Today is Constitution Day, the commemoration of the signing of the Constitution by the members of the Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia, on 17 September 1787. But that was just the beginning. A long struggle, filled with passionate debate, followed before the Constitution was finally ratified by the United States and a new government was formed.
John Jay did not sign the Constitution that day. But he contributed significantly to its ratification in two ways. First, with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, he planned and wrote the Federalist Papers, authoring numbers 2-5 and 64. He was prevented from writing more after he was injured by a brick in the Doctors Riot of April 1788. Second, Jay was a crucial force in the New York ratification convention of June 1788, reaching “across the aisle” to those opposed to the new Constitution and gaining their support.
The Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University owns Jay’s draft of Federalist 5. A transcript is published below. All Jay’s Federalist writings, the extant drafts, debates from the ratification convention, and important correspondence about the Constitution and its ratification will be published in Volume 4 of the Selected Papers of John Jay, out in 2015.
For more on the ratification, see The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, 1787-1791, edited by John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, Richard Leffler, Charles H. Schoenleber and Margaret A. Hogan (Wisconsin Historical Society Press).
John Jay’s Draft of The Federalist 5
[New York, before 10 Nov. 1787]
Queen Ann in her Letter of the 1 July 1706 to the scotch Parliament makes several ^some^ observations on the Importance of the union then forming between England and Scotland which merit our attention. I shall therefore present the public with some ^one or two^ Extracts from it in her own words. She remarks ^observes^ there that “an entire and perfect union will be the solid foundation of lasting Peace: It will secure your Religion Liberty and Property, remove the animosities among^st^yourselves, and the Jealousies & Differences betwixt our two kingdoms. It must increase your Strength Riches & Trade: and by this union the whole Island, being joined in affection, & free from all apprehension of different Interests, will be enabled to
resist all its Enemies.[“]
“We most earnestly recommend to You Calmness and unanimity, in this great and weighty affair, that the union may be brought to a happy Conclusion, being the only effectual way to secure our present and future Happiness; and to disappoint the Designs of our and your Enemies, who will doubtless, on this occasion, use their utmost Endeavours to prevent or Delay this union, which must so much contribute to our Glory and the Happiness of our People.–[“]
It was remarked in the preceding Paper that weakness ^& Divisions^ at Home would invite Dangers from abroad; and that nothing would tend more to secure us against from foreign Insults and war than union ^them than union^ Strength and good Government within ourselves– This subject is copious & cannot easily be exhausted.
The history of Great Britain is the one with which we are in general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful Lessons. Let us ^we may^ proffit by their Experience, without paying the price which it cost them.
However ^altho it was seems^ obvious it was to common Sense and common prudence that the People of such an Island should be but one Nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three, instead of living together as good Neighbours, were almost constantly ^embroyed in^ quarrelling^s^ and fighting ^wars with one another^. notwithstanding their ^true^ Interests with respect to the continental Nations was the ^really the^ same, yet the ^by the^ arts and Policy ^and Practices^ of those nations was such as to ^cherish &^ increase their ^mutual^ Jealousies subsisting between the three ^were perpetually ^^kept^^ enflamed^, and for a long Series of Years to render ^them^ ^they were far more^ inconvenient & troublesome rather than ^than they were^ useful and assisting to each other.
If the ^should the^ People of america should divide themselves into three ^or four^ nations, would not the same thing happen? would not similar Jealousies arise, and be in like manner cherished? Instead of ^their^ being “joined in affection and free from all apprehension of different Interests” Envy and Jealousy would soon extinguish a confidence and affection and the partial Interests of each confederacy instead of the general Interests of ^all^ america would be the only objects of their Policy & Pursuits Hence like all ^most^ other bordering Nations they would always be either engaged with each other in ^envolved in constant Disputes &^ war, and live continue in ^or live in^ the constant apprehension of them
The most sanguine advocates for such a division cannot reasonably suppose that the three or four proposed confederacies ^cannot reasonably Suppose that they^ would long remain exactly on an equal Footing in Point of Strength, nor indeed would it be easy to divide america in to four Parts ^as that^, each of which^them^ should in stren^at first^ be equal in Strength ^even if it was possiblye to form them so at first^ But admitg. the ^that to be^ Practicab^le^ility of this, yet no ^what^ human contrivance can secure the Continuance of that ^such^ Equality?– for independent of those local circumstances which naturally tend to beget and encrease Power in one Part, and to impede its Progress ^of^ in another, we must advert to the Effects of that superior Policy and good Management with which the affairs of one may be administered ^wd. probably distinguish the Govermt of one above the others^, and by which that their relative Equality in in Strength & Consideration will wd be destroyed– For it cannot be presumed that the same Degree of sound Policy Prudence and Foresight will ^wd uniformly^ be observed by th each of these Confederacies for a long Succession of Years–
Whenever and from whatever Causes it might happen, and happen it would, that ^any^ one of these Nations ^or Confederacies^ should rize ^on the Scale of political Importance^ much above the Level ^Degree^ of their Neighbours in political Consideration, that moment would those ^they^ ^those^ Neighbours behold her ^Pre^ with Envy & with Fear– both those Passions would lead them in measures to ^to countenance if not to promote whatever might promise to^ diminish her Importance, and ^wd. also^ restrain them from measures calculated to advance ^or even to secure^ her Prosperity.– much Time would not be necessary to enable her to perceive that she was envied and fearfeared^suspected^, and as Distrust begets Distrust, and Fear and Envy are ever followed by neglect & Contempt ^discern these unfriendly Dispositions^; she will imp immediately ^wd soon^ begin not only to lose Confidence in her Neighbours but to feel a Disposition ^equally unfavorable to them^ to take advantages which occasions^any opportunities^ may put in her power– for they who find themselves unjustly suspected of unkind Intentions, are by that very Circumstance naturally led to be entertain them; by for ^Distrust naturally creates Distrust and^ ^by^ nothing is good will & Fair ^kind^ Conduct more speedily changed, than by invidious Jealousies & uncandid Im tho implied Imputations whether expressed or implied
The North is generally the Region of Strength and many [illegible] local circumstances tend to render render it probable that the most northern of the th proposed Confederacies would at a Period not far ^very^ distant, be unquestionably more formidable than any of the others. As soon as ^No sooner wd.^ this should become evident, ^than^ the northern Hive would excite the same Ideas in ^&^ Sensation in the more Southern Parts of America, that ^wh.^ it formerly did in the Southern Parts of Europe. Nor does it appear to be a rash conjecture that its young swarms may ^might often^ be tempted to gather Honey in the ^more^ blooming Fields and the more inviting ^milder air of^ their less hardy & less enterprizing Neighbours ^more luxurious & delicate Neighbours^
If this Reasoning be fair, then it follows undeniably follows that these three or four Confederacies ^They who well consider the History of similar divisions & confederacies, will find abundant Reason to apprehend that those men in contemplation^ would in no other Sense be Neighbours further than as they would be Borderers– for never in the Language of Queen Ann, would be^they^ be joined in affection or free from all apprehension of different Interest–what thenwhi would such Confederacies and Divisions give us but ^that they wd nether love nor trust one another, and but on the contrary would forever be a prey to^ Discord, mutual Jealousy, and mutual Injuries?– if so, should we not then be ^[in] short they wd place us^ exactly in the Situation which our Enemies if we have any would ^some other Nations doubtless wish^ wish ^to see^ us vizt. formidable only to one ^each^ another– whether such a ^any^ Situation could be imagined ^Let candid men judge whether any Situation wd be^ more likely to expose one confœderacy urged by apprehensions of Dangers would put have a ^provide^ little military Establishment– the others to be equally well prepared would do the like– by Degrees they would increase ^be augmented^– and standing armies wd. ^after a while^ be^come^ as common here as they are in Germany and from for the same Reasons and Purposes– Like them too they would often^er^ be turned against each other than against a foreign Enemy; for there are very few Ins when did a foreign Army eve carry fire & sword into Germany would ^without^ being guided and assisted by the Counsels and arms of one or more of its States.
Are not the People of America there^fore^ wise in thinking that their Safety depends on their union?
^From^ These considerations teach h us ^m^ lead me to think ^it appears^ that those Gentlemen are greatly mistaken who expect suppose that these Confederacies might to easily be or ^alliances offensive and defensive between might be formed between^ these Confederacies & would produce that combination and union of Wills of arms & of Resources wh. would be necessary to put & keep them in a formidable State of Defence agt. foreign Enemies–
When did the independent States into which Britain & Spain were formerly divided combine in such alliances or unite their Forces agt. a foreign Enemy? The proposed confederacies will be distinct nations– Each of them will have its commerce to regulate with Foreigners by distinct Treaties, and as their Productions and commodities and ^are^ different and proper for different markets so with ^wd^ these Treaties be essentially different– different commercial Concerns will ^must^ create different Interests and ^of course^ different modes and Degrees of att political attachmt. to and connection with different foreign Nations hence Hence it would ^might often & probably wd^ happen that the foreign Nation with whom the Southern Confederacy might be at war, would ^might^ be the one with whom the northern Confederacy might ^wd^ be ^the^ most desirous ^of^ wh preserving Peace & Friendship– In that Case an offens alliance so contrary to their immediate Interest wd. not therefore be easy to form, nor if formed wd. it be performed ^observed & fulfilled^ with perfect good Faith–
Nay it is far more probable that in America as in Europe neighbouring Nations ^acting under the Impulse of opposite Interest and unfriendly Passions^ would be ^frequently be^ found taking different Sides. Wicked Men of great Talents & ambition are the growth of every Soil, and seldom hesitate to precipitate their Country into ^any^ wars and Connections that wh. ha may promote their Desg Designs– Considering our Distance from Europe it will wd be more natural that ^for^ these confederacies should be more ^to^ apprehen^d^sive of Danger from one another than from distant Nations, and thereby^fore that each shd be more^ be disposed more to guard agt. the others by the aid of foreign alliances than to guard agt. foreign Dangers by alliances between themselves.
Let candid Men therefore determine whether the People of america are not right in their opinion that that the Preservation of ^their^ Peace and Safety agt. foreign Force does not consist in their being firmly united under one well ballanced fœderal Government
^[in margin] and here let us not forget that it must must ^^how much more^^ easy to to ^^it is to^^ receive foreign Fleets into our Ports & foreign armies into our Country than it is to persuade or compel them to depart– How many Conquests did the Romans make not in the Character of allies, and what Innovations did they under the same Character make ^^introduce^^ into the Governments of those whom they pretended to protect? Let candid Men judge then whichether the Division of America into a Nu any given Number of independent Sovereignties tends to secure the Pe us against the hostilities or im improper Interference of foreign Nations^