I’m through Federalist No. 4 as of right now. The first essay in the series, as I mentioned in my earlier post, was written by Hamilton and serves as an introduction to the rest of the essays.
The next three entries were written by John Jay, who would go on to become the first Chief Justice of the United States. Reading these entries gives me a good sense of the political ideas that were in the air at the time, since Jay specifically tries to pick out the weaknesses of what he must have believed to be the most popular proposals of the anti-Federalists. Several times throughout Nos. 2-4, Jay mentions that a unified federal government will be better equipped to handle foreign affairs than a series of three or four regional confederacies. I can only assume that he makes this comparative statement rather than saying that a centralized government would be superior to, for example, thirteen different independent nation-states because Jay believed that the former was a serious possibility with real political legs under it and the latter was not.
If I understand matters correctly, the Federalist Papers are listed in the order in which they were published. It’s therefore also telling that the first entries beyond the introduction all addressed the primary responsibility of any government — that of keeping other governments out!
Overall, I felt that No. 2 was not terribly persuasive. Jay essentially argues in that one that the multiple competing interests sure to be found in a central government will prevent frivolous wars from breaking out, which he asserts are more likely in regional confederacies dominated by only a few interests or industries. I suppose this makes sense to some extent, but I think he underestimates the overarching importance of realpolitik in matters of war and peace in this respect. Talleyrand could have given him quite a lecture.
No. 3 was much more persuasive to me because it affirmed something that I already believed to be true: central governments are better at providing for defense than confederacies because they have a greater pool of resources at their disposal. In IR terms, we would say that “big governments” have a greater latent military capacity than small governments, and thus potentially hostile states have less of an incentive to attack them. Bravo, Mr. Jay!
No. 4 used a couple of historical analogies to try to make Jay’s abstract arguments in the preceding entries more concrete. I found this pretty persuasive as well.