The Federalist Papers | Federalist No. 28
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The Federalist Papers | Federalist No. 28


FEDERALIST No. 28. The Same Subject Continued (The Idea of Restraining
the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered) For the Independent Journal. Wednesday, December 26, 1787 HAMILTON
To the People of the State of New York: THAT there may happen cases in which the national
government may be necessitated to resort to force, cannot be denied. Our own experience has corroborated the lessons
taught by the examples of other nations; that emergencies of this sort will sometimes arise
in all societies, however constituted; that seditions and insurrections are, unhappily,
maladies as inseparable from the body politic as tumors and eruptions from the natural body;
that the idea of governing at all times by the simple force of law (which we have been
told is the only admissible principle of republican government), has no place but in the reveries
of those political doctors whose sagacity disdains the admonitions of experimental instruction. Should such emergencies at any time happen
under the national government, there could be no remedy but force. The means to be employed must be proportioned
to the extent of the mischief. If it should be a slight commotion in a small
part of a State, the militia of the residue would be adequate to its suppression; and
the national presumption is that they would be ready to do their duty. An insurrection, whatever may be its immediate
cause, eventually endangers all government. Regard to the public peace, if not to the
rights of the Union, would engage the citizens to whom the contagion had not communicated
itself to oppose the insurgents; and if the general government should be found in practice
conducive to the prosperity and felicity of the people, it were irrational to believe
that they would be disinclined to its support. If, on the contrary, the insurrection should
pervade a whole State, or a principal part of it, the employment of a different kind
of force might become unavoidable. It appears that Massachusetts found it necessary
to raise troops for repressing the disorders within that State; that Pennsylvania, from
the mere apprehension of commotions among a part of her citizens, has thought proper
to have recourse to the same measure. Suppose the State of New York had been inclined
to re-establish her lost jurisdiction over the inhabitants of Vermont, could she have
hoped for success in such an enterprise from the efforts of the militia alone? Would she not have been compelled to raise
and to maintain a more regular force for the execution of her design? If it must then be admitted that the necessity
of recurring to a force different from the militia, in cases of this extraordinary nature,
is applicable to the State governments themselves, why should the possibility, that the national
government might be under a like necessity, in similar extremities, be made an objection
to its existence? Is it not surprising that men who declare
an attachment to the Union in the abstract, should urge as an objection to the proposed
Constitution what applies with tenfold weight to the plan for which they contend; and what,
as far as it has any foundation in truth, is an inevitable consequence of civil society
upon an enlarged scale? Who would not prefer that possibility to the
unceasing agitations and frequent revolutions which are the continual scourges of petty
republics? Let us pursue this examination in another
light. Suppose, in lieu of one general system, two,
or three, or even four Confederacies were to be formed, would not the same difficulty
oppose itself to the operations of either of these Confederacies? Would not each of them be exposed to the same
casualties; and when these happened, be obliged to have recourse to the same expedients for
upholding its authority which are objected to in a government for all the States? Would the militia, in this supposition, be
more ready or more able to support the federal authority than in the case of a general union? All candid and intelligent men must, upon
due consideration, acknowledge that the principle of the objection is equally applicable to
either of the two cases; and that whether we have one government for all the States,
or different governments for different parcels of them, or even if there should be an entire
separation of the States, there might sometimes be a necessity to make use of a force constituted
differently from the militia, to preserve the peace of the community and to maintain
the just authority of the laws against those violent invasions of them which amount to
insurrections and rebellions. Independent of all other reasonings upon the
subject, it is a full answer to those who require a more peremptory provision against
military establishments in time of peace, to say that the whole power of the proposed
government is to be in the hands of the representatives of the people. This is the essential, and, after all, only
efficacious security for the rights and privileges of the people, which is attainable in civil
society.(1) If the representatives of the people betray
their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original
right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which
against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect
of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted
with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which
it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for
defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms,
without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair. The usurpers, clothed with the forms of legal
authority, can too often crush the opposition in embryo. The smaller the extent of the territory, the
more difficult will it be for the people to form a regular or systematic plan of opposition,
and the more easy will it be to defeat their early efforts. Intelligence can be more speedily obtained
of their preparations and movements, and the military force in the possession of the usurpers
can be more rapidly directed against the part where the opposition has begun. In this situation there must be a peculiar
coincidence of circumstances to insure success to the popular resistance. The obstacles to usurpation and the facilities
of resistance increase with the increased extent of the state, provided the citizens
understand their rights and are disposed to defend them. The natural strength of the people in a large
community, in proportion to the artificial strength of the government, is greater than
in a small, and of course more competent to a struggle with the attempts of the government
to establish a tyranny. But in a confederacy the people, without exaggeration,
may be said to be entirely the masters of their own fate. Power being almost always the rival of power,
the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state
governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either
scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they
can make use of the other as the instrument of redress. How wise will it be in them by cherishing
the union to preserve to themselves an advantage which can never be too highly prized! It may safely be received as an axiom in our
political system, that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford
complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority. Projects of usurpation cannot be masked under
pretenses so likely to escape the penetration of select bodies of men, as of the people
at large. The legislatures will have better means of
information. They can discover the danger at a distance;
and possessing all the organs of civil power, and the confidence of the people, they can
at once adopt a regular plan of opposition, in which they can combine all the resources
of the community. They can readily communicate with each other
in the different States, and unite their common forces for the protection of their common
liberty. The great extent of the country is a further
security. We have already experienced its utility against
the attacks of a foreign power. And it would have precisely the same effect
against the enterprises of ambitious rulers in the national councils. If the federal army should be able to quell
the resistance of one State, the distant States would have it in their power to make head
with fresh forces. The advantages obtained in one place must
be abandoned to subdue the opposition in others; and the moment the part which had been reduced
to submission was left to itself, its efforts would be renewed, and its resistance revive. We should recollect that the extent of the
military force must, at all events, be regulated by the resources of the country. For a long time to come, it will not be possible
to maintain a large army; and as the means of doing this increase, the population and
natural strength of the community will proportionably increase. When will the time arrive that the federal
government can raise and maintain an army capable of erecting a despotism over the great
body of the people of an immense empire, who are in a situation, through the medium of
their State governments, to take measures for their own defense, with all the celerity,
regularity, and system of independent nations? The apprehension may be considered as a disease,
for which there can be found no cure in the resources of argument and reasoning. PUBLIUS

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