Jan 11, 2018
Hello again. Tonight I'm recording Federalist #11. This is not the most exciting essay to the modern ear, being primarily about international trade, especially by sea. The ending does get a bit firey.
I am not a trained historian, just a history fan, I suppose. In 1787 America didn't have much of a navy to speak of. And British naval power, or French for that matter, was much stronger. The only advantage we had was the very long way they had to travel to do much of anything to us, and the ongoing conflicts between Britain and France, which made conflict with us an inconvenient side issue in many ways. I find the coverage of American Naval potential interesting in the very different resources necessary for naval building in those days: tar, pitch, turpentine and the strong wood available from the southern states, oh, and some of the iron from the north, too.
The essay also mentions hypothetically cutting off direct trade with Britain, and how it might put us in a strong position negotiating a trade treaty with them. Twenty-five years later we were at war once again with Britain, after cutting off trade, in part due to trusting France, in part due to our still lacking a strong enough navy to keep Britain from kidnapping our merchant seamen and impressing them into the British navy. We won again, largely due to the internal lines of supply also discussed here, which same have also been the foundation of every war we've won, in my amateur opinion. We didn't always build the best of anything, but we sure built a lot of 'em in a hurry.
The most strongly worded part of this essay is at the end, suggesting a European opinion that America weakened anyone who went there. I wasn't around at the time, so I'll take Hamilton's word on that. We were still desperately vulnerable, and building a strong navy was probably a very good idea. But I believe what saved us was largely the French conflict with Britain, and our willingness to persist in fighting long enough that Britain couldn't sustain a war against us. And finally, it was the commercial side, internal and external trade, that allowed us to become a strong, viable nation.
And the Union, providing a framework for our internal cooperation, was essential to our later external strength.