Federalist No. 15
In Federalist No. 15, Hamilton returns to the helm to address the insufficiency of the present confederation to preserve the union; a topic he will take up in the next few essays. He does so very astutely in the questions that he asks. Consider the following:
Have we valuable territories and important posts in the possession of a foreign power which, by express
stipulations, ought long since to have been surrendered?
These are still retained, to the prejudice of our interests, not less than of our rights.
Are we in a condition to resent or to repel the aggression?
We have neither troops, nor treasury, nor government.
Are we even in a condition to remonstrate with dignity?
The just imputations on our own faith, in respect to the same treaty, ought first to be removed.
Are we entitled by nature and compact to a free participation in the navigation of the Mississippi?
Spain excludes us from it.
Is public credit an indispensable resource in time of public danger?
We seem to have abandoned its cause as desperate and irretrievable.
Is commerce of importance to national wealth?
Ours is at the lowest point of declension.
Is respectability in the eyes of foreign powers a safeguard against foreign encroachments?
The imbecility of our government even forbids them to treat with us. Our ambassadors abroad are the mere pageants of mimic sovereignty.
Is a violent and unnatural decrease in the value of land a symptom of national distress?
The price of improved land in most parts of the country is much lower than can be accounted for by the quantity of waste land at market, and can only be fully explained by that want of private and public confidence, which are so alarmingly prevalent among all ranks, and which have a direct tendency to depreciate property of every kind.
Is private credit the friend and patron of industry?
That most useful kind which relates to borrowing and lending is reduced within the narrowest limits, and this still more from an opinion of insecurity than from the scarcity of money.
In other words, the current confederacy of the time could not:
- secure the valuable territories and foreign posts that would be the right of the Union
- repel an aggression by a foreign empire
- remonstrate with dignity
- freely navigate the Mississippi
- secure the public credit required for a strong nation
- engage in free and unrestricted commerce
- gain sufficient respectability in the eyes of foreign powers to prevent unwanted encroachments
In other words, given the lack of power, resources, and population within each of the separate loose confederacies, neither on its own could hope to preserve the union against an attack thereon. That's why Hamilton implores us to make a firm stand for our safety, our tranquillity, our dignity, our reputation and at last break the fatal charm which has too long seduced us from the paths of felicity and prosperity.