Federal Union in America

“THE American war of independence against the German despot George III of England lasted, in the opinion of an early American historian, eight times as long as it need have done, because the thirteen colonies fought as sovereign states. In Fiske’s words: “Had there been such a government that the whole power of the thirteen states could have been swiftly and vigorously wielded as a unit, the British might have been driven to their ships in less than a year.”

“What exactly was the fundamental difference between the confederation or “league of friendship” and the federal constitution drafted by the Convention of 1787, a constitution which is still a living social force, and which now embraces four times as many States and forty times as many people? A paraphrase of an article by Hamilton in the New York Packet of 4th December, 1787, may make this clear: A federal government to look after affairs of common concern to all participants must be founded upon the reverse of the league principle. It must carry its agency to the persons of the citizens. It must stand in need of no intermediate legislation, but must itself have power to employ the arm of the magistrate to execute its laws. The majesty of the common will must be manifested through the medium of the courts of justice, as it cannot be done through the haggling of diplomats and numerous Foreign Offices. The government of the Union of the United Nation like the government of each member State, must be able to address itself directly to the hopes and fears of individuals, and to derive its support from those passions which have the strongest influence upon the human heart. It must be elected by the citizens whom it is to govern. It must, in short, possess all the means and be able to resort to all the methods of executing the powers with which it is entrusted that are possessed and exercised in their allotted spheres by the governments of the various States.

Hamilton and his friends were firmly convinced by their penetrating analysis that the principle of confederation had never worked well and never would. Writing in the Independent Journal, he declared that if the measures of the central authority could not be executed without the intervention of the separate State governments, there would be little prospect of their being executed at all. “The execution of the plans framed by the councils of the whole will always fluctuate on the discretion of the ill-informed and prejudiced opinion of every part.”

Bidmead, Harold S. “Federal Union in America” Dalhousie Review, Volume 24, Number 4, 1945 https://dalspace.library.dal.ca/bitstream/handle/10222/58504/dalrev_vol24_iss4_pp374_378.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y