A Brief History:
The intelligence the American Founding Fathers possessed can never be overstated. In the early stages of the Revolutionary War our founders drafted The Articles of Confederation in the year 1777. The Articles established the first framework for the United States of America, however lacked the ability to bring individual sovereign states together in many ways. Specifically, Congress was unable to impose taxes, regulate commerce, or enforce laws. Additionally, there was no judiciary to settle disputes, and states remained in contrast to one another even after the Article’s ratification. Essentially, our Founders saw that states remained separate and independent, without the significant bonds necessary to form a successful union.
Enter: The United States Constitution in 1787. Initially, the idea of strengthening the federal government was unpopular among some states. This was an understandable position, considering the people of the U.S. had just fought for their freedom from a powerful centralized government. This is why three founders took the initiative to write the Federalist Papers.
John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, together, under the pen name Publius, wrote 85 essays in an attempt to convince the public to vote in favor of ratifying the new framework. The Federalist Papers, sparing no detail, outlined the benefits of union, and stressed the disadvantageous circumstances that could arise by separating into foreign confederacies.
John Jay described in the third through fifth Federalist Papers, that should the states choose to disassociate themselves from union, it would weaken the country and make it susceptible to foreign influence or siege. Jay writes about this in Federalist No. 2. stating, “united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.” Jay points out that there would be nothing in place to prevent the states from becoming warring factions or neighboring nations constantly fighting amongst themselves over resources, trade routes, or territory disputes.
War will always wage in Europe. Every year in the 20th Century has seen some form of conflict. Neighboring nations have caused some of the world’s most significant wars, including both World War I, and World War II. Currently, Russia has poised itself as an aggressor, attempting to bring back the ‘glory days’ of the Soviet Union’s formerly controlled territory. As Putin tears into Ukraine, bordering nations brace themselves, because they have seen this play out before. Much of Eastern Europe was formerly under Soviet control. Countries such as Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine and many more just recently gained independence from the USSR in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and fear an unwelcome invasion from their Russian neighbors may lie ahead.
It remains unknown if Russia will attempt to provoke a military response from NATO by infiltrating a member nation, but each country including the U.S. has made it abundantly clear that any attack on a NATO nation will plunge all 30 countries into another war.
Division and War:
The beauty of American unity was in the avoidance of frequent and gruesome wars that neighboring nations in Europe were so often plagued by. The US however, had to endure one instance of this discord at home, The Civil War. From 1861 to 1865, the US suffered the longest and most bloody war ever fought on American soil, leading to hundreds of thousands of American lives lost. The US witnessed first-hand the detrimental effects of disunity, and saw what would become of the country should they choose to break off into hostile, warring factions.
Analysis: The Genius of Union
The Founding Fathers had the foresight to understand that a utopia of neighboring countries existing in perpetual harmony would be impossible to achieve, and possessed the resolve to fight for union in the U.S. It is possible, that were it not for the ratification of the Constitution, the United States would look very similar to Europe, lacking significant motive to work in alliance with one another for any prolonged period of time, vying for resources, wealth, and power.
One can only hope that the United States will recommit itself to seeking union, converging under the same principles and values that the Founders once shared. As John Jay so wisely wrote: “whenever the dissolution of the Union arrives, America will have reason to exclaim, in the words of the poet: ‘FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL TO ALL MY GREATNESS.’”