FEDERALIST No. 25

The Same Subject Continued
(The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered)
From the New York Packet.
Friday, December 21, 1787.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON

To the People of the State of New York:

IT MAY perhaps be urged that the objects enumerated in the preceding number ought to be provided for by the State
governments, under the direction of the Union. But this would be, in reality, an inversion of the primary principle of our
political association, as it would in practice transfer the care of the common defense from the federal head to the individual
members: a project oppressive to some States, dangerous to all, and baneful to the Confederacy.

The territories of Britain, Spain, and of the Indian nations in our neighborhood do not border on particular States, but encircle
the Union from Maine to Georgia. The danger, though in different degrees, is therefore common. And the means of guarding
against it ought, in like manner, to be the objects of common councils and of a common treasury. It happens that some
States, from local situation, are more directly exposed. New York is of this class. Upon the plan of separate provisions, New
York would have to sustain the whole weight of the establishments requisite to her immediate safety, and to the mediate or
ultimate protection of her neighbors. This would neither be equitable as it respected New York nor safe as it respected the
other States. Various inconveniences would attend such a system. The States, to whose lot it might fall to support the
necessary establishments, would be as little able as willing, for a considerable time to come, to bear the burden of competent
provisions. The security of all would thus be subjected to the parsimony, improvidence, or inability of a part. If the
resources of such part becoming more abundant and extensive, its provisions should be proportionally enlarged, the other
States would quickly take the alarm at seeing the whole military force of the Union in the hands of two or three of its
members, and those probably amongst the most powerful. They would each choose to have some counterpoise, and
pretenses could easily be contrived. In this situation, military establishments, nourished by mutual jealousy, would be apt to
swell beyond their natural or proper size; and being at the separate disposal of the members, they would be engines for the
abridgment or demolition of the national authority.

Reasons have been already given to induce a supposition that the State governments will too naturally be prone to a rivalship
with that of the Union, the foundation of which will be the love of power; and that in any contest between the federal head
and one of its members the people will be most apt to unite with their local government. If, in addition to this immense
advantage, the ambition of the members should be stimulated by the separate and independent possession of military forces,
it would afford too strong a temptation and too great a facility to them to make enterprises upon, and finally to subvert, the
constitutional authority of the Union. On the other hand, the liberty of the people would be less safe in this state of things
than in that which left the national forces in the hands of the national government. As far as an army may be considered as a
dangerous weapon of power, it had better be in those hands of which the people are most likely to be jealous than in those of
which they are least likely to be jealous. For it is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the people are
always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least
suspicion.

The framers of the existing Confederation, fully aware of the danger to the Union from the separate possession of military
forces by the States, have, in express terms, prohibited them from having either ships or troops, unless with the consent of
Congress. The truth is, that the existence of a federal government and military establishments under State authority are not
less at variance with each other than a due supply of the federal treasury and the system of quotas and requisitions.

There are other lights besides those already taken notice of, in which the impropriety of restraints on the discretion of the
national legislature will be equally manifest. The design of the objection, which has been mentioned, is to preclude standing
armies in time of peace, though we have never been informed how far it is designed the prohibition should extend; whether
to raising armies as well as to KEEPING THEM UP in a season of tranquillity or not. If it be confined to the latter it will have
no precise signification, and it will be ineffectual for the purpose intended. When armies are once raised what shall be
denominated "keeping them up," contrary to the sense of the Constitution? What time shall be requisite to ascertain the
violation? Shall it be a week, a month, a year? Or shall we say they may be continued as long as the danger which
occasioned their being raised continues? This would be to admit that they might be kept up IN TIME OF PEACE, against
threatening or impending danger, which would be at once to deviate from the literal meaning of the prohibition, and to
introduce an extensive latitude of construction. Who shall judge of the continuance of the danger? This must undoubtedly be
submitted to the national government, and the matter would then be brought to this issue, that the national government, to
provide against apprehended danger, might in the first instance raise troops, and might afterwards keep them on foot as long
as they supposed the peace or safety of the community was in any degree of jeopardy. It is easy to perceive that a discretion
so latitudinary as this would afford ample room for eluding the force of the provision.

The supposed utility of a provision of this kind can only be founded on the supposed probability, or at least possibility, of a
combination between the executive and the legislative, in some scheme of usurpation. Should this at any time happen, how
easy would it be to fabricate pretenses of approaching danger! Indian hostilities, instigated by Spain or Britain, would always
be at hand. Provocations to produce the desired appearances might even be given to some foreign power, and appeased again
by timely concessions. If we can reasonably presume such a combination to have been formed, and that the enterprise is
warranted by a sufficient prospect of success, the army, when once raised, from whatever cause, or on whatever pretext,
may be applied to the execution of the project.

If, to obviate this consequence, it should be resolved to extend the prohibition to the RAISING of armies in time of peace,
the United States would then exhibit the most extraordinary spectacle which the world has yet seen, that of a nation
incapacitated by its Constitution to prepare for defense, before it was actually invaded. As the ceremony of a formal
denunciation of war has of late fallen into disuse, the presence of an enemy within our territories must be waited for, as the
legal warrant to the government to begin its levies of men for the protection of the State. We must receive the blow, before
we could even prepare to return it. All that kind of policy by which nations anticipate distant danger, and meet the gathering
storm, must be abstained from, as contrary to the genuine maxims of a free government. We must expose our property and
liberty to the mercy of foreign invaders, and invite them by our weakness to seize the naked and defenseless prey, because
we are afraid that rulers, created by our choice, dependent on our will, might endanger that liberty, by an abuse of the means
necessary to its preservation.

Here I expect we shall be told that the militia of the country is its natural bulwark, and would be at all times equal to the
national defense. This doctrine, in substance, had like to have lost us our independence. It cost millions to the United States
that might have been saved. The facts which, from our own experience, forbid a reliance of this kind, are too recent to
permit us to be the dupes of such a suggestion. The steady operations of war against a regular and disciplined army can only
be successfully conducted by a force of the same kind. Considerations of economy, not less than of stability and vigor,
confirm this position. The American militia, in the course of the late war, have, by their valor on numerous occasions,
erected eternal monuments to their fame; but the bravest of them feel and know that the liberty of their country could not
have been established by their efforts alone, however great and valuable they were. War, like most other things, is a science
to be acquired and perfected by diligence, by perserverance, by time, and by practice.

All violent policy, as it is contrary to the natural and experienced course of human affairs, defeats itself. Pennsylvania, at this
instant, affords an example of the truth of this remark. The Bill of Rights of that State declares that standing armies are
dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be kept up in time of peace. Pennsylvania, nevertheless, in a time of profound peace,
from the existence of partial disorders in one or two of her counties, has resolved to raise a body of troops; and in all
probability will keep them up as long as there is any appearance of danger to the public peace. The conduct of
Massachusetts affords a lesson on the same subject, though on different ground. That State (without waiting for the
sanction of Congress, as the articles of the Confederation require) was compelled to raise troops to quell a domestic
insurrection, and still keeps a corps in pay to prevent a revival of the spirit of revolt. The particular constitution of
Massachusetts opposed no obstacle to the measure; but the instance is still of use to instruct us that cases are likely to occur
under our government, as well as under those of other nations, which will sometimes render a military force in time of peace
essential to the security of the society, and that it is therefore improper in this respect to control the legislative discretion. It
also teaches us, in its application to the United States, how little the rights of a feeble government are likely to be respected,
even by its own constituents. And it teaches us, in addition to the rest, how unequal parchment provisions are to a struggle
with public necessity.

It was a fundamental maxim of the Lacedaemonian commonwealth, that the post of admiral should not be conferred twice
on the same person. The Peloponnesian confederates, having suffered a severe defeat at sea from the Athenians, demanded
Lysander, who had before served with success in that capacity, to command the combined fleets. The Lacedaemonians, to
gratify their allies, and yet preserve the semblance of an adherence to their ancient institutions, had recourse to the flimsy
subterfuge of investing Lysander with the real power of admiral, under the nominal title of vice-admiral. This instance is
selected from among a multitude that might be cited to confirm the truth already advanced and illustrated by domestic
examples; which is, that nations pay little regard to rules and maxims calculated in their very nature to run counter to the
necessities of society. Wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be
observed, because they know that every breach of the fundamental laws, though dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred
reverence which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country, and forms a precedent
for other breaches where the same plea of necessity does not exist at all, or is less urgent and palpable.

PUBLIUS
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