The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis

Essay 13

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Summary

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.

Analysis

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.