Federalist No. 2

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John Jay, author of Federalist No. 2

Federalist No. 2 is an essay by John Jay, the second of the Federalist Papers. It was published on October 31, 1787 under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all the Federalist Papers were published. No. 2 is the first of four papers by Jay discussing the protection of the United States from dangerous foreign influence, especially military force. It is titled, "Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence."

The question[edit]

The American War of Independence had been a difficult conflict for the American forces, and despite the eventual victory it was clear that the new country was not on a level, militarily, with European nations, especially Britain and France, which were the two European powers exercising major influence along the North Atlantic coastline. There was significant concern among Americans that one of the European powers would attempt to return the United States to colonial status or otherwise limit American sovereignty. In Federalist No. 2, Jay strove to demonstrate that a strong Union of the American states would provide the best opportunity for defense.

Jay's argument[edit]

Jay begins by noting that his paper is in response to politicians who have lately rejected the previously "uncontradicted opinion that the prosperity of the people of America depended on their continuing firmly united."

He borrows ideas from the early English Enlightenment thinkers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes about the need to mediate human affairs to secure peace and prosperity. Jay argues that in order to "vest it [the national government] with requisite powers," the "people must cede to its some of their natural rights." Throughout this paper, the central idea is Union and it is justified as being evident given the American people's cultural similarities in background, language and religion.

Jay argues that the benefits of Union against foreign wars are immense.

To address the prevailing concern about the nature of the newly proposed Constitution, Publius begins by noting that the Articles of Confederation, though established with the public good in mind, lacks the proper deliberation that was present at the convention in Philadelphia. Furthermore he relates the current situation of the convention to that of the 1774 congress that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and how it too was attacked wrongfully by opponents who seek to aggrandize themselves at the expense of the public good. He concludes with a warning, saying that if the Constitution fails to be ratified, the nation's union would be jeopardized, and so too its greatness.

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