Federalist Paper number two creates a strong argument for a written social contract and relays how that document would manifest in the United States. John Jay says,
“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government; and it is equally undeniable that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must concede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite power.” (p. 5)
Jay’s Lockean statement shows the vital importance of government while also admitting that in order to form a liberty minded country, citizens must willingly cede some of their God given rights for the benefit of the whole. Jay quickly argues that the United States holds the two key components for this written social contract to work. He first looks at the geographic ties and notices how “America was not composed of detached and distant territories” (p.6). Jay also looks at the nationalism of the citizenry as it consists of “a people descended from the same ancestors… attached to the same principles of government” (p.6). These two ingredients show that “This country and this people seem to have been made for each other” (p. 6).
Ultimately the argument in Federalist Paper two is not whether the United States should form one government, but how that government should be composed and what part of that government should be supreme. The debate between centralization and civic or classical republicanism was controversial from the time of independence. Jay argues that the United States tried a more classical form of republicanism under the Articles of Confederation and the patriots “found [the document] greatly deficient and inadequate to the purpose it was intended to answer” (p. 7). The government, under the Articles of Confederation, could levy no universal taxes or pass no universal laws. The states were sovereign entities who could end universal agreements with one veto or dissolve relationships on a whim. Because of these problems, Jay uses Locke’s theory of social contract to argue for a new form of government.
Under Locke’s social contract, the primary purpose of government is the security of the citizenry. Locke believes if there was no social contract, life would be short and brutish, but when small entities of people come together, life becomes less harsh. For this security, individuals trade in some of their God given rights in order to live a more secure life. Jay believes this happened when a group of individuals
“being persuaded that ample security for both (Liberty and the Union)could only be found in a national government more wisely framed, they, as one voice, convened the late convention in Philadelphia.” (p. 7)
Some might question this act by the founders as treason. Any time individuals come together to dissolve an existing government, those individuals should be met with force. Jay argues that this is not a treasonous act, but an act of patriotism because many of the delegates at the convention were “composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by their patriotism” (p. 6). Jay would further argue that many of these individuals were active in creating the Articles of Confederation and found the former document flawed.
Some might argue if Jay is correct in his thesis that for a social contract to be successful, a group of individuals must be tied by both geography and nationalism, what would happen if one of those components changed? What would happen, for example, if over a number of generations the American attitude towards liberty and individual freedom changed from an aggressive pursuit to a passive happenstance? Would Jay argue for another convention and a reinvention of a social contract for the country? Jay would argue the genius of the American Constitution is that the document is a fairly accurate depiction of voters. If citizens who are more interested in security vote more often than voters who are interested in liberty it is incumbent upon the libertarian voter to change the ideological demographic of the voting public through debate and turnout. Some might question whether voter turnout is an accurate depiction of the citizenry. Jay would argue that voter turnout is not necessarily a great depiction of the citizenry as a whole, however, if certain issues substantially affect a citizens way of life, that person will vote.