War/Foreign Policy Quotes

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gw and ah warAlexander Hamilton had extensive experience in the art of warfare. Over a twenty-five year period, he served as a militia volunteer, captain of an artillery unit, aide-de-camp to George Washington, battalion leader, spy master, military translator, and inspector general, and then major general of the armed forces. Hamilton's military participation included the Revolutionary War, the Whiskey Rebellion, and the Quasi-War with France.

As a statesman and member of George Washington's cabinet, Hamilton had a strong influence in shaping early US foreign policy, including the Neutrality Proclamation and the Jay Treaty. He was also a proponent of maintaining a standing military, and was greatly involved in the development of the US Coast Guard, Army, Navy, and West Point Military Academy.

Here are some of Alexander Hamilton thoughts on war and foreign policy:


Alexander Hamilton quote on war and peace

[T]he measures of War ought ever to look forward to peace.

- Alexander Hamilton, The Defense No. XXI, October 30, 1795


 When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation. 

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 16, "The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union" New York Packet, December 4, 1787.


Alexander Hamilton quote on external nature

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. To be more safe, they [nations] at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 8, "The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States," New York Packetl, November 20, 1787


Alexander Hamilton quote on rights of neutrality

The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 11, "The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy," Independent Journal, November 24, 1787


 Foreign influence is truly the Grecian Horse to a republic. We cannot be too careful to exclude its entrance.

-Alexander Hamilton, Pacificus No. 6, July 14, 1793 in: The Pacificus-Helvidius Debates of 1793-1794: Toward the Completion of the American Founding, edited with and Introduction by Morton J. Frisch (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).


Tis only to consult our own hearts to be convinced that nations like individuals revolt at the idea of being guided by external compulsion.

- Alexander Hamilton, Letter to George Washington, April 14, 1794


 "The Nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a Master and deserves one."

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Warning No. III." Published in the Gazette of the United States and the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, February 21, 1797.


 The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 11, "The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy," Independent Journal, November 24, 1787


 

Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, "The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation," New York Packet, January 4, 1788.


 

"The honor of a nation is its life. Deliberately to abandon it is to commit an act of political suicide."

-Alexander Hamilton, "The Warning No. III." Published in the Gazette of the United States and the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, February 21, 1797.


 

To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and beneficent sentiments of peace; and that to model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquillity, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, "The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation," New York Packet, January 4, 1788.


 "The Achaeans soon experienced, as often happens, that a victorious and powerful ally is but another name for a master."

-Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist No. 18, "The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union, " Independent Journal, December 1787. [Note: This quote is often shortened to "A victorious and powerful ally is but another name for a master." However, this changes the context, inferring that the author considers it a universal fact, rather than a common occurrence]


 The principal purposes to be answered by union are these the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23, "The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union," New York Packet, December 18, 1787.


Alexander Hamilton quote circumstances that endanger

The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation, BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FORESEE OR DEFINE THE EXTENT AND VARIETY OF NATIONAL EXIGENCIES, OR THE CORRESPONDENT EXTENT AND VARIETY OF THE MEANS WHICH MAY BE NECESSARY TO SATISFY THEM. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23, "The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union," New York Packet, December 18, 1787.


 …[T]here can be no limitation of that authority which is to provide for the defense and protection of the community, in any matter essential to its efficacy that is, in any matter essential to the FORMATION, DIRECTION, or SUPPORT of the NATIONAL FORCES.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23, "The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union," New York Packet, December 18, 1787.


 That there may happen cases in which the national government may be necessitated to resort to force, cannot be denied.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 28, "The Same Subject Continued: The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered," Independent Journal, December 26. 1787.


 Of all the cares or concerns of government, the direction of war most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the exercise of power by a single hand. The direction of war implies the direction of the common strength; and the power of directing and employing the common strength, forms a usual and essential part in the definition of the executive authority.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 74, "The Command of the Military and Naval Forces, and the Pardoning Power of the Executive," New York Packet, March 25, 1788.


 

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