How does the Constitution Protect Against Threats Like ISIS?

For all of us currently alive who know only the United States, it may seem odd to consider the defense of the various states as individual bodies. That however, was the state of affairs before the Constitution’s adoption, and one that motivated the Founders to adopt it.

In A Bulwark Against Foreign Danger, the first essay in Roots of Liberty, authors Donesa and Jaffer discuss the defensive benefits the Founders sought to enact via the new constitution.

Writing in part:

The most meaningful powers of any national government—the ability to raise money and armies to support the national interest and defend its territories—had been left in the hands of the states. Hamilton described the situation bluntly (No. 15): “We have neither troops, nor Treasury, nor government.” And, as a result, in Hamilton’s view, the nation was in no “condition to resent or to repel [any foreign] aggression.” Indeed, the federal government even lacked the basic power to require the several states to accept the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. While the federal government established by the Articles technically had the ability to pass constitutionally binding legislation with respect to the security of the nation, “in practice [these laws were] mere recommendations which the States observe or disregard[ed] at their option.”

Well before international jet travel, the Founders were concerned with threats from afar. With Hamilton, in Federalist 24 writing that even though we were separated by an ocean from Europe, their interests were nearby and that we need concern ourselves with the common defense.

On one side of us, and stretching far into our rear, are growing settlements subject to the dominion of Britain. On the other side, and extending to meet the British settlements, are colonies and establishments subject to the dominion of Spain. This situation and the vicinity of the West India Islands, belonging to these two powers create between them, in respect to their American possessions and in relation to us, a common interest….A future concert of views between these nations ought not to be regarded as improbable.”

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