The experiment in national government under the Articles of Confederation proved to be a failure. The Articles of Confederation served as the 1st constitution for the country. The Articles of Confederation had crucial flaws such as a weak executive, no control over national taxation and no power over trade. The government had no power to compel people to perform national obligations as they were carried out in individual states (Declaration of Independence, 65). Under the Articles of Confederation, each state still retained its full “sovereignty, freedom and independence” (Political, 33). The Founders saw it wise to call for a constitutional convention of all states in Philadelphia (1787) with the sole purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and establish a more functional constitution and government. The new constitution formulated was met by opponents (anti-federalists) who were concerned by the lack of the bill of rights in the constitution. Other key issues of the opponents were the election of the president and the motives of the authors (they were rich and famous) (We the People, 41). Despite the arguments put forward by the anti-federalists, the Founders established a new national government under the U.S constitution rather than break it into regional confederacies. The reasons why they opted for this move would be the subject of our discussion in this essay.
The federalists (supporters of the constitution) argued that the constitution would “correct the flaws of the Articles of Confederation and would have the power necessary to formulate a prosperous and secure union” (We the People, 44). They also argued that “because of the restrictions of its powers, the new government would neither endanger the states nor the liberties of people” (44). Under the pen name Publius, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay (federalists) wrote a series of essays named the Federalist Papers supporting the new constitution. The Federalist Papers were published in New York and later distributed to the other states. These essays urged the people to support the new constitution and also attempted to explain why the constitution was preferable to the Articles of Confederation.
In Federalist Paper1, the federalist Hamilton argues that breaking the country into regional federacies would only mean that the men who assume power will take advantage of their position and “aggrandize themselves with power.” (pg.8). He further argues that the leaders would become jealous of the liberties and rights awarded to the people and use their influence to deny them these rights. Hamilton notes that there is always vigor in the formation of a government and protection of liberties but this is usually masked by the dangerous ambition of tyranny (pg.8). Hamilton was for the view that regional confederacies would bring up the rise of tyrants and despots due to the powers awarded to their respective leaders. He further urges people to support the constitution by stating “the formation of the Union offers the safest course for your liberties, your dignity and your happiness.” (pg.8).
In Federalist Paper 2, John Jay argues that the prosperity of the American people largely depended on their continuity of being firmly together. He notes that independent America was not composed of different territories but one country (pg.10). Jay noted that the confederacies would divide the united America into a number of “unsocial, jealous and alien sovereignties” (pg.2). As a nation, he argued, they had fought wars, vanquished common enemies and entered into treaties. Jay convinced people to support the constitution by noting that the Founders at the convention in Philadelphia had proposed formation of a federal national government. Jay encouraged the people to support their decision as the convention comprised of the congress which was trusted by the people and hence their decision reflected the views of the people. Jay further stated that “rejection of the constitution would put the Union at utmost jeopardy.” (pg.12).The other reason for the support of the Union was that it offered security and peace. Jay noted that under the Union, under an efficient national government governed by the constitution, the people could be accorded the best security against hostilities from abroad or within (pg.13). Jay further expounded on the topic by explaining that the Union would enter into treaties with other nations and resolve conflicts amicably. Federacies on the other hand, would come up with many interpretations of the law, break treaties and fail to solve conflicts as they would try to justify their actions.
In the Federalist Paper 9, Hamilton argues that a firm Union would be the best option to safeguard against domestic factions and insurrection (pg.37). He notes that the constitution offered mechanisms by which such events would be tamed through the various arms of government (executive, legislature and judiciary). Hamilton also noted that the constitution was progressive as it offered distribution of power, legislative balances and checks and the representation of people in the legislature. In Federalist paper 10, Madison noted that the constitution offered means by which to break and control the violence of faction. A small country, he argued, can give dominant factions power to control the government and use it for selfish purposes (Political, 43). He further notes that issues related to faction such as injustice and instability could aptly be dealt with by the constitution. Madison argued that justice, which was being offered by the constitution, would be the balance between the different groups of people as it would protect their liberties. Madison also stated that a national government would not threaten the liberties as people had a stronger allegiance to the state which would prevent federal encroachment (pg. 44). He went on further to argue that if a government serves the common goal, it is a function of a range of interests and not of its side. In the subsequent Federal Papers (48, 49, 50, 51), Madison explains how the separation of the national institutions in the constitution was designed to empower and restrict the federal government from encroaching state powers.