Anti-Federalists Prophesied The End Of Freedom

Nice article out at Economic Policy Journal about the predictions of the Anti-Federalists. Its conclusion:

A propagandized population has a hard time choosing worthy heroes. It is high time Americans celebrate the Anti-Federalists, for they were correct in predicting the fate of freedom after Philadelphia.

To deny that the Anti-Federalists were right is to deny reality.

Having prophesied that Philadelphia was the beginning of the end of the freedoms won in the American Revolution, our Anti-Federalist philosophical fathers fought to forestall the inevitable. They failed.

225th Anniversary of the First Essay from Brutus

Today is the 225th anniversary of the first essay from “Brutus.” Here is his essay excerpted from my book “The Original Counter-Argument: The Founders’ Case Against the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century.” Like all other essays in the book, I have RePhrased his into modern English to make it easier to read and understand. Brutus was an amazing advocate for personal freedom.

Brutus I

New York Journal
Thursday, October 18, 1787

“Brutus” wrote sixteen essays critical of the new Constitution from October 1787 to April 1788. While not widely reprinted, they were formidable arguments and were influential enough to be referenced by “Publius” in the Federalist Papers. In fact, the essays of “Brutus” first appeared in the New York Journal, which was the same paper in which most of the Federalist Papers appeared. The pen name “Brutus” refers to Marcus Junius Brutus who helped assassinate the tyrannical Julius Caesar in order to preserve the Roman Republic.

We do not know for sure the identity of “Brutus,” but it believed to be Robert Yates. Others point to Abraham Yates, Jr. (his uncle), who was mentioned earlier as a possible author of the Cato essays. It did not matter much at the time who the actual authors of these essays were, since it was the ideas that mattered and not the personalities. In fact, knowing the personalities might have hampered the message getting through the politics. But looking back from an historical perspective, it would be helpful to know the authors in order to sift out any underlying motivations for their beliefs. 

Robert Yates (1738–1801, aged 63) was 49 at the time of this essay. He had been appointed to the New York State Supreme Court as an associate justice. He represented New York at the Federal Convention. Yates and co-delegate John Lansing did not like what they saw, so they returned home early. Their letter explaining why appears later in this book. Yates did serve in the New York Ratifying Convention, working against adoption of the Constitution. The other co-delegate, Alexander Hamilton, stayed and later wrote many of the Federalist Papers in favor of the Constitution.

 

To the Citizens of the State of New York:

When we are called upon to investigate and decide an issue that affects not just our community, but upon which hangs the happiness or misery of generations yet to come, the unselfish among us cannot help but feel particularly interested in the result.

I believe that honest and objective people will appreciate the efforts of any individual who works to find a wise and prudent answer. I am therefore encouraged to offer my thoughts on the current public crisis.

This country has perhaps never seen such a critical period in its political concerns. We have felt the feebleness of the ties that hold these United States together, and the lack of sufficient energy in our current confederation to manage, in some instances, our general concerns. A variety of quick-fixes were proposed to patch things up, but nothing worked. A Convention of the states was assembled and they have written a constitution which will probably be submitted to the people to ratify or reject; the people who are the fountain of all power and to whom alone have the right to make or unmake constitutions, or forms of government, to their satisfaction. You have before you the most important question that you or any people under heaven have ever faced. You are to elect men specifically for the purpose of deciding the question.

If the proposed constitution turns out to be a wise one, calculated to preserve the invaluable blessings of liberty, to secure the immeasurable rights of mankind, and to promote human happiness, then, if you accept it, you will lay a lasting foundation of happiness for millions not yet born; future generations will rise up and call you blessed. You may take delight in the prospects of this vast extended continent becoming filled with free men who will assert the dignity of human nature. You may comfort yourselves with the idea that society in this favored land will quickly advance to the highest point of perfection; the human mind will expand in knowledge and virtue, and the golden ages will, to some degree, be realized.

But if, on the other hand, this form of government contains principles that will lead to the subversion of liberty, that is, if it tends to establish a despotism, or worse, a tyrannical aristocracy, then if you adopt it, this only remaining refuge for liberty will be shut up, and all future generations of people will curse your memory.

It is therefore a momentous question before you. Those things that motivate a noble and virtuous mind now call you to examine it well and to make a wise judgment. Some are insisting that this constitution must be approved, even it if is imperfect. They say that if it has defects, then the constitution can best be modified once the defects are experienced. But remember, once the people part with power, they can seldom or never get it back again, except by force. There are many instances in the past where the people have voluntarily increased the powers of their rulers, but few instances, if any, where the rulers have willingly reduced their own authority. This is enough of a reason to persuade you to be careful in how you place the powers of government.

With that brief introduction out of the way, I turn now to a consideration of the proposed constitution.

Is a confederated government the best one for the United States or not? In other words, should the thirteen United States be reduced to one great republic, governed by one legislature and under the direction of one executive and one judicial or should they continue on as thirteen confederated republics under the direction and control of a supreme federal head only for certain defined national purposes?

It is an important question because although the government defined by the convention does not call for a complete and entire consolidation, it comes so close that it will, if executed, certainly result in it.

This government will have absolute and uncontrollable power over every object it touches through its legislative, executive, and judicial branches. This comes from the last clause in Article 1, Section 8 which declares,

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 in Article 6 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 for any state government to be 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 when they are inconsistent with this constitution or the laws made in pursuant of it, or with treaties made under the authority of the United States. The government is then an all-encompassing one and not a confederation. It is itself as much a complete government as that of New York or Massachusetts and has the same absolute and perfect powers to make and execute all laws, to appoint officers, institute courts, declare offenses, and extract penalties over every object to which it extends, as any other in the world. As far as its powers reach, all ideas of confederation are given up and lost. It is true that this government is limited to certain objects, or more precisely, some small degree of power is still left to the states. But every honest observer who pays close attention to the powers vested in the general government will be convinced that if this constitution is executed then all powers that are reserved for the individual states will quickly be annihilated, except for those that are barely necessary to the organization of the general government.

The powers of Congress extend to everything of even the least importance. There is nothing valuable to human nature, nothing precious to free men, that is not within its power. It has authority to make laws which will affect the lives, the liberty, and the property of every man in the United States and the state constitutions and state laws cannot in any way prevent or impede the full and complete execution of every power given. The Congress would have the power to lay taxes, duties, imposts, and excises—there is no limitation to this power, unless one could say that the clause that directs how those taxes shall be applied is somehow a limitation. But this is no restriction at all since by this clause the taxes are to be applied to pay the debts and to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. And since Congress has the authority to take on debt at its own discretion, they are the sole judges of what is necessary to provide for the common defense, and they are the only ones who determine what is for the general welfare. This power is therefore neither more nor less than a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, and excises at their pleasure. Not only is the power to lay taxes unlimited, to any amount they require, but they also have the perfect and absolute power to raise those taxes in any method they please. No one state has any more power to affect this than they have of affecting what another state does. Therefore, in the laying of and collection of taxes, the idea of confederation is totally lost and that one of entire republic is embraced.

It should be noted here that the authority to lay and collect taxes is the most important of any power that can be granted. It connects with almost all other powers, or will eventually. Taxation is the great means of protection, security, and defense in a good government. And it is the great engine of oppression and tyranny in a bad one. This is inevitable considering the contracted limits which are set by this constitution on the state governments’ ability to raise money. No state can emit paper money or lay any import or export taxes except by the consent of Congress. And even then the net product shall be for the benefit of the United States. The only means that remains for any state to support its government and discharge its debts is by direct taxation of its own people. But the United States also has the power to lay and collect taxes in any way they please. Everyone who thinks this through will see that the amount of money that can be raised by direct taxation within any country is limited and when the Federal government begins to also exercise direct taxation in all of 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 mentioned previously, their powers will be absorbed into that of the general government.

It might be shown here that the Congressional power to raise and support armies as they wish, in peacetime as well as in war, and their control over the militia, tend not only toward a consolidation of the government, but the destruction of liberty.—I will not dwell upon this, however, since a few observations on the judicial power of this government, in addition to the preceding, will fully reveal the truth of this 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 encompasses all civil causes, except those that arise between citizens of the same state, and it extends to all cases in law and equity arising under the constitution. I assume that at least one inferior court must be established in each state along with all of the executive officers necessitated by each court. It is easy to see that in the natural course of things, these courts will eclipse the dignity, and take away the respectability, of the state courts. These inferior courts will be totally independent of the states, deriving their authority from the United States, and receiving from the states fixed salaries; and in the course of human events it is to be expected that they will swallow up all the powers of the state courts.

It is impossible to say to what extent the “necessary and proper” clause in Article 1, Section 8 will do away with all idea of confederated states and result in an entire consolidation of the whole into one general government. The powers given by this Article are very general and comprehensive and it may be construed to justify the passing of almost any law. A power to make all laws which are deemed necessary and proper for executing all powers given by the constitution to the United States, its departments and officers, is a power that is very comprehensive and indefinite, and may, for all I know, be exercised in such a way as to entirely abolish the state legislatures.

Suppose the legislature of a state passes a law raising money to support their government and pay the state debt. Can the Congress repeal this law since it might prevent the collection of their own tax which they think is necessary and proper to provide for the general welfare of the United States? All laws made under this constitution are the supreme law of the land and the judges in every state are bound to them, no matter what the state constitutions or laws may say to the contrary. Through such supreme laws, the government of a particular state could be overturned in one stroke, and therefore be deprived of every means of its support.

This example is not used to imply that the constitution would authorize a law like this. And it is not used to unnecessarily alarm people by suggesting that Congress would be more likely to go beyond its constitutional limits than that of any individual state’s congress. But what is meant is that the Congress 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, of organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, of instituting courts and other general powers. And they are by this clause given the power of making all laws, necessary and proper, for executing all of the above. They have the ability to exercise this power as to entirely annihilate all the state governments, and reduce this country to one single government. And if they have the ability to do it, it is pretty certain that they will. For it will be found that the power retained by the individual states, as small as it is, will clog up the wheels of the government of the United States. Congress will therefore be naturally inclined to remove it out of the way. Besides, it is a truth confirmed by the unfailing experience of the ages, that every man, and every body of men, that are given power are always inclined to increase it, and to acquire a superiority over every thing that stands in their way. This inclination, which is implanted in human nature, will operate in the federal legislature to lessen and ultimately subvert a state’s authority. And having the advantages of supreme power, will ultimately succeed if the federal government succeeds at all. It is obvious then that everything this constitution lacks in order to possess a complete consolidation of the several parts of the union into one complete government, with total legislative, judicial, and executive powers, will for all intents and purposes inevitably get in its exercise and operation.

Getting back to the original question, is it best for the thirteen United States to be reduced to one great republic or not? It is assumed that everyone agrees that whatever government that we may adopt, it must be a free one, that it should be framed in such a way as to secure the liberty of the citizens of America. And that it should be the kind that would provide a full, fair, and equal representation of the people. Is a government that is constructed like this and founded on these principles able to be put into practice successfully? And can it be exercised over the whole United States, reduced into one state?

If we respect the opinions of the greatest and wisest men who have ever written on the science of government, we must conclude that a free republic cannot succeed over a country as large or as increasingly populous as ours. I will limit myself to two quotes from among the many respected authorities on the subject. The first one comes from Baron de Montesquieu, Spirit of Laws, Vol. 1, Book VIII, Chapter XVI: Distinctive Properties of a Republic.

It is natural for a republic to have only a small territory; otherwise it cannot long subsist. In an extensive republic there are men of large fortunes, and consequently of less moderation: there are trusts too considerable to be placed in any single subject; he has interests of his own; he soon begins to think that he may be happy and glorious by oppressing his fellow-citizens; and that he may raise himself to grandeur on the ruins of his country.

In an extensive republic, the public good is sacrificed to a thousand private views; it is subordinate to exceptions, and depends on accidents. In a small one, the interest of the public is more obvious, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses have less extent, and of course are less protected.

Of the same opinion is [the Italian criminologist] Cesare Beccaria.

History furnishes no example of a free republic that is anything like the size of the United States. Both the Grecian and Roman republics started out relatively small. But over time, both of them extended their conquests over large territories of country. And the consequence was that they changed from having a free government to having the most tyrannical that ever existed in the world.

In addition to the opinions of the wisest men and the experiences of mankind, there are a variety of natural reasons to be against the idea of an extensive republic. In every government, the will of the ruler is the law. In despotic governments, with the supreme authority being in one person, his will is law and can just as easily be put into effect over a large extensive territory as over a small one.

In a pure democracy, the people are the rulers and their will is declared by themselves. That is why they must all come together to deliberate and decide. This kind of government cannot be put into effect over a relatively large country. It must be confined to a single city or at least limited to an area small enough so that its people can conveniently come together to debate, to understand the subject submitted to them, and to declare their opinion on the matter.

In a free republic, while the laws are still derived from the consent of the people, the people themselves do not come together to deliberate and decide in person, but instead they choose representatives who are supposed to know their minds and to have the integrity to declare this mind.

In every free government, the people must agree to the laws by which they are governed. This is the key distinction between a free government and an autocratic one. The former are ruled by the will of the whole, expressed in any manner they agree upon. The latter are ruled by the will of just one or a few. If the people are to agree to laws created by their representatives, then the manner of choice and the number of representatives chosen must be such that the representatives can know, agree to, and be consequently qualified to declare the will of the people. For if they do not know, or are not inclined to speak for the will of the people, the people do not govern, instead the ruling authority is in a few. Now, in a large extended country it is impossible to have a representation that possesses the people’s will and has the integrity to declare the minds of the people without having so many representatives as to be unwieldy and to be subject to the inconveniences of a democratic government.

The territory of the United States is vast. It now contains nearly three million souls and is capable of containing much more than ten times that number. Is it practical for a country so large and numerous to elect a representation that will speak to their sentiments without that representation becoming so numerous as to be incapable of transacting public business? It certainly is not.

In a republic, the manners, sentiments, and interests of the people should be similar. If this is not the case, there will be a constant clashing of opinions. And the representatives of one part will be continually struggling against those of the other. This will delay the operations of government and will prevent it from promoting the public good. If we apply this fact to the United States, we become convinced that it should not be one government. The United States includes a variety of climates. The different parts of the union produce very different things and their interests are consequently diverse. Their manners and habits differ as much as their climates and productions, and their attitudes are by no means the same. The laws and customs of the several states are, in many respects, very diverse and in some respects opposite. Each state would be in favor of its own interests and customs and, consequently, a legislature that includes representatives of all of the respective parts would not only be too numerous to act with any care or decision, but would be composed of such heterogeneous and discordant principles that they would constantly be contending with each other.

In a republic that would be the size of the United States, the laws cannot be executed promptly.

The magistrates in every government must be supported in the execution of the laws either by an armed force or maintained at the public expense for that purpose; or by the people turning out to aid the magistrate upon his command in the case of a resistance.

In despotic governments, as well as in all of the monarchies of Europe, standing armies are kept ready to execute the commands of the prince or the magistrate and are employed for this purpose when required. But they have always proved to be the destruction of liberty and are abhorrent to the spirit of a free republic. In England, where armies depend upon the parliament for their annual support, it is always complained that the armies are oppressive and unconstitutional and are seldom employed in executing the laws, except on extraordinary occasions, and then under the direction of a civil magistrate.

A free republic will never keep a standing army to execute its laws. It must depend upon the support of its citizens. But when a government is to receive its support from the aid of the citizens, it must be constructed in such a way as to have the confidence, respect, and affection of the people. When a magistrate calls, people who offer themselves to execute the laws are influenced to do it either by affection to the government or from fear. When a standing army is at hand to punish offenders, every man is motivated by fear and therefore when the magistrate calls, will obey. But where no standing army is at hand, the government must rest for its support upon the confidence and respect which the people have for their government and laws. When the people as a body are engaged, the government will always be sufficient to support and execute its laws and to make any opposing faction fearful enough to not only prevent an opposition to the execution of the laws themselves but also to compel most of them to actually come to the aid of the magistrate. But in a republic as large as the United States the people likely will not have as much of the confidence in their rulers as is necessary. In a free republic, the people’s confidence in their rulers comes from knowing them, from their being responsible to the people for their conduct, and from the power the people have of displacing them when they misbehave. But in a republic as large as this continent, the people in general would be acquainted with very few of their rulers, would know very little about their proceedings, and would have a difficult time making changes. The people in Georgia and New Hampshire would not know one another’s mind, and therefore could not act together to enable them to effect a general change of representatives. The different parts of such a large country could not possibly become acquainted with the conduct of their representatives, and could not know the reasons for their actions. As a result, they will have no confidence in their Congress, will suspect them of ambitious views, be distrustful of every measure they adopt, and will not support the laws they pass. So, the government will be unfeeling and inefficient and there is nothing to prevent it from becoming otherwise except by establishing an armed force to execute the laws at the point of a gun—the most dreaded kind of government of all.

In a republic as large as the United States, the legislature cannot pay attention to the various concerns and needs of its different parts. It cannot have enough representatives to be acquainted with the local conditions and needs of the different districts. And even if it could, it would not have nearly enough time to handle the large variety of cases that would be continually coming up.

In such a large republic, the highest officers of government would soon be above the control of the people, would then abuse their power for their own gain, and would then use that power to oppress the people. The trust we would place in the executive officers of a country as large as the United states would be wide-ranging and substantial. The command of all the troops and navy of the republic, the appointment of officers, the power of pardoning offenses, the collecting of taxes, and the power to spend them, with a number of other powers, would be firmly fixed in the hands of a few. When these powers are accompanied by great honor and personal reward, as they always will be in large governments, ambitious and scheming men will be highly motivated to pursue them. They will then use their new powers to gratify their own interests and ambitions. And it is hardly possible in a very large republic to call them to account for their crimes or abuses of power.

These are some of the reasons why it appears that a free republic cannot exist for very long over a country as large as this. If the new constitution intends to consolidate the thirteen states into one, as it evidently does, it must not be adopted.

Even though I believe that the consolidation of the whole union into one republican form of government is enough of a reason to reject it, I also believe that there are enough other problems with it that are so material and fundamental that no friend of liberty, happiness, and mankind would adopt it. I beg the honest and objective attention of my countrymen while I state these objections—after careful attention to them they weigh heavy on my mind and I sincerely believe they are well founded. There are many small objections to the constitution which I shall ignore (I do not expect perfection in any work of man) and if I did not truly believe that this plan was defective in its fundamental principles, in the foundation upon which a free and equal government must rest, I would hold my peace.

Brutus.

Essays RePhrased Key Points:

  • “Brutus” asked, “Is it best for the thirteen United States to be reduced to one great republic or not?”
  • “Brutus” had many other quotable phrases. Here are some of the best:
  • “Once the people part with power, they can seldom or never get it back again, except by force. There are many instances in the past where the people have voluntarily increased the powers of their rulers, but few instances, if any, where the rulers have willingly reduced their own authority.”
  • “The powers of Congress extend to everything of even the least importance.”
  • “Taxation is the great means of protection, security, and defense in a good government and it is the great engine of oppression and tyranny in a bad one.”
  • “Congress has the ability so exercise its power to entirely annihilate all the state governments, and reduce this country to one single government. If they have the ability to do it, it is pretty certain that they will.”
  • “If we respect the opinions of the greatest and wisest men who have ever written on the science of government, we must conclude that a free republic cannot succeed over a country as large or as increasingly populous as ours.”
  • “If the people are to agree to laws created by their representatives, then the manner of choice and the number of representatives chosen must be such that the representatives can know, agree to, and be consequently qualified to declare the will of the people.”
  • “It will be impractical to govern such a large country, being at 3 million people and possibly growing to 30 million.”
  • “In a republic, the manners, sentiments, and interests of the people should be similar.”
  • “The government will be unfeeling and inefficient and there is nothing to prevent it from becoming otherwise except by establishing an armed force to execute the laws at the point of a gun—the most dreaded kind of government of all.”
  • “In such a large republic, the highest officers of government would soon be above the control of the people, would then abuse their power for their own gain, and would then use that power to oppress the people.”

225th Anniversary of James Wilson’s Speech

Today is the 225th anniversary of the famous speech given by James Wilson in favor of the new U.S. Constitution. Here is his speech excerpted from my book “The Original Counter-Argument: The Founders’ Case Against the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century.” Like all other essays in the book, I have RePhrased his speech into modern English to make it easier to read and understand. The book contains several direct and important rebuttals to this speech that every person needs to read and understand.

James Wilson’s Speech

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Saturday, October 6, 1787

This is not a speech in opposition to the new Constitution. Rather, it is a famous speech very much in favor of it. The Wilson speech served as the dartboard to which many opposition darts were thrown, as we will see. 

James Wilson (1742–98, aged 55) immigrated from Scotland and became an accomplished lawyer. He signed the Declaration of Independence and was a delegate of Pennsylvania to the Federal Convention. He later served as one of the six original justices appointed by George Washington to the new Supreme Court.

Wilson certainly saw ups and downs in his life. In the end, he was heavily in debt due to to bad land deals and twice spent time in debtor’s prison. He continued on, nonetheless, as a justice of the Supreme Court through it all. 

He was 45 years old at the time of this speech, delivered in the Pennsylvania State House Yard. It was one of the more widely published articles in favor of the Constitution, having been reprinted in 34 newspapers by the end of 1787.

 

Mr. Chairman and Fellow Citizens:

I am honored to have been appointed to represent you in the recent Constitutional Convention. Many gentlemen whose character and judgment I sincerely respect have urged me to speak on this occasion to help explain and shed more light on the principles and plans of the Constitution that has been submitted for consideration of the United States. As your representative, I feel obligated to satisfy their request.

It is appropriate to give careful attention to the main difference between the State constitutions and the Constitution of the United States. When the powers given to state legislatures were set up, the representatives were given every right and authority which was not otherwise specifically withheld. So, for every issue within the jurisdiction of the House of Assembly, if there was nothing written in the state’s constitution about it, then the house had complete jurisdiction over it. But in granting federal powers, another criterion was necessarily introduced: the powers given to Congress are not implied, but are expressly granted in the Constitution. You can see in the former case that everything which is not reserved is given. But in the latter the reverse is true, and everything which is not given is reserved.

Now that this distinction is recognized, I can give an answer to those who think the omission of a Bill of Rights is a defect in the proposed Constitution. There is no Bill of Rights because it would have been excessively unnecessary and absurd to have specified to a federal body of our own creation that we have rights which we did not give up to them. Take, for instance, the freedom of the press, which has been an abundant source of opposition speeches. What can the Federal government do to shackle or destroy that sacred palladium of national freedom? Imagine if it had been given the power to regulate publishing, just like it had been given the power to regulate commerce. Only then would it have been necessary to stipulate that freedom of the press should be preserved unalterable, like it was necessary to state that taxes would “be uniform throughout the United States.”

No doubt it will be proper to have this beneficial precaution for the new seat of federal government in the District of ten square miles, because there the only legislative power is in the hands of the President, Senate, and House of Representatives of the United States. But this is not something the Convention could do, because it naturally depends upon a future agreement to which the directly-affected citizens will and should be involved. And there is no reason to suspect that such a popular privilege will go neglected in that case. The truth is, the proposed system has no influence whatsoever on the press, and it would have been meaningless to have made a formal declaration on the subject—indeed, that very declaration might have been taken to imply that some degree of power was given, since we went about defining its extent.

Another objection that has been fabricated against the new Constitution is expressed in this disingenuous form: “The trial by jury is abolished in civil cases.” Fellow citizens, please excuse me if I take advantage of my professional experience to point out the futility of this assertion. Remember that the business of the Federal Convention was not local, but general—not limited to the views and business of a single State, but covering the whole continent and taking into consideration the views and business of thirteen independent sovereignties. When this subject was under discussion, we therefore were involved in difficulties which pressed on all sides, and there was no precedent to guide us. The cases open to a trial by jury differed in the different States. It was therefore impossible on that ground to have made a general rule. The lack of uniformity would have rendered any reference to the practice of the States idle and useless. And it would not have been appropriate to say that, “the trial by jury shall be just as it was before,” since no federal system of jurisprudence has ever existed to which that statement could relate. Besides, not all civil cases adopt trial by jury. For example, cases under maritime law, such as captures of naval vessels, do not require the intervention of a jury. So where should the line be drawn? The Convention found the task too difficult for them. They left the business as it stands, completely confident that no danger could possibly emerge since the proceedings of the Supreme Court are to be regulated by the Congress, which is a faithful representation of the people. And the threat of government oppression is effectively stopped by declaring that in all criminal cases the trial by jury shall be preserved.

It has been further urged that this Constitution has the harmful tendency of tolerating a standing army in the time of peace. This has always been a popular topic of speeches. And yet I do not know of one nation in the world that has not found it necessary and useful to maintain the appearance of strength even in a season of the most profound tranquility. Nor is it a novelty with us, for under the present Articles of Confederation, Congress certainly has this condemned power. And the exercise of that power is validated by her military camps along the banks of the Ohio.

But what would our national situation have been otherwise? The government would have to declare war in order to carry forward every subverted principle of policy. Whatever the provocation, however important the goal, and however necessary promptness and secrecy might be, the declaration of war must still precede the preparation, and the enemy will be informed of your intention, not only before you are equipped for an attack, but even before you are fortified for a defense. The consequence is too obvious to require any further description, and no one who respects the dignity and safety of his country can deny the necessity of a military force under the control of the Constitution with the restrictions it provides.

Perhaps there never was a more baseless charge made than the one predicting the rise of a harmful aristocracy in the Federal Senate. This body branches into two characters, one legislative and the other executive. In its legislative character it can do nothing without the cooperation of the House of Representatives. And in its executive character it can do nothing without the concurrence of the President. Fettered like that, I do not know of any act which the Senate can perform by itself. And its dependencies serve to prevent every idea of its influence and superiority. But I will confess that in the way this body is organized, a discernible compromise exists between contending interests. And when we reflect on the wide diversity of the laws, commerce, habits, population, and size of the confederated States, this evidence of mutual concession and accommodation should command a generous applause instead of exciting suspicion and rebuke. For my part, my admiration is equalled only by my astonishment in beholding such a perfect system formed from such heterogeneous materials.

I will next consider the accusation that the federal Constitution is not only calculated, but purposefully designed, to reduce the State governments to mere corporations and to eventually annihilate them. Those who have used the term corporation for this are perhaps not aware of its scope. In the common parlance, it is indeed generally applied to petty associations for the ease and convenience of a few individuals. But in its larger sense it could encompass the government of Pennsylvania or the existing union of the States. Even this projected system is nothing more than a formal act of incorporation.

But how can it be alleged that it was designed to annihilate the State governments? I can prove that the existence of the Federal plan depends upon the existence of the States. Just look at the manner in which the President, Senate, and House of Representatives are proposed to be appointed. The President is to be chosen by electors who are nominated in whatever manner the legislatures of each State might direct. So, if there are no legislatures, there can be no electors and consequently the President cannot be elected.

The Senate is to be made up of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature. Therefore, if there is no Legislature, there can be no Senate. The House of Representatives is to be made up of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States, and the electors in each State shall have the qualifications required for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature. So if there is no State Legislature, that qualification cannot be discovered, and the popular branch of the Federal Constitution must be made extinct. Looking at it like this, it is evidently absurd to suppose that the annihilation of the States will result from their union. If the authors of the new system had that intention, they would not have bound their connection with such lasting ties.

Let me also mention a key advantage of this arrangement. For you will see that it gives the people at large an additional privilege of electing members to the House of Representatives without impairing the powers of the Legislature in the election of Senators. This is something that in the present confederation is up to the Legislature alone to appoint delegates to Congress.

The power of direct taxation has also been regarded as an improper delegation of power to the federal government. But when we consider that it is the duty of that body to provide for the national safety, to support the dignity of the union, and to pay off the debts incurred upon the collected faith of the States for the common benefit, we have to acknowledge that those with such important obligations should have every means in justice and policy to faithfully perform their responsibilities. But why should we be frightened by imaginary evils? I will venture to predict that most of the revenue of the United States must, and always will, be raised by import taxes, for, being at once less obnoxious and more productive, the interest of the government will be best promoted by the accommodation of the people. Still, however, those things which are directly taxed should be within reach in all cases of emergency. And there is no more reason to anticipate oppression in the way that taxes are collected from this source than in the form of import taxes, which by universal agreement is left to the authority of the federal government. In either case, civil institutions are adequate to enforce them. The dread of military violence, which has been thoroughly disseminated, will eventually prove to be the mere outburst of a wild imagination or a rebellious spirit.

But the benefits that will flow from enabling the government to receive and support the credit of the union will provide another answer to the objections about this. The State of Pennsylvania in particular, which has burdened itself by taking on a great proportion of the public debt, will benefit greatly, for, as it was the imbecility of the present confederation which gave rise to the funding law, that law will expire when a competent and energetic federal system is substituted. The State will then be discharged from an extraordinary burden, and the national creditor will find it to be in his interest to return to his original security.

After all, my fellow-citizens, it is neither extraordinary or unexpected that the Constitution which is offered for your consideration should meet with opposition. It is the nature of man to pursue his own interest over that of the public good. And I do not mean to make any personal reflection when I add that it is the interest of a very numerous, powerful, and respectable body to counteract and destroy the excellent work produced by the recent convention. All the officers of government and all the appointments for the administration of justice and the collection of the public revenue which are transferred from the individual to the aggregate sovereignty of the States, will consequently turn the stream of influence and earnings into a new channel. Therefore, everyone who profits under the present establishment will object to the proposal. And in all honestly, not because it injures the liberties of his country, but because it affects his schemes of wealth and importance. I will confess, indeed, that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some parts of it which, if my wish had prevailed, would certainly have been altered. But when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions, and that every man (and the observation also applies similarly to every State) has an equal aspiration to assert his own, I am satisfied that anything closer to perfection could not have been accomplished. If there are errors, it should be remembered that the seeds of reformation are sown in the work itself and the agreement of two-thirds of the Congress can at any time introduce alterations and amendments. Looking at it from every point of view then with an honest and impartial mind, I can boldly assert that it is the best form of government which has ever been offered to the world.

Essays RePhrased Key Points:

  • Wilson, speaking in favor of the new Constitution, compared it with the State constitutions. The main difference was that States were given all powers unless specifically stated. Federal powers, however, are specifically stated, not implied.
  • Therefore, a Bill of Rights would not be needed since all rights are all implied.
  • Regarding trial by jury in civil cases, he said that the Convention found the subject too difficult to solve, so they left it as it was.
  • He argued that every nation, even in peacetime, finds it useful to have a standing army.
  • He refuted the notion that from the Senate will arise a harmful aristocracy. In fact, its contending interests should be applauded.
  • He refuted the accusation that the Constitution is calculated to annihilate State governments. Instead, the Federal plan depends upon the existence of the States.
  • Wilson refuted the argument that direct taxation would be an improper delegation of power to the Federal government. He predicted that most of the revenue of the U.S. would always be raised by import taxes.
  • He said that everyone who profits under the present establishment will object to the proposed Constitution, not because it “injures the liberties of his country,” but because it “affects his schemes of wealth and importance.”
  • He admitted that he wished some parts of the Constitution had been changed, but was satisfied that it was as close to perfect as could be expected. If changes were needed, then two-thirds of Congress could introduce amendments at any time.

 

Original Counter-Argument Review at SurvivalBlog.com

Here’s a great review of my book at SurvivalBlog.com:

A Book Review by T.M. from Arkansas: The Original Counter-Argument

The Original Counter-Argument: The Founders’ Case Against the Ratification of the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century, by Paul Douglas Boyer
ISBN: 978-14477450673
Paperback and Kindle Kindle edition available from Amazon.com
298 pages, appendixes, bibliography, nice size print for those of us who wear eyeglasses.
Bad news first: there is no index. (Any nonfiction work should always have an index.)

How many times have you heard ‘they-he-she violated my rights’? How many times have you wondered just how many rights are in the Bill of Rights? How many citizens have actually read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Articles of Confederation? Too boring?

Gratefully, all three documents are written in such a manner we do not need a lawyer to understand the wisdom of the Founding Fathers of this nation. The documents are included in this book as appendixes. Each is short, easy to read, and alone are worth the price of the book.

Read the rest

Celebrate the 225th with a Price Drop!

Soon, very soon, Amazon will drop the price of my book from $17.87 down to $11.87 for paperback and from $5.36 down to $2.99 for Kindle. You may wait to buy when you see the price has dropped (which they say should be done by September 19th) or you can purchase for $11.87 from the CreateSpace eStore at https://www.createspace.com/3744035 right now!

Get it now at this low price in celebration of the 225th, because just like your freedom, this discount won’t last forever. :-)