In this paper, Jay defends the provision in the Constitution granting power to the president to make treaties with the consent of two thirds of the Senate. He argues that it was important to give this power to the president and Senate, which he argues will consist of the “most enlightened and respectable citizens,” given the minimum age requirements for their office, as well as other factors. Jay contends that it is better to trust these responsibilities to the Senate than the House since the members of the former are elected less frequently and to longer terms. This allows them to acquire the extensive knowledge necessary for handling such grave matters as treaties with other nations. Another advantage of this system, according to Jay, is that it allows the president to conduct negotiations in secrecy and then, at an appropriate point, get the advice of the senate.
Jay responds to objections that the treaties ought to be amendable by legislative acts by arguing that treaties are fundamentally different from regular laws. They must be binding on the American people and not subject to change by a mere act of Congress. Otherwise, other nations may not be willing to enter into treaties with the US.
This paper illustrates the founders’ attempts to reconcile the republican values of the American people with the realities of international diplomacy. There is a need for stability in foreign policy making. Otherwise, foreign nations will be unable to trust the US to abide by the terms of its treaties. Furthermore, international relations are deeply complex and serious issues that must be handled with “secrecy” and “dispatch.” American foreign policy, according to Jay, would be hamstrung if the President did not have the ability to conduct secret negotiations with foreign governments and take advantage of rare opportunities in international affairs. This very practical need for granting significant powers to the executive is nevertheless offset by the requirement that all treaties be ratified by the senate. We thus see in this aspect of the American system of government a balance struck between expediency and republican suspicions of excessive power in the executive branch.
At this point in history, many Americans were deeply suspicious of foreign powers and wary about becoming entangled in foreign alliances and international crises. George Washington warned that America should avoid becoming excessively intertwined with the endless machinations and power politics of European powers. Instead, he thought Americans should strive to maintain their neutrality and independence. Anti-federalists were concerned that granting too much authority to the president and the Senate in international affairs would open the door to corruption and shady deals with foreign powers. However, Jay tries to convince Americans that the Constitution adopts a balanced approach to this issue.