Antifederalist No. 10


This essay follows a theme similar to Federalist No. 10,and appeared in the Maryland Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser,
March 18, 1788.

The opposite qualities of the first confederation were rather caused by than the cause of two parties, which from its first existence began and have continued their operations, I believe, unknown to their country and almost unknown to themselves-as really but few men have the capacity or resolution to develop the secret causes which influence their daily conduct. The old Congress was a national government and an union of States, both brought into one political body, as these opposite powers-I do not mean parties were so exactly blended and very nearly balanced, like every artificial, operative machine where action is equal to reaction. It stood perfectly still. It would not move at all. Those who were merely confederal in their views, were for dividing the public debt. Those who were for national government, were for increasing of it. Those who thought any national government would be destructive to the liberties of America . . . assisted those who thought it our only safety-to put everything as wrong as possible. Requisitions were made, which every body knew it was impossible to comply with.
Either in 82 or 83, ten millions of hard dollars, if not thirteen, were called into the continental treasury, when there could not be half that sum in the whole tract of territory between Nova-Scotia and Florida.
The States neglected them in despair. The public honor was tarnished, and our governments abused by their servants and best friends. In fine, it became a cant word things are not yet bad enough to mend. However, as [a] great part of the important objects of society were entrusted to this mongrel species of general government, the sentiment of pushing it forward became general throughout America, and the late Convention met at Philadelphia under the uniform impression, that such was the desire of their constituents. But even then the advantages and disadvantages of national government operated so strongly, although silently, on each individual, that the conflict was nearly equal. A third or middle opinion, which always arises in such cases, broke off and took the lead-the national party [thus] assisted, pursued steadily their object- the federal party dropped off, one by one, and finally, when the middle party came to view the offspring which they had given birth to, and in a great measure reared, several of them immediately disowned the child. Such has been hitherto the progress of party; or rather of the human mind dispassionately contemplating our separate and relative situation, and aiming at that perfect completion of social happiness and grandeur, which perhaps can be combined only in ideas.
Every description of men entertain the same wishes (excepting perhaps a few very bad men of each)-they forever will differ about the mode of accomplishment-and some must be permitted to doubt the practicability.

As our citizens are now apprized of the progress of parties or political opinions on the continent, it is fit they should also be informed of the present state, force and designs of each, in order that they may form their decisions with safety to the public and themselves-this shall be given with all the precision and impartiality the author is capable of.

America is at present divided into three classes or descriptions of men, and in a few years there will be but two.

[First]. The first class comprehends all those men of fortune and reputation who stepped forward in the late revolution, from opposition to the administration, rather than the government of Great Britain. All those aristocrats whose pride disdains equal law. Many men of very large fortune, who entertain real or imaginary fears for the security of property. Those young men, who have sacrificed their time and their talents to public service, without any prospect of an adequate pecuniary or honorary reward. All your people of fashion and pleasure who are corrupted by the dissipation of the French, English and American armies; and a love of European manners and luxury. The public creditors of the continent, whose interest has been heretofore sacrificed by their friends, in order to retain their services on this occasion. A large majority of the mercantile people, which is at present a very unformed and consequently dangerous interest. Our old native merchants have been almost universally ruined by the receipt of their debts in paper during the war, and the payment in hard money of what they owed their British correspondents since peace. Those who are not bankrupts, have generally retired and given place to a set of young men, who conducting themselves as rashly as ignorantly, have embarrassed their affairs and lay the blame on the government, and who are really unacquainted with the true mercantile interest of the country-which is perplexed from circumstances rather temporary than permanent. The foreign merchants are generally not to be trusted with influence in our government-- they are most of them birds of passage. Some, perhaps British emissaries increasing and rejoicing in our political mistakes, and even those who have settled among us with an intention to fix themselves and their posterity in our soil, have brought with them more foreign prejudices than wealth. Time must elapse before the mercantile interest will be so organized as to govern themselves, much less others, with propriety. And lastly, to this class I suppose we may ultimately add the tory interest, with the exception of very many respectable characters, who reflect with a gratification mixed with disdain, that those principles are now become fashionable for which they have been persecuted and hunted down-which, although by no means so formidable as is generally imagined, is still considerable.
They are at present wavering. They are generally, though with very many exceptions, openly for the proposed, but secretly against any American government. A burnt child dreads the fire. But should they see any fair prospect of confusion arise, these gentry will be off at any moment for these five and twenty years to come. Ultimately, should the administration promise stability to the new government, they may be counted on as the Janizaries of power, ready to efface all suspicion by the violence of their zeal.

In general, all these various people would prefer a government, as nearly copied after that of Great Britain, as our circumstances will permit. Some would strain these circumstances. Others still retain a deep rooted jealousy of the executive branch and strong republican prejudices as they are called. Finally, this class contains more aggregate wisdom and moral virtue than both the other two together. It commands nearly two thirds of the property and almost one half the numbers of America, and has at present, become almost irresistible from the name of the truly great and amiable man who it has been said, is disposed to patronize it, and from the influence which it has over the second class. This [first] class is nearly at the height of their power; they must decline or moderate, or another revolution will ensue, for the opinion of America is becoming daily more unfavorable to those radical changes which high-toned government requires. A conflict would terminate in the destruction of this class, or the liberties of their country.
May the Guardian Angel of America prevent both!

[Second]. The second class is composed of those descriptions of men who are certainly more numerous with us than in any other part of the globe. First, those men who are so wise as to discover that their ancestors and indeed all the rest of mankind were and are fools. We have a vast overproportion of these great men, who, when you tell them that from the earliest period at which mankind devoted their attention to social happiness, it has been their uniform judgment, that a government over governments cannot exist- that is two governments operating on the same individual-assume the smile of confidence, and tell you of two people travelling the same road-of a perfect and precise division of the duties of the individual. Still, however, the political apothegm is as old as the proverb-That no man can serve two masters-and whoever will run their noddles against old proverbs will be sure to break them, however hard they may be. And if they broke only their own, all would be right; but it is very horrible to reflect that all our numskulls must be cracked in concert. Second. The trimmers, who from sympathetic indecision are always united with, and when not regularly employed, always fight under the banners of these great men, These people are forever at market, and when parties are nearly equally divided, they get very well paid for their services. Thirdly. The indolent, that is almost every second man of independent fortune you meet with in America-these are quite easy, and can live under any government. If men can be said to live, who scarcely breathe; and if breathing was attended with any bodily exertion, would give up their small portion of life in despair. These men do not swim with the stream as the trimmers do, but are dragged like mud at the bottom. As they have no other weight than their tat flesh, they are hardly worth mentioning when we speak of the sentiments and opinions of America.
As this second class never can include any of the yeomanry of the union, who never affect superior wisdom, and can have no interests but the public good, it can be only said to exist at the birth of government, and as soon as the first and third classes become more decided in their views, this will divide with each and dissipate like a mist, or sink down into what are called moderate men, and become the tools and instruments of others. These people are prevented by a cloud from having any view; and if they are not virtuous, they at least preserve the appearance, which in this world amounts to the same thing.

[Third]. At the head of the third class appear the old rigid republicans, who although few in number, are still formidable. Reverence will follow these men in spite of detraction, as long as wisdom and virtue are esteemed among mankind. They are joined by the true democrats, who are in general fanatics and enthusiasts, and some few sensible, charming madmen. A decided majority of the yeomanry of America will, for a length of years, be ready to support these two descriptions of men. But as this last class is forced to act as a residuary legatee, and receive all the trash and filth, it is in some measure disgraced and its influence weakened. 3dly. The freebooters and plunderers, who infest all countries and ours perhaps as little as any other whatever. These men have that natural antipathy to any kind or sort of government, that a rogue has to a halter.
In number they are few indeed such characters are the offspring of dissipation and want, and there is not that country in the world where so much real property is shared so equally among so few citizens, for where property is as easily acquired by fair means, very few indeed will resort to foul. Lastly, by the poor mob, infoelix pecus!l The property of whoever will feed them and take care of them-let them be spared. Let the burden of taxation sit lightly on their shoulders. But alas! This is not their fate. It is here that government forever falls with all its weight. It is here that the proposed government will press where it should scarcely be felt. . . .

In this [third] class may be counted men of the greatest mental powers and of as sublime virtue as any in America.
They at present command nearly one-third of the property and above half the numbers of the United States, and in either event they must continue to increase in influence by great desertions from both the other classes. . . . If the [proposed] government is not adopted, theirs will be the prevalent opinion. The object of this class either is or will be purely federal-an union of independent States, not a government of individuals.
And should the proposed federal plan fail, from the obstinacy of those who will listen to no conditional amendments, although such as they cannot disapprove; or should it ultimately in its execution upon a fair trial, disappoint the wishes and expectations of our country-[then] an union purely federal is what the reasonable and dispassionate patriots of America must bend their views to. My countrymen, preserve your jealousy-reject suspicion, it is the fiend that destroys public and private happiness. I know some weak, but very few if any wicked men in public confidence. And learn this most difficult and necessary lesson: That on the preservation of parties, public liberty depends. Whenever men are unanimous on great public questions, whenever there is but one party, freedom ceases and despotism commences. The object of a free and wise people should be so to balance parties, that from the weakness of all you may be governed by the moderation of the combined judgments of the whole, not tyrannized over by the blind passions of a few individuals.


Antifederalist No. 11


Scholars regard James Winthrop of Cambridge, Mass. to be the "Agrippa" who contributed the series to The Massachusetts Gazette from November 23, 1787 to February 5, 1788. This is a compilation of excerpts from "Agrippa's" letters of December 14, 18, 25, and 28, 1787, taken from Ford, Essays, pp. 70-73, 76-77, 79-81.

It has been proved, by indisputable evidence, that power is not the grand principle of union among the parts of a very extensive empire; and that when this principle is pushed beyond the degree necessary for rendering justice between man and man, it debases the character of individuals, and renders them less secure in their persons and property. Civil liberty consists in the consciousness of that security, and is best guarded by political liberty, which is the share that every citizen has in the government. Accordingly all our accounts agree, that in those empires which are commonly called despotic, and which comprehend by far the greatest part of the world, the government is most fluctuating, and property least secure. In those countries insults are borne by the sovereign, which, if offered to one of our governors, would fill us with horror, and we should think the government dissolving.

The common conclusion from this reasoning is an exceedingly unfair one, that we must then separate, and form distinct confederacies. This would be true if there was no principle to substitute in the room of power. Fortunately there is one. This is commerce. All the states have local advantages, and in a considerable degree separate interests. They are, therefore, in a situation to supply each other's wants. Carolina, for instance, is inhabited by planters, while Massachusetts is more engaged in commerce and manufactures. Congress has the power of deciding their differences. The most friendly intercourse may therefore be established between them. A diversity of produce, wants and interests, produces commerce; and commerce, where there is a common, equal and moderate authority to preside, produces friendship.

The same principles apply to the connection with the new settlers in the west. Many supplies they want, for which they must look to the older settlements, and the greatness of their crops enables them to make payments. Here, then, we have a bond of -union which applies to all parts of the empire, and would continue to operate if the empire comprehended all America.

We are now, in the strictest sense of the terms, a federal republic. Each part has within its own limits the sovereignty over its citizens, while some of the general concerns are committed to Congress. The complaints of the deficiency of the Congressional powers are confined to two articles. They are not able to raise a revenue by taxation, and they have not a complete regulation of the intercourse between us and foreigners. For each of these complaints there is some foundation, but not enough to justify the clamor which has been raised. . . .

The second article of complaint against the present confederation . . . is that Congress has not the sole power to regulate the intercourse between us and foreigners. Such a power extends not only to war and peace, but to trade and naturalization. This last article ought never to be given them; for though most of the states may be willing for certain reasons to receive foreigners as citizens, yet reasons of equal weight may induce other states, differently circumstanced, to keep their blood pure. Pennsylvania has chosen to receive all that would come there. Let any indifferent person judge whether that state in point of morals, education, [or] energy, is equal to any of the eastern states; the small state of Rhode Island only excepted. Pennsylvania in the course of a century has acquired her present extent and population at the expense of religion and good morals. The eastern states have, by keeping separate from the foreign mixtures, acquired their present greatness in the course of a century and an half, and have preserved their religion and morals. They have also preserved that manly virtue which is equally fitted for rendering them respectable in war, and industrious in peace.

The remaining power for peace and trade might perhaps be safely lodged with Congress under some limitations. Three restrictions appear to me to be essentially necessary to preserve that equality of rights to the states, which it is the object of the state governments to secure to each citizen. 1st. It ought not to be in the power of Congress, either by treaty or otherwise, to alienate part of any state without the consent of the legislature. 2nd. They ought not to be able, by treaty or other law, to give any legal preference to one part above another. 3rd. They ought to be restrained from creating any monopolies....

The idea of consolidation is further kept up in the right given to regulate trade. Though this power under certain limitations would be a proper one for the department of Congress, it is in this system carried much too far, and much farther than is necessary. This is, without exception, the most commercial state upon the continent. Our extensive coasts, cold climate, small estates, and equality of rights, with a variety of subordinate and concurring circumstances, place us in this respect at the head of the Union. We must, therefore, be indulged if a point which so nearly relates to our welfare be rigidly examined. The new constitution not only prohibits vessels, bound from one state to another, from paying any duties, but even from entering and clearing. The only use of such a regulation is, to keep each state in complete ignorance of its own resources. It certainly is no hardship to enter and clear at the custom house, and the expense is too small to be an object.

The unlimited right to regulate trade, includes the right of granting exclusive charters. This, in all old countries, is considered as one principal branch of prerogative. We find hardly a country in Europe which has not felt the ill effects of such a power. Holland has carried the exercise of it farther than any other state, and the reason why that country has felt less evil from it is, that the territory is very small, and they have drawn large revenues from their colonies in the East and West Indies. In this respect, the whole country is to be considered as a trading company, having exclusive privileges. The colonies are large in proportion to the parent state; so that, upon the whole, the latter may gain by such a system. We are also to take into consideration the industry which the genius of a free government inspires. But in the British islands all these circumstances together have not prevented them from being injured by the monopolies created there. Individuals have been enriched, but the country at large has been hurt. Some valuable branches of trade being granted to companies, who transact their business in London, that city is, perhaps, the place of the greatest trade in the world. But Ireland, under such influence, suffers exceedingly, and is impoverished; and Scotland is a mere by-word. Bristol, the second city in England, ranks not much above this town [Boston] in population. These things must be accounted for by the incorporation of trading companies; and if they are felt so severely in countries of small extent, they will operate with tenfold severity upon us, who inhabit an immense tract; and living towards one extreme of an extensive empire, shall feel the evil, without retaining that influence in government, which may enable us to procure redress. There ought, then, to have been inserted a restraining clause which might prevent the Congress from making any such grant, because they consequentially defeat the trade of the out-ports, and are also injurious to the general commerce, by enhancing prices and destroying that rivalship which is the great stimulus to industry. . . .

There cannot be a doubt, that, while the trade of this continent remains free, the activity of our countrymen will secure their full share. AR the estimates for the present year, let them be made by what party they may, suppose the balance of trade to be largely in our favor. The credit of our merchants is, therefore, fully established in foreign countries. This is a sufficient proof, that when business is unshackled, it will find out that channel which is most friendly to its course. We ought, therefore, to be exceedingly cautious about diverting or restraining it. Every day produces fresh proofs, that people, under the immediate pressure of difficulties, do not, at first glance, discover the proper relief. The last year, a desire to get rid of embarrassments induced many honest people to agree to a tender act, and many others, of a different description, to obstruct the courts of justice. Both these methods only increased the evil they were intended to cure. Experience has since shown that, instead of trying to lesson an evil by altering the present course of things, that every endeavor should have been applied to facilitate the course of law, and thus to encourage a mutual confidence among the citizens, which increases the resources of them all, and renders easy the payment of debts. By this means one does not grow rich at the expense of another, but all are benefited. The case is the same with the States. Pennsylvania, with one port and a large territory, is less favorably situated for trade than Massachusetts, which has an extensive coast in proportion to its limits of jurisdiction. Accordingly a much larger proportion of our people are engaged in maritime affairs. We ought therefore to be particularly attentive to securing so great an interest. It is vain to tell us that we ought to overlook local interests. It is only by protecting local concerns that the interest of the whole is preserved. No man when he enters into society does it from a view to promote the good of others, but he does it for his own good. All men having the same view are bound equally to promote the welfare of the whole. To recur then to such a principle as that local interests must be disregarded, is requiring of one man to do more than another, and is subverting the foundation of a free government. The Philadelphians would be shocked with a proposition to place the seat of general government and the unlimited right to regulate trade in Massachusetts. There can be no greater reason for our surrendering the preference to them. Such sacrifices, however we may delude ourselves with the form of words, always originate in folly, and not in generosity.


Antifederalist No. 12


"CINCINNATUS" is an Antifederalist writer. In this essay, from an Address to a Meeting of the Citizens of Philadelphia, the writer responds to James Wilson's statements about Congress' powers to tax under the Constitution. It appeared in the November 29 and December 6, 1787, New-York Journal, as reprinted from a Philadelphia newspaper.

On the subject of taxation, in which powers are to be given so largely by the new constitution, you [James Wilson of Pennsylvania] lull our fears of abuse by venturing to predict "that the great revenue of the United States must, and always will, be raised by impost"-and you elevate our hopes by holding out, "the reviving and supporting the national credit." If you have any other plan for this, than by raising money upon the people to pay the interest of the national debt, your ingenuity will deserve our thanks. Supposing however, that raising money is necessary to payment of the interest, and such a payment [is] requisite to support the credit of the union-let us see how much will be necessary for that end, and how far the impost will supply what we want. The arrearages of French and Spanish interest amount now to--1,500,000 dollars; Interest and installments of do. for 1788--850,227; Support of government; and its departments, for 1788--500,000; Arrears and anticipations of 1787-- 300,000; Interest of domestic debt-- 500,000 {total} 4,650,227 [3,650,227]

The new Congress then, supposing it to get into operation towards October, 1788, will have to provide for this sum, and for the additional sum of 3,000,000 at least for the ensuing year; which together will make the sum of 7,650,227 [6,650,227].

Now let us see how the impost will answer this. Congress have furnished us with their estimate of the produce of the whole imports of America at five per cent and that is 800,000 dollars. There will remain to provide for, by other taxes, 6,850,227 [5,850,227].

We know too, that our imports diminish yearly, and from the nature of things must continue to diminish; and consequently that the above estimate of the produce of the impost, will in all probability fall much short of the supposed sum. But even without this, it must appear that you [were] either intentionally misleading your hearers, or [were] very little acquainted with the subject when you ventured to predict that the great revenue of the United States would always flow from the impost. The estimate above is from the publications of Congress, and I presume is right. But the sum stated, necessary to be raised by the new government, in order to answer the expectations they have raised, is not all. The state debts, independent of what each owes to the United States, amount to about 30,000,000 dollars; the annual interest of this is 1,000,000.

It will be expected that the new government will provide for this also; and such expectation is founded, not only on the promise you hold forth, of its reviving and supporting public credit among us, but also on this unavoidable principle of justice-that is, the new government takes away the impost, and other substantial taxes, from the produce of which the several states paid the interest of their debt, or funded the paper with which they paid it. The new government must find ways and means of supplying that deficiency, . . . in hard money, for . . . paper . . . cannot [be used] without a violation of the principles it boasts. The sum then which it must annually raise in specie, after the first year, cannot be less than 4,800,000. At present there is not one half of this sum in specie raised in all the states. And yet the complaints of intolerable taxes has produced one rebellion and will be mainly operative in the adoption of your constitution. How you will get this sum is inconceivable and yet get it you must, or lose all credit. With magnificent promises you have bought golden opinions of all sorts of people, and with gold you must answer them, . . .

To satisfy [our fellow citizens] more fully on the subject of the revenue, that is to be raised upon them, in order to give enormous fortunes to the jobbers in public securities, I shall lay before them a proposition to Congress, from Mr. Robert Morris, when superintendent of finance. It is dated, I think,' the 29th of June, 1782, and is in these words:

[I say, I think, because by accident the month is erased in the note I have, and I have not access to public papers which would enable me to supply the defect.]

"The requisition of a five per cent impost, made on the 3d of February, 1781, has not yet been complied with by the state of Rhode Island, but as there is reason to believe, that their compliance is not far off, this revenue may be considered as already granted. It will, however, be very inadequate to the purposes intended. If goods be imported, and prizes introduced to the amount of twelve millions annually, the five per cent would be six hundred thousand, from which at least one sixth must be deducted, as well for the cost of collection as for the various defalcations which will necessarily happen, and which it is unnecessary to enumerate. It is not safe therefore, to estimate this revenue at more than half a million of dollars; for though it may produce more, yet probably it will not produce so much. It was in consequence of this, that on the 27th day of February last, I took the liberty to submit the propriety of asking the states for a land tax of one dollar for every hundred acres of land-a poll-tax of one dollar on all freemen, and all male slaves, between sixteen and sixty, excepting such as are in the federal army, or by wounds or otherwise rendered unfit for service-and an excise of one eighth of a dollar, on all distilled spiritous liquors. Each of these may be estimated at half a million; and should the product be equal to the estimation, the sum total of revenues for funding the public debts, would be equal to two millions."

You will readily perceive, Mr. Wilson, that there is a vast difference between your prediction and your friend's proposition. Give me leave to say, sir, that it was not discreet, in you, to speak upon finance without instructions from this great financier. Since, independent of its delusive effect upon your audience, it may excite his jealousy, lest you should have a secret design of rivalling him in the expected office of superintendent under the new constitution. It is true, there is no real foundation for it; but then you know jealousy makes the food it feeds on. A quarrel between two such able and honest friends to the United States, would, I am persuaded, be felt as a public calamity. I beseech you then to be very tender upon this point in your next harangue. And if four months' study will not furnish you with sufficient discretion, we will indulge you with six.

It may be said, that let the government be what it may, the sums I have stated must be raised, and the same difficulties exist. This is not altogether true. For first, we are now in the way of paying the interest of the domestic debt, with paper, which under the new system is utterly reprobated. This makes a difference between the specie to be raised of 1,800,000 dollars per annum. If the new government raises this sum in specie on the people, it will certainly support public credit, but it will overwhelm the people. It will give immense fortunes to the speculators; but it will grind the poor to dust. Besides, the present government is now redeeming the principal of the domestic debt by the sale of western lands. But let the full interest be paid in specie, and who will part with the principal for those lands? A principal, which having been generally purchased for two shillings and six pence on the pound, will yield to the holders two hundred and forty per cent. This paper system therefore, though in general an evil, is in this instance attended with the great benefit of enabling the public to cancel a debt upon easy terms, which has been swelled to its enormous size, by as enormous impositions. And the new government, by promising too much, will involve itself in a disreputable breach of faith. . . .

The present government promises nothing; the intended government, everything. From the present government little is expected; from the intended one, much. Because it is conceived that to the latter much is given; to the former, little. And yet the inability of the people to pay what is required in specie, remaining the same, the funds of the one will not much exceed those of the other. The public creditors are easy with the present government from a conviction of its inability [to pay]. They will be urgent with the new one from an opinion, that as is promised, so it can and will perform every thing. Whether the change will be for our prosperity and honor, is yet to be tried. Perhaps it will be found, that the supposed want of power in Congress to levy taxes is, at present a veil happily thrown over the inability of the people; and that the large powers given to the new government will, to every one, expose the nakedness of our land. Certain it is, that if the expectations which are grafted on the gift of those plenary powers, are not answered, our credit will be irretrievably ruined.


Antifederalist No. 13


Part 1: From The Freeman's Oracle and New Hampshire Advertiser, January 11, 1788, by "A FARMER"
Part 2: An unsigned essay from The Connecticut Journal, October 17, 1787

. . . . . Great complaint has been made, that Congress [under the Articles] has been too liberal in their grants of salaries to individuals, and I think not without just cause. For if I am rightly informed, there have been men whose salaries have been fifteen hundred dollars per year, and some of them did not do business at any rate, that the sum they negotiated would amount to their yearly salary. And some men [are] now in office, at twenty five hundred dollars per year, who I think would have been glad to have set down at one hundred pounds a year before the war, and would have done as much or more business. The truth is, when you carry a man's salary beyond what decency requires, he immediately becomes a man of consequence, and does little or no business at all. Let us cast our eyes around us, in the other departments-the judges of the superior court have but about one hundred pounds salary a year. The judges of the courts of common pleas, on an average, not more than sixty dollars per year. The ministers of the gospel-a very valuable set of men, who have done honor to themselves, and rendered great service to their country, in completing the revolution-have salaries but from sixty to an hundred pounds a year in general. The contrast is striking. I heartily wish that all ranks of men among us, ministers of the gospel as well as others, would turn their attention toward the Constitution they may be more concerned in the event than they at present think of.

Rouse up, my friends, a matter of infinite importance is before you on the carpet, soon to be decided in your convention: The New Constitution. Seize the happy moment. Secure to yourselves and your posterity the jewel Liberty, which has cost you so much blood and treasure, by a well regulated Bill of Rights, from the encroachments of men in power. For if Congress will do these things in the dry tree when their power is small, what won't they do when they have all the resources of the United States at their command? They are the servants of the public. You have an undoubted right to set their wages, or at least to say, thus far you and those under you may go and no further. This would in the end ease Congress of a great deal of trouble, as it would put a stop to the impertinence of individuals in asking large salaries. I would say that the wages of a Representative in Congress do not exceed five dollars per day; a Senator not to exceed six; and the President seven per day, with an allowance for his table. And that the wages of no person employed in the United States exceed the daily pay of a Representative in Congress, but be paid according to their service, not exceeding that sum. Perhaps it may be said that money may depreciate, or appreciate. Let a price current be taken when this Constitution is completed, of the produce of each state, and let that be the general standard.

My friends and countrymen, let us pause for a moment and consider. We are not driven to such great straits as to be obliged to swallow down every potion offered us by wholesale, or else die immediately by our disease. We can form a Constitution at our leisure; and guard and secure it on all sides. We are paying off our state debt, and the interest on the domestic, as fast as Congress call upon us for it. As to the foreign debt, they have the promise of more interest from us than they can get anywhere else, and we shall be able to pay them both interest and principal shortly. But it is said they win declare war against us if we don't pay them immediately. Common sense will teach them better. We live at too great a distance, and are too hardy and robust a people, for them to make money out of us in that way.

But it is said, the trading towns are fond of this Constitution. Let us consider how they stand, including their interest.

lst. The merchant wishes to have it adopted, that trade might be regulated. 2dly. Another set of men wishes to have it adopted, that the idea of paper money might be annihilated. 3dly. Another class of men wish to have it take place, that the public might be enabled to pay off the foreign debt, and appear respectable abroad among the nations. So do I, with all my heart. But in neither of these cases do I wish to see it adopted without being guarded on all sides with a Magna Charta, or a Bill of Rights, as a bulwark to our liberties. Again, another class of men wish to have it adopted, so that the public chest might be furnished with money to pay the interest on their securities, which they purchased of the poor soldiers at two shillings on the pound. I wish the soldiers were now the holders of those securites they fought so hard for. However, as the public finances were such that they could not be paid off as they became due, and they have carried them to market, and sold them as the boy did his top-we must pay them to the holders. But we need not be in a hurry about it; certificates will do for that. Consider, my friends, you are the persons who must live and die by this Constitution. A merchant or mechanic may dispose of his goods, or pack them up in trunks and remove to another clime in the course of a few months. But you cannot shoulder your lands, or dispose of them when you please. It therefore behooves you to rouse up, and turn your most serious and critical attention to this Constitution. . . .


. . A large representation has ever been esteemed by the best whigs in Great Britain the best barrier against bribery and corruption. And yet we find a British king, having the disposition of all places, civil and military, and an immense revenue SQUEEZED out of the very mouths of his wretched subjects, is able to corrupt the parliament, to vote him any supplies he demands, to support armies, to defend the prerogatives of his crown, and carry fire and sword by his fleets and armies; to desolate whole provinces in the eastern world, to aggrandize himself, and satisfy the avarice of his tyrannical subjects.

No wonder our American ambassador, struck with the brilliancy of the British court [John Adams], where everything around St. James's wears the appearance of wealth, ease and plenty, should imagine a three branched legislature only can produce these effects, and make the subjects happy, should write a book in favor of such a government, and send it over for the illumination of this western world. If this is the sole fruit of his embassy, America will not canonize him for a saint on account of his services, when they have experienced the consequences of such a kind of government as be has planned out. In order to have formed a right judgment, he should have looked into the ditches which serve for graves for many of the human race-under hedges which serve as dreary habitations for the living; into the cottages of the poor and miserable, and critically examine with how much parsimony the mechanics, the day laborers, cottagers and villagers live in order to support their high pampered lords-before he had wrote a book to persuade his country to pursue the same road to greatness, splendor and glory, and have reflected in his own mind, whether he could wish to see that country which gave him birth reduced to the same situation....

Now I submit it to the good sense of the people of these states, whether it is prudent we should make so liberal and extensive a grant of power and property to any body of men in these United States, before they have ever informed the public, the amount of the public debt, or what the annual expenses of the federal government is, or will be. It is now almost five years since the peace. Congress has employed thirteen commissioners, at 1500 dollars per annum, as I am informed, to settle the public accounts, and we know now no more what the national debt is, than at the first moment of their appointment. Nor do we know any more what is the amount of the annual expenses of the federal government, than we do of the empire of China. To grant therefore such an ample power of taxation, and the right of soil, to the amount of millions, upon the recommendation of this honorable Convention, without either knowing the amount of the national debt, or the annual expenses of government, would not argue, in my opinion, the highest degree of prudence.

Antifederalist No. 14


George Clinton, Governor of New York, was an adversary of the Constitution. He composed several letters under the nome de plume "CATO." This essay is from the third letter of "Cato," The New-York Journal of October 25, 1787

. . . . The recital, or premises on which the new form of government is erected, declares a consolidation or union of all the thirteen parts, or states, into one great whole, under the form of the United States, for all the various and important purposes therein set forth. But whoever seriously considers the immense extent of territory comprehended within the limits of the United States, together with the variety of its climates, productions, and commerce, the difference of extent, and number of inhabitants in all; the dissimilitude of interest, morals, and politics, in almost every one, will receive it as an intuitive truth, that a consolidated republican form of government therein, can never form a perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to you and your posterity, for to these objects it must be directed. This unkindred legislature therefore, composed of interests opposite and dissimilar in their nature, will in its exercise, emphatically be like a house divided against itself.

The governments of Europe have taken their limits and form from adventitious circumstances, and nothing can be argued on the motive of agreement from them; but these adventitious political principles have nevertheless produced effects that have attracted the attention of philosophy, which have established axioms in the science of politics therefrom, as irrefragable as any in Euclid. It is natural, says Montesquieu, to a republic to have only a small territory, otherwise it cannot long subsist: in a large one, there are men of large fortunes, and consequently of less moderation; there are too great deposits to trust in the hands of a single subject, an ambitious person soon becomes sensible that he may be happy, great, and glorious by oppressing his fellow citizens, and that he might raise himself to grandeur, on the ruins of his country. In large republics, the public good is sacrificed to a thousand views, in a small one, the interest of the public is easily perceived, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses have a less extent, and of course are less protected. He also shows you, that the duration of the republic of Sparta was owing to its having continued with the same extent of territory after all its wars; and that the ambition of Athens and Lacedemon to command and direct the union, lost them their liberties, and gave them a monarchy.

From this picture, what can you promise yourselves, on the score of consolidation of the United States into one government? Impracticability in the just exercise of it, your freedom insecure, even this form of government limited in its continuance, the employments of your country disposed of to the opulent, to whose contumely you will continually be an object. You must risk much, by indispensably placing trusts of the greatest magnitude, into the hands of individuals whose ambition for power, and aggrandizement, will oppress and grind you. Where, from the vast extent of your territory, and the complication of interests, the science of government will become intricate and perplexed, and too mysterious for you to understand and observe; and by which you are to be conducted into a monarchy, either limited or despotic; the latter, Mr. Locke remarks, is a government derived from neither nature nor compact.

Political liberty, the great Montesquieu again observes, consists in security, or at least in the opinion we have of security; and this security, therefore, or the opinion, is best obtained in moderate governments, where the mildness of the laws, and the equality of the manners, beget a confidence in the people, which produces this security, or the opinion. This moderation in governments depends in a great measure on their limits, connected with their political distribution.

The extent of many of the states of the Union, is at this time almost too great for the superintendence of a republican form of government, and must one day or other revolve into more vigorous ones, or by separation be reduced into smaller and more useful, as well as moderate ones. You have already observed the feeble efforts of Massachusetts against their insurgents; with what difficulty did they quell that insurrection; and is not the province of Maine at this moment on the eve of separation from her? The reason of these things is, that for the security of the property of the community-in which expressive term Mr. Locke makes life, liberty, and estate, to consist the wheels of a republic are necessarily slow in their operation. Hence, in large free republics, the evil sometimes is not only begun, but almost completed, before they are in a situation to turn the current into a contrary progression. The extremes are also too remote from the usual seat of government, and the laws, therefore, too feeble to afford protection to all its parts, and insure domestic tranquility without the aid of another principle. If, therefore, this state [New York], and that of North Carolina, had an army under their control, they never would have lost Vermont, and Frankland, nor the state of Massachusetts suffered an insurrection, or the dismemberment of her fairest district; but the exercise of a principle which would have prevented these things, if we may believe the experience of ages, would have ended in the destruction of their liberties.

Will this consolidated republic, if established, in its exercise beget such confidence and compliance, among the citizens of these states, as to do without the aid of a standing army? I deny that it will. The malcontents in each state, who will not be a few, nor the least important, will be exciting factions against it. The fear of a dismemberment of some of its parts, and the necessity to enforce the execution Of revenue laws (a fruitful source of oppression) on the extremes and in the other districts of the government, will incidentally and necessarily require a permanent force, to be kept on foot. Will not political security, and even the opinion of it, be extinguished? Can mildness and moderation exist in a government where the primary incident in its exercise must be force? Will not violence destroy confidence, and can equality subsist where the extent, policy, and practice of it will naturally lead to make odious distinctions among citizens?

The people who may compose this national legislature from the southern states, in which, from the mildness of the climate, the fertility of the soil, and the value of its productions, wealth is rapidly acquired, and where the same causes naturally lead to luxury, dissipation, and a passion for aristocratic distinction; where slavery is encouraged, and liberty of course less respected and protected; who know not what it is to acquire property by their own toil, nor to economize with the savings of industry-will these men, therefore, be as tenacious of the liberties and interests of the more northern states, where freedom, independence, industry, equality and frugality are natural to the climate and soil, as men who are your own citizens, legislating in your own state, under your inspection, and whose manners and fortunes bear a more equal resemblance to your own?

It may be suggested, in answer to this, that whoever is a citizen of one state is a citizen of each, and that therefore he will be as interested in the happiness and interest of all, as the one he is delegated from. But the argument is fallacious, and, whoever has attended to the history of mankind, and the principles which bind them together as parents, citizens, or men, will readily perceive it. These principles are, in their exercise, like a pebble cast on the calm surface of a river-the circles begin in the center, and are small, active and forcible, but as they depart from that point, they lose their force, and vanish into calmness.

The strongest principle of union resides within our domestic walls. The ties of the parent exceed that of any other. As we depart from home, the next general principle of union is amongst citizens of the same state, where acquaintance, habits, and fortunes, nourish affection, and attachment. Enlarge the circle still further, and, as citizens of different states, though we acknowledge the same national denomination, we lose in the ties of acquaintance, habits, and fortunes, and thus by degrees we lessen in our attachments, till, at length, we no more than acknowledge a sameness of species. Is it, therefore, from certainty like this, reasonable to believe, that inhabitants of Georgia, or New Hampshire, will have the same obligations towards you as your own, and preside over your lives, liberties, and property, with the same care and attachment? Intuitive reason answers in the negative. . . .


Antifederalist No. 15


This essay appeared in The Massachusetts Gazette, December 7, 1787, as reprinted From The Freeman's Journal; (Or, The North-American Intelligencer?)

The abuse which has been thrown upon the state of Rhode Island seems to be greatly unmerited. Popular favor is variable, and those who are now despised and insulted may soon change situations with the present idols of the people. Rhode Island has out done even Pennsylvania in the glorious work of freeing the Negroes in this country, without which the patriotism of some states appears ridiculous. The General Assembly of the state of Rhode Island has prevented the further importation of Negroes, and have made a law by which all blacks born in that state after March, 1784, are absolutely and at once free.

They have fully complied with the recommendations of Congress in regard to the late treaty of peace with Great Britain, and have passed an act declaring it to be the law of the land. They have never refused their quota of taxes demanded by Congress, excepting the five per cent impost, which they considered as a dangerous tax, and for which at present there is perhaps no great necessity, as the western territory, of which a part has very lately been sold at a considerable price, may soon produce an immense revenue; and, in the interim, Congress may raise in the old manner the taxes which shall be found necessary for the support of the government.

The state of Rhode Island refused to send delegates to the Federal Convention, and the event has manifested that their refusal was a happy one as the new constitution, which the Convention has proposed to us, is an elective monarchy, which is proverbially the worst government. This new government would have been supported at a vast expense, by which our taxes-the right of which is solely vested in Congress, (a circumstance which manifests that the various states of the union will be merely corporations) -- would be doubled or trebled. The liberty of the press is not stipulated for, and therefore may be invaded at pleasure. The supreme continental court is to have, almost in every case, "appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact," which signifies, if there is any meaning in words, the setting aside the trial by jury. Congress will have the power of guaranteeing to every state a right to import Negroes for twenty one years, by which some of the states, who have now declined that iniquitous traffic, may re-enter into it-for the private laws of every state are to submit to the superior jurisdiction of Congress. A standing army is to be kept on foot, by which the vicious, the sycophantick, and the time- serving will be exalted, and the brave, the patriotic, and the virtuous will be depressed.

The writer, therefore, thinks it the part of wisdom to abide, like the state of Rhode Island, by the old articles of confederation, which, if re-examined with attention, we shall find worthy of great regard; that we should give high praise to the manly and public spirited sixteen members, who lately seceded from our house of Assembly [in Pennsylvania]; and that we should all impress with great care, this truth on our minds-That it is very easy to change a free government into an arbitrary one, but that it is very difficult to convert tyranny into freedom.

Antifederalist No. 16


"ALFRED" defended the Articles of Confederation, taken from The New-York Journal, December 25, 1787 as reprinted from the [Philadelphia] Independent Gazetteer.

To the real PATRIOTS of America: . . . America is now free. She now enjoys a greater portion of political liberty than any other country under heaven. How long she may continue so depends entirely upon her own caution and wisdom. If she would look to herself more, and to Europe less, I am persuaded it would tend to promote her felicity. She possesses all the advantages which characterize a rich country-rich within herself, she ought less to regard the politics, the manufactures, and the interests of distant nations.

When I look to our situation-climate, extent, soil, and its productions, rivers, ports; when I find I can at this time purchase grain, bread, meat, and other necessaries of life at as reasonable a rate as in any country; when I see we are sending great quantities of tobacco, wheat and flour to England and other parts of the globe beyond the Atlantic; when I get on the other side of the western mountains, and see an extensive country, which for its multitude of rivers and fertility of soil is equal, if not superior, to any other whatever when I see these things, I cannot be brought to believe that America is in that deplorable ruined condition which some designing politicians represent; or that we are in a state of anarchy beyond redemption, unless we adopt, without any addition or amendment, the new constitution proposed by the late convention; a constitution which, in my humble opinion, contains the seeds and scions of slavery and despotism. When the volume of American constitutions [by John Adams] first made its appearance in Europe, we find some of the most eminent political writers of the present age, and the reviewers of literature, full of admiration and declaring they had never before seen so much good sense, freedom, and real wisdom in one publication. Our good friend Dr. [Richard] Price was charmed, and almost prophesied the near approach of the happy days of the millennium. We have lived under these constitutions; and, after the experience of a few years, some among us are ready to trample them under their feet, though they have been esteemed, even by our enemies, as "pearls of great price."

Let us not, ye lovers of freedom, be rash and hasty. Perhaps the real evils we labor under do not arise from these systems. There may be other causes to which our misfortunes may be properly attributed. Read the American constitutions, and you will find our essential rights and privileges well guarded and secured. May not our manners be the source of our national evils? May not our attachment to foreign trade increase them? Have we not acted imprudently in exporting almost all our gold and silver for foreign luxuries? It is now acknowledged that we have not a sufficient quantity of the precious metals to answer the various purposes of government and commerce; and without a breach of charity, it may be said, that this deficiency arises from the want of public virtue, in preferring private interest to every other consideration.

If the states had in any tolerable degree been able to answer the requisitions of Congress-if the continental treasury had been so far assisted, as to have enabled us to pay the interest of our foreign debt-possibly we should have heard little, very little about a new system of government. It is a just observation that in modern times money does everything. If a government can command this unum necessarium from a certain revenue, it may be considered as wealthy and respectable; if not, it will lose its dignity, become inefficient and contemptible. But cannot we regulate our finances and lay the foundations for a permanent and certain revenue, without undoing all that we have done, without making an entire new government? The most wise and philosophic characters have bestowed on our old systems the highest encomiums. Are we sure this new political phenomenon will not fail? If it should fail, is there not a great probability, that our last state will be worse than the first? Orators may declaim on the badness of the times as long as they please, but I must tell them that the want of public virtue, and the want of money, are two of the principal sources of our grievances; and if we are -under the pressure of these wants, it ought to teach us frugality-to adopt a frugal administration of public affairs....


Antifederalist No. 17


The "necessary and proper" clause has, from the beginning, been a thorn in the side of those seeking to reduce federal power, but its attack by Brutus served to call attention to it, leaving a paper trail of intent verifying its purpose was not to give Congress anything the Constitution "forgot," but rather to show two additional tests for any legislation Congress should attempt: to wit--that the intended actions would be both necessary AND proper to executing powers given under clauses 1-17 of Article I Section 8. This is the fameous BRUTUS.

This [new] government is to possess absolute and uncontrollable powers, legislative, executive and judicial, with respect to every object to which it extends, for by the last clause of section eighth, article first, it is declared, that the Congress shall have power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or office thereof." And by the sixth article, it is declared, "that this Constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and the treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or law of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." It appears from these articles, that there is no need of any intervention of the State governments, between the Congress and the people, to execute any one power vested in the general government, and that the Constitution and laws of every State are nullified and declared void, so far as they are or shall be inconsistent with this Constitution, or the laws made in pursuance of it, or with treaties made under the authority of the United States. The government, then, so far as it extends, is a complete one, and not a confederation. It is as much one complete government as that of New York or Massachusetts; has as absolute and perfect powers to make and execute all laws, to appoint officers, institute courts, declare offenses, and annex penalties, with respect to every object to which it extends, as any other in the world. So far, therefore, as its powers reach, all ideas of confederation are given up and lost. It is true this government is limited to certain objects, or to speak more properly, some small degree of power is still left to the States; but a little attention to the powers vested in the general government, will convince every candid man, that if it is capable of being executed, all that is reserved for the individual States must very soon be annihilated, except so far as they are barely necessary to the organization of the general government. The powers of the general legislature extend to every case that is of the least importance-there is nothing valuable to human nature, nothing dear to freemen, but what is within its power. It has the authority to make laws which will affect the lives, the liberty, and property of every man in the United States; nor can the Constitution or laws of any State, in any way prevent or impede the full and complete execution of every power given. The legislative power is competent to lay taxes, duties, imposts, and excises;-there is no limitation to this power, unless it be said that the clause which directs the use to which those taxes and duties shall be applied, may be said to be a limitation. But this is no restriction of the power at all, for by this clause they are to be applied to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but the legislature have authority to contract debts at their discretion; they are the sole judges of what is necessary to provide for the common defense, and they only are to determine what is for the general welfare. This power, therefore, is neither more nor less than a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, and excises, at their pleasure; not only the power to lay taxes unlimited as to the amount they may require, but it is perfect and absolute to raise ;hem in any mode they please. No State legislature, or any power in the State governments, have any more to do in carrying this into effect than the authority of one State has to do with that of another. In the business, therefore, of laying and collecting taxes, the idea of confederation is totally lost, and that of one entire republic is embraced. It is proper here to remark, that the authority to lay and collect taxes is the most important of any power that can be granted; it connects with it almost all other powers, or at least will in process of time draw all others after it; it is the great mean of protection, security, and defense, in a good government, and the great engine of oppression and tyranny in a bad one. This cannot fail of being the case, if we consider the contracted limits which are set by this Constitution, to the State governments, on this article of raising money. No State can emit paper money, lay any duties or imposts, on imports, or exports, but by consent of the Congress; and then the net produce shall be for the benefit of the United States. The only means, therefore, left for any State to support its government and discharge its debts, is by direct taxation; and the United States have also power to lay and collect taxes, in any way they please. Everyone who has thought on the subject, must be convinced that but small sums of money can he collected in any country, by direct tax; when the federal government begins to exercise the right of taxation in all its parts, the legislatures of the several states will find it impossible to raise monies to support their governments. Without money they cannot be supported, and they must dwindle away, and, as before observed, their powers be absorbed in that of the general government.

It might be here shown, that the power in the federal legislature, to raise and support armies at pleasure, as well in peace as in war, and their control over the militia, tend not only to a consolidation of the government, but the destruction of liberty. I shall not, however, dwell upon these, as a few observations upon the judicial power of this government, in addition to the preceding, will fully evince the truth of the position.

The judicial power of the United States is to be vested in a supreme court, and in such inferior courts as Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish. The powers of these courts are very extensive; their jurisdiction comprehends all civil causes, except such as arise between citizens of the same State; and it extends to all cases in law and equity arising under the Constitution. One inferior court must be established, I presume, in each State, at least, with the necessary executive officers appendant thereto. It is easy to see, that in the common course of things, these courts will eclipse the dignity, and take away from the respectability, of the State courts. These courts will be, in themselves, totally independent of the States, deriving their authority from the United States, and receiving from them fixed salaries; and in the course of human events it is to be expected that they will swallow up all the powers of the courts in the respective States.

How far the clause in the eighth section of the first article may operate to do away with all idea of confederated States, and to effect an entire consolidation of the whole into one general government, it is impossible to say. The powers given by this article are very general and comprehensive, and it may receive a construction to justify the passing almost any law. A power to make all laws, which shall be necessary and proper, for carrying into execution all powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or any department or officer thereof, is a power very comprehensive and definite, and may, for aught I know, be exercised in such manner as entirely to abolish the State legislatures. Suppose the legislature of a State should pass a law to raise money to support their government and pay the State debt; may the Congress repeal this law, because it may prevent the collection of a tax which they may think proper and necessary to lay, to provide for the general welfare of the United States? For all laws made, in pursuance of this Constitution, are the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of the different States to the contrary notwithstanding. By such a law, the government of a particular State might be overturned at one stroke, and thereby be deprived of every means of its support.

It is not meant, by stating this case, to insinuate that the Constitution would warrant a law of this kind! Or unnecessarily to alarm the fears of the people, by suggesting that the Federal legislature would be more likely to pass the limits assigned them by the Constitution, than that of an individual State, further than they are less responsible to the people. But what is meant is, that the legislature of the United States are vested with the great and uncontrollable powers of laying and collecting taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; of regulating trade, raising and supporting armies, organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, instituting courts, and other general powers; and are by this clause invested with the power of making all laws, proper and necessary, for carrying all these into execution; and they may so exercise this power as entirely to annihilate all the State governments, and reduce this country to one single government. And if they may do it, it is pretty certain they will; for it will be found that the power retained by individual States, small as it is, will be a clog upon the wheels of the government of the United States; the latter, therefore, will be naturally inclined to remove it out of the way. Besides, it is a truth confirmed by the unerring experience of ages, that every man, and every body of men, invested with power, are ever disposed to increase it, and to acquire a superiority over everything that stands in their way. This disposition, which is implanted in human nature, will operate in the Federal legislature to lessen and ultimately to subvert the State authority, and having such advantages, will most certainly succeed, if the Federal government succeeds at all. It must be very evident, then, that what this Constitution wants of being a complete consolidation of the several parts of the union into one complete government, possessed of perfect legislative, judicial, and executive powers, to all intents and purposes, it will necessarily acquire in its exercise in operation.


Antifederalist No. 18-20


"AN OLD WHIG," taken from The Massachusetts Gazette, November 27, 1787, as reprinted from the [Philadelphia] Independent Gazetteer

. . . . . By the proposed constitution, every law, before it passes, is to undergo repeated revisions; and the constitution of every state in the union provide for the revision of the most trifling laws, either by their passing through different houses of assembly and senate, or by requiring them to be published for the consideration of the people. Why then is a constitution which affects all the inhabitants of the United States-which is to be the foundation of all laws and the source of misery or happiness to one- quarter of the globe-why is this to be so hastily adopted or rejected, that it cannot admit of a revision? If a law to regulate highways requires to be leisurely considered and undergo the examination of different bodies of men, one after another, before it be passed, why is it that the framing of a constitution for the government of a great people-a work which has been justly considered as the greatest effort of human genius, and which from the beginning of the world has so often baffled the skill of the wisest men in every age-shall be considered as a thing to be thrown out, in the first shape which it may happen to assume? Where is the impracticability of a revision? Cannot the same power which called the late convention call another? Are not the people still their own masters? If, when the several state conventions come to consider this constitution, they should not approve of it, in its present form, they may easily apply to congress and state their objections. Congress may as easily direct the calling another convention, as they did the calling the last. The plan may then be reconsidered, deliberately received and corrected, so as to meet the approbation of every friend to his country. A few months only will be necessary for this purpose; and if we consider the magnitude of the object, we shall deem it well worth a little time and attention. It is Much better to pause and reflect before hand, than to repent when it is too late; when no peaceable remedy will be left us, and unanimity will be forever banished. The struggles of the people against a bad government, when it is once fixed, afford but a gloomy picture in the annals of mankind, They are often unfortunate; they are always destructive of private and public happiness; but the peaceable consent of a people to establish a free and effective government is one of the most glorious objects that is ever exhibited on the theater of human affairs. Some, I know, have objected that another convention will not be likely to agree upon anything-I am far however from being of that opinion. The public voice calls so loudly for a new constitution that I have no doubt we shall have one of some sort. My only fear is that the impatience of the people will lead them to accept the first that is offered them without examining whether it is right or wrong. And after all, if a new convention cannot agree upon any amendments in the constitution, which is at present proposed, we can still adopt this in its present form; and all further opposition being vain, it is to be hoped we shall be unanimous in endeavouring to make the best of it. The experiment is at least worth trying, and I shall be much astonished, if a new convention called together for the purpose of revising the proposed constitution, do not greatly reform it ...

It is beyond a doubt that the new federal constitution, if adopted, will in a great measure destroy, if it does not totally annihilate, the separate governments of the several states. We shall, in effect, become one great republic. Every measure of any importance will be continental. What will be the consequence of this? One thing is evident-that no republic of so great magnitude ever did or ever can exist. But a few years elapsed, from the time in which ancient Rome extended her dominions beyond the bounds of Italy, until the downfall of her republic. And all political writers agree, that a republican government can exist only in a narrow territory. But a confederacy of different republics has, in many instances, existed and flourished for a long time together. The celebrated Helvetian league, which exists at this moment in full vigor, and with unimpaired strength, while its origin may be traced to the confines of antiquity, is one among many examples on this head; and at the same time furnishes an eminent proof of how much less importance it is, that the constituent parts of a confederacy of republics may be rightly framed, than it is that the confederacy itself should be rightly organized. For hardly any two of the Swiss cantons have the same form of government, and they are almost equally divided in their religious principles, which have so often rent asunder the firmest establishments. A confederacy of republics must be the establishment in America, or we must cease altogether to retain the republican form of government. From the moment we become one great republic, either in form or substance, the period is very shortly removed when we shall sink first into monarchy, and then into despotism. . . . If the men who at different times have been entrusted to form plans of government for the world, had been really actuated by no other motives than the public good, the condition of human nature in all ages would have been widely different from that which has been exhibited to us in history. In this country perhaps we are possessed of more than our share of political virtue. If we will exercise a little patience and bestow our best endeavors on the business, I do not think it impossible, that we may yet form a federal constitution much superior to any form of government which has ever existed in the world. But whenever this important work shall be accomplished, I venture to pronounce that it will not be done without a careful attention to the Framing of a bill of rights. . . .

In different nations, we find different grants or reservations of privileges appealed to in the struggles between the rulers and the people; many of which, in the different nations of Europe, have long since been swallowed up and lost by time, or destroyed by the arbitrary hand of power. In England, we find the people, with the barons at their head, exacting a solemn resignation of their rights from King John, in their celebrated magna charta, which was many times renewed in Parliament during the reigns of his successors. The petition of rights was afterwards consented to by Charles I and contained a declaration of the liberties of the people. The habeas corpus act, after the restoration of Charles 11, the bill of rights, which was obtained of the Prince and Princess of Orange, on their accession to the throne, and the act of settlement, at the accession of the Hanover family-are other instances to show the care and watchfulness of that nation to improve every Opportunity, of the reign of a weak prince or the revolution in their government, to obtain the most explicit declarations in favor of their liberties. In like manner the people of this country, at the revolution, having all power in their own hands, in forming the constitutions of the several states, took care to secure themselves, by bills of rights, so as to prevent as far as possible the encroachments of their future rulers upon the rights of the people. Some of these rights are said to be unalienable, such as the rights of conscience. Yet even these have been often invaded, where they have not been carefully secured, by express and solemn bills and declarations in their favor.

Before we establish a government, whose acts will be the supreme law of the land, and whose power will extend to almost every case without exception, we ought carefully to guard ourselves by a bill of rights, against the invasion of those liberties which it is essential for us to retain, which it is of no real use for government to deprive us of; but which, in the course of human events, have been too often insulted with all the wantonness of an idle barbarity.


Antifederalist No. 19 and 20?


"A NEWPORT MAN," wrote this wit which appeared in The Newport Mercury, March 17, 1788.

. . . - I perceive in your last [issue a] piece signed "A Rhode-Island Man," it seems wrote with an air of confidence and triumph; he speaks of reason and reasoning-I wish he had known or practised some of that reasoning he so much pretends to; his essay had been much shorter. We are told in this piece, as well as others on the same side, that an ability given to British subjects to recover their debts in this country will be one of the blessings of a new government, by inducing the British to abandon the frontiers, or be left without excuse. But the British have no other reason for holding the posts, after the time named in the treaty for their evacuation, than the last reason of Kings, that is, their guns. And giving them the treasure of the United States is a very unlikely means of removing that. If the British subject met with legal impediments to the recovery of his debts in this country, for [the] British government to have put the same stop on our citizens would have been a proper, an ample retaliation. But there is nothing within the compass of possibility of which I am not perfectly sure, that I am more fully persuaded of than I am, that the British will never relinquish the posts in question until compelled by force; because no nation pays less regard to the faith of treaties than the British. Witness their conduct to the French in 1755, when they took a very great number of men of war and merchant ships before war was declared, because the French had built some forts on the south side of an imaginary line in the wilds of America; and again, the violation of the articles by which the people of Boston resigned their arms; and the violation of the capitulation of Charles Town. Again we are told that Congress has no credit with foreigners, because they have no power to fulfill their engagements. And this we are told, with a boldness exceeded by nothing but its falsehood, perhaps in the same paper that announces to the world the loan of a million of Holland gilders-if I mistake not the sum; a sum equal to 250,000 Spanish Dollars-and all this done by the procurement of that very Congress whose insignificancy and want of power had been constantly proclaimed for two or three years before. The Dutch are the most cautious people on earth, and it is reasonable to suppose they were abundantly persuaded of the permanency and efficacy of our government by their risking so much money on it.

We are told that so long as we withhold this power from Congress we shall be a weak, despised people. We were long contending for Independence, and now we are in a passion to be rid of it. But let us attempt to reason on this subject, and see to which side that will lead us. Reason is truly defined, in all cases short of mathematical demonstration, to be a supposing that the like causes will produce the like effects. Let us proceed by this rule. The Swiss Cantons for a hundred years have remained separate Independent States, consequently without any controlling power. Even the little Republic of St. Marino, containing perhaps but little more ground than the town of Newport, and about five thousand inhabitants, surrounded by powerful and ambitious neighbors, has kept its freedom and independence these thirteen hundred years, and is mentioned by travellers as a very enlightened and happy people. If these small republics, in the neighborhood of the warlike and intriguing Courts of Paris, Vienna, and Berlin, have kept their freedom and original form of government, is it not reasonable to suppose that the same good sense and love of freedom, on this side the Atlantic, will secure us from all attempt within and without. And the only internal discord that has happened in Switzerland was on a religious account, and a supreme controlling power is no security against this, as appears by what happened in Ireland in the time of Charles the First, and in France in the time of Henry the Fourth. It seems rational in a case of this importance to consult the opinion of the ablest men, and to whom can we better appeal than to J. J. Rousseau, a republican by birth and education-one of the most exalted geniuses and one of the greatest writers of his age, or perhaps any age; a man the most disinterested and benevolent towards mankind; a man the most industrious in the acquisition of knowledge and information, by travel, conversation, reading, and thinking; and one who has wrote a Volume on Government entitled the Social Contract, wherein he inculcates, that the people should examine and determine every public act themselves. His words are, that "every law that the people have not ratified in person, is void; it is no law. The people of England think they are free. They are much mistaken. They are never so but during the election of members of Parliament. As soon as they are elected, they are slaves, they are nothing. And by the use they make of their liberty during the short moments they possess it, they well deserve to lose it." This is far from advising that thirty thousand souls should resign their judgments and wishes entirely to one man for two years-to a man, who, perhaps, may go from home sincere and patriotic but by the time he has dined in pomp for a week with the wealthy citizens of New York or Philadelphia, will have lost all his rigid ideas of economy and equality. He becomes fascinated with the elegancies and luxuries of wealth. . . . Objects and intimations like these soon change the champion for the people to an advocate for power; and the people, finding themselves thus basely betrayed, cry that virtue is but a name. We are not sure that men have more virtue at this time and place than they had in England in the time of George the Second. Let anyone look into the history of those times, and see with what boldness men changed sides and deserted the people in pursuit of profit and power. If to take up the cross and renounce the pomps and vanities of this sinful world is a hard lesson for divines, 'tis much harder for politicians. A Cincinnatus, a Cato, a Fabricius, and a Washington, are rarely to be found. We are told that the Trustees of our powers and freedom, being mostly married men, and all of them inhabitants and proprietors of the country, is an ample security against an abuse of power. Whether human nature be less corrupt than formerly I will not determine-but this I know: that Julius Caesar, Oliver Cromwell, and the nobles of Venice, were natives and inhabitants of the countries whose power they usurped and drenched in blood.

Again, our country is compared to a ship of which we are all passengers, and, from thence 'tis gravely concluded that no officer can ever betray or abuse his trust. But that men will sacrifice the public to their private interest, is a saying too well known to need repeating. And the instances of designed shipwrecks, and ships run away with by a combination of masters, supercargoes, and part owners, is so great that nothing can equal them but those instances in which pretended patriots and politicians have raised themselves and families to power and greatness, by destroying that freedom and those laws they were chosen to defend.

If it were necessary to cite more precedents to prove that the people ought not to trust or remove their power any further from them, the little Republic of Lucca may be mentioned-which, surrounded by the Dukedom of Tuscany, has existed under its present constitution about five hundred years, and as Mr. Addison says, is for the extent of its dominion the richest and best peopled of all the States of Italy. And he says further that "the whole administration of the government passes into different hands every two months." This is very far from confirming the doctrine of choosing those officers for two years who were before chosen for one. The want of a decisive, efficient power is much talked of by the discontented, and that we are in danger of being conquered by the intrigues of European powers. But it has already been shown that we have delegated a more decisive power to our Congress than is granted by the Republic Swiss Cantons to their General Diet. These Republics have enjoyed peace some hundreds of years; while those governments which possess this decisive, efficient power, so much aimed at, are as often as twenty or thirty years, drawing their men from the plough and loom to be shot at and cut each other's throats for the honor of their respective nations. And by how much further we are from Europe than the Swiss Cantons with their allies, and Lucca and St. Marino are from France, Prussia, and Austria, by so much less are we in danger of being conquered than those republics which have existed, some earlier than others, but the youngest of them one hundred and thirty years, without being conquered. As for the United Provinces of Holland, they are but nominal Republics; their Stadtholder, very much like our intended President, making them in reality a monarchy, and subject to all its calamities. But supposing that the present constitution, penned by the ablest men, four or five years in completion, and its adoption considered as the happiest event-supposing, I say, the present Constitution destroyed, can a new one be ratified with more solemnity, agreed to in stronger or more binding terms? What security can be given that in seven years hence, another Convention shall not be called to frame a third Constitution? And as ancient Greece counted by olympiads, and monarchies by their Kings' reigns, we shall date in the first, second, or third year, of the seventh, eighth, or ninth Constitution.

In treating this subject I have not presumed to advise, and have intruded but few comments. I have mentioned the state of those countries which most resemble our own and leave to the natural sense of the reader to make his own conclusions. The malcontents, the lovers of novelty, delight much in allegory. Should I be indulged a few words in that way, I should not compare the new Constitution to a house. I should fetch my simile from the country and compare it to Siberian Wheat (otherwise called Siberian cheat) which is known to have been the most praised, the most dear, the most worthless, and most short-lived thing that was ever adopted. But if the free men of this continent are weary of that power and freedom they have so dearly bought and so shortly enjoyed- the power of judging and determining what laws are most wholesome; what taxes are requisite and sufficient-I say, if the people are tired of these privileges, now is the time to part with them forever. Much more might be said to show the bitterness and mischief contained in this gilded pill, but being fond of brevity, I shall rely on the good sense of the public to keep themselves out of the trap, and sign myself in plain English.