This essay opened with quotations from a letter by Queen Anne in 1706 when the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland was under consideration. In her letter to the Scotch Parliament the Queen stressed that if the two kingdoms were "joined in affection and free from all apprehensions of different interest," they could successfully resist any invasion.
As the history of Great Britain was well known to Americans, said Jay, it offered "many useful lessons." Though it would have seemed common sense that the island of Britain should have been one nation, yet the inhabitants were for ages divided into three and "almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another."
What if America should be divided into three or four confederacies? How long would these "remain exactly on an equal footing in point of strength?" How long would they remain on friendly terms with one another? Not long. One of the confederacies would soon exceed the others, arousing in them feelings of envy and fear.
As each of the confederacies would be a separate nation, how could they effectively combine their forces against a foreign enemy?
Indeed, could they have a common foreign enemy? The confederacies, each of them, would have their own treaties with foreign governments with regard to the regulation of commerce, etc. "Hence it might and probably would happen that the foreign nation with whom the Southern confederacy might be at war, would be the one, with whom the Northern confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and friendship." That way lay chaos.
Jay next dealt with dangers that "almost certainly" would arise if the union were split into separate confederacies, each a sovereign nation having its own commercial and other treaties with foreign powers, which would lead to rivalries and conflicts of interest.
Jay made a good point here in saying that "the foreign nation with whom the Southern confederacy might be at war, would be the one, with whom the Northern confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and friendship." Here Jay anticipated what more or less happened in the War of 1812, when the interests of the West and the South precipitated a war much to the disadvantage of New England.