Federalist No. 8

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So Hamilton and Jay have talked at length about how there could likely be hostilities between the states if not for Union. But ... so what? What's wrong with that?

No, seriously.

Hamilton says that consequences would be even worse for war between States than one might normally expect between two neighboring nations, because the less-established colonies don't have the same protections from invasion. England and France may war, but in the end, they remain England and France.

"The history of war, in that quarter of the globe, is 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." But it would be entirely different between the States, because the borders between the states are wide open.

Because it would be so relatively simple, war would be a constant threat, and therefore a threat also to liberty: "Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free."

I don't think any of us need much imagination to understand the argument.

He notes that standing armies are a possibility under the new Constitution (this will be discussed more fully later), but would be inevitable following the dissolution of the Union. Standing armies have many problems, not the least of which is that they strengthen the executive at the expense of the legislature.

He discusses the wide difference between nations who are seldom invaded, and those that often are, focusing primarily on the threat the military -- mostly a function of its size, but also of how active it is -- poses to the citizens. A small and largely inactive army can be overpowered by the citizens if necessary. A large standing army, far less so.

Because in the case of States open to perpetual invasion, the armies must be large and constantly prepared to act, which "enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionally degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil."

One of the reasons Great Britain has not fallen prey to this is that it is on an island, and its armies are less among the people. A preserved Union could enjoy a similar advantage, as it has no currently forseen need for extensive military establishments, as long as they stay united.

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"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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