Summary and Analysis Section I: General Introduction: Federalist No. 2 (John Jay)



Picking up the argument, Jay observed, rather fatuously, that government was indispensable, and that it was "equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers."

The central question was this: whether it would be better for Americans to "be one nation, under one federal Government," or "divide themselves into separate confederacies." Some "politicians," as Jay stigmatized the opposition, were saying that instead of looking for safety and happiness in union, it should be sought in a division of the states into distinct confederacies or sovereignties.

Adducing "natural" as well as divine reasons why people should rally to The Federalist cause, Jay observed that America was not composed of detached and distant territories. It was a "connected, fertile, wide spreading country," and "Providence has in a particular manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and accommodation of its inhabitants."

Providence had also been pleased to give this connected country to one united people, "a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs. . . . This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient . . . should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous and alien sovereignties."

A strong sense of union had pervaded Americans from the day of the Declaration of Independence. In a time of crisis they had set up a central government without having time for "calm and mature enquiries and reflections." it was no wonder then that government (under the Articles of Confederation), "instituted in times so inauspicious, should on experiment be found greatly deficient and inadequate."

Therefore, "intelligent people . . . attached [more] to union, than enamored of liberty," had decided that these ends could be secured only "in a national Government more wisely framed," and "as with one voice, convened the late Convention at Philadelphia."


A noticeable change of style and approach occurs here where John Jay picked up from Hamilton. Whereas the latter was direct and aggressive, Jay was evasive and liked to make a flank attack. A suave and polished gentleman, Jay liked to belabor platitudes and elaborate the obvious.

Remarking that government was an "indispensable necessity," which no one was denying, Jay declared that Divine Providence "in a particular manner" had blessed the nation with a broad, fertile, well-watered land and populated it with "one united people," descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, and very similar in their manners and customs. Therefore, they should unite in supporting the proposed constitution as the only means of carrying out the "design of Providence."

This was stretching things a bit far. Americans were not all descended from the "same ancestors," meaning English. There were many other strains among them: Dutch, German Rhinelanders (the so-called "Pennsylvania Dutch"), Irish, Scotch-Irish, French, Poles, and Africans.

It was true that, except for a few Jews, the people professed the same religion, Christianity, but the conflicts between the many denominations of that faith were fierce. The Puritan Congregationalists of New England; the high-toned Episcopalians in New York, Virginia, and states to the south; the Pennsylvania Quakers; the Scotch Presbyterians; the Welsh Dissenters, many of whom were Baptists; the Methodists; and the Dutch and German Lutherans were constantly at odds.