Federalist No.13

Advantage Of The Union In Respect To Economy In Government

Wednesday, November 28, 1787

Alexander Hamilton


This short paper focusses on one basic premise: that a larger Union will be more economical than separate States or even a few Confederacies. Hamilton refers to talk that America could be split into three confederacies, each of which would be larger than Great Britain. Hamilton’s argument seems fairly sound. Each confederacy would need its own government and constitution. Given the size of each of the possible Confederacies, they would each need a government commensurate in size to that which is proposed for a united America. This replication is in itself uneconomical. Especially since, as Hamilton argues, the institutions that represent civil power can be replicated easily in a large country and can, in a manner, reproduce itself in every part of a great empire by a judicious arrangement of subordinate institutions.


Hamilton goes further to argue that the three confederacies would more likely end up combining as two confederacies and gives detail as to which States would be motivated by their size, economy or geographical placement to align with other States. Added to this is the point he made in the previous paper: that separate States on one land mass suffer the disadvantage of protecting their borders from land, as well as trying to regulate trade to protect revenue from duties. The cost of individual armies and of policing trade to this extent, along with the replication of larger governments, make the proposal to split into a series of confederacies uneconomical. On top of this, there is the greater potential for conflict.

4 March 2018

Revised and updated 17 March 2022