The Federalist No. 13 – Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government

November 28, 2014



The Federalist No. 13 – Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government

Written by Alexander Hamilton

Wednesday, November 28, 1787


To the People of the State of New York:

AS CONNECTED with the subject of revenue, we may with propriety consider that of economy. The money saved from one object may be usefully applied to another, and there will be so much the less to be drawn from the pockets of the people. If the States are united under one government, there will be but one national civil list to support; if they are divided into several confederacies, there will be as many different national civil lists to be provided for — and each of them, as to the principal departments, coextensive with that which would be necessary for a government of the whole. The entire separation of the States into thirteen unconnected sovereignties is a project too extravagant and too replete with danger to have many advocates. The ideas of men who speculate upon the dismemberment of the empire seem generally turned toward three confederacies — one consisting of the four Northern, another of the four Middle, and a third of the five Southern States. There is little probability that there would be a greater number. According to this distribution, each confederacy would comprise an extent of territory larger than that of the kingdom of Great Britain. No well-informed man will suppose that the affairs of such a confederacy can be properly regulated by a government less comprehensive in its organs or institutions than that which has been proposed by the convention. When the dimensions of a State attain to a certain magnitude, it requires the same energy of government and the same forms of administration which are requisite in one of much greater extent. This idea admits not of precise demonstration, because there is no rule by which we can measure the momentum of civil power necessary to the government of any given number of individuals; but when we consider that the island of Britain, nearly commensurate with each of the supposed confederacies, contains about eight millions of people, and when we reflect upon the degree of authority required to direct the passions of so large a society to the public good, we shall see no reason to doubt that the like portion of power would be sufficient to perform the same task in a society far more numerous. Civil power, properly organized and exerted, is capable of diffusing its force to a very great extent; and can, in a manner, reproduce itself in every part of a great empire by a judicious arrangement of subordinate institutions.

The supposition that each confederacy into which the States would be likely to be divided would require a government not less comprehensive than the one proposed, will be strengthened by another supposition, more probable than that which presents us with three confederacies as the alternative to a general Union. If we attend carefully to geographical and commercial considerations, in conjunction with the habits and prejudices of the different States, we shall be led to conclude that in case of disunion they will most naturally league themselves under two governments. The four Eastern States, from all the causes that form the links of national sympathy and connection, may with certainty be expected to unite. New York, situated as she is, would never be unwise enough to oppose a feeble and unsupported flank to the weight of that confederacy. There are other obvious reasons that would facilitate her accession to it. New Jersey is too small a State to think of being a frontier, in opposition to this still more powerful combination; nor do there appear to be any obstacles to her admission into it. Even Pennsylvania would have strong inducements to join the Northern league. An active foreign commerce, on the basis of her own navigation, is her true policy, and coincides with the opinions and dispositions of her citizens. The more Southern States, from various circumstances, may not think themselves much interested in the encouragement of navigation. They may prefer a system which would give unlimited scope to all nations to be the carriers as well as the purchasers of their commodities. Pennsylvania may not choose to confound her interests in a connection so adverse to her policy. As she must at all events be a frontier, she may deem it most consistent with her safety to have her exposed side turned towards the weaker power of the Southern, rather than towards the stronger power of the Northern, Confederacy. This would give her the fairest chance to avoid being the Flanders of America. Whatever may be the determination of Pennsylvania, if the Northern Confederacy includes New Jersey, there is no likelihood of more than one confederacy to the south of that State.

Nothing can be more evident than that the thirteen States will be able to support a national government better than one half, or one third, or any number less than the whole. This reflection must have great weight in obviating that objection to the proposed plan, which is founded on the principle of expense; an objection, however, which, when we come to take a nearer view of it, will appear in every light to stand on mistaken ground.

If, in addition to the consideration of a plurality of civil lists, we take into view the number of persons who must necessarily be employed to guard the inland communication between the different confederacies against illicit trade, and who in time will infallibly spring up out of the necessities of revenue; and if we also take into view the military establishments which it has been shown would unavoidably result from the jealousies and conflicts of the several nations into which the States would be divided, we shall clearly discover that a separation would be not less injurious to the economy, than to the tranquillity, commerce, revenue, and liberty of every part.




In this short paper, Hamilton argues that a union will be more cost effective than a system of multiple American sovereignties. If America were to be divided into thirteen independent states, or some smaller number of confederacies, each polity would have to employ its own “civil list,” or bureaucracy, to manage public affairs. Each state would furthermore have to employ people to guard its borders against illicit trade and an army to defend against invasion. All these expenses would prove to be a significant and unnecessary burden to each sovereignty’s economy.

In contrast, united America would be able to make do with a single national government, a single army, and a single entity responsible for catching smugglers. This would reduce waste and inefficiency. Hamilton points to the example of Great Britain’s government to argue that a single, well-structured, national government could easily be extended to cover large swaths of territory and big populations.


This short paper is essentially an addendum to Hamilton’s previous arguments outlining the economic benefits of union over disunion. Hamilton is essentially arguing that an America united under a single national government would have a much more efficient government and economy. If America were divided into multiple independent countries, each country would have to employ its own bureaucrats, an expense Hamilton dismisses as wasteful and unnecessary.

This paper illustrates the central tension in the American system of government between efficiency and liberty. Anti-federalists were animated by the fear of a distant, all-powerful central government that would suppress the rights of the people by force. They believed that by locating political authority at the local and state level, Americans would be better able to keep their political leaders in check and prevent them from amassing sufficient power to establish a tyranny. However, Hamilton argues that the massive inefficiency and bureaucratic excess created by so many independent states would have the net effect of overburdening local economies. Government costs money and, therefore, having more governments with more power would lead to exorbitant administrative costs.


Meme by Tara Ross,

Source: The Federalist Papers,

The Federalist No. 12 – The Utility of the Union In Respect to Revenue

November 27, 2014



The Federalist No. 12 – The Utility of the Union In Respect to Revenue

Written by Alexander Hamilton

Tuesday, November 27, 1787


To the People of the State of New York:

THE effects of Union upon the commercial prosperity of the States have been sufficiently delineated. Its tendency to promote the interests of revenue will be the subject of our present inquiry.

The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of their political cares. By multiplying the means of gratification, by promoting the introduction and circulation of the precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice and enterprise, it serves to vivify and invigorate the channels of industry, and to make them flow with greater activity and copiousness. The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer, — all orders of men, look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to this pleasing reward of their toils. The often-agitated question between agriculture and commerce has, from indubitable experience, received a decision which has silenced the rivalship that once subsisted between them, and has proved, to the satisfaction of their friends, that their interests are intimately blended and interwoven. It has been found in various countries that, in proportion as commerce has flourished, land has risen in value. And how could it have happened otherwise? Could that which procures a freer vent for the products of the earth, which furnishes new incitements to the cultivation of land, which is the most powerful instrument in increasing the quantity of money in a state — could that, in fine, which is the faithful handmaid of labor and industry, in every shape, fail to augment that article, which is the prolific parent of far the greatest part of the objects upon which they are exerted? It is astonishing that so simple a truth should ever have had an adversary; and it is one, among a multitude of proofs, how apt a spirit of ill-informed jealousy, or of too great abstraction and refinement, is to lead men astray from the plainest truths of reason and conviction.

The ability of a country to pay taxes must always be proportioned, in a great degree, to the quantity of money in circulation, and to the celerity with which it circulates. Commerce, contributing to both these objects, must of necessity render the payment of taxes easier, and facilitate the requisite supplies to the treasury. The hereditary dominions of the Emperor of Germany contain a great extent of fertile, cultivated, and populous territory, a large proportion of which is situated in mild and luxuriant climates. In some parts of this territory are to be found the best gold and silver mines in Europe. And yet, from the want of the fostering influence of commerce, that monarch can boast but slender revenues. He has several times been compelled to owe obligations to the pecuniary succors of other nations for the preservation of his essential interests, and is unable, upon the strength of his own resources, to sustain a long or continued war.

But it is not in this aspect of the subject alone that Union will be seen to conduce to the purpose of revenue. There are other points of view, in which its influence will appear more immediate and decisive. It is evident from the state of the country, from the habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums by direct taxation. Tax laws have in vain been multiplied; new methods to enforce the collection have in vain been tried; the public expectation has been uniformly disappointed, and the treasuries of the States have remained empty. The popular system of administration inherent in the nature of popular government, coinciding with the real scarcity of money incident to a languid and mutilated state of trade, has hitherto defeated every experiment for extensive collections, and has at length taught the different legislatures the folly of attempting them.

No person acquainted with what happens in other countries will be surprised at this circumstance. In so opulent a nation as that of Britain, where direct taxes from superior wealth must be much more tolerable, and, from the vigor of the government, much more practicable, than in America, far the greatest part of the national revenue is derived from taxes of the indirect kind, from imposts, and from excises. Duties on imported articles form a large branch of this latter description.

In America, it is evident that we must a long time depend for the means of revenue chiefly on such duties. In most parts of it, excises must be confined within a narrow compass. The genius of the people will ill brook the inquisitive and peremptory spirit of excise laws. The pockets of the farmers, on the other hand, will reluctantly yield but scanty supplies, in the unwelcome shape of impositions on their houses and lands; and personal property is too precarious and invisible a fund to be laid hold of in any other way than by the inperceptible agency of taxes on consumption.

If these remarks have any foundation, that state of things which will best enable us to improve and extend so valuable a resource must be best adapted to our political welfare. And it cannot admit of a serious doubt, that this state of things must rest on the basis of a general Union. As far as this would be conducive to the interests of commerce, so far it must tend to the extension of the revenue to be drawn from that source. As far as it would contribute to rendering regulations for the collection of the duties more simple and efficacious, so far it must serve to answer the purposes of making the same rate of duties more productive, and of putting it into the power of the government to increase the rate without prejudice to trade.

The relative situation of these States; the number of rivers with which they are intersected, and of bays that wash there shores; the facility of communication in every direction; the affinity of language and manners; the familiar habits of intercourse; — all these are circumstances that would conspire to render an illicit trade between them a matter of little difficulty, and would insure frequent evasions of the commercial regulations of each other. The separate States or confederacies would be necessitated by mutual jealousy to avoid the temptations to that kind of trade by the lowness of their duties. The temper of our governments, for a long time to come, would not permit those rigorous precautions by which the European nations guard the avenues into their respective countries, as well by land as by water; and which, even there, are found insufficient obstacles to the adventurous stratagems of avarice.

In France, there is an army of patrols (as they are called) constantly employed to secure their fiscal regulations against the inroads of the dealers in contraband trade. Mr. Neckar computes the number of these patrols at upwards of twenty thousand. This shows the immense difficulty in preventing that species of traffic, where there is an inland communication, and places in a strong light the disadvantages with which the collection of duties in this country would be encumbered, if by disunion the States should be placed in a situation, with respect to each other, resembling that of France with respect to her neighbors. The arbitrary and vexatious powers with which the patrols are necessarily armed, would be intolerable in a free country.

If, on the contrary, there be but one government pervading all the States, there will be, as to the principal part of our commerce, but ONE SIDE to guard — the ATLANTIC COAST. Vessels arriving directly from foreign countries, laden with valuable cargoes, would rarely choose to hazard themselves to the complicated and critical perils which would attend attempts to unlade prior to their coming into port. They would have to dread both the dangers of the coast, and of detection, as well after as before their arrival at the places of their final destination. An ordinary degree of vigilance would be competent to the prevention of any material infractions upon the rights of the revenue. A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of the laws. And the government having the same interest to provide against violations everywhere, the co-operation of its measures in each State would have a powerful tendency to render them effectual. Here also we should preserve by Union, an advantage which nature holds out to us, and which would be relinquished by separation. The United States lie at a great distance from Europe, and at a considerable distance from all other places with which they would have extensive connections of foreign trade. The passage from them to us, in a few hours, or in a single night, as between the coasts of France and Britain, and of other neighboring nations, would be impracticable. This is a prodigious security against a direct contraband with foreign countries; but a circuitous contraband to one State, through the medium of another, would be both easy and safe. The difference between a direct importation from abroad, and an indirect importation through the channel of a neighboring State, in small parcels, according to time and opportunity, with the additional facilities of inland communication, must be palpable to every man of discernment.

It is therefore evident, that one national government would be able, at much less expense, to extend the duties on imports, beyond comparison, further than would be practicable to the States separately, or to any partial confederacies. Hitherto, I believe, it may safely be asserted, that these duties have not upon an average exceeded in any State three per cent. In France they are estimated to be about fifteen per cent., and in Britain they exceed this proportion.1 There seems to be nothing to hinder their being increased in this country to at least treble their present amount. The single article of ardent spirits, under federal regulation, might be made to furnish a considerable revenue. Upon a ratio to the importation into this State, the whole quantity imported into the United States may be estimated at four millions of gallons; which, at a shilling per gallon, would produce two hundred thousand pounds. That article would well bear this rate of duty; and if it should tend to diminish the consumption of it, such an effect would be equally favorable to the agriculture, to the economy, to the morals, and to the health of the society. There is, perhaps, nothing so much a subject of national extravagance as these spirits.

What will be the consequence, if we are not able to avail ourselves of the resource in question in its full extent? A nation cannot long exist without revenues. Destitute of this essential support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded condition of a province. This is an extremity to which no government will of choice accede. Revenue, therefore, must be had at all events. In this country, if the principal part be not drawn from commerce, it must fall with oppressive weight upon land. It has been already intimated that excises, in their true signification, are too little in unison with the feelings of the people, to admit of great use being made of that mode of taxation; nor, indeed, in the States where almost the sole employment is agriculture, are the objects proper for excise sufficiently numerous to permit very ample collections in that way. Personal estate (as has been before remarked), from the difficulty in tracing it, cannot be subjected to large contributions, by any other means than by taxes on consumption. In populous cities, it may be enough the subject of conjecture, to occasion the oppression of individuals, without much aggregate benefit to the State; but beyond these circles, it must, in a great measure, escape the eye and the hand of the tax-gatherer. As the necessities of the State, nevertheless, must be satisfied in some mode or other, the defect of other resources must throw the principal weight of public burdens on the possessors of land. And as, on the other hand, the wants of the government can never obtain an adequate supply, unless all the sources of revenue are open to its demands, the finances of the community, under such embarrassments, cannot be put into a situation consistent with its respectability or its security. Thus we shall not even have the consolations of a full treasury, to atone for the oppression of that valuable class of the citizens who are employed in the cultivation of the soil. But public and private distress will keep pace with each other in gloomy concert; and unite in deploring the infatuation of those counsels which led to disunion.




In this essay Hamilton argues that a strong central government will create commercial prosperity and be able to “promote the interests of revenue” needed to preserve and defend the nation. Hamilton begins by arguing that, “The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of their political cares.”

Hamilton then states that the ability of a country to pay taxes must be proportioned to how much money is in circulation and that commerce promotes an increase in the money supply which leads to greater revenues for the government. He argues that increased revenues provides the government with enough resources to preserve essential interests and the ability to fight a sustained war if need be.

Hamilton argues that the history of the colonial period and the habits of the people makes “it impracticable to raise any very considerable sums by direct taxation” and that import and consumption taxes make the most sense and “if these remarks have any foundation, that state of things which will best enable us to improve and extend so valuable a resource must … rest on the basis of a general Union.”

Hamilton concludes by asking, “What will be the consequence, if we are not able to avail ourselves of the resource in question in its full extent? A nation cannot long exist without revenues. Destitute of this essential support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded condition of a province.”


Meme by Tara Ross,

Source: The Federalist Papers,

President George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving Day proclamation under the Constitution

November 26, 2014




General Thanksgiving

By the President of the United States of America,

A Proclamation

City of New York, October 3, 1789

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee 78 requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th. day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

– George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation, New York, October 3, 1789; published in The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789; “The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745—1799,” edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, 39 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office (1931-44) Vol. 30, pp. 427-428

Robert Townsend: Agent 723, Samuel Culper, Jr.

November 25, 2014



Robert Townsend was a member of the Culper Ring during the American Revolution. With the aliases “Samuel Culper, Jr.” and “723,” Townsend operated in New York City and gathered information as a service to General George Washington. He is one of the least known operatives in the spy ring, once demanding that Abraham Woodhull, aka “Samuel Culper,” never tell his name to anyone, not even Washington.[3]

Born on November 25, 1753,[1][2]Townsend was the third son of eight children of Samuel and Sarah Townsend, from Oyster Bay, New York. Samuel was a Whig-slanted politician who owned a store in Oyster Bay. Little is known about Robert’s early identity. His mother was an Episcopalian and his father was a liberal Quaker. He held patriotic feelings towards his country but was a Loyalist. Samuel Townsend fought many political battles between traditional Quakers in Oyster Bay, and Robert matured in an atmosphere in which his father routinely acted in ways that were considered dangerous by traditional Quakers.[4]


Portrait of Robert Townsend sketched by his nephew in January 1813, courtesy of the Raynham Hall Museum[28]

Despite his father’s political battles, a young Robert showed little interest in public service. During his mid-teens, Samuel arranged for Robert to apprentice with the House of Templeton & Stewart, a merchant firm. During this time, the young Townsend lived and worked among soldiers and residents of Holy Ground,[5] the New York City’s biggest red light district.[6] Templeton & Stewart catered to the working-class residents of this district. Ultimately, Townsend’s early years were dedicated to making a fortune and not demonstrating his underlying patriotism, which would have undermined his financial goals.[7] Townsend fared well during the war in financial terms (he operated a store even as he was spying for Washington). Between May 1781 and July 1783, he brought in £16,786, while his expenditures amounted to £15,161, for a profit of £1,625 over that span of time.[8]

A number of factors led Townsend to the Culper Spy Ring, including the influence of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, British harassment of his family, and his relationship with Woodhull.

Townsend’s Quaker upbringing placed him at odds with the thought of fighting the British forces occupying America. Strict Quaker philosophy called for an adherence to pacifism. In this case, violence was prohibited. However, during the 1750s, Pennsylvania experienced a break between “political” Quakers and “religious” Quakers. Essentially, the latter accused the former of breaking with traditional values, resulting in the resigning of “political” Quakers from office and leading to a wave of purification within the Quaker movement. The renewed and obedient Quakers pledged to embrace nonviolence and to never revolt against a legal government. Thus, Quakers emerged as the strongest supporters of British rule.[9]

Torn between his moderate-Quaker upbringing and a fervent, Quaker revival, Townsend ultimately turned his back on pacifism as a result of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense. Brought up in the Quaker tradition, Paine advocated in Common Sense the early Quaker views of struggling against corruption and narcissism. However, Paine also advocated resistance as the means to achieve those goals, putting him directly at odds with the newly reformed Quaker movement. Paine argued that the pacifists-at-any-price were not authentic Quakers. Paine’s pamphlet inspired a small number of Quakers to join the struggle against Britain, including Townsend. Thus, a few months after Paine’s pamphlet was published, Townsend volunteered for a logistics post in the Continental Army, which would not require him to kill.[10]

Another factor that led to Townsend’s joining the fight against British rule was the treatment of his family by British soldiers in Oyster Bay. A number of British officers considered anti-British sentiment so ingrained into the colonists’ spirit that they believed “it should be thrash’d out of them [because] New England has poyson’d the whole.”[11] This led to numerous incidences of violence and pillage directed at colonists. On November 19, 1778, one such instance drove Townsend to the Patriot cause.[12] Colonel John Graves Simcoe of the Queen’s Rangers and roughly three-hundred of his men were stationed in Oyster Bay during the winter months. Simcoe took the Townsend home as his headquarters, and he and his men used the home when and however they wanted. Townsend’s father, Samuel, was distraught after his prized apple orchard was torn down by Simcoe’s men. Adding to the insult, the Townsends were forced to swear allegiance to the King or go to prison.[13]

A final factor was Townsend’s relationship with Abraham Woodhull. Woodhull knew Townsend as a result of their both lodging at a boardinghouse run by Woodhull’s brother-in-law. Woodhull was also a descendant of Oyster Bay’s founder, Captain John Underhill, and Townsend may have been directed to the boardinghouse by Underhill. Woodhull may have also known about Townsend’s father’s Whiggish political beliefs, as he was well known throughout Long Island.[14] Woodhull, as a recruiter, and Townsend, as the recruited, knew and trusted each other well enough by June 1779, that when Woodhull made his pitch to Townsend to join a new spy ring for Washington, Townsend eagerly accepted.[15]

These are George Washington’s instructions for Woodhull (Culper, Sr.) and Townsend (Culper, Jr.)

C—–r Junr, to remain in the City, to collect all the useful information he can-to do this he should mix as much as possible among the officers and refugees, visit the coffee houses, and all public places. He is to pay particular attention to the movements by land and water in and about the city especially. How their transports are secured against attempt to destroy them-whether by armed vessels upon the flanks, or by chains, booms, or any contrivances to keep off fire rafts.

The number of men destined for the defence of the City and environs, endeavoring to designate the particular corps, and where each is posted.

To be particular in describing the place where the works cross the island in the rear of the City-and how many redoubts are upon the line from the river to river, how many Cannon in each, and of what weight and whether the redoubts are closed or open next the city.

Whether there are any works upon the Island of New York between those near the City and the works at Fort Knyphausen or Washington, and if any, whereabouts and of what kind.

To be very particular to find out whether any works are thrown up on Harlem River, near Harlem Town, and whether Horn’s Hook is fortifyed. If so, how many men are kept at each place, and what number and what sized cannon are in those works.

To enquire whether they have dug pits within and in front of the lines and works in general, three or four feet deep, in which sharp pointed stakes are pointed. These are intended to receive and wound men who attempt a surprise at night.

The state of the provisions, forage and fuel to be attended to, as also the health and spirits of the Army, Navy and City.

These are the principal matters to be observed within the Island and about the City of New York. Many more may occur to a person of C. Junr’s penetration which he will note and communicate.

C—–Senior’s station to be upon Long Island to receive and transmit the intelligence of C—— Junior…

There can be scarcely any need of recommending the greatest caution and secrecy in a business so critical and dangerous. The following seem to be the best general rules: To intrust none but the persons fixed upon to transmit the business. To deliver the dispatches to none upon our side but those who shall be pitched upon for the purpose of receiving them and to transmit them and any intelligence that may be obtained to no one but the Commander-in-Chief.[16]

Wasting little time to begin spy activities, Townsend sent his first dispatch on June 19, 1779 — nine days after Woodhull informed Washington that he had a contact in New York. This first piece of intelligence was designed to look like a letter between two Loyalists. In it, Townsend stated that he received information from a Rhode Islander who gathered from British troops that two British divisions “are to make excursion into Connecticut…and very soon.”[17]

One of Townsend’s most valuable and memorable discoveries concerned a plot by the British to ruin the American economy by flooding the country with counterfeit dollars. American political and military leaders were well-aware of these intentions and understood the potential ramifications of a worthless dollar. In early 1780, Townsend received some intelligence about the British belief that the war would not last much longer as a result of a disastrous depreciation of the dollar. The most crucial part of Townsend’s report was that the British had procured “several reams of paper made for the last emission struck by Congress.” This was terrible news for American leaders because whereas before the British were forced to counterfeit money on paper that was similar to the official paper, now they had the authentic paper, and thus distinguishing between real and fake money would be virtually impossible. As a result, Congress was forced to recall all its bills in circulation; a major ordeal but one that saved the war-effort by not allowing counterfeit money to flood the market.[18]

Townsend warned his superiors of spies in their midst. At one point, he warned Benjamin Tallmadge that Christoper Duychenik was an agent of New York City Mayor David Mathews. Townsend warned that Mathews was under the direction of Governor William Tryon. Townsend also believed that if these men found out about the intelligence report, they would immediately suspect Townsend, indicating Townsend’s potential association with high-level officials.[19]

After the French had joined the war on the side of the colonists a French fleet was set to land and disembark troops at Newport, Rhode Island. The problem with this plan was that the British controlled Long Island and New York City and had large amounts of influence in Long Island Sound. The British got wind of the French plans and began preparing to intercept the smaller French fleet before the French soldiers could make landfall. When George Washington learned of the British plans through the Culper Spy Ring he was able to successfully bluff the British forces into believing an attack was planned on New York City. Through feeding the enemy false information on his plans Washington was able to keep the British occupied while the French were able to safely land their forces.[20]

A number of events caused Townsend to become extremely suspicious and led to his using great caution regarding spy activities.

One involved his nephew, James Townsend. After Washington and Woodhull had a brief falling-out, James became the new courier between Robert and Tallmadge. James’ cover story was that he was a Tory visiting family in rebel-controlled territory and was seeking to recruit men for the British army. When James visited the Deausenberry family, he acted the part well enough to convince the secret Patriots that he was really a Tory. John Deausenberry dragged James to the local Patriot headquarters, but after Washington’s personal intervention, James was set free. This event not only caused anger towards his nephew for Robert, but illustrated how easy it was to get caught. As a result of this event, Townsend often refused to report intelligence in writing for the remainder of his spying career.[21]

Another event revolved around the arrest of Hercules Mulligan by Benedict Arnold (by then serving the British). Mulligan eventually became an agent of the Culper Ring and was responsible for a number of intelligence reports. Mulligan had previously been arrested for agitating anti-British sentiment, and Arnold had him arrested for having questionable American contacts. Although he was released after no evidence showed him to be a spy, his short captivity further convinced Townsend of the dangers he faced. This event led Tallmadge to direct Culper Ring activities more towards tactical intelligence for Tallmadge’s dragoons rather than undercover operations in New York.[22]

As the end of the war drew near, and American forces focused on Yorktown and Lord Charles Cornwallis, the Culper Ring became less significant for Washington. However, even after the British Parliament overruled King George III and ordered a cessation of arms, Washington remained skeptical of British intentions. Reports suggested that British forces in New York still continued to fortify their lines. Nevertheless, Culper activity was limited and ended for a short time. However, when a British delegate reached Paris in 1782 to discuss peace negotiations, Washington reactivated the Ring. Upon this request to reactivate, Townsend wrote what is likely his last report on September 19, 1782:

The last packet…has indeed brought the clearest and unequivocal Proofs that the independence of America is unconditionally to be acknowledged, nor will there be any conditions insisted on for those who have joined the King’s Standard…Sir Guy himself says that he thinks it not improbable that the next Packet may bring orders for an evacuation of N. York.

A fleet is getting ready to sail for the Bay of Fundy about the first of October to transport a large number of Refugees to that Quarter…Indeed, I never saw such general distress and dissatisfaction in my life as is painted in the countenance of every Tory at N.Y.[23]

After the war, Townsend ended his business connections in New York and moved back to Oyster Bay. Townsend never married, sharing his family’s home and growing old with his sister Sally.[24]

Townsend likely had a son, Robert Townsend, Jr., and it is unclear who the child’s mother was. One possibility is Townsend’s housekeeper, Mary Banvard, whom Robert Sr. left $500 in his will.[25] Another possibility is that the mother was a Culper Ring member known today only as Agent 355,[24] however this possibility is unlikely.[26] Questions remain about whether Robert, Jr. was indeed Townsend’s son. Solomon Townsend once claimed that Townsend’s brother, William, was actually the father.[25]

Robert Townsend died on March 7, 1838,[1][2] at the age of eighty-four.


Robert Townsend’s grave in Fort Hill Cemetery at Oyster Bay, New York.[28]

Townsend managed to take his alternate identity to the grave. The identity of Samuel Culper, Jr. was discovered in 1930 by New York historian Morton Pennypacker.[27] The Townsend home in Oyster Bay is now a museum known as the Raynham Hall Museum.


  1. Alexander Rose. “Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell, 2006) 135
  2. Alexander Rose. “Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell, 2006) 277
  3. Lynn Groh. “The Culper Spy Ring.” (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969) 13
  4. Alexander Rose. “Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell, 2006) 133-143
  7. Alexander Rose. “Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell, 2006) 143
  8. Alexander Rose, “Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 154
  9. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 154-155
  10. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 156-158
  11. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 160
  12. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 161
  13. Lynn Groh. “The Culper Spy Ring.” Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969) 16-17
  14. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 133
  15. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 164
  16. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 176-178
  17. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 164-165
  18. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 179-184
  19. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 170
  21. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 185-187
  22. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 226-227
  23. Lynn Groh. “The Culper Spy Ring.” (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969) 131-132
  24. Lynn Groh. “The Culper Spy Ring.” (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969) 133
  25. Alexander Rose. Washington’s Spies.” (New York: Bantam Dell) 276
  26. The Mystery of Agent 355
  27. Lynn Groh. “The Culper Spy Ring.” (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969) 134
  28. Robert Townsend at Find A Grave

The Federalist No. 11 – The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy

November 24, 2014



The Federalist No. 11 – The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy

Written by Alexander Hamilton

Published November 24, 1787


To the People of the State of New York:

THE importance of the Union, in a commercial light, is one of those points about which there is least room to entertain a difference of opinion, and which has, in fact, commanded the most general assent of men who have any acquaintance with the subject. This applies as well to our intercourse with foreign countries as with each other.

There are appearances to authorize a supposition that the adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of America, has already excited uneasy sensations in several of the maritime powers of Europe. They seem to be apprehensive of our too great interference in that carrying trade, which is the support of their navigation and the foundation of their naval strength. Those of them which have colonies in America look forward to what this country is capable of becoming, with painful solicitude. They foresee the dangers that may threaten their American dominions from the neighborhood of States, which have all the dispositions, and would possess all the means, requisite to the creation of a powerful marine. Impressions of this kind will naturally indicate the policy of fostering divisions among us, and of depriving us, as far as possible, of an ACTIVE COMMERCE in our own bottoms. This would answer the threefold purpose of preventing our interference in their navigation, of monopolizing the profits of our trade, and of clipping the wings by which we might soar to a dangerous greatness. Did not prudence forbid the detail, it would not be difficult to trace, by facts, the workings of this policy to the cabinets of ministers.

If we continue united, we may counteract a policy so unfriendly to our prosperity in a variety of ways. By prohibitory regulations, extending, at the same time, throughout the States, we may oblige foreign countries to bid against each other, for the privileges of our markets. This assertion will not appear chimerical to those who are able to appreciate the importance of the markets of three millions of people — increasing in rapid progression, for the most part exclusively addicted to agriculture, and likely from local circumstances to remain so — to any manufacturing nation; and the immense difference there would be to the trade and navigation of such a nation, between a direct communication in its own ships, and an indirect conveyance of its products and returns, to and from America, in the ships of another country. Suppose, for instance, we had a government in America, capable of excluding Great Britain (with whom we have at present no treaty of commerce) from all our ports; what would be the probable operation of this step upon her politics? Would it not enable us to negotiate, with the fairest prospect of success, for commercial privileges of the most valuable and extensive kind, in the dominions of that kingdom? When these questions have been asked, upon other occasions, they have received a plausible, but not a solid or satisfactory answer. It has been said that prohibitions on our part would produce no change in the system of Britain, because she could prosecute her trade with us through the medium of the Dutch, who would be her immediate customers and paymasters for those articles which were wanted for the supply of our markets. But would not her navigation be materially injured by the loss of the important advantage of being her own carrier in that trade? Would not the principal part of its profits be intercepted by the Dutch, as a compensation for their agency and risk? Would not the mere circumstance of freight occasion a considerable deduction? Would not so circuitous an intercourse facilitate the competitions of other nations, by enhancing the price of British commodities in our markets, and by transferring to other hands the management of this interesting branch of the British commerce?

A mature consideration of the objects suggested by these questions will justify a belief that the real disadvantages to Britain from such a state of things, conspiring with the pre-possessions of a great part of the nation in favor of the American trade, and with the importunities of the West India islands, would produce a relaxation in her present system, and would let us into the enjoyment of privileges in the markets of those islands elsewhere, from which our trade would derive the most substantial benefits. Such a point gained from the British government, and which could not be expected without an equivalent in exemptions and immunities in our markets, would be likely to have a correspondent effect on the conduct of other nations, who would not be inclined to see themselves altogether supplanted in our trade.

A further resource for influencing the conduct of European nations toward us, in this respect, would arise from the establishment of a federal navy. There can be no doubt that the continuance of the Union under an efficient government would put it in our power, at a period not very distant, to create a navy which, if it could not vie with those of the great maritime powers, would at least be of respectable weight if thrown into the scale of either of two contending parties. This would be more peculiarly the case in relation to operations in the West Indies. A few ships of the line, sent opportunely to the reinforcement of either side, would often be sufficient to decide the fate of a campaign, on the event of which interests of the greatest magnitude were suspended. Our position is, in this respect, a most commanding one. And if to this consideration we add that of the usefulness of supplies from this country, in the prosecution of military operations in the West Indies, it will readily be perceived that a situation so favorable would enable us to bargain with great advantage for commercial privileges. A price would be set not only upon our friendship, but upon our neutrality. By a steady adherence to the Union we may hope, erelong, to become the arbiter of Europe in America, and to be able to incline the balance of European competitions in this part of the world as our interest may dictate.

But in the reverse of this eligible situation, we shall discover that the rivalships of the parts would make them checks upon each other, and would frustrate all the tempting advantages which nature has kindly placed within our reach. In a state so insignificant our commerce would be a prey to the wanton intermeddlings of all nations at war with each other; who, having nothing to fear from us, would with little scruple or remorse, supply their wants by depredations on our property as often as it fell in their way. The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral.

Under a vigorous national government, the natural strength and resources of the country, directed to a common interest, would baffle all the combinations of European jealousy to restrain our growth. This situation would even take away the motive to such combinations, by inducing an impracticability of success. An active commerce, an extensive navigation, and a flourishing marine would then be the offspring of moral and physical necessity. We might defy the little arts of the little politicians to control or vary the irresistible and unchangeable course of nature.

But in a state of disunion, these combinations might exist and might operate with success. It would be in the power of the maritime nations, availing themselves of our universal impotence, to prescribe the conditions of our political existence; and as they have a common interest in being our carriers, and still more in preventing our becoming theirs, they would in all probability combine to embarrass our navigation in such a manner as would in effect destroy it, and confine us to a PASSIVE COMMERCE. We should then be compelled to content ourselves with the first price of our commodities, and to see the profits of our trade snatched from us to enrich our enemies and persecutors. That unequaled spirit of enterprise, which signalizes the genius of the American merchants and navigators, and which is in itself an inexhaustible mine of national wealth, would be stifled and lost, and poverty and disgrace would overspread a country which, with wisdom, might make herself the admiration and envy of the world.

There are rights of great moment to the trade of America which are rights of the Union — I allude to the fisheries, to the navigation of the Western lakes, and to that of the Mississippi. The dissolution of the Confederacy would give room for delicate questions concerning the future existence of these rights; which the interest of more powerful partners would hardly fail to solve to our disadvantage. The disposition of Spain with regard to the Mississippi needs no comment. France and Britain are concerned with us in the fisheries, and view them as of the utmost moment to their navigation. They, of course, would hardly remain long indifferent to that decided mastery, of which experience has shown us to be possessed in this valuable branch of traffic, and by which we are able to undersell those nations in their own markets. What more natural than that they should be disposed to exclude from the lists such dangerous competitors?

This branch of trade ought not to be considered as a partial benefit. All the navigating States may, in different degrees, advantageously participate in it, and under circumstances of a greater extension of mercantile capital, would not be unlikely to do it. As a nursery of seamen, it now is, or when time shall have more nearly assimilated the principles of navigation in the several States, will become, a universal resource. To the establishment of a navy, it must be indispensable.

To this great national object, a NAVY, union will contribute in various ways. Every institution will grow and flourish in proportion to the quantity and extent of the means concentred towards its formation and support. A navy of the United States, as it would embrace the resources of all, is an object far less remote than a navy of any single State or partial confederacy, which would only embrace the resources of a single part. It happens, indeed, that different portions of confederated America possess each some peculiar advantage for this essential establishment. The more southern States furnish in greater abundance certain kinds of naval stores — tar, pitch, and turpentine. Their wood for the construction of ships is also of a more solid and lasting texture. The difference in the duration of the ships of which the navy might be composed, if chiefly constructed of Southern wood, would be of signal importance, either in the view of naval strength or of national economy. Some of the Southern and of the Middle States yield a greater plenty of iron, and of better quality. Seamen must chiefly be drawn from the Northern hive. The necessity of naval protection to external or maritime commerce does not require a particular elucidation, no more than the conduciveness of that species of commerce to the prosperity of a navy.

An unrestrained intercourse between the States themselves will advance the trade of each by an interchange of their respective productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants at home, but for exportation to foreign markets. The veins of commerce in every part will be replenished, and will acquire additional motion and vigor from a free circulation of the commodities of every part. Commercial enterprise will have much greater scope, from the diversity in the productions of different States. When the staple of one fails from a bad harvest or unproductive crop, it can call to its aid the staple of another. The variety, not less than the value, of products for exportation contributes to the activity of foreign commerce. It can be conducted upon much better terms with a large number of materials of a given value than with a small number of materials of the same value; arising from the competitions of trade and from the fluctations of markets. Particular articles may be in great demand at certain periods, and unsalable at others; but if there be a variety of articles, it can scarcely happen that they should all be at one time in the latter predicament, and on this account the operations of the merchant would be less liable to any considerable obstruction or stagnation. The speculative trader will at once perceive the force of these observations, and will acknowledge that the aggregate balance of the commerce of the United States would bid fair to be much more favorable than that of the thirteen States without union or with partial unions.

It may perhaps be replied to this, that whether the States are united or disunited, there would still be an intimate intercourse between them which would answer the same ends; this intercourse would be fettered, interrupted, and narrowed by a multiplicity of causes, which in the course of these papers have been amply detailed. A unity of commercial, as well as political, interests, can only result from a unity of government.

There are other points of view in which this subject might be placed, of a striking and animating kind. But they would lead us too far into the regions of futurity, and would involve topics not proper for a newspaper discussion. I shall briefly observe, that our situation invites and our interests prompt us to aim at an ascendant in the system of American affairs. The world may politically, as well as geographically, be divided into four parts, each having a distinct set of interests. Unhappily for the other three, Europe, by her arms and by her negotiations, by force and by fraud, has, in different degrees, extended her dominion over them all. Africa, Asia, and America, have successively felt her domination. The superiority she has long maintained has tempted her to plume herself as the Mistress of the World, and to consider the rest of mankind as created for her benefit. Men admired as profound philosophers have, in direct terms, attributed to her inhabitants a physical superiority, and have gravely asserted that all animals, and with them the human species, degenerate in America — that even dogs cease to bark after having breathed awhile in our atmosphere.1 Facts have too long supported these arrogant pretensions of the Europeans. It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother, moderation. Union will enable us to do it. Disunion will will add another victim to his triumphs. Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and the new world!




In this paper, Alexander Hamilton continues the defense of union over disunion by outlining the benefits of the former for American commerce and naval power. He argues that in order for Americans to maintain an active commerce, by which he means the ability to control and shape the terms of its trade with foreign powers, America requires a union. He argues that only a union will be strong enough to secure favorable terms of trade with European powers.

He contends further that a united America will be able to pool its diverse resources in building a powerful navy. This navy would then help deter European powers from threatening American commercial interests and stealing American resources. It would furthermore give America significant influence in shaping the international politics of the West Indies where the European powers have significant commercial interests. Hamilton warns that were America to find itself in a state of disunion, the individual states would be too weak to resist the predatory behavior of European powers who would be able to impose unfair terms of trade on the Americans. America would ultimately be reduced to what Hamilton calls a “passive commerce,” which would enrich foreign powers at the expense of American merchants.


In this paper, Hamilton continues the Federalist’s argument in defense of union and a vigorous national government by exploring the consequences of union or disunion for American commerce and Naval power. These arguments were particularly compelling to the Federalist’s New York audience, since that state was one of the most active centers of commerce on the continent at that time. Although Hamilton focuses on the commercial and naval implications of the proposed form of government, this paper basically advances a very similar argument outlined in previous papers: a union will bring strength and enable America to resist foreign aggression, whereas a disunited America will be subject to European bullying.

Hamilton furthermore invokes the adventurous spirit of Americans, who are, Hamilton implies, inherently commercial in their outlook. To a significant extent, Hamilton is seeking to convince his audience to support the Constitution by appealing to their financial interests. New Yorkers should support the Constitution because only a united America can protect their ability to enjoy favorable terms of trade.

However, Hamilton takes this argument beyond purely pecuniary interests by portraying Europeans as arrogantly subjecting the peoples of Asia, Africa, and America to domination and economic exploitation. He draws on the notion of American exceptionalism and calls on his countrymen “to vindicate the honor of the human race” by standing up to European predation. He concludes by warning that, were Americans to become disunited, they would become just another victim of European imperialism.


Meme by Tara Ross,

Source: The Federalist Papers,

Edward Rutledge, Federalist governor of South Carolina and signer of the Declaration of Independence

November 23, 2014



Edward Rutledge was an American politician and youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. He later served as the 39th Governor of South Carolina.


by Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress

Like his eldest brother John Rutledge, Edward was born in Charleston on November 23, 1749. He was the youngest of seven children (5 sons and 2 daughters) born to Dr. John Rutledge and Sarah Hext. His father was a physician and immigrant of Scots-Irish descent; his mother was born in South Carolina and was of English descent. Following his brothers John and Hugh he studied law in London at the Inns of Court. In 1772 he was admitted to the English bar (Middle Temple), and returned to Charleston to practice. He was married on 1 March 1774 to Henrietta Middleton (17 November 1750 – 22 April 1792), daughter of Henry Middleton. The couple had three children:

Maj. Henry Middleton Rutledge (5 April 1775 – 20 January 1844)

Edward Rutledge (20 March 1778 – 1780)

Sarah Rutledge (1782–1855)

Rutledge had a successful law practice with his partner, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. He became a leading citizen of Charleston, and owned more than 50 slaves.[1]

Along with his brother John, Rutledge represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. He worked to have African Americans expelled from the Continental Army.[1] Although a firm supporter of colonial rights, he (as a delegate) was instructed initially to oppose Lee’s Resolution of independence; South Carolina’s leaders were unsure that the time was “ripe.”[2] By early July 1776, he was instructed to vote in favor. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence that he opposed the anti-slavery clause in the Declaration. At age 26 he was the youngest to sign the Declaration of Independence.

He returned home in November 1776 to take a seat in the South Carolina Assembly. He served as a captain of artillery in the South Carolina militia, and fought at the Battle of Beaufort in 1779. The next year he was captured by the British in the fall of Charleston, and held prisoner until July 1781.


Edward Rutledge, 39th Governor of South Carolina

After his release he returned to the state assembly, where he served until 1796. He was a very active member, intent on the prosecution of British Loyalists. At times he served on as many nineteen committees. He also served as an elector, in 1788, 1792, and in 1796 when, despite his avowed allegiance to the Federalist party, he voted for Thomas Jefferson. He was then elected to the state Senate, twice, and in 1789 was elected Governor. This would be his last office. His health declining, he was barely able to complete his term as Governor. He died in Charleston on January 23, 1800, at the age of 50, before the end of his term. Some said at the time that he died from apoplexy resulting from hearing the news of George Washington’s death.[1]


  1. Williams, American National Biography
  2. The Rise of the Republic of the United States (1881) by Richard Frothingham, p. 515; The Story of Philadelphia (1900) by Lillian Ione Rhoades MacDowell, p. 169; The Constitutional Review, Volume 6 (1922), article by Henry Campbell Black, p. 162; Revolutionary America, 1763-1815: A Political History (2008) by Francis D. Cogliano, p. 91
  3. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia: a Comprehensive Collection of the Views of Thomas Jefferson (1900) by Thomas Jefferson, edited by John P. Foley, p. 246
  4. In the 19th Century, Rutledge was routinely included in volumes of biographies of American statesmen. Invariably, each capsule biography of Rutledge points out that nothing is known of what he said or did during the Continental Congress, due to the fact that the Congress was conducted in closed session and its members had made a pact of secrecy. The 19th Century biographers pointed to no letters or memoirs in which Rutledge’s participation was specified. See, e.g. (there are many others), Lives of the Presidents of the United States by Robert W. Lincoln (1836), p. 390; Sanderson’s Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (1846) by John Sanderson and Robert Taylor Conrad, p. 351; The United States Manual of Biography and History by James V. Marshall (1856), p. 115; An Outline of the Political and Social Life of George Washington, Volume 2 (1895) by James Tyson, p. 339
  5. McClure, Rhonda R. (2003). Finding Your Famous {& Infamous} Ancestors. United States: F+W Media. p. 8. ISBN 1558706542. Retrieved July 1, 2014. “”…Goldie’s Rutledge line traces back to a Joseph Rutledge, born about born about 1744 in Amelia County, Virginia, and died about 1814 in Greenville, South Carolina. He married Mary Paschal and is Goldie’s third great-grandfather. Since Edward Rutledge was born in Charleston, South Carolina on 23 Nov. 1749, it is not possible for Joseph to be a descendant of Edward’s. It may still be possible for Goldie and Edward to be cousins, though it looks like the connection would have to be at least three more generations back.”


  • Williams, Patrick G.. “Rutledge, Edward”. American National Biography Online, February 2000

The Federalist No. 10 – The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued)

November 22, 2014



The Federalist No. 10 – The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued)

Written by James Madison

Published November 22, 1787


To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations. The valuable improvements made by the American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarrantable partiality, to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected. Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.

The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations:

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability of a fit choice.

In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.

It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there is a mean, on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic, — is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.




Madison begins perhaps the most famous of the Federalist papers by stating that one of the strongest arguments in favor of the Constitution is the fact that it establishes a government capable of controlling the violence and damage caused by factions. Madison defines that factions are groups of people who gather together to protect and promote their special economic interests and political opinions. Although these factions are at odds with each other, they frequently work against the public interests, and infringe upon the rights of others.

Both supporters and opponents of the plan are concerned with the political instability produced by rival factions. The state governments have not succeeded in solving this problem; in fact the situation is so problematic that people are disillusioned with all politicians and blame government for their problems. Consequently, a form of popular government that can deal successfully with this problem has a great deal to recommend it.

Given the nature of man, factions are inevitable. As long as men hold different opinions, have different amounts of wealth, and own different amount of property, they will continue to fraternize with people who are most similar to them. Both serious and trivial reasons account for the formation of factions but the most important source of faction is the unequal distribution of property. Men of greater ability and talent tend to possess more property than those of lesser ability, and since the first object of government is to protect and encourage ability, it follows that the rights of property owners must be protected. Property is divided unequally, and, in addition, there are many different kinds of property; men have different interests depending upon the kind of property they own. For example, the interests of landowners differ from those who own businesses. Government must not only protect the conflicting interests of property owners, it must, at the same time, successfully regulate the conflicts that result from those who own, and those who do not own, property.

To Madison, there are only two ways to control a faction: one, to remove its causes and the second to control its effects. The first is impossible. There are only two ways to remove the causes of a faction: destroy liberty or give every citizen the same opinions, passions, and interests. Destroying liberty is a “cure worse then the disease itself,” and the second is impracticable. The causes of factions are thus part of the nature of man and we must deal with their effects and accept their existence. The government created by the Constitution controls the damage caused by such factions.

The framers established a representative form of government, a government in which the many elect the few who govern. Pure or direct democracies (countries in which all the citizens participate directly in making the laws) cannot possibly control factious conflicts. This is because the strongest and largest faction dominates, and there is no way to protect weak factions against the actions of an obnoxious individual or a strong majority. Direct democracies cannot effectively protect personal and property rights and have always been characterized by conflict.

If the new plan of government is adopted, Madison hopes that the men elected to office will be wise and good men ­ the best of America. Theoretically, those who govern should be the least likely to sacrifice the public good to temporary condition, but the opposite might happen. Men who are members of particular factions, or who have prejudices or evil motives might manage, by intrigue or corruption, to win elections and then betray the interests of the people. However, the possibility of this happening in a large country, such as ours, is greatly reduced. The likelihood that public office will be held by qualified men is greater in large countries because there will be more representative chosen by a greater number of citizens. This makes it more difficult for the candidates to deceive the people. Representative government is needed in large countries, not to protect the people from the tyranny of the few, but to guard against the rule of the mob.

In large republics, factions will be numerous, but they will be weaker than in small, direct democracies where it is easier for factions to consolidate their strength. In this country, leaders of factions may be able to influence state governments to support unsound economic and political policies to promote, for example, specifically delegated to it; the states, far from being abolished, retain much of their sovereignty. If the framers had abolished the state governments, the opponents of the proposed government would have a legitimate objection.

The immediate object of the constitution is to bring the present thirteen states into a secure union. Almost every state, old and new, will have one boundary next to territory owned by a foreign nation. The states farthest from the center of the country will be most endangered by these foreign countries; they may find it inconvenient to send representatives long distances to the capitol, but in terms of safety and protection they stand to gain the most from a strong national government.

Madison concludes that he presents thee previous arguments because he is confident that those who will not listen to those “prophets of gloom” who say that the proposed government is unworkable. For this founding father, it seems incredible that these gloomy voices suggest abandonment of the idea of combing together in strength ­ the states still have common interests. Madison concludes that “according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being Republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.”


James Madison carried to the Convention a plan that was the exact opposite of Hamilton’s. In fact, the theory he advocated at Philadelphia and in his Federalist essays was developed as a republican substitute for the New Yorker’s “high toned” scheme of state. Madison was convinced that the class struggle would be ameliorated in America by establishing a limited federal government that would make functional use of the vast size of the country and the existence of the sates as active political organisms. He argued in his “Notes on Confederacy,” in his Convention speeches, and again in Federalist 10 that if an extended republic was set up including a multiplicity of economic, geographic, social, religious, and sectional interests, these interests, by checking each other, would prevent American society from being divided into the clashing armies of the rich and the poor. Thus, if no interstate proletariat could become organized on purely economic lines, the property of the rich would be safe even though the mass of the people held political power. Madison’s solution for the class struggle was not to set up an absolute and irresponsible state to regiment society from above; he was never willing to sacrifice liberty to gain security. He wished to multiply the deposits of political power in the state itself sufficiently to break down the sole dualism of rich and poor and thus to guarantee both liberty and security. This, as he stated in Federalist 10, would provide a “republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.”

It is also interesting to note that James Madison was the most creative and philosophical disciple of the Scottish school of science and politics in the Philadelphia Convention. His effectiveness as an advocate of a new constitution, and of the particular constitution that was drawn up in Philadelphia in 1787, was certainly based in a large part on his personal experience in public life and his personal knowledge of the conditions of American in 1787. But Madison’s greatness as a statesmen rest in part on his ability quite deliberately to set his limited personal experience in the context of the experience of men in other ages and times, thus giving extra insight to his political formulations.

His most amazing political prophecy, contained within the pages of Federalist 10, was that the size of the United Sates and its variety of interests could be made a guarantee of stability and justice under the new constitution. When Madison made this prophecy the accepted opinion among all sophisticated politicians was exactly the opposite. it was David Hume’s speculations on the “Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth,” first published in 1752, that most stimulated James Madison’s’ thought on factions. In this essay Hume disclaimed any attempt to substitute a political utopia for “the common botched and inaccurate governments which seemed to serve imperfect men so well. Nevertheless, he argued, the idea of a perfect commonwealth “is surely the most worthy curiosity of any the wit of man can possibly devise. And who knows, if this controversy were fixed by the universal consent of the wise and learned, but, in some future age, an opportunity might be afforded of reducing the theory to practice, either by a dissolution of some old government, or by the combination of men to form a new one, in some distant part of the world. ” At the end of Hume’s essay was a discussion that could not help being of interest to Madison. For here the Scot casually demolished the Montesquieu small-republic theory; and it was this part of the essay, contained in a single page, that was to serve Madison in new-modeling a “botched” Confederation “in a distant part of the world.” Hume said the ” in a large government, which is modeled with masterly skill, there is compass and room enough to refine the democracy, from the lower people, who may be admitted into the first elections or first concoction of the commonwealth, to the higher magistrate, who direct all the movements. At the same time, the parts are so distant and remote, that it is very difficult, either by intrigue, prejudice, or passion, to hurry them into any measure against the public interest.” Hume’s analysis here had turned the small-territory republic theory upside down: if a free state could one be established in a large area, it would be stable and safe from the effects of faction. Madison had found the answer to Montesquieu. He had also found in embryonic form his own theory of the extended federal republic.

In Hume’s essay lay the germ for Madison’s theory of the extended republic. It is interesting to see how he took these scattered and incomplete fragments and built them into an intellectual and theoretical structure of his own. Madison’s first full statement of this hypothesis appeared in his “Notes on the Confederacy” written in April 1787, eight months before the final version of it was published as the tenth Federalist. Starting with the proposition that “in republican Government, the majority, however, composed, ultimately give the law,” Madison then asks what is to restrain an interested majority from unjust violations of the minority’s rights? Three motives might be claimed to meliorate the selfishness of the majority: first, “prudent regard for their own good, as involved in the general . . . good” second, “respect for character” and finally, religious scruples. After examining each in its turn Madison concludes that they are but a frail bulwark against a ruthless party.

When one examines these two papers in which Hume and Madison summed up the eighteenth century’s most profound thought on political parties, it becomes increasingly clear that the young American used the earlier work in preparing a survey on factions through the ages to introduce his own discussion of faction in America. Hume’s work was admirably adapted to this purpose. It was philosophical and scientific in the best tradition of the Enlightenment. The facile domination of faction that had been a commonplace in English politics for a hundred years, as Whig and Tory vociferously sought to fasten the label on each other. But the Scot, very little interested as a partisan and very much so as a social scientist, treated the subject therefore in psychological, intellectual, and socioeconomic terms. Throughout all history, he discovered, mankind has been divided into factions based either on personal loyalty to some leader or upon some “sentiment or interest” common to the group as a unit. This latter type he called a “Real” as distinguished form the “personal” faction. Finally, he subdivided the “real factions” into parties based on “interest, upon principle,” or upon affection.” Hume spent well over five pages dissecting these three types; but Madison, while determined to be inclusive, had not the space to go into such minute analysis. Besides, he was more intent now on developing the cure than on describing the malady. He therefore consolidated Hume’s two-page treatment of “personal” factions and his long discussion of parties based on “principle and affection” into a single sentence. The tenth Federalist reads” “A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex ad oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.” It is hard to conceive of a more perfect example of the concentration of idea and meaning than Madison achieved in this famous sentence.


Meme by Tara Ross,

Source: The Federalist Papers,


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