(THE FEDERALIST PAPERS #2, IN MODERN ENGLISH)
We Americans have been called on to consider one of the great questions of history. We should pay close attention to it and think about it very carefully.
Whether we like it or not, government is necessary to human happiness. Like a lower intestine, we might not like what it encompasses, but we won't live very long without it. And for it to work properly, we have to concede some of our natural rights to it.
We have to consider, therefore, whether it is better for us to be a single nation, or to divide up into a group of smaller confederacies which would, in essence, each be its own nation. Either way, we will wind up giving some local power to another more centralized government. So which is better?
Up until recently, the idea that we should of course be a single nation under one government was universally accepted truth. Our best citizens have been working night and day to make that a reality. However, some politicians have recently come forward with the argument that we would do better to be divided into smaller groups of states, indeed multiple countries, rather than one single nation. This so-called "new idea" has been around for a while, and some who previously opposed this idea have recently changed sides. Well, it's clear that, whatever their reasons for changing their minds, it would be a good idea for the rest of us to carefully consider if this new idea of an America of multiple nations is really a good idea.
We've often considered with pleasure the fact that the United States are a single contiguous nation, and not made up of separate polities widely separated from one another. Its entire coast line is navigable, and many deep rivers well suited to barge and passenger traffic allow us to penetrate its interiors and to conveniently ship produce and trade goods to our ports.
We also have the great advantage of being a cultural unity: generally speaking we're all descended from the English; we all speak English; we all worship as the English do, and we also attach ourselves to the same principles of government that the English do. We've stuck together in defense of our lands, first against the French and their Indian allies, and then later against the crown. We have a common cultural base and, in spite of our widely separated settlements, a generally united single history. We've established freedom and independence without once degenerating into the kind of criminal battlefield behavior that has in the past characterized war on this continent.
The match between people and country is made in heaven. It appears that we were meant from the beginning to be a single nation. It would be more than a pity to dismember us into local polities, it would be a disaster and a crime.
We've all enjoyed the same rights and privileges and we've all enjoyed a common safety in our unity together. We've made war, we've won wars, and we've successfully acted as a nation state among the nation states of the world.
To this end, from the beginning we instituted a single federal government to exercise these powers. The fact that the government continues to be in existence after a decade is a wonder to behold, but the fact that it doesn't work well in its present form shouldn't surprise anyone.
We've thought about the problem and have decided that the present government needs reform. We're as fond of liberty as we ever were, but naturally, we put the business of war before the business of government reform. War having been won, we have rightfully seen to the next order of business, by calling a convention in Philadelphia to discuss the question.
Those men who met at Philadelphia were the best minds in America–patriotic, wise, and virtuous men all–took up the challenge of reforming the Federal government. Their discussions were carried out in a completely calm and contemplated state, without pressure from any outside influence–king, money or mob–and came to an excellent conclusion.
Note well, that this Constitution has been recommended to you: not imposed, nor blindly rejected. It was created in an intellectually calm atmosphere, and it should be considered in the same atmosphere, unmarred either by history or by histrionics. (Figure the odds of this happening, however! - for as mentioned before, History is Not On Our Side.) Let's not forget that the First Continental Congress was called in 1774 when the people saw a bad political moon arising. The Continental Congress came up with some very good and visionary ideas–and we haven't forgotten that no sooner were those ideas published that the papers were filled with rants objecting to the very things the Congress suggested.
Many people worked to undermine the Continental Congress–self interested politicos, the overly fearful, those still too attached to the royalist system, and the nakedly ambitious. Many people were deceived–but not the majority, thank goodness, who never forgot that the Continental Congress was led by some men with enormous foresight, intelligence, and experience. The fact that they came from all over the colonies gave the Congress the ability to consider many viewpoints never before brought together. Over time, they managed to parse the best interests of the country–and did so while obtaining a remarkable knowledge of our nation's situation. Of course, they also thought with an eye to their self interest, but they at all times kept the larger picture in view, and they chose the path that seemed the most prudent for the general welfare and the public good.
Just as they trusted the Constitutional Congress, so the citizens of this nation have also trusted those making up the Constitutional Convention–some of the Continental Congress's wisest members also made up the Convention, bringing to it their broad vision and experience.
We should also note that every Congress has also supported the concept of a continued Union. Those making up both the Congress and the Convention have kept that in mind and today still to advocate for its continuation. So what's up with those who want to bring the Union apart? Why are three or four countries in place of our one thought to be better? I can think of many more reasons for Union than Against, and I'll attempt to bring them up in later discussions. Those supporting regional confederacies over one great Union during the Convention understand well that if our new Constitution is rejected, the Union itself is in great danger. I think that this is true, and I hope that everyone understands that if we were to say farewell to the Union we would say farewell, also, to all that is great about our nation.
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