Federalist 3

Federalist  3 –  The Same Subject Continued (Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence

By – John Jay

(Full Text of Federalist 3)

Federalist 3 is a lesson about how a successful nation must represent itself toward other nations in order to avoid hostilities and war.

The author, John Jay was a successful ambassador to France and Spain and took part in negotiating the terms of the end of the Revolutionary War. Jay does well in explaining the need for a national self-interest in order to survive in a world of nations operating in accordance with the dictates of human nature, just as individuals do. However, Jay’s argument for a unified central federal authority seems to forget that all men suffer from the condescending arrogance of that same human nature at work whether those men are abroad or serving in State or Federal Government.

The inescapable truth is that wherever human nature is evident, the public good is absent.

I.  A Nation With a Wrong Opinion of its Interest Will Not Survive.

“It is not a new observation that the people of any country (if, like the Americans, intelligent and well-informed) seldom adopt and steadily persevere for many years in an erroneous opinion respecting their interests.”

[Federalist 3 – Jay]

This obvious conclusion explains the reason for our current situation of cultural decline and offers the solution.

Where Human Nature is present, the Public Good is at risk.

A Treatise on Human Nature - 1739-1740

  • The National Public Good will cease when human nature is allowed to flourish.
  • Today our culture’s misunderstanding of the requirement of national interest is readily abused by populist* political leaders flamboyantly accumulating power by encouraging other citizens to practice individual as well as cultural nihilism.
  • The National Public Good will cease if our leaders and/or citizens don’t share our fundamental American interest.

II.  An individual, just like a people group, with “an erroneous opinion respecting their interests” will not persevere because he disregards his own safety.

“Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their SAFETY seems to be the first. The SAFETY of the people doubtless has relation to a great variety of circumstances and considerations, and consequently affords great latitude to those who wish to define it precisely and comprehensively.”

[Federalist 3 – Jay]

III.  The Result of an EFFICIENT National Government is SECURITY – the Preservation of Peace and Tranquility.

“At present I mean only to consider it as it respects security for the preservation of peace and tranquillity, as well as against dangers from foreign arms and influence, as from dangers of the like kind arising from domestic causes. As the former of these comes first in order, it is proper it should be the first discussed. Let us therefore proceed to examine whether the people are not right in their opinion that a cordial Union, under an efficient national government, affords them the best security that can be devised against hostilities from abroad.”

[Federalist 3 – Jay]

IV.  The Cause of WAR is based in Human Nature: Therefore A Uniform and Consistent Policy toward other nations promotes the Safety of Peace and Tranquility.

“The number of wars which have happened or will happen in the world will always be found to be in proportion to the number and weight of the causes, whether real or pretended, which provoke or invite them.

    • If this remark be just, it becomes useful to inquire whether so many just causes of war are likely to be given by united America as by disunited America;
    • for if it should turn out that United America will probably give the fewest,
    • then it will follow that in this respect the Union tends most to preserve the people in a state of peace with other nations.”

[Federalist 3 – Jay (bullet points for clarity)]

“The just causes of war, for the most part, arise either from violation of treaties or from direct violence.”

    • “America has already formed treaties with no less than six foreign nations,
    • and all of them, except Prussia, are maritime, and therefore able to annoy and injure us.
    • She (America) has also extensive commerce with Portugal, Spain, and Britain, and, with respect to the two latter, has, in addition, the circumstance of neighborhood to attend to.”

[Federalist 3 – Jay (bullet points for clarity)]

V.  Uniformity engenders peace and tranquility

  • “It is of high importance to the peace of America that she observe the laws of nations towards all these powers,
  • and to me it appears evident that this will be more perfectly and punctually done by one national government than it could be either by thirteen separate States or by three or four distinct confederacies.
  • For this opinion various reasons may be assigned.”

[Federalist 3 – Jay (bullet points for clarity)]

VI.  The Continuity of Efficient Government is Dependent Upon the Character, Talent, and Qualifications of Those Serving in Government.

    • “When once an efficient national government is established,
    • the best men in the country will not only consent to serve,
    • but also will generally be appointed to manage it;
    • for, although town or country, or other contracted influence, may place men in State assemblies, or senates, or courts of justice, or executive departments,
    • yet more general and extensive reputation for talents and other qualifications will be necessary to recommend men to offices under the national government, — especially as it will have the widest field for choice, and never experience that want of proper persons which is not uncommon in some of the States.
    • Hence, it will result that the administration, the political counsels, and the judicial decisions of the national government will be more wise, systematical, and judicious than those of individual States,
    • and consequently more satisfactory with respect to other nations, as well as more safe with respect to us.”

[Federalist 3 – Jay (bullet points for clarity)]

For this concept to be judged as true, the reverse must be true.

  • Therefore, threats, acts of aggression and terrorism affecting our national security and safety as well as our safety as individuals traveling in other nations must be viewed as a failure in the ability and character of those individuals appointed or assigned to ensure our national security.
  • The character, integrity, and honor of national policy is determined by the character and honor of the man constructing it.

This failure of duty on the part of  Government Appointees and Employees must be viewed according to the two principles discussed at the beginning of this essay.

  • A nation that has a wrong opinion of its interest will not survive.
  • Therefore, statesmen with a wrong opinion of our nation’s interest not only hasten our nation’s destruction, but produce threats to our safety and security in the process.
  • Where human nature is present, the public good is at risk.

VII.  The Benefits of a Unified Federal Gov’t under the Proposed Constitution


  •  “Under the national government, treaties and articles of treaties, as well as the laws of nations, will always be expounded in one sense and executed in the same manner, — whereas, adjudications on the same points and questions, in thirteen States, or in three or four confederacies, will not always accord or be consistent; and that, as well from the variety of independent courts and judges appointed by different and independent governments, as from the different local laws and interests which may affect and influence them. The wisdom of the convention, in committing such questions to the jurisdiction and judgment of courts appointed by and responsible only to one national government, cannot be too much commended.”

[Federalist 3 – Jay]

Assuming the Honorable Character, Supreme Talent and Ability of Federal Leaders, a strong unified Federal Policy keeps Hierarchy of Power under Control from the Aggression of Human Nature:

    • “The prospect of present loss or advantage may often tempt the governing party in one or two States to swerve from good faith and justice; but those temptations, not reaching the other States, and consequently having little or no influence on the national government, the temptation will be fruitless, and good faith and justice be preserved. The case of the treaty of peace with Britain adds great weight to this reasoning.”  [Federalist 3 – Jay]
    • “If even the governing party in a State should be disposed to resist such temptations, yet as such temptations may, and commonly do, result from circumstances peculiar to the State, and may affect a great number of the inhabitants, the governing party may not always be able, if willing, to prevent the injustice meditated, or to punish the aggressors. But the national government, not being affected by those local circumstances, will neither be induced to commit the wrong themselves, nor want power or inclination to prevent or punish its commission by others.”  [Federalist 3 – Jay]
    • “So far, therefore, as either designed or accidental violations of treaties and the laws of nations afford just causes of war, they are less to be apprehended under one general government than under several lesser ones, and in that respect the former most favors the safety of the people.” [Federalist 3 – Jay]
    • “As to those just causes of war which proceed from direct and unlawful violence, it appears equally clear to me that one good national government affords vastly more security against dangers of that sort than can be derived from any other quarter.” [Federalist 3 – Jay]
    • “Such violences are more frequently caused by the passions and interests of a part than of the whole; of one or two States than of the Union.”  [Federalist 3 – Jay]

[In my opinion, the following argument for a strong central government is based upon Ruling Class/Natural Law rather than reality.]

Natural Law / Ruling Class mentality believes there are Two Classes of Men:  the Talented Few, and Those in Need of Leadership.

  • For instance, in this same Federalist Essay, the initial utopian dream was that the best and the brightest individuals would be asked to serve the Federal Government. The reality is that those that have served throughout the course of American history have been and are tainted by the same flawed human nature that has plagued men for all history. There are no perfect men.
  • Human Nature applies to all men and recognition of this fact is the great equalizer making all men equal in nature.
  • The ability to rise above our human nature is the true determination of integrity, honor, and character.



Natural Law / Ruling Class mentality believes that Faith and Passion are the Hallmarks of Lesser Men.

  • Therefore, religious faith is deemed as irrational passion in which individuals are under the control of some Svengali preacher, populist leader, or worst of all – under the influence of the Holy Spirit or God. [Note: While Ruling Class profess to know God, true faith is discerned by words and deeds, not by words spoken.]
  • Passions are viewed as a character flaw because men should be guided by reason, not passion. This is incorrect because it is man’s passions and our spiritual yearning for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that sets man apart from the animals. The Ruling Class considers the exhibition of emotions to be “common, low-class behavior”, evidence of feminine – (the weaker sex) behavior that is guided by a woman’s “hysteria” caused by the menstrual cycle.
  • In combining the first two points, it must be made clear that the prejudice against Christians and female emotions are one unified disdain for emotions. Therefore, to think the Ruling Class bigotry against Christians is justified, while the same disdain for female emotions is unjustified is to not appreciate that this disdain for the emotions of others is rooted in the the arrogant hubris of human nature, not rational thought. Nothing is more absurd that believing yourself a superior human being because of your ability to remain emotion-less. Such is the belief of every murderous and oppressive tyrant.
  • Therefore, Jay’s Ruling Class mentality shows in his condescending attitude to the “passion” of those citizens living in the border areas suffering from the hostilities with Indians. Jay seems to believe that a distant Federal Government would be better suited to negotiate a peaceful solution to hostilities because the Federal Government would not be burdened with the passions of those citizens, as well as the Indians, actually experiencing the violent loss of life and property in the hostilities with Indians.

VIII.  A False Argument To Engender Support For A Uniform Federal Government Policy

“Not a single Indian war has yet been occasioned by aggressions of the present federal government, feeble as it is; but there are several instances of Indian hostilities having been provoked by the improper conduct of individual States, who, either unable or unwilling to restrain or punish offenses, have given occasion to the slaughter of many innocent inhabitants.”  [Federalist 3 – Jay]

“The neighborhood of Spanish and British territories, bordering on some States and not on others, naturally confines the causes of quarrel more immediately to the borderers. The bordering States, if any, will be those who, under the impulse of sudden irritation, and a quick sense of apparent interest or injury, will be most likely, by direct violence, to excite war with these nations; and nothing can so effectually obviate that danger as a national government, whose wisdom and prudence will not be diminished by the passions which actuate the parties immediately interested.”  [Federalist 3 – Jay]


  • This example is misleading as there is no Federal Government as yet – only colonies unified under the Articles of Confederation – which was focused on the Revolutionary War and foreign trade and treaties – not local threats to citizens from various Indian nations or tribes.
  • Also, not the emotional language used to disparage the actions of the bordering states as well as the superiority of the wisdom and prudence of the proposed Federal Government because of its lack of passion.]

IX.  The Ruling Class Mentality as the Federal Government Has an Extreme Case of Plank-Eye*

  • *Matthew 7:3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  

But not only fewer just causes of war will be given by the national government, but it will also be more in their power to accommodate and settle them amicably. They will be more temperate and cool, and in that respect, as well as in others, will be more in capacity to act advisedly than the offending State. The pride of states, as well as of men, naturally disposes them to justify all their actions, and opposes their acknowledging, correcting, or repairing their errors and offenses. The national government, in such cases, will not be affected by this pride, but will proceed with moderation and candor to consider and decide on the means most proper to extricate them from the difficulties which threaten them.”  [Federalist 3 – Jay]

Besides, it is well known that acknowledgments, explanations, and compensations are often accepted as satisfactory from a strong united nation, which would be rejected as unsatisfactory if offered by a State or confederacy of little consideration or power.

In the year 1685, the state of Genoa having offended Louis XIV, endeavored to appease him. He demanded that they should send their Doge, or chief magistrate, accompanied by four of their senators, to France, to ask his pardon and receive his terms. They were obliged to submit to it for the sake of peace. Would he on any occasion either have demanded or have received the like humiliation from Spain, or Britain, or any other powerful nation?

Publius                       [Federalist 3 – Jay]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.