Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Federalist # 7

Publius in the seventh essay of The Federalist Papers focuses entirely on examples of the kinds of disputes that could, in the event of disunion, reduce the United States into a replica of the European wars that had long colored that continent.

The examples cover territorial disputes, commercial disputes, debt settlement disputes, state laws violating contractual obligations, and alliances with foreign powers. In each of these examples Publius adopts the probable reasoning of prudent statesmen, not predicating intrinsic hostilities among the states but rather arguing from the operations of interest and the resentments of injuries real or perceived.

His point is simple and clear: without a trusted judge either to settle such disputes or to obviate them altogether through uniform rules where appropriate, there would be no ready instrumentality of resolution. Sometimes the disputes would be regulated through negotiation. But at other times, as occurs elsewhere, they would eventuate in conflicts that remain unresolved save through war. Publius’s point is not that war among the states is a likely prospect, but rather that the habits of independence and self-reliance would eventuality develop into hardened positions that would not admit of easy resolution.

The arguments developed especially in essays two through six, therefore, receive their concrete political application in a consideration of the actual circumstances of the states and the effects of their contiguity. What ought to be matters of domestic difference resolved through the rule of law would become matters of international conflict, for which there is no agency or instrument of resolution apart from the contest of force. He concluded:

The probability of incompatible alliances between the different states, or confederacies, and different foreign nations, and the effects of this situation upon the peace of the whole, have been sufficiently unfolded in some preceding papers. From the view they have exhibited of this part of the subject, this conclusion is to be drawn, that America, if not connected at all, or only by the feeble tie of a simple league, offensive and defensive, would, by the operation of such jarring alliances, be gradually entangled in all the pernicious labyrinths of European politics and wars; and by the destructive contentions of the parts into which she was divided, would be likely to become a prey to the artifices and machinations of powers equally the enemies of the all. Divide et impera must be the motto of every nation that either hates or fears us.

The force of the argument is immediately discernible in the eventualities o the War for the Union of the 1860s, in which not only the differences among the states produced eventual warfare, but the prospective intervention of foreign powers was seriously bruited and nearly obtained. Stated plainly, the Union was created for the sake of the rights of self-government described in Federalist one but also to grant Americans space to grow in peace.

W. B. Allen

Dean and Professor Emeritus

Michigan State University

21 Responses to “May 6, 2010 – Federalist No. 7 – The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States, for the Indpendent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: W. B. Allen, Dean and Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University”

  1. Brad says:

    I am still thinking about Shays “rebellion”. Quite frankly, I feel that Shays got a really bad deal. From my reading, he was a Revolutionary War veteran of much decoration having served in several theaters with distinction. He seemed to desire to return home and live out his life in peace UNTIL such time that the state of Massachusetts had other ideas. Did the elite “intellectuals” in Boston really believe they could tax and tax to death the common man to ruin? Shays pleaded for reconsideration and relief from this new oppression. What he must have been thinking to face a new taxing tyrant.
    Hamilton and Jay are correct to point out the dangers leading man to revolt. In this case, though, the state of Massachusetts was able to take care of this problem on its own. Albeit in a way that I feel was disgraceful. Gov. Boudin’s actions were tyrannical. Thank goodness Hancock replaced him soon enough to restore calmer heads and unified the state. It is a fallacy to think that a greater Federal Government was needed at that time. What was needed was a smarter and more humane state government. I feel that Publius falls short in argument here. I feel that this is not a good example where a unified central government would be more productive in local affairs.
    Note our current state of affairs. We the people do not need more oversight on a local level pushing its weight around.

  2. Maggie says:

    This part of Hamilton’s essay jumped out at me as I read…”There is, perhaps, nothing more likely to disturb the tranquillity of nations than their being bound to mutual contributions for any common object that does not yield an equal and coincident benefit. For it is an observation, as true as it is trite, that there is nothing men differ so readily about as the payment of money.” Truer words were never written. We battle over money and who pays more tax and who gets more benefits from those taxes EVERY DAY.

  3. Susan Craig says:

    So far in the past two Federalist Papers (6 and 7) I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the National Government was to regulate and control commerce between states. What I see is a proposed arbitration and adjudication of differences between the sovereign states.

  4. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Maggie, I would have to agree with you on the accurateness of the quote by Hamilton. Not only is it distasteful to have to pay taxes to a government that carelessly uses the money it receives from it’s hardworking citizens; but to have to pay mandatory taxes for causes that many believe are unconstitutional or wasteful, is adding even more salt to the wound. Case in point, the current HC Reform bill, and sending taxpayer money to the World Bank to bailout countries like Greece.

    Which brings me to the statement that was written with a highlighter on it: “The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of collision between the separate States or confederacies. The apportionment, in the first instance, and the progressive extinguishment afterward, would be alike productive of ill-humor and animosity.”

    All I could think of when I read this statement was CALIFORNIA. Today, through the policies and laws the state of California has adopted, this state has crippled their economy to the point of backruptcy and now cries “FOUL!” California demands that her sister states bail her out and pay for her bad decisions. The other states, especially those who have watched their budgets and acted prudently in good times to help themselves through the bad, bristle at the charge that they must pay for California.

    Without the Union, I believe the majority of Americans would allow California to fail. Hopefully, because of the Union, California can be assisted but with very strict conditions. California needs to take the New Jersey route.

  5. Roger Jett says:

    The stated mission of “Constituting America” is to educate America about the validity, necessity and Providential Divinity of the Constitution. On this National Day of Prayer let us pray for the success of this mission. As Janine Turner says “we must not let those who devalue freedom to dominate the debate.” Before we debate though …. let us be sure to pray for wisdom…. learn all we can and can all we learn …. discern truth and preserve it …. be absolutely sure we are right …. and then …. by all means …. go ahead !

  6. David Hathaway says:

    @Maggie – leapt out of the page at me, too!

    @Susan Craig – I believe these were written to show the merit of the proposed Constitution. Yesterday’s Federalist No 6 began,

    “THE three last numbers of this paper have been dedicated to an enumeration of the dangers to which we should be exposed, in a state of disunion, from the arms and arts of foreign nations. I shall now proceed to delineate dangers of a different and, perhaps, still more alarming kind–those which will in all probability flow from dissensions between the States themselves, and from domestic factions and convulsions.”

    So rather than proposing a system of arbitration and adjudication, or regulation and control of commerce, these last two papers describe the sorts of conflicts that The Constitution could prevent. Or perhaps mitigate. “Adopt The Constitution and these sorts of problems between States won’t occur [as much]“.

    I hope I didn’t misread the intent of your comment. I’m sorry if I did.

    I also like how Dr. Allen summarizes this:

    “What ought to be matters of domestic difference resolved through the rule of law would become matters of international conflict, for which there is no agency or instrument of resolution apart from the contest of force.”

    Nicely stated.

  7. Maggie says:

    @Carolyn…….I immediately thought of California as well. We’re in a rather sad state of existance here in Michigan as well due to the auto industry. I agree that we need to help each other out, but we also need to make sure that bad policy NEVER allows this to happen again.

  8. Susan Craig says:

    Yes what I was driving at is the current iteration of our government is seemingly intent on control of the national commerce not arbitrating differences between states. As I’ve read these papers the regulation and control of what business can and cannot be was States purview and any disagreements between States were to be adjudicated or arbitrated at the Federal level. I do not see Department of Labor and I certainly do not see a Department of Commerce that can and did tell a man who wanted to grow wheat for his own families consumption that he was in violation of interstate commerce laws.

  9. Debbie Beardsley says:

    Carolyn, While I am not going to argue with you about California’s budget issues, I am going to take exception to saying we want the other States to bail us out. Yes California is a mess right now partly due to the uncontrollable spending habits in Sacramento and the stranglehold the environmentalists and unions have on us. Another very large part of our problem are illegal immigrants and the fact that the Federal government is not doing their job in securing the borders and dealing with the fact that border states pay dearly for having illegal immigrants. Our Governor has asked the Federal government to pay for incarcerating the illegal immigrants that commit crimes and are sent to jail. This amounts to billions of dollars annually.

    As in Arizona, we have a huge problem with illegal immigration in California and the Federal government is choosing to do nothing. It is time for the Feds to step up.

  10. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Debbie – I was referring to back in January of this year when Gov. Schwarzenegger asked for a federal bailout up to $8 billion. According to the Hill, “the California gov’t. knows they can’t raise taxes significantly without further destroying the state’s economy to generate jobs. With that option virtually eliminated, the governor is looking for help from outside the state; from the rest of us. Bail us out, he says, or we will end our welfare-to-work program and eliminate services for the elderly and the disabled.” The reports I read did stress that the majority of the voters didn’t favor a bailout, but approx. 33% did.

    I agree that the Federal Government needs to step up on illegal immigration. It is creating a huge problem in all states, but mostly in the southern border states. With those borders open, anyone from anywhere can enter the USA.

  11. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Carolyn i agree with you on the problem of illegal immigration but part of the problem in California is that eventhough your Governor has ask the Federal Government to pay for the cost of the incaration of the criminal element involved in illegal immigration it has done very little to confront the problem itself such as Arizona has done. As long as the legislature in Sacramento continues to tax and spend and to encourage illegal immigration as it has done the problem will continue. Each state has it’s responsibility to uphold the Union as well as it’s own soverinty.

  12. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Chuck, I was replying to Debbie. I am not from California. I agree with you about the taxing and spending in California, and I realize that illegal immigration is a problem.

    The original point I was trying to make is that California has the 8th largest economy in the world, so even though it is a state, it’s economy is larger than most countries. Saying that, some legislators feel California is too large to fail, and if we do let it fail, the effects will be felt globally. Look at the impact Greece is making. Many say California is Greece three years from now, if things do not drastically change.

    From everything I read, California is also one of the highest in taxes, so they cannot tax their citizens anymore. Therefore, the Gov. requested a Federal Bailout. If California is awarded a Federal Bailout, it will be paid from the taxpayers of the other non-crisis states. Also, from what I read the states are reluctant to bailout California for many reasons, but 2 of them are 1) States are trying to save what money they have for their own needs, and 2) California refuses to change it’s liberal programs if awarded a bailout.

  13. i agree with what carolyn and chuck said. immmigration is not the federal governments responsibility. In my opoinion it shpuld be on the state, its their responsibility to keep the country in working order. The uniuon itself keeps the states in check, and without the union, states would turn on eachother.

  14. Maggie says:

    @ Joshua……I don’t think that Carolyn and Chuch and saying that immigration is not the Federal Government’s responsibility…..on the contrary, it is very much their responsibility. They, however, are not living up to their responsibility. The problems already exist with too many illegals and incarceratiion issues. Since the Feds refuse to due their job, AZ HAD to take matters into their own hands. California wants to boycott AZ….forget trying to get them to help themselves and deal with the illegals on a state level. The point I believe that others were trying to make is that 1) California needs to deal with the illegals to try to better their own situation and 2) California needs to change it’s incredibly liberal entitlement programs…..these two things need to happen before a national bailout will do anything other than throw money down the toilet.

  15. Maggie says:

    Sorry….I meant to say “Chuck”. I’m typing too fast.

  16. Carolyn Merritt says:

    @Joshua. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, immigration is the federal government’s responsibility. However, the federal government is not doing its job, therefore, the states are left to take care of it. Because the government is turning a blind eye to its duties to the states, the states are turning on each other. I find it reprehensible that this president is misstating AZ’s law since it follows the federal law and by misstating the facts, he has helped incur the anger on both sides of the illegal immigration issue.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  17. Howdy from Texas. I thank you for joining us today! I, also thank Professor W.B. Allen for his essay. As I was reading his essay today I realized how grateful I am that he has graced us with his wisdom and that he, and our other guest scholars, have so deftly interpreted the meaning of the Federalist Papers. Isn’t it wonderful?

    I hope you are checking out the Daily Behind the Scenes Videos that I am filming, editing and uploading every night! They are on the website – it’s the box on top of the “90 in 90 = 180” box – the top, center of the home page. I am wearing a red dress. I am really enjoying filming this every night and writing the daily essays, but I am getting no sleep!!!

    Cathy, my co-chair, has written such inspirational essays. Thanks Cathy. You are a true American Patriot – as are all of you who are joining us! Please spread the word about our “90 in 90” and our “We the People 9.17 Contest” for kids!!

    Today’s reading continues to focus on union and the danger we would face from Europe if we did not unite.

    Strength in numbers and unity through diversity is a true American-ism.

    One of the greatest miracles is that America won the Revolutionary War, but also, and no less importantly, that America survived her infancy and was directed by brilliant forefathers who were touched by Divine Providence. The United States Constitution was a miracle as well.

    There are a couple of Alexander Hamilton’s phrases that caught my attention today:

    The spirit of enterprise which characterizes the commercial part of America,
    has left no occasion of displaying itself unimproved.

    “The spirit of enterprise..” this is the heart and soul of Americans. We were hard working survivors with an independent streak that gave us the courage to cross the oceans to live in an inconceivable wildernesses and the adventurousness to cross the plains in covered wagons to endure an untamed land. Americans were of a fearless stock driven by an unbridled spirit.

    And we still are.

    This is why Samuel Adam’s words still ring true to the American soul – a soul that was built upon generations of mavericks:

    The redistributing of wealth and pooling of property are despotic
    and unconstitutional.

    American’s thrive on the spirit of free enterprise and the freedom to pursue it.

    The government must not cripple America’s genius.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner


  18. Welcome to Federalist No. 7 – 90 in 90 = 180: History Holds the Key to the Future!!!!

    Are you all watching Janine’s Behind the Scenes Videos? Tonight she gives a shout out to the Constitutional Scholar Guest Bloggers!

    Please check these videos out for the lighter side of Constituting America! You will be glad you did!

    In Federalist Paper No. 7 Alexander Hamilton explores possible causes of tension, disagreement and outright warfare between states if joined as a loose confederation instead of through the proposed U.S. Constitution.

    Territorial disputes, trade disagreements, apportionment of the public debt of the
    United States, “laws in violation of private contracts, as they amount to aggressions on the rights of those states whose citizens are injured by them,” and differing alliances between various states and foreign nations, are all listed as divisive factors which could prove destructive without a central arbitrating force.

    The fact that even with the ratification of the United States Constitution our country could not avoid civil war, validates Hamilton’s concerns that without the Constitution, the natural tensions between states would eventually erupt. Thanks to the founders’ wisdom and vision, even with civil war, the United States Constitution lit the path for the healing and reconstruction of our Nation.

    It is hard to imagine what the United States might have looked like if the Constitution were not adopted, but the founding fathers envisioned a future similar to Europe, and they knew they did not want to emulate the European countries. “From the view they have exhibited of this part of the subject, this conclusion is to be drawn that America, if not connected at all, or only by the feeble tie of a simple league, offensive and defensive, would, by the operation of such jarring alliances, be gradually entangled in all the pernicious labyrinths of European politics and wars; and by the destructive contentions of the parts into which she was divided, would be likely to become a prey to the artifices and machinations of powers equally the enemies of them all.”

    Our current leaders would be wise to assess if it is any more attractive today to emulate Europe than it was over 200 years ago. As we chart the course for the next two hundred years, we must choose if we embrace the U.S. Constitution and the founding principles of our country, including “The spirit of enterprise, which characterizes the commercial part of America.” This “unbridled spirit” as Alexander Hamilton referred to it, is part of what has made the United States a great nation. Will we bridle our spirit of enterprise and drift from the Constitution and our founding principles? And what will our Nation look like in 200 years if we do? Our founding fathers could most certainly predict the outcome, and if we read these papers carefully, we can too.

    Cathy Gillespie

    PS – We are working to consolidate all blog comments onto the Daily Guest Bloggers page, and Janine and I will be posting our daily essasy on the Guest Blogger’s Post as “Comments” as well as the usual standalone posts. Please post all your blog comments on the Guest Bloggers Page so its easy to see all the great comments in one place! Thank you!

  19. WeThePeople says:

    So, does this mean that any future “territorial disputes, commercial disputes, debt settlement disputes, state laws violating contractual obligations, and alliances with foreign powers” will fall to the hands of the Supreme Court? It said that there should be a judge, so I assumed Supreme Court or the judicial review.
    In response to @Joshua’s comment, if the federal government IS failing to do that job, wouldn’t the next logic step be that the immigration power goes to the states?

  20. Susan Craig says:

    From our initial founding document!
    We hold truths these to be obvious and beyond reproof. First God created all men equal, granted them rights; some of them being life, liberty and the freedom to strive for happiness. Second, our Government is instituted to protect and secure these rights; retaining power only with the consent of the governed. Third, When the government disregards its purpose and becomes destructive of these undeniable rights, it is the Right of the People to alter it or institute a new Government.

  21. Tim Shey says:

    I like what Janine Turner wrote:

    “Americans thrive on the spirit of free enterprise and the freedom to pursue it.
    The government must not cripple America’s genius.”

    Faith in God is freedom. Non-faith is sin–which is slavery. The opposite of faith in God is faith in human convention that rejects God (Marxism, big government). Slaves (Marxists) want to make slaves of other people because this is what their fallen natures dictate (“dictate” is an appropriate word, don’t you think? Somehow it reminds me of the word “dictator”).

    Free enterprise comes ultimately from some faith in God. I believe the Hand of God works much more smoothly and effectively in a free-market economy than in a slave (Marxist) economy.


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