The Federalist Papers Reader and Historical Documents of Our American Heritage

By Frederick Quinn | Go to book overview

No. 8
The Effects of Internal War in Producing Standing Armies and Other Institutions Unfriendly to Liberty

Hamilton,makes the case for standing armies "and the correspondent appendages of military establishments." He states, "Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct." A standing army will discourage surprise invasions and suppress mobs and insurrections; without such a force "we should, in a little time, see established in every part of this country the same engines of despotism which have been the scourge of the old world." Hamiltonfavors a small army under civilian control. He tells readers, with the memory of a recent devastating war fresh in mind, "The laws are not accustomed to relaxation in favor of military exigencies; the civil state remains in full vigor." Warfare is to be avoided if possible; in Europe, "war...is no longer a history of nations subdued and empires overtaken, but of towns taken and retaken, of battles that decide nothing, of retreats more beneficial than victories, of much effort and little acquisition." In Americawar "would be desultory and predatory. Plunder and devastation ever march in the train of irregulars. The calamities of individuals would make the principal figure in the events which would characterize our military exploits."

Hamiltonbelieves a commercially active, prosperous people will show little interest in war, because such people, "absorbed in the pursuits of gain

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