The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 4


In this paper, John Jay continues his argument in favor of a strong union under a single national government. He contends that such a united government will be better able to deter foreign aggression, particularly from Great Britain, France and Spain. Jay argues that America’s growing economic influence as a trading nation creates tension between American and foreign commercial interests. This tension may lead to foreign powers going to war with the United States, even if the United States gave no just cause for war. Jay argues that a single government can better organize a strong and coordinated defense against foreign aggression than an America divided into multiple independent bodies.


This paper advances one of the core arguments of the Federalist Papers, which is that uniting the thirteen American states under a single union with significant powers will better serve the people. This paper speaks to what Jay asserts is the primary concern of any people: security.

Jay structures his argument around a single question: which form of government can best defend Americans from foreign aggression? Is it a single national government with strong powers, or multiple independent governments each representing an individual state or loose confederation of states? He puts this question in the context of America’s growing commercial influence and the inevitable tensions that will arise from economic competition with European powers.

He then asks his readers to consider whether a united government will be better able to defend against foreign aggression than a disunited government. He uses the example of Great Britain and asks what would happen if its constituent parts (Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland) all had separate militias responsible for national defense. He suggests that if the United States were divided among multiple sovereign governments, then Americans would be less likely to come to one another’s aid in a time of war. Foreign aggressors could exploit the disunity within the US and pursue a strategy of divide and conquer.