Federalist Papers Summary No. 8

 

Federalist Papers Summary No. 8

 
 

Federalist Papers Author Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton

Federalist Papers Summary Number 8

The Federalist Summary No 8: Hamilton
November 20, 1787

This paper discusses when standing armies are necessary, the benefits and dangers to the protected populations, and whether States united or disunited would require standing armies.  By 1787 war had evolved in Europe to the point that standing armies through the art of fortification could prevent the sudden loss of a country to an invading army.  War in Europe “is now no longer a history of nations subdued and empires overturned, but of towns taken and retaken, of battles that decide nothing, of retreats more beneficial than victories, of much effort and little acquisition”. 

War between the disunited States would be very different because States at first would be reluctant to create armies because of the “jealousy of military establishment” and thus with no fortifications and defenses populous States could easily overrun less populous neighboring States.  But the horrors of war being so severe, States would soon develop standing armies even at the loss of some measure of civil and political rights.  This military establishment would be perpetual and would thus enhance the importance of the soldier and proportionally degrade the condition of the citizen.  In a short time soldiers would be considered superior to the citizen at which point the citizens would no longer resist usurpations supported by the military power leading to citizens “being the victims of the absolute power of a single man”.. 

Although European countries require standing armies, with the consequences described, Great Britain does not because it is an island nation with a powerful navy guarding against the possibility of a foreign invasion.  This gives time for the militia to rally and thus no need for a large standing army.  Without the need for armies the country concentrates on agriculture, commerce, the arts of industry, and the science of finance.

He now makes the argument true at the time that a united Union would have similar military needs to Great Britain given the great distance from the military powers across the Atlantic.  Thus standing armies would not be required but instead militia formed by citizens with other professions could protect our nation in the event of an invasion.  (It seems this citizen would have to own his own weapon if he were to join a militia to defend our country)   He notes that the proposed constitution allows for standing armies by not ruling them out but thinks they will only be required with the ensuing consequences if the Union is dissolved.

Summary Written by Donald Mellon

 

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