Federalist Papers Summary 15
The Federalist Essays Summary No 15: Alexander Hamilton December 1, 1787
This is the first paper to address in its entirety the issue of “the insufficiency of the present confederation to the preservation of the Union”, all previous papers extolling the benefits of a Union relative to a disunited States. Why should it even be necessary to address the insufficiency of the Articles of Confederation when all of intellect are aware of the problems? The answer is because there are problems that can only be resolved by a united Union. These include the debt owed to foreign nations from fighting the war, foreign powers in possession of posts not surrendered, loss of respectability in foreign eyes, the low price of improved land due to loss of public and private confidence, and private credit has been reduced to its lowest level all bringing about or caused by a national disorder, poverty and insignificance.
However, even though all recognize these problems, critics still refuse to grant the Federal Government sovereignty over the individual States. Instead they suggest sovereignty of the Union and complete independence of the States, or both Union and States sovereign. But this was the problem with the existing confederacy where the Union could pass laws requisitioning men and money but had no authority over the individual citizens of the States to raise either. So laws passed by the Union and constitutionally binding were in practice only recommendations to the States.
The relationship between a Government of united States is not the same as a league or treaty between sovereign nations. With a national government “we must extend the authority of the union to the persons of the citizens, the only proper objects of government”. Government implies the power to make laws and it is essential that there be penalties for disobedience which can only be provided by actions of the court or by the military. If the States remain sovereign then only military action can enforce national laws.
After of discussion of the nature of sovereign power to be in envy of those with more power and to reject proposals from outside, a recounting of one of the primary weaknesses of the confederacy being changed by the proposed constitution is given. “In our case the concurrence of thirteen distinct sovereign wills is requisite under the confederation to the complete execution of every important measure that proceeds from the Union.” As was to be foreseen the measures of the Union have not been executed and each State has withdrawn its support from the Union “till the frail and tottering edifice seems ready to fall upon our heads and to crush us beneath its ruins”.
Federalist Papers Summary 15 Written by Donald Mellon