The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States)
For the Independent Journal.
Thursday, November 15, 1787


To the People of the State of New York:

IT IS sometimes asked, with an air of seeming triumph, what inducements
could the States have, if disunited, to make war upon each other? It
would be a full answer to this question to say -- precisely the same
inducements which have, at different times, deluged in blood all the
nations in the world. But, unfortunately for us, the question admits of
a more particular answer. There are causes of differences within our
immediate contemplation, of the tendency of which, even under the
restraints of a federal constitution, we have had sufficient experience
to enable us to form a judgment of what might be expected if those
restraints were removed.

Territorial disputes have at all times been found one of the most
fertile sources of hostility among nations. Perhaps the greatest
proportion of wars that have desolated the earth have sprung from this
origin. This cause would exist among us in full force. We have a vast
tract of unsettled territory within the boundaries of the United States.
There still are discordant and undecided claims between several of them,
and the dissolution of the Union would lay a foundation for similar
claims between them all. It is well known that they have heretofore had
serious and animated discussion concerning the rights to the lands which
were ungranted at the time of the Revolution, and which usually went
under the name of crown lands. The States within the limits of whose
colonial governments they were comprised have claimed them as their
property, the others have contended that the rights of the crown in this
article devolved upon the Union; especially as to all that part of the
Western territory which, either by actual possession, or through the
submission of the Indian proprietors, was subjected to the jurisdiction
of the king of Great Britain, till it was relinquished in the treaty of
peace. This, it has been said, was at all events an acquisition to the
Confederacy by compact with a foreign power. It has been the prudent
policy of Congress to appease this controversy, by prevailing upon the
States to make cessions to the United States for the benefit of the
whole. This has been so far accomplished as, under a continuation of the
Union, to afford a decided prospect of an amicable termination of the
dispute. A dismemberment of the Confederacy, however, would revive this
dispute, and would create others on the same subject. At present, a
large part of the vacant Western territory is, by cession at least, if
not by any anterior right, the common property of the Union. If that
were at an end, the States which made the cession, on a principle of
federal compromise, would be apt when the motive of the grant had
ceased, to reclaim the lands as a reversion. The other States would no
doubt insist on a proportion, by right of representation. Their argument
would be, that a grant, once made, could not be revoked; and that the
justice of participating in territory acquired or secured by the joint
efforts of the Confederacy, remained undiminished. If, contrary to
probability, it should be admitted by all the States, that each had a
right to a share of this common stock, there would still be a difficulty
to be surmounted, as to a proper rule of apportionment. Different
principles would be set up by different States for this purpose; and as
they would affect the opposite interests of the parties, they might not
easily be susceptible of a pacific adjustment.

In the wide field of Western territory, therefore, we perceive an ample
theatre for hostile pretensions, without any umpire or common judge to
interpose between the contending parties. To reason from the past to the
future, we shall have good ground to apprehend, that the sword would
sometimes be appealed to as the arbiter of their differences. The
circumstances of the dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania,
respecting the land at Wyoming, admonish us not to be sanguine in
expecting an easy accommodation of such differences. The articles of
confederation obliged the parties to submit the matter to the decision
of a federal court. The submission was made, and the court decided in
favor of Pennsylvania. But Connecticut gave strong indications of
dissatisfaction with that determination; nor did she appear to be
entirely resigned to it, till, by negotiation and management, something
like an equivalent was found for the loss she supposed herself to have
sustained. Nothing here said is intended to convey the slightest censure
on the conduct of that State. She no doubt sincerely believed herself to
have been injured by the decision; and States, like individuals,
acquiesce with great reluctance in determinations to their disadvantage.

Those who had an opportunity of seeing the inside of the transactions
which attended the progress of the controversy between this State and
the district of Vermont, can vouch the opposition we experienced, as
well from States not interested as from those which were interested in
the claim; and can attest the danger to which the peace of the
Confederacy might have been exposed, had this State attempted to assert
its rights by force. Two motives preponderated in that opposition: one,
a jealousy entertained of our future power; and the other, the interest
of certain individuals of influence in the neighboring States, who had
obtained grants of lands under the actual government of that district.
Even the States which brought forward claims, in contradiction to ours,
seemed more solicitous to dismember this State, than to establish their
own pretensions. These were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and
Connecticut. New Jersey and Rhode Island, upon all occasions, discovered
a warm zeal for the independence of Vermont; and Maryland, till alarmed
by the appearance of a connection between Canada and that State, entered
deeply into the same views. These being small States, saw with an
unfriendly eye the perspective of our growing greatness. In a review of
these transactions we may trace some of the causes which would be likely
to embroil the States with each other, if it should be their
unpropitious destiny to become disunited.

The competitions of commerce would be another fruitful source of
contention. The States less favorably circumstanced would be desirous of
escaping from the disadvantages of local situation, and of sharing in
the advantages of their more fortunate neighbors. Each State, or
separate confederacy, would pursue a system of commercial policy
peculiar to itself. This would occasion distinctions, preferences, and
exclusions, which would beget discontent. The habits of intercourse, on
the basis of equal privileges, to which we have been accustomed since
the earliest settlement of the country, would give a keener edge to
those causes of discontent than they would naturally have independent of
which characterizes the commercial part of America, has left no occasion
of displaying itself unimproved. It is not at all probable that this
unbridled spirit would pay much respect to those regulations of trade by
which particular States might endeavor to secure exclusive benefits to
their own citizens. The infractions of these regulations, on one side,
the efforts to prevent and repel them, on the other, would naturally
lead to outrages, and these to reprisals and wars.

The opportunities which some States would have of rendering others
tributary to them by commercial regulations would be impatiently
submitted to by the tributary States. The relative situation of New
York, Connecticut, and New Jersey would afford an example of this kind.
New York, from the necessities of revenue, must lay duties on her
importations. A great part of these duties must be paid by the
inhabitants of the two other States in the capacity of consumers of what
we import. New York would neither be willing nor able to forego this
advantage. Her citizens would not consent that a duty paid by them
should be remitted in favor of the citizens of her neighbors; nor would
it be practicable, if there were not this impediment in the way, to
distinguish the customers in our own markets. Would Connecticut and New
Jersey long submit to be taxed by New York for her exclusive benefit?
Should we be long permitted to remain in the quiet and undisturbed
enjoyment of a metropolis, from the possession of which we derived an
advantage so odious to our neighbors, and, in their opinion, so
oppressive? Should we be able to preserve it against the incumbent
weight of Connecticut on the one side, and the co-operating pressure of
New Jersey on the other? These are questions that temerity alone will
answer in the affirmative.

The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of collision
between the separate States or confederacies. The apportionment, in the
first instance, and the progressive extinguishment afterward, would be
alike productive of ill-humor and animosity. How would it be possible to
agree upon a rule of apportionment satisfactory to all? There is
scarcely any that can be proposed which is entirely free from real
objections. These, as usual, would be exaggerated by the adverse
interest of the parties. There are even dissimilar views among the
States as to the general principle of discharging the public debt. Some
of them, either less impressed with the importance of national credit,
or because their citizens have little, if any, immediate interest in the
question, feel an indifference, if not a repugnance, to the payment of
the domestic debt at any rate. These would be inclined to magnify the
difficulties of a distribution. Others of them, a numerous body of whose
citizens are creditors to the public beyond proportion of the State in
the total amount of the national debt, would be strenuous for some
equitable and effective provision. The procrastinations of the former
would excite the resentments of the latter. The settlement of a rule
would, in the meantime, be postponed by real differences of opinion and
affected delays. The citizens of the States interested would clamour;
foreign powers would urge for the satisfaction of their just demands,
and the peace of the States would be hazarded to the double contingency
of external invasion and internal contention.

Suppose the difficulties of agreeing upon a rule surmounted, and the
apportionment made. Still there is great room to suppose that the rule
agreed upon would, upon experiment, be found to bear harder upon some
States than upon others. Those which were sufferers by it would
naturally seek for a mitigation of the burden. The others would as
naturally be disinclined to a revision, which was likely to end in an
increase of their own incumbrances. Their refusal would be too plausible
a pretext to the complaining States to withhold their contributions, not
to be embraced with avidity; and the non-compliance of these States with
their engagements would be a ground of bitter discussion and
altercation. If even the rule adopted should in practice justify the
equality of its principle, still delinquencies in payments on the part
of some of the States would result from a diversity of other causes --
the real deficiency of resources; the mismanagement of their finances;
accidental disorders in the management of the government; and, in
addition to the rest, the reluctance with which men commonly part with
money for purposes that have outlived the exigencies which produced
them, and interfere with the supply of immediate wants. Delinquencies,
from whatever causes, would be productive of complaints, recriminations,
and quarrels. There is, perhaps, nothing more likely to disturb the
tranquillity of nations than their being bound to mutual contributions
for any common object that does not yield an equal and coincident
benefit. For it is an observation, as true as it is trite, that there is
nothing men differ so readily about as the payment of money.

Laws in violation of private contracts, as they amount to aggressions on
the rights of those States whose citizens are injured by them, may be
considered as another probable source of hostility. We are not
authorized to expect that a more liberal or more equitable spirit would
preside over the legislations of the individual States hereafter, if
unrestrained by any additional checks, than we have heretofore seen in
too many instances disgracing their several codes. We have observed the
disposition to retaliation excited in Connecticut in consequence of the
enormities perpetrated by the Legislature of Rhode Island; and we
reasonably infer that, in similar cases, under other circumstances, a
war, not of PARCHMENT, but of the sword, would chastise such atrocious
breaches of moral obligation and social justice.

The probability of incompatible alliances between the different States
or confederacies and different foreign nations, and the effects of this
situation upon the peace of the whole, have been sufficiently unfolded
in some preceding papers. From the view they have exhibited of this part
of the subject, this conclusion is to be drawn, that America, if not
connected at all, or only by the feeble tie of a simple league,
offensive and defensive, would, by the operation of such jarring
alliances, be gradually entangled in all the pernicious labyrinths of
European politics and wars; and by the destructive contentions of the
parts into which she was divided, would be likely to become a prey to
the artifices and machinations of powers equally the enemies of them
all. Divide et impera[1] must be the motto of every nation that either
hates or fears us.[2]


1. Divide and command.

2. In order that the whole subject of these papers may as soon as
possible be laid before the public, it is proposed to publish them four
times a week -- on Tuesday in the New York Packet and on Thursday in the
Daily Advertiser.