FEDERALIST NO. 11
Need for the Union and a Navy
to Advance Commerce
To the People of the State of New York:
THERE IS little disagreement on the Union’s ability to build a navy able to challenge the Europeans.
commercial importance to foreign trade. This would be especially valuable to our operations in the
European maritime powers are uneasy about our West Indies. A few American ships, sent to reinforce
adventurous commercial spirit and its possible threat to either the British or the Spaniards could be enough to
their shipping – the basis of their navigation strength. make either a winner or loser.
Those with American colonies foresee dangers from In the West Indies, we can command great respect.
bordering States able to build powerful marines. And if we offer useful American military equipment, we
———————————————————————— can negotiate commercial privileges and set attractive
prices on our friendship and neutrality.
No vessel of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any Indeed, by keeping the Union we can “referee”
State, except such number only, as shall be deemed
necessary by the United States in Congress assembled, Europe’s American conflicts, and turn them to our
for the defense of such State, or its trade … advantage. But by separating, we would allow rivalries
Article VI of the Articles of Confederation
[The Congress shall have the power) To provide and between the States to destroy all of our advantages in
maintain a navy … [and] To make rules for the government international politics and trade. European nations at war
and regulation of the … naval forces … with each other would not fear us, and could raid our
Article I, Section 8 (13) & (14) of the United States Constitution
No State shall, without the consent of Congress … keep resources to fill their needs.
troops and ships of war in time of peace … Neutrality rights are respected only when defended. A
Article I, Section 10 (3) & of the United States Constitution
weak nation gives up even the privilege to be neutral.
Under a vigorous national government, our natural
———————————————————————— strength and resources, directed to a common purpose,
In defense, they will likely try to divide us and keep us would impede European efforts to limit our growth. Active
from carrying our goods in our own ships. This would commerce, extensive navigation and a thriving maritime
prevent us from competing with them, gaining the profits industry are, in short, morally and physically necessary.
from our own goods and realizing our potential greatness.
But disunited, even little schemes by little politicians
By remaining united, we can counter this threat in
could defeat us. Powerful maritime nations, capitalizing
many ways. By enacting regulations, nationwide, we can
on our impotence, could set the conditions for our political
force foreigners to bid against each other for access to
existence. Moreover, as they have a common interest in
our markets. This is a real concern to those who see the
carrying our goods and preventing us from shipping
importance of our rapidly growing, essentially agricultural
theirs, they would likely unite to destroy, or at least
markets to all manufacturing nations. By not acting
neutralize, our shipping. We would then be forced to
against us, they risk huge losses in trade and shipping.
accept any price for our commodities, and hand our trade
Suppose we had a government strong enough to bar
profits to our enemies. The unequaled spirit of enterprise,
Great Britain (with whom we have no commercial treaty).
which signifies the genius of American merchants and
This would enable us to negotiate vast, valuable
navigators, and is an inexhaustible mine of national
commercial privileges in the British colonies.
wealth, would be stifled and lost. Then poverty and
In the past, Britain might have responded by simply
disgrace would spread across a country that, with
shipping her goods to America through the Dutch. But
wisdom, could win the world’s admiration and envy.
the loss of revenue from not using her own ships would
Some rights of importance to American trade are also
be heavy. And the Dutch, not they, would pocket the
rights of the Union. I mean the fisheries, navigation of the
principal profits. This round-about, expensive trade
Western lakes and access to the Mississippi. Dissolving
arrangement would also make British goods higher priced
the Union would bring the nation’s whole waterborne
and less competitive against the rest of Europe – another
mercantile future into question. Our enemies would
serious financial threat.
certainly exploit our disunity.
I believe that these disadvantages would force Britain
Spain stands between us and the Mississippi. France
to grant us market privileges in her island colonies in the
and Britain compete with us for fisheries – and see them
West Indies. To gain these benefits, we would need to
as critical to their navigation. They would not neglect this
grant some exemptions and immunities in our own, and
valuable weapon that prevents us from underselling them
this would affect relations with other nations hoping to
in their own markets. What could be more natural than
share in our trade.
preventing their success?
Another way to influence European nations’ conduct
We should not consider our maritime strength a partial
toward us would be to establish a federal navy. One of an
benefit. All the navigating States could – probably would –
effective Union government would be the strength and
The Federalist Papers … In Other Words • Paraphrased by Marshall Overstedt • Page 15