Federalist No 1
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Federalist No 1


The Federalist
Number 1 AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency
of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution
for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending
in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare
of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most
interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems
to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to
decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing
good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend
for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis
at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision
is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve
to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind. This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy
to those of patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel
for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed
by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations
not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished
than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects
too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve
in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and
prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth. Among the most formidable of the obstacles
which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest
of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution
of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments;
and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize
themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects
of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from
its union under one government. It is not, however, my design to dwell upon
observations of this nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous
to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations
might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views. Candor will oblige us to admit that even such
men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the
opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will
spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable–the honest errors of minds
led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the
causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions,
see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first
magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would
furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being
in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this
respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who
advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party
opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as
well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation,
nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times,
characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally
absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by
persecution. And yet, however just these sentiments will
be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as
in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions
will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite
parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness
of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their
declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency
of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile
to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the
rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will
be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense
of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that
jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is
apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten
that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation
of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that
a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of
the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of
government. History will teach us that the former has
been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter,
and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number
have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues,
and ending tyrants. In the course of the preceding observations,
I have had an eye, my fellow-citizens, to putting you upon your guard against all attempts,
from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a matter of the utmost moment to your welfare,
by any impressions other than those which may result from the evidence of truth. You will, no doubt, at the same time, have
collected from the general scope of them, that they proceed from a source not unfriendly
to the new Constitution. Yes, my countrymen, I own to you that, after
having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion it is your interest
to adopt it. I am convinced that this is the safest course
for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I affect not reserves which I do not feel. I will not amuse you with an appearance of
deliberation when I have decided. I frankly acknowledge to you my convictions,
and I will freely lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. The consciousness of good intentions disdains
ambiguity. I shall not, however, multiply professions
on this head. My motives must remain in the depository of
my own breast. My arguments will be open to all, and may
be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit
which will not disgrace the cause of truth. I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss
the following interesting particulars: -THE UTILITY OF THE UNION TO YOUR POLITICAL
PROSPERITY -THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE PRESENT CONFEDERATION
TO PRESERVE THAT UNION -THE NECESSITY OF A GOVERNMENT AT LEAST EQUALLY
ENERGETIC WITH THE ONE PROPOSED, TO THE ATTAINMENT OF THIS OBJECT
-THE CONFORMITY OF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION TO THE TRUE PRINCIPLES OF REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT
-ITS ANALOGY TO YOUR OWN STATE CONSTITUTION -and lastly, THE ADDITIONAL SECURITY WHICH
ITS ADOPTION WILL AFFORD TO THE PRESERVATION OF THAT SPECIES OF GOVERNMENT, TO LIBERTY,
AND TO PROPERTY. In the progress of this discussion I shall
endeavor to give a satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made their
appearance, that may seem to have any claim to your attention. It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer
arguments to prove the utility of the UNION, a point, no doubt, deeply engraved on the
hearts of the great body of the people in every State, and one, which it may be imagined,
has no adversaries. But the fact is, that we already hear it whispered
in the private circles of those who oppose the new Constitution, that the thirteen States
are of too great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity resort to separate
confederacies of distinct portions of the whole.1 This doctrine will, in all probability,
be gradually propagated, till it has votaries enough to countenance an open avowal of it. For nothing can be more evident, to those
who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative of an adoption
of the new Constitution or a dismemberment of the Union. It will therefore be of use to begin by examining
the advantages of that Union, the certain evils, and the probable dangers, to which
every State will be exposed from its dissolution. This shall accordingly constitute the subject
of my next address. PUBLIUS

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