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The Federalist Papers: No. 8

On this day in 1787, Federalist Paper No. 8 was published. These papers argued FOR the new Constitution, then being considered for ratification by the states.


In this paper, Publius argues that European-style wars can be avoided in America, if we remain united.

Consider what was happening in Europe at the time: Nations were close together, and these European nations always shared boundaries with some other country. As a result, standing armies and standing fortifications were considered necessary. Otherwise, one nation could invade another nation too quickly and easily. Essentially, countries were always playing defense.


The island of Britain was an exception to this general rule. It is harder for an enemy nation to get to Britain. Thus, the British people have considered their Navy to be an adequate defense. Publius explains: “An insular situation, and a powerful marine, guarding it in a great measure against the possibility of foreign invasion, supersede the necessity of a numerous army within the kingdom.”


Publius argues that a disunited America would be like the European nations: Each state would always need a standing army to protect itself. The small states would be the first to create standing armies, fearing their more populous neighbors. Disputes and skirmishes over boundaries would always be a problem. By contrast, a united America would be more like Britain, with an ocean separating it from its nearest enemy. No standing army would be needed. (Keep in mind that many in the founding generation considered a standing army to be a great evil because it would almost unavoidably tread on the liberties of the people.)


My post with more background on the Federalist Papers and their authorship can be found in the Federalist Paper No. 1 summary (see October 27 history post, here).

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