Federalist Papers Summary No. 7


Federalist Papers Summary No. 7


Federalist Papers Author Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton

Federalist Papers Summary Number 7

The Federalist Essay Summary No 7:  Hamilton
November 17. 1787

This paper explicitly refers to problems that arose because of weakness in the Articles of Confederation.  These problems are the answer given to the question which is the theme of this paper “what inducements could the States have, if disunited, to make war upon each other?” Recall that when the Articles were ratified, the States were united in a perpetual Union characterized as a firm league of friendship with each other, but not a nation with a national government.  The discussion in the preceding papers and in this assumes that if the draft constitution is not ratified then even this weak unity would be dissolved leaving thirteen independent disunited States which might form several confederacies.  The problems mentioned below existed under the Articles but because the States were united, although loosely, they had an opportunity to resolve any issues peacefully rather than going to war, a possibility if the unity was dissolved.     

The first problem if disunited would be territorial since a large part of the vacant Western territory is the common property of the Union, all claims by states having been given up under acts passed by the Confederation Congress, the name of the Government formed by the ratification of the Articles.  Dissolving the Union would end the agreements resulting in the States reclaiming the lands.  Other States would no doubt insist on their proportion thus “we perceive an ample theatre for hostile pretensions, without any umpire or common judge to interpose between the contending parties”.

 “The competitions of commerce would be another fruitful source of contention.”  “Each State, or separate confederacy, would pursue a system of commercial polity peculiar to itself. This would occasion distinctions, preferences and exclusions, which would beget discontent.”   States would establish commercial regulations benefitting their own citizens as happened because the Confederation Congress had no power to control interstate commerce.  “The infractions of these regulations on the one side, the efforts to prevent and repel then on the other, would naturally lead to outrages, and these to reprisals and wars.”

“The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of collision between the separate States or confederacies.”  The Confederation Congress incurred debt during the Revolutionary war and with no power to tax the States could only ask them to pay a share which some did and some did not.  How would it be possible to agree upon a rule to apportion this debt and future debt among the separate States?  Even if a rule existed, some States would refuse or be unable to pay their share for many possible reasons which would lead to “complaints, recriminations and quarrels”.  “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.”

This paper concludes that if the States were disunited then issues with territory, commerce, and apportionment of public debt could lead States to war with each other.  This possibility would necessitate the States having armies which is discussed in the following paper.

Summary Written by Donald Mellon


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