Federalist #15 is the first essay to address completely the issue of “the insufficiency of the present confederation to the preservation of the Union.”
Alexander Hamilton departs from an overall discussion of the virtues of union that lead to “political safety and happiness” to specific and nearly vehement attacks on the inadequacies of a loose confederation of sovereign states.
He points out that the United States is in the “last stages of national humiliation” and this condition was brought about by:
- large debts,
- territories in the possession of foreign powers
- a lack of military
- a lack of money
- lack of respect by foreign powers
- decrease in the value of property
- unavailability of credit
Hamilton urges that because of national disorder, poverty and insignificance, the country must stand for safety, tranquility, dignity and reputation. The alternative of the present system, he argues, is destitute of energy and fails to confer upon the central government “the powers that are requisite to supply that energy.”
The essential problem, Hamilton argues, is that the current system creates multiple sovereigns and the laws of the nation as a whole, if passed, become merely “suggestions” for the states to follow or ignore. He argues for the opposite—that national laws should have a consequence and a penalty applied either by the military or the courts.
Hamilton turns his attention to the motivation of individuals, stating that a loose collection of sovereign powers creates problems because of a love of power—easier to achieve in smaller, sovereign states. Such a love of power, once achieved, leads to a failure to compromise and, therefore, “the business of the government cannot be carried out under this system and national interests become subservient to individual desires and wishes.”