John Jay in The Federalist Papers discussed why nations go to war and concluded that it was not for justice but “whenever they have a prospect of getting any thing by it” (1787)

John Jay

Found in The Federalist (Gideon ed.)

In a series of Federalist Papers, John Jay explores how a national government in America might deal with the problems of war and peace:

It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting any thing by it; nay, that absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as, a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families, or partisans. These, and a variety of motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctioned by justice, or the voice and interests of his people.

John Jay returns to an idea expressed by Thomas Gordon on the often frivolous and personal reasons why rulers take their nations to war.