The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 5


John Jay continues his argument against dividing the U.S. into multiple independent sovereign states in this paper. Drawing on examples from British history, Jay argues that if America were divided into three or four nations, then it would be constantly beset by jealousies, tensions, disputes, and war. He argues that these different American nations would inevitably reach different levels of power and progress. This would lead to envy, fear, and destructive competition.

The different nations would furthermore have different commercial concerns, which would, in turn, lead to different interests. These differences would likely result in the American nations forming different alliances with foreign powers, culminating perhaps in a situation in which one American nation would go to war with one of another American nation’s allies.


In this paper, John Jay is calling on Americans to learn from European history and choose union over disunion. He is responding to anti-federalist arguments that Americans’ interests are best served by dividing the country into multiple sovereignties. He contends that such a course of action would produce a weak, fractious America constantly at war with itself.

John Jay is also seeking to use fear of foreign domination to garner support for the concept of a single American union. Essentially, Jay is condensing the array of options facing Americans within a single compelling question: will America allow itself to become weak, divided, and at risk of foreign manipulation, or will it learn the lessons of history and build a strong union under a single national government capable of resisting the European powers?