Federalist Paper #15
In the article in question, Alexander Hamilton presents his views concerning the nature and purpose of the Union. He asserts that the powers of states should be abridged in favor of the federal government in order to ensure observance of existing laws by local authorities. He says that an alliance based only on good faith is doomed to failure. General superintendence having enough authority to prescribe and to coerce (a central government, in other words) is indispensable for well-being of a nation, autonomy of local bodies leading to its being split and eventually destroyed by its enemies. In my opinion, Hamilton was right. Subsequent events showed that a strong federal government was necessary for the USA to win wars, acquire new territories and maintain peace and stability within their borders.
The first assumption Hamilton makes is that all misfortunes characteristic of the first period of American history were due to the weakness of the federal government, which failed to tame states pursuing their selfish goals and disregarding matters of common interest. He later adds that only a centralized state is capable of effectively mobilizing resources (money, men and goods) in the face of an imminent external danger. In the times of Hamilton, the USA were confronted with many such dangers. England was the main enemy of the young state, trying to subdue it during the War of Independence and the Anglo-American War of 1812. Spain and France had large colonies in North America and were afraid of losing them after the rise of American power. In fact, America had no friends, and was forced to rely only on its own forces to deter possible aggression.
At second, the author stresses that bodies of people are very often more selfish and rebellious than individuals. Therefore, states should be prevented from pursuing their local goals to the detriment of the whole. The government should address citizens, not states, which are only an intermediate link between the people and central authorities. It is an advisable model for every society with an unripe political culture, having no experience of solving problems and addressing challenges of a rapidly changing world. If there are too many intermediaries between state and citizen, state can force nobody to obey its orders and requisitions, and the whole system is plunged into chaos.
I generally approve of Hamilton’s approach to the political problems in question. History has shown that the weakness of the federal government led to two different social systems evolving in the USA: the slave-owning one and the capitalist one. Their supporters waged a bloody war against one another, destabilizing the country and giving rise to a wide range of economic, political and humanitarian problems. If the central government had been stronger, this catastrophe would not have happened. It took the line of thought represented by Hamilton many years to become an integral part of American political culture. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the USA. He was a Democratic Republican and intended to grant …
Posted by: Otelia Barratt