with it’s fledgling military at that time, I believe it is probable that the Founders would be in support of any action that has taken place in recent decades to protect American Citizens and American commercial interest. However, I suspect they would not have engaged in the level of police action and nation building that our modern time leaders have burdened us with.

  6. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I am going to miss John Jay’s writings in these Papers. I find his Papers very easy to read and very thought provoking.

    Shannon, in paragraph 3, our conflicts with Iran and Iraq immediately jumped into my mind. Many speculate why we entered this war; national security, oil, democracy, many more views, and a combination of many. But with both Iraq and Iran, their leaders have expressed an ambition for themselves and their country that has enveloped the rest of the world. Unfortunately, a down side of the founder’s logic of being a strong union is that we have became too strong and we are depended upon by the rest of the world to intervene in global crisis. I do not believe our founders would have wanted this for their beloved Union, but could they themselves have prevented it given the cost of noinvolvement. As Edmund Burke, a supporter of the American Revolution said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. If the Middle East conflicts happened during our founder’s time, we probably would not have become involved, at least not to the degree we are now. But given the domino effect of global fallouts today, I believe they would feel they had no choice but to intervene.

    Why? In paragraphs 7 through 10, John Jay writes of America’s involvement with China and India, and how that trade involves other countries. He explains how this trade can irritate other countries with our success in commerce and in our navigation of the oceans that give America a greater share in the territories that they at one time monopolized. So even at this time, America was heavily involved in foreign affairs and commerce; the founder’s wanted to protect the Union’s stakes of interest in other countries and this was one of their reasons for the States to be unified.

    The last paragraph could be taken from any Tea Party and Patriot Activist Guide Book today. Of the many Rallies, Town Halls, and Prosperity meetings I have attended, this is the rallying call: “If they see that our national government is efficient and well administered, our trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented, and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment. If, on the other hand, they find us either destitute of an effectual government, what a poor, pitiful figure will America make in their eyes! How liable would she become not only to their contempt but to their outrage, and how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.”

    The Conservative Movement feels it is way past time to return America to her previous Glory. Was she perfect? No. And a lot of things changed to make her better and her people freer. But the change we did not need is our overbearing and non-transparent government, an overregulated and crippling trade policy, liberal agendas to dictate our military, our resources and finances in ruins, our credit in the toilet, our citizens losing freedoms to the NannyState and becoming quickly discontented and divided.

    Was America perfect? No. But; she was the closest thing to liberty and freedom the civilized world had ever known.

    I believe most of us on this site probably believe this, otherwise why bother being here.

  7. Donna Hardeman says:

    @Bob Greenslade-before I get immersed in the next Federalist paper, I wanted to take a moment to thank you sincerely for your reply to my question about the Bill of Rights. It was an excellent read – one of the main reasons I’m on this site because of bloggers like you!

  8. Neal C White says:

    Shannon asks the question whether our Founders were to visit us would they or would they not support our being in the Middle East now? It is a good question and one we all should examine. I think the answer to this question depends on the faith we have in who our elected officials are and whether we are convinced of their resolve and purpose. Most of us do not have the time to research and totally understand such matters.

    Unfortunately, at present it is doubtful that our leadership are capable of steering our country in the right direction. I guess in the end we will have to depend on God having control and guiding our leaders to make the correct decisions.

  9. Marc W. Stauffer says:

    Remember the school yard bully? How that bully singled out and picked on the weak? There are always going to be the “school yard bullies” out there in the big bad world. Remember what happened when “the picked upon” banded together? You found out that the “school yard bully” wasn’t so big and bad after all and they turned to easier prey.
    I think Publius makes an excellent point with his fleets of Britain and trade market competition. The corner on the trade market was held by Britain and the inference that human nature would not stand idly by and allow that hold to simply be taken from them by a small, relatively defenseless state or confederation merits a good understanding. When you are banded together with a common cause strength is realized and with that strength comes deterrence…something every “school yard bully” thinks twice about.

  10. Bache says:

    In the First Barbary Wars,family letters written by Daniel T. Patterson from the Tripoli Prison, Nov. 23, 1803 are fascinating. He was a midshipman, from the shipwrecked frigate Philadelphia and now a prisoner at the age of 17. The prisoners were kept in “a stone bulding, the walls very thick, it is about 20 ft. wide, 25 ft. high, and about 80 ft long, with arches overhead, the walls could scarely be distinquished from cob-webs, and dirt, it had formerly been used to dry hides in, and had never been cleaned out, the strings by which they suspended them are still hanging there. The light and air is admitted through a space in the top, about 4 ft.square, grated over with Iron Bars, by 2 small holes in the side wall near the top, which are almost choked up with dirt and a small grated window near the door, there was the ground for seats and an old sail spread for beds, this place was to contain three hundred persons, the doors shut every evening at sunset and opened at daylight when they want any fot the men to work, they arrange them all in a line and take those they like…but when they misbehaved they are bastionandoed, two small loaves of bread made of barley bran and as much water they can drink is all they live upon.” He latter writes that the Turks had 50-60 million dollars in their treasury, in unchained captivity 1,500 Christians…a demand of $3,000 per sailor for ransom is made to President Thomas Jefferson.

    I find these letters from a young man held in captivity along with Captain Bainbridge and fellow officers enlightening. His words paint a picture of the demands of the First War of Terror on our newly founded republic and navy.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    After reading the fourth paper, the last paragraph jumped out at me. It seemed as though it was written for today and how the world views us. Are we sure it was written in 1787? Talking about how foreign nations, “if they see that our national government is efficient and well administered…they will be more disopsed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment…How much more true does that ring today?

  12. Susan Craig says:

    I think this is a function of our founding fathers knowledge and understanding of human nature and realistic approaches to dealing with it. Whereas today’s ‘leaders’ wish try and impose their picture of an ideal. They ignore at their peril the human nature that resents and resists imposition of someone else’s picture of how we should be vice how we truly are; flawed and sinful.

  13. Carolyn Merritt says:

    I too, was taken with the past paragraph of #4 and how it rings true today. We must continue to show our strength and unity, if we do not and we continue on the path our current government is trying to take our Nation, we are going to keep losing the respect we once had from other Nations.

    The last sentence of John Jay’s argument was echoed almost 100 years later by Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (1858) This holds true today as well.

  14. Ron Parson says:

    Three short points:
    – first: We subsidize consumption and tax investment, which is “eating the seed corn.” It leads to poverty. Thus, a wholehearted second to Carolyn Attaway’s point above, in part quoting “our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established.” We must do this, and quickly.
    – second: re Iraq and Afghanistan: both lacked a “strategy”; both were a full level below that, at “operations.” To distinguish strategy from operations, ask . . . “and then what?” as in, We capture Baghdad . . . and then what? We flatten the Taliban (temporarily) . . . and then what? Both operations implied nation-building, which was scarcely anyone was thinking about; and I believe it impossible by outsiders.
    – third: In Washington, a “strategic plan” is neither; Washington abounds in incoherent scraps of strategy. A coherent strategy has 7 elements: context, assumptions, ends/objectives, ways/concepts, means/resources, The Plan, review-adapt loop. If we’d applied that template to Iraq & Afgh before moving in, likely we wouldn’t have done so. The best monograph I know of on this is at by a Dr. Harry Yarger.

  15. Will says:

    I strongly suspect that the standing and respect we once had in the world has been declining for some time, at least since the close of the Marshall Plan (itself a big social spending program). It’s being going on long before the current administration.

  16. Susan Craig says:

    Ron your second point is a function tieing our hands via the UN and limiting conflicts to police actions. War is not a sporting event in which ties are a good resolution to the game. War is a Darwinian evolution of the survival of the fittest.
    Your third point is one of the things the world holds against us – a lack of continuity/consistency between administrations. Case in point the missile shield promised to eastern Europe in the Bush administration and reneged upon by the Obama.

  17. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Susan, you have apoint about the lack of continuity between administrations, but I do not believe our past presidents strayed so far from each other as our current President has. Whether Reagan, either Bush, or Clinton; I do not believe our Allies ever considered that the USA would sever ties with them, or desert them. Now, I believe they are unsure of their relationship with us. You mention the world holds this inconsistency against us, but the sad part is many of our own citizens hate America as much as our enemies do. I came across a liberal the other day that hated America so much she said it was time we became a 3rd World country and suffer the abuses we inflicted on other countries. Her history was so skewed, I could not make any headway with her.

    So picking up Ron’s point of a strategic plan, I agree that we shouldn’t enter a war with just the first line of attack planned out, and then when that is over, you say “Now what?” I also realize that the world in constantly changing, and priorities are constantly changing, so National Security, our first and foremost proirity, needs to be constantly one step ahead of the world, and sometimes that is very hard to do. Ron, I look forward to checking out the link you provided. I joined Liz Cheney’s group “Keep America Safe”, and she and her contributors have indepth information on our current State of National Security. I haven’t been able to get to the site lately, but I recommend it.

  18. Hello all…….There are so many problems these days it is hard to keep up.The question was asked about our waring in the Middle East… great question and a very tall one.I suppose to bring the war to them could be argued for,WE were attacked by an idology not a country,this is very unconventional and a bit elusive by our past experiences.Our tactics need to be contemporary ….(going back, when the English attacked us during the revolution they followed strict and cumbersome methods of war,marching in bright red coats, and were quiet horrified that the militias did not line up and march in neat lines as they attacked, they instead used slight of view, snipers, etc.War had evolved and the Brits fought (may I dare say ,in a bit of an old fashon way) .Are we in a similiar delema ,fighting terrorist who fade from full annoument of their presence sneaking up using our very freedoms against us.Perhaps we need to reconsider some of our tactics.One way I think this is being done are the drone attacks.I know there are those who have objection to their use , but I like using stealt as often as possible .
    The mention of BIG government was also brought up. The thought that comes to mind over and over again when I see an attempt to control salt use,sweets , meat. fats and the such is the Temperence movement, and Prohibition. It was so against the Nature of humans and merely a product of the imaginations of the movers of Prohibition that we went right on doing what we knew was our own business.Crime rose and the repeal followed 13 years later. Of course this is a problems for sure but the most important problems we are facing is the Admin, taking control of Health Care, Banks, Financial markets, Car industry,errosion of Property ownership,wiping out contracts and so on and so on.We have much to right and thank God for our Constitution and the will of the people coming to life. This effort that has been offered to us by the contributers of the Constituting America site is a thrill.

  19. WeThePeople says:

    I really like the attitude this takes toward war: that it’s not something we ever want to invite upon ourselves. Its nice to know that the creators and supporters of our constitution strongly believed that peaceful solutions could be reached. It’s obvious that the constitution did need to give consideration to our national defense, but still. Now, if only our government had this same attitude today…

  20. Charles Babb says:

    This has been a wonderful opportunity to better understand what my ancestors faced, when they took their “Oath of Allegiance to North Carolina” at a Safety Committee meeting in Bute County (later to become Warren and Franklin Counties) in 1775.

    My question is; Where have all the Statesmen gone?

    They seem to have been replaced by patisan political thugs (result of career politicans?) that have usurped authority never granted them in the Constitution and have intentionally allowed our Nation to be invaded by a foreign forcewhich they hope will allow them to rip away the very last vestiges of freedom our Founding Fathers had intrusted to us.

    When America wakes up and realises what her apathy has brought us, I pray it is not too late for the People to regain control.

    Your posts give me hope that the United States can regain her way.

  21. Susan Craig says:

    Having spent sometime overseas (government sponsored tours and college) and listening to my hosts, it was a generic theme even back in the 1970′s. At that time it was Viet Nam Kennedy had committed to them and Nixon backed out under domestic political pressure.

  22. Tricia says:

    After reading the fourth Federalist Paper, I’m confused. John Jay sought to show how having a large, unified government would help protect the different states. He uses examples of how monarchies have started wars over personal matters and how three or four little governments aren’t as strong as one big one.

    But what’s to stop the leader of the US government from declaring war for personal reasons? What would keep the president in check? I don’t know if I missed that point or if it’s going to be further developed later…

  23. wow the founding fathers were right in so many aspects about war, trade, and just life in general. This country now feeks that we need to be in everyones affairs where as many of the founding fathers felt we needed to stay out of europes affairs. I wish the government was like this today, and that we needed to stay united unlike the polotics of today

  24. Andy Sparks says:

    To understand fully Jay’s essays regarding foreign relations, it is important to look to the near future of his time. The new republic’s life blood was trade with Europe. While America was rich in staples such as tobacco, timber, indigo, and rice; our manufacturing was relatively non-existant. Basically, we traded our raw materials for manufactured goods. The Quasi-War with France and the War of 1812 with Britain grew out of the disruption of trade with those respective countries. When both countries began boarding, impounding, and confiscating our merchant ships, it became a potential cause for war. Adams was able to avoid a conflict in the late 1790′s through shrewd diplomacy; Jefferson also avoided conflict by implementing a disasterous embargo policy that plunged the new nation into an economic crisis; Madison was not able to avoid war as the war hawks like Henry Clay and John Calhoun demanded the U.S. go to war with Britain in 1812. And although the U.S. claimed impressment and trade violations as the ultimate reason for war; imperial designs on Canada were as much a factor as those sited. So, despite (or because of) Jay’s warnings in Federalist #4, the nation not only could not avoid war, but in the case of 1812, actively sought it out.

  25. Peter says:

    There are some great comments being made tonight. It is interesting, but in a way obvious (at least to me) that the first few Federalist papers dealt with national security. Not only is the primary purpose of the state to organize for war – something the indiviudal is least prepared to do of all government functions – it is in my judgment the best argument for why the various colonies/states needed to come together into a centralized arrangement – or as one of the founders put it, for their mutual protection and, and this is important, defense.

  26. Seij De Leon says:

    In the last section of the article, Publius makes a remark saying that basically, if we as a nation are strong and powerful, other nations will want to befriend us and not provoke us. At the time, this may have been a more beneficial concept. But now as we are a large world power it has not only earned better feelings from other countries, but their dependency on dealing with larger affairs that our founding fathers may not of foreseen, and in turn made things what some might consider worse for us. I think it is interesting how goals were met, but even with the very thorough analysis that is offered by the federalist papers not everything can be predicted such as foreign dependency.

  27. Sandra Rodas says:

    I am very much enjoying this reading project and the blog. I read every comment each day. I have been meaning to read The Federalist Papers from “cover to cover” for some time now, and it is nice to have someone inspire me to get busy and do it. It is especially nice to get so many insights from others as I read. Thank you Cathy and Janine for sponsoring this.

    In #4 the comment, “when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves,” keeps coming back to my mind.
    There have always been different opinions and different sides of issues — some of them very nation-changing and serious — but I feel a lack of unity in our country at this time that alarms me. It somehow feels different and more hostile.
    We are dividing against ourselves. We need to realize that we can disagree without the hostility. The “shape” of our nation will be irregular and asymmetrical as we all push and pull in the different directions that our hard-won freedoms allow. That is OK—it is even good. The harmony improves the melody. However, we need to remember that our center should be one.

  28. Greg Zorbach says:

    re Tricia and her question: “But what’s to stop the leader of the US government from declaring war for personal reasons? What would keep the president in check?” Only the congress candeclare war. it was true with FDR in 1941 and with W in 2002. Yjey both had to make their points with the people and their representatives in congress.



0 replies

Join the discussion! Post your comments below.

Your feedback and insights are welcome.
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *