The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Federalist Papers, by
Alexander Hamilton and John Jay and James Madison

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Title: The Federalist Papers

Author: Alexander Hamilton

John Jay

James Madison

Language: English


Table of Contents


General Introduction

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the
subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on
a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject
speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences
nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare
of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many
respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently
remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this
country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important
question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of
establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether
they are forever destined to depend for their political
constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the
remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be
regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a
wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve
to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of
patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and
good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice
should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests,
unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the
public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than
seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations
affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local
institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects
foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little
favorable to the discovery of truth.

Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new
Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the
obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist
all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument,
and consequence of the offices they hold under the State
establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men,
who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of
their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of
elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial
confederacies than from its union under one government.

It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this
nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve
indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because
their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or
ambitious views. Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men
may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted
that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may
hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless
at least, if not respectable—the honest errors of minds led astray
by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so
powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the
judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the
wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first
magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would
furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much
persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a
further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the
reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the
truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists.
Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many
other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as
well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a
question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation,
nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which
has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in
politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making
proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be
cured by persecution.

And yet, however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we
have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as
in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of
angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the
conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that
they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions,
and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of
their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An
enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be
stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and
hostile to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy
of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the
fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere
pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense
of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that
jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble
enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow
and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally
forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security
of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed
judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a
dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal
for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of
zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will
teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to
the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men
who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number
have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people;
commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

In the course of the preceding observations, I have had an eye,
my fellow-citizens, to putting you upon your guard against all
attempts, from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a
matter of the utmost moment to your welfare, by any impressions
other than those which may result from the evidence of truth. You
will, no doubt, at the same time, have collected from the general
scope of them, that they proceed from a source not unfriendly to the
new Constitution. Yes, my countrymen, I own to you that, after
having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion
it is your interest to adopt it. I am convinced that this is the
safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I
affect not reserves which I do not feel. I will not amuse you with
an appearance of deliberation when I have decided. I frankly
acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you
the reasons on which they are founded. The consciousness of good
intentions disdains ambiguity. I shall not, however, multiply
professions on this head. My motives must remain in the depository
of my own breast. My arguments will be open to all, and may be
judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which
will not disgrace the cause of truth.

I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following
interesting particulars:











In the progress of this discussion I shall endeavor to give a
satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made
their appearance, that may seem to have any claim to your attention.

It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer arguments to
prove the utility of the UNION, a point, no doubt, deeply engraved
on the hearts of the great body of the people in every State, and
one, which it may be imagined, has no adversaries. But the fact is,
that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those
who oppose the new Constitution, that the thirteen States are of too
great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity
resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the
whole.1 This doctrine will, in all probability, be gradually
propagated, till it has votaries enough to countenance an open
avowal of it. For nothing can be more evident, to those who are
able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative
of an adoption of the new Constitution or a dismemberment of the
Union. It will therefore be of use to begin by examining the
advantages of that Union, the certain evils, and the probable
dangers, to which every State will be exposed from its dissolution.
This shall accordingly constitute the subject of my next address.


(1) The same idea, tracing the arguments to their consequences, is
held out in several of the late publications against the new


Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

WHEN the people of America reflect that they are now called upon
to decide a question, which, in its consequences, must prove one of
the most important that ever engaged their attention, the propriety
of their taking a very comprehensive, as well as a very serious,
view of it, will be evident.

Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of
government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however
it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural
rights in order to vest it with requisite powers. It is well worthy
of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the
interest of the people of America that they should, to all general
purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they
should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to
the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to
place in one national government.

It has until lately been a received and uncontradicted opinion
that the prosperity of the people of America depended on their
continuing firmly united, and the wishes, prayers, and efforts of
our best and wisest citizens have been constantly directed to that
object. But politicians now appear, who insist that this opinion is
erroneous, and that instead of looking for safety and happiness in
union, we ought to seek it in a division of the States into distinct
confederacies or sovereignties. However extraordinary this new
doctrine may appear, it nevertheless has its advocates; and certain
characters who were much opposed to it formerly, are at present of
the number. Whatever may be the arguments or inducements which have
wrought this change in the sentiments and declarations of these
gentlemen, it certainly would not be wise in the people at large to
adopt these new political tenets without being fully convinced that
they are founded in truth and sound policy.

It has often given me pleasure to observe that independent
America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but
that one connected, fertile, widespreading country was the portion
of our western sons of liberty. Providence has in a particular
manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and
watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and
accommodation of its inhabitants. A succession of navigable waters
forms a kind of chain round its borders, as if to bind it together;
while the most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient
distances, present them with highways for the easy communication of
friendly aids, and the mutual transportation and exchange of their
various commodities.

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence
has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united
people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same
language, professing the same religion, attached to the same
principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs,
and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side
by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established
general liberty and independence.

This country and this people seem to have been made for each
other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an
inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united
to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a
number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.

Similar sentiments have hitherto prevailed among all orders and
denominations of men among us. To all general purposes we have
uniformly been one people each individual citizen everywhere
enjoying the same national rights, privileges, and protection. As a
nation we have made peace and war; as a nation we have vanquished
our common enemies; as a nation we have formed alliances, and made
treaties, and entered into various compacts and conventions with
foreign states.

A strong sense of the value and blessings of union induced the
people, at a very early period, to institute a federal government to
preserve and perpetuate it. They formed it almost as soon as they
had a political existence; nay, at a time when their habitations
were in flames, when many of their citizens were bleeding, and when
the progress of hostility and desolation left little room for those
calm and mature inquiries and reflections which must ever precede
the formation of a wise and wellbalanced government for a free
people. It is not to be wondered at, that a government instituted
in times so inauspicious, should on experiment be found greatly
deficient and inadequate to the purpose it was intended to answer.

This intelligent people perceived and regretted these defects.
Still continuing no less attached to union than enamored of
liberty, they observed the danger which immediately threatened the
former and more remotely the latter; and being pursuaded that ample
security for both could only be found in a national government more
wisely framed, they as with one voice, convened the late convention
at Philadelphia, to take that important subject under consideration.

This convention composed of men who possessed the confidence of
the people, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by
their patriotism, virtue and wisdom, in times which tried the minds
and hearts of men, undertook the arduous task. In the mild season
of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many
months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation; and finally,
without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions
except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the
people the plan produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.

Admit, for so is the fact, that this plan is only RECOMMENDED,
not imposed, yet let it be remembered that it is neither recommended
to BLIND approbation, nor to BLIND reprobation; but to that sedate
and candid consideration which the magnitude and importance of the
subject demand, and which it certainly ought to receive. But this
(as was remarked in the foregoing number of this paper) is more to
be wished than expected, that it may be so considered and examined.
Experience on a former occasion teaches us not to be too sanguine
in such hopes. It is not yet forgotten that well-grounded
apprehensions of imminent danger induced the people of America to
form the memorable Congress of 1774. That body recommended certain
measures to their constituents, and the event proved their wisdom;
yet it is fresh in our memories how soon the press began to teem
with pamphlets and weekly papers against those very measures. Not
only many of the officers of government, who obeyed the dictates of
personal interest, but others, from a mistaken estimate of
consequences, or the undue influence of former attachments, or whose
ambition aimed at objects which did not correspond with the public
good, were indefatigable in their efforts to pursuade the people to
reject the advice of that patriotic Congress. Many, indeed, were
deceived and deluded, but the great majority of the people reasoned
and decided judiciously; and happy they are in reflecting that they
did so.

They considered that the Congress was composed of many wise and
experienced men. That, being convened from different parts of the
country, they brought with them and communicated to each other a
variety of useful information. That, in the course of the time they
passed together in inquiring into and discussing the true interests
of their country, they must have acquired very accurate knowledge on
that head. That they were individually interested in the public
liberty and prosperity, and therefore that it was not less their
inclination than their duty to recommend only such measures as,
after the most mature deliberation, they really thought prudent and

These and similar considerations then induced the people to rely
greatly on the judgment and integrity of the Congress; and they
took their advice, notwithstanding the various arts and endeavors
used to deter them from it. But if the people at large had reason
to confide in the men of that Congress, few of whom had been fully
tried or generally known, still greater reason have they now to
respect the judgment and advice of the convention, for it is well
known that some of the most distinguished members of that Congress,
who have been since tried and justly approved for patriotism and
abilities, and who have grown old in acquiring political
information, were also members of this convention, and carried into
it their accumulated knowledge and experience.

It is worthy of remark that not only the first, but every
succeeding Congress, as well as the late convention, have invariably
joined with the people in thinking that the prosperity of America
depended on its Union. To preserve and perpetuate it was the great
object of the people in forming that convention, and it is also the
great object of the plan which the convention has advised them to
adopt. With what propriety, therefore, or for what good purposes,
are attempts at this particular period made by some men to
depreciate the importance of the Union? Or why is it suggested that
three or four confederacies would be better than one? I am
persuaded in my own mind that the people have always thought right
on this subject, and that their universal and uniform attachment to
the cause of the Union rests on great and weighty reasons, which I
shall endeavor to develop and explain in some ensuing papers. They
who promote the idea of substituting a number of distinct
confederacies in the room of the plan of the convention, seem
clearly to foresee that the rejection of it would put the
continuance of the Union in the utmost jeopardy. That certainly
would be the case, and I sincerely wish that it may be as clearly
foreseen by every good citizen, that whenever the dissolution of the
Union arrives, America will have reason to exclaim, in the words of



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT IS not a new observation that the people of any country (if,
like the Americans, intelligent and wellinformed) seldom adopt and
steadily persevere for many years in an erroneous opinion respecting
their interests. That consideration naturally tends to create great
respect for the high opinion which the people of America have so
long and uniformly entertained of the importance of their continuing
firmly united under one federal government, vested with sufficient
powers for all general and national purposes.

The more attentively I consider and investigate the reasons
which appear to have given birth to this opinion, the more I become
convinced that they are cogent and conclusive.

Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it
necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their
SAFETY seems to be the first. The SAFETY of the people doubtless
has relation to a great variety of circumstances and considerations,
and consequently affords great latitude to those who wish to define
it precisely and comprehensively.

At present I mean only to consider it as it respects security
for the preservation of peace and tranquillity, as well as against
dangers from FOREIGN ARMS AND INFLUENCE, as from dangers of the LIKE
KIND arising from domestic causes. As the former of these comes
first in order, it is proper it should be the first discussed. Let
us therefore proceed to examine whether the people are not right in
their opinion that a cordial Union, under an efficient national
government, affords them the best security that can be devised
against HOSTILITIES from abroad.

The number of wars which have happened or will happen in the
world will always be found to be in proportion to the number and
weight of the causes, whether REAL or PRETENDED, which PROVOKE or
INVITE them. If this remark be just, it becomes useful to inquire
whether so many JUST causes of war are likely to be given by UNITED
AMERICA as by DISUNITED America; for if it should turn out that
United America will probably give the fewest, then it will follow
that in this respect the Union tends most to preserve the people in
a state of peace with other nations.

The JUST causes of war, for the most part, arise either from
violation of treaties or from direct violence. America has already
formed treaties with no less than six foreign nations, and all of
them, except Prussia, are maritime, and therefore able to annoy and
injure us. She has also extensive commerce with Portugal, Spain,
and Britain, and, with respect to the two latter, has, in addition,
the circumstance of neighborhood to attend to.

It is of high importance to the peace of America that she
observe the laws of nations towards all these powers, and to me it
appears evident that this will be more perfectly and punctually done
by one national government than it could be either by thirteen
separate States or by three or four distinct confederacies.

Because when once an efficient national government is
established, the best men in the country will not only consent to
serve, but also will generally be appointed to manage it; for,
although town or country, or other contracted influence, may place
men in State assemblies, or senates, or courts of justice, or
executive departments, yet more general and extensive reputation for
talents and other qualifications will be necessary to recommend men
to offices under the national government,—especially as it will have
the widest field for choice, and never experience that want of
proper persons which is not uncommon in some of the States. Hence,
it will result that the administration, the political counsels, and
the judicial decisions of the national government will be more wise,
systematical, and judicious than those of individual States, and
consequently more satisfactory with respect to other nations, as
well as more SAFE with respect to us.

Because, under the national government, treaties and articles of
treaties, as well as the laws of nations, will always be expounded
in one sense and executed in the same manner,—whereas, adjudications
on the same points and questions, in thirteen States, or in three or
four confederacies, will not always accord or be consistent; and
that, as well from the variety of independent courts and judges
appointed by different and independent governments, as from the
different local laws and interests which may affect and influence
them. The wisdom of the convention, in committing such questions to
the jurisdiction and judgment of courts appointed by and responsible
only to one national government, cannot be too much commended.

Because the prospect of present loss or advantage may often
tempt the governing party in one or two States to swerve from good
faith and justice; but those temptations, not reaching the other
States, and consequently having little or no influence on the
national government, the temptation will be fruitless, and good
faith and justice be preserved. The case of the treaty of peace
with Britain adds great weight to this reasoning.

Because, even if the governing party in a State should be
disposed to resist such temptations, yet as such temptations may,
and commonly do, result from circumstances peculiar to the State,
and may affect a great number of the inhabitants, the governing
party may not always be able, if willing, to prevent the injustice
meditated, or to punish the aggressors. But the national
government, not being affected by those local circumstances, will
neither be induced to commit the wrong themselves, nor want power or
inclination to prevent or punish its commission by others.

So far, therefore, as either designed or accidental violations
of treaties and the laws of nations afford JUST causes of war, they
are less to be apprehended under one general government than under
several lesser ones, and in that respect the former most favors the
SAFETY of the people.

As to those just causes of war which proceed from direct and
unlawful violence, it appears equally clear to me that one good
national government affords vastly more security against dangers of
that sort than can be derived from any other quarter.

Because such violences are more frequently caused by the
passions and interests of a part than of the whole; of one or two
States than of the Union. Not a single Indian war has yet been
occasioned by aggressions of the present federal government, feeble
as it is; but there are several instances of Indian hostilities
having been provoked by the improper conduct of individual States,
who, either unable or unwilling to restrain or punish offenses, have
given occasion to the slaughter of many innocent inhabitants.

The neighborhood of Spanish and British territories, bordering
on some States and not on others, naturally confines the causes of
quarrel more immediately to the borderers. The bordering States, if
any, will be those who, under the impulse of sudden irritation, and
a quick sense of apparent interest or injury, will be most likely,
by direct violence, to excite war with these nations; and nothing
can so effectually obviate that danger as a national government,
whose wisdom and prudence will not be diminished by the passions
which actuate the parties immediately interested.

But not only fewer just causes of war will be given by the
national government, but it will also be more in their power to
accommodate and settle them amicably. They will be more temperate
and cool, and in that respect, as well as in others, will be more in
capacity to act advisedly than the offending State. The pride of
states, as well as of men, naturally disposes them to justify all
their actions, and opposes their acknowledging, correcting, or
repairing their errors and offenses. The national government, in
such cases, will not be affected by this pride, but will proceed
with moderation and candor to consider and decide on the means most
proper to extricate them from the difficulties which threaten them.

Besides, it is well known that acknowledgments, explanations,
and compensations are often accepted as satisfactory from a strong
united nation, which would be rejected as unsatisfactory if offered
by a State or confederacy of little consideration or power.

In the year 1685, the state of Genoa having offended Louis XIV.,
endeavored to appease him. He demanded that they should send their
Doge, or chief magistrate, accompanied by four of their
senators, to FRANCE, to ask his pardon and receive his terms. They
were obliged to submit to it for the sake of peace. Would he on any
occasion either have demanded or have received the like humiliation
from Spain, or Britain, or any other POWERFUL nation?



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

MY LAST paper assigned several reasons why the safety of the
people would be best secured by union against the danger it may be
exposed to by JUST causes of war given to other nations; and those
reasons show that such causes would not only be more rarely given,
but would also be more easily accommodated, by a national government
than either by the State governments or the proposed little

But the safety of the people of America against dangers from
FOREIGN force depends not only on their forbearing to give JUST
causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and
continuing themselves in such a situation as not to INVITE hostility
or insult; for it need not be observed that there are PRETENDED as
well as just causes of war.

It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature,
that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect
of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make
war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the
purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military
glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts
to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans.
These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of
the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by
justice or the voice and interests of his people. But, independent
of these inducements to war, which are more prevalent in absolute
monarchies, but which well deserve our attention, there are others
which affect nations as often as kings; and some of them will on
examination be found to grow out of our relative situation and

With France and with Britain we are rivals in the fisheries, and
can supply their markets cheaper than they can themselves,
notwithstanding any efforts to prevent it by bounties on their own
or duties on foreign fish.

With them and with most other European nations we are rivals in
navigation and the carrying trade; and we shall deceive ourselves
if we suppose that any of them will rejoice to see it flourish;
for, as our carrying trade cannot increase without in some degree
diminishing theirs, it is more their interest, and will be more
their policy, to restrain than to promote it.

In the trade to China and India, we interfere with more than one
nation, inasmuch as it enables us to partake in advantages which
they had in a manner monopolized, and as we thereby supply ourselves
with commodities which we used to purchase from them.

The extension of our own commerce in our own vessels cannot give
pleasure to any nations who possess territories on or near this
continent, because the cheapness and excellence of our productions,
added to the circumstance of vicinity, and the enterprise and
address of our merchants and navigators, will give us a greater
share in the advantages which those territories afford, than
consists with the wishes or policy of their respective sovereigns.

Spain thinks it convenient to shut the Mississippi against us on
the one side, and Britain excludes us from the Saint Lawrence on the
other; nor will either of them permit the other waters which are
between them and us to become the means of mutual intercourse and

From these and such like considerations, which might, if
consistent with prudence, be more amplified and detailed, it is easy
to see that jealousies and uneasinesses may gradually slide into the
minds and cabinets of other nations, and that we are not to expect
that they should regard our advancement in union, in power and
consequence by land and by sea, with an eye of indifference and

The people of America are aware that inducements to war may
arise out of these circumstances, as well as from others not so
obvious at present, and that whenever such inducements may find fit
time and opportunity for operation, pretenses to color and justify
them will not be wanting. Wisely, therefore, do they consider union
and a good national government as necessary to put and keep them in
SUCH A SITUATION as, instead of INVITING war, will tend to repress
and discourage it. That situation consists in the best possible
state of defense, and necessarily depends on the government, the
arms, and the resources of the country.

As the safety of the whole is the interest of the whole, and
cannot be provided for without government, either one or more or
many, let us inquire whether one good government is not, relative to
the object in question, more competent than any other given number

One government can collect and avail itself of the talents and
experience of the ablest men, in whatever part of the Union they may
be found. It can move on uniform principles of policy. It can
harmonize, assimilate, and protect the several parts and members,
and extend the benefit of its foresight and precautions to each. In
the formation of treaties, it will regard the interest of the whole,
and the particular interests of the parts as connected with that of
the whole. It can apply the resources and power of the whole to the
defense of any particular part, and that more easily and
expeditiously than State governments or separate confederacies can
possibly do, for want of concert and unity of system. It can place
the militia under one plan of discipline, and, by putting their
officers in a proper line of subordination to the Chief Magistrate,
will, as it were, consolidate them into one corps, and thereby
render them more efficient than if divided into thirteen or into
three or four distinct independent companies.

What would the militia of Britain be if the English militia
obeyed the government of England, if the Scotch militia obeyed the
government of Scotland, and if the Welsh militia obeyed the
government of Wales? Suppose an invasion; would those three
governments (if they agreed at all) be able, with all their
respective forces, to operate against the enemy so effectually as
the single government of Great Britain would?

We have heard much of the fleets of Britain, and the time may
come, if we are wise, when the fleets of America may engage
attention. But if one national government, had not so regulated the
navigation of Britain as to make it a nursery for seamen—if one
national government had not called forth all the national means and
materials for forming fleets, their prowess and their thunder would
never have been celebrated. Let England have its navigation and
fleet—let Scotland have its navigation and fleet—let Wales have its
navigation and fleet—let Ireland have its navigation and fleet—let
those four of the constituent parts of the British empire be
under four independent governments, and it is easy to perceive how
soon they would each dwindle into comparative insignificance.

Apply these facts to our own case. Leave America divided into
thirteen or, if you please, into three or four independent
governments—what armies could they raise and pay—what fleets could
they ever hope to have? If one was attacked, would the others fly
to its succor, and spend their blood and money in its defense?
Would there be no danger of their being flattered into neutrality
by its specious promises, or seduced by a too great fondness for
peace to decline hazarding their tranquillity and present safety for
the sake of neighbors, of whom perhaps they have been jealous, and
whose importance they are content to see diminished? Although such
conduct would not be wise, it would, nevertheless, be natural. The
history of the states of Greece, and of other countries, abounds
with such instances, and it is not improbable that what has so often
happened would, under similar circumstances, happen again.

But admit that they might be willing to help the invaded State
or confederacy. How, and when, and in what proportion shall aids of
men and money be afforded? Who shall command the allied armies, and
from which of them shall he receive his orders? Who shall settle
the terms of peace, and in case of disputes what umpire shall decide
between them and compel acquiescence? Various difficulties and
inconveniences would be inseparable from such a situation; whereas
one government, watching over the general and common interests, and
combining and directing the powers and resources of the whole, would
be free from all these embarrassments, and conduce far more to the
safety of the people.

But whatever may be our situation, whether firmly united under
one national government, or split into a number of confederacies,
certain it is, that foreign nations will know and view it exactly as
it is; and they will act toward us accordingly. If they see that
our national government is efficient and well administered, our
trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and
disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our
credit re-established, our people free, contented, and united, they
will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke
our resentment. If, on the other hand, they find us either
destitute of an effectual government (each State doing right or
wrong, as to its rulers may seem convenient), or split into three or
four independent and probably discordant republics or confederacies,
one inclining to Britain, another to France, and a third to Spain,
and perhaps played off against each other by the three, what a poor,
pitiful figure will America make in their eyes! How liable would
she become not only to their contempt but to their outrage, and how
soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or
family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

QUEEN ANNE, in her letter of the 1st July, 1706, to the Scotch
Parliament, makes some observations on the importance of the UNION
then forming between England and Scotland, which merit our attention.
I shall present the public with one or two extracts from it: “An
entire and perfect union will be the solid foundation of lasting
peace: It will secure your religion, liberty, and property; remove
the animosities amongst yourselves, and the jealousies and
differences betwixt our two kingdoms. It must increase your
strength, riches, and trade; and by this union the whole island,
being joined in affection and free from all apprehensions of
different interest, will be ENABLED TO RESIST ALL ITS ENEMIES.”
“We most earnestly recommend to you calmness and unanimity in this
great and weighty affair, that the union may be brought to a happy
conclusion, being the only EFFECTUAL way to secure our present and
future happiness, and disappoint the designs of our and your
enemies, who will doubtless, on this occasion, USE THEIR UTMOST

It was remarked in the preceding paper, that weakness and
divisions at home would invite dangers from abroad; and that
nothing would tend more to secure us from them than union, strength,
and good government within ourselves. This subject is copious and
cannot easily be exhausted.

The history of Great Britain is the one with which we are in
general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful lessons.
We may profit by their experience without paying the price which it
cost them. Although it seems obvious to common sense that the
people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that
they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were
almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another.
Notwithstanding their true interest with respect to the continental
nations was really the same, yet by the arts and policy and
practices of those nations, their mutual jealousies were perpetually
kept inflamed, and for a long series of years they were far more
inconvenient and troublesome than they were useful and assisting to
each other.

Should the people of America divide themselves into three or
four nations, would not the same thing happen? Would not similar
jealousies arise, and be in like manner cherished? Instead of their
being “joined in affection” and free from all apprehension of
different “interests,” envy and jealousy would soon extinguish
confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each
confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would
be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most
other BORDERING nations, they would always be either involved in
disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.

The most sanguine advocates for three or four confederacies
cannot reasonably suppose that they would long remain exactly on an
equal footing in point of strength, even if it was possible to form
them so at first; but, admitting that to be practicable, yet what
human contrivance can secure the continuance of such equality?
Independent of those local circumstances which tend to beget and
increase power in one part and to impede its progress in another, we
must advert to the effects of that superior policy and good
management which would probably distinguish the government of one
above the rest, and by which their relative equality in strength and
consideration would be destroyed. For it cannot be presumed that
the same degree of sound policy, prudence, and foresight would
uniformly be observed by each of these confederacies for a long
succession of years.

Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen
it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise
on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her
neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy
and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance,
if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her
importance; and would also restrain them from measures calculated
to advance or even to secure her prosperity. Much time would not be
necessary to enable her to discern these unfriendly dispositions.
She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors,
but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them.
Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will
and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies
and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.

The North is generally the region of strength, and many local
circumstances render it probable that the most Northern of the
proposed confederacies would, at a period not very distant, be
unquestionably more formidable than any of the others. No sooner
would this become evident than the NORTHERN HIVE would excite the
same ideas and sensations in the more southern parts of America
which it formerly did in the southern parts of Europe. Nor does it
appear to be a rash conjecture that its young swarms might often be
tempted to gather honey in the more blooming fields and milder air
of their luxurious and more delicate neighbors.

They who well consider the history of similar divisions and
confederacies will find abundant reason to apprehend that those in
contemplation would in no other sense be neighbors than as they
would be borderers; that they would neither love nor trust one
another, but on the contrary would be a prey to discord, jealousy,
and mutual injuries; in short, that they would place us exactly in
the situations in which some nations doubtless wish to see us, viz.,

From these considerations it appears that those gentlemen are
greatly mistaken who suppose that alliances offensive and defensive
might be formed between these confederacies, and would produce that
combination and union of wills of arms and of resources, which would
be necessary to put and keep them in a formidable state of defense
against foreign enemies.

When did the independent states, into which Britain and Spain
were formerly divided, combine in such alliance, or unite their
forces against a foreign enemy? The proposed confederacies will be
DISTINCT NATIONS. Each of them would have its commerce with
foreigners to regulate by distinct treaties; and as their
productions and commodities are different and proper for different
markets, so would those treaties be essentially different.
Different commercial concerns must create different interests, and
of course different degrees of political attachment to and
connection with different foreign nations. Hence it might and
probably would happen that the foreign nation with whom the SOUTHERN
confederacy might be at war would be the one with whom the NORTHERN
confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and
friendship. An alliance so contrary to their immediate interest
would not therefore be easy to form, nor, if formed, would it be
observed and fulfilled with perfect good faith.

Nay, it is far more probable that in America, as in Europe,
neighboring nations, acting under the impulse of opposite interests
and unfriendly passions, would frequently be found taking different
sides. Considering our distance from Europe, it would be more
natural for these confederacies to apprehend danger from one another
than from distant nations, and therefore that each of them should be
more desirous to guard against the others by the aid of foreign
alliances, than to guard against foreign dangers by alliances
between themselves. And here let us not forget how much more easy
it is to receive foreign fleets into our ports, and foreign armies
into our country, than it is to persuade or compel them to depart.
How many conquests did the Romans and others make in the characters
of allies, and what innovations did they under the same character
introduce into the governments of those whom they pretended to

Let candid men judge, then, whether the division of America into
any given number of independent sovereignties would tend to secure
us against the hostilities and improper interference of foreign



Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE three last numbers of this paper have been dedicated to an
enumeration of the dangers to which we should be exposed, in a state
of disunion, from the arms and arts of foreign nations. I shall now
proceed to delineate dangers of a different and, perhaps, still more
alarming kind—those which will in all probability flow from
dissensions between the States themselves, and from domestic
factions and convulsions. These have been already in some instances
slightly anticipated; but they deserve a more particular and more
full investigation.

A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations who can seriously
doubt that, if these States should either be wholly disunited, or
only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which
they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with
each other. To presume a want of motives for such contests as an
argument against their existence, would be to forget that men are
ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. To look for a continuation of
harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties
in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course
of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience
of ages.

The causes of hostility among nations are innumerable. There
are some which have a general and almost constant operation upon the
collective bodies of society. Of this description are the love of
power or the desire of pre-eminence and dominion—the jealousy of
power, or the desire of equality and safety. There are others which
have a more circumscribed though an equally operative influence
within their spheres. Such are the rivalships and competitions of
commerce between commercial nations. And there are others, not less
numerous than either of the former, which take their origin entirely
in private passions; in the attachments, enmities, interests,
hopes, and fears of leading individuals in the communities of which
they are members. Men of this class, whether the favorites of a
king or of a people, have in too many instances abused the
confidence they possessed; and assuming the pretext of some public
motive, have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquillity to
personal advantage or personal gratification.

The celebrated Pericles, in compliance with the resentment of a
prostitute,1 at the expense of much of the blood and treasure of
his countrymen, attacked, vanquished, and destroyed the city of the
SAMNIANS. The same man, stimulated by private pique against the
MEGARENSIANS,2 another nation of Greece, or to avoid a
prosecution with which he was threatened as an accomplice of a
supposed theft of the statuary Phidias,3 or to get rid of the
accusations prepared to be brought against him for dissipating the
funds of the state in the purchase of popularity,4 or from a
combination of all these causes, was the primitive author of that
famous and fatal war, distinguished in the Grecian annals by the
name of the PELOPONNESIAN war; which, after various vicissitudes,
intermissions, and renewals, terminated in the ruin of the Athenian

The ambitious cardinal, who was prime minister to Henry VIII.,
permitting his vanity to aspire to the triple crown,5
entertained hopes of succeeding in the acquisition of that splendid
prize by the influence of the Emperor Charles V. To secure the
favor and interest of this enterprising and powerful monarch, he
precipitated England into a war with France, contrary to the
plainest dictates of policy, and at the hazard of the safety and
independence, as well of the kingdom over which he presided by his
counsels, as of Europe in general. For if there ever was a
sovereign who bid fair to realize the project of universal monarchy,
it was the Emperor Charles V., of whose intrigues Wolsey was at once
the instrument and the dupe.

The influence which the bigotry of one female,6 the
petulance of another,7 and the cabals of a third,8 had in
the contemporary policy, ferments, and pacifications, of a
considerable part of Europe, are topics that have been too often
descanted upon not to be generally known.

To multiply examples of the agency of personal considerations in
the production of great national events, either foreign or domestic,
according to their direction, would be an unnecessary waste of time.
Those who have but a superficial acquaintance with the sources from
which they are to be drawn, will themselves recollect a variety of
instances; and those who have a tolerable knowledge of human nature
will not stand in need of such lights to form their opinion either
of the reality or extent of that agency. Perhaps, however, a
reference, tending to illustrate the general principle, may with
propriety be made to a case which has lately happened among
ourselves. If Shays had not been a DESPERATE DEBTOR, it is much to
be doubted whether Massachusetts would have been plunged into a
civil war.

But notwithstanding the concurring testimony of experience, in
this particular, there are still to be found visionary or designing
men, who stand ready to advocate the paradox of perpetual peace
between the States, though dismembered and alienated from each other.
The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of
commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men, and to
extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into
wars. Commercial republics, like ours, will never be disposed to
waste themselves in ruinous contentions with each other. They will
be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of
mutual amity and concord.

Is it not (we may ask these projectors in politics) the true
interest of all nations to cultivate the same benevolent and
philosophic spirit? If this be their true interest, have they in
fact pursued it? Has it not, on the contrary, invariably been found
that momentary passions, and immediate interest, have a more active
and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote
considerations of policy, utility or justice? Have republics in
practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? Are not the
former administered by MEN as well as the latter? Are there not
aversions, predilections, rivalships, and desires of unjust
acquisitions, that affect nations as well as kings? Are not popular
assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment,
jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities?
Is it not well known that their determinations are often governed
by a few individuals in whom they place confidence, and are, of
course, liable to be tinctured by the passions and views of those
individuals? Has commerce hitherto done anything more than change
the objects of war? Is not the love of wealth as domineering and
enterprising a passion as that of power or glory? Have there not
been as many wars founded upon commercial motives since that has
become the prevailing system of nations, as were before occasioned
by the cupidity of territory or dominion? Has not the spirit of
commerce, in many instances, administered new incentives to the
appetite, both for the one and for the other? Let experience, the
least fallible guide of human opinions, be appealed to for an answer
to these inquiries.

Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Carthage were all republics; two of
them, Athens and Carthage, of the commercial kind. Yet were they as
often engaged in wars, offensive and defensive, as the neighboring
monarchies of the same times. Sparta was little better than a
wellregulated camp; and Rome was never sated of carnage and

Carthage, though a commercial republic, was the aggressor in the
very war that ended in her destruction. Hannibal had carried her
arms into the heart of Italy and to the gates of Rome, before
Scipio, in turn, gave him an overthrow in the territories of
Carthage, and made a conquest of the commonwealth.

Venice, in later times, figured more than once in wars of
ambition, till, becoming an object to the other Italian states, Pope
Julius II. found means to accomplish that formidable league,9
which gave a deadly blow to the power and pride of this haughty

The provinces of Holland, till they were overwhelmed in debts
and taxes, took a leading and conspicuous part in the wars of Europe.
They had furious contests with England for the dominion of the
sea, and were among the most persevering and most implacable of the
opponents of Louis XIV.

In the government of Britain the representatives of the people
compose one branch of the national legislature. Commerce has been
for ages the predominant pursuit of that country. Few nations,
nevertheless, have been more frequently engaged in war; and the
wars in which that kingdom has been engaged have, in numerous
instances, proceeded from the people.

There have been, if I may so express it, almost as many popular
as royal wars. The cries of the nation and the importunities of
their representatives have, upon various occasions, dragged their
monarchs into war, or continued them in it, contrary to their
inclinations, and sometimes contrary to the real interests of the
State. In that memorable struggle for superiority between the rival
houses of AUSTRIA and BOURBON, which so long kept Europe in a flame,
it is well known that the antipathies of the English against the
French, seconding the ambition, or rather the avarice, of a favorite
leader,10 protracted the war beyond the limits marked out by
sound policy, and for a considerable time in opposition to the views
of the court.

The wars of these two last-mentioned nations have in a great
measure grown out of commercial considerations,—the desire of
supplanting and the fear of being supplanted, either in particular
branches of traffic or in the general advantages of trade and

From this summary of what has taken place in other countries,
whose situations have borne the nearest resemblance to our own, what
reason can we have to confide in those reveries which would seduce
us into an expectation of peace and cordiality between the members
of the present confederacy, in a state of separation? Have we not
already seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those idle
theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the
imperfections, weaknesses and evils incident to society in every
shape? Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden
age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our
political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the
globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and
perfect virtue?

Let the point of extreme depression to which our national
dignity and credit have sunk, let the inconveniences felt everywhere
from a lax and ill administration of government, let the revolt of a
part of the State of North Carolina, the late menacing disturbances
in Pennsylvania, and the actual insurrections and rebellions in
Massachusetts, declare—!

So far is the general sense of mankind from corresponding with
the tenets of those who endeavor to lull asleep our apprehensions of
discord and hostility between the States, in the event of disunion,
that it has from long observation of the progress of society become
a sort of axiom in politics, that vicinity or nearness of situation,
constitutes nations natural enemies. An intelligent writer
expresses himself on this subject to this effect: “NEIGHBORING
NATIONS (says he) are naturally enemies of each other unless their
common weakness forces them to league in a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC, and
their constitution prevents the differences that neighborhood
occasions, extinguishing that secret jealousy which disposes all
states to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their
neighbors.”11 This passage, at the same time, points out the
EVIL and suggests the REMEDY.


1 Aspasia, vide “Plutarch’s Life of Pericles.”

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 ] Ibid. Phidias was supposed to have stolen some public
gold, with the connivance of Pericles, for the embellishment of the
statue of Minerva.

5 P Worn by the popes.

6 Madame de Maintenon.

7 Duchess of Marlborough.

8 Madame de Pompadour.

9 The League of Cambray, comprehending the Emperor, the King of
France, the King of Aragon, and most of the Italian princes and

10 The Duke of Marlborough.

11 Vide “Principes des Negociations” par l’Abbe de Mably.


The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States)

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT IS sometimes asked, with an air of seeming triumph, what
inducements could the States have, if disunited, to make war upon
each other? It would be a full answer to this question to
say—precisely the same inducements which have, at different times,
deluged in blood all the nations in the world. But, unfortunately
for us, the question admits of a more particular answer. There are
causes of differences within our immediate contemplation, of the
tendency of which, even under the restraints of a federal
constitution, we have had sufficient experience to enable us to form
a judgment of what might be expected if those restraints were

Territorial disputes have at all times been found one of the
most fertile sources of hostility among nations. Perhaps the
greatest proportion of wars that have desolated the earth have
sprung from this origin. This cause would exist among us in full
force. We have a vast tract of unsettled territory within the
boundaries of the United States. There still are discordant and
undecided claims between several of them, and the dissolution of the
Union would lay a foundation for similar claims between them all.
It is well known that they have heretofore had serious and animated
discussion concerning the rights to the lands which were ungranted
at the time of the Revolution, and which usually went under the name
of crown lands. The States within the limits of whose colonial
governments they were comprised have claimed them as their property,
the others have contended that the rights of the crown in this
article devolved upon the Union; especially as to all that part of
the Western territory which, either by actual possession, or through
the submission of the Indian proprietors, was subjected to the
jurisdiction of the king of Great Britain, till it was relinquished
in the treaty of peace. This, it has been said, was at all events
an acquisition to the Confederacy by compact with a foreign power.
It has been the prudent policy of Congress to appease this
controversy, by prevailing upon the States to make cessions to the
United States for the benefit of the whole. This has been so far
accomplished as, under a continuation of the Union, to afford a
decided prospect of an amicable termination of the dispute. A
dismemberment of the Confederacy, however, would revive this
dispute, and would create others on the same subject. At present, a
large part of the vacant Western territory is, by cession at least,
if not by any anterior right, the common property of the Union. If
that were at an end, the States which made the cession, on a
principle of federal compromise, would be apt when the motive of the
grant had ceased, to reclaim the lands as a reversion. The other
States would no doubt insist on a proportion, by right of
representation. Their argument would be, that a grant, once made,
could not be revoked; and that the justice of participating in
territory acquired or secured by the joint efforts of the
Confederacy, remained undiminished. If, contrary to probability, it
should be admitted by all the States, that each had a right to a
share of this common stock, there would still be a difficulty to be
surmounted, as to a proper rule of apportionment. Different
principles would be set up by different States for this purpose;
and as they would affect the opposite interests of the parties,
they might not easily be susceptible of a pacific adjustment.

In the wide field of Western territory, therefore, we perceive
an ample theatre for hostile pretensions, without any umpire or
common judge to interpose between the contending parties. To reason
from the past to the future, we shall have good ground to apprehend,
that the sword would sometimes be appealed to as the arbiter of
their differences. The circumstances of the dispute between
Connecticut and Pennsylvania, respecting the land at Wyoming,
admonish us not to be sanguine in expecting an easy accommodation of
such differences. The articles of confederation obliged the parties
to submit the matter to the decision of a federal court. The
submission was made, and the court decided in favor of Pennsylvania.
But Connecticut gave strong indications of dissatisfaction with
that determination; nor did she appear to be entirely resigned to
it, till, by negotiation and management, something like an
equivalent was found for the loss she supposed herself to have
sustained. Nothing here said is intended to convey the slightest
censure on the conduct of that State. She no doubt sincerely
believed herself to have been injured by the decision; and States,
like individuals, acquiesce with great reluctance in determinations
to their disadvantage.

Those who had an opportunity of seeing the inside of the
transactions which attended the progress of the controversy between
this State and the district of Vermont, can vouch the opposition we
experienced, as well from States not interested as from those which
were interested in the claim; and can attest the danger to which
the peace of the Confederacy might have been exposed, had this State
attempted to assert its rights by force. Two motives preponderated
in that opposition: one, a jealousy entertained of our future
power; and the other, the interest of certain individuals of
influence in the neighboring States, who had obtained grants of
lands under the actual government of that district. Even the States
which brought forward claims, in contradiction to ours, seemed more
solicitous to dismember this State, than to establish their own
pretensions. These were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and
Connecticut. New Jersey and Rhode Island, upon all occasions,
discovered a warm zeal for the independence of Vermont; and
Maryland, till alarmed by the appearance of a connection between
Canada and that State, entered deeply into the same views. These
being small States, saw with an unfriendly eye the perspective of
our growing greatness. In a review of these transactions we may
trace some of the causes which would be likely to embroil the States
with each other, if it should be their unpropitious destiny to
become disunited.

The competitions of commerce would be another fruitful source of
contention. The States less favorably circumstanced would be
desirous of escaping from the disadvantages of local situation, and
of sharing in the advantages of their more fortunate neighbors.
Each State, or separate confederacy, would pursue a system of
commercial policy peculiar to itself. This would occasion
distinctions, preferences, and exclusions, which would beget
discontent. The habits of intercourse, on the basis of equal
privileges, to which we have been accustomed since the earliest
settlement of the country, would give a keener edge to those causes
of discontent than they would naturally have independent of this
enterprise, which characterizes the commercial part of America, has
left no occasion of displaying itself unimproved. It is not at all
probable that this unbridled spirit would pay much respect to those
regulations of trade by which particular States might endeavor to
secure exclusive benefits to their own citizens. The infractions of
these regulations, on one side, the efforts to prevent and repel
them, on the other, would naturally lead to outrages, and these to
reprisals and wars.

The opportunities which some States would have of rendering
others tributary to them by commercial regulations would be
impatiently submitted to by the tributary States. The relative
situation of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey would afford an
example of this kind. New York, from the necessities of revenue,
must lay duties on her importations. A great part of these duties
must be paid by the inhabitants of the two other States in the
capacity of consumers of what we import. New York would neither be
willing nor able to forego this advantage. Her citizens would not
consent that a duty paid by them should be remitted in favor of the
citizens of her neighbors; nor would it be practicable, if there
were not this impediment in the way, to distinguish the customers in
our own markets. Would Connecticut and New Jersey long submit to be
taxed by New York for her exclusive benefit? Should we be long
permitted to remain in the quiet and undisturbed enjoyment of a
metropolis, from the possession of which we derived an advantage so
odious to our neighbors, and, in their opinion, so oppressive?
Should we be able to preserve it against the incumbent weight of
Connecticut on the one side, and the co-operating pressure of New
Jersey on the other? These are questions that temerity alone will
answer in the affirmative.

The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of
collision between the separate States or confederacies. The
apportionment, in the first instance, and the progressive
extinguishment afterward, would be alike productive of ill-humor and
animosity. How would it be possible to agree upon a rule of
apportionment satisfactory to all? There is scarcely any that can
be proposed which is entirely free from real objections. These, as
usual, would be exaggerated by the adverse interest of the parties.
There are even dissimilar views among the States as to the general
principle of discharging the public debt. Some of them, either less
impressed with the importance of national credit, or because their
citizens have little, if any, immediate interest in the question,
feel an indifference, if not a repugnance, to the payment of the
domestic debt at any rate. These would be inclined to magnify the
difficulties of a distribution. Others of them, a numerous body of
whose citizens are creditors to the public beyond proportion of the
State in the total amount of the national debt, would be strenuous
for some equitable and effective provision. The procrastinations of
the former would excite the resentments of the latter. The
settlement of a rule would, in the meantime, be postponed by real
differences of opinion and affected delays. The citizens of the
States interested would clamour; foreign powers would urge for the
satisfaction of their just demands, and the peace of the States
would be hazarded to the double contingency of external invasion and
internal contention.

Suppose the difficulties of agreeing upon a rule surmounted, and
the apportionment made. Still there is great room to suppose that
the rule agreed upon would, upon experiment, be found to bear harder
upon some States than upon others. Those which were sufferers by it
would naturally seek for a mitigation of the burden. The others
would as naturally be disinclined to a revision, which was likely to
end in an increase of their own incumbrances. Their refusal would
be too plausible a pretext to the complaining States to withhold
their contributions, not to be embraced with avidity; and the
non-compliance of these States with their engagements would be a
ground of bitter discussion and altercation. If even the rule
adopted should in practice justify the equality of its principle,
still delinquencies in payments on the part of some of the States
would result from a diversity of other causes—the real deficiency of
resources; the mismanagement of their finances; accidental
disorders in the management of the government; and, in addition to
the rest, the reluctance with which men commonly part with money for
purposes that have outlived the exigencies which produced them, and
interfere with the supply of immediate wants. Delinquencies, from
whatever causes, would be productive of complaints, recriminations,
and quarrels. There is, perhaps, nothing more likely to disturb the
tranquillity of nations than their being bound to mutual
contributions for any common object that does not yield an equal and
coincident benefit. For it is an observation, as true as it is
trite, that there is nothing men differ so readily about as the
payment of money.

Laws in violation of private contracts, as they amount to
aggressions on the rights of those States whose citizens are injured
by them, may be considered as another probable source of hostility.
We are not authorized to expect that a more liberal or more
equitable spirit would preside over the legislations of the
individual States hereafter, if unrestrained by any additional
checks, than we have heretofore seen in too many instances
disgracing their several codes. We have observed the disposition to
retaliation excited in Connecticut in consequence of the enormities
perpetrated by the Legislature of Rhode Island; and we reasonably
infer that, in similar cases, under other circumstances, a war, not
of PARCHMENT, but of the sword, would chastise such atrocious
breaches of moral obligation and social justice.

The probability of incompatible alliances between the different
States or confederacies and different foreign nations, and the
effects of this situation upon the peace of the whole, have been
sufficiently unfolded in some preceding papers. From the view they
have exhibited of this part of the subject, this conclusion is to be
drawn, that America, if not connected at all, or only by the feeble
tie of a simple league, offensive and defensive, would, by the
operation of such jarring alliances, be gradually entangled in all
the pernicious labyrinths of European politics and wars; and by the
destructive contentions of the parts into which she was divided,
would be likely to become a prey to the artifices and machinations
of powers equally the enemies of them all. Divide et
impera1 must be the motto of every nation that either hates or
fears us.2 PUBLIUS.

1 Divide and command.

2 In order that the whole subject of these papers may as soon as
possible be laid before the public, it is proposed to publish them
four times a week—on Tuesday in the New York Packet and on
Thursday in the Daily Advertiser.


The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States

From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, November 20, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

ASSUMING it therefore as an established truth that the several
States, in case of disunion, or such combinations of them as might
happen to be formed out of the wreck of the general Confederacy,
would be subject to those vicissitudes of peace and war, of
friendship and enmity, with each other, which have fallen to the lot
of all neighboring nations not united under one government, let us
enter into a concise detail of some of the consequences that would
attend such a situation.

War between the States, in the first period of their separate
existence, would be accompanied with much greater distresses than it
commonly is in those countries where regular military establishments
have long obtained. The disciplined armies always kept on foot on
the continent of Europe, though they bear a malignant aspect to
liberty and economy, have, notwithstanding, been productive of the
signal advantage of rendering sudden conquests impracticable, and of
preventing that rapid desolation which used to mark the progress of
war prior to their introduction. The art of fortification has
contributed to the same ends. The nations of Europe are encircled
with chains of fortified places, which mutually obstruct invasion.
Campaigns are wasted in reducing two or three frontier garrisons,
to gain admittance into an enemy’s country. Similar impediments
occur at every step, to exhaust the strength and delay the progress
of an invader. Formerly, an invading army would penetrate into the
heart of a neighboring country almost as soon as intelligence of its
approach could be received; but now a comparatively small force of
disciplined troops, acting on the defensive, with the aid of posts,
is able to impede, and finally to frustrate, the enterprises of one
much more considerable. The history of war, in that quarter of the
globe, is no longer a history of nations subdued and empires
overturned, but of towns taken and retaken; of battles that decide
nothing; of retreats more beneficial than victories; of much
effort and little acquisition.

In this country the scene would be altogether reversed. The
jealousy of military establishments would postpone them as long as
possible. The want of fortifications, leaving the frontiers of one
state open to another, would facilitate inroads. The populous
States would, with little difficulty, overrun their less populous
neighbors. Conquests would be as easy to be made as difficult to be
retained. War, therefore, would be desultory and predatory.
PLUNDER and devastation ever march in the train of irregulars. The
calamities of individuals would make the principal figure in the
events which would characterize our military exploits.

This picture is not too highly wrought; though, I confess, it
would not long remain a just one. Safety from external danger is
the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent
love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The
violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the
continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger,
will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for
repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy
their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length
become willing to run the risk of being less free.

The institutions chiefly alluded to are STANDING ARMIES and the
correspondent appendages of military establishments. Standing
armies, it is said, are not provided against in the new
Constitution; and it is therefore inferred that they may exist
under it.1 Their existence, however, from the very terms of the
proposition, is, at most, problematical and uncertain. But standing
armies, it may be replied, must inevitably result from a dissolution
of the Confederacy. Frequent war and constant apprehension, which
require a state of as constant preparation, will infallibly produce
them. The weaker States or confederacies would first have recourse
to them, to put themselves upon an equality with their more potent
neighbors. They would endeavor to supply the inferiority of
population and resources by a more regular and effective system of
defense, by disciplined troops, and by fortifications. They would,
at the same time, be necessitated to strengthen the executive arm of
government, in doing which their constitutions would acquire a
progressive direction toward monarchy. It is of the nature of war
to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative

The expedients which have been mentioned would soon give the
States or confederacies that made use of them a superiority over
their neighbors. Small states, or states of less natural strength,
under vigorous governments, and with the assistance of disciplined
armies, have often triumphed over large states, or states of greater
natural strength, which have been destitute of these advantages.
Neither the pride nor the safety of the more important States or
confederacies would permit them long to submit to this mortifying
and adventitious superiority. They would quickly resort to means
similar to those by which it had been effected, to reinstate
themselves in their lost pre-eminence. Thus, we should, in a little
time, see established in every part of this country the same engines
of despotism which have been the scourge of the Old World. This, at
least, would be the natural course of things; and our reasonings
will be the more likely to be just, in proportion as they are
accommodated to this standard.

These are not vague inferences drawn from supposed or
speculative defects in a Constitution, the whole power of which is
lodged in the hands of a people, or their representatives and
delegates, but they are solid conclusions, drawn from the natural
and necessary progress of human affairs.

It may, perhaps, be asked, by way of objection to this, why did
not standing armies spring up out of the contentions which so often
distracted the ancient republics of Greece? Different answers,
equally satisfactory, may be given to this question. The
industrious habits of the people of the present day, absorbed in the
pursuits of gain, and devoted to the improvements of agriculture and
commerce, are incompatible with the condition of a nation of
soldiers, which was the true condition of the people of those
republics. The means of revenue, which have been so greatly
multiplied by the increase of gold and silver and of the arts of
industry, and the science of finance, which is the offspring of
modern times, concurring with the habits of nations, have produced
an entire revolution in the system of war, and have rendered
disciplined armies, distinct from the body of the citizens, the
inseparable companions of frequent hostility.

There is a wide difference, also, between military
establishments in a country seldom exposed by its situation to
internal invasions, and in one which is often subject to them, and
always apprehensive of them. The rulers of the former can have a
good pretext, if they are even so inclined, to keep on foot armies
so numerous as must of necessity be maintained in the latter. These
armies being, in the first case, rarely, if at all, called into
activity for interior defense, the people are in no danger of being
broken to military subordination. The laws are not accustomed to
relaxations, in favor of military exigencies; the civil state
remains in full vigor, neither corrupted, nor confounded with the
principles or propensities of the other state. The smallness of the
army renders the natural strength of the community an over-match for
it; and the citizens, not habituated to look up to the military
power for protection, or to submit to its oppressions, neither love
nor fear the soldiery; they view them with a spirit of jealous
acquiescence in a necessary evil, and stand ready to resist a power
which they suppose may be exerted to the prejudice of their rights.
The army under such circumstances may usefully aid the magistrate
to suppress a small faction, or an occasional mob, or insurrection;
but it will be unable to enforce encroachments against the united
efforts of the great body of the people.

In a country in the predicament last described, the contrary of
all this happens. The perpetual menacings of danger oblige the
government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be
numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for
their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and
proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military
state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of
territories, often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to
frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their
sense of those rights; and by degrees the people are brought to
consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their
superiors. The transition from this disposition to that of
considering them masters, is neither remote nor difficult; but it
is very difficult to prevail upon a people under such impressions,
to make a bold or effectual resistance to usurpations supported by
the military power.

The kingdom of Great Britain falls within the first description.
An insular situation, and a powerful marine, guarding it in a great
measure against the possibility of foreign invasion, supersede the
necessity of a numerous army within the kingdom. A sufficient force
to make head against a sudden descent, till the militia could have
time to rally and embody, is all that has been deemed requisite. No
motive of national policy has demanded, nor would public opinion
have tolerated, a larger number of troops upon its domestic
establishment. There has been, for a long time past, little room
for the operation of the other causes, which have been enumerated as
the consequences of internal war. This peculiar felicity of
situation has, in a great degree, contributed to preserve the
liberty which that country to this day enjoys, in spite of the
prevalent venality and corruption. If, on the contrary, Britain had
been situated on the continent, and had been compelled, as she would
have been, by that situation, to make her military establishments at
home coextensive with those of the other great powers of Europe,
she, like them, would in all probability be, at this day, a victim
to the absolute power of a single man. ‘T is possible, though not
easy, that the people of that island may be enslaved from other
causes; but it cannot be by the prowess of an army so
inconsiderable as that which has been usually kept up within the

If we are wise enough to preserve the Union we may for ages
enjoy an advantage similar to that of an insulated situation.
Europe is at a great distance from us. Her colonies in our
vicinity will be likely to continue too much disproportioned in
strength to be able to give us any dangerous annoyance. Extensive
military establishments cannot, in this position, be necessary to
our security. But if we should be disunited, and the integral parts
should either remain separated, or, which is most probable, should
be thrown together into two or three confederacies, we should be, in
a short course of time, in the predicament of the continental powers
of Europe —our liberties would be a prey to the means of defending
ourselves against the ambition and jealousy of each other.

This is an idea not superficial or futile, but solid and weighty.
It deserves the most serious and mature consideration of every
prudent and honest man of whatever party. If such men will make a
firm and solemn pause, and meditate dispassionately on the
importance of this interesting idea; if they will contemplate it in
all its attitudes, and trace it to all its consequences, they will
not hesitate to part with trivial objections to a Constitution, the
rejection of which would in all probability put a final period to
the Union. The airy phantoms that flit before the distempered
imaginations of some of its adversaries would quickly give place to
the more substantial forms of dangers, real, certain, and formidable.


1 This objection will be fully examined in its proper place, and
it will be shown that the only natural precaution which could have
been taken on this subject has been taken; and a much better one
than is to be found in any constitution that has been heretofore
framed in America, most of which contain no guard at all on this


The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

A FIRM Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and
liberty of the States, as a barrier against domestic faction and
insurrection. It is impossible to read the history of the petty
republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror
and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually
agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they
were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of
tyranny and anarchy. If they exhibit occasional calms, these only
serve as short-lived contrast to the furious storms that are to
succeed. If now and then intervals of felicity open to view, we
behold them with a mixture of regret, arising from the reflection
that the pleasing scenes before us are soon to be overwhelmed by the
tempestuous waves of sedition and party rage. If momentary rays of
glory break forth from the gloom, while they dazzle us with a
transient and fleeting brilliancy, they at the same time admonish us
to lament that the vices of government should pervert the direction
and tarnish the lustre of those bright talents and exalted
endowments for which the favored soils that produced them have been
so justly celebrated.

From the disorders that disfigure the annals of those republics
the advocates of despotism have drawn arguments, not only against
the forms of republican government, but against the very principles
of civil liberty. They have decried all free government as
inconsistent with the order of society, and have indulged themselves
in malicious exultation over its friends and partisans. Happily for
mankind, stupendous fabrics reared on the basis of liberty, which
have flourished for ages, have, in a few glorious instances, refuted
their gloomy sophisms. And, I trust, America will be the broad and
solid foundation of other edifices, not less magnificent, which will
be equally permanent monuments of their errors.

But it is not to be denied that the portraits they have sketched
of republican government were too just copies of the originals from
which they were taken. If it had been found impracticable to have
devised models of a more perfect structure, the enlightened friends
to liberty would have been obliged to abandon the cause of that
species of government as indefensible. The science of politics,
however, like most other sciences, has received great improvement.
The efficacy of various principles is now well understood, which
were either not known at all, or imperfectly known to the ancients.
The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the
introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of
courts composed of judges holding their offices during good
behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by
deputies of their own election: these are wholly new discoveries,
or have made their principal progress towards perfection in modern
times. They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences
of republican government may be retained and its imperfections
lessened or avoided. To this catalogue of circumstances that tend
to the amelioration of popular systems of civil government, I shall
venture, however novel it may appear to some, to add one more, on a
principle which has been made the foundation of an objection to the
new Constitution; I mean the ENLARGEMENT of the ORBIT within which
such systems are to revolve, either in respect to the dimensions of
a single State or to the consolidation of several smaller States
into one great Confederacy. The latter is that which immediately
concerns the object under consideration. It will, however, be of
use to examine the principle in its application to a single State,
which shall be attended to in another place.

The utility of a Confederacy, as well to suppress faction and to
guard the internal tranquillity of States, as to increase their
external force and security, is in reality not a new idea. It has
been practiced upon in different countries and ages, and has
received the sanction of the most approved writers on the subject of
politics. The opponents of the plan proposed have, with great
assiduity, cited and circulated the observations of Montesquieu on
the necessity of a contracted territory for a republican government.
But they seem not to have been apprised of the sentiments of that
great man expressed in another part of his work, nor to have
adverted to the consequences of the principle to which they
subscribe with such ready acquiescence.

When Montesquieu recommends a small extent for republics, the
standards he had in view were of dimensions far short of the limits
of almost every one of these States. Neither Virginia,
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, nor Georgia
can by any means be compared with the models from which he reasoned
and to which the terms of his description apply. If we therefore
take his ideas on this point as the criterion of truth, we shall be
driven to the alternative either of taking refuge at once in the
arms of monarchy, or of splitting ourselves into an infinity of
little, jealous, clashing, tumultuous commonwealths, the wretched
nurseries of unceasing discord, and the miserable objects of
universal pity or contempt. Some of the writers who have come
forward on the other side of the question seem to have been aware of
the dilemma; and have even been bold enough to hint at the division
of the larger States as a desirable thing. Such an infatuated
policy, such a desperate expedient, might, by the multiplication of
petty offices, answer the views of men who possess not
qualifications to extend their influence beyond the narrow circles
of personal intrigue, but it could never promote the greatness or
happiness of the people of America.

Referring the examination of the principle itself to another
place, as has been already mentioned, it will be sufficient to
remark here that, in the sense of the author who has been most
emphatically quoted upon the occasion, it would only dictate a
reduction of the SIZE of the more considerable MEMBERS of the Union,
but would not militate against their being all comprehended in one
confederate government. And this is the true question, in the
discussion of which we are at present interested.

So far are the suggestions of Montesquieu from standing in
opposition to a general Union of the States, that he explicitly
treats of a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC as the expedient for extending the
sphere of popular government, and reconciling the advantages of
monarchy with those of republicanism.

“It is very probable,” (says he1) “that mankind would
have been obliged at length to live constantly under the government
of a single person, had they not contrived a kind of constitution
that has all the internal advantages of a republican, together with
the external force of a monarchical government. I mean a

“This form of government is a convention by which several
smaller STATES agree to become members of a larger ONE, which they
intend to form. It is a kind of assemblage of societies that
constitute a new one, capable of increasing, by means of new
associations, till they arrive to such a degree of power as to be
able to provide for the security of the united body.

“A republic of this kind, able to withstand an external force,
may support itself without any internal corruptions. The form of
this society prevents all manner of inconveniences.

“If a single member should attempt to usurp the supreme
authority, he could not be supposed to have an equal authority and
credit in all the confederate states. Were he to have too great
influence over one, this would alarm the rest. Were he to subdue a
part, that which would still remain free might oppose him with
forces independent of those which he had usurped and overpower him
before he could be settled in his usurpation.

“Should a popular insurrection happen in one of the confederate
states the others are able to quell it. Should abuses creep into
one part, they are reformed by those that remain sound. The state
may be destroyed on one side, and not on the other; the confederacy
may be dissolved, and the confederates preserve their sovereignty.

“As this government is composed of small republics, it enjoys
the internal happiness of each; and with respect to its external
situation, it is possessed, by means of the association, of all the
advantages of large monarchies.”

I have thought it proper to quote at length these interesting
passages, because they contain a luminous abridgment of the
principal arguments in favor of the Union, and must effectually
remove the false impressions which a misapplication of other parts
of the work was calculated to make. They have, at the same time, an
intimate connection with the more immediate design of this paper;
which is, to illustrate the tendency of the Union to repress
domestic faction and insurrection.

A distinction, more subtle than accurate, has been raised
between a CONFEDERACY and a CONSOLIDATION of the States. The
essential characteristic of the first is said to be, the restriction
of its authority to the members in their collective capacities,
without reaching to the individuals of whom they are composed. It
is contended that the national council ought to have no concern with
any object of internal administration. An exact equality of
suffrage between the members has also been insisted upon as a
leading feature of a confederate government. These positions are,
in the main, arbitrary; they are supported neither by principle nor
precedent. It has indeed happened, that governments of this kind
have generally operated in the manner which the distinction taken
notice of, supposes to be inherent in their nature; but there have
been in most of them extensive exceptions to the practice, which
serve to prove, as far as example will go, that there is no absolute
rule on the subject. And it will be clearly shown in the course of
this investigation that as far as the principle contended for has
prevailed, it has been the cause of incurable disorder and
imbecility in the government.

The definition of a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC seems simply to be “an
assemblage of societies,” or an association of two or more states
into one state. The extent, modifications, and objects of the
federal authority are mere matters of discretion. So long as the
separate organization of the members be not abolished; so long as
it exists, by a constitutional necessity, for local purposes;
though it should be in perfect subordination to the general
authority of the union, it would still be, in fact and in theory, an
association of states, or a confederacy. The proposed Constitution,
so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes
them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them
a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their
possession certain exclusive and very important portions of
sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import
of the terms, with the idea of a federal government.

In the Lycian confederacy, which consisted of twenty-three
CITIES or republics, the largest were entitled to THREE votes in the
COMMON COUNCIL, those of the middle class to TWO, and the smallest
to ONE. The COMMON COUNCIL had the appointment of all the judges
and magistrates of the respective CITIES. This was certainly the
most, delicate species of interference in their internal
administration; for if there be any thing that seems exclusively
appropriated to the local jurisdictions, it is the appointment of
their own officers. Yet Montesquieu, speaking of this association,
says: “Were I to give a model of an excellent Confederate
Republic, it would be that of Lycia.” Thus we perceive that the
distinctions insisted upon were not within the contemplation of this
enlightened civilian; and we shall be led to conclude, that they
are the novel refinements of an erroneous theory.


1 “Spirit of Lawa,” vol. i., book ix., chap. i.


The Same Subject Continued

(The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and


From the New York Packet.

Friday, November 23, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a wellconstructed
Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its
tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend
of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their
character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this
dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on
any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is
attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability,
injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have,
in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments
have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and
fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their
most specious declamations. The valuable improvements made by the
American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and
modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an
unwarrantable partiality, to contend that they have as effectually
obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected.
Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and
virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith,
and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too
unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of
rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not
according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party,
but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.
However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no
foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny
that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a
candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under
which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our
governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other
causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes;
and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of
public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed
from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly,
if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which
a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether
amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united
and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest,
adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and
aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the
one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction:
the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its
existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions,
the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that
it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to
fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could
not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to
political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to
wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life,
because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be
unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is
at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As
long as the connection subsists between his reason and his
self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal
influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which
the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties
of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an
insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection
of these faculties is the first object of government. From the
protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property,
the possession of different degrees and kinds of property
immediately results; and from the influence of these on the
sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a
division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man;
and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of
activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society.
A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning
government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of
practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending
for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions
whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in
turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual
animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress
each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is
this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that
where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous
and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their
unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But
the most common and durable source of factions has been the various
and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who
are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.
Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a
like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a
mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests,
grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into
different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The
regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the
principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of
party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his
interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably,
corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body
of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time;
yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so
many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of
single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of
citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but
advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law
proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the
creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other.
Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties
are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous
party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be
expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and
in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are
questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the
manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to
justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the
various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require
the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative
act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a
predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every
shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a
shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to
adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to
the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the
helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all
without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which
will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may
find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of
faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in
the means of controlling its EFFECTS.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is
supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to
defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the
administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable
to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.
When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular
government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling
passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other
citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the
danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the
spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object
to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the
great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued
from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be
recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of
two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a
majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having
such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their
number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect
schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be
suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious
motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found
to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose
their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that
is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure
democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of
citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can
admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or
interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the
whole; a communication and concert result from the form of
government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to
sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is
that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and
contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal
security or the rights of property; and have in general been as
short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of
government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a
perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same
time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions,
their opinions, and their passions.

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of
representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises
the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in
which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both
the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from
the Union.

The two great points of difference between a democracy and a
republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the
latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest;
secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of
country, over which the latter may be extended.

The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to
refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the
medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern
the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of
justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial
considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that
the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people,
will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the
people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the
effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local
prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption,
or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the
interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small
or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper
guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of
the latter by two obvious considerations:

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the
republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain
number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that,
however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number,
in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the
number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion
to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in
the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit
characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the
former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater
probability of a fit choice.

In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a
greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic,
it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with
success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried;
and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more
likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and
the most diffusive and established characters.

It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there
is a mean, on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to
lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the
representatives too little acquainted with all their local
circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you
render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to
comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal
Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great
and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local
and particular to the State legislatures.

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens
and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of
republican than of democratic government; and it is this
circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to
be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the
society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and
interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and
interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same
party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a
majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed,
the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of
oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of
parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of
the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other
citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more
difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to
act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be
remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or
dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust
in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a
republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of
faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,—is enjoyed by
the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist
in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and
virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and
schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation
of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite
endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a
greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being
able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the
increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase
this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles
opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an
unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the
Union gives it the most palpable advantage.

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within
their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general
conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may
degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy;
but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must
secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A
rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal
division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project,
will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a
particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is
more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire

In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we
behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to
republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and
pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in
cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.



The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a


For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE importance of the Union, in a commercial light, is one of
those points about which there is least room to entertain a
difference of opinion, and which has, in fact, commanded the most
general assent of men who have any acquaintance with the subject.
This applies as well to our intercourse with foreign countries as
with each other.

There are appearances to authorize a supposition that the
adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of
America, has already excited uneasy sensations in several of the
maritime powers of Europe. They seem to be apprehensive of our too
great interference in that carrying trade, which is the support of
their navigation and the foundation of their naval strength. Those
of them which have colonies in America look forward to what this
country is capable of becoming, with painful solicitude. They
foresee the dangers that may threaten their American dominions from
the neighborhood of States, which have all the dispositions, and
would possess all the means, requisite to the creation of a powerful
marine. Impressions of this kind will naturally indicate the policy
of fostering divisions among us, and of depriving us, as far as
possible, of an ACTIVE COMMERCE in our own bottoms. This would
answer the threefold purpose of preventing our interference in their
navigation, of monopolizing the profits of our trade, and of
clipping the wings by which we might soar to a dangerous greatness.
Did not prudence forbid the detail, it would not be difficult to
trace, by facts, the workings of this policy to the cabinets of

If we continue united, we may counteract a policy so unfriendly
to our prosperity in a variety of ways. By prohibitory regulations,
extending, at the same time, throughout the States, we may oblige
foreign countries to bid against each other, for the privileges of
our markets. This assertion will not appear chimerical to those who
are able to appreciate the importance of the markets of three
millions of people—increasing in rapid progression, for the most
part exclusively addicted to agriculture, and likely from local
circumstances to remain so—to any manufacturing nation; and the
immense difference there would be to the trade and navigation of
such a nation, between a direct communication in its own ships, and
an indirect conveyance of its products and returns, to and from
America, in the ships of another country. Suppose, for instance, we
had a government in America, capable of excluding Great Britain
(with whom we have at present no treaty of commerce) from all our
ports; what would be the probable operation of this step upon her
politics? Would it not enable us to negotiate, with the fairest
prospect of success, for commercial privileges of the most valuable
and extensive kind, in the dominions of that kingdom? When these
questions have been asked, upon other occasions, they have received
a plausible, but not a solid or satisfactory answer. It has been
said that prohibitions on our part would produce no change in the
system of Britain, because she could prosecute her trade with us
through the medium of the Dutch, who would be her immediate
customers and paymasters for those articles which were wanted for
the supply of our markets. But would not her navigation be
materially injured by the loss of the important advantage of being
her own carrier in that trade? Would not the principal part of its
profits be intercepted by the Dutch, as a compensation for their
agency and risk? Would not the mere circumstance of freight
occasion a considerable deduction? Would not so circuitous an
intercourse facilitate the competitions of other nations, by
enhancing the price of British commodities in our markets, and by
transferring to other hands the management of this interesting
branch of the British commerce?

A mature consideration of the objects suggested by these
questions will justify a belief that the real disadvantages to
Britain from such a state of things, conspiring with the
pre-possessions of a great part of the nation in favor of the
American trade, and with the importunities of the West India
islands, would produce a relaxation in her present system, and would
let us into the enjoyment of privileges in the markets of those
islands elsewhere, from which our trade would derive the most
substantial benefits. Such a point gained from the British
government, and which could not be expected without an equivalent in
exemptions and immunities in our markets, would be likely to have a
correspondent effect on the conduct of other nations, who would not
be inclined to see themselves altogether supplanted in our trade.

A further resource for influencing the conduct of European
nations toward us, in this respect, would arise from the
establishment of a federal navy. There can be no doubt that the
continuance of the Union under an efficient government would put it
in our power, at a period not very distant, to create a navy which,
if it could not vie with those of the great maritime powers, would
at least be of respectable weight if thrown into the scale of either
of two contending parties. This would be more peculiarly the case
in relation to operations in the West Indies. A few ships of the
line, sent opportunely to the reinforcement of either side, would
often be sufficient to decide the fate of a campaign, on the event
of which interests of the greatest magnitude were suspended. Our
position is, in this respect, a most commanding one. And if to this
consideration we add that of the usefulness of supplies from this
country, in the prosecution of military operations in the West
Indies, it will readily be perceived that a situation so favorable
would enable us to bargain with great advantage for commercial
privileges. A price would be set not only upon our friendship, but
upon our neutrality. By a steady adherence to the Union we may
hope, erelong, to become the arbiter of Europe in America, and to be
able to incline the balance of European competitions in this part of
the world as our interest may dictate.

But in the reverse of this eligible situation, we shall discover
that the rivalships of the parts would make them checks upon each
other, and would frustrate all the tempting advantages which nature
has kindly placed within our reach. In a state so insignificant our
commerce would be a prey to the wanton intermeddlings of all nations
at war with each other; who, having nothing to fear from us, would
with little scruple or remorse, supply their wants by depredations
on our property as often as it fell in their way. The rights of
neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an
adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even
the privilege of being neutral.

Under a vigorous national government, the natural strength and
resources of the country, directed to a common interest, would
baffle all the combinations of European jealousy to restrain our
growth. This situation would even take away the motive to such
combinations, by inducing an impracticability of success. An active
commerce, an extensive navigation, and a flourishing marine would
then be the offspring of moral and physical necessity. We might
defy the little arts of the little politicians to control or vary
the irresistible and unchangeable course of nature.

But in a state of disunion, these combinations might exist and
might operate with success. It would be in the power of the
maritime nations, availing themselves of our universal impotence, to
prescribe the conditions of our political existence; and as they
have a common interest in being our carriers, and still more in
preventing our becoming theirs, they would in all probability
combine to embarrass our navigation in such a manner as would in
effect destroy it, and confine us to a PASSIVE COMMERCE. We should
then be compelled to content ourselves with the first price of our
commodities, and to see the profits of our trade snatched from us to
enrich our enemies and persecutors. That unequaled spirit of
enterprise, which signalizes the genius of the American merchants
and navigators, and which is in itself an inexhaustible mine of
national wealth, would be stifled and lost, and poverty and disgrace
would overspread a country which, with wisdom, might make herself
the admiration and envy of the world.

There are rights of great moment to the trade of America which
are rights of the Union—I allude to the fisheries, to the navigation
of the Western lakes, and to that of the Mississippi. The
dissolution of the Confederacy would give room for delicate
questions concerning the future existence of these rights; which
the interest of more powerful partners would hardly fail to solve to
our disadvantage. The disposition of Spain with regard to the
Mississippi needs no comment. France and Britain are concerned with
us in the fisheries, and view them as of the utmost moment to their
navigation. They, of course, would hardly remain long indifferent
to that decided mastery, of which experience has shown us to be
possessed in this valuable branch of traffic, and by which we are
able to undersell those nations in their own markets. What more
natural than that they should be disposed to exclude from the lists
such dangerous competitors?

This branch of trade ought not to be considered as a partial
benefit. All the navigating States may, in different degrees,
advantageously participate in it, and under circumstances of a
greater extension of mercantile capital, would not be unlikely to do
it. As a nursery of seamen, it now is, or when time shall have more
nearly assimilated the principles of navigation in the several
States, will become, a universal resource. To the establishment of
a navy, it must be indispensable.

To this great national object, a NAVY, union will contribute in
various ways. Every institution will grow and flourish in
proportion to the quantity and extent of the means concentred
towards its formation and support. A navy of the United States, as
it would embrace the resources of all, is an object far less remote
than a navy of any single State or partial confederacy, which would
only embrace the resources of a single part. It happens, indeed,
that different portions of confederated America possess each some
peculiar advantage for this essential establishment. The more
southern States furnish in greater abundance certain kinds of naval
stores—tar, pitch, and turpentine. Their wood for the construction
of ships is also of a more solid and lasting texture. The
difference in the duration of the ships of which the navy might be
composed, if chiefly constructed of Southern wood, would be of
signal importance, either in the view of naval strength or of
national economy. Some of the Southern and of the Middle States
yield a greater plenty of iron, and of better quality. Seamen must
chiefly be drawn from the Northern hive. The necessity of naval
protection to external or maritime commerce does not require a
particular elucidation, no more than the conduciveness of that
species of commerce to the prosperity of a navy.

An unrestrained intercourse between the States themselves will
advance the trade of each by an interchange of their respective
productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants at home,
but for exportation to foreign markets. The veins of commerce in
every part will be replenished, and will acquire additional motion
and vigor from a free circulation of the commodities of every part.
Commercial enterprise will have much greater scope, from the
diversity in the productions of different States. When the staple
of one fails from a bad harvest or unproductive crop, it can call to
its aid the staple of another. The variety, not less than the
value, of products for exportation contributes to the activity of
foreign commerce. It can be conducted upon much better terms with a
large number of materials of a given value than with a small number
of materials of the same value; arising from the competitions of
trade and from the fluctations of markets. Particular articles may
be in great demand at certain periods, and unsalable at others; but
if there be a variety of articles, it can scarcely happen that they
should all be at one time in the latter predicament, and on this
account the operations of the merchant would be less liable to any
considerable obstruction or stagnation. The speculative trader will
at once perceive the force of these observations, and will
acknowledge that the aggregate balance of the commerce of the United
States would bid fair to be much more favorable than that of the
thirteen States without union or with partial unions.

It may perhaps be replied to this, that whether the States are
united or disunited, there would still be an intimate intercourse
between them which would answer the same ends; this intercourse
would be fettered, interrupted, and narrowed by a multiplicity of
causes, which in the course of these papers have been amply detailed.
A unity of commercial, as well as political, interests, can only
result from a unity of government.

There are other points of view in which this subject might be
placed, of a striking and animating kind. But they would lead us
too far into the regions of futurity, and would involve topics not
proper for a newspaper discussion. I shall briefly observe, that
our situation invites and our interests prompt us to aim at an
ascendant in the system of American affairs. The world may
politically, as well as geographically, be divided into four parts,
each having a distinct set of interests. Unhappily for the other
three, Europe, by her arms and by her negotiations, by force and by
fraud, has, in different degrees, extended her dominion over them
all. Africa, Asia, and America, have successively felt her
domination. The superiority she has long maintained has tempted her
to plume herself as the Mistress of the World, and to consider the
rest of mankind as created for her benefit. Men admired as profound
philosophers have, in direct terms, attributed to her inhabitants a
physical superiority, and have gravely asserted that all animals,
and with them the human species, degenerate in America—that even
dogs cease to bark after having breathed awhile in our
atmosphere.1 Facts have too long supported these arrogant
pretensions of the Europeans. It belongs to us to vindicate the
honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother,
moderation. Union will enable us to do it. Disunion will will add
another victim to his triumphs. Let Americans disdain to be the
instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen States, bound
together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one
great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic
force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection
between the old and the new world!


“Recherches philosophiques sur les Americains.”


The Utility of the Union In Respect to Revenue

From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, November 27, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE effects of Union upon the commercial prosperity of the
States have been sufficiently delineated. Its tendency to promote
the interests of revenue will be the subject of our present inquiry.

The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by
all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most
productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a
primary object of their political cares. By multiplying the means of
gratification, by promoting the introduction and circulation of the
precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice and
enterprise, it serves to vivify and invigorate the channels of
industry, and to make them flow with greater activity and
copiousness. The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the
active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer,—all orders of
men, look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to
this pleasing reward of their toils. The often-agitated question
between agriculture and commerce has, from indubitable experience,
received a decision which has silenced the rivalship that once
subsisted between them, and has proved, to the satisfaction of their
friends, that their interests are intimately blended and interwoven.
It has been found in various countries that, in proportion as
commerce has flourished, land has risen in value. And how could it
have happened otherwise? Could that which procures a freer vent for
the products of the earth, which furnishes new incitements to the
cultivation of land, which is the most powerful instrument in
increasing the quantity of money in a state—could that, in fine,
which is the faithful handmaid of labor and industry, in every
shape, fail to augment that article, which is the prolific parent of
far the greatest part of the objects upon which they are exerted?
It is astonishing that so simple a truth should ever have had an
adversary; and it is one, among a multitude of proofs, how apt a
spirit of ill-informed jealousy, or of too great abstraction and
refinement, is to lead men astray from the plainest truths of reason
and conviction.

The ability of a country to pay taxes must always be
proportioned, in a great degree, to the quantity of money in
circulation, and to the celerity with which it circulates.
Commerce, contributing to both these objects, must of necessity
render the payment of taxes easier, and facilitate the requisite
supplies to the treasury. The hereditary dominions of the Emperor
of Germany contain a great extent of fertile, cultivated, and
populous territory, a large proportion of which is situated in mild
and luxuriant climates. In some parts of this territory are to be
found the best gold and silver mines in Europe. And yet, from the
want of the fostering influence of commerce, that monarch can boast
but slender revenues. He has several times been compelled to owe
obligations to the pecuniary succors of other nations for the
preservation of his essential interests, and is unable, upon the
strength of his own resources, to sustain a long or continued war.

But it is not in this aspect of the subject alone that Union
will be seen to conduce to the purpose of revenue. There are other
points of view, in which its influence will appear more immediate
and decisive. It is evident from the state of the country, from the
habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point
itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums
by direct taxation. Tax laws have in vain been multiplied; new
methods to enforce the collection have in vain been tried; the
public expectation has been uniformly disappointed, and the
treasuries of the States have remained empty. The popular system of
administration inherent in the nature of popular government,
coinciding with the real scarcity of money incident to a languid and
mutilated state of trade, has hitherto defeated every experiment for
extensive collections, and has at length taught the different
legislatures the folly of attempting them.

No person acquainted with what happens in other countries will
be surprised at this circumstance. In so opulent a nation as that
of Britain, where direct taxes from superior wealth must be much
more tolerable, and, from the vigor of the government, much more
practicable, than in America, far the greatest part of the national
revenue is derived from taxes of the indirect kind, from imposts,
and from excises. Duties on imported articles form a large branch
of this latter description.

In America, it is evident that we must a long time depend for
the means of revenue chiefly on such duties. In most parts of it,
excises must be confined within a narrow compass. The genius of the
people will ill brook the inquisitive and peremptory spirit of
excise laws. The pockets of the farmers, on the other hand, will
reluctantly yield but scanty supplies, in the unwelcome shape of
impositions on their houses and lands; and personal property is too
precarious and invisible a fund to be laid hold of in any other way
than by the inperceptible agency of taxes on consumption.

If these remarks have any foundation, that state of things which
will best enable us to improve and extend so valuable a resource
must be best adapted to our political welfare. And it cannot admit
of a serious doubt, that this state of things must rest on the basis
of a general Union. As far as this would be conducive to the
interests of commerce, so far it must tend to the extension of the
revenue to be drawn from that source. As far as it would contribute
to rendering regulations for the collection of the duties more
simple and efficacious, so far it must serve to answer the purposes
of making the same rate of duties more productive, and of putting it
into the power of the government to increase the rate without
prejudice to trade.

The relative situation of these States; the number of rivers
with which they are intersected, and of bays that wash there shores;
the facility of communication in every direction; the affinity of
language and manners; the familiar habits of intercourse; —all
these are circumstances that would conspire to render an illicit
trade between them a matter of little difficulty, and would insure
frequent evasions of the commercial regulations of each other. The
separate States or confederacies would be necessitated by mutual
jealousy to avoid the temptations to that kind of trade by the
lowness of their duties. The temper of our governments, for a long
time to come, would not permit those rigorous precautions by which
the European nations guard the avenues into their respective
countries, as well by land as by water; and which, even there, are
found insufficient obstacles to the adventurous stratagems of

In France, there is an army of patrols (as they are called)
constantly employed to secure their fiscal regulations against the
inroads of the dealers in contraband trade. Mr. Neckar computes the
number of these patrols at upwards of twenty thousand. This shows
the immense difficulty in preventing that species of traffic, where
there is an inland communication, and places in a strong light the
disadvantages with which the collection of duties in this country
would be encumbered, if by disunion the States should be placed in a
situation, with respect to each other, resembling that of France
with respect to her neighbors. The arbitrary and vexatious powers
with which the patrols are necessarily armed, would be intolerable
in a free country.

If, on the contrary, there be but one government pervading all
the States, there will be, as to the principal part of our commerce,
but ONE SIDE to guard—the ATLANTIC COAST. Vessels arriving directly
from foreign countries, laden with valuable cargoes, would rarely
choose to hazard themselves to the complicated and critical perils
which would attend attempts to unlade prior to their coming into
port. They would have to dread both the dangers of the coast, and
of detection, as well after as before their arrival at the places of
their final destination. An ordinary degree of vigilance would be
competent to the prevention of any material infractions upon the
rights of the revenue. A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed
at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made
useful sentinels of the laws. And the government having the same
interest to provide against violations everywhere, the co-operation
of its measures in each State would have a powerful tendency to
render them effectual. Here also we should preserve by Union, an
advantage which nature holds out to us, and which would be
relinquished by separation. The United States lie at a great
distance from Europe, and at a considerable distance from all other
places with which they would have extensive connections of foreign
trade. The passage from them to us, in a few hours, or in a single
night, as between the coasts of France and Britain, and of other
neighboring nations, would be impracticable. This is a prodigious
security against a direct contraband with foreign countries; but a
circuitous contraband to one State, through the medium of another,
would be both easy and safe. The difference between a direct
importation from abroad, and an indirect importation through the
channel of a neighboring State, in small parcels, according to time
and opportunity, with the additional facilities of inland
communication, must be palpable to every man of discernment.

It is therefore evident, that one national government would be
able, at much less expense, to extend the duties on imports, beyond
comparison, further than would be practicable to the States
separately, or to any partial confederacies. Hitherto, I believe,
it may safely be asserted, that these duties have not upon an
average exceeded in any State three per cent. In France they are
estimated to be about fifteen per cent., and in Britain they exceed
this proportion.1 There seems to be nothing to hinder their
being increased in this country to at least treble their present
amount. The single article of ardent spirits, under federal
regulation, might be made to furnish a considerable revenue. Upon a
ratio to the importation into this State, the whole quantity
imported into the United States may be estimated at four millions of
gallons; which, at a shilling per gallon, would produce two hundred
thousand pounds. That article would well bear this rate of duty;
and if it should tend to diminish the consumption of it, such an
effect would be equally favorable to the agriculture, to the
economy, to the morals, and to the health of the society. There is,
perhaps, nothing so much a subject of national extravagance as these

What will be the consequence, if we are not able to avail
ourselves of the resource in question in its full extent? A nation
cannot long exist without revenues. Destitute of this essential
support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded
condition of a province. This is an extremity to which no
government will of choice accede. Revenue, therefore, must be had
at all events. In this country, if the principal part be not drawn
from commerce, it must fall with oppressive weight upon land. It
has been already intimated that excises, in their true
signification, are too little in unison with the feelings of the
people, to admit of great use being made of that mode of taxation;
nor, indeed, in the States where almost the sole employment is
agriculture, are the objects proper for excise sufficiently numerous
to permit very ample collections in that way. Personal estate (as
has been before remarked), from the difficulty in tracing it, cannot
be subjected to large contributions, by any other means than by
taxes on consumption. In populous cities, it may be enough the
subject of conjecture, to occasion the oppression of individuals,
without much aggregate benefit to the State; but beyond these
circles, it must, in a great measure, escape the eye and the hand of
the tax-gatherer. As the necessities of the State, nevertheless,
must be satisfied in some mode or other, the defect of other
resources must throw the principal weight of public burdens on the
possessors of land. And as, on the other hand, the wants of the
government can never obtain an adequate supply, unless all the
sources of revenue are open to its demands, the finances of the
community, under such embarrassments, cannot be put into a situation
consistent with its respectability or its security. Thus we shall
not even have the consolations of a full treasury, to atone for the
oppression of that valuable class of the citizens who are employed
in the cultivation of the soil. But public and private distress
will keep pace with each other in gloomy concert; and unite in
deploring the infatuation of those counsels which led to disunion.


1 If my memory be right they amount to twenty per cent.


Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

As CONNECTED with the subject of revenue, we may with propriety
consider that of economy. The money saved from one object may be
usefully applied to another, and there will be so much the less to
be drawn from the pockets of the people. If the States are united
under one government, there will be but one national civil list to
support; if they are divided into several confederacies, there will
be as many different national civil lists to be provided for—and
each of them, as to the principal departments, coextensive with that
which would be necessary for a government of the whole. The entire
separation of the States into thirteen unconnected sovereignties is
a project too extravagant and too replete with danger to have many
advocates. The ideas of men who speculate upon the dismemberment of
the empire seem generally turned toward three confederacies—one
consisting of the four Northern, another of the four Middle, and a
third of the five Southern States. There is little probability that
there would be a greater number. According to this distribution,
each confederacy would comprise an extent of territory larger than
that of the kingdom of Great Britain. No well-informed man will
suppose that the affairs of such a confederacy can be properly
regulated by a government less comprehensive in its organs or
institutions than that which has been proposed by the convention.
When the dimensions of a State attain to a certain magnitude, it
requires the same energy of government and the same forms of
administration which are requisite in one of much greater extent.
This idea admits not of precise demonstration, because there is no
rule by which we can measure the momentum of civil power necessary
to the government of any given number of individuals; but when we
consider that the island of Britain, nearly commensurate with each
of the supposed confederacies, contains about eight millions of
people, and when we reflect upon the degree of authority required to
direct the passions of so large a society to the public good, we
shall see no reason to doubt that the like portion of power would be
sufficient to perform the same task in a society far more numerous.
Civil power, properly organized and exerted, is capable of
diffusing its force to a very great extent; and can, in a manner,
reproduce itself in every part of a great empire by a judicious
arrangement of subordinate institutions.

The supposition that each confederacy into which the States
would be likely to be divided would require a government not less
comprehensive than the one proposed, will be strengthened by another
supposition, more probable than that which presents us with three
confederacies as the alternative to a general Union. If we attend
carefully to geographical and commercial considerations, in
conjunction with the habits and prejudices of the different States,
we shall be led to conclude that in case of disunion they will most
naturally league themselves under two governments. The four Eastern
States, from all the causes that form the links of national sympathy
and connection, may with certainty be expected to unite. New York,
situated as she is, would never be unwise enough to oppose a feeble
and unsupported flank to the weight of that confederacy. There are
other obvious reasons that would facilitate her accession to it.
New Jersey is too small a State to think of being a frontier, in
opposition to this still more powerful combination; nor do there
appear to be any obstacles to her admission into it. Even
Pennsylvania would have strong inducements to join the Northern
league. An active foreign commerce, on the basis of her own
navigation, is her true policy, and coincides with the opinions and
dispositions of her citizens. The more Southern States, from
various circumstances, may not think themselves much interested in
the encouragement of navigation. They may prefer a system which
would give unlimited scope to all nations to be the carriers as well
as the purchasers of their commodities. Pennsylvania may not choose
to confound her interests in a connection so adverse to her policy.
As she must at all events be a frontier, she may deem it most
consistent with her safety to have her exposed side turned towards
the weaker power of the Southern, rather than towards the stronger
power of the Northern, Confederacy. This would give her the fairest
chance to avoid being the Flanders of America. Whatever may be the
determination of Pennsylvania, if the Northern Confederacy includes
New Jersey, there is no likelihood of more than one confederacy to
the south of that State.

Nothing can be more evident than that the thirteen States will
be able to support a national government better than one half, or
one third, or any number less than the whole. This reflection must
have great weight in obviating that objection to the proposed plan,
which is founded on the principle of expense; an objection,
however, which, when we come to take a nearer view of it, will
appear in every light to stand on mistaken ground.

If, in addition to the consideration of a plurality of civil
lists, we take into view the number of persons who must necessarily
be employed to guard the inland communication between the different
confederacies against illicit trade, and who in time will infallibly
spring up out of the necessities of revenue; and if we also take
into view the military establishments which it has been shown would
unavoidably result from the jealousies and conflicts of the several
nations into which the States would be divided, we shall clearly
discover that a separation would be not less injurious to the
economy, than to the tranquillity, commerce, revenue, and liberty of
every part.



Objections to the Proposed Constitution From Extent of Territory


From the New York Packet.

Friday, November 30, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

WE HAVE seen the necessity of the Union, as our bulwark against
foreign danger, as the conservator of peace among ourselves, as the
guardian of our commerce and other common interests, as the only
substitute for those military establishments which have subverted
the liberties of the Old World, and as the proper antidote for the
diseases of faction, which have proved fatal to other popular
governments, and of which alarming symptoms have been betrayed by
our own. All that remains, within this branch of our inquiries, is
to take notice of an objection that may be drawn from the great
extent of country which the Union embraces. A few observations on
this subject will be the more proper, as it is perceived that the
adversaries of the new Constitution are availing themselves of the
prevailing prejudice with regard to the practicable sphere of
republican administration, in order to supply, by imaginary
difficulties, the want of those solid objections which they endeavor
in vain to find.

The error which limits republican government to a narrow
district has been unfolded and refuted in preceding papers. I
remark here only that it seems to owe its rise and prevalence
chiefly to the confounding of a republic with a democracy, applying
to the former reasonings drawn from the nature of the latter. The
true distinction between these forms was also adverted to on a
former occasion. It is, that in a democracy, the people meet and
exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and
administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy,
consequently, will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be
extended over a large region.

To this accidental source of the error may be added the artifice
of some celebrated authors, whose writings have had a great share in
forming the modern standard of political opinions. Being subjects
either of an absolute or limited monarchy, they have endeavored to
heighten the advantages, or palliate the evils of those forms, by
placing in comparison the vices and defects of the republican, and
by citing as specimens of the latter the turbulent democracies of
ancient Greece and modern Italy. Under the confusion of names, it
has been an easy task to transfer to a republic observations
applicable to a democracy only; and among others, the observation
that it can never be established but among a small number of people,
living within a small compass of territory.

Such a fallacy may have been the less perceived, as most of the
popular governments of antiquity were of the democratic species;
and even in modern Europe, to which we owe the great principle of
representation, no example is seen of a government wholly popular,
and founded, at the same time, wholly on that principle. If Europe
has the merit of discovering this great mechanical power in
government, by the simple agency of which the will of the largest
political body may be concentred, and its force directed to any
object which the public good requires, America can claim the merit
of making the discovery the basis of unmixed and extensive republics.
It is only to be lamented that any of her citizens should wish to
deprive her of the additional merit of displaying its full efficacy
in the establishment of the comprehensive system now under her

As the natural limit of a democracy is that distance from the
central point which will just permit the most remote citizens to
assemble as often as their public functions demand, and will include
no greater number than can join in those functions; so the natural
limit of a republic is that distance from the centre which will
barely allow the representatives to meet as often as may be
necessary for the administration of public affairs. Can it be said
that the limits of the United States exceed this distance? It will
not be said by those who recollect that the Atlantic coast is the
longest side of the Union, that during the term of thirteen years,
the representatives of the States have been almost continually
assembled, and that the members from the most distant States are not
chargeable with greater intermissions of attendance than those from
the States in the neighborhood of Congress.

That we may form a juster estimate with regard to this
interesting subject, let us resort to the actual dimensions of the
Union. The limits, as fixed by the treaty of peace, are: on the
east the Atlantic, on the south the latitude of thirty-one degrees,
on the west the Mississippi, and on the north an irregular line
running in some instances beyond the forty-fifth degree, in others
falling as low as the forty-second. The southern shore of Lake Erie
lies below that latitude. Computing the distance between the
thirty-first and forty-fifth degrees, it amounts to nine hundred and
seventy-three common miles; computing it from thirty-one to
forty-two degrees, to seven hundred and sixty-four miles and a half.
Taking the mean for the distance, the amount will be eight hundred
and sixty-eight miles and three-fourths. The mean distance from the
Atlantic to the Mississippi does not probably exceed seven hundred
and fifty miles. On a comparison of this extent with that of
several countries in Europe, the practicability of rendering our
system commensurate to it appears to be demonstrable. It is not a
great deal larger than Germany, where a diet representing the whole
empire is continually assembled; or than Poland before the late
dismemberment, where another national diet was the depositary of the
supreme power. Passing by France and Spain, we find that in Great
Britain, inferior as it may be in size, the representatives of the
northern extremity of the island have as far to travel to the
national council as will be required of those of the most remote
parts of the Union.

Favorable as this view of the subject may be, some observations
remain which will place it in a light still more satisfactory.

In the first place it is to be remembered that the general
government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and
administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain
enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic,
but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any.
The subordinate governments, which can extend their care to all
those other subjects which can be separately provided for, will
retain their due authority and activity. Were it proposed by the
plan of the convention to abolish the governments of the particular
States, its adversaries would have some ground for their objection;
though it would not be difficult to show that if they were
abolished the general government would be compelled, by the
principle of self-preservation, to reinstate them in their proper

A second observation to be made is that the immediate object of
the federal Constitution is to secure the union of the thirteen
primitive States, which we know to be practicable; and to add to
them such other States as may arise in their own bosoms, or in their
neighborhoods, which we cannot doubt to be equally practicable. The
arrangements that may be necessary for those angles and fractions of
our territory which lie on our northwestern frontier, must be left
to those whom further discoveries and experience will render more
equal to the task.

Let it be remarked, in the third place, that the intercourse
throughout the Union will be facilitated by new improvements. Roads
will everywhere be shortened, and kept in better order;
accommodations for travelers will be multiplied and meliorated; an
interior navigation on our eastern side will be opened throughout,
or nearly throughout, the whole extent of the thirteen States. The
communication between the Western and Atlantic districts, and
between different parts of each, will be rendered more and more easy
by those numerous canals with which the beneficence of nature has
intersected our country, and which art finds it so little difficult
to connect and complete.

A fourth and still more important consideration is, that as
almost every State will, on one side or other, be a frontier, and
will thus find, in regard to its safety, an inducement to make some
sacrifices for the sake of the general protection; so the States
which lie at the greatest distance from the heart of the Union, and
which, of course, may partake least of the ordinary circulation of
its benefits, will be at the same time immediately contiguous to
foreign nations, and will consequently stand, on particular
occasions, in greatest need of its strength and resources. It may
be inconvenient for Georgia, or the States forming our western or
northeastern borders, to send their representatives to the seat of
government; but they would find it more so to struggle alone
against an invading enemy, or even to support alone the whole
expense of those precautions which may be dictated by the
neighborhood of continual danger. If they should derive less
benefit, therefore, from the Union in some respects than the less
distant States, they will derive greater benefit from it in other
respects, and thus the proper equilibrium will be maintained

I submit to you, my fellow-citizens, these considerations, in
full confidence that the good sense which has so often marked your
decisions will allow them their due weight and effect; and that you
will never suffer difficulties, however formidable in appearance, or
however fashionable the error on which they may be founded, to drive
you into the gloomy and perilous scene into which the advocates for
disunion would conduct you. Hearken not to the unnatural voice
which tells you that the people of America, knit together as they
are by so many cords of affection, can no longer live together as
members of the same family; can no longer continue the mutual
guardians of their mutual happiness; can no longer be
fellowcitizens of one great, respectable, and flourishing empire.
Hearken not to the voice which petulantly tells you that the form
of government recommended for your adoption is a novelty in the
political world; that it has never yet had a place in the theories
of the wildest projectors; that it rashly attempts what it is
impossible to accomplish. No, my countrymen, shut your ears against
this unhallowed language. Shut your hearts against the poison which
it conveys; the kindred blood which flows in the veins of American
citizens, the mingled blood which they have shed in defense of their
sacred rights, consecrate their Union, and excite horror at the idea
of their becoming aliens, rivals, enemies. And if novelties are to
be shunned, believe me, the most alarming of all novelties, the most
wild of all projects, the most rash of all attempts, is that of
rendering us in pieces, in order to preserve our liberties and
promote our happiness. But why is the experiment of an extended
republic to be rejected, merely because it may comprise what is new?
Is it not the glory of the people of America, that, whilst they
have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other
nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity,
for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own
good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of
their own experience? To this manly spirit, posterity will be
indebted for the possession, and the world for the example, of the
numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of
private rights and public happiness. Had no important step been
taken by the leaders of the Revolution for which a precedent could
not be discovered, no government established of which an exact model
did not present itself, the people of the United States might, at
this moment have been numbered among the melancholy victims of
misguided councils, must at best have been laboring under the weight
of some of those forms which have crushed the liberties of the rest
of mankind. Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole
human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They
accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of
human society. They reared the fabrics of governments which have no
model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great
Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve
and perpetuate. If their works betray imperfections, we wonder at
the fewness of them. If they erred most in the structure of the
Union, this was the work most difficult to be executed; this is the
work which has been new modelled by the act of your convention, and
it is that act on which you are now to deliberate and to decide.



The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the


For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York.

IN THE course of the preceding papers, I have endeavored, my
fellow-citizens, to place before you, in a clear and convincing
light, the importance of Union to your political safety and
happiness. I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to
which you would be exposed, should you permit that sacred knot which
binds the people of America together be severed or dissolved by
ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation. In the
sequel of the inquiry through which I propose to accompany you, the
truths intended to be inculcated will receive further confirmation
from facts and arguments hitherto unnoticed. If the road over which
you will still have to pass should in some places appear to you
tedious or irksome, you will recollect that you are in quest of
information on a subject the most momentous which can engage the
attention of a free people, that the field through which you have to
travel is in itself spacious, and that the difficulties of the
journey have been unnecessarily increased by the mazes with which
sophistry has beset the way. It will be my aim to remove the
obstacles from your progress in as compendious a manner as it can be
done, without sacrificing utility to despatch.

In pursuance of the plan which I have laid down for the
discussion of the subject, the point next in order to be examined is
the “insufficiency of the present Confederation to the preservation
of the Union.” It may perhaps be asked what need there is of
reasoning or proof to illustrate a position which is not either
controverted or doubted, to which the understandings and feelings of
all classes of men assent, and which in substance is admitted by the
opponents as well as by the friends of the new Constitution. It
must in truth be acknowledged that, however these may differ in
other respects, they in general appear to harmonize in this
sentiment, at least, that there are material imperfections in our
national system, and that something is necessary to be done to
rescue us from impending anarchy. The facts that support this
opinion are no longer objects of speculation. They have forced
themselves upon the sensibility of the people at large, and have at
length extorted from those, whose mistaken policy has had the
principal share in precipitating the extremity at which we are
arrived, a reluctant confession of the reality of those defects in
the scheme of our federal government, which have been long pointed
out and regretted by the intelligent friends of the Union.

We may indeed with propriety be said to have reached almost the
last stage of national humiliation. There is scarcely anything that
can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent
nation which we do not experience. Are there engagements to the
performance of which we are held by every tie respectable among men?
These are the subjects of constant and unblushing violation. Do we
owe debts to foreigners and to our own citizens contracted in a time
of imminent peril for the preservation of our political existence?
These remain without any proper or satisfactory provision for their
discharge. Have we valuable territories and important posts in the
possession of a foreign power which, by express stipulations, ought
long since to have been surrendered? These are still retained, to
the prejudice of our interests, not less than of our rights. Are we
in a condition to resent or to repel the aggression? We have
neither troops, nor treasury, nor government.1 Are we even in a
condition to remonstrate with dignity? The just imputations on our
own faith, in respect to the same treaty, ought first to be removed.
Are we entitled by nature and compact to a free participation in
the navigation of the Mississippi? Spain excludes us from it. Is
public credit an indispensable resource in time of public danger?
We seem to have abandoned its cause as desperate and irretrievable.
Is commerce of importance to national wealth? Ours is at the
lowest point of declension. Is respectability in the eyes of
foreign powers a safeguard against foreign encroachments? The
imbecility of our government even forbids them to treat with us.
Our ambassadors abroad are the mere pageants of mimic sovereignty.
Is a violent and unnatural decrease in the value of land a symptom
of national distress? The price of improved land in most parts of
the country is much lower than can be accounted for by the quantity
of waste land at market, and can only be fully explained by that
want of private and public confidence, which are so alarmingly
prevalent among all ranks, and which have a direct tendency to
depreciate property of every kind. Is private credit the friend and
patron of industry? That most useful kind which relates to
borrowing and lending is reduced within the narrowest limits, and
this still more from an opinion of insecurity than from the scarcity
of money. To shorten an enumeration of particulars which can afford
neither pleasure nor instruction, it may in general be demanded,
what indication is there of national disorder, poverty, and
insignificance that could befall a community so peculiarly blessed
with natural advantages as we are, which does not form a part of the
dark catalogue of our public misfortunes?

This is the melancholy situation to which we have been brought
by those very maxims and councils which would now deter us from
adopting the proposed Constitution; and which, not content with
having conducted us to the brink of a precipice, seem resolved to
plunge us into the abyss that awaits us below. Here, my countrymen,
impelled by every motive that ought to influence an enlightened
people, let us make a firm stand for our safety, our tranquillity,
our dignity, our reputation. Let us at last break the fatal charm
which has too long seduced us from the paths of felicity and

It is true, as has been before observed that facts, too stubborn
to be resisted, have produced a species of general assent to the
abstract proposition that there exist material defects in our
national system; but the usefulness of the concession, on the part
of the old adversaries of federal measures, is destroyed by a
strenuous opposition to a remedy, upon the only principles that can
give it a chance of success. While they admit that the government
of the United States is destitute of energy, they contend against
conferring upon it those powers which are requisite to supply that
energy. They seem still to aim at things repugnant and
irreconcilable; at an augmentation of federal authority, without a
diminution of State authority; at sovereignty in the Union, and
complete independence in the members. They still, in fine, seem to
cherish with blind devotion the political monster of an imperium
in imperio. This renders a full display of the principal defects
of the Confederation necessary, in order to show that the evils we
experience do not proceed from minute or partial imperfections, but
from fundamental errors in the structure of the building, which
cannot be amended otherwise than by an alteration in the first
principles and main pillars of the fabric.

The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing
Confederation is in the principle of LEGISLATION for STATES or
contradistinguished from the INDIVIDUALS of which they consist.
Though this principle does not run through all the powers delegated
to the Union, yet it pervades and governs those on which the
efficacy of the rest depends. Except as to the rule of appointment,
the United States has an indefinite discretion to make requisitions
for men and money; but they have no authority to raise either, by
regulations extending to the individual citizens of America. The
consequence of this is, that though in theory their resolutions
concerning those objects are laws, constitutionally binding on the
members of the Union, yet in practice they are mere recommendations
which the States observe or disregard at their option.

It is a singular instance of the capriciousness of the human
mind, that after all the admonitions we have had from experience on
this head, there should still be found men who object to the new
Constitution, for deviating from a principle which has been found
the bane of the old, and which is in itself evidently incompatible
with the idea of GOVERNMENT; a principle, in short, which, if it is
to be executed at all, must substitute the violent and sanguinary
agency of the sword to the mild influence of the magistracy.

There is nothing absurd or impracticable in the idea of a league
or alliance between independent nations for certain defined purposes
precisely stated in a treaty regulating all the details of time,
place, circumstance, and quantity; leaving nothing to future
discretion; and depending for its execution on the good faith of
the parties. Compacts of this kind exist among all civilized
nations, subject to the usual vicissitudes of peace and war, of
observance and non-observance, as the interests or passions of the
contracting powers dictate. In the early part of the present
century there was an epidemical rage in Europe for this species of
compacts, from which the politicians of the times fondly hoped for
benefits which were never realized. With a view to establishing the
equilibrium of power and the peace of that part of the world, all
the resources of negotiation were exhausted, and triple and
quadruple alliances were formed; but they were scarcely formed
before they were broken, giving an instructive but afflicting lesson
to mankind, how little dependence is to be placed on treaties which
have no other sanction than the obligations of good faith, and which
oppose general considerations of peace and justice to the impulse of
any immediate interest or passion.

If the particular States in this country are disposed to stand
in a similar relation to each other, and to drop the project of a
general DISCRETIONARY SUPERINTENDENCE, the scheme would indeed be
pernicious, and would entail upon us all the mischiefs which have
been enumerated under the first head; but it would have the merit
of being, at least, consistent and practicable Abandoning all views
towards a confederate government, this would bring us to a simple
alliance offensive and defensive; and would place us in a situation
to be alternate friends and enemies of each other, as our mutual
jealousies and rivalships, nourished by the intrigues of foreign
nations, should prescribe to us.

But if we are unwilling to be placed in this perilous situation;
if we still will adhere to the design of a national government, or,
which is the same thing, of a superintending power, under the
direction of a common council, we must resolve to incorporate into
our plan those ingredients which may be considered as forming the
characteristic difference between a league and a government; we
must extend the authority of the Union to the persons of the
citizens, —the only proper objects of government.

Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to
the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in
other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be
no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands
which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than
advice or recommendation. This penalty, whatever it may be, can
only be inflicted in two ways: by the agency of the courts and
ministers of justice, or by military force; by the COERCION of the
magistracy, or by the COERCION of arms. The first kind can
evidently apply only to men; the last kind must of necessity, be
employed against bodies politic, or communities, or States. It is
evident that there is no process of a court by which the observance
of the laws can, in the last resort, be enforced. Sentences may be
denounced against them for violations of their duty; but these
sentences can only be carried into execution by the sword. In an
association where the general authority is confined to the
collective bodies of the communities, that compose it, every breach
of the laws must involve a state of war; and military execution
must become the only instrument of civil obedience. Such a state of
things can certainly not deserve the name of government, nor would
any prudent man choose to commit his happiness to it.

There was a time when we were told that breaches, by the States,
of the regulations of the federal authority were not to be expected;
that a sense of common interest would preside over the conduct of
the respective members, and would beget a full compliance with all
the constitutional requisitions of the Union. This language, at the
present day, would appear as wild as a great part of what we now
hear from the same quarter will be thought, when we shall have
received further lessons from that best oracle of wisdom, experience.
It at all times betrayed an ignorance of the true springs by which
human conduct is actuated, and belied the original inducements to
the establishment of civil power. Why has government been
instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to
the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint. Has it been
found that bodies of men act with more rectitude or greater
disinterestedness than individuals? The contrary of this has been
inferred by all accurate observers of the conduct of mankind; and
the inference is founded upon obvious reasons. Regard to reputation
has a less active influence, when the infamy of a bad action is to
be divided among a number than when it is to fall singly upon one.
A spirit of faction, which is apt to mingle its poison in the
deliberations of all bodies of men, will often hurry the persons of
whom they are composed into improprieties and excesses, for which
they would blush in a private capacity.

In addition to all this, there is, in the nature of sovereign
power, an impatience of control, that disposes those who are
invested with the exercise of it, to look with an evil eye upon all
external attempts to restrain or direct its operations. From this
spirit it happens, that in every political association which is
formed upon the principle of uniting in a common interest a number
of lesser sovereignties, there will be found a kind of eccentric
tendency in the subordinate or inferior orbs, by the operation of
which there will be a perpetual effort in each to fly off from the
common centre. This tendency is not difficult to be accounted for.
It has its origin in the love of power. Power controlled or
abridged is almost always the rival and enemy of that power by which
it is controlled or abridged. This simple proposition will teach us
how little reason there is to expect, that the persons intrusted
with the administration of the affairs of the particular members of
a confederacy will at all times be ready, with perfect good-humor,
and an unbiased regard to the public weal, to execute the
resolutions or decrees of the general authority. The reverse of
this results from the constitution of human nature.

If, therefore, the measures of the Confederacy cannot be
executed without the intervention of the particular administrations,
there will be little prospect of their being executed at all. The
rulers of the respective members, whether they have a constitutional
right to do it or not, will undertake to judge of the propriety of
the measures themselves. They will consider the conformity of the
thing proposed or required to their immediate interests or aims;
the momentary conveniences or inconveniences that would attend its
adoption. All this will be done; and in a spirit of interested and
suspicious scrutiny, without that knowledge of national
circumstances and reasons of state, which is essential to a right
judgment, and with that strong predilection in favor of local
objects, which can hardly fail to mislead the decision. The same
process must be repeated in every member of which the body is
constituted; and the execution of the plans, framed by the councils
of the whole, will always fluctuate on the discretion of the
ill-informed and prejudiced opinion of every part. Those who have
been conversant in the proceedings of popular assemblies; who have
seen how difficult it often is, where there is no exterior pressure
of circumstances, to bring them to harmonious resolutions on
important points, will readily conceive how impossible it must be to
induce a number of such assemblies, deliberating at a distance from
each other, at different times, and under different impressions,
long to co-operate in the same views and pursuits.

In our case, the concurrence of thirteen distinct sovereign
wills is requisite, under the Confederation, to the complete
execution of every important measure that proceeds from the Union.
It has happened as was to have been foreseen. The measures of the
Union have not been executed; the delinquencies of the States have,
step by step, matured themselves to an extreme, which has, at
length, arrested all the wheels of the national government, and
brought them to an awful stand. Congress at this time scarcely
possess the means of keeping up the forms of administration, till
the States can have time to agree upon a more substantial substitute
for the present shadow of a federal government. Things did not come
to this desperate extremity at once. The causes which have been
specified produced at first only unequal and disproportionate
degrees of compliance with the requisitions of the Union. The
greater deficiencies of some States furnished the pretext of example
and the temptation of interest to the complying, or to the least
delinquent States. Why should we do more in proportion than those
who are embarked with us in the same political voyage? Why should
we consent to bear more than our proper share of the common burden?
These were suggestions which human selfishness could not withstand,
and which even speculative men, who looked forward to remote
consequences, could not, without hesitation, combat. Each State,
yielding to the persuasive voice of immediate interest or
convenience, has successively withdrawn its support, till the frail
and tottering edifice seems ready to fall upon our heads, and to
crush us beneath its ruins.


1 “I mean for the Union.”


The Same Subject Continued

(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the


From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, December 4, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE tendency of the principle of legislation for States, or
communities, in their political capacities, as it has been
exemplified by the experiment we have made of it, is equally
attested by the events which have befallen all other governments of
the confederate kind, of which we have any account, in exact
proportion to its prevalence in those systems. The confirmations of
this fact will be worthy of a distinct and particular examination.
I shall content myself with barely observing here, that of all the
confederacies of antiquity, which history has handed down to us, the
Lycian and Achaean leagues, as far as there remain vestiges of them,
appear to have been most free from the fetters of that mistaken
principle, and were accordingly those which have best deserved, and
have most liberally received, the applauding suffrages of political

This exceptionable principle may, as truly as emphatically, be
styled the parent of anarchy: It has been seen that delinquencies
in the members of the Union are its natural and necessary offspring;
and that whenever they happen, the only constitutional remedy is
force, and the immediate effect of the use of it, civil war.

It remains to inquire how far so odious an engine of government,
in its application to us, would even be capable of answering its end.
If there should not be a large army constantly at the disposal of
the national government it would either not be able to employ force
at all, or, when this could be done, it would amount to a war
between parts of the Confederacy concerning the infractions of a
league, in which the strongest combination would be most likely to
prevail, whether it consisted of those who supported or of those who
resisted the general authority. It would rarely happen that the
delinquency to be redressed would be confined to a single member,
and if there were more than one who had neglected their duty,
similarity of situation would induce them to unite for common
defense. Independent of this motive of sympathy, if a large and
influential State should happen to be the aggressing member, it
would commonly have weight enough with its neighbors to win over
some of them as associates to its cause. Specious arguments of
danger to the common liberty could easily be contrived; plausible
excuses for the deficiencies of the party could, without difficulty,
be invented to alarm the apprehensions, inflame the passions, and
conciliate the good-will, even of those States which were not
chargeable with any violation or omission of duty. This would be
the more likely to take place, as the delinquencies of the larger
members might be expected sometimes to proceed from an ambitious
premeditation in their rulers, with a view to getting rid of all
external control upon their designs of personal aggrandizement; the
better to effect which it is presumable they would tamper beforehand
with leading individuals in the adjacent States. If associates
could not be found at home, recourse would be had to the aid of
foreign powers, who would seldom be disinclined to encouraging the
dissensions of a Confederacy, from the firm union of which they had
so much to fear. When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men
observe no bounds of moderation. The suggestions of wounded pride,
the instigations of irritated resentment, would be apt to carry the
States against which the arms of the Union were exerted, to any
extremes necessary to avenge the affront or to avoid the disgrace of
submission. The first war of this kind would probably terminate in
a dissolution of the Union.

This may be considered as the violent death of the Confederacy.
Its more natural death is what we now seem to be on the point of
experiencing, if the federal system be not speedily renovated in a
more substantial form. It is not probable, considering the genius
of this country, that the complying States would often be inclined
to support the authority of the Union by engaging in a war against
the non-complying States. They would always be more ready to pursue
the milder course of putting themselves upon an equal footing with
the delinquent members by an imitation of their example. And the
guilt of all would thus become the security of all. Our past
experience has exhibited the operation of this spirit in its full
light. There would, in fact, be an insuperable difficulty in
ascertaining when force could with propriety be employed. In the
article of pecuniary contribution, which would be the most usual
source of delinquency, it would often be impossible to decide
whether it had proceeded from disinclination or inability. The
pretense of the latter would always be at hand. And the case must
be very flagrant in which its fallacy could be detected with
sufficient certainty to justify the harsh expedient of compulsion.
It is easy to see that this problem alone, as often as it should
occur, would open a wide field for the exercise of factious views,
of partiality, and of oppression, in the majority that happened to
prevail in the national council.

It seems to require no pains to prove that the States ought not
to prefer a national Constitution which could only be kept in motion
by the instrumentality of a large army continually on foot to
execute the ordinary requisitions or decrees of the government. And
yet this is the plain alternative involved by those who wish to deny
it the power of extending its operations to individuals. Such a
scheme, if practicable at all, would instantly degenerate into a
military despotism; but it will be found in every light
impracticable. The resources of the Union would not be equal to the
maintenance of an army considerable enough to confine the larger
States within the limits of their duty; nor would the means ever be
furnished of forming such an army in the first instance. Whoever
considers the populousness and strength of several of these States
singly at the present juncture, and looks forward to what they will
become, even at the distance of half a century, will at once dismiss
as idle and visionary any scheme which aims at regulating their
movements by laws to operate upon them in their collective
capacities, and to be executed by a coercion applicable to them in
the same capacities. A project of this kind is little less romantic
than the monster-taming spirit which is attributed to the fabulous
heroes and demi-gods of antiquity.

Even in those confederacies which have been composed of members
smaller than many of our counties, the principle of legislation for
sovereign States, supported by military coercion, has never been
found effectual. It has rarely been attempted to be employed, but
against the weaker members; and in most instances attempts to
coerce the refractory and disobedient have been the signals of
bloody wars, in which one half of the confederacy has displayed its
banners against the other half.

The result of these observations to an intelligent mind must be
clearly this, that if it be possible at any rate to construct a
federal government capable of regulating the common concerns and
preserving the general tranquillity, it must be founded, as to the
objects committed to its care, upon the reverse of the principle
contended for by the opponents of the proposed Constitution. It
must carry its agency to the persons of the citizens. It must stand
in need of no intermediate legislations; but must itself be
empowered to employ the arm of the ordinary magistrate to execute
its own resolutions. The majesty of the national authority must be
manifested through the medium of the courts of justice. The
government of the Union, like that of each State, must be able to
address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals;
and to attract to its support those passions which have the
strongest influence upon the human heart. It must, in short,
possess all the means, and have aright to resort to all the methods,
of executing the powers with which it is intrusted, that are
possessed and exercised by the government of the particular States.

To this reasoning it may perhaps be objected, that if any State
should be disaffected to the authority of the Union, it could at any
time obstruct the execution of its laws, and bring the matter to the
same issue of force, with the necessity of which the opposite scheme
is reproached.

The plausibility of this objection will vanish the moment we
advert to the essential difference between a mere NON-COMPLIANCE and
a DIRECT and ACTIVE RESISTANCE. If the interposition of the State
legislatures be necessary to give effect to a measure of the Union,
they have only NOT TO ACT, or to ACT EVASIVELY, and the measure is
defeated. This neglect of duty may be disguised under affected but
unsubstantial provisions, so as not to appear, and of course not to
excite any alarm in the people for the safety of the Constitution.
The State leaders may even make a merit of their surreptitious
invasions of it on the ground of some temporary convenience,
exemption, or advantage.

But if the execution of the laws of the national government
should not require the intervention of the State legislatures, if
they were to pass into immediate operation upon the citizens
themselves, the particular governments could not interrupt their
progress without an open and violent exertion of an unconstitutional
power. No omissions nor evasions would answer the end. They would
be obliged to act, and in such a manner as would leave no doubt that
they had encroached on the national rights. An experiment of this
nature would always be hazardous in the face of a constitution in
any degree competent to its own defense, and of a people enlightened
enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal
usurpation of authority. The success of it would require not merely
a factious majority in the legislature, but the concurrence of the
courts of justice and of the body of the people. If the judges were
not embarked in a conspiracy with the legislature, they would
pronounce the resolutions of such a majority to be contrary to the
supreme law of the land, unconstitutional, and void. If the people
were not tainted with the spirit of their State representatives,
they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution, would throw
their weight into the national scale and give it a decided
preponderancy in the contest. Attempts of this kind would not often
be made with levity or rashness, because they could seldom be made
without danger to the authors, unless in cases of a tyrannical
exercise of the federal authority.

If opposition to the national government should arise from the
disorderly conduct of refractory or seditious individuals, it could
be overcome by the same means which are daily employed against the
same evil under the State governments. The magistracy, being
equally the ministers of the law of the land, from whatever source
it might emanate, would doubtless be as ready to guard the national
as the local regulations from the inroads of private licentiousness.
As to those partial commotions and insurrections, which sometimes
disquiet society, from the intrigues of an inconsiderable faction,
or from sudden or occasional illhumors that do not infect the great
body of the community the general government could command more
extensive resources for the suppression of disturbances of that kind
than would be in the power of any single member. And as to those
mortal feuds which, in certain conjunctures, spread a conflagration
through a whole nation, or through a very large proportion of it,
proceeding either from weighty causes of discontent given by the
government or from the contagion of some violent popular paroxysm,
they do not fall within any ordinary rules of calculation. When
they happen, they commonly amount to revolutions and dismemberments
of empire. No form of government can always either avoid or control
them. It is in vain to hope to guard against events too mighty for
human foresight or precaution, and it would be idle to object to a
government because it could not perform impossibilities.



The Same Subject Continued

(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the


For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

AN OBJECTION, of a nature different from that which has been
stated and answered, in my last address, may perhaps be likewise
urged against the principle of legislation for the individual
citizens of America. It may be said that it would tend to render
the government of the Union too powerful, and to enable it to absorb
those residuary authorities, which it might be judged proper to
leave with the States for local purposes. Allowing the utmost
latitude to the love of power which any reasonable man can require,
I confess I am at a loss to discover what temptation the persons
intrusted with the administration of the general government could
ever feel to divest the States of the authorities of that
description. The regulation of the mere domestic police of a State
appears to me to hold out slender allurements to ambition.
Commerce, finance, negotiation, and war seem to comprehend all the
objects which have charms for minds governed by that passion; and
all the powers necessary to those objects ought, in the first
instance, to be lodged in the national depository. The
administration of private justice between the citizens of the same
State, the supervision of agriculture and of other concerns of a
similar nature, all those things, in short, which are proper to be
provided for by local legislation, can never be desirable cares of a
general jurisdiction. It is therefore improbable that there should
exist a disposition in the federal councils to usurp the powers with
which they are connected; because the attempt to exercise those
powers would be as troublesome as it would be nugatory; and the
possession of them, for that reason, would contribute nothing to the
dignity, to the importance, or to the splendor of the national

But let it be admitted, for argument’s sake, that mere
wantonness and lust of domination would be sufficient to beget that
disposition; still it may be safely affirmed, that the sense of the
constituent body of the national representatives, or, in other
words, the people of the several States, would control the
indulgence of so extravagant an appetite. It will always be far
more easy for the State governments to encroach upon the national
authorities than for the national government to encroach upon the
State authorities. The proof of this proposition turns upon the
greater degree of influence which the State governments if they
administer their affairs with uprightness and prudence, will
generally possess over the people; a circumstance which at the same
time teaches us that there is an inherent and intrinsic weakness in
all federal constitutions; and that too much pains cannot be taken
in their organization, to give them all the force which is
compatible with the principles of liberty.

The superiority of influence in favor of the particular
governments would result partly from the diffusive construction of
the national government, but chiefly from the nature of the objects
to which the attention of the State administrations would be

It is a known fact in human nature, that its affections are
commonly weak in proportion to the distance or diffusiveness of the
object. Upon the same principle that a man is more attached to his
family than to his neighborhood, to his neighborhood than to the
community at large, the people of each State would be apt to feel a
stronger bias towards their local governments than towards the
government of the Union; unless the force of that principle should
be destroyed by a much better administration of the latter.

This strong propensity of the human heart would find powerful
auxiliaries in the objects of State regulation.

The variety of more minute interests, which will necessarily
fall under the superintendence of the local administrations, and
which will form so many rivulets of influence, running through every
part of the society, cannot be particularized, without involving a
detail too tedious and uninteresting to compensate for the
instruction it might afford.

There is one transcendant advantage belonging to the province of
the State governments, which alone suffices to place the matter in a
clear and satisfactory light,—I mean the ordinary administration of
criminal and civil justice. This, of all others, is the most
powerful, most universal, and most attractive source of popular
obedience and attachment. It is that which, being the immediate and
visible guardian of life and property, having its benefits and its
terrors in constant activity before the public eye, regulating all
those personal interests and familiar concerns to which the
sensibility of individuals is more immediately awake, contributes,
more than any other circumstance, to impressing upon the minds of
the people, affection, esteem, and reverence towards the government.
This great cement of society, which will diffuse itself almost
wholly through the channels of the particular governments,
independent of all other causes of influence, would insure them so
decided an empire over their respective citizens as to render them
at all times a complete counterpoise, and, not unfrequently,
dangerous rivals to the power of the Union.

The operations of the national government, on the other hand,
falling less immediately under the observation of the mass of the
citizens, the benefits derived from it will chiefly be perceived and
attended to by speculative men. Relating to more general interests,
they will be less apt to come home to the feelings of the people;
and, in proportion, less likely to inspire an habitual sense of
obligation, and an active sentiment of attachment.

The reasoning on this head has been abundantly exemplified by
the experience of all federal constitutions with which we are
acquainted, and of all others which have borne the least analogy to

Though the ancient feudal systems were not, strictly speaking,
confederacies, yet they partook of the nature of that species of
association. There was a common head, chieftain, or sovereign,
whose authority extended over the whole nation; and a number of
subordinate vassals, or feudatories, who had large portions of land
allotted to them, and numerous trains of INFERIOR vassals or
retainers, who occupied and cultivated that land upon the tenure of
fealty or obedience, to the persons of whom they held it. Each
principal vassal was a kind of sovereign, within his particular
demesnes. The consequences of this situation were a continual
opposition to authority of the sovereign, and frequent wars between
the great barons or chief feudatories themselves. The power of the
head of the nation was commonly too weak, either to preserve the
public peace, or to protect the people against the oppressions of
their immediate lords. This period of European affairs is
emphatically styled by historians, the times of feudal anarchy.

When the sovereign happened to be a man of vigorous and warlike
temper and of superior abilities, he would acquire a personal weight
and influence, which answered, for the time, the purpose of a more
regular authority. But in general, the power of the barons
triumphed over that of the prince; and in many instances his
dominion was entirely thrown off, and the great fiefs were erected
into independent principalities or States. In those instances in
which the monarch finally prevailed over his vassals, his success
was chiefly owing to the tyranny of those vassals over their
dependents. The barons, or nobles, equally the enemies of the
sovereign and the oppressors of the common people, were dreaded and
detested by both; till mutual danger and mutual interest effected a
union between them fatal to the power of the aristocracy. Had the
nobles, by a conduct of clemency and justice, preserved the fidelity
and devotion of their retainers and followers, the contests between
them and the prince must almost always have ended in their favor,
and in the abridgment or subversion of the royal authority.

This is not an assertion founded merely in speculation or
conjecture. Among other illustrations of its truth which might be
cited, Scotland will furnish a cogent example. The spirit of
clanship which was, at an early day, introduced into that kingdom,
uniting the nobles and their dependants by ties equivalent to those
of kindred, rendered the aristocracy a constant overmatch for the
power of the monarch, till the incorporation with England subdued
its fierce and ungovernable spirit, and reduced it within those
rules of subordination which a more rational and more energetic
system of civil polity had previously established in the latter

The separate governments in a confederacy may aptly be compared
with the feudal baronies; with this advantage in their favor, that
from the reasons already explained, they will generally possess the
confidence and good-will of the people, and with so important a
support, will be able effectually to oppose all encroachments of the
national government. It will be well if they are not able to
counteract its legitimate and necessary authority. The points of
similitude consist in the rivalship of power, applicable to both,
and in the CONCENTRATION of large portions of the strength of the
community into particular DEPOSITS, in one case at the disposal of
individuals, in the other case at the disposal of political bodies.

A concise review of the events that have attended confederate
governments will further illustrate this important doctrine; an
inattention to which has been the great source of our political
mistakes, and has given our jealousy a direction to the wrong side.
This review shall form the subject of some ensuing papers.



The Same Subject Continued

(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the


For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was
that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic
council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated
institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present
Confederation of the American States.

The members retained the character of independent and sovereign
states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council
had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged
necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on
war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the
members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force
of the confederacy against the disobedient; to admit new members.
The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense
riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right
of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those
who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the
efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend
and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath,
and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply
sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances,
they exceed the powers enumerated in the articles of confederation.
The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times,
one of the principal engines by which government was then
maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against
refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on
the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory.
The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered
by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political
capacities; and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence
the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the
confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in
awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest.
Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece
seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it
twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of
Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination.

It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the
deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the
weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party.

Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia
and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or
fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common
enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic
vicissitudes convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the
Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned
out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The
Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer
partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become
masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated
the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency
of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful
members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The
smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to
revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had
become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were
courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the
necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of
the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms, to
establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy,
Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they
had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies; and did each
other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes.
Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the
celebrated Peloponnesian war; which itself ended in the ruin and
slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

As a weak government, when not at war, is ever agitated by
internal dissentions, so these never fail to bring on fresh
calamities from abroad. The Phocians having ploughed up some
consecrated ground belonging to the temple of Apollo, the
Amphictyonic council, according to the superstition of the age,
imposed a fine on the sacrilegious offenders. The Phocians, being
abetted by Athens and Sparta, refused to submit to the decree. The
Thebans, with others of the cities, undertook to maintain the
authority of the Amphictyons, and to avenge the violated god. The
latter, being the weaker party, invited the assistance of Philip of
Macedon, who had secretly fostered the contest. Philip gladly
seized the opportunity of executing the designs he had long planned
against the liberties of Greece. By his intrigues and bribes he won
over to his interests the popular leaders of several cities; by
their influence and votes, gained admission into the Amphictyonic
council; and by his arts and his arms, made himself master of the

Such were the consequences of the fallacious principle on which
this interesting establishment was founded. Had Greece, says a
judicious observer on her fate, been united by a stricter
confederation, and persevered in her union, she would never have
worn the chains of Macedon; and might have proved a barrier to the
vast projects of Rome.

The Achaean league, as it is called, was another society of

Grecian republics, which supplies us with valuable instruction.

The Union here was far more intimate, and its organization much
wiser, than in the preceding instance. It will accordingly appear,
that though not exempt from a similar catastrophe, it by no means
equally deserved it.

The cities composing this league retained their municipal
jurisdiction, appointed their own officers, and enjoyed a perfect
equality. The senate, in which they were represented, had the sole
and exclusive right of peace and war; of sending and receiving
ambassadors; of entering into treaties and alliances; of
appointing a chief magistrate or praetor, as he was called, who
commanded their armies, and who, with the advice and consent of ten
of the senators, not only administered the government in the recess
of the senate, but had a great share in its deliberations, when
assembled. According to the primitive constitution, there were two
praetors associated in the administration; but on trial a single
one was preferred.

It appears that the cities had all the same laws and customs,
the same weights and measures, and the same money. But how far this
effect proceeded from the authority of the federal council is left
in uncertainty. It is said only that the cities were in a manner
compelled to receive the same laws and usages. When Lacedaemon was
brought into the league by Philopoemen, it was attended with an
abolition of the institutions and laws of Lycurgus, and an adoption
of those of the Achaeans. The Amphictyonic confederacy, of which
she had been a member, left her in the full exercise of her
government and her legislation. This circumstance alone proves a
very material difference in the genius of the two systems.

It is much to be regretted that such imperfect monuments remain
of this curious political fabric. Could its interior structure and
regular operation be ascertained, it is probable that more light
would be thrown by it on the science of federal government, than by
any of the like experiments with which we are acquainted.

One important fact seems to be witnessed by all the historians
who take notice of Achaean affairs. It is, that as well after the
renovation of the league by Aratus, as before its dissolution by the
arts of Macedon, there was infinitely more of moderation and justice
in the administration of its government, and less of violence and
sedition in the people, than were to be found in any of the cities
exercising SINGLY all the prerogatives of sovereignty. The Abbe
Mably, in his observations on Greece, says that the popular
government, which was so tempestuous elsewhere, caused no disorders
in the members of the Achaean republic, BECAUSE IT WAS THERE

We are not to conclude too hastily, however, that faction did
not, in a certain degree, agitate the particular cities; much less
that a due subordination and harmony reigned in the general system.
The contrary is sufficiently displayed in the vicissitudes and fate
of the republic.

Whilst the Amphictyonic confederacy remained, that of the
Achaeans, which comprehended the less important cities only, made
little figure on the theatre of Greece. When the former became a
victim to Macedon, the latter was spared by the policy of Philip and
Alexander. Under the successors of these princes, however, a
different policy prevailed. The arts of division were practiced
among the Achaeans. Each city was seduced into a separate interest;
the union was dissolved. Some of the cities fell under the tyranny
of Macedonian garrisons; others under that of usurpers springing
out of their own confusions. Shame and oppression erelong awaken
their love of liberty. A few cities reunited. Their example was
followed by others, as opportunities were found of cutting off their
tyrants. The league soon embraced almost the whole Peloponnesus.
Macedon saw its progress; but was hindered by internal dissensions
from stopping it. All Greece caught the enthusiasm and seemed ready
to unite in one confederacy, when the jealousy and envy in Sparta
and Athens, of the rising glory of the Achaeans, threw a fatal damp
on the enterprise. The dread of the Macedonian power induced the
league to court the alliance of the Kings of Egypt and Syria, who,
as successors of Alexander, were rivals of the king of Macedon.
This policy was defeated by Cleomenes, king of Sparta, who was led
by his ambition to make an unprovoked attack on his neighbors, the
Achaeans, and who, as an enemy to Macedon, had interest enough with
the Egyptian and Syrian princes to effect a breach of their
engagements with the league.

The Achaeans were now reduced to the dilemma of submitting to
Cleomenes, or of supplicating the aid of Macedon, its former
oppressor. The latter expedient was adopted. The contests of the
Greeks always afforded a pleasing opportunity to that powerful
neighbor of intermeddling in their affairs. A Macedonian army
quickly appeared. Cleomenes was vanquished. The Achaeans soon
experienced, as often happens, that a victorious and powerful ally
is but another name for a master. All that their most abject
compliances could obtain from him was a toleration of the exercise
of their laws. Philip, who was now on the throne of Macedon, soon
provoked by his tyrannies, fresh combinations among the Greeks. The
Achaeans, though weakened by internal dissensions and by the
revolt of Messene, one of its members, being joined by the AEtolians
and Athenians, erected the standard of opposition. Finding
themselves, though thus supported, unequal to the undertaking, they
once more had recourse to the dangerous expedient of introducing the
succor of foreign arms. The Romans, to whom the invitation was
made, eagerly embraced it. Philip was conquered; Macedon subdued.
A new crisis ensued to the league. Dissensions broke out among it
members. These the Romans fostered. Callicrates and other popular
leaders became mercenary instruments for inveigling their countrymen.
The more effectually to nourish discord and disorder the Romans
had, to the astonishment of those who confided in their sincerity,
already proclaimed universal liberty1 throughout Greece. With
the same insidious views, they now seduced the members from the
league, by representing to their pride the violation it committed on
their sovereignty. By these arts this union, the last hope of
Greece, the last hope of ancient liberty, was torn into pieces; and
such imbecility and distraction introduced, that the arms of Rome
found little difficulty in completing the ruin which their arts had
commenced. The Achaeans were cut to pieces, and Achaia loaded with
chains, under which it is groaning at this hour.

I have thought it not superfluous to give the outlines of this
important portion of history; both because it teaches more than one
lesson, and because, as a supplement to the outlines of the Achaean
constitution, it emphatically illustrates the tendency of federal
bodies rather to anarchy among the members, than to tyranny in the


1 This was but another name more specious for the independence
of the members on the federal head.


The Same Subject Continued

(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the


For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE examples of ancient confederacies, cited in my last paper,
have not exhausted the source of experimental instruction on this
subject. There are existing institutions, founded on a similar
principle, which merit particular consideration. The first which
presents itself is the Germanic body.

In the early ages of Christianity, Germany was occupied by seven
distinct nations, who had no common chief. The Franks, one of the
number, having conquered the Gauls, established the kingdom which
has taken its name from them. In the ninth century Charlemagne, its
warlike monarch, carried his victorious arms in every direction;
and Germany became a part of his vast dominions. On the
dismemberment, which took place under his sons, this part was
erected into a separate and independent empire. Charlemagne and his
immediate descendants possessed the reality, as well as the ensigns
and dignity of imperial power. But the principal vassals, whose
fiefs had become hereditary, and who composed the national diets
which Charlemagne had not abolished, gradually threw off the yoke
and advanced to sovereign jurisdiction and independence. The force
of imperial sovereignty was insufficient to restrain such powerful
dependants; or to preserve the unity and tranquillity of the empire.
The most furious private wars, accompanied with every species of
calamity, were carried on between the different princes and states.
The imperial authority, unable to maintain the public order,
declined by degrees till it was almost extinct in the anarchy, which
agitated the long interval between the death of the last emperor of
the Suabian, and the accession of the first emperor of the Austrian
lines. In the eleventh century the emperors enjoyed full
sovereignty: In the fifteenth they had little more than the symbols
and decorations of power.

Out of this feudal system, which has itself many of the
important features of a confederacy, has grown the federal system
which constitutes the Germanic empire. Its powers are vested in a
diet representing the component members of the confederacy; in the
emperor, who is the executive magistrate, with a negative on the
decrees of the diet; and in the imperial chamber and the aulic
council, two judiciary tribunals having supreme jurisdiction in
controversies which concern the empire, or which happen among its

The diet possesses the general power of legislating for the
empire; of making war and peace; contracting alliances; assessing
quotas of troops and money; constructing fortresses; regulating
coin; admitting new members; and subjecting disobedient members to
the ban of the empire, by which the party is degraded from his
sovereign rights and his possessions forfeited. The members of the
confederacy are expressly restricted from entering into compacts
prejudicial to the empire; from imposing tolls and duties on their
mutual intercourse, without the consent of the emperor and diet;
from altering the value of money; from doing injustice to one
another; or from affording assistance or retreat to disturbers of
the public peace. And the ban is denounced against such as shall
violate any of these restrictions. The members of the diet, as
such, are subject in all cases to be judged by the emperor and diet,
and in their private capacities by the aulic council and imperial

The prerogatives of the emperor are numerous. The most
important of them are: his exclusive right to make propositions to
the diet; to negative its resolutions; to name ambassadors; to
confer dignities and titles; to fill vacant electorates; to found
universities; to grant privileges not injurious to the states of
the empire; to receive and apply the public revenues; and
generally to watch over the public safety. In certain cases, the
electors form a council to him. In quality of emperor, he possesses
no territory within the empire, nor receives any revenue for his
support. But his revenue and dominions, in other qualities,
constitute him one of the most powerful princes in Europe.

From such a parade of constitutional powers, in the
representatives and head of this confederacy, the natural
supposition would be, that it must form an exception to the general
character which belongs to its kindred systems. Nothing would be
further from the reality. The fundamental principle on which it
rests, that the empire is a community of sovereigns, that the diet
is a representation of sovereigns and that the laws are addressed to
sovereigns, renders the empire a nerveless body, incapable of
regulating its own members, insecure against external dangers, and
agitated with unceasing fermentations in its own bowels.

The history of Germany is a history of wars between the emperor
and the princes and states; of wars among the princes and states
themselves; of the licentiousness of the strong, and the oppression
of the weak; of foreign intrusions, and foreign intrigues; of
requisitions of men and money disregarded, or partially complied
with; of attempts to enforce them, altogether abortive, or attended
with slaughter and desolation, involving the innocent with the
guilty; of general inbecility, confusion, and misery.

In the sixteenth century, the emperor, with one part of the
empire on his side, was seen engaged against the other princes and
states. In one of the conflicts, the emperor himself was put to
flight, and very near being made prisoner by the elector of Saxony.
The late king of Prussia was more than once pitted against his
imperial sovereign; and commonly proved an overmatch for him.
Controversies and wars among the members themselves have been so
common, that the German annals are crowded with the bloody pages
which describe them. Previous to the peace of Westphalia, Germany
was desolated by a war of thirty years, in which the emperor, with
one half of the empire, was on one side, and Sweden, with the other
half, on the opposite side. Peace was at length negotiated, and
dictated by foreign powers; and the articles of it, to which
foreign powers are parties, made a fundamental part of the Germanic

If the nation happens, on any emergency, to be more united by
the necessity of self-defense, its situation is still deplorable.
Military preparations must be preceded by so many tedious
discussions, arising from the jealousies, pride, separate views, and
clashing pretensions of sovereign bodies, that before the diet can
settle the arrangements, the enemy are in the field; and before the
federal troops are ready to take it, are retiring into winter

The small body of national troops, which has been judged
necessary in time of peace, is defectively kept up, badly paid,
infected with local prejudices, and supported by irregular and
disproportionate contributions to the treasury.

The impossibility of maintaining order and dispensing justice
among these sovereign subjects, produced the experiment of dividing
the empire into nine or ten circles or districts; of giving them an
interior organization, and of charging them with the military
execution of the laws against delinquent and contumacious members.
This experiment has only served to demonstrate more fully the
radical vice of the constitution. Each circle is the miniature
picture of the deformities of this political monster. They either
fail to execute their commissions, or they do it with all the
devastation and carnage of civil war. Sometimes whole circles are
defaulters; and then they increase the mischief which they were
instituted to remedy.

We may form some judgment of this scheme of military coercion
from a sample given by Thuanus. In Donawerth, a free and imperial
city of the circle of Suabia, the Abb 300 de St. Croix enjoyed
certain immunities which had been reserved to him. In the exercise
of these, on some public occasions, outrages were committed on him
by the people of the city. The consequence was that the city was
put under the ban of the empire, and the Duke of Bavaria, though
director of another circle, obtained an appointment to enforce it.
He soon appeared before the city with a corps of ten thousand
troops, and finding it a fit occasion, as he had secretly intended
from the beginning, to revive an antiquated claim, on the pretext
that his ancestors had suffered the place to be dismembered from his
territory,1 he took possession of it in his own name, disarmed,
and punished the inhabitants, and reannexed the city to his domains.

It may be asked, perhaps, what has so long kept this disjointed
machine from falling entirely to pieces? The answer is obvious:
The weakness of most of the members, who are unwilling to expose
themselves to the mercy of foreign powers; the weakness of most of
the principal members, compared with the formidable powers all
around them; the vast weight and influence which the emperor
derives from his separate and heriditary dominions; and the
interest he feels in preserving a system with which his family pride
is connected, and which constitutes him the first prince in Europe;
—these causes support a feeble and precarious Union; whilst the
repellant quality, incident to the nature of sovereignty, and which
time continually strengthens, prevents any reform whatever, founded
on a proper consolidation. Nor is it to be imagined, if this
obstacle could be surmounted, that the neighboring powers would
suffer a revolution to take place which would give to the empire the
force and preeminence to which it is entitled. Foreign nations have
long considered themselves as interested in the changes made by
events in this constitution; and have, on various occasions,
betrayed their policy of perpetuating its anarchy and weakness.

If more direct examples were wanting, Poland, as a government
over local sovereigns, might not improperly be taken notice of. Nor
could any proof more striking be given of the calamities flowing
from such institutions. Equally unfit for self-government and
self-defense, it has long been at the mercy of its powerful
neighbors; who have lately had the mercy to disburden it of one
third of its people and territories.

The connection among the Swiss cantons scarcely amounts to a
confederacy; though it is sometimes cited as an instance of the
stability of such institutions.

They have no common treasury; no common troops even in war; no
common coin; no common judicatory; nor any other common mark of

They are kept together by the peculiarity of their topographical
position; by their individual weakness and insignificancy; by the
fear of powerful neighbors, to one of which they were formerly
subject; by the few sources of contention among a people of such
simple and homogeneous manners; by their joint interest in their
dependent possessions; by the mutual aid they stand in need of, for
suppressing insurrections and rebellions, an aid expressly
stipulated and often required and afforded; and by the necessity of
some regular and permanent provision for accomodating disputes among
the cantons. The provision is, that the parties at variance shall
each choose four judges out of the neutral cantons, who, in case of
disagreement, choose an umpire. This tribunal, under an oath of
impartiality, pronounces definitive sentence, which all the cantons
are bound to enforce. The competency of this regulation may be
estimated by a clause in their treaty of 1683, with Victor Amadeus
of Savoy; in which he obliges himself to interpose as mediator in
disputes between the cantons, and to employ force, if necessary,
against the contumacious party.

So far as the peculiarity of their case will admit of comparison
with that of the United States, it serves to confirm the principle
intended to be established. Whatever efficacy the union may have
had in ordinary cases, it appears that the moment a cause of
difference sprang up, capable of trying its strength, it failed.
The controversies on the subject of religion, which in three
instances have kindled violent and bloody contests, may be said, in
fact, to have severed the league. The Protestant and Catholic
cantons have since had their separate diets, where all the most
important concerns are adjusted, and which have left the general
diet little other business than to take care of the common bailages.

That separation had another consequence, which merits attention.
It produced opposite alliances with foreign powers: of Berne, at
the head of the Protestant association, with the United Provinces;
and of Luzerne, at the head of the Catholic association, with


1 Pfeffel, “Nouvel Abreg. Chronol. de l’Hist., etc.,
d’Allemagne,” says the pretext was to indemnify himself for the
expense of the expedition.


The Same Subject Continued

(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the


From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, December 11, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE United Netherlands are a confederacy of republics, or rather
of aristocracies of a very remarkable texture, yet confirming all
the lessons derived from those which we have already reviewed.

The union is composed of seven coequal and sovereign states, and
each state or province is a composition of equal and independent
cities. In all important cases, not only the provinces but the
cities must be unanimous.

The sovereignty of the Union is represented by the
States-General, consisting usually of about fifty deputies appointed
by the provinces. They hold their seats, some for life, some for
six, three, and one years; from two provinces they continue in
appointment during pleasure.

The States-General have authority to enter into treaties and
alliances; to make war and peace; to raise armies and equip
fleets; to ascertain quotas and demand contributions. In all these
cases, however, unanimity and the sanction of their constituents are
requisite. They have authority to appoint and receive ambassadors;
to execute treaties and alliances already formed; to provide for
the collection of duties on imports and exports; to regulate the
mint, with a saving to the provincial rights; to govern as
sovereigns the dependent territories. The provinces are restrained,
unless with the general consent, from entering into foreign
treaties; from establishing imposts injurious to others, or
charging their neighbors with higher duties than their own subjects.
A council of state, a chamber of accounts, with five colleges of
admiralty, aid and fortify the federal administration.

The executive magistrate of the union is the stadtholder, who is
now an hereditary prince. His principal weight and influence in the
republic are derived from this independent title; from his great
patrimonial estates; from his family connections with some of the
chief potentates of Europe; and, more than all, perhaps, from his
being stadtholder in the several provinces, as well as for the
union; in which provincial quality he has the appointment of town
magistrates under certain regulations, executes provincial decrees,
presides when he pleases in the provincial tribunals, and has
throughout the power of pardon.

As stadtholder of the union, he has, however, considerable

In his political capacity he has authority to settle disputes
between the provinces, when other methods fail; to assist at the
deliberations of the States-General, and at their particular
conferences; to give audiences to foreign ambassadors, and to keep
agents for his particular affairs at foreign courts.

In his military capacity he commands the federal troops,
provides for garrisons, and in general regulates military affairs;
disposes of all appointments, from colonels to ensigns, and of the
governments and posts of fortified towns.

In his marine capacity he is admiral-general, and superintends
and directs every thing relative to naval forces and other naval
affairs; presides in the admiralties in person or by proxy;
appoints lieutenant-admirals and other officers; and establishes
councils of war, whose sentences are not executed till he approves

His revenue, exclusive of his private income, amounts to three
hundred thousand florins. The standing army which he commands
consists of about forty thousand men.

Such is the nature of the celebrated Belgic confederacy, as
delineated on parchment. What are the characters which practice has
stamped upon it? Imbecility in the government; discord among the
provinces; foreign influence and indignities; a precarious
existence in peace, and peculiar calamities from war.

It was long ago remarked by Grotius, that nothing but the hatred
of his countrymen to the house of Austria kept them from being
ruined by the vices of their constitution.

The union of Utrecht, says another respectable writer, reposes
an authority in the States-General, seemingly sufficient to secure
harmony, but the jealousy in each province renders the practice very
different from the theory.

The same instrument, says another, obliges each province to levy
certain contributions; but this article never could, and probably
never will, be executed; because the inland provinces, who have
little commerce, cannot pay an equal quota.

In matters of contribution, it is the practice to waive the
articles of the constitution. The danger of delay obliges the
consenting provinces to furnish their quotas, without waiting for
the others; and then to obtain reimbursement from the others, by
deputations, which are frequent, or otherwise, as they can. The
great wealth and influence of the province of Holland enable her to
effect both these purposes.

It has more than once happened, that the deficiencies had to be
ultimately collected at the point of the bayonet; a thing
practicable, though dreadful, in a confedracy where one of the
members exceeds in force all the rest, and where several of them are
too small to meditate resistance; but utterly impracticable in one
composed of members, several of which are equal to each other in
strength and resources, and equal singly to a vigorous and
persevering defense.

Foreign ministers, says Sir William Temple, who was himself a
foreign minister, elude matters taken ad referendum, by
tampering with the provinces and cities. In 1726, the treaty of
Hanover was delayed by these means a whole year. Instances of a
like nature are numerous and notorious.

In critical emergencies, the States-General are often compelled
to overleap their constitutional bounds. In 1688, they concluded a
treaty of themselves at the risk of their heads. The treaty of
Westphalia, in 1648, by which their independence was formerly and
finally recognized, was concluded without the consent of Zealand.
Even as recently as the last treaty of peace with Great Britain,
the constitutional principle of unanimity was departed from. A weak
constitution must necessarily terminate in dissolution, for want of
proper powers, or the usurpation of powers requisite for the public
safety. Whether the usurpation, when once begun, will stop at the
salutary point, or go forward to the dangerous extreme, must depend
on the contingencies of the moment. Tyranny has perhaps oftener
grown out of the assumptions of power, called for, on pressing
exigencies, by a defective constitution, than out of the full
exercise of the largest constitutional authorities.

Notwithstanding the calamities produced by the stadtholdership,
it has been supposed that without his influence in the individual
provinces, the causes of anarchy manifest in the confederacy would
long ago have dissolved it. “Under such a government,” says the
Abbe Mably, “the Union could never have subsisted, if the provinces
had not a spring within themselves, capable of quickening their
tardiness, and compelling them to the same way of thinking. This
spring is the stadtholder.” It is remarked by Sir William Temple,
“that in the intermissions of the stadtholdership, Holland, by her
riches and her authority, which drew the others into a sort of
dependence, supplied the place.”

These are not the only circumstances which have controlled the
tendency to anarchy and dissolution. The surrounding powers impose
an absolute necessity of union to a certain degree, at the same time
that they nourish by their intrigues the constitutional vices which
keep the republic in some degree always at their mercy.

The true patriots have long bewailed the fatal tendency of these
vices, and have made no less than four regular experiments by
EXTRAORDINARY ASSEMBLIES, convened for the special purpose, to apply
a remedy. As many times has their laudable zeal found it impossible
to UNITE THE PUBLIC COUNCILS in reforming the known, the
acknowledged, the fatal evils of the existing constitution. Let us
pause, my fellow-citizens, for one moment, over this melancholy and
monitory lesson of history; and with the tear that drops for the
calamities brought on mankind by their adverse opinions and selfish
passions, let our gratitude mingle an ejaculation to Heaven, for the
propitious concord which has distinguished the consultations for our
political happiness.

A design was also conceived of establishing a general tax to be
administered by the federal authority. This also had its
adversaries and failed.

This unhappy people seem to be now suffering from popular
convulsions, from dissensions among the states, and from the actual
invasion of foreign arms, the crisis of their destiny. All nations
have their eyes fixed on the awful spectacle. The first wish
prompted by humanity is, that this severe trial may issue in such a
revolution of their government as will establish their union, and
render it the parent of tranquillity, freedom and happiness: The
next, that the asylum under which, we trust, the enjoyment of these
blessings will speedily be secured in this country, may receive and
console them for the catastrophe of their own.

I make no apology for having dwelt so long on the contemplation
of these federal precedents. Experience is the oracle of truth;
and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be
conclusive and sacred. The important truth, which it unequivocally
pronounces in the present case, is that a sovereignty over
sovereigns, a government over governments, a legislation for
communities, as contradistinguished from individuals, as it is a
solecism in theory, so in practice it is subversive of the order and
ends of civil polity, by substituting VIOLENCE in place of LAW, or
the destructive COERCION of the SWORD in place of the mild and
salutary COERCION of the MAGISTRACY.



Other Defects of the Present Confederation

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

HAVING in the three last numbers taken a summary review of the
principal circumstances and events which have depicted the genius
and fate of other confederate governments, I shall now proceed in
the enumeration of the most important of those defects which have
hitherto disappointed our hopes from the system established among
ourselves. To form a safe and satisfactory judgment of the proper
remedy, it is absolutely necessary that we should be well acquainted
with the extent and malignity of the disease.

The next most palpable defect of the subsisting Confederation,
is the total want of a SANCTION to its laws. The United States, as
now composed, have no powers to exact obedience, or punish
disobedience to their resolutions, either by pecuniary mulcts, by a
suspension or divestiture of privileges, or by any other
constitutional mode. There is no express delegation of authority to
them to use force against delinquent members; and if such a right
should be ascribed to the federal head, as resulting from the nature
of the social compact between the States, it must be by inference
and construction, in the face of that part of the second article, by
which it is declared, “that each State shall retain every power,
jurisdiction, and right, not EXPRESSLY delegated to the United
States in Congress assembled.” There is, doubtless, a striking
absurdity in supposing that a right of this kind does not exist, but
we are reduced to the dilemma either of embracing that supposition,
preposterous as it may seem, or of contravening or explaining away a
provision, which has been of late a repeated theme of the eulogies
of those who oppose the new Constitution; and the want of which, in
that plan, has been the subject of much plausible animadversion, and
severe criticism. If we are unwilling to impair the force of this
applauded provision, we shall be obliged to conclude, that the
United States afford the extraordinary spectacle of a government
destitute even of the shadow of constitutional power to enforce the
execution of its own laws. It will appear, from the specimens which
have been cited, that the American Confederacy, in this particular,
stands discriminated from every other institution of a similar kind,
and exhibits a new and unexampled phenomenon in the political world.

The want of a mutual guaranty of the State governments is
another capital imperfection in the federal plan. There is nothing
of this kind declared in the articles that compose it; and to imply
a tacit guaranty from considerations of utility, would be a still
more flagrant departure from the clause which has been mentioned,
than to imply a tacit power of coercion from the like considerations.
The want of a guaranty, though it might in its consequences
endanger the Union, does not so immediately attack its existence as
the want of a constitutional sanction to its laws.

Without a guaranty the assistance to be derived from the Union
in repelling those domestic dangers which may sometimes threaten the
existence of the State constitutions, must be renounced. Usurpation
may rear its crest in each State, and trample upon the liberties of
the people, while the national government could legally do nothing
more than behold its encroachments with indignation and regret. A
successful faction may erect a tyranny on the ruins of order and
law, while no succor could constitutionally be afforded by the Union
to the friends and supporters of the government. The tempestuous
situation from which Massachusetts has scarcely emerged, evinces
that dangers of this kind are not merely speculative. Who can
determine what might have been the issue of her late convulsions, if
the malcontents had been headed by a Caesar or by a Cromwell? Who
can predict what effect a despotism, established in Massachusetts,
would have upon the liberties of New Hampshire or Rhode Island, of
Connecticut or New York?

The inordinate pride of State importance has suggested to some
minds an objection to the principle of a guaranty in the federal
government, as involving an officious interference in the domestic
concerns of the members. A scruple of this kind would deprive us of
one of the principal advantages to be expected from union, and can
only flow from a misapprehension of the nature of the provision
itself. It could be no impediment to reforms of the State
constitution by a majority of the people in a legal and peaceable
mode. This right would remain undiminished. The guaranty could
only operate against changes to be effected by violence. Towards
the preventions of calamities of this kind, too many checks cannot
be provided. The peace of society and the stability of government
depend absolutely on the efficacy of the precautions adopted on this
head. Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of
the people, there is the less pretense for the use of violent
remedies in partial or occasional distempers of the State. The
natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or
representative constitution, is a change of men. A guaranty by the
national authority would be as much levelled against the usurpations
of rulers as against the ferments and outrages of faction and
sedition in the community.

The principle of regulating the contributions of the States to
the common treasury by QUOTAS is another fundamental error in the
Confederation. Its repugnancy to an adequate supply of the national
exigencies has been already pointed out, and has sufficiently
appeared from the trial which has been made of it. I speak of it
now solely with a view to equality among the States. Those who have
been accustomed to contemplate the circumstances which produce and
constitute national wealth, must be satisfied that there is no
common standard or barometer by which the degrees of it can be
ascertained. Neither the value of lands, nor the numbers of the
people, which have been successively proposed as the rule of State
contributions, has any pretension to being a just representative.
If we compare the wealth of the United Netherlands with that of
Russia or Germany, or even of France, and if we at the same time
compare the total value of the lands and the aggregate population of
that contracted district with the total value of the lands and the
aggregate population of the immense regions of either of the three
last-mentioned countries, we shall at once discover that there is no
comparison between the proportion of either of these two objects and
that of the relative wealth of those nations. If the like parallel
were to be run between several of the American States, it would
furnish a like result. Let Virginia be contrasted with North
Carolina, Pennsylvania with Connecticut, or Maryland with New
Jersey, and we shall be convinced that the respective abilities of
those States, in relation to revenue, bear little or no analogy to
their comparative stock in lands or to their comparative population.
The position may be equally illustrated by a similar process
between the counties of the same State. No man who is acquainted
with the State of New York will doubt that the active wealth of
King’s County bears a much greater proportion to that of Montgomery
than it would appear to be if we should take either the total value
of the lands or the total number of the people as a criterion!

The wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes.
Situation, soil, climate, the nature of the productions, the
nature of the government, the genius of the citizens, the degree of
information they possess, the state of commerce, of arts, of
industry, these circumstances and many more, too complex, minute, or
adventitious to admit of a particular specification, occasion
differences hardly conceivable in the relative opulence and riches
of different countries. The consequence clearly is that there can
be no common measure of national wealth, and, of course, no general
or stationary rule by which the ability of a state to pay taxes can
be determined. The attempt, therefore, to regulate the
contributions of the members of a confederacy by any such rule,
cannot fail to be productive of glaring inequality and extreme

This inequality would of itself be sufficient in America to work
the eventual destruction of the Union, if any mode of enforcing a
compliance with its requisitions could be devised. The suffering
States would not long consent to remain associated upon a principle
which distributes the public burdens with so unequal a hand, and
which was calculated to impoverish and oppress the citizens of some
States, while those of others would scarcely be conscious of the
small proportion of the weight they were required to sustain. This,
however, is an evil inseparable from the principle of quotas and

There is no method of steering clear of this inconvenience, but
by authorizing the national government to raise its own revenues in
its own way. Imposts, excises, and, in general, all duties upon
articles of consumption, may be compared to a fluid, which will, in
time, find its level with the means of paying them. The amount to
be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be at his own
option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources. The
rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal; and private
oppression may always be avoided by a judicious selection of objects
proper for such impositions. If inequalities should arise in some
States from duties on particular objects, these will, in all
probability, be counterbalanced by proportional inequalities in
other States, from the duties on other objects. In the course of
time and things, an equilibrium, as far as it is attainable in so
complicated a subject, will be established everywhere. Or, if
inequalities should still exist, they would neither be so great in
their degree, so uniform in their operation, nor so odious in their
appearance, as those which would necessarily spring from quotas,
upon any scale that can possibly be devised.

It is a signal advantage of taxes on articles of consumption,
that they contain in their own nature a security against excess.
They prescribe their own limit; which cannot be exceeded without
defeating the end proposed, that is, an extension of the revenue.
When applied to this object, the saying is as just as it is witty,
that, “in political arithmetic, two and two do not always make four.”

If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the
collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so
great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds.
This forms a complete barrier against any material oppression of
the citizens by taxes of this class, and is itself a natural
limitation of the power of imposing them.

Impositions of this kind usually fall under the denomination of
indirect taxes, and must for a long time constitute the chief part
of the revenue raised in this country. Those of the direct kind,
which principally relate to land and buildings, may admit of a rule
of apportionment. Either the value of land, or the number of the
people, may serve as a standard. The state of agriculture and the
populousness of a country have been considered as nearly connected
with each other. And, as a rule, for the purpose intended, numbers,
in the view of simplicity and certainty, are entitled to a
preference. In every country it is a herculean task to obtain a
valuation of the land; in a country imperfectly settled and
progressive in improvement, the difficulties are increased almost to
impracticability. The expense of an accurate valuation is, in all
situations, a formidable objection. In a branch of taxation where
no limits to the discretion of the government are to be found in the
nature of things, the establishment of a fixed rule, not
incompatible with the end, may be attended with fewer inconveniences
than to leave that discretion altogether at large.



The Same Subject Continued

(Other Defects of the Present Confederation)

From the New York Packet.

Friday, December 14, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

IN ADDITION to the defects already enumerated in the existing
federal system, there are others of not less importance, which
concur in rendering it altogether unfit for the administration of
the affairs of the Union.

The want of a power to regulate commerce is by all parties
allowed to be of the number. The utility of such a power has been
anticipated under the first head of our inquiries; and for this
reason, as well as from the universal conviction entertained upon
the subject, little need be added in this place. It is indeed
evident, on the most superficial view, that there is no object,
either as it respects the interests of trade or finance, that more
strongly demands a federal superintendence. The want of it has
already operated as a bar to the formation of beneficial treaties
with foreign powers, and has given occasions of dissatisfaction
between the States. No nation acquainted with the nature of our
political association would be unwise enough to enter into
stipulations with the United States, by which they conceded
privileges of any importance to them, while they were apprised that
the engagements on the part of the Union might at any moment be
violated by its members, and while they found from experience that
they might enjoy every advantage they desired in our markets,
without granting us any return but such as their momentary
convenience might suggest. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at
that Mr. Jenkinson, in ushering into the House of Commons a bill for
regulating the temporary intercourse between the two countries,
should preface its introduction by a declaration that similar
provisions in former bills had been found to answer every purpose to
the commerce of Great Britain, and that it would be prudent to
persist in the plan until it should appear whether the American
government was likely or not to acquire greater consistency. [1]

Several States have endeavored, by separate prohibitions,
restrictions, and exclusions, to influence the conduct of that
kingdom in this particular, but the want of concert, arising from
the want of a general authority and from clashing and dissimilar
views in the State, has hitherto frustrated every experiment of the
kind, and will continue to do so as long as the same obstacles to a
uniformity of measures continue to exist.

The interfering and unneighborly regulations of some States,
contrary to the true spirit of the Union, have, in different
instances, given just cause of umbrage and complaint to others, and
it is to be feared that examples of this nature, if not restrained
by a national control, would be multiplied and extended till they
became not less serious sources of animosity and discord than
injurious impediments to the intercourse between the different parts
of the Confederacy. “The commerce of the German empire [2] is in
continual trammels from the multiplicity of the duties which the
several princes and states exact upon the merchandises passing
through their territories, by means of which the fine streams and
navigable rivers with which Germany is so happily watered are
rendered almost useless.” Though the genius of the people of this
country might never permit this description to be strictly
applicable to us, yet we may reasonably expect, from the gradual
conflicts of State regulations, that the citizens of each would at
length come to be considered and treated by the others in no better
light than that of foreigners and aliens.

The power of raising armies, by the most obvious construction of
the articles of the Confederation, is merely a power of making
requisitions upon the States for quotas of men. This practice in
the course of the late war, was found replete with obstructions to a
vigorous and to an economical system of defense. It gave birth to a
competition between the States which created a kind of auction for
men. In order to furnish the quotas required of them, they outbid
each other till bounties grew to an enormous and insupportable size.
The hope of a still further increase afforded an inducement to
those who were disposed to serve to procrastinate their enlistment,
and disinclined them from engaging for any considerable periods.
Hence, slow and scanty levies of men, in the most critical
emergencies of our affairs; short enlistments at an unparalleled
expense; continual fluctuations in the troops, ruinous to their
discipline and subjecting the public safety frequently to the
perilous crisis of a disbanded army. Hence, also, those oppressive
expedients for raising men which were upon several occasions
practiced, and which nothing but the enthusiasm of liberty would
have induced the people to endure.

This method of raising troops is not more unfriendly to economy
and vigor than it is to an equal distribution of the burden. The
States near the seat of war, influenced by motives of
self-preservation, made efforts to furnish their quotas, which even
exceeded their abilities; while those at a distance from danger
were, for the most part, as remiss as the others were diligent, in
their exertions. The immediate pressure of this inequality was not
in this case, as in that of the contributions of money, alleviated
by the hope of a final liquidation. The States which did not pay
their proportions of money might at least be charged with their
deficiencies; but no account could be formed of the deficiencies in
the supplies of men. We shall not, however, see much reason to
reget the want of this hope, when we consider how little prospect
there is, that the most delinquent States will ever be able to make
compensation for their pecuniary failures. The system of quotas and
requisitions, whether it be applied to men or money, is, in every
view, a system of imbecility in the Union, and of inequality and
injustice among the members.

The right of equal suffrage among the States is another
exceptionable part of the Confederation. Every idea of proportion
and every rule of fair representation conspire to condemn a
principle, which gives to Rhode Island an equal weight in the scale
of power with Massachusetts, or Connecticut, or New York; and to
Deleware an equal voice in the national deliberations with
Pennsylvania, or Virginia, or North Carolina. Its operation
contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which
requires that the sense of the majority should prevail. Sophistry
may reply, that sovereigns are equal, and that a majority of the
votes of the States will be a majority of confederated America. But
this kind of logical legerdemain will never counteract the plain
suggestions of justice and common-sense. It may happen that this
majority of States is a small minority of the people of
America [3]; and two thirds of the people of America could not
long be persuaded, upon the credit of artificial distinctions and
syllogistic subtleties, to submit their interests to the management
and disposal of one third. The larger States would after a while
revolt from the idea of receiving the law from the smaller. To
acquiesce in such a privation of their due importance in the
political scale, would be not merely to be insensible to the love of
power, but even to sacrifice the desire of equality. It is neither
rational to expect the first, nor just to require the last. The
smaller States, considering how peculiarly their safety and welfare
depend on union, ought readily to renounce a pretension which, if
not relinquished, would prove fatal to its duration.

It may be objected to this, that not seven but nine States, or
two thirds of the whole number, must consent to the most important
resolutions; and it may be thence inferred that nine States would
always comprehend a majority of the Union. But this does not
obviate the impropriety of an equal vote between States of the most
unequal dimensions and populousness; nor is the inference accurate
in point of fact; for we can enumerate nine States which contain
less than a majority of the people [4]; and it is constitutionally
possible that these nine may give the vote. Besides, there are
matters of considerable moment determinable by a bare majority; and
there are others, concerning which doubts have been entertained,
which, if interpreted in favor of the sufficiency of a vote of seven
States, would extend its operation to interests of the first
magnitude. In addition to this, it is to be observed that there is
a probability of an increase in the number of States, and no
provision for a proportional augmentation of the ratio of votes.

But this is not all: what at first sight may seem a remedy, is,
in reality, a poison. To give a minority a negative upon the
majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is
requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense
of the greater number to that of the lesser. Congress, from the
nonattendance of a few States, have been frequently in the situation
of a Polish diet, where a single VOTE has been sufficient to put a
stop to all their movements. A sixtieth part of the Union, which is
about the proportion of Delaware and Rhode Island, has several times
been able to oppose an entire bar to its operations. This is one of
those refinements which, in practice, has an effect the reverse of
what is expected from it in theory. The necessity of unanimity in
public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been
founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security.
But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to
destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the
pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or
corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a
respectable majority. In those emergencies of a nation, in which
the goodness or badness, the weakness or strength of its government,
is of the greatest importance, there is commonly a necessity for
action. The public business must, in some way or other, go forward.
If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority,
respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order
that something may be done, must conform to the views of the
minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule
that of the greater, and give a tone to the national proceedings.
Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue;
contemptible compromises of the public good. And yet, in such a
system, it is even happy when such compromises can take place: for
upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and
then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or
fatally defeated. It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining
the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of
inaction. Its situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes
border upon anarchy.

It is not difficult to discover, that a principle of this kind
gives greater scope to foreign corruption, as well as to domestic
faction, than that which permits the sense of the majority to
decide; though the contrary of this has been presumed. The mistake
has proceeded from not attending with due care to the mischiefs that
may be occasioned by obstructing the progress of government at
certain critical seasons. When the concurrence of a large number is
required by the Constitution to the doing of any national act, we
are apt to rest satisfied that all is safe, because nothing improper
will be likely TO BE DONE, but we forget how much good may be
prevented, and how much ill may be produced, by the power of
hindering the doing what may be necessary, and of keeping affairs in
the same unfavorable posture in which they may happen to stand at
particular periods.

Suppose, for instance, we were engaged in a war, in conjunction
with one foreign nation, against another. Suppose the necessity of
our situation demanded peace, and the interest or ambition of our
ally led him to seek the prosecution of the war, with views that
might justify us in making separate terms. In such a state of
things, this ally of ours would evidently find it much easier, by
his bribes and intrigues, to tie up the hands of government from
making peace, where two thirds of all the votes were requisite to
that object, than where a simple majority would suffice. In the
first case, he would have to corrupt a smaller number; in the last,
a greater number. Upon the same principle, it would be much easier
for a foreign power with which we were at war to perplex our
councils and embarrass our exertions. And, in a commercial view, we
may be subjected to similar inconveniences. A nation, with which we
might have a treaty of commerce, could with much greater facility
prevent our forming a connection with her competitor in trade,
though such a connection should be ever so beneficial to ourselves.

Evils of this description ought not to be regarded as imaginary.
One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous
advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign
corruption. An hereditary monarch, though often disposed to
sacrifice his subjects to his ambition, has so great a personal
interest in the government and in the external glory of the nation,
that it is not easy for a foreign power to give him an equivalent
for what he would sacrifice by treachery to the state. The world
has accordingly been witness to few examples of this species of
royal prostitution, though there have been abundant specimens of
every other kind.

In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community,
by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great
pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their
trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior
virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in
the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty. Hence
it is that history furnishes us with so many mortifying examples of
the prevalency of foreign corruption in republican governments. How
much this contributed to the ruin of the ancient commonwealths has
been already delineated. It is well known that the deputies of the
United Provinces have, in various instances, been purchased by the
emissaries of the neighboring kingdoms. The Earl of Chesterfield
(if my memory serves me right), in a letter to his court, intimates
that his success in an important negotiation must depend on his
obtaining a major’s commission for one of those deputies. And in
Sweden the parties were alternately bought by France and England in
so barefaced and notorious a manner that it excited universal
disgust in the nation, and was a principal cause that the most
limited monarch in Europe, in a single day, without tumult,
violence, or opposition, became one of the most absolute and

A circumstance which crowns the defects of the Confederation
remains yet to be mentioned, the want of a judiciary power. Laws
are a dead letter without courts to expound and define their true
meaning and operation. The treaties of the United States, to have
any force at all, must be considered as part of the law of the land.
Their true import, as far as respects individuals, must, like all
other laws, be ascertained by judicial determinations. To produce
uniformity in these determinations, they ought to be submitted, in
the last resort, to one SUPREME TRIBUNAL. And this tribunal ought
to be instituted under the same authority which forms the treaties
themselves. These ingredients are both indispensable. If there is
in each State a court of final jurisdiction, there may be as many
different final determinations on the same point as there are courts.
There are endless diversities in the opinions of men. We often
see not only different courts but the judges of the came court
differing from each other. To avoid the confusion which would
unavoidably result from the contradictory decisions of a number of
independent judicatories, all nations have found it necessary to
establish one court paramount to the rest, possessing a general
superintendence, and authorized to settle and declare in the last
resort a uniform rule of civil justice.

This is the more necessary where the frame of the government is
so compounded that the laws of the whole are in danger of being
contravened by the laws of the parts. In this case, if the
particular tribunals are invested with a right of ultimate
jurisdiction, besides the contradictions to be expected from
difference of opinion, there will be much to fear from the bias of
local views and prejudices, and from the interference of local
regulations. As often as such an interference was to happen, there
would be reason to apprehend that the provisions of the particular
laws might be preferred to those of the general laws; for nothing
is more natural to men in office than to look with peculiar
deference towards that authority to which they owe their official
existence. The treaties of the United States, under the present
Constitution, are liable to the infractions of thirteen different
legislatures, and as many different courts of final jurisdiction,
acting under the authority of those legislatures. The faith, the
reputation, the peace of the whole Union, are thus continually at
the mercy of the prejudices, the passions, and the interests of
every member of which it is composed. Is it possible that foreign
nations can either respect or confide in such a government? Is it
possible that the people of America will longer consent to trust
their honor, their happiness, their safety, on so precarious a

In this review of the Confederation, I have confined myself to
the exhibition of its most material defects; passing over those
imperfections in its details by which even a great part of the power
intended to be conferred upon it has been in a great measure
rendered abortive. It must be by this time evident to all men of
reflection, who can divest themselves of the prepossessions of
preconceived opinions, that it is a system so radically vicious and
unsound, as to admit not of amendment but by an entire change in its
leading features and characters.

The organization of Congress is itself utterly improper for the
exercise of those powers which are necessary to be deposited in the
Union. A single assembly may be a proper receptacle of those
slender, or rather fettered, authorities, which have been heretofore
delegated to the federal head; but it would be inconsistent with
all the principles of good government, to intrust it with those
additional powers which, even the moderate and more rational
adversaries of the proposed Constitution admit, ought to reside in
the United States. If that plan should not be adopted, and if the
necessity of the Union should be able to withstand the ambitious
aims of those men who may indulge magnificent schemes of personal
aggrandizement from its dissolution, the probability would be, that
we should run into the project of conferring supplementary powers
upon Congress, as they are now constituted; and either the machine,
from the intrinsic feebleness of its structure, will moulder into
pieces, in spite of our ill-judged efforts to prop it; or, by
successive augmentations of its force an energy, as necessity might
prompt, we shall finally accumulate, in a single body, all the most
important prerogatives of sovereignty, and thus entail upon our
posterity one of the most execrable forms of government that human
infatuation ever contrived. Thus, we should create in reality that
very tyranny which the adversaries of the new Constitution either
are, or affect to be, solicitous to avert.

It has not a little contributed to the infirmities of the
existing federal system, that it never had a ratification by the
PEOPLE. Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the
several legislatures, it has been exposed to frequent and intricate
questions concerning the validity of its powers, and has, in some
instances, given birth to the enormous doctrine of a right of
legislative repeal. Owing its ratification to the law of a State,
it has been contended that the same authority might repeal the law
by which it was ratified. However gross a heresy it may be to
maintain that a PARTY to a COMPACT has a right to revoke that
COMPACT, the doctrine itself has had respectable advocates. The
possibility of a question of this nature proves the necessity of
laying the foundations of our national government deeper than in the
mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire
ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The
streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure,
original fountain of all legitimate authority.


FNA1-@1 This, as nearly as I can recollect, was the sense of his
speech on introducing the last bill.

FNA1-@2 Encyclopedia, article “Empire.”

FNA1-@3 New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia,
South Carolina, and Maryland are a majority of the whole number of
the States, but they do not contain one third of the people.

FNA1-@4 Add New York and Connecticut to the foregoing seven, and they
will be less than a majority.


The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to
the Preservation of the Union

From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, December 18, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with
the one proposed, to the preservation of the Union, is the point at
the examination of which we are now arrived.

This inquiry will naturally divide itself into three
branches the objects to be provided for by the federal government,
the quantity of power necessary to the accomplishment of those
objects, the persons upon whom that power ought to operate. Its
distribution and organization will more properly claim our attention
under the succeeding head.

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

The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to
raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for
the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for
their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation,
that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this
reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power
to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be
coextensive with all the possible combinations of such
circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same
councils which are appointed to preside over the common defense.

This is one of those truths which, to a correct and unprejudiced
mind, carries its own evidence along with it; and may be obscured,
but cannot be made plainer by argument or reasoning. It rests upon
axioms as simple as they are universal; the MEANS ought to be
proportioned to the END; the persons, from whose agency the
attainment of any END is expected, ought to possess the MEANS by
which it is to be attained.

Whether there ought to be a federal government intrusted with
the care of the common defense, is a question in the first instance,
open for discussion; but the moment it is decided in the
affirmative, it will follow, that that government ought to be
clothed with all the powers requisite to complete execution of its
trust. And unless it can be shown that the circumstances which may
affect the public safety are reducible within certain determinate
limits; unless the contrary of this position can be fairly and
rationally disputed, it must be admitted, as a necessary
consequence, that there can be no limitation of that authority which
is to provide for the defense and protection of the community, in
any matter essential to its efficacy that is, in any matter

Defective as the present Confederation has been proved to be,
this principle appears to have been fully recognized by the framers
of it; though they have not made proper or adequate provision for
its exercise. Congress have an unlimited discretion to make
requisitions of men and money; to govern the army and navy; to
direct their operations. As their requisitions are made
constitutionally binding upon the States, who are in fact under the
most solemn obligations to furnish the supplies required of them,
the intention evidently was that the United States should command
whatever resources were by them judged requisite to the “common
defense and general welfare.” It was presumed that a sense of
their true interests, and a regard to the dictates of good faith,
would be found sufficient pledges for the punctual performance of
the duty of the members to the federal head.

The experiment has, however, demonstrated that this expectation
was ill-founded and illusory; and the observations, made under the
last head, will, I imagine, have sufficed to convince the impartial
and discerning, that there is an absolute necessity for an entire
change in the first principles of the system; that if we are in
earnest about giving the Union energy and duration, we must abandon
the vain project of legislating upon the States in their collective
capacities; we must extend the laws of the federal government to
the individual citizens of America; we must discard the fallacious
scheme of quotas and requisitions, as equally impracticable and
unjust. The result from all this is that the Union ought to be
invested with full power to levy troops; to build and equip fleets;
and to raise the revenues which will be required for the formation
and support of an army and navy, in the customary and ordinary modes
practiced in other governments.

If the circumstances of our country are such as to demand a
compound instead of a simple, a confederate instead of a sole,
government, the essential point which will remain to be adjusted
will be to discriminate the OBJECTS, as far as it can be done, which
shall appertain to the different provinces or departments of power;
allowing to each the most ample authority for fulfilling the
objects committed to its charge. Shall the Union be constituted the
guardian of the common safety? Are fleets and armies and revenues
necessary to this purpose? The government of the Union must be
empowered to pass all laws, and to make all regulations which have
relation to them. The same must be the case in respect to commerce,
and to every other matter to which its jurisdiction is permitted to
extend. Is the administration of justice between the citizens of
the same State the proper department of the local governments?
These must possess all the authorities which are connected with
this object, and with every other that may be allotted to their
particular cognizance and direction. Not to confer in each case a
degree of power commensurate to the end, would be to violate the
most obvious rules of prudence and propriety, and improvidently to
trust the great interests of the nation to hands which are disabled
from managing them with vigor and success.

Who is likely to make suitable provisions for the public
defense, as that body to which the guardianship of the public safety
is confided; which, as the centre of information, will best
understand the extent and urgency of the dangers that threaten; as
the representative of the WHOLE, will feel itself most deeply
interested in the preservation of every part; which, from the
responsibility implied in the duty assigned to it, will be most
sensibly impressed with the necessity of proper exertions; and
which, by the extension of its authority throughout the States, can
alone establish uniformity and concert in the plans and measures by
which the common safety is to be secured? Is there not a manifest
inconsistency in devolving upon the federal government the care of
the general defense, and leaving in the State governments the
EFFECTIVE powers by which it is to be provided for? Is not a want
of co-operation the infallible consequence of such a system? And
will not weakness, disorder, an undue distribution of the burdens
and calamities of war, an unnecessary and intolerable increase of
expense, be its natural and inevitable concomitants? Have we not
had unequivocal experience of its effects in the course of the
revolution which we have just accomplished?

Every view we may take of the subject, as candid inquirers after
truth, will serve to convince us, that it is both unwise and
dangerous to deny the federal government an unconfined authority, as
to all those objects which are intrusted to its management. It will
indeed deserve the most vigilant and careful attention of the
people, to see that it be modeled in such a manner as to admit of
its being safely vested with the requisite powers. If any plan
which has been, or may be, offered to our consideration, should not,
upon a dispassionate inspection, be found to answer this
description, it ought to be rejected. A government, the
constitution of which renders it unfit to be trusted with all the
powers which a free people OUGHT TO DELEGATE TO ANY GOVERNMENT,
would be an unsafe and improper depositary of the NATIONAL INTERESTS.
Wherever THESE can with propriety be confided, the coincident
powers may safely accompany them. This is the true result of all
just reasoning upon the subject. And the adversaries of the plan
promulgated by the convention ought to have confined themselves to
showing, that the internal structure of the proposed government was
such as to render it unworthy of the confidence of the people. They
ought not to have wandered into inflammatory declamations and
unmeaning cavils about the extent of the powers. The POWERS are not
too extensive for the OBJECTS of federal administration, or, in
other words, for the management of our NATIONAL INTERESTS; nor can
any satisfactory argument be framed to show that they are chargeable
with such an excess. If it be true, as has been insinuated by some
of the writers on the other side, that the difficulty arises from
the nature of the thing, and that the extent of the country will not
permit us to form a government in which such ample powers can safely
be reposed, it would prove that we ought to contract our views, and
resort to the expedient of separate confederacies, which will move
within more practicable spheres. For the absurdity must continually
stare us in the face of confiding to a government the direction of
the most essential national interests, without daring to trust it to
the authorities which are indispensible to their proper and
efficient management. Let us not attempt to reconcile
contradictions, but firmly embrace a rational alternative.

I trust, however, that the impracticability of one general
system cannot be shown. I am greatly mistaken, if any thing of
weight has yet been advanced of this tendency; and I flatter
myself, that the observations which have been made in the course of
these papers have served to place the reverse of that position in as
clear a light as any matter still in the womb of time and experience
can be susceptible of. This, at all events, must be evident, that
the very difficulty itself, drawn from the extent of the country, is
the strongest argument in favor of an energetic government; for any
other can certainly never preserve the Union of so large an empire.
If we embrace the tenets of those who oppose the adoption of the
proposed Constitution, as the standard of our political creed, we
cannot fail to verify the gloomy doctrines which predict the
impracticability of a national system pervading entire limits of the
present Confederacy.



The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

To THE powers proposed to be conferred upon the federal
government, in respect to the creation and direction of the national
forces, I have met with but one specific objection, which, if I
understand it right, is this, that proper provision has not been
made against the existence of standing armies in time of peace; an
objection which, I shall now endeavor to show, rests on weak and
unsubstantial foundations.

It has indeed been brought forward in the most vague and general
form, supported only by bold assertions, without the appearance of
argument; without even the sanction of theoretical opinions; in
contradiction to the practice of other free nations, and to the
general sense of America, as expressed in most of the existing
constitutions. The proprietory of this remark will appear, the
moment it is recollected that the objection under consideration
turns upon a supposed necessity of restraining the LEGISLATIVE
authority of the nation, in the article of military establishments;
a principle unheard of, except in one or two of our State
constitutions, and rejected in all the rest.

A stranger to our politics, who was to read our newspapers at
the present juncture, without having previously inspected the plan
reported by the convention, would be naturally led to one of two
conclusions: either that it contained a positive injunction, that
standing armies should be kept up in time of peace; or that it
vested in the EXECUTIVE the whole power of levying troops, without
subjecting his discretion, in any shape, to the control of the

If he came afterwards to peruse the plan itself, he would be
surprised to discover, that neither the one nor the other was the
case; that the whole power of raising armies was lodged in the
LEGISLATURE, not in the EXECUTIVE; that this legislature was to be
a popular body, consisting of the representatives of the people
periodically elected; and that instead of the provision he had
supposed in favor of standing armies, there was to be found, in
respect to this object, an important qualification even of the
legislative discretion, in that clause which forbids the
appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer
period than two years a precaution which, upon a nearer view of it,
will appear to be a great and real security against the keeping up
of troops without evident necessity.

Disappointed in his first surmise, the person I have supposed
would be apt to pursue his conjectures a little further. He would
naturally say to himself, it is impossible that all this vehement
and pathetic declamation can be without some colorable pretext. It
must needs be that this people, so jealous of their liberties, have,
in all the preceding models of the constitutions which they have
established, inserted the most precise and rigid precautions on this
point, the omission of which, in the new plan, has given birth to
all this apprehension and clamor.

If, under this impression, he proceeded to pass in review the
several State constitutions, how great would be his disappointment
to find that TWO ONLY of them [1] contained an interdiction of
standing armies in time of peace; that the other eleven had either
observed a profound silence on the subject, or had in express terms
admitted the right of the Legislature to authorize their existence.

Still, however he would be persuaded that there must be some
plausible foundation for the cry raised on this head. He would
never be able to imagine, while any source of information remained
unexplored, that it was nothing more than an experiment upon the
public credulity, dictated either by a deliberate intention to
deceive, or by the overflowings of a zeal too intemperate to be
ingenuous. It would probably occur to him, that he would be likely
to find the precautions he was in search of in the primitive compact
between the States. Here, at length, he would expect to meet with a
solution of the enigma. No doubt, he would observe to himself, the
existing Confederation must contain the most explicit provisions
against military establishments in time of peace; and a departure
from this model, in a favorite point, has occasioned the discontent
which appears to influence these political champions.

If he should now apply himself to a careful and critical survey
of the articles of Confederation, his astonishment would not only be
increased, but would acquire a mixture of indignation, at the
unexpected discovery, that these articles, instead of containing the
prohibition he looked for, and though they had, with jealous
circumspection, restricted the authority of the State legislatures
in this particular, had not imposed a single restraint on that of
the United States. If he happened to be a man of quick sensibility,
or ardent temper, he could now no longer refrain from regarding
these clamors as the dishonest artifices of a sinister and
unprincipled opposition to a plan which ought at least to receive a
fair and candid examination from all sincere lovers of their
country! How else, he would say, could the authors of them have
been tempted to vent such loud censures upon that plan, about a
point in which it seems to have conformed itself to the general
sense of America as declared in its different forms of government,
and in which it has even superadded a new and powerful guard unknown
to any of them? If, on the contrary, he happened to be a man of
calm and dispassionate feelings, he would indulge a sigh for the
frailty of human nature, and would lament, that in a matter so
interesting to the happiness of millions, the true merits of the
question should be perplexed and entangled by expedients so
unfriendly to an impartial and right determination. Even such a man
could hardly forbear remarking, that a conduct of this kind has too
much the appearance of an intention to mislead the people by
alarming their passions, rather than to convince them by arguments
addressed to their understandings.

But however little this objection may be countenanced, even by
precedents among ourselves, it may be satisfactory to take a nearer
view of its intrinsic merits. From a close examination it will
appear that restraints upon the discretion of the legislature in
respect to military establishments in time of peace, would be
improper to be imposed, and if imposed, from the necessities of
society, would be unlikely to be observed.

Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet
there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of
confidence or security. On one side of us, and stretching far into
our rear, are growing settlements subject to the dominion of Britain.
On the other side, and extending to meet the British settlements,
are colonies and establishments subject to the dominion of Spain.
This situation and the vicinity of the West India Islands,
belonging to these two powers create between them, in respect to
their American possessions and in relation to us, a common interest.
The savage tribes on our Western frontier ought to be regarded as
our natural enemies, their natural allies, because they have most to
fear from us, and most to hope from them. The improvements in the
art of navigation have, as to the facility of communication,
rendered distant nations, in a great measure, neighbors. Britain
and Spain are among the principal maritime powers of Europe. A
future concert of views between these nations ought not to be
regarded as improbable. The increasing remoteness of consanguinity
is every day diminishing the force of the family compact between
France and Spain. And politicians have ever with great reason
considered the ties of blood as feeble and precarious links of
political connection. These circumstances combined, admonish us not
to be too sanguine in considering ourselves as entirely out of the
reach of danger.

Previous to the Revolution, and ever since the peace, there has
been a constant necessity for keeping small garrisons on our Western
frontier. No person can doubt that these will continue to be
indispensable, if it should only be against the ravages and
depredations of the Indians. These garrisons must either be
furnished by occasional detachments from the militia, or by
permanent corps in the pay of the government. The first is
impracticable; and if practicable, would be pernicious. The
militia would not long, if at all, submit to be dragged from their
occupations and families to perform that most disagreeable duty in
times of profound peace. And if they could be prevailed upon or
compelled to do it, the increased expense of a frequent rotation of
service, and the loss of labor and disconcertion of the industrious
pursuits of individuals, would form conclusive objections to the
scheme. It would be as burdensome and injurious to the public as
ruinous to private citizens. The latter resource of permanent corps
in the pay of the government amounts to a standing army in time of
peace; a small one, indeed, but not the less real for being small.
Here is a simple view of the subject, that shows us at once the
impropriety of a constitutional interdiction of such establishments,
and the necessity of leaving the matter to the discretion and
prudence of the legislature.

In proportion to our increase in strength, it is probable, nay,
it may be said certain, that Britain and Spain would augment their
military establishments in our neighborhood. If we should not be
willing to be exposed, in a naked and defenseless condition, to
their insults and encroachments, we should find it expedient to
increase our frontier garrisons in some ratio to the force by which
our Western settlements might be annoyed. There are, and will be,
particular posts, the possession of which will include the command
of large districts of territory, and facilitate future invasions of
the remainder. It may be added that some of those posts will be
keys to the trade with the Indian nations. Can any man think it
would be wise to leave such posts in a situation to be at any
instant seized by one or the other of two neighboring and formidable
powers? To act this part would be to desert all the usual maxims of
prudence and policy.

If we mean to be a commercial people, or even to be secure on
our Atlantic side, we must endeavor, as soon as possible, to have a
navy. To this purpose there must be dock-yards and arsenals; and
for the defense of these, fortifications, and probably garrisons.
When a nation has become so powerful by sea that it can protect its
dock-yards by its fleets, this supersedes the necessity of garrisons
for that purpose; but where naval establishments are in their
infancy, moderate garrisons will, in all likelihood, be found an
indispensable security against descents for the destruction of the
arsenals and dock-yards, and sometimes of the fleet itself.


FNA1-@1 This statement of the matter is taken from the printed
collection of State constitutions. Pennsylvania and North Carolina
are the two which contain the interdiction in these words: “As
standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, THEY
OUGHT NOT to be kept up.” This is, in truth, rather a CAUTION than
a PROHIBITION. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Maryland
have, in each of their bils of rights, a clause to this effect:
“Standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be
is a formal admission of the authority of the Legislature. New York
has no bills of rights, and her constitution says not a word about
the matter. No bills of rights appear annexed to the constitutions
of the other States, except the foregoing, and their constitutions
are equally silent. I am told, however that one or two States have
bills of rights which do not appear in this collection; but that
those also recognize the right of the legislative authority in this


The Same Subject Continued

(The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered)

From the New York Packet.

Friday, December 21, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT MAY perhaps be urged that the objects enumerated in the
preceding number ought to be provided for by the State governments,
under the direction of the Union. But this would be, in reality, an
inversion of the primary principle of our political association, as
it would in practice transfer the care of the common defense from
the federal head to the individual members: a project oppressive to
some States, dangerous to all, and baneful to the Confederacy.

The territories of Britain, Spain, and of the Indian nations in
our neighborhood do not border on particular States, but encircle
the Union from Maine to Georgia. The danger, though in different
degrees, is therefore common. And the means of guarding against it
ought, in like manner, to be the objects of common councils and of a
common treasury. It happens that some States, from local situation,
are more directly exposed. New York is of this class. Upon the
plan of separate provisions, New York would have to sustain the
whole weight of the establishments requisite to her immediate
safety, and to the mediate or ultimate protection of her neighbors.
This would neither be equitable as it respected New York nor safe
as it respected the other States. Various inconveniences would
attend such a system. The States, to whose lot it might fall to
support the necessary establishments, would be as little able as
willing, for a considerable time to come, to bear the burden of
competent provisions. The security of all would thus be subjected
to the parsimony, improvidence, or inability of a part. If the
resources of such part becoming more abundant and extensive, its
provisions should be proportionally enlarged, the other States would
quickly take the alarm at seeing the whole military force of the
Union in the hands of two or three of its members, and those
probably amongst the most powerful. They would each choose to have
some counterpoise, and pretenses could easily be contrived. In this
situation, military establishments, nourished by mutual jealousy,
would be apt to swell beyond their natural or proper size; and
being at the separate disposal of the members, they would be engines
for the abridgment or demolition of the national authority.

Reasons have been already given to induce a supposition that the
State governments will too naturally be prone to a rivalship with
that of the Union, the foundation of which will be the love of
power; and that in any contest between the federal head and one of
its members the people will be most apt to unite with their local
government. If, in addition to this immense advantage, the ambition
of the members should be stimulated by the separate and independent
possession of military forces, it would afford too strong a
temptation and too great a facility to them to make enterprises
upon, and finally to subvert, the constitutional authority of the
Union. On the other hand, the liberty of the people would be less
safe in this state of things than in that which left the national
forces in the hands of the national government. As far as an army
may be considered as a dangerous weapon of power, it had better be
in those hands of which the people are most likely to be jealous
than in those of which they are least likely to be jealous. For it
is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the
people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their
rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the
least suspicion.

The framers of the existing Confederation, fully aware of the
danger to the Union from the separate possession of military forces
by the States, have, in express terms, prohibited them from having
either ships or troops, unless with the consent of Congress. The
truth is, that the existence of a federal government and military
establishments under State authority are not less at variance with
each other than a due supply of the federal treasury and the system
of quotas and requisitions.

There are other lights besides those already taken notice of, in
which the impropriety of restraints on the discretion of the
national legislature will be equally manifest. The design of the
objection, which has been mentioned, is to preclude standing armies
in time of peace, though we have never been informed how far it is
designed the prohibition should extend; whether to raising armies
as well as to KEEPING THEM UP in a season of tranquillity or not.
If it be confined to the latter it will have no precise
signification, and it will be ineffectual for the purpose intended.
When armies are once raised what shall be denominated “keeping
them up,” contrary to the sense of the Constitution? What time
shall be requisite to ascertain the violation? Shall it be a week,
a month, a year? Or shall we say they may be continued as long as
the danger which occasioned their being raised continues? This
would be to admit that they might be kept up IN TIME OF PEACE,
against threatening or impending danger, which would be at once to
deviate from the literal meaning of the prohibition, and to
introduce an extensive latitude of construction. Who shall judge of
the continuance of the danger? This must undoubtedly be submitted
to the national government, and the matter would then be brought to
this issue, that the national government, to provide against
apprehended danger, might in the first instance raise troops, and
might afterwards keep them on foot as long as they supposed the
peace or safety of the community was in any degree of jeopardy. It
is easy to perceive that a discretion so latitudinary as this would
afford ample room for eluding the force of the provision.

The supposed utility of a provision of this kind can only be
founded on the supposed probability, or at least possibility, of a
combination between the executive and the legislative, in some
scheme of usurpation. Should this at any time happen, how easy
would it be to fabricate pretenses of approaching danger! Indian
hostilities, instigated by Spain or Britain, would always be at hand.
Provocations to produce the desired appearances might even be
given to some foreign power, and appeased again by timely
concessions. If we can reasonably presume such a combination to
have been formed, and that the enterprise is warranted by a
sufficient prospect of success, the army, when once raised, from
whatever cause, or on whatever pretext, may be applied to the
execution of the project.

If, to obviate this consequence, it should be resolved to extend
the prohibition to the RAISING of armies in time of peace, the
United States would then exhibit the most extraordinary spectacle
which the world has yet seen, that of a nation incapacitated by its
Constitution to prepare for defense, before it was actually invaded.
As the ceremony of a formal denunciation of war has of late fallen
into disuse, the presence of an enemy within our territories must be
waited for, as the legal warrant to the government to begin its
levies of men for the protection of the State. We must receive the
blow, before we could even prepare to return it. All that kind of
policy by which nations anticipate distant danger, and meet the
gathering storm, must be abstained from, as contrary to the genuine
maxims of a free government. We must expose our property and
liberty to the mercy of foreign invaders, and invite them by our
weakness to seize the naked and defenseless prey, because we are
afraid that rulers, created by our choice, dependent on our will,
might endanger that liberty, by an abuse of the means necessary to
its preservation.

Here I expect we shall be told that the militia of the country
is its natural bulwark, and would be at all times equal to the
national defense. This doctrine, in substance, had like to have
lost us our independence. It cost millions to the United States
that might have been saved. The facts which, from our own
experience, forbid a reliance of this kind, are too recent to permit
us to be the dupes of such a suggestion. The steady operations of
war against a regular and disciplined army can only be successfully
conducted by a force of the same kind. Considerations of economy,
not less than of stability and vigor, confirm this position. The
American militia, in the course of the late war, have, by their
valor on numerous occasions, erected eternal monuments to their
fame; but the bravest of them feel and know that the liberty of
their country could not have been established by their efforts
alone, however great and valuable they were. War, like most other
things, is a science to be acquired and perfected by diligence, by
perserverance, by time, and by practice.

All violent policy, as it is contrary to the natural and
experienced course of human affairs, defeats itself. Pennsylvania,
at this instant, affords an example of the truth of this remark.
The Bill of Rights of that State declares that standing armies are
dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be kept up in time of peace.
Pennsylvania, nevertheless, in a time of profound peace, from the
existence of partial disorders in one or two of her counties, has
resolved to raise a body of troops; and in all probability will
keep them up as long as there is any appearance of danger to the
public peace. The conduct of Massachusetts affords a lesson on the
same subject, though on different ground. That State (without
waiting for the sanction of Congress, as the articles of the
Confederation require) was compelled to raise troops to quell a
domestic insurrection, and still keeps a corps in pay to prevent a
revival of the spirit of revolt. The particular constitution of
Massachusetts opposed no obstacle to the measure; but the instance
is still of use to instruct us that cases are likely to occur under
our government, as well as under those of other nations, which will
sometimes render a military force in time of peace essential to the
security of the society, and that it is therefore improper in this
respect to control the legislative discretion. It also teaches us,
in its application to the United States, how little the rights of a
feeble government are likely to be respected, even by its own
constituents. And it teaches us, in addition to the rest, how
unequal parchment provisions are to a struggle with public necessity.

It was a fundamental maxim of the Lacedaemonian commonwealth,
that the post of admiral should not be conferred twice on the same
person. The Peloponnesian confederates, having suffered a severe
defeat at sea from the Athenians, demanded Lysander, who had before
served with success in that capacity, to command the combined fleets.
The Lacedaemonians, to gratify their allies, and yet preserve the
semblance of an adherence to their ancient institutions, had
recourse to the flimsy subterfuge of investing Lysander with the
real power of admiral, under the nominal title of vice-admiral.
This instance is selected from among a multitude that might be
cited to confirm the truth already advanced and illustrated by
domestic examples; which is, that nations pay little regard to
rules and maxims calculated in their very nature to run counter to
the necessities of society. Wise politicians will be cautious about
fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed,
because they know that every breach of the fundamental laws, though
dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence which ought to
be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a
country, and forms a precedent for other breaches where the same
plea of necessity does not exist at all, or is less urgent and



The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the

Common Defense Considered

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT WAS a thing hardly to be expected that in a popular
revolution the minds of men should stop at that happy mean which
marks the salutary boundary between POWER and PRIVILEGE, and
combines the energy of government with the security of private
rights. A failure in this delicate and important point is the great
source of the inconveniences we experience, and if we are not
cautious to avoid a repetition of the error, in our future attempts
to rectify and ameliorate our system, we may travel from one
chimerical project to another; we may try change after change; but
we shall never be likely to make any material change for the better.

The idea of restraining the legislative authority, in the means
of providing for the national defense, is one of those refinements
which owe their origin to a zeal for liberty more ardent than
enlightened. We have seen, however, that it has not had thus far an
extensive prevalency; that even in this country, where it made its
first appearance, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the only two
States by which it has been in any degree patronized; and that all
the others have refused to give it the least countenance; wisely
judging that confidence must be placed somewhere; that the
necessity of doing it, is implied in the very act of delegating
power; and that it is better to hazard the abuse of that confidence
than to embarrass the government and endanger the public safety by
impolitic restrictions on the legislative authority. The opponents
of the proposed Constitution combat, in this respect, the general
decision of America; and instead of being taught by experience the
propriety of correcting any extremes into which we may have
heretofore run, they appear disposed to conduct us into others still
more dangerous, and more extravagant. As if the tone of government
had been found too high, or too rigid, the doctrines they teach are
calculated to induce us to depress or to relax it, by expedients
which, upon other occasions, have been condemned or forborne. It
may be affirmed without the imputation of invective, that if the
principles they inculcate, on various points, could so far obtain as
to become the popular creed, they would utterly unfit the people of
this country for any species of government whatever. But a danger
of this kind is not to be apprehended. The citizens of America have
too much discernment to be argued into anarchy. And I am much
mistaken, if experience has not wrought a deep and solemn conviction
in the public mind, that greater energy of government is essential
to the welfare and prosperity of the community.

It may not be amiss in this place concisely to remark the origin
and progress of the idea, which aims at the exclusion of military
establishments in time of peace. Though in speculative minds it may
arise from a contemplation of the nature and tendency of such
institutions, fortified by the events that have happened in other
ages and countries, yet as a national sentiment, it must be traced
to those habits of thinking which we derive from the nation from
whom the inhabitants of these States have in general sprung.

In England, for a long time after the Norman Conquest, the
authority of the monarch was almost unlimited. Inroads were
gradually made upon the prerogative, in favor of liberty, first by
the barons, and afterwards by the people, till the greatest part of
its most formidable pretensions became extinct. But it was not till
the revolution in 1688, which elevated the Prince of Orange to the
throne of Great Britain, that English liberty was completely
triumphant. As incident to the undefined power of making war, an
acknowledged prerogative of the crown, Charles II. had, by his own
authority, kept on foot in time of peace a body of 5,000 regular
troops. And this number James II. increased to 30,000; who were
paid out of his civil list. At the revolution, to abolish the
exercise of so dangerous an authority, it became an article of the
Bill of Rights then framed, that “the raising or keeping a standing
army within the kingdom in time of peace, UNLESS WITH THE CONSENT OF
PARLIAMENT, was against law.”

In that kingdom, when the pulse of liberty was at its highest
pitch, no security against the danger of standing armies was thought
requisite, beyond a prohibition of their being raised or kept up by
the mere authority of the executive magistrate. The patriots, who
effected that memorable revolution, were too temperate, too
wellinformed, to think of any restraint on the legislative
discretion. They were aware that a certain number of troops for
guards and garrisons were indispensable; that no precise bounds
could be set to the national exigencies; that a power equal to
every possible contingency must exist somewhere in the government:
and that when they referred the exercise of that power to the
judgment of the legislature, they had arrived at the ultimate point
of precaution which was reconcilable with the safety of the

From the same source, the people of America may be said to have
derived an hereditary impression of danger to liberty, from standing
armies in time of peace. The circumstances of a revolution
quickened the public sensibility on every point connected with the
security of popular rights, and in some instances raise the warmth
of our zeal beyond the degree which consisted with the due
temperature of the body politic. The attempts of two of the States
to restrict the authority of the legislature in the article of
military establishments, are of the number of these instances. The
principles which had taught us to be jealous of the power of an
hereditary monarch were by an injudicious excess extended to the
representatives of the people in their popular assemblies. Even in
some of the States, where this error was not adopted, we find
unnecessary declarations that standing armies ought not to be kept
call them unnecessary, because the reason which had introduced a
similar provision into the English Bill of Rights is not applicable
to any of the State constitutions. The power of raising armies at
all, under those constitutions, can by no construction be deemed to
reside anywhere else, than in the legislatures themselves; and it
was superfluous, if not absurd, to declare that a matter should not
be done without the consent of a body, which alone had the power of
doing it. Accordingly, in some of these constitutions, and among
others, in that of this State of New York, which has been justly
celebrated, both in Europe and America, as one of the best of the
forms of government established in this country, there is a total
silence upon the subject.

It is remarkable, that even in the two States which seem to have
meditated an interdiction of military establishments in time of
peace, the mode of expression made use of is rather cautionary than
prohibitory. It is not said, that standing armies SHALL NOT BE kept
up, but that they OUGHT NOT to be kept up, in time of peace. This
ambiguity of terms appears to have been the result of a conflict
between jealousy and conviction; between the desire of excluding
such establishments at all events, and the persuasion that an
absolute exclusion would be unwise and unsafe.

Can it be doubted that such a provision, whenever the situation
of public affairs was understood to require a departure from it,
would be interpreted by the legislature into a mere admonition, and
would be made to yield to the necessities or supposed necessities of
the State? Let the fact already mentioned, with respect to
Pennsylvania, decide. What then (it may be asked) is the use of
such a provision, if it cease to operate the moment there is an
inclination to disregard it?

Let us examine whether there be any comparison, in point of
efficacy, between the provision alluded to and that which is
contained in the new Constitution, for restraining the
appropriations of money for military purposes to the period of two
years. The former, by aiming at too much, is calculated to effect
nothing; the latter, by steering clear of an imprudent extreme, and
by being perfectly compatible with a proper provision for the
exigencies of the nation, will have a salutary and powerful

The legislature of the United States will be OBLIGED, by this
provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the
propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new
resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter,
by a formal vote in the face of their constituents. They are not AT
LIBERTY to vest in the executive department permanent funds for the
support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be
willing to repose in it so improper a confidence. As the spirit of
party, in different degrees, must be expected to infect all
political bodies, there will be, no doubt, persons in the national
legislature willing enough to arraign the measures and criminate the
views of the majority. The provision for the support of a military
force will always be a favorable topic for declamation. As often as
the question comes forward, the public attention will be roused and
attracted to the subject, by the party in opposition; and if the
majority should be really disposed to exceed the proper limits, the
community will be warned of the danger, and will have an opportunity
of taking measures to guard against it. Independent of parties in
the national legislature itself, as often as the period of
discussion arrived, the State legislatures, who will always be not
only vigilant but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of
the citizens against encroachments from the federal government, will
constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national
rulers, and will be ready enough, if any thing improper appears, to
sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but, if
necessary, the ARM of their discontent.

Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community REQUIRE
TIME to mature them for execution. An army, so large as seriously
to menace those liberties, could only be formed by progressive
augmentations; which would suppose, not merely a temporary
combination between the legislature and executive, but a continued
conspiracy for a series of time. Is it probable that such a
combination would exist at all? Is it probable that it would be
persevered in, and transmitted along through all the successive
variations in a representative body, which biennial elections would
naturally produce in both houses? Is it presumable, that every man,
the instant he took his seat in the national Senate or House of
Representatives, would commence a traitor to his constituents and to
his country? Can it be supposed that there would not be found one
man, discerning enough to detect so atrocious a conspiracy, or bold
or honest enough to apprise his constituents of their danger? If
such presumptions can fairly be made, there ought at once to be an
end of all delegated authority. The people should resolve to recall
all the powers they have heretofore parted with out of their own
hands, and to divide themselves into as many States as there are
counties, in order that they may be able to manage their own
concerns in person.

If such suppositions could even be reasonably made, still the
concealment of the design, for any duration, would be impracticable.
It would be announced, by the very circumstance of augmenting the
army to so great an extent in time of profound peace. What
colorable reason could be assigned, in a country so situated, for
such vast augmentations of the military force? It is impossible
that the people could be long deceived; and the destruction of the
project, and of the projectors, would quickly follow the discovery.

It has been said that the provision which limits the
appropriation of money for the support of an army to the period of
two years would be unavailing, because the Executive, when once
possessed of a force large enough to awe the people into submission,
would find resources in that very force sufficient to enable him to
dispense with supplies from the acts of the legislature. But the
question again recurs, upon what pretense could he be put in
possession of a force of that magnitude in time of peace? If we
suppose it to have been created in consequence of some domestic
insurrection or foreign war, then it becomes a case not within the
principles of the objection; for this is levelled against the power
of keeping up troops in time of peace. Few persons will be so
visionary as seriously to contend that military forces ought not to
be raised to quell a rebellion or resist an invasion; and if the
defense of the community under such circumstances should make it
necessary to have an army so numerous as to hazard its liberty, this
is one of those calamaties for which there is neither preventative
nor cure. It cannot be provided against by any possible form of
government; it might even result from a simple league offensive and
defensive, if it should ever be necessary for the confederates or
allies to form an army for common defense.

But it is an evil infinitely less likely to attend us in a
united than in a disunited state; nay, it may be safely asserted
that it is an evil altogether unlikely to attend us in the latter
situation. It is not easy to conceive a possibility that dangers so
formidable can assail the whole Union, as to demand a force
considerable enough to place our liberties in the least jeopardy,
especially if we take into our view the aid to be derived from the
militia, which ought always to be counted upon as a valuable and
powerful auxiliary. But in a state of disunion (as has been fully
shown in another place), the contrary of this supposition would
become not only probable, but almost unavoidable.



The Same Subject Continued

(The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to
the Common Defense Considered)

From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, December 25, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT HAS been urged, in different shapes, that a Constitution of
the kind proposed by the convention cannot operate without the aid
of a military force to execute its laws. This, however, like most
other things that have been alleged on that side, rests on mere
general assertion, unsupported by any precise or intelligible
designation of the reasons upon which it is founded. As far as I
have been able to divine the latent meaning of the objectors, it
seems to originate in a presupposition that the people will be
disinclined to the exercise of federal authority in any matter of an
internal nature. Waiving any exception that might be taken to the
inaccuracy or inexplicitness of the distinction between internal and
external, let us inquire what ground there is to presuppose that
disinclination in the people. Unless we presume at the same time
that the powers of the general government will be worse administered
than those of the State government, there seems to be no room for
the presumption of ill-will, disaffection, or opposition in the
people. I believe it may be laid down as a general rule that their
confidence in and obedience to a government will commonly be
proportioned to the goodness or badness of its administration. It
must be admitted that there are exceptions to this rule; but these
exceptions depend so entirely on accidental causes, that they cannot
be considered as having any relation to the intrinsic merits or
demerits of a constitution. These can only be judged of by general
principles and maxims.

Various reasons have been suggested, in the course of these
papers, to induce a probability that the general government will be
better administered than the particular governments; the principal
of which reasons are that the extension of the spheres of election
will present a greater option, or latitude of choice, to the people;
that through the medium of the State legislatures which are select
bodies of men, and which are to appoint the members of the national
Senate there is reason to expect that this branch will generally be
composed with peculiar care and judgment; that these circumstances
promise greater knowledge and more extensive information in the
national councils, and that they will be less apt to be tainted by
the spirit of faction, and more out of the reach of those occasional
ill-humors, or temporary prejudices and propensities, which, in
smaller societies, frequently contaminate the public councils, beget
injustice and oppression of a part of the community, and engender
schemes which, though they gratify a momentary inclination or
desire, terminate in general distress, dissatisfaction, and disgust.
Several additional reasons of considerable force, to fortify that
probability, will occur when we come to survey, with a more critical
eye, the interior structure of the edifice which we are invited to
erect. It will be sufficient here to remark, that until
satisfactory reasons can be assigned to justify an opinion, that the
federal government is likely to be administered in such a manner as
to render it odious or contemptible to the people, there can be no
reasonable foundation for the supposition that the laws of the Union
will meet with any greater obstruction from them, or will stand in
need of any other methods to enforce their execution, than the laws
of the particular members.

The hope of impunity is a strong incitement to sedition; the
dread of punishment, a proportionably strong discouragement to it.
Will not the government of the Union, which, if possessed of a due
degree of power, can call to its aid the collective resources of the
whole Confederacy, be more likely to repress the FORMER sentiment
and to inspire the LATTER, than that of a single State, which can
only command the resources within itself? A turbulent faction in a
State may easily suppose itself able to contend with the friends to
the government in that State; but it can hardly be so infatuated as
to imagine itself a match for the combined efforts of the Union. If
this reflection be just, there is less danger of resistance from
irregular combinations of individuals to the authority of the
Confederacy than to that of a single member.

I will, in this place, hazard an observation, which will not be
the less just because to some it may appear new; which is, that the
more the operations of the national authority are intermingled in
the ordinary exercise of government, the more the citizens are
accustomed to meet with it in the common occurrences of their
political life, the more it is familiarized to their sight and to
their feelings, the further it enters into those objects which touch
the most sensible chords and put in motion the most active springs
of the human heart, the greater will be the probability that it will
conciliate the respect and attachment of the community. Man is very
much a creature of habit. A thing that rarely strikes his senses
will generally have but little influence upon his mind. A
government continually at a distance and out of sight can hardly be
expected to interest the sensations of the people. The inference
is, that the authority of the Union, and the affections of the
citizens towards it, will be strengthened, rather than weakened, by
its extension to what are called matters of internal concern; and
will have less occasion to recur to force, in proportion to the
familiarity and comprehensiveness of its agency. The more it
circulates through those channels and currents in which the passions
of mankind naturally flow, the less will it require the aid of the
violent and perilous expedients of compulsion.

One thing, at all events, must be evident, that a government
like the one proposed would bid much fairer to avoid the necessity
of using force, than that species of league contend for by most of
its opponents; the authority of which should only operate upon the
States in their political or collective capacities. It has been
shown that in such a Confederacy there can be no sanction for the
laws but force; that frequent delinquencies in the members are the
natural offspring of the very frame of the government; and that as
often as these happen, they can only be redressed, if at all, by war
and violence.

The plan reported by the convention, by extending the authority
of the federal head to the individual citizens of the several
States, will enable the government to employ the ordinary magistracy
of each, in the execution of its laws. It is easy to perceive that
this will tend to destroy, in the common apprehension, all
distinction between the sources from which they might proceed; and
will give the federal government the same advantage for securing a
due obedience to its authority which is enjoyed by the government of
each State, in addition to the influence on public opinion which
will result from the important consideration of its having power to
call to its assistance and support the resources of the whole Union.
It merits particular attention in this place, that the laws of the
Confederacy, as to the ENUMERATED and LEGITIMATE objects of its
jurisdiction, will become the SUPREME LAW of the land; to the
observance of which all officers, legislative, executive, and
judicial, in each State, will be bound by the sanctity of an oath.
Thus the legislatures, courts, and magistrates, of the respective
members, will be incorporated into the operations of the national
and will be rendered auxiliary to the enforcement of its laws. [1%]
Any man who will pursue, by his own reflections, the consequences
of this situation, will perceive that there is good ground to
calculate upon a regular and peaceable execution of the laws of the
Union, if its powers are administered with a common share of
prudence. If we will arbitrarily suppose the contrary, we may
deduce any inferences we please from the supposition; for it is
certainly possible, by an injudicious exercise of the authorities of
the best government that ever was, or ever can be instituted, to
provoke and precipitate the people into the wildest excesses. But
though the adversaries of the proposed Constitution should presume
that the national rulers would be insensible to the motives of
public good, or to the obligations of duty, I would still ask them
how the interests of ambition, or the views of encroachment, can be
promoted by such a conduct?


FNA1-@1 The sophistry which has been employed to show that this will
tend to the destruction of the State governments, will, in its will,
in its proper place, be fully detected.


The Same Subject Continued

(The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to
the Common Defense Considered)

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

THAT there may happen cases in which the national government may
be necessitated to resort to force, cannot be denied. Our own
experience has corroborated the lessons taught by the examples of
other nations; that emergencies of this sort will sometimes arise
in all societies, however constituted; that seditions and
insurrections are, unhappily, maladies as inseparable from the body
politic as tumors and eruptions from the natural body; that the
idea of governing at all times by the simple force of law (which we
have been told is the only admissible principle of republican
government), has no place but in the reveries of those political
doctors whose sagacity disdains the admonitions of experimental

Should such emergencies at any time happen under the national
government, there could be no remedy but force. The means to be
employed must be proportioned to the extent of the mischief. If it
should be a slight commotion in a small part of a State, the militia
of the residue would be adequate to its suppression; and the
national presumption is that they would be ready to do their duty.
An insurrection, whatever may be its immediate cause, eventually
endangers all government. Regard to the public peace, if not to the
rights of the Union, would engage the citizens to whom the contagion
had not communicated itself to oppose the insurgents; and if the
general government should be found in practice conducive to the
prosperity and felicity of the people, it were irrational to believe
that they would be disinclined to its support.

If, on the contrary, the insurrection should pervade a whole
State, or a principal part of it, the employment of a different kind
of force might become unavoidable. It appears that Massachusetts
found it necessary to raise troops for repressing the disorders
within that State; that Pennsylvania, from the mere apprehension of
commotions among a part of her citizens, has thought proper to have
recourse to the same measure. Suppose the State of New York had
been inclined to re-establish her lost jurisdiction over the
inhabitants of Vermont, could she have hoped for success in such an
enterprise from the efforts of the militia alone? Would she not
have been compelled to raise and to maintain a more regular force
for the execution of her design? If it must then be admitted that
the necessity of recurring to a force different from the militia, in
cases of this extraordinary nature, is applicable to the State
governments themselves, why should the possibility, that the
national government might be under a like necessity, in similar
extremities, be made an objection to its existence? Is it not
surprising that men who declare an attachment to the Union in the
abstract, should urge as an objection to the proposed Constitution
what applies with tenfold weight to the plan for which they contend;
and what, as far as it has any foundation in truth, is an
inevitable consequence of civil society upon an enlarged scale? Who
would not prefer that possibility to the unceasing agitations and
frequent revolutions which are the continual scourges of petty

Let us pursue this examination in another light. Suppose, in
lieu of one general system, two, or three, or even four
Confederacies were to be formed, would not the same difficulty
oppose itself to the operations of either of these Confederacies?
Would not each of them be exposed to the same casualties; and when
these happened, be obliged to have recourse to the same expedients
for upholding its authority which are objected to in a government
for all the States? Would the militia, in this supposition, be more
ready or more able to support the federal authority than in the case
of a general union? All candid and intelligent men must, upon due
consideration, acknowledge that the principle of the objection is
equally applicable to either of the two cases; and that whether we
have one government for all the States, or different governments for
different parcels of them, or even if there should be an entire
separation of the States, there might sometimes be a necessity to
make use of a force constituted differently from the militia, to
preserve the peace of the community and to maintain the just
authority of the laws against those violent invasions of them which
amount to insurrections and rebellions.

Independent of all other reasonings upon the subject, it is a
full answer to those who require a more peremptory provision against
military establishments in time of peace, to say that the whole
power of the proposed government is to be in the hands of the
representatives of the people. This is the essential, and, after
all, only efficacious security for the rights and privileges of the
people, which is attainable in civil society. [1]

If the representatives of the people betray their constituents,
there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original
right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of
government, and which against the usurpations of the national
rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success
than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a
single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become
usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which
it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no
regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously
to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except
in their courage and despair. The usurpers, clothed with the forms
of legal authority, can too often crush the opposition in embryo.
The smaller the extent of the territory, the more difficult will it
be for the people to form a regular or systematic plan of
opposition, and the more easy will it be to defeat their early
efforts. Intelligence can be more speedily obtained of their
preparations and movements, and the military force in the possession
of the usurpers can be more rapidly directed against the part where
the opposition has begun. In this situation there must be a
peculiar coincidence of circumstances to insure success to the
popular resistance.

The obstacles to usurpation and the facilities of resistance
increase with the increased extent of the state, provided the
citizens understand their rights and are disposed to defend them.
The natural strength of the people in a large community, in
proportion to the artificial strength of the government, is greater
than in a small, and of course more competent to a struggle with the
attempts of the government to establish a tyranny. But in a
confederacy the people, without exaggeration, may be said to be
entirely the masters of their own fate. Power being almost always
the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand
ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these
will have the same disposition towards the general government. The
people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly
make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they
can make use of the other as the instrument of redress. How wise
will it be in them by cherishing the union to preserve to themselves
an advantage which can never be too highly prized!

It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system,
that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies,
afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by
the national authority. Projects of usurpation cannot be masked
under pretenses so likely to escape the penetration of select bodies
of men, as of the people at large. The legislatures will have
better means of information. They can discover the danger at a
distance; and possessing all the organs of civil power, and the
confidence of the people, they can at once adopt a regular plan of
opposition, in which they can combine all the resources of the
community. They can readily communicate with each other in the
different States, and unite their common forces for the protection
of their common liberty.

The great extent of the country is a further security. We have
already experienced its utility against the attacks of a foreign
power. And it would have precisely the same effect against the
enterprises of ambitious rulers in the national councils. If the
federal army should be able to quell the resistance of one State,
the distant States would have it in their power to make head with
fresh forces. The advantages obtained in one place must be
abandoned to subdue the opposition in others; and the moment the
part which had been reduced to submission was left to itself, its
efforts would be renewed, and its resistance revive.

We should recollect that the extent of the military force must,
at all events, be regulated by the resources of the country. For a
long time to come, it will not be possible to maintain a large army;
and as the means of doing this increase, the population and natural
strength of the community will proportionably increase. When will
the time arrive that the federal government can raise and maintain
an army capable of erecting a despotism over the great body of the
people of an immense empire, who are in a situation, through the
medium of their State governments, to take measures for their own
defense, with all the celerity, regularity, and system of
independent nations? The apprehension may be considered as a
disease, for which there can be found no cure in the resources of
argument and reasoning.


FNA1-@1 Its full efficacy will be examined hereafter.


Concerning the Militia

From the Daily Advertiser.

Thursday, January 10, 1788


To the People of the State of New York:

THE power of regulating the militia, and of commanding its
services in times of insurrection and invasion are natural incidents
to the duties of superintending the common defense, and of watching
over the internal peace of the Confederacy.

It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that
uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would
be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were
called into service for the public defense. It would enable them to
discharge the duties of the camp and of the field with mutual
intelligence and concert an advantage of peculiar moment in the
operations of an army; and it would fit them much sooner to acquire
the degree of proficiency in military functions which would be
essential to their usefulness. This desirable uniformity can only
be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the
direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the
most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to
empower the Union “to provide for organizing, arming, and
disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may
be employed in the service of the United States, RESERVING TO THE

Of the different grounds which have been taken in opposition to
the plan of the convention, there is none that was so little to have
been expected, or is so untenable in itself, as the one from which
this particular provision has been attacked. If a well-regulated
militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought
certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that
body which is constituted the guardian of the national security. If
standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over
the militia, in the body to whose care the protection of the State
is committed, ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement
and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the federal
government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies
which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate,
it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind
of force. If it cannot avail itself of the former, it will be
obliged to recur to the latter. To render an army unnecessary, will
be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand
prohibitions upon paper.

In order to cast an odium upon the power of calling forth the
militia to execute the laws of the Union, it has been remarked that
there is nowhere any provision in the proposed Constitution for
calling out the POSSE COMITATUS, to assist the magistrate in the
execution of his duty, whence it has been inferred, that military
force was intended to be his only auxiliary. There is a striking
incoherence in the objections which have appeared, and sometimes
even from the same quarter, not much calculated to inspire a very
favorable opinion of the sincerity or fair dealing of their authors.
The same persons who tell us in one breath, that the powers of the
federal government will be despotic and unlimited, inform us in the
next, that it has not authority sufficient even to call out the
POSSE COMITATUS. The latter, fortunately, is as much short of the
truth as the former exceeds it. It would be as absurd to doubt,
that a right to pass all laws NECESSARY AND PROPER to execute its
declared powers, would include that of requiring the assistance of
the citizens to the officers who may be intrusted with the execution
of those laws, as it would be to believe, that a right to enact laws
necessary and proper for the imposition and collection of taxes
would involve that of varying the rules of descent and of the
alienation of landed property, or of abolishing the trial by jury in
cases relating to it. It being therefore evident that the
supposition of a want of power to require the aid of the POSSE
COMITATUS is entirely destitute of color, it will follow, that the
conclusion which has been drawn from it, in its application to the
authority of the federal government over the militia, is as uncandid
as it is illogical. What reason could there be to infer, that force
was intended to be the sole instrument of authority, merely because
there is a power to make use of it when necessary? What shall we
think of the motives which could induce men of sense to reason in
this manner? How shall we prevent a conflict between charity and

By a curious refinement upon the spirit of republican jealousy,
we are even taught to apprehend danger from the militia itself, in
the hands of the federal government. It is observed that select
corps may be formed, composed of the young and ardent, who may be
rendered subservient to the views of arbitrary power. What plan for
the regulation of the militia may be pursued by the national
government, is impossible to be foreseen. But so far from viewing
the matter in the same light with those who object to select corps
as dangerous, were the Constitution ratified, and were I to deliver
my sentiments to a member of the federal legislature from this State
on the subject of a militia establishment, I should hold to him, in
substance, the following discourse:

“The project of disciplining all the militia of the United
States is as futile as it would be injurious, if it were capable of
being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military
movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not
a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it.
To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes
of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through
military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to
acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the
character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to
the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss. It would
form an annual deduction from the productive labor of the country,
to an amount which, calculating upon the present numbers of the
people, would not fall far short of the whole expense of the civil
establishments of all the States. To attempt a thing which would
abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent,
would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed,
because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be
aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them
properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not
neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in
the course of a year.

“But though the scheme of disciplining the whole nation must be
abandoned as mischievous or impracticable; yet it is a matter of
the utmost importance that a well-digested plan should, as soon as
possible, be adopted for the proper establishment of the militia.
The attention of the government ought particularly to be directed
to the formation of a select corps of moderate extent, upon such
principles as will really fit them for service in case of need. By
thus circumscribing the plan, it will be possible to have an
excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field
whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not
only lessen the call for military establishments, but if
circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an
army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the
liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens,
little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of
arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their
fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be
devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against
it, if it should exist.”

Thus differently from the adversaries of the proposed
Constitution should I reason on the same subject, deducing arguments
of safety from the very sources which they represent as fraught with
danger and perdition. But how the national legislature may reason
on the point, is a thing which neither they nor I can foresee.

There is something so far-fetched and so extravagant in the idea
of danger to liberty from the militia, that one is at a loss whether
to treat it with gravity or with raillery; whether to consider it
as a mere trial of skill, like the paradoxes of rhetoricians; as a
disingenuous artifice to instil prejudices at any price; or as the
serious offspring of political fanaticism. Where in the name of
common-sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our
brothers, our neighbors, our fellow-citizens? What shadow of danger
can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their
countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings,
sentiments, habits and interests? What reasonable cause of
apprehension can be inferred from a power in the Union to prescribe
regulations for the militia, and to command its services when
necessary, while the particular States are to have the SOLE AND
seriously to indulge a jealousy of the militia upon any conceivable
establishment under the federal government, the circumstance of the
officers being in the appointment of the States ought at once to
extinguish it. There can be no doubt that this circumstance will
always secure to them a preponderating influence over the militia.

In reading many of the publications against the Constitution, a
man is apt to imagine that he is perusing some ill-written tale or
romance, which instead of natural and agreeable images, exhibits to
the mind nothing but frightful and distorted shapes “Gorgons, hydras,
and chimeras dire”; discoloring and disfiguring whatever it represents,
and transforming everything it touches into a monster.

A sample of this is to be observed in the exaggerated and
improbable suggestions which have taken place respecting the power
of calling for the services of the militia. That of New Hampshire
is to be marched to Georgia, of Georgia to New Hampshire, of New
York to Kentucky, and of Kentucky to Lake Champlain. Nay, the debts
due to the French and Dutch are to be paid in militiamen instead of
louis d’ors and ducats. At one moment there is to be a large army
to lay prostrate the liberties of the people; at another moment the
militia of Virginia are to be dragged from their homes five or six
hundred miles, to tame the republican contumacy of Massachusetts;
and that of Massachusetts is to be transported an equal distance to
subdue the refractory haughtiness of the aristocratic Virginians.
Do the persons who rave at this rate imagine that their art or
their eloquence can impose any conceits or absurdities upon the
people of America for infallible truths?

If there should be an army to be made use of as the engine of
despotism, what need of the militia? If there should be no army,
whither would the militia, irritated by being called upon to
undertake a distant and hopeless expedition, for the purpose of
riveting the chains of slavery upon a part of their countrymen,
direct their course, but to the seat of the tyrants, who had
meditated so foolish as well as so wicked a project, to crush them
in their imagined intrenchments of power, and to make them an
example of the just vengeance of an abused and incensed people? Is
this the way in which usurpers stride to dominion over a numerous
and enlightened nation? Do they begin by exciting the detestation
of the very instruments of their intended usurpations? Do they
usually commence their career by wanton and disgustful acts of
power, calculated to answer no end, but to draw upon themselves
universal hatred and execration? Are suppositions of this sort the
sober admonitions of discerning patriots to a discerning people? Or
are they the inflammatory ravings of incendiaries or distempered
enthusiasts? If we were even to suppose the national rulers
actuated by the most ungovernable ambition, it is impossible to
believe that they would employ such preposterous means to accomplish
their designs.

In times of insurrection, or invasion, it would be natural and
proper that the militia of a neighboring State should be marched
into another, to resist a common enemy, or to guard the republic
against the violence of faction or sedition. This was frequently
the case, in respect to the first object, in the course of the late
war; and this mutual succor is, indeed, a principal end of our
political association. If the power of affording it be placed under
the direction of the Union, there will be no danger of a supine and
listless inattention to the dangers of a neighbor, till its near
approach had superadded the incitements of selfpreservation to the
too feeble impulses of duty and sympathy.



Concerning the General Power of Taxation

From the New York Packet.

Friday, December 28, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT HAS been already observed that the federal government ought
to possess the power of providing for the support of the national
forces; in which proposition was intended to be included the
expense of raising troops, of building and equipping fleets, and all
other expenses in any wise connected with military arrangements and
operations. But these are not the only objects to which the
jurisdiction of the Union, in respect to revenue, must necessarily
be empowered to extend. It must embrace a provision for the support
of the national civil list; for the payment of the national debts
contracted, or that may be contracted; and, in general, for all
those matters which will call for disbursements out of the national
treasury. The conclusion is, that there must be interwoven, in the
frame of the government, a general power of taxation, in one shape
or another.

Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of
the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and
enables it to perform its most essential functions. A complete
power, therefore, to procure a regular and adequate supply of it, as
far as the resources of the community will permit, may be regarded
as an indispensable ingredient in every constitution. From a
deficiency in this particular, one of two evils must ensue; either
the people must be subjected to continual plunder, as a substitute
for a more eligible mode of supplying the public wants, or the
government must sink into a fatal atrophy, and, in a short course of
time, perish.

In the Ottoman or Turkish empire, the sovereign, though in other
respects absolute master of the lives and fortunes of his subjects,
has no right to impose a new tax. The consequence is that he
permits the bashaws or governors of provinces to pillage the people
without mercy; and, in turn, squeezes out of them the sums of which
he stands in need, to satisfy his own exigencies and those of the
state. In America, from a like cause, the government of the Union
has gradually dwindled into a state of decay, approaching nearly to
annihilation. Who can doubt, that the happiness of the people in
both countries would be promoted by competent authorities in the
proper hands, to provide the revenues which the necessities of the
public might require?

The present Confederation, feeble as it is intended to repose in
the United States, an unlimited power of providing for the pecuniary
wants of the Union. But proceeding upon an erroneous principle, it
has been done in such a manner as entirely to have frustrated the
intention. Congress, by the articles which compose that compact (as
has already been stated), are authorized to ascertain and call for
any sums of money necessary, in their judgment, to the service of
the United States; and their requisitions, if conformable to the
rule of apportionment, are in every constitutional sense obligatory
upon the States. These have no right to question the propriety of
the demand; no discretion beyond that of devising the ways and
means of furnishing the sums demanded. But though this be strictly
and truly the case; though the assumption of such a right would be
an infringement of the articles of Union; though it may seldom or
never have been avowedly claimed, yet in practice it has been
constantly exercised, and would continue to be so, as long as the
revenues of the Confederacy should remain dependent on the
intermediate agency of its members. What the consequences of this
system have been, is within the knowledge of every man the least
conversant in our public affairs, and has been amply unfolded in
different parts of these inquiries. It is this which has chiefly
contributed to reduce us to a situation, which affords ample cause
both of mortification to ourselves, and of triumph to our enemies.

What remedy can there be for this situation, but in a change of
the system which has produced it in a change of the fallacious and
delusive system of quotas and requisitions? What substitute can
there be imagined for this ignis fatuus in finance, but that of
permitting the national government to raise its own revenues by the
ordinary methods of taxation authorized in every well-ordered
constitution of civil government? Ingenious men may declaim with
plausibility on any subject; but no human ingenuity can point out
any other expedient to rescue us from the inconveniences and
embarrassments naturally resulting from defective supplies of the
public treasury.

The more intelligent adversaries of the new Constitution admit
the force of this reasoning; but they qualify their admission by a
distinction between what they call INTERNAL and EXTERNAL taxation.
The former they would reserve to the State governments; the
latter, which they explain into commercial imposts, or rather duties
on imported articles, they declare themselves willing to concede to
the federal head. This distinction, however, would violate the
maxim of good sense and sound policy, which dictates that every
POWER ought to be in proportion to its OBJECT; and would still
leave the general government in a kind of tutelage to the State
governments, inconsistent with every idea of vigor or efficiency.
Who can pretend that commercial imposts are, or would be, alone
equal to the present and future exigencies of the Union? Taking
into the account the existing debt, foreign and domestic, upon any
plan of extinguishment which a man moderately impressed with the
importance of public justice and public credit could approve, in
addition to the establishments which all parties will acknowledge to
be necessary, we could not reasonably flatter ourselves, that this
resource alone, upon the most improved scale, would even suffice for
its present necessities. Its future necessities admit not of
calculation or limitation; and upon the principle, more than once
adverted to, the power of making provision for them as they arise
ought to be equally unconfined. I believe it may be regarded as a
position warranted by the history of mankind, that, IN THE USUAL

To say that deficiencies may be provided for by requisitions
upon the States, is on the one hand to acknowledge that this system
cannot be depended upon, and on the other hand to depend upon it for
every thing beyond a certain limit. Those who have carefully
attended to its vices and deformities as they have been exhibited by
experience or delineated in the course of these papers, must feel
invincible repugnancy to trusting the national interests in any
degree to its operation. Its inevitable tendency, whenever it is
brought into activity, must be to enfeeble the Union, and sow the
seeds of discord and contention between the federal head and its
members, and between the members themselves. Can it be expected
that the deficiencies would be better supplied in this mode than the
total wants of the Union have heretofore been supplied in the same
mode? It ought to be recollected that if less will be required from
the States, they will have proportionably less means to answer the
demand. If the opinions of those who contend for the distinction
which has been mentioned were to be received as evidence of truth,
one would be led to conclude that there was some known point in the
economy of national affairs at which it would be safe to stop and to
say: Thus far the ends of public happiness will be promoted by
supplying the wants of government, and all beyond this is unworthy
of our care or anxiety. How is it possible that a government half
supplied and always necessitous, can fulfill the purposes of its
institution, can provide for the security, advance the prosperity,
or support the reputation of the commonwealth? How can it ever
possess either energy or stability, dignity or credit, confidence at
home or respectability abroad? How can its administration be any
thing else than a succession of expedients temporizing, impotent,
disgraceful? How will it be able to avoid a frequent sacrifice of
its engagements to immediate necessity? How can it undertake or
execute any liberal or enlarged plans of public good?

Let us attend to what would be the effects of this situation in
the very first war in which we should happen to be engaged. We will
presume, for argument’s sake, that the revenue arising from the
impost duties answers the purposes of a provision for the public
debt and of a peace establishment for the Union. Thus
circumstanced, a war breaks out. What would be the probable conduct
of the government in such an emergency? Taught by experience that
proper dependence could not be placed on the success of
requisitions, unable by its own authority to lay hold of fresh
resources, and urged by considerations of national danger, would it
not be driven to the expedient of diverting the funds already
appropriated from their proper objects to the defense of the State?
It is not easy to see how a step of this kind could be avoided;
and if it should be taken, it is evident that it would prove the
destruction of public credit at the very moment that it was becoming
essential to the public safety. To imagine that at such a crisis
credit might be dispensed with, would be the extreme of infatuation.
In the modern system of war, nations the most wealthy are obliged
to have recourse to large loans. A country so little opulent as
ours must feel this necessity in a much stronger degree. But who
would lend to a government that prefaced its overtures for borrowing
by an act which demonstrated that no reliance could be placed on the
steadiness of its measures for paying? The loans it might be able
to procure would be as limited in their extent as burdensome in
their conditions. They would be made upon the same principles that
usurers commonly lend to bankrupt and fraudulent debtors, with a
sparing hand and at enormous premiums.

It may perhaps be imagined that, from the scantiness of the
resources of the country, the necessity of diverting the established
funds in the case supposed would exist, though the national
government should possess an unrestrained power of taxation. But
two considerations will serve to quiet all apprehension on this
head: one is, that we are sure the resources of the community, in
their full extent, will be brought into activity for the benefit of
the Union; the other is, that whatever deficiences there may be,
can without difficulty be supplied by loans.

The power of creating new funds upon new objects of taxation, by
its own authority, would enable the national government to borrow as
far as its necessities might require. Foreigners, as well as the
citizens of America, could then reasonably repose confidence in its
engagements; but to depend upon a government that must itself
depend upon thirteen other governments for the means of fulfilling
its contracts, when once its situation is clearly understood, would
require a degree of credulity not often to be met with in the
pecuniary transactions of mankind, and little reconcilable with the
usual sharp-sightedness of avarice.

Reflections of this kind may have trifling weight with men who
hope to see realized in America the halcyon scenes of the poetic or
fabulous age; but to those who believe we are likely to experience
a common portion of the vicissitudes and calamities which have
fallen to the lot of other nations, they must appear entitled to
serious attention. Such men must behold the actual situation of
their country with painful solicitude, and deprecate the evils which
ambition or revenge might, with too much facility, inflict upon it.



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)

From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, January 1, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

IN DISQUISITIONS of every kind, there are certain primary
truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings
must depend. These contain an internal evidence which, antecedent
to all reflection or combination, commands the assent of the mind.
Where it produces not this effect, it must proceed either from some
defect or disorder in the organs of perception, or from the
influence of some strong interest, or passion, or prejudice. Of
this nature are the maxims in geometry, that “the whole is greater
than its part; things equal to the same are equal to one another;
two straight lines cannot enclose a space; and all right angles
are equal to each other.” Of the same nature are these other
maxims in ethics and politics, that there cannot be an effect
without a cause; that the means ought to be proportioned to the
end; that every power ought to be commensurate with its object;
that there ought to be no limitation of a power destined to effect
a purpose which is itself incapable of limitation. And there are
other truths in the two latter sciences which, if they cannot
pretend to rank in the class of axioms, are yet such direct
inferences from them, and so obvious in themselves, and so agreeable
to the natural and unsophisticated dictates of common-sense, that
they challenge the assent of a sound and unbiased mind, with a
degree of force and conviction almost equally irresistible.

The objects of geometrical inquiry are so entirely abstracted
from those pursuits which stir up and put in motion the unruly
passions of the human heart, that mankind, without difficulty, adopt
not only the more simple theorems of the science, but even those
abstruse paradoxes which, however they may appear susceptible of
demonstration, are at variance with the natural conceptions which
the mind, without the aid of philosophy, would be led to entertain
upon the subject. The INFINITE DIVISIBILITY of matter, or, in other
words, the INFINITE divisibility of a FINITE thing, extending even
to the minutest atom, is a point agreed among geometricians, though
not less incomprehensible to common-sense than any of those
mysteries in religion, against which the batteries of infidelity
have been so industriously leveled.

But in the sciences of morals and politics, men are found far
less tractable. To a certain degree, it is right and useful that
this should be the case. Caution and investigation are a necessary
armor against error and imposition. But this untractableness may be
carried too far, and may degenerate into obstinacy, perverseness, or
disingenuity. Though it cannot be pretended that the principles of
moral and political knowledge have, in general, the same degree of
certainty with those of the mathematics, yet they have much better
claims in this respect than, to judge from the conduct of men in
particular situations, we should be disposed to allow them. The
obscurity is much oftener in the passions and prejudices of the
reasoner than in the subject. Men, upon too many occasions, do not
give their own understandings fair play; but, yielding to some
untoward bias, they entangle themselves in words and confound
themselves in subtleties.

How else could it happen (if we admit the objectors to be
sincere in their opposition), that positions so clear as those which
manifest the necessity of a general power of taxation in the
government of the Union, should have to encounter any adversaries
among men of discernment? Though these positions have been
elsewhere fully stated, they will perhaps not be improperly
recapitulated in this place, as introductory to an examination of
what may have been offered by way of objection to them. They are in
substance as follows:

A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to
the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to
the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible,
free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to
the sense of the people.

As the duties of superintending the national defense and of
securing the public peace against foreign or domestic violence
involve a provision for casualties and dangers to which no possible
limits can be assigned, the power of making that provision ought to
know no other bounds than the exigencies of the nation and the
resources of the community.

As revenue is the essential engine by which the means of
answering the national exigencies must be procured, the power of
procuring that article in its full extent must necessarily be
comprehended in that of providing for those exigencies.

As theory and practice conspire to prove that the power of
procuring revenue is unavailing when exercised over the States in
their collective capacities, the federal government must of
necessity be invested with an unqualified power of taxation in the
ordinary modes.

Did not experience evince the contrary, it would be natural to
conclude that the propriety of a general power of taxation in the
national government might safely be permitted to rest on the
evidence of these propositions, unassisted by any additional
arguments or illustrations. But we find, in fact, that the
antagonists of the proposed Constitution, so far from acquiescing in
their justness or truth, seem to make their principal and most
zealous effort against this part of the plan. It may therefore be
satisfactory to analyze the arguments with which they combat it.

Those of them which have been most labored with that view, seem
in substance to amount to this: “It is not true, because the
exigencies of the Union may not be susceptible of limitation, that
its power of laying taxes ought to be unconfined. Revenue is as
requisite to the purposes of the local administrations as to those
of the Union; and the former are at least of equal importance with
the latter to the happiness of the people. It is, therefore, as
necessary that the State governments should be able to command the
means of supplying their wants, as that the national government
should possess the like faculty in respect to the wants of the Union.
But an indefinite power of taxation in the LATTER might, and
probably would in time, deprive the FORMER of the means of providing
for their own necessities; and would subject them entirely to the
mercy of the national legislature. As the laws of the Union are to
become the supreme law of the land, as it is to have power to pass
all laws that may be NECESSARY for carrying into execution the
authorities with which it is proposed to vest it, the national
government might at any time abolish the taxes imposed for State
objects upon the pretense of an interference with its own. It might
allege a necessity of doing this in order to give efficacy to the
national revenues. And thus all the resources of taxation might by
degrees become the subjects of federal monopoly, to the entire
exclusion and destruction of the State governments.”

This mode of reasoning appears sometimes to turn upon the
supposition of usurpation in the national government; at other
times it seems to be designed only as a deduction from the
constitutional operation of its intended powers. It is only in the
latter light that it can be admitted to have any pretensions to
fairness. The moment we launch into conjectures about the
usurpations of the federal government, we get into an unfathomable
abyss, and fairly put ourselves out of the reach of all reasoning.
Imagination may range at pleasure till it gets bewildered amidst
the labyrinths of an enchanted castle, and knows not on which side
to turn to extricate itself from the perplexities into which it has
so rashly adventured. Whatever may be the limits or modifications
of the powers of the Union, it is easy to imagine an endless train
of possible dangers; and by indulging an excess of jealousy and
timidity, we may bring ourselves to a state of absolute scepticism
and irresolution. I repeat here what I have observed in substance
in another place, that all observations founded upon the danger of
usurpation ought to be referred to the composition and structure of
the government, not to the nature or extent of its powers. The
State governments, by their original constitutions, are invested
with complete sovereignty. In what does our security consist
against usurpation from that quarter? Doubtless in the manner of
their formation, and in a due dependence of those who are to
administer them upon the people. If the proposed construction of
the federal government be found, upon an impartial examination of
it, to be such as to afford, to a proper extent, the same species of
security, all apprehensions on the score of usurpation ought to be

It should not be forgotten that a disposition in the State
governments to encroach upon the rights of the Union is quite as
probable as a disposition in the Union to encroach upon the rights
of the State governments. What side would be likely to prevail in
such a conflict, must depend on the means which the contending
parties could employ toward insuring success. As in republics
strength is always on the side of the people, and as there are
weighty reasons to induce a belief that the State governments will
commonly possess most influence over them, the natural conclusion is
that such contests will be most apt to end to the disadvantage of
the Union; and that there is greater probability of encroachments
by the members upon the federal head, than by the federal head upon
the members. But it is evident that all conjectures of this kind
must be extremely vague and fallible: and that it is by far the
safest course to lay them altogether aside, and to confine our
attention wholly to the nature and extent of the powers as they are
delineated in the Constitution. Every thing beyond this must be
left to the prudence and firmness of the people; who, as they will
hold the scales in their own hands, it is to be hoped, will always
take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the
general and the State governments. Upon this ground, which is
evidently the true one, it will not be difficult to obviate the
objections which have been made to an indefinite power of taxation
in the United States.



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)

From the Daily Advertiser.

Thursday, January 3, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

ALTHOUGH I am of opinion that there would be no real danger of
the consequences which seem to be apprehended to the State
governments from a power in the Union to control them in the levies
of money, because I am persuaded that the sense of the people, the
extreme hazard of provoking the resentments of the State
governments, and a conviction of the utility and necessity of local
administrations for local purposes, would be a complete barrier
against the oppressive use of such a power; yet I am willing here
to allow, in its full extent, the justness of the reasoning which
requires that the individual States should possess an independent
and uncontrollable authority to raise their own revenues for the
supply of their own wants. And making this concession, I affirm
that (with the sole exception of duties on imports and exports) they
would, under the plan of the convention, retain that authority in
the most absolute and unqualified sense; and that an attempt on the
part of the national government to abridge them in the exercise of
it, would be a violent assumption of power, unwarranted by any
article or clause of its Constitution.

An entire consolidation of the States into one complete national
sovereignty would imply an entire subordination of the parts; and
whatever powers might remain in them, would be altogether dependent
on the general will. But as the plan of the convention aims only at
a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would
clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had,
and which were not, by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United
States. This exclusive delegation, or rather this alienation, of
State sovereignty, would only exist in three cases: where the
Constitution in express terms granted an exclusive authority to the
Union; where it granted in one instance an authority to the Union,
and in another prohibited the States from exercising the like
authority; and where it granted an authority to the Union, to which
a similar authority in the States would be absolutely and totally
CONTRADICTORY and REPUGNANT. I use these terms to distinguish this
last case from another which might appear to resemble it, but which
would, in fact, be essentially different; I mean where the exercise
of a concurrent jurisdiction might be productive of occasional
interferences in the POLICY of any branch of administration, but
would not imply any direct contradiction or repugnancy in point of
constitutional authority. These three cases of exclusive
jurisdiction in the federal government may be exemplified by the
following instances: The last clause but one in the eighth section
of the first article provides expressly that Congress shall exercise
“EXCLUSIVE LEGISLATION” over the district to be appropriated as
the seat of government. This answers to the first case. The first
clause of the same section empowers Congress “TO LAY AND COLLECT
TAXES, DUTIES, IMPOSTS AND EXCISES”; and the second clause of the
tenth section of the same article declares that, “NO STATE SHALL,
without the consent of Congress, LAY ANY IMPOSTS OR DUTIES ON
IMPORTS OR EXPORTS, except for the purpose of executing its
inspection laws.” Hence would result an exclusive power in the
Union to lay duties on imports and exports, with the particular
exception mentioned; but this power is abridged by another clause,
which declares that no tax or duty shall be laid on articles
exported from any State; in consequence of which qualification, it
now only extends to the DUTIES ON IMPORTS. This answers to the
second case. The third will be found in that clause which declares
that Congress shall have power “to establish an UNIFORM RULE of
naturalization throughout the United States.” This must
necessarily be exclusive; because if each State had power to
prescribe a DISTINCT RULE, there could not be a UNIFORM RULE.

A case which may perhaps be thought to resemble the latter, but
which is in fact widely different, affects the question immediately
under consideration. I mean the power of imposing taxes on all
articles other than exports and imports. This, I contend, is
manifestly a concurrent and coequal authority in the United States
and in the individual States. There is plainly no expression in the
granting clause which makes that power EXCLUSIVE in the Union.
There is no independent clause or sentence which prohibits the
States from exercising it. So far is this from being the case, that
a plain and conclusive argument to the contrary is to be deduced
from the restraint laid upon the States in relation to duties on
imports and exports. This restriction implies an admission that, if
it were not inserted, the States would possess the power it
excludes; and it implies a further admission, that as to all other
taxes, the authority of the States remains undiminished. In any
other view it would be both unnecessary and dangerous; it would be
unnecessary, because if the grant to the Union of the power of
laying such duties implied the exclusion of the States, or even
their subordination in this particular, there could be no need of
such a restriction; it would be dangerous, because the introduction
of it leads directly to the conclusion which has been mentioned, and
which, if the reasoning of the objectors be just, could not have
been intended; I mean that the States, in all cases to which the
restriction did not apply, would have a concurrent power of taxation
with the Union. The restriction in question amounts to what lawyers
call a NEGATIVE PREGNANT that is, a NEGATION of one thing, and an
AFFIRMANCE of another; a negation of the authority of the States to
impose taxes on imports and exports, and an affirmance of their
authority to impose them on all other articles. It would be mere
sophistry to argue that it was meant to exclude them ABSOLUTELY from
the imposition of taxes of the former kind, and to leave them at
liberty to lay others SUBJECT TO THE CONTROL of the national
legislature. The restraining or prohibitory clause only says, that
they shall not, WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF CONGRESS, lay such duties;
and if we are to understand this in the sense last mentioned, the
Constitution would then be made to introduce a formal provision for
the sake of a very absurd conclusion; which is, that the States,
WITH THE CONSENT of the national legislature, might tax imports and
exports; and that they might tax every other article, UNLESS
CONTROLLED by the same body. If this was the intention, why not
leave it, in the first instance, to what is alleged to be the
natural operation of the original clause, conferring a general power
of taxation upon the Union? It is evident that this could not have
been the intention, and that it will not bear a construction of the

As to a supposition of repugnancy between the power of taxation
in the States and in the Union, it cannot be supported in that sense
which would be requisite to work an exclusion of the States. It is,
indeed, possible that a tax might be laid on a particular article by
a State which might render it INEXPEDIENT that thus a further tax
should be laid on the same article by the Union; but it would not
imply a constitutional inability to impose a further tax. The
quantity of the imposition, the expediency or inexpediency of an
increase on either side, would be mutually questions of prudence;
but there would be involved no direct contradiction of power. The
particular policy of the national and of the State systems of
finance might now and then not exactly coincide, and might require
reciprocal forbearances. It is not, however a mere possibility of
inconvenience in the exercise of powers, but an immediate
constitutional repugnancy that can by implication alienate and
extinguish a pre-existing right of sovereignty.

The necessity of a concurrent jurisdiction in certain cases
results from the division of the sovereign power; and the rule that
all authorities, of which the States are not explicitly divested in
favor of the Union, remain with them in full vigor, is not a
theoretical consequence of that division, but is clearly admitted by
the whole tenor of the instrument which contains the articles of the
proposed Constitution. We there find that, notwithstanding the
affirmative grants of general authorities, there has been the most
pointed care in those cases where it was deemed improper that the
like authorities should reside in the States, to insert negative
clauses prohibiting the exercise of them by the States. The tenth
section of the first article consists altogether of such provisions.
This circumstance is a clear indication of the sense of the
convention, and furnishes a rule of interpretation out of the body
of the act, which justifies the position I have advanced and refutes
every hypothesis to the contrary.



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)

From the Daily Advertiser.

January 3, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE residue of the argument against the provisions of the
Constitution in respect to taxation is ingrafted upon the following
clause. The last clause of the eighth section of the first article
of the plan under consideration authorizes the national legislature
“to make all laws which shall be NECESSARY and PROPER for carrying
into execution THE POWERS by that Constitution vested in the
government of the United States, or in any department or officer
thereof”; and the second clause of the sixth article declares,
“that the Constitution and the laws of the United States made IN
PURSUANCE THEREOF, and the treaties made by their authority shall be
the SUPREME LAW of the land, any thing in the constitution or laws
of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

These two clauses have been the source of much virulent
invective and petulant declamation against the proposed Constitution.
They have been held up to the people in all the exaggerated colors
of misrepresentation as the pernicious engines by which their local
governments were to be destroyed and their liberties exterminated;
as the hideous monster whose devouring jaws would spare neither sex
nor age, nor high nor low, nor sacred nor profane; and yet, strange
as it may appear, after all this clamor, to those who may not have
happened to contemplate them in the same light, it may be affirmed
with perfect confidence that the constitutional operation of the
intended government would be precisely the same, if these clauses
were entirely obliterated, as if they were repeated in every article.
They are only declaratory of a truth which would have resulted by
necessary and unavoidable implication from the very act of
constituting a federal government, and vesting it with certain
specified powers. This is so clear a proposition, that moderation
itself can scarcely listen to the railings which have been so
copiously vented against this part of the plan, without emotions
that disturb its equanimity.

What is a power, but the ability or faculty of doing a thing?
What is the ability to do a thing, but the power of employing the
MEANS necessary to its execution? What is a LEGISLATIVE power, but
a power of making LAWS? What are the MEANS to execute a LEGISLATIVE
power but LAWS? What is the power of laying and collecting taxes,
but a LEGISLATIVE POWER, or a power of MAKING LAWS, to lay and
collect taxes? What are the proper means of executing such a power,
but NECESSARY and PROPER laws?

This simple train of inquiry furnishes us at once with a test by
which to judge of the true nature of the clause complained of. It
conducts us to this palpable truth, that a power to lay and collect
taxes must be a power to pass all laws NECESSARY and PROPER for the
execution of that power; and what does the unfortunate and
culumniated provision in question do more than declare the same
truth, to wit, that the national legislature, to whom the power of
laying and collecting taxes had been previously given, might, in the
execution of that power, pass all laws NECESSARY and PROPER to carry
it into effect? I have applied these observations thus particularly
to the power of taxation, because it is the immediate subject under
consideration, and because it is the most important of the
authorities proposed to be conferred upon the Union. But the same
process will lead to the same result, in relation to all other
powers declared in the Constitution. And it is EXPRESSLY to execute
these powers that the sweeping clause, as it has been affectedly
called, authorizes the national legislature to pass all NECESSARY
and PROPER laws. If there is any thing exceptionable, it must be
sought for in the specific powers upon which this general
declaration is predicated. The declaration itself, though it may be
chargeable with tautology or redundancy, is at least perfectly

But SUSPICION may ask, Why then was it introduced? The answer
is, that it could only have been done for greater caution, and to
guard against all cavilling refinements in those who might hereafter
feel a disposition to curtail and evade the legitimate authorities
of the Union. The Convention probably foresaw, what it has been a
principal aim of these papers to inculcate, that the danger which
most threatens our political welfare is that the State governments
will finally sap the foundations of the Union; and might therefore
think it necessary, in so cardinal a point, to leave nothing to
construction. Whatever may have been the inducement to it, the
wisdom of the precaution is evident from the cry which has been
raised against it; as that very cry betrays a disposition to
question the great and essential truth which it is manifestly the
object of that provision to declare.

But it may be again asked, Who is to judge of the NECESSITY and
PROPRIETY of the laws to be passed for executing the powers of the
Union? I answer, first, that this question arises as well and as
fully upon the simple grant of those powers as upon the declaratory
clause; and I answer, in the second place, that the national
government, like every other, must judge, in the first instance, of
the proper exercise of its powers, and its constituents in the last.
If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its
authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose
creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and
take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as
the exigency may suggest and prudence justify. The propriety of a
law, in a constitutional light, must always be determined by the
nature of the powers upon which it is founded. Suppose, by some
forced constructions of its authority (which, indeed, cannot easily
be imagined), the Federal legislature should attempt to vary the law
of descent in any State, would it not be evident that, in making
such an attempt, it had exceeded its jurisdiction, and infringed
upon that of the State? Suppose, again, that upon the pretense of
an interference with its revenues, it should undertake to abrogate a
landtax imposed by the authority of a State; would it not be
equally evident that this was an invasion of that concurrent
jurisdiction in respect to this species of tax, which its
Constitution plainly supposes to exist in the State governments? If
there ever should be a doubt on this head, the credit of it will be
entirely due to those reasoners who, in the imprudent zeal of their
animosity to the plan of the convention, have labored to envelop it
in a cloud calculated to obscure the plainest and simplest truths.

But it is said that the laws of the Union are to be the SUPREME
LAW of the land. But what inference can be drawn from this, or what
would they amount to, if they were not to be supreme? It is evident
they would amount to nothing. A LAW, by the very meaning of the
term, includes supremacy. It is a rule which those to whom it is
prescribed are bound to observe. This results from every political
association. If individuals enter into a state of society, the laws
of that society must be the supreme regulator of their conduct. If
a number of political societies enter into a larger political
society, the laws which the latter may enact, pursuant to the powers
intrusted to it by its constitution, must necessarily be supreme
over those societies, and the individuals of whom they are composed.
It would otherwise be a mere treaty, dependent on the good faith of
the parties, and not a government, which is only another word for
POLITICAL POWER AND SUPREMACY. But it will not follow from this
doctrine that acts of the large society which are NOT PURSUANT to
its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary
authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of
the land. These will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve
to be treated as such. Hence we perceive that the clause which
declares the supremacy of the laws of the Union, like the one we
have just before considered, only declares a truth, which flows
immediately and necessarily from the institution of a federal
government. It will not, I presume, have escaped observation, that
it EXPRESSLY confines this supremacy to laws made PURSUANT TO THE
CONSTITUTION; which I mention merely as an instance of caution in
the convention; since that limitation would have been to be
understood, though it had not been expressed.

Though a law, therefore, laying a tax for the use of the United
States would be supreme in its nature, and could not legally be
opposed or controlled, yet a law for abrogating or preventing the
collection of a tax laid by the authority of the State, (unless upon
imports and exports), would not be the supreme law of the land, but
a usurpation of power not granted by the Constitution. As far as an
improper accumulation of taxes on the same object might tend to
render the collection difficult or precarious, this would be a
mutual inconvenience, not arising from a superiority or defect of
power on either side, but from an injudicious exercise of power by
one or the other, in a manner equally disadvantageous to both. It
is to be hoped and presumed, however, that mutual interest would
dictate a concert in this respect which would avoid any material
inconvenience. The inference from the whole is, that the individual
States would, under the proposed Constitution, retain an independent
and uncontrollable authority to raise revenue to any extent of which
they may stand in need, by every kind of taxation, except duties on
imports and exports. It will be shown in the next paper that this
CONCURRENT JURISDICTION in the article of taxation was the only
admissible substitute for an entire subordination, in respect to
this branch of power, of the State authority to that of the Union.



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)

From the New York Packet.

Friday, January 4, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

I FLATTER myself it has been clearly shown in my last number
that the particular States, under the proposed Constitution, would
have COEQUAL authority with the Union in the article of revenue,
except as to duties on imports. As this leaves open to the States
far the greatest part of the resources of the community, there can
be no color for the assertion that they would not possess means as
abundant as could be desired for the supply of their own wants,
independent of all external control. That the field is sufficiently
wide will more fully appear when we come to advert to the
inconsiderable share of the public expenses for which it will fall
to the lot of the State governments to provide.

To argue upon abstract principles that this co-ordinate
authority cannot exist, is to set up supposition and theory against
fact and reality. However proper such reasonings might be to show
that a thing OUGHT NOT TO EXIST, they are wholly to be rejected when
they are made use of to prove that it does not exist contrary to the
evidence of the fact itself. It is well known that in the Roman
republic the legislative authority, in the last resort, resided for
ages in two different political bodies not as branches of the same
legislature, but as distinct and independent legislatures, in each
of which an opposite interest prevailed: in one the patrician; in
the other, the plebian. Many arguments might have been adduced to
prove the unfitness of two such seemingly contradictory authorities,
each having power to ANNUL or REPEAL the acts of the other. But a
man would have been regarded as frantic who should have attempted at
Rome to disprove their existence. It will be readily understood
that I allude to the COMITIA CENTURIATA and the COMITIA TRIBUTA.
The former, in which the people voted by centuries, was so arranged
as to give a superiority to the patrician interest; in the latter,
in which numbers prevailed, the plebian interest had an entire
predominancy. And yet these two legislatures coexisted for ages,
and the Roman republic attained to the utmost height of human

In the case particularly under consideration, there is no such
contradiction as appears in the example cited; there is no power on
either side to annul the acts of the other. And in practice there
is little reason to apprehend any inconvenience; because, in a
short course of time, the wants of the States will naturally reduce
themselves within A VERY NARROW COMPASS; and in the interim, the
United States will, in all probability, find it convenient to
abstain wholly from those objects to which the particular States
would be inclined to resort.

To form a more precise judgment of the true merits of this
question, it will be well to advert to the proportion between the
objects that will require a federal provision in respect to revenue,
and those which will require a State provision. We shall discover
that the former are altogether unlimited, and that the latter are
circumscribed within very moderate bounds. In pursuing this
inquiry, we must bear in mind that we are not to confine our view to
the present period, but to look forward to remote futurity.
Constitutions of civil government are not to be framed upon a
calculation of existing exigencies, but upon a combination of these
with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and
tried course of human affairs. Nothing, therefore, can be more
fallacious than to infer the extent of any power, proper to be
lodged in the national government, from an estimate of its immediate
necessities. There ought to be a CAPACITY to provide for future
contingencies as they may happen; and as these are illimitable in
their nature, it is impossible safely to limit that capacity. It is
true, perhaps, that a computation might be made with sufficient
accuracy to answer the purpose of the quantity of revenue requisite
to discharge the subsisting engagements of the Union, and to
maintain those establishments which, for some time to come, would
suffice in time of peace. But would it be wise, or would it not
rather be the extreme of folly, to stop at this point, and to leave
the government intrusted with the care of the national defense in a
state of absolute incapacity to provide for the protection of the
community against future invasions of the public peace, by foreign
war or domestic convulsions? If, on the contrary, we ought to
exceed this point, where can we stop, short of an indefinite power
of providing for emergencies as they may arise? Though it is easy
to assert, in general terms, the possibility of forming a rational
judgment of a due provision against probable dangers, yet we may
safely challenge those who make the assertion to bring forward their
data, and may affirm that they would be found as vague and uncertain
as any that could be produced to establish the probable duration of
the world. Observations confined to the mere prospects of internal
attacks can deserve no weight; though even these will admit of no
satisfactory calculation: but if we mean to be a commercial people,
it must form a part of our policy to be able one day to defend that
commerce. The support of a navy and of naval wars would involve
contingencies that must baffle all the efforts of political

Admitting that we ought to try the novel and absurd experiment
in politics of tying up the hands of government from offensive war
founded upon reasons of state, yet certainly we ought not to disable
it from guarding the community against the ambition or enmity of
other nations. A cloud has been for some time hanging over the
European world. If it should break forth into a storm, who can
insure us that in its progress a part of its fury would not be spent
upon us? No reasonable man would hastily pronounce that we are
entirely out of its reach. Or if the combustible materials that now
seem to be collecting should be dissipated without coming to
maturity, or if a flame should be kindled without extending to us,
what security can we have that our tranquillity will long remain
undisturbed from some other cause or from some other quarter? Let
us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our
option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot
count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of
others. Who could have imagined at the conclusion of the last war
that France and Britain, wearied and exhausted as they both were,
would so soon have looked with so hostile an aspect upon each other?
To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to
conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the
human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and
beneficent sentiments of peace; and that to model our political
systems upon speculations of lasting tranquillity, is to calculate
on the weaker springs of the human character.

What are the chief sources of expense in every government? What
has occasioned that enormous accumulation of debts with which
several of the European nations are oppressed? The answers plainly
is, wars and rebellions; the support of those institutions which
are necessary to guard the body politic against these two most
mortal diseases of society. The expenses arising from those
institutions which are relative to the mere domestic police of a
state, to the support of its legislative, executive, and judicial
departments, with their different appendages, and to the
encouragement of agriculture and manufactures (which will comprehend
almost all the objects of state expenditure), are insignificant in
comparison with those which relate to the national defense.

In the kingdom of Great Britain, where all the ostentatious
apparatus of monarchy is to be provided for, not above a fifteenth
part of the annual income of the nation is appropriated to the class
of expenses last mentioned; the other fourteen fifteenths are
absorbed in the payment of the interest of debts contracted for
carrying on the wars in which that country has been engaged, and in
the maintenance of fleets and armies. If, on the one hand, it
should be observed that the expenses incurred in the prosecution of
the ambitious enterprises and vainglorious pursuits of a monarchy
are not a proper standard by which to judge of those which might be
necessary in a republic, it ought, on the other hand, to be remarked
that there should be as great a disproportion between the profusion
and extravagance of a wealthy kingdom in its domestic
administration, and the frugality and economy which in that
particular become the modest simplicity of republican government.
If we balance a proper deduction from one side against that which
it is supposed ought to be made from the other, the proportion may
still be considered as holding good.

But let us advert to the large debt which we have ourselves
contracted in a single war, and let us only calculate on a common
share of the events which disturb the peace of nations, and we shall
instantly perceive, without the aid of any elaborate illustration,
that there must always be an immense disproportion between the
objects of federal and state expenditures. It is true that several
of the States, separately, are encumbered with considerable debts,
which are an excrescence of the late war. But this cannot happen
again, if the proposed system be adopted; and when these debts are
discharged, the only call for revenue of any consequence, which the
State governments will continue to experience, will be for the mere
support of their respective civil list; to which, if we add all
contingencies, the total amount in every State ought to fall
considerably short of two hundred thousand pounds.

In framing a government for posterity as well as ourselves, we
ought, in those provisions which are designed to be permanent, to
calculate, not on temporary, but on permanent causes of expense. If
this principle be a just one our attention would be directed to a
provision in favor of the State governments for an annual sum of
about two hundred thousand pounds; while the exigencies of the
Union could be susceptible of no limits, even in imagination. In
this view of the subject, by what logic can it be maintained that
the local governments ought to command, in perpetuity, an EXCLUSIVE
source of revenue for any sum beyond the extent of two hundred
thousand pounds? To extend its power further, in EXCLUSION of the
authority of the Union, would be to take the resources of the
community out of those hands which stood in need of them for the
public welfare, in order to put them into other hands which could
have no just or proper occasion for them.

Suppose, then, the convention had been inclined to proceed upon
the principle of a repartition of the objects of revenue, between
the Union and its members, in PROPORTION to their comparative
necessities; what particular fund could have been selected for the
use of the States, that would not either have been too much or too
little too little for their present, too much for their future
wants? As to the line of separation between external and internal
taxes, this would leave to the States, at a rough computation, the
command of two thirds of the resources of the community to defray
from a tenth to a twentieth part of its expenses; and to the Union,
one third of the resources of the community, to defray from nine
tenths to nineteen twentieths of its expenses. If we desert this
boundary and content ourselves with leaving to the States an
exclusive power of taxing houses and lands, there would still be a
great disproportion between the MEANS and the END; the possession
of one third of the resources of the community to supply, at most,
one tenth of its wants. If any fund could have been selected and
appropriated, equal to and not greater than the object, it would
have been inadequate to the discharge of the existing debts of the
particular States, and would have left them dependent on the Union
for a provision for this purpose.

The preceding train of observation will justify the position
which has been elsewhere laid down, that “A CONCURRENT JURISDICTION
in the article of taxation was the only admissible substitute for an
entire subordination, in respect to this branch of power, of State
authority to that of the Union.” Any separation of the objects of
revenue that could have been fallen upon, would have amounted to a
sacrifice of the great INTERESTS of the Union to the POWER of the
individual States. The convention thought the concurrent
jurisdiction preferable to that subordination; and it is evident
that it has at least the merit of reconciling an indefinite
constitutional power of taxation in the Federal government with an
adequate and independent power in the States to provide for their
own necessities. There remain a few other lights, in which this
important subject of taxation will claim a further consideration.



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

BEFORE we proceed to examine any other objections to an
indefinite power of taxation in the Union, I shall make one general
remark; which is, that if the jurisdiction of the national
government, in the article of revenue, should be restricted to
particular objects, it would naturally occasion an undue proportion
of the public burdens to fall upon those objects. Two evils would
spring from this source: the oppression of particular branches of
industry; and an unequal distribution of the taxes, as well among
the several States as among the citizens of the same State.

Suppose, as has been contended for, the federal power of
taxation were to be confined to duties on imports, it is evident
that the government, for want of being able to command other
resources, would frequently be tempted to extend these duties to an
injurious excess. There are persons who imagine that they can never
be carried to too great a length; since the higher they are, the
more it is alleged they will tend to discourage an extravagant
consumption, to produce a favorable balance of trade, and to promote
domestic manufactures. But all extremes are pernicious in various
ways. Exorbitant duties on imported articles would beget a general
spirit of smuggling; which is always prejudicial to the fair
trader, and eventually to the revenue itself: they tend to render
other classes of the community tributary, in an improper degree, to
the manufacturing classes, to whom they give a premature monopoly of
the markets; they sometimes force industry out of its more natural
channels into others in which it flows with less advantage; and in
the last place, they oppress the merchant, who is often obliged to
pay them himself without any retribution from the consumer. When
the demand is equal to the quantity of goods at market, the consumer
generally pays the duty; but when the markets happen to be
overstocked, a great proportion falls upon the merchant, and
sometimes not only exhausts his profits, but breaks in upon his
capital. I am apt to think that a division of the duty, between the
seller and the buyer, more often happens than is commonly imagined.
It is not always possible to raise the price of a commodity in
exact proportion to every additional imposition laid upon it. The
merchant, especially in a country of small commercial capital, is
often under a necessity of keeping prices down in order to a more
expeditious sale.

The maxim that the consumer is the payer, is so much oftener
true than the reverse of the proposition, that it is far more
equitable that the duties on imports should go into a common stock,
than that they should redound to the exclusive benefit of the
importing States. But it is not so generally true as to render it
equitable, that those duties should form the only national fund.
When they are paid by the merchant they operate as an additional
tax upon the importing State, whose citizens pay their proportion of
them in the character of consumers. In this view they are
productive of inequality among the States; which inequality would
be increased with the increased extent of the duties. The
confinement of the national revenues to this species of imposts
would be attended with inequality, from a different cause, between
the manufacturing and the non-manufacturing States. The States
which can go farthest towards the supply of their own wants, by
their own manufactures, will not, according to their numbers or
wealth, consume so great a proportion of imported articles as those
States which are not in the same favorable situation. They would
not, therefore, in this mode alone contribute to the public treasury
in a ratio to their abilities. To make them do this it is necessary
that recourse be had to excises, the proper objects of which are
particular kinds of manufactures. New York is more deeply
interested in these considerations than such of her citizens as
contend for limiting the power of the Union to external taxation may
be aware of. New York is an importing State, and is not likely
speedily to be, to any great extent, a manufacturing State. She
would, of course, suffer in a double light from restraining the
jurisdiction of the Union to commercial imposts.

So far as these observations tend to inculcate a danger of the
import duties being extended to an injurious extreme it may be
observed, conformably to a remark made in another part of these
papers, that the interest of the revenue itself would be a
sufficient guard against such an extreme. I readily admit that this
would be the case, as long as other resources were open; but if the
avenues to them were closed, HOPE, stimulated by necessity, would
beget experiments, fortified by rigorous precautions and additional
penalties, which, for a time, would have the intended effect, till
there had been leisure to contrive expedients to elude these new
precautions. The first success would be apt to inspire false
opinions, which it might require a long course of subsequent
experience to correct. Necessity, especially in politics, often
occasions false hopes, false reasonings, and a system of measures
correspondingly erroneous. But even if this supposed excess should
not be a consequence of the limitation of the federal power of
taxation, the inequalities spoken of would still ensue, though not
in the same degree, from the other causes that have been noticed.
Let us now return to the examination of objections.

One which, if we may judge from the frequency of its repetition,
seems most to be relied on, is, that the House of Representatives is
not sufficiently numerous for the reception of all the different
classes of citizens, in order to combine the interests and feelings
of every part of the community, and to produce a due sympathy
between the representative body and its constituents. This argument
presents itself under a very specious and seducing form; and is
well calculated to lay hold of the prejudices of those to whom it is
addressed. But when we come to dissect it with attention, it will
appear to be made up of nothing but fair-sounding words. The object
it seems to aim at is, in the first place, impracticable, and in the
sense in which it is contended for, is unnecessary. I reserve for
another place the discussion of the question which relates to the
sufficiency of the representative body in respect to numbers, and
shall content myself with examining here the particular use which
has been made of a contrary supposition, in reference to the
immediate subject of our inquiries.

The idea of an actual representation of all classes of the
people, by persons of each class, is altogether visionary. Unless
it were expressly provided in the Constitution, that each different
occupation should send one or more members, the thing would never
take place in practice. Mechanics and manufacturers will always be
inclined, with few exceptions, to give their votes to merchants, in
preference to persons of their own professions or trades. Those
discerning citizens are well aware that the mechanic and
manufacturing arts furnish the materials of mercantile enterprise
and industry. Many of them, indeed, are immediately connected with
the operations of commerce. They know that the merchant is their
natural patron and friend; and they are aware, that however great
the confidence they may justly feel in their own good sense, their
interests can be more effectually promoted by the merchant than by
themselves. They are sensible that their habits in life have not
been such as to give them those acquired endowments, without which,
in a deliberative assembly, the greatest natural abilities are for
the most part useless; and that the influence and weight, and
superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal to a
contest with any spirit which might happen to infuse itself into the
public councils, unfriendly to the manufacturing and trading
interests. These considerations, and many others that might be
mentioned prove, and experience confirms it, that artisans and
manufacturers will commonly be disposed to bestow their votes upon
merchants and those whom they recommend. We must therefore consider
merchants as the natural representatives of all these classes of the

With regard to the learned professions, little need be observed;
they truly form no distinct interest in society, and according to
their situation and talents, will be indiscriminately the objects of
the confidence and choice of each other, and of other parts of the

Nothing remains but the landed interest; and this, in a
political view, and particularly in relation to taxes, I take to be
perfectly united, from the wealthiest landlord down to the poorest
tenant. No tax can be laid on land which will not affect the
proprietor of millions of acres as well as the proprietor of a
single acre. Every landholder will therefore have a common interest
to keep the taxes on land as low as possible; and common interest
may always be reckoned upon as the surest bond of sympathy. But if
we even could suppose a distinction of interest between the opulent
landholder and the middling farmer, what reason is there to
conclude, that the first would stand a better chance of being
deputed to the national legislature than the last? If we take fact
as our guide, and look into our own senate and assembly, we shall
find that moderate proprietors of land prevail in both; nor is this
less the case in the senate, which consists of a smaller number,
than in the assembly, which is composed of a greater number. Where
the qualifications of the electors are the same, whether they have
to choose a small or a large number, their votes will fall upon
those in whom they have most confidence; whether these happen to be
men of large fortunes, or of moderate property, or of no property at

It is said to be necessary, that all classes of citizens should
have some of their own number in the representative body, in order
that their feelings and interests may be the better understood and
attended to. But we have seen that this will never happen under any
arrangement that leaves the votes of the people free. Where this is
the case, the representative body, with too few exceptions to have
any influence on the spirit of the government, will be composed of
landholders, merchants, and men of the learned professions. But
where is the danger that the interests and feelings of the different
classes of citizens will not be understood or attended to by these
three descriptions of men? Will not the landholder know and feel
whatever will promote or insure the interest of landed property?
And will he not, from his own interest in that species of property,
be sufficiently prone to resist every attempt to prejudice or
encumber it? Will not the merchant understand and be disposed to
cultivate, as far as may be proper, the interests of the mechanic
and manufacturing arts, to which his commerce is so nearly allied?
Will not the man of the learned profession, who will feel a
neutrality to the rivalships between the different branches of
industry, be likely to prove an impartial arbiter between them,
ready to promote either, so far as it shall appear to him conducive
to the general interests of the society?

If we take into the account the momentary humors or dispositions
which may happen to prevail in particular parts of the society, and
to which a wise administration will never be inattentive, is the man
whose situation leads to extensive inquiry and information less
likely to be a competent judge of their nature, extent, and
foundation than one whose observation does not travel beyond the
circle of his neighbors and acquaintances? Is it not natural that a
man who is a candidate for the favor of the people, and who is
dependent on the suffrages of his fellow-citizens for the
continuance of his public honors, should take care to inform himself
of their dispositions and inclinations, and should be willing to
allow them their proper degree of influence upon his conduct? This
dependence, and the necessity of being bound himself, and his
posterity, by the laws to which he gives his assent, are the true,
and they are the strong chords of sympathy between the
representative and the constituent.

There is no part of the administration of government that
requires extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the
principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation.
The man who understands those principles best will be least likely
to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular
class of citizens to the procurement of revenue. It might be
demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will always
be the least burdensome. There can be no doubt that in order to a
judicious exercise of the power of taxation, it is necessary that
the person in whose hands it should be acquainted with the general
genius, habits, and modes of thinking of the people at large, and
with the resources of the country. And this is all that can be
reasonably meant by a knowledge of the interests and feelings of the
people. In any other sense the proposition has either no meaning,
or an absurd one. And in that sense let every considerate citizen
judge for himself where the requisite qualification is most likely
to be found.



The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)

From the New York Packet.

Tuesday January 8, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

WE HAVE seen that the result of the observations, to which the
foregoing number has been principally devoted, is, that from the
natural operation of the different interests and views of the
various classes of the community, whether the representation of the
people be more or less numerous, it will consist almost entirely of
proprietors of land, of merchants, and of members of the learned
professions, who will truly represent all those different interests
and views. If it should be objected that we have seen other
descriptions of men in the local legislatures, I answer that it is
admitted there are exceptions to the rule, but not in sufficient
number to influence the general complexion or character of the
government. There are strong minds in every walk of life that will
rise superior to the disadvantages of situation, and will command
the tribute due to their merit, not only from the classes to which
they particularly belong, but from the society in general. The door
ought to be equally open to all; and I trust, for the credit of
human nature, that we shall see examples of such vigorous plants
flourishing in the soil of federal as well as of State legislation;
but occasional instances of this sort will not render the reasoning
founded upon the general course of things, less conclusive.

The subject might be placed in several other lights that would
all lead to the same result; and in particular it might be asked,
What greater affinity or relation of interest can be conceived
between the carpenter and blacksmith, and the linen manufacturer or
stocking weaver, than between the merchant and either of them? It
is notorious that there are often as great rivalships between
different branches of the mechanic or manufacturing arts as there
are between any of the departments of labor and industry; so that,
unless the representative body were to be far more numerous than
would be consistent with any idea of regularity or wisdom in its
deliberations, it is impossible that what seems to be the spirit of
the objection we have been considering should ever be realized in
practice. But I forbear to dwell any longer on a matter which has
hitherto worn too loose a garb to admit even of an accurate
inspection of its real shape or tendency.

There is another objection of a somewhat more precise nature
that claims our attention. It has been asserted that a power of
internal taxation in the national legislature could never be
exercised with advantage, as well from the want of a sufficient
knowledge of local circumstances, as from an interference between
the revenue laws of the Union and of the particular States. The
supposition of a want of proper knowledge seems to be entirely
destitute of foundation. If any question is depending in a State
legislature respecting one of the counties, which demands a
knowledge of local details, how is it acquired? No doubt from the
information of the members of the county. Cannot the like knowledge
be obtained in the national legislature from the representatives of
each State? And is it not to be presumed that the men who will
generally be sent there will be possessed of the necessary degree of
intelligence to be able to communicate that information? Is the
knowledge of local circumstances, as applied to taxation, a minute
topographical acquaintance with all the mountains, rivers, streams,
highways, and bypaths in each State; or is it a general
acquaintance with its situation and resources, with the state of its
agriculture, commerce, manufactures, with the nature of its products
and consumptions, with the different degrees and kinds of its
wealth, property, and industry?

Nations in general, even under governments of the more popular
kind, usually commit the administration of their finances to single
men or to boards composed of a few individuals, who digest and
prepare, in the first instance, the plans of taxation, which are
afterwards passed into laws by the authority of the sovereign or

Inquisitive and enlightened statesmen are deemed everywhere best
qualified to make a judicious selection of the objects proper for
revenue; which is a clear indication, as far as the sense of
mankind can have weight in the question, of the species of knowledge
of local circumstances requisite to the purposes of taxation.

The taxes intended to be comprised under the general
denomination of internal taxes may be subdivided into those of the
DIRECT and those of the INDIRECT kind. Though the objection be made
to both, yet the reasoning upon it seems to be confined to the
former branch. And indeed, as to the latter, by which must be
understood duties and excises on articles of consumption, one is at
a loss to conceive what can be the nature of the difficulties
apprehended. The knowledge relating to them must evidently be of a
kind that will either be suggested by the nature of the article
itself, or can easily be procured from any well-informed man,
especially of the mercantile class. The circumstances that may
distinguish its situation in one State from its situation in another
must be few, simple, and easy to be comprehended. The principal
thing to be attended to, would be to avoid those articles which had
been previously appropriated to the use of a particular State; and
there could be no difficulty in ascertaining the revenue system of
each. This could always be known from the respective codes of laws,
as well as from the information of the members from the several

The objection, when applied to real property or to houses and
lands, appears to have, at first sight, more foundation, but even in
this view it will not bear a close examination. Land taxes are co
monly laid in one of two modes, either by ACTUAL valuations,
permanent or periodical, or by OCCASIONAL assessments, at the
discretion, or according to the best judgment, of certain officers
whose duty it is to make them. In either case, the EXECUTION of the
business, which alone requires the knowledge of local details, must
be devolved upon discreet persons in the character of commissioners
or assessors, elected by the people or appointed by the government
for the purpose. All that the law can do must be to name the
persons or to prescribe the manner of their election or appointment,
to fix their numbers and qualifications and to draw the general
outlines of their powers and duties. And what is there in all this
that cannot as well be performed by the national legislature as by a
State legislature? The attention of either can only reach to
general principles; local details, as already observed, must be
referred to those who are to execute the plan.

But there is a simple point of view in which this matter may be
placed that must be altogether satisfactory. The national
legislature can make use of the SYSTEM OF EACH STATE WITHIN THAT
STATE. The method of laying and collecting this species of taxes in
each State can, in all its parts, be adopted and employed by the
federal government.

Let it be recollected that the proportion of these taxes is not
to be left to the discretion of the national legislature, but is to
be determined by the numbers of each State, as described in the
second section of the first article. An actual census or
enumeration of the people must furnish the rule, a circumstance
which effectually shuts the door to partiality or oppression. The
abuse of this power of taxation seems to have been provided against
with guarded circumspection. In addition to the precaution just
mentioned, there is a provision that “all duties, imposts, and
excises shall be UNIFORM throughout the United States.”

It has been very properly observed by different speakers and
writers on the side of the Constitution, that if the exercise of the
power of internal taxation by the Union should be discovered on
experiment to be really inconvenient, the federal government may
then forbear the use of it, and have recourse to requisitions in its
stead. By way of answer to this, it has been triumphantly asked,
Why not in the first instance omit that ambiguous power, and rely
upon the latter resource? Two solid answers may be given. The
first is, that the exercise of that power, if convenient, will be
preferable, because it will be more effectual; and it is impossible
to prove in theory, or otherwise than by the experiment, that it
cannot be advantageously exercised. The contrary, indeed, appears
most probable. The second answer is, that the existence of such a
power in the Constitution will have a strong influence in giving
efficacy to requisitions. When the States know that the Union can
apply itself without their agency, it will be a powerful motive for
exertion on their part.

As to the interference of the revenue laws of the Union, and of
its members, we have already seen that there can be no clashing or
repugnancy of authority. The laws cannot, therefore, in a legal
sense, interfere with each other; and it is far from impossible to
avoid an interference even in the policy of their different systems.
An effectual expedient for this purpose will be, mutually, to
abstain from those objects which either side may have first had
recourse to. As neither can CONTROL the other, each will have an
obvious and sensible interest in this reciprocal forbearance. And
where there is an IMMEDIATE common interest, we may safely count
upon its operation. When the particular debts of the States are
done away, and their expenses come to be limited within their
natural compass, the possibility almost of interference will vanish.
A small land tax will answer the purpose of the States, and will be
their most simple and most fit resource.

Many spectres have been raised out of this power of internal
taxation, to excite the apprehensions of the people: double sets of
revenue officers, a duplication of their burdens by double
taxations, and the frightful forms of odious and oppressive
poll-taxes, have been played off with all the ingenious dexterity of
political legerdemain.

As to the first point, there are two cases in which there can be
no room for double sets of officers: one, where the right of
imposing the tax is exclusively vested in the Union, which applies
to the duties on imports; the other, where the object has not
fallen under any State regulation or provision, which may be
applicable to a variety of objects. In other cases, the probability
is that the United States will either wholly abstain from the
objects preoccupied for local purposes, or will make use of the
State officers and State regulations for collecting the additional
imposition. This will best answer the views of revenue, because it
will save expense in the collection, and will best avoid any
occasion of disgust to the State governments and to the people. At
all events, here is a practicable expedient for avoiding such an
inconvenience; and nothing more can be required than to show that
evils predicted to not necessarily result from the plan.

As to any argument derived from a supposed system of influence,
it is a sufficient answer to say that it ought not to be presumed;
but the supposition is susceptible of a more precise answer. If
such a spirit should infest the councils of the Union, the most
certain road to the accomplishment of its aim would be to employ the
State officers as much as possible, and to attach them to the Union
by an accumulation of their emoluments. This would serve to turn
the tide of State influence into the channels of the national
government, instead of making federal influence flow in an opposite
and adverse current. But all suppositions of this kind are
invidious, and ought to be banished from the consideration of the
great question before the people. They can answer no other end than
to cast a mist over the truth.

As to the suggestion of double taxation, the answer is plain.
The wants of the Union are to be supplied in one way or another;
if to be done by the authority of the federal government, it will
not be to be done by that of the State government. The quantity of
taxes to be paid by the community must be the same in either case;
with this advantage, if the provision is to be made by the
Union that the capital resource of commercial imposts, which is the
most convenient branch of revenue, can be prudently improved to a
much greater extent under federal than under State regulation, and
of course will render it less necessary to recur to more
inconvenient methods; and with this further advantage, that as far
as there may be any real difficulty in the exercise of the power of
internal taxation, it will impose a disposition to greater care in
the choice and arrangement of the means; and must naturally tend to
make it a fixed point of policy in the national administration to go
as far as may be practicable in making the luxury of the rich
tributary to the public treasury, in order to diminish the necessity
of those impositions which might create dissatisfaction in the
poorer and most numerous classes of the society. Happy it is when
the interest which the government has in the preservation of its own
power, coincides with a proper distribution of the public burdens,
and tends to guard the least wealthy part of the community from

As to poll taxes, I, without scruple, confess my disapprobation
of them; and though they have prevailed from an early period in
those States [1] which have uniformly been the most tenacious of
their rights, I should lament to see them introduced into practice
under the national government. But does it follow because there is
a power to lay them that they will actually be laid? Every State in
the Union has power to impose taxes of this kind; and yet in
several of them they are unknown in practice. Are the State
governments to be stigmatized as tyrannies, because they possess
this power? If they are not, with what propriety can the like power
justify such a charge against the national government, or even be
urged as an obstacle to its adoption? As little friendly as I am to
the species of imposition, I still feel a thorough conviction that
the power of having recourse to it ought to exist in the federal
government. There are certain emergencies of nations, in which
expedients, that in the ordinary state of things ought to be
forborne, become essential to the public weal. And the government,
from the possibility of such emergencies, ought ever to have the
option of making use of them. The real scarcity of objects in this
country, which may be considered as productive sources of revenue,
is a reason peculiar to itself, for not abridging the discretion of
the national councils in this respect. There may exist certain
critical and tempestuous conjunctures of the State, in which a poll
tax may become an inestimable resource. And as I know nothing to
exempt this portion of the globe from the common calamities that
have befallen other parts of it, I acknowledge my aversion to every
project that is calculated to disarm the government of a single
weapon, which in any possible contingency might be usefully employed
for the general defense and security.

I have now gone through the examination of such of the powers
proposed to be vested in the United States, which may be considered
as having an immediate relation to the energy of the government;
and have endeavored to answer the principal objections which have
been made to them. I have passed over in silence those minor
authorities, which are either too inconsiderable to have been
thought worthy of the hostilities of the opponents of the
Constitution, or of too manifest propriety to admit of controversy.
The mass of judiciary power, however, might have claimed an
investigation under this head, had it not been for the consideration
that its organization and its extent may be more advantageously
considered in connection. This has determined me to refer it to the
branch of our inquiries upon which we shall next enter.


FNA1-@1 The New England States.


Concerning the Difficulties of the Convention in Devising a Proper

Form of Government

From the Daily Advertiser.

Friday, January 11, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

IN REVIEWING the defects of the existing Confederation, and
showing that they cannot be supplied by a government of less energy
than that before the public, several of the most important
principles of the latter fell of course under consideration. But as
the ultimate object of these papers is to determine clearly and
fully the merits of this Constitution, and the expediency of
adopting it, our plan cannot be complete without taking a more
critical and thorough survey of the work of the convention, without
examining it on all its sides, comparing it in all its parts, and
calculating its probable effects.

That this remaining task may be executed under impressions
conducive to a just and fair result, some reflections must in this
place be indulged, which candor previously suggests.

It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public
measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation
which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to
advance or obstruct the public good; and that this spirit is more
apt to be diminished than promoted, by those occasions which require
an unusual exercise of it. To those who have been led by experience
to attend to this consideration, it could not appear surprising,
that the act of the convention, which recommends so many important
changes and innovations, which may be viewed in so many lights and
relations, and which touches the springs of so many passions and
interests, should find or excite dispositions unfriendly, both on
one side and on the other, to a fair discussion and accurate
judgment of its merits. In some, it has been too evident from their
own publications, that they have scanned the proposed Constitution,
not only with a predisposition to censure, but with a
predetermination to condemn; as the language held by others betrays
an opposite predetermination or bias, which must render their
opinions also of little moment in the question. In placing,
however, these different characters on a level, with respect to the
weight of their opinions, I wish not to insinuate that there may not
be a material difference in the purity of their intentions. It is
but just to remark in favor of the latter description, that as our
situation is universally admitted to be peculiarly critical, and to
require indispensably that something should be done for our relief,
the predetermined patron of what has been actually done may have
taken his bias from the weight of these considerations, as well as
from considerations of a sinister nature. The predetermined
adversary, on the other hand, can have been governed by no venial
motive whatever. The intentions of the first may be upright, as
they may on the contrary be culpable. The views of the last cannot
be upright, and must be culpable. But the truth is, that these
papers are not addressed to persons falling under either of these
characters. They solicit the attention of those only, who add to a
sincere zeal for the happiness of their country, a temper favorable
to a just estimate of the means of promoting it.

Persons of this character will proceed to an examination of the
plan submitted by the convention, not only without a disposition to
find or to magnify faults; but will see the propriety of
reflecting, that a faultless plan was not to be expected. Nor will
they barely make allowances for the errors which may be chargeable
on the fallibility to which the convention, as a body of men, were
liable; but will keep in mind, that they themselves also are but
men, and ought not to assume an infallibility in rejudging the
fallible opinions of others.

With equal readiness will it be perceived, that besides these
inducements to candor, many allowances ought to be made for the
difficulties inherent in the very nature of the undertaking referred
to the convention.

The novelty of the undertaking immediately strikes us. It has
been shown in the course of these papers, that the existing
Confederation is founded on principles which are fallacious; that
we must consequently change this first foundation, and with it the
superstructure resting upon it. It has been shown, that the other
confederacies which could be consulted as precedents have been
vitiated by the same erroneous principles, and can therefore furnish
no other light than that of beacons, which give warning of the
course to be shunned, without pointing out that which ought to be
pursued. The most that the convention could do in such a situation,
was to avoid the errors suggested by the past experience of other
countries, as well as of our own; and to provide a convenient mode
of rectifying their own errors, as future experiences may unfold

Among the difficulties encountered by the convention, a very
important one must have lain in combining the requisite stability
and energy in government, with the inviolable attention due to
liberty and to the republican form. Without substantially
accomplishing this part of their undertaking, they would have very
imperfectly fulfilled the object of their appointment, or the
expectation of the public; yet that it could not be easily
accomplished, will be denied by no one who is unwilling to betray
his ignorance of the subject. Energy in government is essential to
that security against external and internal danger, and to that
prompt and salutary execution of the laws which enter into the very
definition of good government. Stability in government is essential
to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well
as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which
are among the chief blessings of civil society. An irregular and
mutable legislation is not more an evil in itself than it is odious
to the people; and it may be pronounced with assurance that the
people of this country, enlightened as they are with regard to the
nature, and interested, as the great body of them are, in the
effects of good government, will never be satisfied till some remedy
be applied to the vicissitudes and uncertainties which characterize
the State administrations. On comparing, however, these valuable
ingredients with the vital principles of liberty, we must perceive
at once the difficulty of mingling them together in their due
proportions. The genius of republican liberty seems to demand on
one side, not only that all power should be derived from the people,
but that those intrusted with it should be kept in independence on
the people, by a short duration of their appointments; and that
even during this short period the trust should be placed not in a
few, but a number of hands. Stability, on the contrary, requires
that the hands in which power is lodged should continue for a length
of time the same. A frequent change of men will result from a
frequent return of elections; and a frequent change of measures
from a frequent change of men: whilst energy in government requires
not only a certain duration of power, but the execution of it by a
single hand.

How far the convention may have succeeded in this part of their
work, will better appear on a more accurate view of it. From the
cursory view here taken, it must clearly appear to have been an
arduous part.

Not less arduous must have been the task of marking the proper
line of partition between the authority of the general and that of
the State governments. Every man will be sensible of this
difficulty, in proportion as he has been accustomed to contemplate
and discriminate objects extensive and complicated in their nature.
The faculties of the mind itself have never yet been distinguished
and defined, with satisfactory precision, by all the efforts of the
most acute and metaphysical philosophers. Sense, perception,
judgment, desire, volition, memory, imagination, are found to be
separated by such delicate shades and minute gradations that their
boundaries have eluded the most subtle investigations, and remain a
pregnant source of ingenious disquisition and controversy. The
boundaries between the great kingdom of nature, and, still more,
between the various provinces, and lesser portions, into which they
are subdivided, afford another illustration of the same important
truth. The most sagacious and laborious naturalists have never yet
succeeded in tracing with certainty the line which separates the
district of vegetable life from the neighboring region of
unorganized matter, or which marks the termination of the former and
the commencement of the animal empire. A still greater obscurity
lies in the distinctive characters by which the objects in each of
these great departments of nature have been arranged and assorted.

When we pass from the works of nature, in which all the
delineations are perfectly accurate, and appear to be otherwise only
from the imperfection of the eye which surveys them, to the
institutions of man, in which the obscurity arises as well from the
object itself as from the organ by which it is contemplated, we must
perceive the necessity of moderating still further our expectations
and hopes from the efforts of human sagacity. Experience has
instructed us that no skill in the science of government has yet
been able to discriminate and define, with sufficient certainty, its
three great provinces the legislative, executive, and judiciary; or
even the privileges and powers of the different legislative branches.
Questions daily occur in the course of practice, which prove the
obscurity which reins in these subjects, and which puzzle the
greatest adepts in political science.

The experience of ages, with the continued and combined labors
of the most enlightened legislatures and jurists, has been equally
unsuccessful in delineating the several objects and limits of
different codes of laws and different tribunals of justice. The
precise extent of the common law, and the statute law, the maritime
law, the ecclesiastical law, the law of corporations, and other
local laws and customs, remains still to be clearly and finally
established in Great Britain, where accuracy in such subjects has
been more industriously pursued than in any other part of the world.
The jurisdiction of her several courts, general and local, of law,
of equity, of admiralty, etc., is not less a source of frequent and
intricate discussions, sufficiently denoting the indeterminate
limits by which they are respectively circumscribed. All new laws,
though penned with the greatest technical skill, and passed on the
fullest and most mature deliberation, are considered as more or less
obscure and equivocal, until their meaning be liquidated and
ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications.
Besides the obscurity arising from the complexity of objects, and
the imperfection of the human faculties, the medium through which
the conceptions of men are conveyed to each other adds a fresh
embarrassment. The use of words is to express ideas. Perspicuity,
therefore, requires not only that the ideas should be distinctly
formed, but that they should be expressed by words distinctly and
exclusively appropriate to them. But no language is so copious as
to supply words and phrases for every complex idea, or so correct as
not to include many equivocally denoting different ideas. Hence it
must happen that however accurately objects may be discriminated in
themselves, and however accurately the discrimination may be
considered, the definition of them may be rendered inaccurate by the
inaccuracy of the terms in which it is delivered. And this
unavoidable inaccuracy must be greater or less, according to the
complexity and novelty of the objects defined. When the Almighty
himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, his
meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the
cloudy medium through which it is communicated.

Here, then, are three sources of vague and incorrect
definitions: indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the
organ of conception, inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas. Any
one of these must produce a certain degree of obscurity. The
convention, in delineating the boundary between the federal and
State jurisdictions, must have experienced the full effect of them

To the difficulties already mentioned may be added the
interfering pretensions of the larger and smaller States. We cannot
err in supposing that the former would contend for a participation
in the government, fully proportioned to their superior wealth and
importance; and that the latter would not be less tenacious of the
equality at present enjoyed by them. We may well suppose that
neither side would entirely yield to the other, and consequently
that the struggle could be terminated only by compromise. It is
extremely probable, also, that after the ratio of representation had
been adjusted, this very compromise must have produced a fresh
struggle between the same parties, to give such a turn to the
organization of the government, and to the distribution of its
powers, as would increase the importance of the branches, in forming
which they had respectively obtained the greatest share of influence.
There are features in the Constitution which warrant each of these
suppositions; and as far as either of them is well founded, it
shows that the convention must have been compelled to sacrifice
theoretical propriety to the force of extraneous considerations.

Nor could it have been the large and small States only, which
would marshal themselves in opposition to each other on various
points. Other combinations, resulting from a difference of local
position and policy, must have created additional difficulties. As
every State may be divided into different districts, and its
citizens into different classes, which give birth to contending
interests and local jealousies, so the different parts of the United
States are distinguished from each other by a variety of
circumstances, which produce a like effect on a larger scale. And
although this variety of interests, for reasons sufficiently
explained in a former paper, may have a salutary influence on the
administration of the government when formed, yet every one must be
sensible of the contrary influence, which must have been experienced
in the task of forming it.

Would it be wonderful if, under the pressure of all these
difficulties, the convention should have been forced into some
deviations from that artificial structure and regular symmetry which
an abstract view of the subject might lead an ingenious theorist to
bestow on a Constitution planned in his closet or in his
imagination? The real wonder is that so many difficulties should
have been surmounted, and surmounted with a unanimity almost as
unprecedented as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible for
any man of candor to reflect on this circumstance without partaking
of the astonishment. It is impossible for the man of pious
reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand
which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in
the critical stages of the revolution.

We had occasion, in a former paper, to take notice of the
repeated trials which have been unsuccessfully made in the United
Netherlands for reforming the baneful and notorious vices of their
constitution. The history of almost all the great councils and
consultations held among mankind for reconciling their discordant
opinions, assuaging their mutual jealousies, and adjusting their
respective interests, is a history of factions, contentions, and
disappointments, and may be classed among the most dark and degraded
pictures which display the infirmities and depravities of the human
character. If, in a few scattered instances, a brighter aspect is
presented, they serve only as exceptions to admonish us of the
general truth; and by their lustre to darken the gloom of the
adverse prospect to which they are contrasted. In revolving the
causes from which these exceptions result, and applying them to the
particular instances before us, we are necessarily led to two
important conclusions. The first is, that the convention must have
enjoyed, in a very singular degree, an exemption from the
pestilential influence of party animosities the disease most
incident to deliberative bodies, and most apt to contaminate their
proceedings. The second conclusion is that all the deputations
composing the convention were satisfactorily accommodated by the
final act, or were induced to accede to it by a deep conviction of
the necessity of sacrificing private opinions and partial interests
to the public good, and by a despair of seeing this necessity
diminished by delays or by new experiments.


The Same Subject Continued, and the Incoherence of the Objections
to the New Plan Exposed

From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, January 15, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT IS not a little remarkable that in every case reported by
ancient history, in which government has been established with
deliberation and consent, the task of framing it has not been
committed to an assembly of men, but has been performed by some
individual citizen of preeminent wisdom and approved integrity.

Minos, we learn, was the primitive founder of the government of
Crete, as Zaleucus was of that of the Locrians. Theseus first, and
after him Draco and Solon, instituted the government of Athens.
Lycurgus was the lawgiver of Sparta. The foundation of the
original government of Rome was laid by Romulus, and the work
completed by two of his elective successors, Numa and Tullius
Hostilius. On the abolition of royalty the consular administration
was substituted by Brutus, who stepped forward with a project for
such a reform, which, he alleged, had been prepared by Tullius
Hostilius, and to which his address obtained the assent and
ratification of the senate and people. This remark is applicable to
confederate governments also. Amphictyon, we are told, was the
author of that which bore his name. The Achaean league received its
first birth from Achaeus, and its second from Aratus.

What degree of agency these reputed lawgivers might have in
their respective establishments, or how far they might be clothed
with the legitimate authority of the people, cannot in every
instance be ascertained. In some, however, the proceeding was
strictly regular. Draco appears to have been intrusted by the
people of Athens with indefinite powers to reform its government and
laws. And Solon, according to Plutarch, was in a manner compelled,
by the universal suffrage of his fellow-citizens, to take upon him
the sole and absolute power of new-modeling the constitution. The
proceedings under Lycurgus were less regular; but as far as the
advocates for a regular reform could prevail, they all turned their
eyes towards the single efforts of that celebrated patriot and sage,
instead of seeking to bring about a revolution by the intervention
of a deliberative body of citizens.

Whence could it have proceeded, that a people, jealous as the
Greeks were of their liberty, should so far abandon the rules of
caution as to place their destiny in the hands of a single citizen?
Whence could it have proceeded, that the Athenians, a people who
would not suffer an army to be commanded by fewer than ten generals,
and who required no other proof of danger to their liberties than
the illustrious merit of a fellow-citizen, should consider one
illustrious citizen as a more eligible depositary of the fortunes of
themselves and their posterity, than a select body of citizens, from
whose common deliberations more wisdom, as well as more safety,
might have been expected? These questions cannot be fully answered,
without supposing that the fears of discord and disunion among a
number of counsellors exceeded the apprehension of treachery or
incapacity in a single individual. History informs us, likewise, of
the difficulties with which these celebrated reformers had to
contend, as well as the expedients which they were obliged to employ
in order to carry their reforms into effect. Solon, who seems to
have indulged a more temporizing policy, confessed that he had not
given to his countrymen the government best suited to their
happiness, but most tolerable to their prejudices. And Lycurgus,
more true to his object, was under the necessity of mixing a portion
of violence with the authority of superstition, and of securing his
final success by a voluntary renunciation, first of his country, and
then of his life. If these lessons teach us, on one hand, to admire
the improvement made by America on the ancient mode of preparing and
establishing regular plans of government, they serve not less, on
the other, to admonish us of the hazards and difficulties incident
to such experiments, and of the great imprudence of unnecessarily
multiplying them.

Is it an unreasonable conjecture, that the errors which may be
contained in the plan of the convention are such as have resulted
rather from the defect of antecedent experience on this complicated
and difficult subject, than from a want of accuracy or care in the
investigation of it; and, consequently such as will not be
ascertained until an actual trial shall have pointed them out? This
conjecture is rendered probable, not only by many considerations of
a general nature, but by the particular case of the Articles of
Confederation. It is observable that among the numerous objections
and amendments suggested by the several States, when these articles
were submitted for their ratification, not one is found which
alludes to the great and radical error which on actual trial has
discovered itself. And if we except the observations which New
Jersey was led to make, rather by her local situation, than by her
peculiar foresight, it may be questioned whether a single suggestion
was of sufficient moment to justify a revision of the system. There
is abundant reason, nevertheless, to suppose that immaterial as
these objections were, they would have been adhered to with a very
dangerous inflexibility, in some States, had not a zeal for their
opinions and supposed interests been stifled by the more powerful
sentiment of selfpreservation. One State, we may remember,
persisted for several years in refusing her concurrence, although
the enemy remained the whole period at our gates, or rather in the
very bowels of our country. Nor was her pliancy in the end effected
by a less motive, than the fear of being chargeable with protracting
the public calamities, and endangering the event of the contest.
Every candid reader will make the proper reflections on these
important facts.

A patient who finds his disorder daily growing worse, and that
an efficacious remedy can no longer be delayed without extreme
danger, after coolly revolving his situation, and the characters of
different physicians, selects and calls in such of them as he judges
most capable of administering relief, and best entitled to his
confidence. The physicians attend; the case of the patient is
carefully examined; a consultation is held; they are unanimously
agreed that the symptoms are critical, but that the case, with
proper and timely relief, is so far from being desperate, that it
may be made to issue in an improvement of his constitution. They
are equally unanimous in prescribing the remedy, by which this happy
effect is to be produced. The prescription is no sooner made known,
however, than a number of persons interpose, and, without denying
the reality or danger of the disorder, assure the patient that the
prescription will be poison to his constitution, and forbid him,
under pain of certain death, to make use of it. Might not the
patient reasonably demand, before he ventured to follow this advice,
that the authors of it should at least agree among themselves on
some other remedy to be substituted? And if he found them differing
as much from one another as from his first counsellors, would he not
act prudently in trying the experiment unanimously recommended by
the latter, rather than be hearkening to those who could neither
deny the necessity of a speedy remedy, nor agree in proposing one?

Such a patient and in such a situation is America at this moment.
She has been sensible of her malady. She has obtained a regular
and unanimous advice from men of her own deliberate choice. And she
is warned by others against following this advice under pain of the
most fatal consequences. Do the monitors deny the reality of her
danger? No. Do they deny the necessity of some speedy and powerful
remedy? No. Are they agreed, are any two of them agreed, in their
objections to the remedy proposed, or in the proper one to be
substituted? Let them speak for themselves. This one tells us that
the proposed Constitution ought to be rejected, because it is not a
confederation of the States, but a government over individuals.
Another admits that it ought to be a government over individuals to
a certain extent, but by no means to the extent proposed. A third
does not object to the government over individuals, or to the extent
proposed, but to the want of a bill of rights. A fourth concurs in
the absolute necessity of a bill of rights, but contends that it
ought to be declaratory, not of the personal rights of individuals,
but of the rights reserved to the States in their political capacity.
A fifth is of opinion that a bill of rights of any sort would be
superfluous and misplaced, and that the plan would be
unexceptionable but for the fatal power of regulating the times and
places of election. An objector in a large State exclaims loudly
against the unreasonable equality of representation in the Senate.
An objector in a small State is equally loud against the dangerous
inequality in the House of Representatives. From this quarter, we
are alarmed with the amazing expense, from the number of persons who
are to administer the new government. From another quarter, and
sometimes from the same quarter, on another occasion, the cry is
that the Congress will be but a shadow of a representation, and that
the government would be far less objectionable if the number and the
expense were doubled. A patriot in a State that does not import or
export, discerns insuperable objections against the power of direct
taxation. The patriotic adversary in a State of great exports and
imports, is not less dissatisfied that the whole burden of taxes may
be thrown on consumption. This politician discovers in the
Constitution a direct and irresistible tendency to monarchy; that
is equally sure it will end in aristocracy. Another is puzzled to
say which of these shapes it will ultimately assume, but sees
clearly it must be one or other of them; whilst a fourth is not
wanting, who with no less confidence affirms that the Constitution
is so far from having a bias towards either of these dangers, that
the weight on that side will not be sufficient to keep it upright
and firm against its opposite propensities. With another class of
adversaries to the Constitution the language is that the
legislative, executive, and judiciary departments are intermixed in
such a manner as to contradict all the ideas of regular government
and all the requisite precautions in favor of liberty. Whilst this
objection circulates in vague and general expressions, there are but
a few who lend their sanction to it. Let each one come forward with
his particular explanation, and scarce any two are exactly agreed
upon the subject. In the eyes of one the junction of the Senate
with the President in the responsible function of appointing to
offices, instead of vesting this executive power in the Executive
alone, is the vicious part of the organization. To another, the
exclusion of the House of Representatives, whose numbers alone could
be a due security against corruption and partiality in the exercise
of such a power, is equally obnoxious. With another, the admission
of the President into any share of a power which ever must be a
dangerous engine in the hands of the executive magistrate, is an
unpardonable violation of the maxims of republican jealousy. No
part of the arrangement, according to some, is more inadmissible
than the trial of impeachments by the Senate, which is alternately a
member both of the legislative and executive departments, when this
power so evidently belonged to the judiciary department. “We
concur fully,” reply others, “in the objection to this part of the
plan, but we can never agree that a reference of impeachments to the
judiciary authority would be an amendment of the error. Our
principal dislike to the organization arises from the extensive
powers already lodged in that department.” Even among the zealous
patrons of a council of state the most irreconcilable variance is
discovered concerning the mode in which it ought to be constituted.
The demand of one gentleman is, that the council should consist of
a small number to be appointed by the most numerous branch of the
legislature. Another would prefer a larger number, and considers it
as a fundamental condition that the appointment should be made by
the President himself.

As it can give no umbrage to the writers against the plan of the
federal Constitution, let us suppose, that as they are the most
zealous, so they are also the most sagacious, of those who think the
late convention were unequal to the task assigned them, and that a
wiser and better plan might and ought to be substituted. Let us
further suppose that their country should concur, both in this
favorable opinion of their merits, and in their unfavorable opinion
of the convention; and should accordingly proceed to form them into
a second convention, with full powers, and for the express purpose
of revising and remoulding the work of the first. Were the
experiment to be seriously made, though it required some effort to
view it seriously even in fiction, I leave it to be decided by the
sample of opinions just exhibited, whether, with all their enmity to
their predecessors, they would, in any one point, depart so widely
from their example, as in the discord and ferment that would mark
their own deliberations; and whether the Constitution, now before
the public, would not stand as fair a chance for immortality, as
Lycurgus gave to that of Sparta, by making its change to depend on
his own return from exile and death, if it were to be immediately
adopted, and were to continue in force, not until a BETTER, but
until ANOTHER should be agreed upon by this new assembly of

It is a matter both of wonder and regret, that those who raise
so many objections against the new Constitution should never call to
mind the defects of that which is to be exchanged for it. It is not
necessary that the former should be perfect; it is sufficient that
the latter is more imperfect. No man would refuse to give brass for
silver or gold, because the latter had some alloy in it. No man
would refuse to quit a shattered and tottering habitation for a firm
and commodious building, because the latter had not a porch to it,
or because some of the rooms might be a little larger or smaller, or
the ceilings a little higher or lower than his fancy would have
planned them. But waiving illustrations of this sort, is it not
manifest that most of the capital objections urged against the new
system lie with tenfold weight against the existing Confederation?
Is an indefinite power to raise money dangerous in the hands of the
federal government? The present Congress can make requisitions to
any amount they please, and the States are constitutionally bound to
furnish them; they can emit bills of credit as long as they will
pay for the paper; they can borrow, both abroad and at home, as
long as a shilling will be lent. Is an indefinite power to raise
troops dangerous? The Confederation gives to Congress that power
also; and they have already begun to make use of it. Is it
improper and unsafe to intermix the different powers of government
in the same body of men? Congress, a single body of men, are the
sole depositary of all the federal powers. Is it particularly
dangerous to give the keys of the treasury, and the command of the
army, into the same hands? The Confederation places them both in
the hands of Congress. Is a bill of rights essential to liberty?
The Confederation has no bill of rights. Is it an objection
against the new Constitution, that it empowers the Senate, with the
concurrence of the Executive, to make treaties which are to be the
laws of the land? The existing Congress, without any such control,
can make treaties which they themselves have declared, and most of
the States have recognized, to be the supreme law of the land. Is
the importation of slaves permitted by the new Constitution for
twenty years? By the old it is permitted forever.

I shall be told, that however dangerous this mixture of powers
may be in theory, it is rendered harmless by the dependence of
Congress on the State for the means of carrying them into practice;
that however large the mass of powers may be, it is in fact a
lifeless mass. Then, say I, in the first place, that the
Confederation is chargeable with the still greater folly of
declaring certain powers in the federal government to be absolutely
necessary, and at the same time rendering them absolutely nugatory;
and, in the next place, that if the Union is to continue, and no
better government be substituted, effective powers must either be
granted to, or assumed by, the existing Congress; in either of
which events, the contrast just stated will hold good. But this is
not all. Out of this lifeless mass has already grown an excrescent
power, which tends to realize all the dangers that can be
apprehended from a defective construction of the supreme government
of the Union. It is now no longer a point of speculation and hope,
that the Western territory is a mine of vast wealth to the United
States; and although it is not of such a nature as to extricate
them from their present distresses, or for some time to come, to
yield any regular supplies for the public expenses, yet must it
hereafter be able, under proper management, both to effect a gradual
discharge of the domestic debt, and to furnish, for a certain
period, liberal tributes to the federal treasury. A very large
proportion of this fund has been already surrendered by individual
States; and it may with reason be expected that the remaining
States will not persist in withholding similar proofs of their
equity and generosity. We may calculate, therefore, that a rich and
fertile country, of an area equal to the inhabited extent of the
United States, will soon become a national stock. Congress have
assumed the administration of this stock. They have begun to render
it productive. Congress have undertaken to do more: they have
proceeded to form new States, to erect temporary governments, to
appoint officers for them, and to prescribe the conditions on which
such States shall be admitted into the Confederacy. All this has
been done; and done without the least color of constitutional
authority. Yet no blame has been whispered; no alarm has been
sounded. A GREAT and INDEPENDENT fund of revenue is passing into
the hands of a SINGLE BODY of men, who can RAISE TROOPS to an
INDEFINITE NUMBER, and appropriate money to their support for an
INDEFINITE PERIOD OF TIME. And yet there are men, who have not only
been silent spectators of this prospect, but who are advocates for
the system which exhibits it; and, at the same time, urge against
the new system the objections which we have heard. Would they not
act with more consistency, in urging the establishment of the
latter, as no less necessary to guard the Union against the future
powers and resources of a body constructed like the existing
Congress, than to save it from the dangers threatened by the present
impotency of that Assembly?

I mean not, by any thing here said, to throw censure on the
measures which have been pursued by Congress. I am sensible they
could not have done otherwise. The public interest, the necessity
of the case, imposed upon them the task of overleaping their
constitutional limits. But is not the fact an alarming proof of the
danger resulting from a government which does not possess regular
powers commensurate to its objects? A dissolution or usurpation is
the dreadful dilemma to which it is continually exposed.



The Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE last paper having concluded the observations which were
meant to introduce a candid survey of the plan of government
reported by the convention, we now proceed to the execution of that
part of our undertaking.

The first question that offers itself is, whether the general
form and aspect of the government be strictly republican. It is
evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of
the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the
Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates
every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on
the capacity of mankind for self-government. If the plan of the
convention, therefore, be found to depart from the republican
character, its advocates must abandon it as no longer defensible.

What, then, are the distinctive characters of the republican
form? Were an answer to this question to be sought, not by
recurring to principles, but in the application of the term by
political writers, to the constitution of different States, no
satisfactory one would ever be found. Holland, in which no particle
of the supreme authority is derived from the people, has passed
almost universally under the denomination of a republic. The same
title has been bestowed on Venice, where absolute power over the
great body of the people is exercised, in the most absolute manner,
by a small body of hereditary nobles. Poland, which is a mixture of
aristocracy and of monarchy in their worst forms, has been dignified
with the same appellation. The government of England, which has one
republican branch only, combined with an hereditary aristocracy and
monarchy, has, with equal impropriety, been frequently placed on the
list of republics. These examples, which are nearly as dissimilar
to each other as to a genuine republic, show the extreme inaccuracy
with which the term has been used in political disquisitions.

If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on
which different forms of government are established, we may define a
republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government
which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great
body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their
offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good
behavior. It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived
from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable
proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of
tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of
their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for
their government the honorable title of republic. It is SUFFICIENT
for such a government that the persons administering it be
appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that
they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just
specified; otherwise every government in the United States, as well
as every other popular government that has been or can be well
organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican
character. According to the constitution of every State in the
Union, some or other of the officers of government are appointed
indirectly only by the people. According to most of them, the chief
magistrate himself is so appointed. And according to one, this mode
of appointment is extended to one of the co-ordinate branches of the
legislature. According to all the constitutions, also, the tenure
of the highest offices is extended to a definite period, and in many
instances, both within the legislative and executive departments, to
a period of years. According to the provisions of most of the
constitutions, again, as well as according to the most respectable
and received opinions on the subject, the members of the judiciary
department are to retain their offices by the firm tenure of good

On comparing the Constitution planned by the convention with the
standard here fixed, we perceive at once that it is, in the most
rigid sense, conformable to it. The House of Representatives, like
that of one branch at least of all the State legislatures, is
elected immediately by the great body of the people. The Senate,
like the present Congress, and the Senate of Maryland, derives its
appointment indirectly from the people. The President is indirectly
derived from the choice of the people, according to the example in
most of the States. Even the judges, with all other officers of the
Union, will, as in the several States, be the choice, though a
remote choice, of the people themselves, the duration of the
appointments is equally conformable to the republican standard, and
to the model of State constitutions The House of Representatives is
periodically elective, as in all the States; and for the period of
two years, as in the State of South Carolina. The Senate is
elective, for the period of six years; which is but one year more
than the period of the Senate of Maryland, and but two more than
that of the Senates of New York and Virginia. The President is to
continue in office for the period of four years; as in New York and
Delaware, the chief magistrate is elected for three years, and in
South Carolina for two years. In the other States the election is
annual. In several of the States, however, no constitutional
provision is made for the impeachment of the chief magistrate. And
in Delaware and Virginia he is not impeachable till out of office.
The President of the United States is impeachable at any time
during his continuance in office. The tenure by which the judges
are to hold their places, is, as it unquestionably ought to be, that
of good behavior. The tenure of the ministerial offices generally,
will be a subject of legal regulation, conformably to the reason of
the case and the example of the State constitutions.

Could any further proof be required of the republican complexion
of this system, the most decisive one might be found in its absolute
prohibition of titles of nobility, both under the federal and the
State governments; and in its express guaranty of the republican
form to each of the latter.

“But it was not sufficient,” say the adversaries of the
proposed Constitution, “for the convention to adhere to the
republican form. They ought, with equal care, to have preserved the
FEDERAL form, which regards the Union as a CONFEDERACY of sovereign
states; instead of which, they have framed a NATIONAL government,
which regards the Union as a CONSOLIDATION of the States.” And it
is asked by what authority this bold and radical innovation was
undertaken? The handle which has been made of this objection
requires that it should be examined with some precision.

Without inquiring into the accuracy of the distinction on which
the objection is founded, it will be necessary to a just estimate of
its force, first, to ascertain the real character of the government
in question; secondly, to inquire how far the convention were
authorized to propose such a government; and thirdly, how far the
duty they owed to their country could supply any defect of regular

First. In order to ascertain the real character of the
government, it may be considered in relation to the foundation on
which it is to be established; to the sources from which its
ordinary powers are to be drawn; to the operation of those powers;
to the extent of them; and to the authority by which future
changes in the government are to be introduced.

On examining the first relation, it appears, on one hand, that
the Constitution is to be founded on the assent and ratification of
the people of America, given by deputies elected for the special
purpose; but, on the other, that this assent and ratification is to
be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire
nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to
which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent and
ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme
authority in each State, the authority of the people themselves.
The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a

That it will be a federal and not a national act, as these terms
are understood by the objectors; the act of the people, as forming
so many independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation, is
obvious from this single consideration, that it is to result neither
from the decision of a MAJORITY of the people of the Union, nor from
that of a MAJORITY of the States. It must result from the UNANIMOUS
assent of the several States that are parties to it, differing no
otherwise from their ordinary assent than in its being expressed,
not by the legislative authority, but by that of the people
themselves. Were the people regarded in this transaction as forming
one nation, the will of the majority of the whole people of the
United States would bind the minority, in the same manner as the
majority in each State must bind the minority; and the will of the
majority must be determined either by a comparison of the individual
votes, or by considering the will of the majority of the States as
evidence of the will of a majority of the people of the United
States. Neither of these rules have been adopted. Each State, in
ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body,
independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary
act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if
established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.

The next relation is, to the sources from which the ordinary
powers of government are to be derived. The House of
Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America;
and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on
the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular
State. So far the government is NATIONAL, not FEDERAL. The Senate,
on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as
political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on
the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the
existing Congress. So far the government is FEDERAL, not NATIONAL.
The executive power will be derived from a very compound source.
The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States
in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a
compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal
societies, partly as unequal members of the same society. The
eventual election, again, is to be made by that branch of the
legislature which consists of the national representatives; but in
this particular act they are to be thrown into the form of
individual delegations, from so many distinct and coequal bodies
politic. From this aspect of the government it appears to be of a
mixed character, presenting at least as many FEDERAL as NATIONAL

The difference between a federal and national government, as it
relates to the OPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT, is supposed to consist
in this, that in the former the powers operate on the political
bodies composing the Confederacy, in their political capacities; in
the latter, on the individual citizens composing the nation, in
their individual capacities. On trying the Constitution by this
criterion, it falls under the NATIONAL, not the FEDERAL character;
though perhaps not so completely as has been understood. In
several cases, and particularly in the trial of controversies to
which States may be parties, they must be viewed and proceeded
against in their collective and political capacities only. So far
the national countenance of the government on this side seems to be
disfigured by a few federal features. But this blemish is perhaps
unavoidable in any plan; and the operation of the government on the
people, in their individual capacities, in its ordinary and most
essential proceedings, may, on the whole, designate it, in this
relation, a NATIONAL government.

But if the government be national with regard to the OPERATION
of its powers, it changes its aspect again when we contemplate it in
relation to the EXTENT of its powers. The idea of a national
government involves in it, not only an authority over the individual
citizens, but an indefinite supremacy over all persons and things,
so far as they are objects of lawful government. Among a people
consolidated into one nation, this supremacy is completely vested in
the national legislature. Among communities united for particular
purposes, it is vested partly in the general and partly in the
municipal legislatures. In the former case, all local authorities
are subordinate to the supreme; and may be controlled, directed, or
abolished by it at pleasure. In the latter, the local or municipal
authorities form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy,
no more subject, within their respective spheres, to the general
authority, than the general authority is subject to them, within its
own sphere. In this relation, then, the proposed government cannot
be deemed a NATIONAL one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain
enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a
residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects. It is
true that in controversies relating to the boundary between the two
jurisdictions, the tribunal which is ultimately to decide, is to be
established under the general government. But this does not change
the principle of the case. The decision is to be impartially made,
according to the rules of the Constitution; and all the usual and
most effectual precautions are taken to secure this impartiality.
Some such tribunal is clearly essential to prevent an appeal to the
sword and a dissolution of the compact; and that it ought to be
established under the general rather than under the local
governments, or, to speak more properly, that it could be safely
established under the first alone, is a position not likely to be

If we try the Constitution by its last relation to the authority
by which amendments are to be made, we find it neither wholly
NATIONAL nor wholly FEDERAL. Were it wholly national, the supreme
and ultimate authority would reside in the MAJORITY of the people of
the Union; and this authority would be competent at all times, like
that of a majority of every national society, to alter or abolish
its established government. Were it wholly federal, on the other
hand, the concurrence of each State in the Union would be essential
to every alteration that would be binding on all. The mode provided
by the plan of the convention is not founded on either of these
principles. In requiring more than a majority, and principles. In
requiring more than a majority, and particularly in computing the
proportion by STATES, not by CITIZENS, it departs from the NATIONAL
and advances towards the FEDERAL character; in rendering the
concurrence of less than the whole number of States sufficient, it
loses again the FEDERAL and partakes of the NATIONAL character.

The proposed Constitution, therefore, is, in strictness, neither
a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both.
In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from
which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly
federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it
is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is
federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of
introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly



The Powers of the Convention to Form a Mixed Government Examined

and Sustained

From the New York Packet.

Friday, January 18, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE SECOND point to be examined is, whether the convention were

authorized to frame and propose this mixed Constitution. The

powers of the convention ought, in strictness, to be determined

by an inspection of the commissions given to the members by their

respective constituents. As all of these, however, had reference,

either to the recommendation from the meeting at Annapolis, in

September, 1786, or to that from Congress, in February, 1787, it

will be sufficient to recur to these particular acts. The act

from Annapolis recommends the “appointment of commissioners to

take into consideration the situation of the United States; to

devise SUCH FURTHER PROVISIONS as shall appear to them necessary

to render the Constitution of the federal government ADEQUATE TO

THE EXIGENCIES OF THE UNION; and to report such an act for that

purpose, to the United States in Congress assembled, as when

agreed to by them, and afterwards confirmed by the legislature of

every State, will effectually provide for the same. “The

recommendatory act of Congress is in the words

following:”WHEREAS, There is provision in the articles of

Confederation and perpetual Union, for making alterations

therein, by the assent of a Congress of the United States, and of

the legislatures of the several States; and whereas experience

hath evinced, that there are defects in the present

Confederation; as a mean to remedy which, several of the States,

and PARTICULARLY THE STATE OF NEW YORK, by express instructions

to their delegates in Congress, have suggested a convention for

the purposes expressed in the following resolution; and such

convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing

in these States A FIRM NATIONAL GOVERNMENT:”Resolved, That in

the opinion of Congress it is expedient, that on the second

Monday of May next a convention of delegates, who shall have been

appointed by the several States, be held at Philadelphia, for the

sole and express purpose OF REVISING THE ARTICLES OF

CONFEDERATION, and reporting to Congress and the several

legislatures such ALTERATIONS AND PROVISIONS THEREIN, as shall,

when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the States, render


AND THE PRESERVATION OF THE UNION. “From these two acts, it

appears, 1st, that the object of the convention was to establish,

in these States, A FIRM NATIONAL GOVERNMENT; 2d, that this

government was to be such as would be ADEQUATE TO THE EXIGENCIES


purposes were to be effected by ALTERATIONS AND PROVISIONS IN THE

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, as it is expressed in the act of


NECESSARY, as it stands in the recommendatory act from Annapolis;

4th, that the alterations and provisions were to be reported to

Congress, and to the States, in order to be agreed to by the

former and confirmed by the latter. From a comparison and fair

construction of these several modes of expression, is to be

deduced the authority under which the convention acted. They were

to frame a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, adequate to the EXIGENCIES OF

GOVERNMENT, and OF THE UNION; and to reduce the articles of

Confederation into such form as to accomplish these purposes.

There are two rules of construction, dictated by plain reason, as

well as founded on legal axioms. The one is, that every part of

the expression ought, if possible, to be allowed some meaning,

and be made to conspire to some common end. The other is, that

where the several parts cannot be made to coincide, the less

important should give way to the more important part; the means

should be sacrificed to the end, rather than the end to the

means. Suppose, then, that the expressions defining the

authority of the convention were irreconcilably at variance with

each other; that a NATIONAL and ADEQUATE GOVERNMENT could not

possibly, in the judgment of the convention, be affected by


which part of the definition ought to have been embraced, and

which rejected? Which was the more important, which the less

important part? Which the end; which the means? Let the most

scrupulous expositors of delegated powers; let the most

inveterate objectors against those exercised by the convention,

answer these questions. Let them declare, whether it was of most

importance to the happiness of the people of America, that the

articles of Confederation should be disregarded, and an adequate

government be provided, and the Union preserved; or that an

adequate government should be omitted, and the articles of

Confederation preserved. Let them declare, whether the

preservation of these articles was the end, for securing which a

reform of the government was to be introduced as the means; or

whether the establishment of a government, adequate to the

national happiness, was the end at which these articles

themselves originally aimed, and to which they ought, as

insufficient means, to have been sacrificed. But is it necessary

to suppose that these expressions are absolutely irreconcilable

to each other; that no ALTERATIONS or PROVISIONS in THE ARTICLES

OF THE CONFEDERATION could possibly mould them into a national

and adequate government; into such a government as has been

proposed by the convention? No stress, it is presumed, will, in

this case, be laid on the TITLE; a change of that could never be

deemed an exercise of ungranted power. ALTERATIONS in the body of

the instrument are expressly authorized. NEW PROVISIONS therein

are also expressly authorized. Here then is a power to change the

title; to insert new articles; to alter old ones. Must it of

necessity be admitted that this power is infringed, so long as a

part of the old articles remain? Those who maintain the

affirmative ought at least to mark the boundary between

authorized and usurped innovations; between that degree of change

which lies within the compass of ALTERATIONS AND FURTHER

PROVISIONS, and that which amounts to a TRANSMUTATION of the

government. Will it be said that the alterations ought not to

have touched the substance of the Confederation? The States

would never have appointed a convention with so much solemnity,

nor described its objects with so much latitude, if some

SUBSTANTIAL reform had not been in contemplation. Will it be said

that the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES of the Confederation were not

within the purview of the convention, and ought not to have been

varied? I ask, What are these principles? Do they require that,

in the establishment of the Constitution, the States should be

regarded as distinct and independent sovereigns? They are so

regarded by the Constitution proposed. Do they require that the

members of the government should derive their appointment from

the legislatures, not from the people of the States? One branch

of the new government is to be appointed by these legislatures;

and under the Confederation, the delegates to Congress MAY ALL

be appointed immediately by the people, and in two States1 are

actually so appointed. Do they require that the powers of the

government should act on the States, and not immediately on

individuals? In some instances, as has been shown, the powers of

the new government will act on the States in their collective

characters. In some instances, also, those of the existing

government act immediately on individuals. In cases of capture;

of piracy; of the post office; of coins, weights, and measures;

of trade with the Indians; of claims under grants of land by

different States; and, above all, in the case of trials by

courts-marshal in the army and navy, by which death may be

inflicted without the intervention of a jury, or even of a civil

magistrate; in all these cases the powers of the Confederation

operate immediately on the persons and interests of individual

citizens. Do these fundamental principles require, particularly,

that no tax should be levied without the intermediate agency of

the States? The Confederation itself authorizes a direct tax, to

a certain extent, on the post office. The power of coinage has

been so construed by Congress as to levy a tribute immediately

from that source also. But pretermitting these instances, was it

not an acknowledged object of the convention and the universal

expectation of the people, that the regulation of trade should be

submitted to the general government in such a form as would

render it an immediate source of general revenue? Had not

Congress repeatedly recommended this measure as not inconsistent

with the fundamental principles of the Confederation? Had not

every State but one; had not New York herself, so far complied

with the plan of Congress as to recognize the PRINCIPLE of the

innovation? Do these principles, in fine, require that the

powers of the general government should be limited, and that,

beyond this limit, the States should be left in possession of

their sovereignty and independence? We have seen that in the new

government, as in the old, the general powers are limited; and

that the States, in all unenumerated cases, are left in the

enjoyment of their sovereign and independent jurisdiction. The

truth is, that the great principles of the Constitution proposed

by the convention may be considered less as absolutely new, than

as the expansion of principles which are found in the articles of

Confederation. The misfortune under the latter system has been,

that these principles are so feeble and confined as to justify

all the charges of inefficiency which have been urged against it,

and to require a degree of enlargement which gives to the new

system the aspect of an entire transformation of the old. In one

particular it is admitted that the convention have departed from

the tenor of their commission. Instead of reporting a plan

requiring the confirmation OF THE LEGISLATURES OF ALL THE STATES,

they have reported a plan which is to be confirmed by the PEOPLE,

and may be carried into effect by NINE STATES ONLY. It is worthy

of remark that this objection, though the most plausible, has

been the least urged in the publications which have swarmed

against the convention. The forbearance can only have proceeded

from an irresistible conviction of the absurdity of subjecting

the fate of twelve States to the perverseness or corruption of a

thirteenth; from the example of inflexible opposition given by a

MAJORITY of one sixtieth of the people of America to a measure

approved and called for by the voice of twelve States, comprising

fifty-nine sixtieths of the people an example still fresh in the

memory and indignation of every citizen who has felt for the

wounded honor and prosperity of his country. As this objection,

therefore, has been in a manner waived by those who have

criticised the powers of the convention, I dismiss it without

further observation. The THIRD point to be inquired into is, how

far considerations of duty arising out of the case itself could

have supplied any defect of regular authority. In the preceding

inquiries the powers of the convention have been analyzed and

tried with the same rigor, and by the same rules, as if they had

been real and final powers for the establishment of a

Constitution for the United States. We have seen in what manner

they have borne the trial even on that supposition. It is time

now to recollect that the powers were merely advisory and

recommendatory; that they were so meant by the States, and so

understood by the convention; and that the latter have

accordingly planned and proposed a Constitution which is to be of

no more consequence than the paper on which it is written, unless

it be stamped with the approbation of those to whom it is

addressed. This reflection places the subject in a point of view

altogether different, and will enable us to judge with propriety

of the course taken by the convention. Let us view the ground on

which the convention stood. It may be collected from their

proceedings, that they were deeply and unanimously impressed with

the crisis, which had led their country almost with one voice to

make so singular and solemn an experiment for correcting the

errors of a system by which this crisis had been produced; that

they were no less deeply and unanimously convinced that such a

reform as they have proposed was absolutely necessary to effect

the purposes of their appointment. It could not be unknown to

them that the hopes and expectations of the great body of

citizens, throughout this great empire, were turned with the

keenest anxiety to the event of their deliberations. They had

every reason to believe that the contrary sentiments agitated the

minds and bosoms of every external and internal foe to the

liberty and prosperity of the United States. They had seen in the

origin and progress of the experiment, the alacrity with which

the PROPOSITION, made by a single State (Virginia), towards a

partial amendment of the Confederation, had been attended to and

promoted. They had seen the LIBERTY ASSUMED by a VERY FEW

deputies from a VERY FEW States, convened at Annapolis, of

recommending a great and critical object, wholly foreign to their

commission, not only justified by the public opinion, but

actually carried into effect by twelve out of the thirteen

States. They had seen, in a variety of instances, assumptions by

Congress, not only of recommendatory, but of operative, powers,

warranted, in the public estimation, by occasions and objects

infinitely less urgent than those by which their conduct was to

be governed. They must have reflected, that in all great changes

of established governments, forms ought to give way to substance;

that a rigid adherence in such cases to the former, would render

nominal and nugatory the transcendent and precious right of the

people to “abolish or alter their governments as to them shall

seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness,”2 since

it is impossible for the people spontaneously and universally to

move in concert towards their object; and it is therefore

essential that such changes be instituted by some INFORMAL AND

UNAUTHORIZED PROPOSITIONS, made by some patriotic and respectable

citizen or number of citizens. They must have recollected that it

was by this irregular and assumed privilege of proposing to the

people plans for their safety and happiness, that the States

were first united against the danger with which they were

threatened by their ancient government; that committees and

congresses were formed for concentrating their efforts and

defending their rights; and that CONVENTIONS were ELECTED in THE

SEVERAL STATES for establishing the constitutions under which

they are now governed; nor could it have been forgotten that no

little ill-timed scruples, no zeal for adhering to ordinary

forms, were anywhere seen, except in those who wished to indulge,

under these masks, their secret enmity to the substance contended

for. They must have borne in mind, that as the plan to be framed

and proposed was to be submitted TO THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES, the

disapprobation of this supreme authority would destroy it

forever; its approbation blot out antecedent errors and

irregularities. It might even have occurred to them, that where a

disposition to cavil prevailed, their neglect to execute the

degree of power vested in them, and still more their

recommendation of any measure whatever, not warranted by their

commission, would not less excite animadversion, than a

recommendation at once of a measure fully commensurate to the

national exigencies. Had the convention, under all these

impressions, and in the midst of all these considerations,

instead of exercising a manly confidence in their country, by

whose confidence they had been so peculiarly distinguished, and

of pointing out a system capable, in their judgment, of securing

its happiness, taken the cold and sullen resolution of

disappointing its ardent hopes, of sacrificing substance to

forms, of committing the dearest interests of their country to

the uncertainties of delay and the hazard of events, let me ask

the man who can raise his mind to one elevated conception, who

can awaken in his bosom one patriotic emotion, what judgment

ought to have been pronounced by the impartial world, by the

friends of mankind, by every virtuous citizen, on the conduct and

character of this assembly? Or if there be a man whose

propensity to condemn is susceptible of no control, let me then

ask what sentence he has in reserve for the twelve States who

USURPED THE POWER of sending deputies to the convention, a body

utterly unknown to their constitutions; for Congress, who

recommended the appointment of this body, equally unknown to the

Confederation; and for the State of New York, in particular,

which first urged and then complied with this unauthorized

interposition? But that the objectors may be disarmed of every

pretext, it shall be granted for a moment that the convention

were neither authorized by their commission, nor justified by

circumstances in proposing a Constitution for their country: does

it follow that the Constitution ought, for that reason alone, to

be rejected? If, according to the noble precept, it be lawful to

accept good advice even from an enemy, shall we set the ignoble

example of refusing such advice even when it is offered by our

friends? The prudent inquiry, in all cases, ought surely to be,

not so much FROM WHOM the advice comes, as whether the advice be

GOOD. The sum of what has been here advanced and proved is, that

the charge against the convention of exceeding their powers,

except in one instance little urged by the objectors, has no

foundation to support it; that if they had exceeded their powers,

they were not only warranted, but required, as the confidential

servants of their country, by the circumstances in which they

were placed, to exercise the liberty which they assume; and that

finally, if they had violated both their powers and their

obligations, in proposing a Constitution, this ought nevertheless

to be embraced, if it be calculated to accomplish the views and

happiness of the people of America. How far this character is due

to the Constitution, is the subject under investigation. PUBLIUS.

Connecticut and Rhode Island. Declaration of Independence.


General View of the Powers Conferred by The Constitution

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE Constitution proposed by the convention may be considered

under two general points of view. The FIRST relates to the sum or

quantity of power which it vests in the government, including

the restraints imposed on the States. The SECOND, to the

particular structure of the government, and the distribution of

this power among its several branches. Under the FIRST view of

the subject, two important questions arise: 1. Whether any part

of the powers transferred to the general government be

unnecessary or improper? 2. Whether the entire mass of them be

dangerous to the portion of jurisdiction left in the several

States? Is the aggregate power of the general government greater

than ought to have been vested in it? This is the FIRST

question. It cannot have escaped those who have attended with

candor to the arguments employed against the extensive powers of

the government, that the authors of them have very little

considered how far these powers were necessary means of attaining

a necessary end. They have chosen rather to dwell on the

inconveniences which must be unavoidably blended with all

political advantages; and on the possible abuses which must be

incident to every power or trust, of which a beneficial use can

be made. This method of handling the subject cannot impose on the

good sense of the people of America. It may display the subtlety

of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and

declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and

may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking: but cool and

candid people will at once reflect, that the purest of human

blessings must have a portion of alloy in them; that the choice

must always be made, if not of the lesser evil, at least of the

GREATER, not the PERFECT, good; and that in every political

institution, a power to advance the public happiness involves a

discretion which may be misapplied and abused. They will see,

therefore, that in all cases where power is to be conferred, the

point first to be decided is, whether such a power be necessary

to the public good; as the next will be, in case of an

affirmative decision, to guard as effectually as possible

against a perversion of the power to the public detriment. That

we may form a correct judgment on this subject, it will be proper

to review the several powers conferred on the government of the

Union; and that this may be the more conveniently done they may

be reduced into different classes as they relate to the following

different objects: 1. Security against foreign danger; 2.

Regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations; 3.

Maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States;

4. Certain miscellaneous objects of general utility; 5.

Restraint of the States from certain injurious acts; 6.

Provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers. The

powers falling within the FIRST class are those of declaring war

and granting letters of marque; of providing armies and fleets;

of regulating and calling forth the militia; of levying and

borrowing money. Security against foreign danger is one of the

primitive objects of civil society. It is an avowed and essential

object of the American Union. The powers requisite for attaining

it must be effectually confided to the federal councils. Is the

power of declaring war necessary? No man will answer this

question in the negative. It would be superfluous, therefore, to

enter into a proof of the affirmative. The existing Confederation

establishes this power in the most ample form. Is the power of

raising armies and equipping fleets necessary? This is involved

in the foregoing power. It is involved in the power of

self-defense. But was it necessary to give an INDEFINITE POWER

of raising TROOPS, as well as providing fleets; and of

maintaining both in PEACE, as well as in war? The answer to these

questions has been too far anticipated in another place to admit

an extensive discussion of them in this place. The answer indeed

seems to be so obvious and conclusive as scarcely to justify such

a discussion in any place. With what color of propriety could the

force necessary for defense be limited by those who cannot limit

the force of offense? If a federal Constitution could chain the

ambition or set bounds to the exertions of all other nations,

then indeed might it prudently chain the discretion of its own

government, and set bounds to the exertions for its own safety.

How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely

prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the

preparations and establishments of every hostile nation? The

means of security can only be regulated by the means and the

danger of attack. They will, in fact, be ever determined by these

rules, and by no others. It is in vain to oppose constitutional

barriers to the impulse of self-preservation. It is worse than in

vain; because it plants in the Constitution itself necessary

usurpations of power, every precedent of which is a germ of

unnecessary and multiplied repetitions. If one nation maintains

constantly a disciplined army, ready for the service of ambition

or revenge, it obliges the most pacific nations who may be within

the reach of its enterprises to take corresponding precautions.

The fifteenth century was the unhappy epoch of military

establishments in the time of peace. They were introduced by

Charles VII. of France. All Europe has followed, or been forced

into, the example. Had the example not been followed by other

nations, all Europe must long ago have worn the chains of a

universal monarch. Were every nation except France now to disband

its peace establishments, the same event might follow. The

veteran legions of Rome were an overmatch for the undisciplined

valor of all other nations and rendered her the mistress of the

world. Not the less true is it, that the liberties of Rome

proved the final victim to her military triumphs; and that the

liberties of Europe, as far as they ever existed, have, with few

exceptions, been the price of her military establishments. A

standing force, therefore, is a dangerous, at the same time that

it may be a necessary, provision. On the smallest scale it has

its inconveniences. On an extensive scale its consequences may be

fatal. On any scale it is an object of laudable circumspection

and precaution. A wise nation will combine all these

considerations; and, whilst it does not rashly preclude itself

from any resource which may become essential to its safety, will

exert all its prudence in diminishing both the necessity and the

danger of resorting to one which may be inauspicious to its

liberties. The clearest marks of this prudence are stamped on

the proposed Constitution. The Union itself, which it cements and

secures, destroys every pretext for a military establishment

which could be dangerous. America united, with a handful of

troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding

posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a

hundred thousand veterans ready for combat. It was remarked, on a

former occasion, that the want of this pretext had saved the

liberties of one nation in Europe. Being rendered by her insular

situation and her maritime resources impregnable to the armies of

her neighbors, the rulers of Great Britain have never been able,

by real or artificial dangers, to cheat the public into an

extensive peace establishment. The distance of the United States

from the powerful nations of the world gives them the same happy

security. A dangerous establishment can never be necessary or

plausible, so long as they continue a united people. But let it

never, for a moment, be forgotten that they are indebted for this

advantage to the Union alone. The moment of its dissolution will

be the date of a new order of things. The fears of the weaker, or

the ambition of the stronger States, or Confederacies, will set

the same example in the New, as Charles VII. did in the Old

World. The example will be followed here from the same motives

which produced universal imitation there. Instead of deriving

from our situation the precious advantage which Great Britain has

derived from hers, the face of America will be but a copy of that

of the continent of Europe. It will present liberty everywhere

crushed between standing armies and perpetual taxes. The fortunes

of disunited America will be even more disastrous than those of

Europe. The sources of evil in the latter are confined to her own

limits. No superior powers of another quarter of the globe

intrigue among her rival nations, inflame their mutual

animosities, and render them the instruments of foreign ambition,

jealousy, and revenge. In America the miseries springing from her

internal jealousies, contentions, and wars, would form a part

only of her lot. A plentiful addition of evils would have their

source in that relation in which Europe stands to this quarter of

the earth, and which no other quarter of the earth bears to

Europe. This picture of the consequences of disunion cannot be

too highly colored, or too often exhibited. Every man who loves

peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves

liberty, ought to have it ever before his eyes, that he may

cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America,

and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.

Next to the effectual establishment of the Union, the best

possible precaution against danger from standing armies is a

limitation of the term for which revenue may be appropriated to

their support. This precaution the Constitution has prudently

added. I will not repeat here the observations which I flatter

myself have placed this subject in a just and satisfactory

light. But it may not be improper to take notice of an argument

against this part of the Constitution, which has been drawn from

the policy and practice of Great Britain. It is said that the

continuance of an army in that kingdom requires an annual vote of

the legislature; whereas the American Constitution has lengthened

this critical period to two years. This is the form in which the

comparison is usually stated to the public: but is it a just

form? Is it a fair comparison? Does the British Constitution

restrain the parliamentary discretion to one year? Does the

American impose on the Congress appropriations for two years? On

the contrary, it cannot be unknown to the authors of the fallacy

themselves, that the British Constitution fixes no limit whatever

to the discretion of the legislature, and that the American ties

down the legislature to two years, as the longest admissible

term. Had the argument from the British example been truly

stated, it would have stood thus: The term for which supplies

may be appropriated to the army establishment, though unlimited

by the British Constitution, has nevertheless, in practice, been

limited by parliamentary discretion to a single year. Now, if in

Great Britain, where the House of Commons is elected for seven

years; where so great a proportion of the members are elected by

so small a proportion of the people; where the electors are so

corrupted by the representatives, and the representatives so

corrupted by the Crown, the representative body can possess a

power to make appropriations to the army for an indefinite term,

without desiring, or without daring, to extend the term beyond a

single year, ought not suspicion herself to blush, in pretending

that the representatives of the United States, elected FREELY by

the WHOLE BODY of the people, every SECOND YEAR, cannot be safely

intrusted with the discretion over such appropriations, expressly

limited to the short period of TWO YEARS? A bad cause seldom

fails to betray itself. Of this truth, the management of the

opposition to the federal government is an unvaried

exemplification. But among all the blunders which have been

committed, none is more striking than the attempt to enlist on

that side the prudent jealousy entertained by the people, of

standing armies. The attempt has awakened fully the public

attention to that important subject; and has led to

investigations which must terminate in a thorough and universal

conviction, not only that the constitution has provided the most

effectual guards against danger from that quarter, but that

nothing short of a Constitution fully adequate to the national

defense and the preservation of the Union, can save America from

as many standing armies as it may be split into States or

Confederacies, and from such a progressive augmentation, of these

establishments in each, as will render them as burdensome to the

properties and ominous to the liberties of the people, as any

establishment that can become necessary, under a united and

efficient government, must be tolerable to the former and safe to

the latter. The palpable necessity of the power to provide and

maintain a navy has protected that part of the Constitution

against a spirit of censure, which has spared few other parts. It

must, indeed, be numbered among the greatest blessings of

America, that as her Union will be the only source of her

maritime strength, so this will be a principal source of her

security against danger from abroad. In this respect our

situation bears another likeness to the insular advantage of

Great Britain. The batteries most capable of repelling foreign

enterprises on our safety, are happily such as can never be

turned by a perfidious government against our liberties. The

inhabitants of the Atlantic frontier are all of them deeply

interested in this provision for naval protection, and if they

have hitherto been suffered to sleep quietly in their beds; if

their property has remained safe against the predatory spirit of

licentious adventurers; if their maritime towns have not yet

been compelled to ransom themselves from the terrors of a

conflagration, by yielding to the exactions of daring and sudden

invaders, these instances of good fortune are not to be ascribed

to the capacity of the existing government for the protection of

those from whom it claims allegiance, but to causes that are

fugitive and fallacious. If we except perhaps Virginia and

Maryland, which are peculiarly vulnerable on their eastern

frontiers, no part of the Union ought to feel more anxiety on

this subject than New York. Her seacoast is extensive. A very

important district of the State is an island. The State itself is

penetrated by a large navigable river for more than fifty

leagues. The great emporium of its commerce, the great reservoir

of its wealth, lies every moment at the mercy of events, and may

almost be regarded as a hostage for ignominious compliances with

the dictates of a foreign enemy, or even with the rapacious

demands of pirates and barbarians. Should a war be the result of

the precarious situation of European affairs, and all the unruly

passions attending it be let loose on the ocean, our escape from

insults and depredations, not only on that element, but every

part of the other bordering on it, will be truly miraculous. In

the present condition of America, the States more immediately

exposed to these calamities have nothing to hope from the phantom

of a general government which now exists; and if their single

resources were equal to the task of fortifying themselves against

the danger, the object to be protected would be almost consumed

by the means of protecting them. The power of regulating and

calling forth the militia has been already sufficiently

vindicated and explained. The power of levying and borrowing

money, being the sinew of that which is to be exerted in the

national defense, is properly thrown into the same class with

it. This power, also, has been examined already with much

attention, and has, I trust, been clearly shown to be necessary,

both in the extent and form given to it by the Constitution. I

will address one additional reflection only to those who contend

that the power ought to have been restrained to external

taxation by which they mean, taxes on articles imported from

other countries. It cannot be doubted that this will always be a

valuable source of revenue; that for a considerable time it must

be a principal source; that at this moment it is an essential

one. But we may form very mistaken ideas on this subject, if we

do not call to mind in our calculations, that the extent of

revenue drawn from foreign commerce must vary with the

variations, both in the extent and the kind of imports; and that

these variations do not correspond with the progress of

population, which must be the general measure of the public

wants. As long as agriculture continues the sole field of labor,

the importation of manufactures must increase as the consumers

multiply. As soon as domestic manufactures are begun by the hands

not called for by agriculture, the imported manufactures will

decrease as the numbers of people increase. In a more remote

stage, the imports may consist in a considerable part of raw

materials, which will be wrought into articles for exportation,

and will, therefore, require rather the encouragement of

bounties, than to be loaded with discouraging duties. A system of

government, meant for duration, ought to contemplate these

revolutions, and be able to accommodate itself to them. Some,

who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have

grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the

language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed,

that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and

excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and

general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited

commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be

necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger

proof could be given of the distress under which these writers

labor for objections, than their stooping to such a

misconstruction. Had no other enumeration or definition of the

powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the

general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection

might have had some color for it; though it would have been

difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an

authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy

the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate

the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very

singularly expressed by the terms “to raise money for the

general welfare. “But what color can the objection have, when a

specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms

immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause

than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument

ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which

will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded

altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more

doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent,

and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification

whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular

powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be

included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural

nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to

explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea

of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor

qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to

confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced

to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection

or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty

of supposing, had not its origin with the latter. The objection

here is the more extraordinary, as it appears that the language

used by the convention is a copy from the articles of

Confederation. The objects of the Union among the States, as

described in article third, are “their common defense, security

of their liberties, and mutual and general welfare. ” The terms

of article eighth are still more identical: “All charges of war

and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common

defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in

Congress, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury,” etc. A

similar language again occurs in article ninth. Construe either

of these articles by the rules which would justify the

construction put on the new Constitution, and they vest in the

existing Congress a power to legislate in all cases whatsoever.

But what would have been thought of that assembly, if, attaching

themselves to these general expressions, and disregarding the

specifications which ascertain and limit their import, they had

exercised an unlimited power of providing for the common defense

and general welfare? I appeal to the objectors themselves,

whether they would in that case have employed the same reasoning

in justification of Congress as they now make use of against the

convention. How difficult it is for error to escape its own

condemnation! PUBLIUS.


The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered

From the New York Packet. Tuesday, January 22, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE SECOND class of powers, lodged in the general government,

consists of those which regulate the intercourse with foreign

nations, to wit: to make treaties; to send and receive

ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to define and

punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and

offenses against the law of nations; to regulate foreign

commerce, including a power to prohibit, after the year 1808, the

importation of slaves, and to lay an intermediate duty of ten

dollars per head, as a discouragement to such importations. This

class of powers forms an obvious and essential branch of the

federal administration. If we are to be one nation in any

respect, it clearly ought to be in respect to other nations. The

powers to make treaties and to send and receive ambassadors,

speak their own propriety. Both of them are comprised in the

articles of Confederation, with this difference only, that the

former is disembarrassed, by the plan of the convention, of an

exception, under which treaties might be substantially frustrated

by regulations of the States; and that a power of appointing and

receiving “other public ministers and consuls,” is expressly

and very properly added to the former provision concerning

ambassadors. The term ambassador, if taken strictly, as seems to

be required by the second of the articles of Confederation,

comprehends the highest grade only of public ministers, and

excludes the grades which the United States will be most likely

to prefer, where foreign embassies may be necessary. And under no

latitude of construction will the term comprehend consuls. Yet it

has been found expedient, and has been the practice of Congress,

to employ the inferior grades of public ministers, and to send

and receive consuls. It is true, that where treaties of commerce

stipulate for the mutual appointment of consuls, whose functions

are connected with commerce, the admission of foreign consuls may

fall within the power of making commercial treaties; and that

where no such treaties exist, the mission of American consuls

into foreign countries may PERHAPS be covered under the

authority, given by the ninth article of the Confederation, to

appoint all such civil officers as may be necessary for managing

the general affairs of the United States. But the admission of

consuls into the United States, where no previous treaty has

stipulated it, seems to have been nowhere provided for. A supply

of the omission is one of the lesser instances in which the

convention have improved on the model before them. But the most

minute provisions become important when they tend to obviate the

necessity or the pretext for gradual and unobserved usurpations

of power. A list of the cases in which Congress have been

betrayed, or forced by the defects of the Confederation, into

violations of their chartered authorities, would not a little

surprise those who have paid no attention to the subject; and

would be no inconsiderable argument in favor of the new

Constitution, which seems to have provided no less studiously for

the lesser, than the more obvious and striking defects of the

old. The power to define and punish piracies and felonies

committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of

nations, belongs with equal propriety to the general government,

and is a still greater improvement on the articles of

Confederation. These articles contain no provision for the case

of offenses against the law of nations; and consequently leave

it in the power of any indiscreet member to embroil the

Confederacy with foreign nations. The provision of the federal

articles on the subject of piracies and felonies extends no

further than to the establishment of courts for the trial of

these offenses. The definition of piracies might, perhaps,

without inconveniency, be left to the law of nations; though a

legislative definition of them is found in most municipal codes.

A definition of felonies on the high seas is evidently

requisite. Felony is a term of loose signification, even in the

common law of England; and of various import in the statute law

of that kingdom. But neither the common nor the statute law of

that, or of any other nation, ought to be a standard for the

proceedings of this, unless previously made its own by

legislative adoption. The meaning of the term, as defined in the

codes of the several States, would be as impracticable as the

former would be a dishonorable and illegitimate guide. It is not

precisely the same in any two of the States; and varies in each

with every revision of its criminal laws. For the sake of

certainty and uniformity, therefore, the power of defining

felonies in this case was in every respect necessary and proper.

The regulation of foreign commerce, having fallen within several

views which have been taken of this subject, has been too fully

discussed to need additional proofs here of its being properly

submitted to the federal administration. It were doubtless to be

wished, that the power of prohibiting the importation of slaves

had not been postponed until the year 1808, or rather that it had

been suffered to have immediate operation. But it is not

difficult to account, either for this restriction on the general

government, or for the manner in which the whole clause is

expressed. It ought to be considered as a great point gained in

favor of humanity, that a period of twenty years may terminate

forever, within these States, a traffic which has so long and so

loudly upbraided the barbarism of modern policy; that within that

period, it will receive a considerable discouragement from the

federal government, and may be totally abolished, by a

concurrence of the few States which continue the unnatural

traffic, in the prohibitory example which has been given by so

great a majority of the Union. Happy would it be for the

unfortunate Africans, if an equal prospect lay before them of

being redeemed from the oppressions of their European brethren!

Attempts have been made to pervert this clause into an objection

against the Constitution, by representing it on one side as a

criminal toleration of an illicit practice, and on another as

calculated to prevent voluntary and beneficial emigrations from

Europe to America. I mention these misconstructions, not with a

view to give them an answer, for they deserve none, but as

specimens of the manner and spirit in which some have thought fit

to conduct their opposition to the proposed government. The

powers included in the THIRD class are those which provide for

the harmony and proper intercourse among the States. Under this

head might be included the particular restraints imposed on the

authority of the States, and certain powers of the judicial

department; but the former are reserved for a distinct class, and

the latter will be particularly examined when we arrive at the

structure and organization of the government. I shall confine

myself to a cursory review of the remaining powers comprehended

under this third description, to wit: to regulate commerce among

the several States and the Indian tribes; to coin money, regulate

the value thereof, and of foreign coin; to provide for the

punishment of counterfeiting the current coin and secureties of

the United States; to fix the standard of weights and measures;

to establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws

of bankruptcy, to prescribe the manner in which the public acts,

records, and judicial proceedings of each State shall be proved,

and the effect they shall have in other States; and to establish

post offices and post roads. The defect of power in the existing

Confederacy to regulate the commerce between its several members,

is in the number of those which have been clearly pointed out by

experience. To the proofs and remarks which former papers have

brought into view on this subject, it may be added that without

this supplemental provision, the great and essential power of

regulating foreign commerce would have been incomplete and

ineffectual. A very material object of this power was the relief

of the States which import and export through other States, from

the improper contributions levied on them by the latter. Were

these at liberty to regulate the trade between State and State,

it must be foreseen that ways would be found out to load the

articles of import and export, during the passage through their

jurisdiction, with duties which would fall on the makers of the

latter and the consumers of the former. We may be assured by past

experience, that such a practice would be introduced by future

contrivances; and both by that and a common knowledge of human

affairs, that it would nourish unceasing animosities, and not

improbably terminate in serious interruptions of the public

tranquillity. To those who do not view the question through the

medium of passion or of interest, the desire of the commercial

States to collect, in any form, an indirect revenue from their

uncommercial neighbors, must appear not less impolitic than it is

unfair; since it would stimulate the injured party, by resentment

as well as interest, to resort to less convenient channels for

their foreign trade. But the mild voice of reason, pleading the

cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often

drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the

clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate

gain. The necessity of a superintending authority over the

reciprocal trade of confederated States, has been illustrated by

other examples as well as our own. In Switzerland, where the

Union is so very slight, each canton is obliged to allow to

merchandises a passage through its jurisdiction into other

cantons, without an augmentation of the tolls. In Germany it is a

law of the empire, that the princes and states shall not lay

tolls or customs on bridges, rivers, or passages, without the

consent of the emperor and the diet; though it appears from a

quotation in an antecedent paper, that the practice in this, as

in many other instances in that confederacy, has not followed the

law, and has produced there the mischiefs which have been

foreseen here. Among the restraints imposed by the Union of the

Netherlands on its members, one is, that they shall not establish

imposts disadvantageous to their neighbors, without the general

permission. The regulation of commerce with the Indian tribes is

very properly unfettered from two limitations in the articles of

Confederation, which render the provision obscure and

contradictory. The power is there restrained to Indians, not

members of any of the States, and is not to violate or infringe

the legislative right of any State within its own limits. What

description of Indians are to be deemed members of a State, is

not yet settled, and has been a question of frequent perplexity

and contention in the federal councils. And how the trade with

Indians, though not members of a State, yet residing within its

legislative jurisdiction, can be regulated by an external

authority, without so far intruding on the internal rights of

legislation, is absolutely incomprehensible. This is not the only

case in which the articles of Confederation have inconsiderately

endeavored to accomplish impossibilities; to reconcile a partial

sovereignty in the Union, with complete sovereignty in the

States; to subvert a mathematical axiom, by taking away a part,

and letting the whole remain. All that need be remarked on the

power to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign

coin, is, that by providing for this last case, the Constitution

has supplied a material omission in the articles of

Confederation. The authority of the existing Congress is

restrained to the regulation of coin STRUCK by their own

authority, or that of the respective States. It must be seen at

once that the proposed uniformity in the VALUE of the current

coin might be destroyed by subjecting that of foreign coin to the

different regulations of the different States. The punishment of

counterfeiting the public securities, as well as the current

coin, is submitted of course to that authority which is to secure

the value of both. The regulation of weights and measures is

transferred from the articles of Confederation, and is founded on

like considerations with the preceding power of regulating coin.

The dissimilarity in the rules of naturalization has long been

remarked as a fault in our system, and as laying a foundation for

intricate and delicate questions. In the fourth article of the

Confederation, it is declared “that the FREE INHABITANTS of each

of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice,

excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of

FREE CITIZENS in the several States; and THE PEOPLE of each State

shall, in every other, enjoy all the privileges of trade and

commerce,” etc. There is a confusion of language here, which is

remarkable. Why the terms FREE INHABITANTS are used in one part

of the article, FREE CITIZENS in another, and PEOPLE in another;

or what was meant by superadding to “all privileges and

immunities of free citizens,” “all the privileges of trade and


cannot easily be determined. It seems to be a construction

scarcely avoidable, however, that those who come under the

denomination of FREE INHABITANTS of a State, although not

citizens of such State, are entitled, in every other State, to

all the privileges of FREE CITIZENS of the latter; that is, to

greater privileges than they may be entitled to in their own

State: so that it may be in the power of a particular State, or

rather every State is laid under a necessity, not only to confer

the rights of citizenship in other States upon any whom it may

admit to such rights within itself, but upon any whom it may

allow to become inhabitants within its jurisdiction. But were an

exposition of the term “inhabitants” to be admitted which

would confine the stipulated privileges to citizens alone, the

difficulty is diminished only, not removed. The very improper

power would still be retained by each State, of naturalizing

aliens in every other State. In one State, residence for a short

term confirms all the rights of citizenship: in another,

qualifications of greater importance are required. An alien,

therefore, legally incapacitated for certain rights in the

latter, may, by previous residence only in the former, elude his

incapacity; and thus the law of one State be preposterously

rendered paramount to the law of another, within the jurisdiction

of the other. We owe it to mere casualty, that very serious

embarrassments on this subject have been hitherto escaped. By the

laws of several States, certain descriptions of aliens, who had

rendered themselves obnoxious, were laid under interdicts

inconsistent not only with the rights of citizenship but with the

privilege of residence. What would have been the consequence, if

such persons, by residence or otherwise, had acquired the

character of citizens under the laws of another State, and then

asserted their rights as such, both to residence and citizenship,

within the State proscribing them? Whatever the legal

consequences might have been, other consequences would probably

have resulted, of too serious a nature not to be provided

against. The new Constitution has accordingly, with great

propriety, made provision against them, and all others proceeding

from the defect of the Confederation on this head, by authorizing

the general government to establish a uniform rule of

naturalization throughout the United States. The power of

establishing uniform laws of bankruptcy is so intimately

connected with the regulation of commerce, and will prevent so

many frauds where the parties or their property may lie or be

removed into different States, that the expediency of it seems

not likely to be drawn into question. The power of prescribing

by general laws, the manner in which the public acts, records and

judicial proceedings of each State shall be proved, and the

effect they shall have in other States, is an evident and

valuable improvement on the clause relating to this subject in

the articles of Confederation. The meaning of the latter is

extremely indeterminate, and can be of little importance under

any interpretation which it will bear. The power here established

may be rendered a very convenient instrument of justice, and be

particularly beneficial on the borders of contiguous States,

where the effects liable to justice may be suddenly and secretly

translated, in any stage of the process, within a foreign

jurisdiction. The power of establishing post roads must, in

every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious

management, become productive of great public conveniency.

Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the

States can be deemed unworthy of the public care. PUBLIUS.


The Same Subject Continued (The Powers Conferred by the

Constitution Further Considered)

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE FOURTH class comprises the following miscellaneous powers:1.

A power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by

securing, for a limited time, to authors and inventors, the

exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

“The utility of this power will scarcely be questioned. The

copyright of authors has been solemnly adjudged, in Great

Britain, to be a right of common law. The right to useful

inventions seems with equal reason to belong to the inventors.

The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of

individuals. The States cannot separately make effectual

provisions for either of the cases, and most of them have

anticipated the decision of this point, by laws passed at the

instance of Congress. 2. “To exercise exclusive legislation, in

all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles

square) as may, by cession of particular States and the

acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the

United States; and to exercise like authority over all places

purchased by the consent of the legislatures of the States in

which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines,

arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings. “The

indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of

government, carries its own evidence with it. It is a power

exercised by every legislature of the Union, I might say of the

world, by virtue of its general supremacy. Without it, not only

the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings

interrupted with impunity; but a dependence of the members of the

general government on the State comprehending the seat of the

government, for protection in the exercise of their duty, might

bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence,

equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the

other members of the Confederacy. This consideration has the more

weight, as the gradual accumulation of public improvements at the

stationary residence of the government would be both too great a

public pledge to be left in the hands of a single State, and

would create so many obstacles to a removal of the government, as

still further to abridge its necessary independence. The extent

of this federal district is sufficiently circumscribed to satisfy

every jealousy of an opposite nature. And as it is to be

appropriated to this use with the consent of the State ceding it;

as the State will no doubt provide in the compact for the rights

and the consent of the citizens inhabiting it; as the inhabitants

will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing

parties to the cession; as they will have had their voice in the

election of the government which is to exercise authority over

them; as a municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from

their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them; and as the

authority of the legislature of the State, and of the inhabitants

of the ceded part of it, to concur in the cession, will be

derived from the whole people of the State in their adoption of

the Constitution, every imaginable objection seems to be

obviated. The necessity of a like authority over forts,

magazines, etc., established by the general government, is not

less evident. The public money expended on such places, and the

public property deposited in them, requires that they should be

exempt from the authority of the particular State. Nor would it

be proper for the places on which the security of the entire

Union may depend, to be in any degree dependent on a particular

member of it. All objections and scruples are here also obviated,

by requiring the concurrence of the States concerned, in every

such establishment. 3. “To declare the punishment of treason,

but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or

forfeiture, except during the life of the person attained. “As

treason may be committed against the United States, the authority

of the United States ought to be enabled to punish it. But as

new-fangled and artificial treasons have been the great engines

by which violent factions, the natural offspring of free

government, have usually wreaked their alternate malignity on

each other, the convention have, with great judgment, opposed a

barrier to this peculiar danger, by inserting a constitutional

definition of the crime, fixing the proof necessary for

conviction of it, and restraining the Congress, even in punishing

it, from extending the consequences of guilt beyond the person of

its author. 4. “To admit new States into the Union; but no new

State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any

other State; nor any State be formed by the junction of two or

more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the

legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress.

“In the articles of Confederation, no provision is found on this

important subject. Canada was to be admitted of right, on her

joining in the measures of the United States; and the other

COLONIES, by which were evidently meant the other British

colonies, at the discretion of nine States. The eventual

establishment of NEW STATES seems to have been overlooked by the

compilers of that instrument. We have seen the inconvenience of

this omission, and the assumption of power into which Congress

have been led by it. With great propriety, therefore, has the new

system supplied the defect. The general precaution, that no new

States shall be formed, without the concurrence of the federal

authority, and that of the States concerned, is consonant to the

principles which ought to govern such transactions. The

particular precaution against the erection of new States, by the

partition of a State without its consent, quiets the jealousy of

the larger States; as that of the smaller is quieted by a like

precaution, against a junction of States without their consent.

5. “To dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations

respecting the territory or other property belonging to the

United States, with a proviso, that nothing in the Constitution

shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United

States, or of any particular State. “This is a power of very

great importance, and required by considerations similar to those

which show the propriety of the former. The proviso annexed is

proper in itself, and was probably rendered absolutely necessary

by jealousies and questions concerning the Western territory

sufficiently known to the public. 6. “To guarantee to every

State in the Union a republican form of government; to protect

each of them against invasion; and on application of the

legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be

convened), against domestic violence. “In a confederacy founded

on republican principles, and composed of republican members, the

superintending government ought clearly to possess authority to

defend the system against aristocratic or monarchial

innovations. The more intimate the nature of such a union may be,

the greater interest have the members in the political

institutions of each other; and the greater right to insist that

the forms of government under which the compact was entered into

should be SUBSTANTIALLY maintained. But a right implies a remedy;

and where else could the remedy be deposited, than where it is

deposited by the Constitution? Governments of dissimilar

principles and forms have been found less adapted to a federal

coalition of any sort, than those of a kindred nature. “As the

confederate republic of Germany,” says Montesquieu, “consists

of free cities and petty states, subject to different princes,

experience shows us that it is more imperfect than that of

Holland and Switzerland. ” “Greece was undone,” he adds, “as

soon as the king of Macedon obtained a seat among the

Amphictyons. ” In the latter case, no doubt, the

disproportionate force, as well as the monarchical form, of the

new confederate, had its share of influence on the events. It may

possibly be asked, what need there could be of such a

precaution, and whether it may not become a pretext for

alterations in the State governments, without the concurrence of

the States themselves. These questions admit of ready answers. If

the interposition of the general government should not be

needed, the provision for such an event will be a harmless

superfluity only in the Constitution. But who can say what

experiments may be produced by the caprice of particular States,

by the ambition of enterprising leaders, or by the intrigues and

influence of foreign powers? To the second question it may be

answered, that if the general government should interpose by

virtue of this constitutional authority, it will be, of course,

bound to pursue the authority. But the authority extends no

further than to a GUARANTY of a republican form of government,

which supposes a pre-existing government of the form which is to

be guaranteed. As long, therefore, as the existing republican

forms are continued by the States, they are guaranteed by the

federal Constitution. Whenever the States may choose to

substitute other republican forms, they have a right to do so,

and to claim the federal guaranty for the latter. The only

restriction imposed on them is, that they shall not exchange

republican for antirepublican Constitutions; a restriction

which, it is presumed, will hardly be considered as a grievance.

A protection against invasion is due from every society to the

parts composing it. The latitude of the expression here used

seems to secure each State, not only against foreign hostility,

but against ambitious or vindictive enterprises of its more

powerful neighbors. The history, both of ancient and modern

confederacies, proves that the weaker members of the union ought

not to be insensible to the policy of this article. Protection

against domestic violence is added with equal propriety. It has

been remarked, that even among the Swiss cantons, which, properly

speaking, are not under one government, provision is made for

this object; and the history of that league informs us that

mutual aid is frequently claimed and afforded; and as well by

the most democratic, as the other cantons. A recent and

well-known event among ourselves has warned us to be prepared for

emergencies of a like nature. At first view, it might seem not

to square with the republican theory, to suppose, either that a

majority have not the right, or that a minority will have the

force, to subvert a government; and consequently, that the

federal interposition can never be required, but when it would be

improper. But theoretic reasoning, in this as in most other

cases, must be qualified by the lessons of practice. Why may not

illicit combinations, for purposes of violence, be formed as

well by a majority of a State, especially a small State as by a

majority of a county, or a district of the same State; and if

the authority of the State ought, in the latter case, to protect

the local magistracy, ought not the federal authority, in the

former, to support the State authority? Besides, there are

certain parts of the State constitutions which are so interwoven

with the federal Constitution, that a violent blow cannot be

given to the one without communicating the wound to the other.

Insurrections in a State will rarely induce a federal

interposition, unless the number concerned in them bear some

proportion to the friends of government. It will be much better

that the violence in such cases should be repressed by the

superintending power, than that the majority should be left to

maintain their cause by a bloody and obstinate contest. The

existence of a right to interpose, will generally prevent the

necessity of exerting it. Is it true that force and right are

necessarily on the same side in republican governments? May not

the minor party possess such a superiority of pecuniary

resources, of military talents and experience, or of secret

succors from foreign powers, as will render it superior also in

an appeal to the sword? May not a more compact and advantageous

position turn the scale on the same side, against a superior

number so situated as to be less capable of a prompt and

collected exertion of its strength? Nothing can be more

chimerical than to imagine that in a trial of actual force,

victory may be calculated by the rules which prevail in a census

of the inhabitants, or which determine the event of an election!

May it not happen, in fine, that the minority of CITIZENS may

become a majority of PERSONS, by the accession of alien

residents, of a casual concourse of adventurers, or of those whom

the constitution of the State has not admitted to the rights of

suffrage? I take no notice of an unhappy species of population

abounding in some of the States, who, during the calm of regular

government, are sunk below the level of men; but who, in the

tempestuous scenes of civil violence, may emerge into the human

character, and give a superiority of strength to any party with

which they may associate themselves. In cases where it may be

doubtful on which side justice lies, what better umpires could

be desired by two violent factions, flying to arms, and tearing a

State to pieces, than the representatives of confederate States,

not heated by the local flame? To the impartiality of judges,

they would unite the affection of friends. Happy would it be if

such a remedy for its infirmities could be enjoyed by all free

governments; if a project equally effectual could be established

for the universal peace of mankind! Should it be asked, what is

to be the redress for an insurrection pervading all the States,

and comprising a superiority of the entire force, though not a

constitutional right? the answer must be, that such a case, as

it would be without the compass of human remedies, so it is

fortunately not within the compass of human probability; and

that it is a sufficient recommendation of the federal

Constitution, that it diminishes the risk of a calamity for which

no possible constitution can provide a cure. Among the

advantages of a confederate republic enumerated by Montesquieu,

an important one is, “that should a popular insurrection happen

in one of the States, the others are able to quell it. Should

abuses creep into one part, they are reformed by those that

remain sound. “7. “To consider all debts contracted, and

engagements entered into, before the adoption of this

Constitution, as being no less valid against the United States,

under this Constitution, than under the Confederation. “This

can only be considered as a declaratory proposition; and may have

been inserted, among other reasons, for the satisfaction of the

foreign creditors of the United States, who cannot be strangers

to the pretended doctrine, that a change in the political form of

civil society has the magical effect of dissolving its moral

obligations. Among the lesser criticisms which have been

exercised on the Constitution, it has been remarked that the

validity of engagements ought to have been asserted in favor of

the United States, as well as against them; and in the spirit

which usually characterizes little critics, the omission has been

transformed and magnified into a plot against the national

rights. The authors of this discovery may be told, what few

others need to be informed of, that as engagements are in their

nature reciprocal, an assertion of their validity on one side,

necessarily involves a validity on the other side; and that as

the article is merely declaratory, the establishment of the

principle in one case is sufficient for every case. They may be

further told, that every constitution must limit its precautions

to dangers that are not altogether imaginary; and that no real

danger can exist that the government would DARE, with, or even

without, this constitutional declaration before it, to remit the

debts justly due to the public, on the pretext here condemned. 8.

“To provide for amendments to be ratified by three fourths of

the States under two exceptions only. “That useful alterations

will be suggested by experience, could not but be foreseen. It

was requisite, therefore, that a mode for introducing them should

be provided. The mode preferred by the convention seems to be

stamped with every mark of propriety. It guards equally against

that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too

mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its

discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and

the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as

they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the

other. The exception in favor of the equality of suffrage in the

Senate, was probably meant as a palladium to the residuary

sovereignty of the States, implied and secured by that principle

of representation in one branch of the legislature; and was

probably insisted on by the States particularly attached to that

equality. The other exception must have been admitted on the same

considerations which produced the privilege defended by it. 9.

“The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be

sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the

States, ratifying the same. “This article speaks for itself.

The express authority of the people alone could give due validity

to the Constitution. To have required the unanimous ratification

of the thirteen States, would have subjected the essential

interests of the whole to the caprice or corruption of a single

member. It would have marked a want of foresight in the

convention, which our own experience would have rendered

inexcusable. Two questions of a very delicate nature present

themselves on this occasion: 1. On what principle the

Confederation, which stands in the solemn form of a compact among

the States, can be superseded without the unanimous consent of

the parties to it? 2. What relation is to subsist between the

nine or more States ratifying the Constitution, and the remaining

few who do not become parties to it? The first question is

answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the

case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the

transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares

that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which

all political institutions aim, and to which all such

institutions must be sacrificed. PERHAPS, also, an answer may be

found without searching beyond the principles of the compact

itself. It has been heretofore noted among the defects of the

Confederation, that in many of the States it had received no

higher sanction than a mere legislative ratification. The

principle of reciprocality seems to require that its obligation

on the other States should be reduced to the same standard. A

compact between independent sovereigns, founded on ordinary acts

of legislative authority, can pretend to no higher validity than

a league or treaty between the parties. It is an established

doctrine on the subject of treaties, that all the articles are

mutually conditions of each other; that a breach of any one

article is a breach of the whole treaty; and that a breach,

committed by either of the parties, absolves the others, and

authorizes them, if they please, to pronounce the compact

violated and void. Should it unhappily be necessary to appeal to

these delicate truths for a justification for dispensing with

the consent of particular States to a dissolution of the federal

pact, will not the complaining parties find it a difficult task

to answer the MULTIPLIED and IMPORTANT infractions with which

they may be confronted? The time has been when it was incumbent

on us all to veil the ideas which this paragraph exhibits. The

scene is now changed, and with it the part which the same motives

dictate. The second question is not less delicate; and the

flattering prospect of its being merely hypothetical forbids an

overcurious discussion of it. It is one of those cases which must

be left to provide for itself. In general, it may be observed,

that although no political relation can subsist between the

assenting and dissenting States, yet the moral relations will

remain uncancelled. The claims of justice, both on one side and

on the other, will be in force, and must be fulfilled; the

rights of humanity must in all cases be duly and mutually

respected; whilst considerations of a common interest, and,

above all, the remembrance of the endearing scenes which are

past, and the anticipation of a speedy triumph over the obstacles

to reunion, will, it is hoped, not urge in vain MODERATION on one

side, and PRUDENCE on the other. PUBLIUS.


Restrictions on the Authority of the Several States

From the New York Packet. Friday, January 25, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

A FIFTH class of provisions in favor of the federal authority

consists of the following restrictions on the authority of the

several States:1. “No State shall enter into any treaty,

alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal;

coin money; emit bills of credit; make any thing but gold and

silver a legal tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of

attainder, ex-post-facto law, or law impairing the obligation of

contracts; or grant any title of nobility. “The prohibition

against treaties, alliances, and confederations makes a part of

the existing articles of Union; and for reasons which need no

explanation, is copied into the new Constitution. The prohibition

of letters of marque is another part of the old system, but is

somewhat extended in the new. According to the former, letters of

marque could be granted by the States after a declaration of war;

according to the latter, these licenses must be obtained, as well

during war as previous to its declaration, from the government of

the United States. This alteration is fully justified by the

advantage of uniformity in all points which relate to foreign

powers; and of immediate responsibility to the nation in all

those for whose conduct the nation itself is to be responsible.

The right of coining money, which is here taken from the States,

was left in their hands by the Confederation, as a concurrent

right with that of Congress, under an exception in favor of the

exclusive right of Congress to regulate the alloy and value. In

this instance, also, the new provision is an improvement on the

old. Whilst the alloy and value depended on the general

authority, a right of coinage in the particular States could have

no other effect than to multiply expensive mints and diversify

the forms and weights of the circulating pieces. The latter

inconveniency defeats one purpose for which the power was

originally submitted to the federal head; and as far as the

former might prevent an inconvenient remittance of gold and

silver to the central mint for recoinage, the end can be as well

attained by local mints established under the general authority.

The extension of the prohibition to bills of credit must give

pleasure to every citizen, in proportion to his love of justice

and his knowledge of the true springs of public prosperity. The

loss which America has sustained since the peace, from the

pestilent effects of paper money on the necessary confidence

between man and man, on the necessary confidence in the public

councils, on the industry and morals of the people, and on the

character of republican government, constitutes an enormous debt

against the States chargeable with this unadvised measure, which

must long remain unsatisfied; or rather an accumulation of guilt,

which can be expiated no otherwise than by a voluntary sacrifice

on the altar of justice, of the power which has been the

instrument of it. In addition to these persuasive

considerations, it may be observed, that the same reasons which

show the necessity of denying to the States the power of

regulating coin, prove with equal force that they ought not to be

at liberty to substitute a paper medium in the place of coin. Had

every State a right to regulate the value of its coin, there

might be as many different currencies as States, and thus the

intercourse among them would be impeded; retrospective

alterations in its value might be made, and thus the citizens of

other States be injured, and animosities be kindled among the

States themselves. The subjects of foreign powers might suffer

from the same cause, and hence the Union be discredited and

embroiled by the indiscretion of a single member. No one of these

mischiefs is less incident to a power in the States to emit paper

money, than to coin gold or silver. The power to make any thing

but gold and silver a tender in payment of debts, is withdrawn

from the States, on the same principle with that of issuing a

paper currency. Bills of attainder, ex-post-facto laws, and laws

impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first

principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound

legislation. The two former are expressly prohibited by the

declarations prefixed to some of the State constitutions, and all

of them are prohibited by the spirit and scope of these

fundamental charters. Our own experience has taught us,

nevertheless, that additional fences against these dangers ought

not to be omitted. Very properly, therefore, have the convention

added this constitutional bulwark in favor of personal security

and private rights; and I am much deceived if they have not, in

so doing, as faithfully consulted the genuine sentiments as the

undoubted interests of their constituents. The sober people of

America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed

the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation

that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases

affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of

enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the

more-industrious and less-informed part of the community. They

have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the

first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent

interference being naturally produced by the effects of the

preceding. They very rightly infer, therefore, that some thorough

reform is wanting, which will banish speculations on public

measures, inspire a general prudence and industry, and give a

regular course to the business of society. The prohibition with

respect to titles of nobility is copied from the articles of

Confederation and needs no comment. 2. “No State shall, without

the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports

or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing

its inspection laws, and the net produce of all duties and

imposts laid by any State on imports or exports, shall be for the

use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall

be subject to the revision and control of the Congress. No State

shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty on tonnage,

keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any

agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power,

or engage in war unless actually invaded, or in such imminent

danger as will not admit of delay. “The restraint on the power

of the States over imports and exports is enforced by all the

arguments which prove the necessity of submitting the regulation

of trade to the federal councils. It is needless, therefore, to

remark further on this head, than that the manner in which the

restraint is qualified seems well calculated at once to secure to

the States a reasonable discretion in providing for the

conveniency of their imports and exports, and to the United

States a reasonable check against the abuse of this discretion.

The remaining particulars of this clause fall within reasonings

which are either so obvious, or have been so fully developed,

that they may be passed over without remark. The SIXTH and last

class consists of the several powers and provisions by which

efficacy is given to all the rest. 1. Of these the first is, the

“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 officer thereof. “Few

parts of the Constitution have been assailed with more

intemperance than this; yet on a fair investigation of it, no

part can appear more completely invulnerable. Without the

SUBSTANCE of this power, the whole Constitution would be a dead

letter. Those who object to the article, therefore, as a part of

the Constitution, can only mean that the FORM of the provision is

improper. But have they considered whether a better form could

have been substituted? There are four other possible methods

which the Constitution might have taken on this subject. They

might have copied the second article of the existing

Confederation, which would have prohibited the exercise of any

power not EXPRESSLY delegated; they might have attempted a

positive enumeration of the powers comprehended under the general

terms “necessary and proper”; they might have attempted a

negative enumeration of them, by specifying the powers excepted

from the general definition; they might have been altogether

silent on the subject, leaving these necessary and proper powers

to construction and inference. Had the convention taken the

first method of adopting the second article of Confederation, it

is evident that the new Congress would be continually exposed, as

their predecessors have been, to the alternative of construing

the term “EXPRESSLY” with so much rigor, as to disarm the

government of all real authority whatever, or with so much

latitude as to destroy altogether the force of the restriction.

It would be easy to show, if it were necessary, that no important

power, delegated by the articles of Confederation, has been or

can be executed by Congress, without recurring more or less to

the doctrine of CONSTRUCTION or IMPLICATION. As the powers

delegated under the new system are more extensive, the government

which is to administer it would find itself still more distressed

with the alternative of betraying the public interests by doing

nothing, or of violating the Constitution by exercising powers

indispensably necessary and proper, but, at the same time, not

EXPRESSLY granted. Had the convention attempted a positive

enumeration of the powers necessary and proper for carrying their

other powers into effect, the attempt would have involved a

complete digest of laws on every subject to which the

Constitution relates; accommodated too, not only to the existing

state of things, but to all the possible changes which futurity

may produce; for in every new application of a general power, the

PARTICULAR POWERS, which are the means of attaining the OBJECT of

the general power, must always necessarily vary with that object,

and be often properly varied whilst the object remains the same.

Had they attempted to enumerate the particular powers or means

not necessary or proper for carrying the general powers into

execution, the task would have been no less chimerical; and would

have been liable to this further objection, that every defect in

the enumeration would have been equivalent to a positive grant of

authority. If, to avoid this consequence, they had attempted a

partial enumeration of the exceptions, and described the residue

by the general terms, NOT NECESSARY OR PROPER, it must have

happened that the enumeration would comprehend a few of the

excepted powers only; that these would be such as would be least

likely to be assumed or tolerated, because the enumeration would

of course select such as would be least necessary or proper; and

that the unnecessary and improper powers included in the

residuum, would be less forcibly excepted, than if no partial

enumeration had been made. Had the Constitution been silent on

this head, there can be no doubt that all the particular powers

requisite as means of executing the general powers would have

resulted to the government, by unavoidable implication. No axiom

is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that

wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever

a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power

necessary for doing it is included. Had this last method,

therefore, been pursued by the convention, every objection now

urged against their plan would remain in all its plausibility;

and the real inconveniency would be incurred of not removing a

pretext which may be seized on critical occasions for drawing

into question the essential powers of the Union. If it be asked

what is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall

misconstrue this part of the Constitution, and exercise powers

not warranted by its true meaning, I answer, the same as if they

should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them; as

if the general power had been reduced to particulars, and any one

of these were to be violated; the same, in short, as if the State

legislatures should violate the irrespective constitutional

authorities. In the first instance, the success of the usurpation

will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are

to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in the

last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people who can, by

the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of

the usurpers. The truth is, that this ultimate redress may be

more confided in against unconstitutional acts of the federal

than of the State legislatures, for this plain reason, that as

every such act of the former will be an invasion of the rights of

the latter, these will be ever ready to mark the innovation, to

sound the alarm to the people, and to exert their local influence

in effecting a change of federal representatives. There being no

such intermediate body between the State legislatures and the

people interested in watching the conduct of the former,

violations of the State constitutions are more likely to remain

unnoticed and unredressed. 2. “This Constitution and the laws

of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof,

and all 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 laws of any State to the contrary

notwithstanding. “The indiscreet zeal of the adversaries to the

Constitution has betrayed them into an attack on this part of it

also, without which it would have been evidently and radically

defective. To be fully sensible of this, we need only suppose for

a moment that the supremacy of the State constitutions had been

left complete by a saving clause in their favor. In the first

place, as these constitutions invest the State legislatures with

absolute sovereignty, in all cases not excepted by the existing

articles of Confederation, all the authorities contained in the

proposed Constitution, so far as they exceed those enumerated in

the Confederation, would have been annulled, and the new Congress

would have been reduced to the same impotent condition with their

predecessors. In the next place, as the constitutions of some of

the States do not even expressly and fully recognize the existing

powers of the Confederacy, an express saving of the supremacy of

the former would, in such States, have brought into question

every power contained in the proposed Constitution. In the third

place, as the constitutions of the States differ much from each

other, it might happen that a treaty or national law, of great

and equal importance to the States, would interfere with some and

not with other constitutions, and would consequently be valid in

some of the States, at the same time that it would have no effect

in others. In fine, the world would have seen, for the first

time, a system of government founded on an inversion of the

fundamental principles of all government; it would have seen the

authority of the whole society every where subordinate to the

authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which

the head was under the direction of the members. 3. “The

Senators and Representatives, and the members of the several

State legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both

of the United States and the several States, shall be bound by

oath or affirmation to support this Constitution. “It has been

asked why it was thought necessary, that the State magistracy

should be bound to support the federal Constitution, and

unnecessary that a like oath should be imposed on the officers of

the United States, in favor of the State constitutions. Several

reasons might be assigned for the distinction. I content myself

with one, which is obvious and conclusive. The members of the

federal government will have no agency in carrying the State

constitutions into effect. The members and officers of the State

governments, on the contrary, will have an essential agency in

giving effect to the federal Constitution. The election of the

President and Senate will depend, in all cases, on the

legislatures of the several States. And the election of the House

of Representatives will equally depend on the same authority in

the first instance; and will, probably, forever be conducted by

the officers, and according to the laws, of the States. 4. Among

the provisions for giving efficacy to the federal powers might be

added those which belong to the executive and judiciary

departments: but as these are reserved for particular examination

in another place, I pass them over in this. We have now

reviewed, in detail, all the articles composing the sum or

quantity of power delegated by the proposed Constitution to the

federal government, and are brought to this undeniable

conclusion, that no part of the power is unnecessary or improper

for accomplishing the necessary objects of the Union. The

question, therefore, whether this amount of power shall be

granted or not, resolves itself into another question, whether or

not a government commensurate to the exigencies of the Union

shall be established; or, in other words, whether the Union

itself shall be preserved. PUBLIUS.


The Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State

Governments Considered

For the Independent Fournal.


To the People of the State of New York:

HAVING shown that no one of the powers transferred to the federal

government is unnecessary or improper, the next question to be

considered is, whether the whole mass of them will be dangerous

to the portion of authority left in the several States. The

adversaries to the plan of the convention, instead of considering

in the first place what degree of power was absolutely necessary

for the purposes of the federal government, have exhausted

themselves in a secondary inquiry into the possible consequences

of the proposed degree of power to the governments of the

particular States. But if the Union, as has been shown, be

essential to the security of the people of America against

foreign danger; if it be essential to their security against

contentions and wars among the different States; if it be

essential to guard them against those violent and oppressive

factions which embitter the blessings of liberty, and against

those military establishments which must gradually poison its

very fountain; if, in a word, the Union be essential to the

happiness of the people of America, is it not preposterous, to

urge as an objection to a government, without which the objects

of the Union cannot be attained, that such a government may

derogate from the importance of the governments of the individual

States? Was, then, the American Revolution effected, was the

American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands

spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not

that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and

safety, but that the government of the individual States, that

particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent

of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of

sovereignty? We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old

World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the

people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the New, in another

shape that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed

to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is

too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the

public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is

the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government

whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the

attainment of this object. Were the plan of the convention

adverse to the public happiness, my voice would be, Reject the

plan. Were the Union itself inconsistent with the public

happiness, it would be, Abolish the Union. In like manner, as far

as the sovereignty of the States cannot be reconciled to the

happiness of the people, the voice of every good citizen must be,

Let the former be sacrificed to the latter. How far the sacrifice

is necessary, has been shown. How far the unsacrificed residue

will be endangered, is the question before us. Several important

considerations have been touched in the course of these papers,

which discountenance the supposition that the operation of the

federal government will by degrees prove fatal to the State

governments. The more I revolve the subject, the more fully I am

persuaded that the balance is much more likely to be disturbed by

the preponderancy of the last than of the first scale. We have

seen, in all the examples of ancient and modern confederacies,

the strongest tendency continually betraying itself in the

members, to despoil the general government of its authorities,

with a very ineffectual capacity in the latter to defend itself

against the encroachments. Although, in most of these examples,

the system has been so dissimilar from that under consideration

as greatly to weaken any inference concerning the latter from the

fate of the former, yet, as the States will retain, under the

proposed Constitution, a very extensive portion of active

sovereignty, the inference ought not to be wholly disregarded. In

the Achaean league it is probable that the federal head had a

degree and species of power, which gave it a considerable

likeness to the government framed by the convention. The Lycian

Confederacy, as far as its principles and form are transmitted,

must have borne a still greater analogy to it. Yet history does

not inform us that either of them ever degenerated, or tended to

degenerate, into one consolidated government. On the contrary, we

know that the ruin of one of them proceeded from the incapacity

of the federal authority to prevent the dissensions, and finally

the disunion, of the subordinate authorities. These cases are the

more worthy of our attention, as the external causes by which the

component parts were pressed together were much more numerous and

powerful than in our case; and consequently less powerful

ligaments within would be sufficient to bind the members to the

head, and to each other. In the feudal system, we have seen a

similar propensity exemplified. Notwithstanding the want of

proper sympathy in every instance between the local sovereigns

and the people, and the sympathy in some instances between the

general sovereign and the latter, it usually happened that the

local sovereigns prevailed in the rivalship for encroachments.

Had no external dangers enforced internal harmony and

subordination, and particularly, had the local sovereigns

possessed the affections of the people, the great kingdoms in

Europe would at this time consist of as many independent princes

as there were formerly feudatory barons. The State government

will have the advantage of the Federal government, whether we

compare them in respect to the immediate dependence of the one on

the other; to the weight of personal influence which each side

will possess; to the powers respectively vested in them; to the

predilection and probable support of the people; to the

disposition and faculty of resisting and frustrating the measures

of each other. The State governments may be regarded as

constituent and essential parts of the federal government; whilst

the latter is nowise essential to the operation or organization

of the former. Without the intervention of the State

legislatures, the President of the United States cannot be

elected at all. They must in all cases have a great share in his

appointment, and will, perhaps, in most cases, of themselves

determine it. The Senate will be elected absolutely and

exclusively by the State legislatures. Even the House of

Representatives, though drawn immediately from the people, will

be chosen very much under the influence of that class of men,

whose influence over the people obtains for themselves an

election into the State legislatures. Thus, each of the principal

branches of the federal government will owe its existence more or

less to the favor of the State governments, and must consequently

feel a dependence, which is much more likely to beget a

disposition too obsequious than too overbearing towards them. On

the other side, the component parts of the State governments will

in no instance be indebted for their appointment to the direct

agency of the federal government, and very little, if at all, to

the local influence of its members. The number of individuals

employed under the Constitution of the United States will be much

smaller than the number employed under the particular States.

There will consequently be less of personal influence on the side

of the former than of the latter. The members of the legislative,

executive, and judiciary departments of thirteen and more States,

the justices of peace, officers of militia, ministerial officers

of justice, with all the county, corporation, and town officers,

for three millions and more of people, intermixed, and having

particular acquaintance with every class and circle of people,

must exceed, beyond all proportion, both in number and influence,

those of every description who will be employed in the

administration of the federal system. Compare the members of the

three great departments of the thirteen States, excluding from

the judiciary department the justices of peace, with the members

of the corresponding departments of the single government of the

Union; compare the militia officers of three millions of people

with the military and marine officers of any establishment which

is within the compass of probability, or, I may add, of

possibility, and in this view alone, we may pronounce the

advantage of the States to be decisive. If the federal government

is to have collectors of revenue, the State governments will have

theirs also. And as those of the former will be principally on

the seacoast, and not very numerous, whilst those of the latter

will be spread over the face of the country, and will be very

numerous, the advantage in this view also lies on the same side.

It is true, that the Confederacy is to possess, and may exercise,

the power of collecting internal as well as external taxes

throughout the States; but it is probable that this power will

not be resorted to, except for supplemental purposes of revenue;

that an option will then be given to the States to supply their

quotas by previous collections of their own; and that the

eventual collection, under the immediate authority of the Union,

will generally be made by the officers, and according to the

rules, appointed by the several States. Indeed it is extremely

probable, that in other instances, particularly in the

organization of the judicial power, the officers of the States

will be clothed with the correspondent authority of the Union.

Should it happen, however, that separate collectors of internal

revenue should be appointed under the federal government, the

influence of the whole number would not bear a comparison with

that of the multitude of State officers in the opposite scale.

Within every district to which a federal collector would be

allotted, there would not be less than thirty or forty, or even

more, officers of different descriptions, and many of them

persons of character and weight, whose influence would lie on the

side of the State. The powers delegated by the proposed

Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those

which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and

indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external

objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with

which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be

connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend

to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs,

concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and

the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. The

operations of the federal government will be most extensive and

important in times of war and danger; those of the State

governments, in times of peace and security. As the former

periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the

State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the

federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers

may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will

be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over

the governments of the particular States. If the new Constitution

be examined with accuracy and candor, it will be found that the

change which it proposes consists much less in the addition of

NEW POWERS to the Union, than in the invigoration of its ORIGINAL

POWERS. The regulation of commerce, it is true, is a new power;

but that seems to be an addition which few oppose, and from which

no apprehensions are entertained. The powers relating to war and

peace, armies and fleets, treaties and finance, with the other

more considerable powers, are all vested in the existing Congress

by the articles of Confederation. The proposed change does not

enlarge these powers; it only substitutes a more effectual mode

of administering them. The change relating to taxation may be

regarded as the most important; and yet the present Congress have

as complete authority to REQUIRE of the States indefinite

supplies of money for the common defense and general welfare, as

the future Congress will have to require them of individual

citizens; and the latter will be no more bound than the States

themselves have been, to pay the quotas respectively taxed on

them. Had the States complied punctually with the articles of

Confederation, or could their compliance have been enforced by as

peaceable means as may be used with success towards single

persons, our past experience is very far from countenancing an

opinion, that the State governments would have lost their

constitutional powers, and have gradually undergone an entire

consolidation. To maintain that such an event would have ensued,

would be to say at once, that the existence of the State

governments is incompatible with any system whatever that

accomplishes the essential purposes of the Union. PUBLIUS.


The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared

From the New York Packet. Tuesday, January 29, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

RESUMING the subject of the last paper, I proceed to inquire

whether the federal government or the State governments will have

the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the

people. Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are

appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially

dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States.

I assume this position here as it respects the first, reserving

the proofs for another place. The federal and State governments

are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people,

constituted with different powers, and designed for different

purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost

sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this

subject; and to have viewed these different establishments, not

only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any

common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each

other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They

must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative

may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not

depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the

different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be

able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the

other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in

every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and

sanction of their common constituents. Many considerations,

besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it

beyond doubt that the first and most natural attachment of the

people will be to the governments of their respective States.

Into the administration of these a greater number of individuals

will expect to rise. From the gift of these a greater number of

offices and emoluments will flow. By the superintending care of

these, all the more domestic and personal interests of the people

will be regulated and provided for. With the affairs of these,

the people will be more familiarly and minutely conversant. And

with the members of these, will a greater proportion of the

people have the ties of personal acquaintance and friendship, and

of family and party attachments; on the side of these,

therefore, the popular bias may well be expected most strongly to

incline. Experience speaks the same language in this case. The

federal administration, though hitherto very defective in

comparison with what may be hoped under a better system, had,

during the war, and particularly whilst the independent fund of

paper emissions was in credit, an activity and importance as

great as it can well have in any future circumstances whatever.

It was engaged, too, in a course of measures which had for their

object the protection of everything that was dear, and the

acquisition of everything that could be desirable to the people

at large. It was, nevertheless, invariably found, after the

transient enthusiasm for the early Congresses was over, that the

attention and attachment of the people were turned anew to their

own particular governments; that the federal council was at no

time the idol of popular favor; and that opposition to proposed

enlargements of its powers and importance was the side usually

taken by the men who wished to build their political consequence

on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens. If, therefore,

as has been elsewhere remarked, the people should in future

become more partial to the federal than to the State governments,

the change can only result from such manifest and irresistible

proofs of a better administration, as will overcome all their

antecedent propensities. And in that case, the people ought not

surely to be precluded from giving most of their confidence where

they may discover it to be most due; but even in that case the

State governments could have little to apprehend, because it is

only within a certain sphere that the federal power can, in the

nature of things, be advantageously administered. The remaining

points on which I propose to compare the federal and State

governments, are the disposition and the faculty they may

respectively possess, to resist and frustrate the measures of

each other. It has been already proved that the members of the

federal will be more dependent on the members of the State

governments, than the latter will be on the former. It has

appeared also, that the prepossessions of the people, on whom

both will depend, will be more on the side of the State

governments, than of the federal government. So far as the

disposition of each towards the other may be influenced by these

causes, the State governments must clearly have the advantage.

But in a distinct and very important point of view, the advantage

will lie on the same side. The prepossessions, which the members

themselves will carry into the federal government, will generally

be favorable to the States; whilst it will rarely happen, that

the members of the State governments will carry into the public

councils a bias in favor of the general government. A local

spirit will infallibly prevail much more in the members of

Congress, than a national spirit will prevail in the legislatures

of the particular States. Every one knows that a great proportion

of the errors committed by the State legislatures proceeds from

the disposition of the members to sacrifice the comprehensive and

permanent interest of the State, to the particular and separate

views of the counties or districts in which they reside. And if

they do not sufficiently enlarge their policy to embrace the

collective welfare of their particular State, how can it be

imagined that they will make the aggregate prosperity of the

Union, and the dignity and respectability of its government, the

objects of their affections and consultations? For the same

reason that the members of the State legislatures will be

unlikely to attach themselves sufficiently to national objects,

the members of the federal legislature will be likely to attach

themselves too much to local objects. The States will be to the

latter what counties and towns are to the former. Measures will

too often be decided according to their probable effect, not on

the national prosperity and happiness, but on the prejudices,

interests, and pursuits of the governments and people of the

individual States. What is the spirit that has in general

characterized the proceedings of Congress? A perusal of their

journals, as well as the candid acknowledgments of such as have

had a seat in that assembly, will inform us, that the members

have but too frequently displayed the character, rather of

partisans of their respective States, than of impartial guardians

of a common interest; that where on one occasion improper

sacrifices have been made of local considerations, to the

aggrandizement of the federal government, the great interests of

the nation have suffered on a hundred, from an undue attention to

the local prejudices, interests, and views of the particular

States. I mean not by these reflections to insinuate, that the

new federal government will not embrace a more enlarged plan of

policy than the existing government may have pursued; much less,

that its views will be as confined as those of the State

legislatures; but only that it will partake sufficiently of the

spirit of both, to be disinclined to invade the rights of the

individual States, or the preorgatives of their governments. The

motives on the part of the State governments, to augment their

prerogatives by defalcations from the federal government, will be

overruled by no reciprocal predispositions in the members. Were

it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an

equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power

beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage

in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a

particular State, though unfriendly to the national government,

be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly

violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed

immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on

the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the

interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of

all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be

prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means

which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty.

On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal

government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom

fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which

may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are

powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their

repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers

of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the

State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which

would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any

State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large

State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of

several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present

obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing

to encounter. But ambitious encroachments of the federal

government, on the authority of the State governments, would not

excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States

only. They would be signals of general alarm. Every government

would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be

opened. Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would

animate and conduct the whole. The same combinations, in short,

would result from an apprehension of the federal, as was produced

by the dread of a foreign, yoke; and unless the projected

innovations should be voluntarily renounced, the same appeal to

a trial of force would be made in the one case as was made in the

other. But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal

government to such an extremity. In the contest with Great

Britain, one part of the empire was employed against the other.

The more numerous part invaded the rights of the less numerous

part. The attempt was unjust and unwise; but it was not in

speculation absolutely chimerical. But what would be the contest

in the case we are supposing? Who would be the parties? A few

representatives of the people would be opposed to the people

themselves; or rather one set of representatives would be

contending against thirteen sets of representatives, with the

whole body of their common constituents on the side of the

latter. The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall

of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the

federal government may previously accumulate a military force for

the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these

papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it

could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger.

That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of

time, elect an uninterrupted succession of men ready to betray

both; that the traitors should, throughout this period,

uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the

extension of the military establishment; that the governments

and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold

the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until

it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to

every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious

jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal,

than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism.

Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a

regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be

formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal

government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the

State governments, with the people on their side, would be able

to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to

the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any

country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number

of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear

arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an

army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these

would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of

citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from

among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united

and conducted by governments possessing their affections and

confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus

circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of

regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last

successful resistance of this country against the British arms,

will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the

advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the

people of almost every other nation, the existence of

subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by

which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against

the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a

simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the

military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which

are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the

governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is

not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to

shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the

additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves,

who could collect the national will and direct the national

force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these

governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may

be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every

tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the

legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant

citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less

able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual

possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be

to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us

rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can

ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment,

by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious

measures which must precede and produce it. The argument under

the present head may be put into a very concise form, which

appears altogether conclusive. Either the mode in which the

federal government is to be constructed will render it

sufficiently dependent on the people, or it will not. On the

first supposition, it will be restrained by that dependence from

forming schemes obnoxious to their constituents. On the other

supposition, it will not possess the confidence of the people,

and its schemes of usurpation will be easily defeated by the

State governments, who will be supported by the people. On

summing up the considerations stated in this and the last paper,

they seem to amount to the most convincing evidence, that the

powers proposed to be lodged in the federal government are as

little formidable to those reserved to the individual States, as

they are indispensably necessary to accomplish the purposes of

the Union; and that all those alarms which have been sounded, of

a meditated and consequential annihilation of the State

governments, must, on the most favorable interpretation, be

ascribed to the chimerical fears of the authors of them. PUBLIUS.


The Particular Structure of the New Government and the

Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts

From the New York Packet. Friday, February 1, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

HAVING reviewed the general form of the proposed government and

the general mass of power allotted to it, I proceed to examine

the particular structure of this government, and the distribution

of this mass of power among its constituent parts. One of the

principal objections inculcated by the more respectable

adversaries to the Constitution, is its supposed violation of the

political maxim, that the legislative, executive, and judiciary

departments ought to be separate and distinct. In the structure

of the federal government, no regard, it is said, seems to have

been paid to this essential precaution in favor of liberty. The

several departments of power are distributed and blended in such

a manner as at once to destroy all symmetry and beauty of form,

and to expose some of the essential parts of the edifice to the

danger of being crushed by the disproportionate weight of other

parts. No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic

value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened

patrons of liberty, than that on which the objection is founded.

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and

judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and

whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be

pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal

Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation

of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous

tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be

necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system. I

persuade myself, however, that it will be made apparent to every

one, that the charge cannot be supported, and that the maxim on

which it relies has been totally misconceived and misapplied. In

order to form correct ideas on this important subject, it will be

proper to investigate the sense in which the preservation of

liberty requires that the three great departments of power should

be separate and distinct. The oracle who is always consulted and

cited on this subject is the celebrated Montesquieu. If he be not

the author of this invaluable precept in the science of politics,

he has the merit at least of displaying and recommending it most

effectually to the attention of mankind. Let us endeavor, in the

first place, to ascertain his meaning on this point. The British

Constitution was to Montesquieu what Homer has been to the

didactic writers on epic poetry. As the latter have considered

the work of the immortal bard as the perfect model from which the

principles and rules of the epic art were to be drawn, and by

which all similar works were to be judged, so this great

political critic appears to have viewed the Constitution of

England as the standard, or to use his own expression, as the

mirror of political liberty; and to have delivered, in the form

of elementary truths, the several characteristic principles of

that particular system. That we may be sure, then, not to mistake

his meaning in this case, let us recur to the source from which

the maxim was drawn.
On the slightest view of the British

Constitution, we must perceive that the legislative, executive,

and judiciary departments are by no means totally separate and

distinct from each other. The executive magistrate forms an

integral part of the legislative authority. He alone has the

prerogative of making treaties with foreign sovereigns, which,

when made, have, under certain limitations, the force of

legislative acts. All the members of the judiciary department are

appointed by him, can be removed by him on the address of the two

Houses of Parliament, and form, when he pleases to consult them,

one of his constitutional councils. One branch of the legislative

department forms also a great constitutional council to the

executive chief, as, on another hand, it is the sole depositary

of judicial power in cases of impeachment, and is invested with

the supreme appellate jurisdiction in all other cases. The

judges, again, are so far connected with the legislative

department as often to attend and participate in its

deliberations, though not admitted to a legislative vote. From

these facts, by which Montesquieu was guided, it may clearly be

inferred that, in saying “There can be no liberty where the

legislative and executive powers are united in the same person,

or body of magistrates,” or, “if the power of judging be not

separated from the legislative and executive powers,” he did not

mean that these departments ought to have no PARTIAL AGENCY in,

or no CONTROL over, the acts of each other. His meaning, as his

own words import, and still more conclusively as illustrated by

the example in his eye, can amount to no more than this, that

where the WHOLE power of one department is exercised by the same

hands which possess the WHOLE power of another department, the

fundamental principles of a free constitution are subverted. This

would have been the case in the constitution examined by him, if

the king, who is the sole executive magistrate, had possessed

also the complete legislative power, or the supreme

administration of justice; or if the entire legislative body had

possessed the supreme judiciary, or the supreme executive

authority. This, however, is not among the vices of that

constitution. The magistrate in whom the whole executive power

resides cannot of himself make a law, though he can put a

negative on every law; nor administer justice in person, though

he has the appointment of those who do administer it. The judges

can exercise no executive prerogative, though they are shoots

from the executive stock; nor any legislative function, though

they may be advised with by the legislative councils. The entire

legislature can perform no judiciary act, though by the joint act

of two of its branches the judges may be removed from their

offices, and though one of its branches is possessed of the

judicial power in the last resort. The entire legislature, again,

can exercise no executive prerogative, though one of its branches

constitutes the supreme executive magistracy, and another, on the

impeachment of a third, can try and condemn all the subordinate

officers in the executive department. The reasons on which

Montesquieu grounds his maxim are a further demonstration of his

meaning. “When the legislative and executive powers are united

in the same person or body,” says he, “there can be no liberty,

because apprehensions may arise lest THE SAME monarch or senate

should ENACT tyrannical laws to EXECUTE them in a tyrannical

manner. ” Again: “Were the power of judging joined with the

legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed

to arbitrary control, for THE JUDGE would then be THE LEGISLATOR.

Were it joined to the executive power, THE JUDGE might behave

with all the violence of AN OPPRESSOR. ” Some of these reasons

are more fully explained in other passages; but briefly stated as

they are here, they sufficiently establish the meaning which we

have put on this celebrated maxim of this celebrated author.

If we look into the constitutions of the several States, we find

that, notwithstanding the emphatical and, in some instances, the

unqualified terms in which this axiom has been laid down, there

is not a single instance in which the several departments of

power have been kept absolutely separate and distinct. New

Hampshire, whose constitution was the last formed, seems to have

been fully aware of the impossibility and inexpediency of

avoiding any mixture whatever of these departments, and has

qualified the doctrine by declaring “that the legislative,

executive, and judiciary powers ought to be kept as separate

from, and independent of, each other AS THE NATURE OF A FREE



accordingly mixes these departments in several respects. The

Senate, which is a branch of the legislative department, is also

a judicial tribunal for the trial of impeachments. The

President, who is the head of the executive department, is the

presiding member also of the Senate; and, besides an equal vote

in all cases, has a casting vote in case of a tie. The executive

head is himself eventually elective every year by the

legislative department, and his council is every year chosen by

and from the members of the same department. Several of the

officers of state are also appointed by the legislature. And the

members of the judiciary department are appointed by the

executive department. The constitution of Massachusetts has

observed a sufficient though less pointed caution, in expressing

this fundamental article of liberty. It declares “that the

legislative department shall never exercise the executive and

judicial powers, or either of them; the executive shall never

exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them;

the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive

powers, or either of them. ” This declaration corresponds

precisely with the doctrine of Montesquieu, as it has been

explained, and is not in a single point violated by the plan of

the convention. It goes no farther than to prohibit any one of

the entire departments from exercising the powers of another

department. In the very Constitution to which it is prefixed, a

partial mixture of powers has been admitted. The executive

magistrate has a qualified negative on the legislative body, and

the Senate, which is a part of the legislature, is a court of

impeachment for members both of the executive and judiciary

departments. The members of the judiciary department, again, are

appointable by the executive department, and removable by the

same authority on the address of the two legislative branches.

Lastly, a number of the officers of government are annually

appointed by the legislative department. As the appointment to

offices, particularly executive offices, is in its nature an

executive function, the compilers of the Constitution have, in

this last point at least, violated the rule established by

themselves. I pass over the constitutions of Rhode Island and

Connecticut, because they were formed prior to the Revolution,

and even before the principle under examination had become an

object of political attention. The constitution of New York

contains no declaration on this subject; but appears very

clearly to have been framed with an eye to the danger of

improperly blending the different departments. It gives,

nevertheless, to the executive magistrate, a partial control over

the legislative department; and, what is more, gives a like

control to the judiciary department; and even blends the

executive and judiciary departments in the exercise of this

control. In its council of appointment members of the

legislative are associated with the executive authority, in the

appointment of officers, both executive and judiciary. And its

court for the trial of impeachments and correction of errors is

to consist of one branch of the legislature and the principal

members of the judiciary department. The constitution of New

Jersey has blended the different powers of government more than

any of the preceding. The governor, who is the executive

magistrate, is appointed by the legislature; is chancellor and

ordinary, or surrogate of the State; is a member of the Supreme

Court of Appeals, and president, with a casting vote, of one of

the legislative branches. The same legislative branch acts again

as executive council of the governor, and with him constitutes

the Court of Appeals. The members of the judiciary department are

appointed by the legislative department and removable by one

branch of it, on the impeachment of the other. According to the

constitution of Pennsylvania, the president, who is the head of

the executive department, is annually elected by a vote in which

the legislative department predominates. In conjunction with an

executive council, he appoints the members of the judiciary

department, and forms a court of impeachment for trial of all

officers, judiciary as well as executive. The judges of the

Supreme Court and justices of the peace seem also to be removable

by the legislature; and the executive power of pardoning in

certain cases, to be referred to the same department. The members

of the executive council are made EX-OFFICIO justices of peace

throughout the State. In Delaware, the chief executive magistrate

is annually elected by the legislative department. The speakers

of the two legislative branches are vice-presidents in the

executive department. The executive chief, with six others,

appointed, three by each of the legislative branches constitutes

the Supreme Court of Appeals; he is joined with the legislative

department in the appointment of the other judges. Throughout the

States, it appears that the members of the legislature may at the

same time be justices of the peace; in this State, the members of

one branch of it are EX-OFFICIO justices of the peace; as are

also the members of the executive council. The principal officers

of the executive department are appointed by the legislative; and

one branch of the latter forms a court of impeachments. All

officers may be removed on address of the legislature. Maryland

has adopted the maxim in the most unqualified terms; declaring

that the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of

government ought to be forever separate and distinct from each

other. Her constitution, notwithstanding, makes the executive

magistrate appointable by the legislative department; and the

members of the judiciary by the executive department. The

language of Virginia is still more pointed on this subject. Her

constitution declares, “that the legislative, executive, and

judiciary departments shall be separate and distinct; so that

neither exercise the powers properly belonging to the other; nor

shall any person exercise the powers of more than one of them at

the same time, except that the justices of county courts shall be

eligible to either House of Assembly. ” Yet we find not only

this express exception, with respect to the members of the

inferior courts, but that the chief magistrate, with his

executive council, are appointable by the legislature; that two

members of the latter are triennially displaced at the pleasure

of the legislature; and that all the principal offices, both

executive and judiciary, are filled by the same department. The

executive prerogative of pardon, also, is in one case vested in

the legislative department. The constitution of North Carolina,

which declares “that the legislative, executive, and supreme

judicial powers of government ought to be forever separate and

distinct from each other,” refers, at the same time, to the

legislative department, the appointment not only of the executive

chief, but all the principal officers within both that and the

judiciary department. In South Carolina, the constitution makes

the executive magistracy eligible by the legislative department.

It gives to the latter, also, the appointment of the members of

the judiciary department, including even justices of the peace

and sheriffs; and the appointment of officers in the executive

department, down to captains in the army and navy of the State.

In the constitution of Georgia, where it is declared “that the

legislative, executive, and judiciary departments shall be

separate and distinct, so that neither exercise the powers

properly belonging to the other,” we find that the executive

department is to be filled by appointments of the legislature;

and the executive prerogative of pardon to be finally exercised

by the same authority. Even justices of the peace are to be

appointed by the legislature. In citing these cases, in which

the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments have not

been kept totally separate and distinct, I wish not to be

regarded as an advocate for the particular organizations of the

several State governments. I am fully aware that among the many

excellent principles which they exemplify, they carry strong

marks of the haste, and still stronger of the inexperience, under

which they were framed. It is but too obvious that in some

instances the fundamental principle under consideration has been

violated by too great a mixture, and even an actual

consolidation, of the different powers; and that in no instance

has a competent provision been made for maintaining in practice

the separation delineated on paper. What I have wished to evince

is, that the charge brought against the proposed Constitution, of

violating the sacred maxim of free government, is warranted

neither by the real meaning annexed to that maxim by its author,

nor by the sense in which it has hitherto been understood in

America. This interesting subject will be resumed in the ensuing

paper. PUBLIUS.


These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No

Constitutional Control Over Each Other

From the New York Packet. Friday, February 1, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT WAS shown in the last paper that the political apothegm there

examined does not require that the legislative, executive, and

judiciary departments should be wholly unconnected with each

other. I shall undertake, in the next place, to show that unless

these departments be so far connected and blended as to give to

each a constitutional control over the others, the degree of

separation which the maxim requires, as essential to a free

government, can never in practice be duly maintained. It is

agreed on all sides, that the powers properly belonging to one of

the departments ought not to be directly and completely

administered by either of the other departments. It is equally

evident, that none of them ought to possess, directly or

indirectly, an overruling influence over the others, in the

administration of their respective powers. It will not be denied,

that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be

effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.

After discriminating, therefore, in theory, the several classes

of power, as they may in their nature be legislative, executive,

or judiciary, the next and most difficult task is to provide some

practical security for each, against the invasion of the others.

What this security ought to be, is the great problem to be

solved. Will it be sufficient to mark, with precision, the

boundaries of these departments, in the constitution of the

government, and to trust to these parchment barriers against the

encroaching spirit of power? This is the security which appears

to have been principally relied on by the compilers of most of

the American constitutions. But experience assures us, that the

efficacy of the provision has been greatly overrated; and that

some more adequate defense is indispensably necessary for the

more feeble, against the more powerful, members of the

government. The legislative department is everywhere extending

the sphere of its activity, and drawing all power into its

impetuous vortex. The founders of our republics have so much

merit for the wisdom which they have displayed, that no task can

be less pleasing than that of pointing out the errors into which

they have fallen. A respect for truth, however, obliges us to

remark, that they seem never for a moment to have turned their

eyes from the danger to liberty from the overgrown and

all-grasping prerogative of an hereditary magistrate, supported

and fortified by an hereditary branch of the legislative

authority. They seem never to have recollected the danger from

legislative usurpations, which, by assembling all power in the

same hands, must lead to the same tyranny as is threatened by

executive usurpations. In a government where numerous and

extensive prerogatives are placed in the hands of an hereditary

monarch, the executive department is very justly regarded as the

source of danger, and watched with all the jealousy which a zeal

for liberty ought to inspire. In a democracy, where a multitude

of people exercise in person the legislative functions, and are

continually exposed, by their incapacity for regular deliberation

and concerted measures, to the ambitious intrigues of their

executive magistrates, tyranny may well be apprehended, on some

favorable emergency, to start up in the same quarter. But in a

representative republic, where the executive magistracy is

carefully limited; both in the extent and the duration of its

power; and where the legislative power is exercised by an

assembly, which is inspired, by a supposed influence over the

people, with an intrepid confidence in its own strength; which is

sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a

multitude, yet not so numerous as to be incapable of pursuing the

objects of its passions, by means which reason prescribes; it is

against the enterprising ambition of this department that the

people ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their

precautions. The legislative department derives a superiority in

our governments from other circumstances. Its constitutional

powers being at once more extensive, and less susceptible of

precise limits, it can, with the greater facility, mask, under

complicated and indirect measures, the encroachments which it

makes on the co-ordinate departments. It is not unfrequently a

question of real nicety in legislative bodies, whether the

operation of a particular measure will, or will not, extend

beyond the legislative sphere. On the other side, the executive

power being restrained within a narrower compass, and being more

simple in its nature, and the judiciary being described by

landmarks still less uncertain, projects of usurpation by either

of these departments would immediately betray and defeat

themselves. Nor is this all: as the legislative department alone

has access to the pockets of the people, and has in some

constitutions full discretion, and in all a prevailing influence,

over the pecuniary rewards of those who fill the other

departments, a dependence is thus created in the latter, which

gives still greater facility to encroachments of the former. I

have appealed to our own experience for the truth of what I

advance on this subject. Were it necessary to verify this

experience by particular proofs, they might be multiplied

without end. I might find a witness in every citizen who has

shared in, or been attentive to, the course of public

administrations. I might collect vouchers in abundance from the

records and archives of every State in the Union. But as a more

concise, and at the same time equally satisfactory, evidence, I

will refer to the example of two States, attested by two

unexceptionable authorities. The first example is that of

Virginia, a State which, as we have seen, has expressly declared

in its constitution, that the three great departments ought not

to be intermixed. The authority in support of it is Mr.

Jefferson, who, besides his other advantages for remarking the

operation of the government, was himself the chief magistrate of

it. In order to convey fully the ideas with which his experience

had impressed him on this subject, it will be necessary to quote

a passage of some length from his very interesting “Notes on the

State of Virginia,” p. 195. “All the powers of government,

legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative

body. The concentrating these in the same hands, is precisely the

definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation,

that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and

not by a single one. One hundred and seventy-three despots would

surely be as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it, turn

their eyes on the republic of Venice. As little will it avail us,

that they are chosen by ourselves. An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not

the government we fought for; but one which should not only be

founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government

should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of

magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits,

without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.

For this reason, that convention which passed the ordinance of

government, laid its foundation on this basis, that the

legislative, executive, and judiciary departments should be

separate and distinct, so that no person should exercise the

powers of more than one of them at the same time. BUT NO BARRIER


executive members were left dependent on the legislative for

their subsistence in office, and some of them for their

continuance in it. If, therefore, the legislature assumes

executive and judiciary powers, no opposition is likely to be

made; nor, if made, can be effectual; because in that case they

may put their proceedings into the form of acts of Assembly,

which will render them obligatory on the other branches. They

have accordingly, IN MANY instances, DECIDED RIGHTS which should



HABITUAL AND FAMILIAR. “The other State which I shall take for

an example is Pennsylvania; and the other authority, the Council

of Censors, which assembled in the years 1783 and 1784. A part of

the duty of this body, as marked out by the constitution, was

“to inquire whether the constitution had been preserved

inviolate in every part; and whether the legislative and

executive branches of government had performed their duty as

guardians of the people, or assumed to themselves, or exercised,

other or greater powers than they are entitled to by the

constitution. ” In the execution of this trust, the council were

necessarily led to a comparison of both the legislative and

executive proceedings, with the constitutional powers of these

departments; and from the facts enumerated, and to the truth of

most of which both sides in the council subscribed, it appears

that the constitution had been flagrantly violated by the

legislature in a variety of important instances. A great number

of laws had been passed, violating, without any apparent

necessity, the rule requiring that all bills of a public nature

shall be previously printed for the consideration of the people;

although this is one of the precautions chiefly relied on by the

constitution against improper acts of legislature. The

constitutional trial by jury had been violated, and powers

assumed which had not been delegated by the constitution.

Executive powers had been usurped. The salaries of the judges,

which the constitution expressly requires to be fixed, had been

occasionally varied; and cases belonging to the judiciary

department frequently drawn within legislative cognizance and

determination. Those who wish to see the several particulars

falling under each of these heads, may consult the journals of

the council, which are in print. Some of them, it will be found,

may be imputable to peculiar circumstances connected with the

war; but the greater part of them may be considered as the

spontaneous shoots of an ill-constituted government. It appears,

also, that the executive department had not been innocent of

frequent breaches of the constitution. There are three

observations, however, which ought to be made on this head:

FIRST, a great proportion of the instances were either

immediately produced by the necessities of the war, or

recommended by Congress or the commander-in-chief; SECONDLY, in

most of the other instances, they conformed either to the

declared or the known sentiments of the legislative department;

THIRDLY, the executive department of Pennsylvania is

distinguished from that of the other States by the number of

members composing it. In this respect, it has as much affinity

to a legislative assembly as to an executive council. And being

at once exempt from the restraint of an individual responsibility

for the acts of the body, and deriving confidence from mutual

example and joint influence, unauthorized measures would, of

course, be more freely hazarded, than where the executive

department is administered by a single hand, or by a few hands.

The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these

observations is, that a mere demarcation on parchment of the

constitutional limits of the several departments, is not a

sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a

tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the

same hands. PUBLIUS.


Method of Guarding Against the Encroachments of Any One

Department of Government by Appealing to the People Through a


From the New York Packet. Tuesday, February 5, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE author of the “Notes on the State of Virginia,” quoted in

the last paper, has subjoined to that valuable work the draught

of a constitution, which had been prepared in order to be laid

before a convention, expected to be called in 1783, by the

legislature, for the establishment of a constitution for that

commonwealth. The plan, like every thing from the same pen, marks

a turn of thinking, original, comprehensive, and accurate; and is

the more worthy of attention as it equally displays a fervent

attachment to republican government and an enlightened view of

the dangerous propensities against which it ought to be guarded.

One of the precautions which he proposes, and on which he appears

ultimately to rely as a palladium to the weaker departments of

power against the invasions of the stronger, is perhaps

altogether his own, and as it immediately relates to the subject

of our present inquiry, ought not to be overlooked. His

proposition is, “that whenever any two of the three branches of

government shall concur in opinion, each by the voices of two

thirds of their whole number, that a convention is necessary for

altering the constitution, or CORRECTING BREACHES OF IT, a

convention shall be called for the purpose. “As the people are

the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that

the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of

government hold their power, is derived, it seems strictly

consonant to the republican theory, to recur to the same original

authority, not only whenever it may be necessary to enlarge,

diminish, or new-model the powers of the government, but also

whenever any one of the departments may commit encroachments on

the chartered authorities of the others. The several departments

being perfectly co-ordinate by the terms of their common

commission, none of them, it is evident, can pretend to an

exclusive or superior right of settling the boundaries between

their respective powers; and how are the encroachments of the

stronger to be prevented, or the wrongs of the weaker to be

redressed, without an appeal to the people themselves, who, as

the grantors of the commissions, can alone declare its true

meaning, and enforce its observance? There is certainly great

force in this reasoning, and it must be allowed to prove that a

constitutional road to the decision of the people ought to be

marked out and kept open, for certain great and extraordinary

occasions. But there appear to be insuperable objections against

the proposed recurrence to the people, as a provision in all

cases for keeping the several departments of power within their

constitutional limits. In the first place, the provision does not

reach the case of a combination of two of the departments against

the third. If the legislative authority, which possesses so many

means of operating on the motives of the other departments,

should be able to gain to its interest either of the others, or

even one third of its members, the remaining department could

derive no advantage from its remedial provision. I do not dwell,

however, on this objection, because it may be thought to be

rather against the modification of the principle, than against

the principle itself. In the next place, it may be considered as

an objection inherent in the principle, that as every appeal to

the people would carry an implication of some defect in the

government, frequent appeals would, in a great measure, deprive

the government of that veneration which time bestows on every

thing, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest

governments would not possess the requisite stability. If it be

true that all governments rest on opinion, it is no less true

that the strength of opinion in each individual, and its

practical influence on his conduct, depend much on the number

which he supposes to have entertained the same opinion. The

reason of man, like man himself, is timid and cautious when left

alone, and acquires firmness and confidence in proportion to the

number with which it is associated. When the examples which

fortify opinion are ANCIENT as well as NUMEROUS, they are known

to have a double effect. In a nation of philosophers, this

consideration ought to be disregarded. A reverence for the laws

would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of an enlightened

reason. But a nation of philosophers is as little to be expected

as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato. And in

every other nation, the most rational government will not find it

a superfluous advantage to have the prejudices of the community

on its side. The danger of disturbing the public tranquillity by

interesting too strongly the public passions, is a still more

serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional

questions to the decision of the whole society. Notwithstanding

the success which has attended the revisions of our established

forms of government, and which does so much honor to the virtue

and intelligence of the people of America, it must be confessed

that the experiments are of too ticklish a nature to be

unnecessarily multiplied. We are to recollect that all the

existing constitutions were formed in the midst of a danger which

repressed the passions most unfriendly to order and concord; of

an enthusiastic confidence of the people in their patriotic

leaders, which stifled the ordinary diversity of opinions on

great national questions; of a universal ardor for new and

opposite forms, produced by a universal resentment and

indignation against the ancient government; and whilst no spirit

of party connected with the changes to be made, or the abuses to

be reformed, could mingle its leaven in the operation. The future

situations in which we must expect to be usually placed, do not

present any equivalent security against the danger which is

apprehended. But the greatest objection of all is, that the

decisions which would probably result from such appeals would not

answer the purpose of maintaining the constitutional equilibrium

of the government. We have seen that the tendency of republican

governments is to an aggrandizement of the legislative at the

expense of the other departments. The appeals to the people,

therefore, would usually be made by the executive and judiciary

departments. But whether made by one side or the other, would

each side enjoy equal advantages on the trial? Let us view their

different situations. The members of the executive and judiciary

departments are few in number, and can be personally known to a

small part only of the people. The latter, by the mode of their

appointment, as well as by the nature and permanency of it, are

too far removed from the people to share much in their

prepossessions. The former are generally the objects of jealousy,

and their administration is always liable to be discolored and

rendered unpopular. The members of the legislative department, on

the other hand, are numberous. They are distributed and dwell

among the people at large. Their connections of blood, of

friendship, and of acquaintance embrace a great proportion of the

most influential part of the society. The nature of their public

trust implies a personal influence among the people, and that

they are more immediately the confidential guardians of the

rights and liberties of the people. With these advantages, it can

hardly be supposed that the adverse party would have an equal

chance for a favorable issue. But the legislative party would not

only be able to plead their cause most successfully with the

people. They would probably be constituted themselves the judges.

The same influence which had gained them an election into the

legislature, would gain them a seat in the convention. If this

should not be the case with all, it would probably be the case

with many, and pretty certainly with those leading characters, on

whom every thing depends in such bodies. The convention, in

short, would be composed chiefly of men who had been, who

actually were, or who expected to be, members of the department

whose conduct was arraigned. They would consequently be parties

to the very question to be decided by them. It might, however,

sometimes happen, that appeals would be made under circumstances

less adverse to the executive and judiciary departments. The

usurpations of the legislature might be so flagrant and so

sudden, as to admit of no specious coloring. A strong party

among themselves might take side with the other branches. The

executive power might be in the hands of a peculiar favorite of

the people. In such a posture of things, the public decision

might be less swayed by prepossessions in favor of the

legislative party. But still it could never be expected to turn

on the true merits of the question. It would inevitably be

connected with the spirit of pre-existing parties, or of parties

springing out of the question itself. It would be connected with

persons of distinguished character and extensive influence in the

community. It would be pronounced by the very men who had been

agents in, or opponents of, the measures to which the decision

would relate. The PASSIONS, therefore, not the REASON, of the

public would sit in judgment. But it is the reason, alone, of the

public, that ought to control and regulate the government. The

passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government.

We found in the last paper, that mere declarations in the written

constitution are not sufficient to restrain the several

departments within their legal rights. It appears in this, that

occasional appeals to the people would be neither a proper nor an

effectual provision for that purpose. How far the provisions of a

different nature contained in the plan above quoted might be

adequate, I do not examine. Some of them are unquestionably

founded on sound political principles, and all of them are framed

with singular ingenuity and precision. PUBLIUS.


Periodical Appeals to the People Considered

From the New York Packet. Tuesday, February 5, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT MAY be contended, perhaps, that instead of OCCASIONAL appeals

to the people, which are liable to the objections urged against

them, PERIODICAL appeals are the proper and adequate means of


will be attended to, that in the examination of these expedients,

I confine myself to their aptitude for ENFORCING the

Constitution, by keeping the several departments of power within

their due bounds, without particularly considering them as

provisions for ALTERING the Constitution itself. In the first

view, appeals to the people at fixed periods appear to be nearly

as ineligible as appeals on particular occasions as they emerge.

If the periods be separated by short intervals, the measures to

be reviewed and rectified will have been of recent date, and will

be connected with all the circumstances which tend to vitiate and

pervert the result of occasional revisions. If the periods be

distant from each other, the same remark will be applicable to

all recent measures; and in proportion as the remoteness of the

others may favor a dispassionate review of them, this advantage

is inseparable from inconveniences which seem to counterbalance

it. In the first place, a distant prospect of public censure

would be a very feeble restraint on power from those excesses to

which it might be urged by the force of present motives. Is it to

be imagined that a legislative assembly, consisting of a hundred

or two hundred members, eagerly bent on some favorite object, and

breaking through the restraints of the Constitution in pursuit of

it, would be arrested in their career, by considerations drawn

from a censorial revision of their conduct at the future distance

of ten, fifteen, or twenty years? In the next place, the abuses

would often have completed their mischievous effects before the

remedial provision would be applied. And in the last place, where

this might not be the case, they would be of long standing, would

have taken deep root, and would not easily be extirpated. The

scheme of revising the constitution, in order to correct recent

breaches of it, as well as for other purposes, has been actually

tried in one of the States. One of the objects of the Council of

Censors which met in Pennsylvania in 1783 and 1784, was, as we

have seen, to inquire, “whether the constitution had been

violated, and whether the legislative and executive departments

had encroached upon each other. ” This important and novel

experiment in politics merits, in several points of view, very

particular attention. In some of them it may, perhaps, as a

single experiment, made under circumstances somewhat peculiar, be

thought to be not absolutely conclusive. But as applied to the

case under consideration, it involves some facts, which I venture

to remark, as a complete and satisfactory illustration of the

reasoning which I have employed. First. It appears, from the

names of the gentlemen who composed the council, that some, at

least, of its most active members had also been active and

leading characters in the parties which pre-existed in the State.

Secondly. It appears that the same active and leading members of

the council had been active and influential members of the

legislative and executive branches, within the period to be

reviewed; and even patrons or opponents of the very measures to

be thus brought to the test of the constitution. Two of the

members had been vice-presidents of the State, and several other

members of the executive council, within the seven preceding

years. One of them had been speaker, and a number of others

distinguished members, of the legislative assembly within the

same period. Thirdly. Every page of their proceedings witnesses

the effect of all these circumstances on the temper of their

deliberations. Throughout the continuance of the council, it was

split into two fixed and violent parties. The fact is

acknowledged and lamented by themselves. Had this not been the

case, the face of their proceedings exhibits a proof equally

satisfactory. In all questions, however unimportant in

themselves, or unconnected with each other, the same names stand

invariably contrasted on the opposite columns. Every unbiased

observer may infer, without danger of mistake, and at the same

time without meaning to reflect on either party, or any

individuals of either party, that, unfortunately, PASSION, not

REASON, must have presided over their decisions. When men

exercise their reason coolly and freely on a variety of distinct

questions, they inevitably fall into different opinions on some

of them. When they are governed by a common passion, their

opinions, if they are so to be called, will be the same.

Fourthly. It is at least problematical, whether the decisions of

this body do not, in several instances, misconstrue the limits

prescribed for the legislative and executive departments, instead

of reducing and limiting them within their constitutional places.

Fifthly. I have never understood that the decisions of the

council on constitutional questions, whether rightly or

erroneously formed, have had any effect in varying the practice

founded on legislative constructions. It even appears, if I

mistake not, that in one instance the contemporary legislature

denied the constructions of the council, and actually prevailed

in the contest. This censorial body, therefore, proves at the

same time, by its researches, the existence of the disease, and

by its example, the inefficacy of the remedy. This conclusion

cannot be invalidated by alleging that the State in which the

experiment was made was at that crisis, and had been for a long

time before, violently heated and distracted by the rage of

party. Is it to be presumed, that at any future septennial epoch

the same State will be free from parties? Is it to be presumed

that any other State, at the same or any other given period, will

be exempt from them? Such an event ought to be neither presumed

nor desired; because an extinction of parties necessarily implies

either a universal alarm for the public safety, or an absolute

extinction of liberty. Were the precaution taken of excluding

from the assemblies elected by the people, to revise the

preceding administration of the government, all persons who

should have been concerned with the government within the given

period, the difficulties would not be obviated. The important

task would probably devolve on men, who, with inferior

capacities, would in other respects be little better qualified.

Although they might not have been personally concerned in the

administration, and therefore not immediately agents in the

measures to be examined, they would probably have been involved

in the parties connected with these measures, and have been

elected under their auspices. PUBLIUS.


The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks

and Balances Between the Different Departments

From the New York Packet. Friday, February 8, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining

in practice the necessary partition of power among the several

departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer

that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are

found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so

contriving the interior structure of the government as that its

several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the

means of keeping each other in their proper places. Without

presuming to undertake a full development of this important idea,

I will hazard a few general observations, which may perhaps place

it in a clearer light, and enable us to form a more correct

judgment of the principles and structure of the government

planned by the convention. In order to lay a due foundation for

that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of

government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to

be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that

each department should have a will of its own; and consequently

should be so constituted that the members of each should have as

little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of

the others. Were this principle rigorously adhered to, it would

require that all the appointments for the supreme executive,

legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the

same fountain of authority, the people, through channels having

no communication whatever with one another. Perhaps such a plan

of constructing the several departments would be less difficult

in practice than it may in contemplation appear. Some

difficulties, however, and some additional expense would attend

the execution of it. Some deviations, therefore, from the

principle must be admitted. In the constitution of the judiciary

department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist

rigorously on the principle: first, because peculiar

qualifications being essential in the members, the primary

consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice which

best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the

permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that

department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the

authority conferring them. It is equally evident, that the

members of each department should be as little dependent as

possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to

their offices. Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not

independent of the legislature in this particular, their

independence in every other would be merely nominal. But the

great security against a gradual concentration of the several

powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who

administer each department the necessary constitutional means and

personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The

provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be

made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made

to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be

connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be

a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be

necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is

government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human

nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If

angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal

controls on government would be necessary. In framing a

government which is to be administered by men over men, the great

difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to

control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control

itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary

control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the

necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by

opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might

be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as

well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the

subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to

divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that

each may be a check on the other that the private interest of

every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These

inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the

distribution of the supreme powers of the State. But it is not

possible to give to each department an equal power of

self-defense. In republican government, the legislative

authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this

inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different

branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and

different principles of action, as little connected with each

other as the nature of their common functions and their common

dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary

to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further

precautions. As the weight of the legislative authority requires

that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may

require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified. An

absolute negative on the legislature appears, at first view, to

be the natural defense with which the executive magistrate should

be armed. But perhaps it would be neither altogether safe nor

alone sufficient. On ordinary occasions it might not be exerted

with the requisite firmness, and on extraordinary occasions it

might be perfidiously abused. May not this defect of an absolute

negative be supplied by some qualified connection between this

weaker department and the weaker branch of the stronger

department, by which the latter may be led to support the

constitutional rights of the former, without being too much

detached from the rights of its own department? If the principles

on which these observations are founded be just, as I persuade

myself they are, and they be applied as a criterion to the

several State constitutions, and to the federal Constitution it

will be found that if the latter does not perfectly correspond

with them, the former are infinitely less able to bear such a

test. There are, moreover, two considerations particularly

applicable to the federal system of America, which place that

system in a very interesting point of view. First. In a single

republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to

the administration of a single government; and the usurpations

are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct

and separate departments. In the compound republic of America,

the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two

distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each

subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a

double security arises to the rights of the people. The different

governments will control each other, at the same time that each

will be controlled by itself. Second. It is of great importance

in a republic not only to guard the society against the

oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society

against the injustice of the other part. Different interests

necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a

majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the

minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of

providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the

community independent of the majority that is, of the society

itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many

separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust

combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not

impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments

possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority. This, at

best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent

of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major,

as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be

turned against both parties. The second method will be

exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst

all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the

society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts,

interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of

individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from

interested combinations of the majority. In a free government

the security for civil rights must be the same as that for

religious rights. It consists in the one case in the

multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity

of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on

the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to

depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended

under the same government. This view of the subject must

particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere

and considerate friends of republican government, since it shows

that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be

formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States

oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated: the

best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of

every class of citizens, will be diminished: and consequently the

stability and independence of some member of the government, the

only other security, must be proportionately increased. Justice

is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It

ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or

until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the

forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress

the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state

of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the

violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the

stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their

condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak

as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more

powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like

motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties,

the weaker as well as the more powerful. It can be little

doubted that if the State of Rhode Island was separated from the

Confederacy and left to itself, the insecurity of rights under

the popular form of government within such narrow limits would be

displayed by such reiterated oppressions of factious majorities

that some power altogether independent of the people would soon

be called for by the voice of the very factions whose misrule had

proved the necessity of it. In the extended republic of the

United States, and among the great variety of interests, parties,

and sects which it embraces, a coalition of a majority of the

whole society could seldom take place on any other principles

than those of justice and the general good; whilst there being

thus less danger to a minor from the will of a major party, there

must be less pretext, also, to provide for the security of the

former, by introducing into the government a will not dependent

on the latter, or, in other words, a will independent of the

society itself. It is no less certain than it is important,

notwithstanding the contrary opinions which have been

entertained, that the larger the society, provided it lie within

a practical sphere, the more duly capable it will be of

self-government. And happily for the REPUBLICAN CAUSE, the

practicable sphere may be carried to a very great extent, by a

judicious modification and mixture of the FEDERAL PRINCIPLE.



The House of Representatives

From the New York Packet. Friday, February 8, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

FROM the more general inquiries pursued in the four last papers,

I pass on to a more particular examination of the several parts

of the government. I shall begin with the House of

Representatives. The first view to be taken of this part of the

government relates to the qualifications of the electors and the

elected. Those of the former are to be the same with those of the

electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded

as a fundamental article of republican government. It was

incumbent on the convention, therefore, to define and establish

this right in the Constitution. To have left it open for the

occasional regulation of the Congress, would have been improper

for the reason just mentioned. To have submitted it to the

legislative discretion of the States, would have been improper

for the same reason; and for the additional reason that it would

have rendered too dependent on the State governments that branch

of the federal government which ought to be dependent on the

people alone. To have reduced the different qualifications in the

different States to one uniform rule, would probably have been as

dissatisfactory to some of the States as it would have been

difficult to the convention. The provision made by the convention

appears, therefore, to be the best that lay within their option.

It must be satisfactory to every State, because it is conformable

to the standard already established, or which may be established,

by the State itself. It will be safe to the United States,

because, being fixed by the State constitutions, it is not

alterable by the State governments, and it cannot be feared that

the people of the States will alter this part of their

constitutions in such a manner as to abridge the rights secured

to them by the federal Constitution. The qualifications of the

elected, being less carefully and properly defined by the State

constitutions, and being at the same time more susceptible of

uniformity, have been very properly considered and regulated by

the convention. A representative of the United States must be of

the age of twenty-five years; must have been seven years a

citizen of the United States; must, at the time of his election,

be an inhabitant of the State he is to represent; and, during the

time of his service, must be in no office under the United

States. Under these reasonable limitations, the door of this part

of the federal government is open to merit of every description,

whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without

regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of

religious faith. The term for which the representatives are to be

elected falls under a second view which may be taken of this

branch. In order to decide on the propriety of this article, two

questions must be considered: first, whether biennial elections

will, in this case, be safe; secondly, whether they be necessary

or useful. First. As it is essential to liberty that the

government in general should have a common interest with the

people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it

under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and

an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are

unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and

sympathy can be effectually secured. But what particular degree

of frequency may be absolutely necessary for the purpose, does

not appear to be susceptible of any precise calculation, and must

depend on a variety of circumstances with which it may be

connected. Let us consult experience, the guide that ought always

to be followed whenever it can be found. The scheme of

representation, as a substitute for a meeting of the citizens in

person, being at most but very imperfectly known to ancient

polity, it is in more modern times only that we are to expect

instructive examples. And even here, in order to avoid a research

too vague and diffusive, it will be proper to confine ourselves

to the few examples which are best known, and which bear the

greatest analogy to our particular case. The first to which this

character ought to be applied, is the House of Commons in Great

Britain. The history of this branch of the English Constitution,

anterior to the date of Magna Charta, is too obscure to yield

instruction. The very existence of it has been made a question

among political antiquaries. The earliest records of subsequent

date prove that parliaments were to SIT only every year; not that

they were to be ELECTED every year. And even these annual

sessions were left so much at the discretion of the monarch,

that, under various pretexts, very long and dangerous

intermissions were often contrived by royal ambition. To remedy

this grievance, it was provided by a statute in the reign of

Charles II. , that the intermissions should not be protracted

beyond a period of three years. On the accession of William III.,

when a revolution took place in the government, the subject was

still more seriously resumed, and it was declared to be among the

fundamental rights of the people that parliaments ought to be

held FREQUENTLY. By another statute, which passed a few years

later in the same reign, the term “frequently,” which had

alluded to the triennial period settled in the time of Charles

II., is reduced to a precise meaning, it being expressly enacted

that a new parliament shall be called within three years after

the termination of the former. The last change, from three to

seven years, is well known to have been introduced pretty early

in the present century, under on alarm for the Hanoverian

succession. From these facts it appears that the greatest

frequency of elections which has been deemed necessary in that

kingdom, for binding the representatives to their constituents,

does not exceed a triennial return of them. And if we may argue

from the degree of liberty retained even under septennial

elections, and all the other vicious ingredients in the

parliamentary constitution, we cannot doubt that a reduction of

the period from seven to three years, with the other necessary

reforms, would so far extend the influence of the people over

their representatives as to satisfy us that biennial elections,

under the federal system, cannot possibly be dangerous to the

requisite dependence of the House of Representatives on their

constituents. Elections in Ireland, till of late, were regulated

entirely by the discretion of the crown, and were seldom

repeated, except on the accession of a new prince, or some other

contingent event. The parliament which commenced with George II.

was continued throughout his whole reign, a period of about

thirty-five years. The only dependence of the representatives on

the people consisted in the right of the latter to supply

occasional vacancies by the election of new members, and in the

chance of some event which might produce a general new election.

The ability also of the Irish parliament to maintain the rights

of their constituents, so far as the disposition might exist, was

extremely shackled by the control of the crown over the subjects

of their deliberation. Of late these shackles, if I mistake not,

have been broken; and octennial parliaments have besides been

established. What effect may be produced by this partial reform,

must be left to further experience. The example of Ireland, from

this view of it, can throw but little light on the subject. As

far as we can draw any conclusion from it, it must be that if the

people of that country have been able under all these

disadvantages to retain any liberty whatever, the advantage of

biennial elections would secure to them every degree of liberty,

which might depend on a due connection between their

representatives and themselves. Let us bring our inquiries nearer

home. The example of these States, when British colonies, claims

particular attention, at the same time that it is so well known

as to require little to be said on it. The principle of

representation, in one branch of the legislature at least, was

established in all of them. But the periods of election were

different. They varied from one to seven years. Have we any

reason to infer, from the spirit and conduct of the

representatives of the people, prior to the Revolution, that

biennial elections would have been dangerous to the public

liberties? The spirit which everywhere displayed itself at the

commencement of the struggle, and which vanquished the obstacles

to independence, is the best of proofs that a sufficient portion

of liberty had been everywhere enjoyed to inspire both a sense of

its worth and a zeal for its proper enlargement This remark holds

good, as well with regard to the then colonies whose elections

were least frequent, as to those whose elections were most

frequent Virginia was the colony which stood first in resisting

the parliamentary usurpations of Great Britain; it was the first

also in espousing, by public act, the resolution of independence.

In Virginia, nevertheless, if I have not been misinformed,

elections under the former government were septennial. This

particular example is brought into view, not as a proof of any

peculiar merit, for the priority in those instances was probably

accidental; and still less of any advantage in SEPTENNIAL

elections, for when compared with a greater frequency they are

inadmissible; but merely as a proof, and I conceive it to be a

very substantial proof, that the liberties of the people can be

in no danger from BIENNIAL elections. The conclusion resulting

from these examples will be not a little strengthened by

recollecting three circumstances. The first is, that the federal

legislature will possess a part only of that supreme legislative

authority which is vested completely in the British Parliament;

and which, with a few exceptions, was exercised by the colonial

assemblies and the Irish legislature. It is a received and

well-founded maxim, that where no other circumstances affect the

case, the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its

duration; and, conversely, the smaller the power, the more safely

may its duration be protracted. In the second place, it has, on

another occasion, been shown that the federal legislature will

not only be restrained by its dependence on its people, as other

legislative bodies are, but that it will be, moreover, watched

and controlled by the several collateral legislatures, which

other legislative bodies are not. And in the third place, no

comparison can be made between the means that will be possessed

by the more permanent branches of the federal government for

seducing, if they should be disposed to seduce, the House of

Representatives from their duty to the people, and the means of

influence over the popular branch possessed by the other branches

of the government above cited. With less power, therefore, to

abuse, the federal representatives can be less tempted on one

side, and will be doubly watched on the other. PUBLIUS.


The Same Subject Continued (The House of Representatives)

From the New York Packet. Tuesday, February 12, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

I SHALL here, perhaps, be reminded of a current observation,

“that where annual elections end, tyranny begins. ” If it be

true, as has often been remarked, that sayings which become

proverbial are generally founded in reason, it is not less true,

that when once established, they are often applied to cases to

which the reason of them does not extend. I need not look for a

proof beyond the case before us. What is the reason on which this

proverbial observation is founded? No man will subject himself to

the ridicule of pretending that any natural connection subsists

between the sun or the seasons, and the period within which human

virtue can bear the temptations of power. Happily for mankind,

liberty is not, in this respect, confined to any single point of

time; but lies within extremes, which afford sufficient latitude

for all the variations which may be required by the various

situations and circumstances of civil society. The election of

magistrates might be, if it were found expedient, as in some

instances it actually has been, daily, weekly, or monthly, as

well as annual; and if circumstances may require a deviation from

the rule on one side, why not also on the other side? Turning our

attention to the periods established among ourselves, for the

election of the most numerous branches of the State legislatures,

we find them by no means coinciding any more in this instance,

than in the elections of other civil magistrates. In Connecticut

and Rhode Island, the periods are half-yearly. In the other

States, South Carolina excepted, they are annual. In South

Carolina they are biennial as is proposed in the federal

government. Here is a difference, as four to one, between the

longest and shortest periods; and yet it would be not easy to

show, that Connecticut or Rhode Island is better governed, or

enjoys a greater share of rational liberty, than South Carolina;

or that either the one or the other of these States is

distinguished in these respects, and by these causes, from the

States whose elections are different from both. In searching for

the grounds of this doctrine, I can discover but one, and that is

wholly inapplicable to our case. The important distinction so

well understood in America, between a Constitution established by

the people and unalterable by the government, and a law

established by the government and alterable by the government,

seems to have been little understood and less observed in any

other country. Wherever the supreme power of legislation has

resided, has been supposed to reside also a full power to change

the form of the government. Even in Great Britain, where the

principles of political and civil liberty have been most

discussed, and where we hear most of the rights of the

Constitution, it is maintained that the authority of the

Parliament is transcendent and uncontrollable, as well with

regard to the Constitution, as the ordinary objects of

legislative provision. They have accordingly, in several

instances, actually changed, by legislative acts, some of the

most fundamental articles of the government. They have in

particular, on several occasions, changed the period of election;

and, on the last occasion, not only introduced septennial in

place of triennial elections, but by the same act, continued

themselves in place four years beyond the term for which they

were elected by the people. An attention to these dangerous

practices has produced a very natural alarm in the votaries of

free government, of which frequency of elections is the

corner-stone; and has led them to seek for some security to

liberty, against the danger to which it is exposed. Where no

Constitution, paramount to the government, either existed or

could be obtained, no constitutional security, similar to that

established in the United States, was to be attempted. Some

other security, therefore, was to be sought for; and what better

security would the case admit, than that of selecting and

appealing to some simple and familiar portion of time, as a

standard for measuring the danger of innovations, for fixing the

national sentiment, and for uniting the patriotic exertions? The

most simple and familiar portion of time, applicable to the

subject was that of a year; and hence the doctrine has been

inculcated by a laudable zeal, to erect some barrier against the

gradual innovations of an unlimited government, that the advance

towards tyranny was to be calculated by the distance of departure

from the fixed point of annual elections. But what necessity can

there be of applying this expedient to a government limited, as

the federal government will be, by the authority of a paramount

Constitution? Or who will pretend that the liberties of the

people of America will not be more secure under biennial

elections, unalterably fixed by such a Constitution, than those

of any other nation would be, where elections were annual, or

even more frequent, but subject to alterations by the ordinary

power of the government? The second question stated is, whether

biennial elections be necessary or useful. The propriety of

answering this question in the affirmative will appear from

several very obvious considerations.
No man can be a

competent legislator who does not add to an upright intention and

a sound judgment a certain degree of knowledge of the subjects on

which he is to legislate. A part of this knowledge may be

acquired by means of information which lie within the compass of

men in private as well as public stations. Another part can only

be attained, or at least thoroughly attained, by actual

experience in the station which requires the use of it. The

period of service, ought, therefore, in all such cases, to bear

some proportion to the extent of practical knowledge requisite to

the due performance of the service. The period of legislative

service established in most of the States for the more numerous

branch is, as we have seen, one year. The question then may be

put into this simple form: does the period of two years bear no

greater proportion to the knowledge requisite for federal

legislation than one year does to the knowledge requisite for

State legislation? The very statement of the question, in this

form, suggests the answer that ought to be given to it. In a

single State, the requisite knowledge relates to the existing

laws which are uniform throughout the State, and with which all

the citizens are more or less conversant; and to the general

affairs of the State, which lie within a small compass, are not

very diversified, and occupy much of the attention and

conversation of every class of people. The great theatre of the

United States presents a very different scene. The laws are so

far from being uniform, that they vary in every State; whilst the

public affairs of the Union are spread throughout a very

extensive region, and are extremely diversified by t e local

affairs connected with them, and can with difficulty be correctly

learnt in any other place than in the central councils to which a

knowledge of them will be brought by the representatives of every

part of the empire. Yet some knowledge of the affairs, and even

of the laws, of all the States, ought to be possessed by the

members from each of the States. How can foreign trade be

properly regulated by uniform laws, without some acquaintance

with the commerce, the ports, the usages, and the regulatious of

the different States? How can the trade between the different

States be duly regulated, without some knowledge of their

relative situations in these and other respects? How can taxes

be judiciously imposed and effectually collected, if they be not

accommodated to the different laws and local circumstances

relating to these objects in the different States? How can

uniform regulations for the militia be duly provided, without a

similar knowledge of many internal circumstances by which the

States are distinguished from each other? These are the

principal objects of federal legislation, and suggest most

forcibly the extensive information which the representatives

ought to acquire. The other interior objects will require a

proportional degree of information with regard to them. It is

true that all these difficulties will, by degrees, be very much

diminished. The most laborious task will be the proper

inauguration of the government and the primeval formation of a

federal code. Improvements on the first draughts will every year

become both easier and fewer. Past transactions of the

government will be a ready and accurate source of information to

new members. The affairs of the Union will become more and more

objects of curiosity and conversation among the citizens at

large. And the increased intercourse among those of different

States will contribute not a little to diffuse a mutual knowledge

of their affairs, as this again will contribute to a general

assimilation of their manners and laws. But with all these

abatements, the business of federal legislation must continue so

far to exceed, both in novelty and difficulty, the legislative

business of a single State, as to justify the longer period of

service assigned to those who are to transact it. A branch of

knowledge which belongs to the acquirements of a federal

representative, and which has not been mentioned is that of

foreign affairs. In regulating our own commerce he ought to be

not only acquainted with the treaties between the United States

and other nations, but also with the commercial policy and laws

of other nations. He ought not to be altogether ignorant of the

law of nations; for that, as far as it is a proper object of

municipal legislation, is submitted to the federal government.

And although the House of Representatives is not immediately to

participate in foreign negotiations and arrangements, yet from

the necessary connection between the several branches of public

affairs, those particular branches will frequently deserve

attention in the ordinary course of legislation, and will

sometimes demand particular legislative sanction and

co-operation. Some portion of this knowledge may, no doubt, be

acquired in a man’s closet; but some of it also can only be

derived from the public sources of information; and all of it

will be acquired to best effect by a practical attention to the

subject during the period of actual service in the legislature.

There are other considerations, of less importance, perhaps, but

which are not unworthy of notice. The distance which many of the

representatives will be obliged to travel, and the arrangements

rendered necessary by that circumstance, might be much more

serious objections with fit men to this service, if limited to a

single year, than if extended to two years. No argument can be

drawn on this subject, from the case of the delegates to the

existing Congress. They are elected annually, it is true; but

their re-election is considered by the legislative assemblies

almost as a matter of course. The election of the representatives

by the people would not be governed by the same principle. A few

of the members, as happens in all such assemblies, will possess

superior talents; will, by frequent reelections, become members

of long standing; will be thoroughly masters of the public

business, and perhaps not unwilling to avail themselves of those

advantages. The greater the proportion of new members, and the

less the information of the bulk of the members the more apt will

they be to fall into the snares that may be laid for them. This

remark is no less applicable to the relation which will subsist

between the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is an

inconvenience mingled with the advantages of our frequent

elections even in single States, where they are large, and hold

but one legislative session in a year, that spurious elections

cannot be investigated and annulled in time for the decision to

have its due effect. If a return can be obtained, no matter by

what unlawful means, the irregular member, who takes his seat of

course, is sure of holding it a sufficient time to answer his

purposes. Hence, a very pernicious encouragement is given to the

use of unlawful means, for obtaining irregular returns. Were

elections for the federal legislature to be annual, this practice

might become a very serious abuse, particularly in the more

distant States. Each house is, as it necessarily must be, the

judge of the elections, qualifications, and returns of its

members; and whatever improvements may be suggested by

experience, for simplifying and accelerating the process in

disputed cases, so great a portion of a year would unavoidably

elapse, before an illegitimate member could be dispossessed of

his seat, that the prospect of such an event would be little

check to unfair and illicit means of obtaining a seat. All these

considerations taken together warrant us in affirming, that

biennial elections will be as useful to the affairs of the public

as we have seen that they will be safe to the liberty of the

people. PUBLIUS.


The Apportionment of Members Among the States

From the New York Packet. Tuesday, February 12, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE next view which I shall take of the House of Representatives

relates to the appointment of its members to the several States

which is to be determined by the same rule with that of direct

It is not contended that the number of people in each

State ought not to be the standard for regulating the proportion

of those who are to represent the people of each State. The

establishment of the same rule for the appointment of taxes, will

probably be as little contested; though the rule itself in this

case, is by no means founded on the same principle. In the former

case, the rule is understood to refer to the personal rights of

the people, with which it has a natural and universal connection.

In the latter, it has reference to the proportion of wealth, of

which it is in no case a precise measure, and in ordinary cases a

very unfit one. But notwithstanding the imperfection of the rule

as applied to the relative wealth and contributions of the

States, it is evidently the least objectionable among the

practicable rules, and had too recently obtained the general

sanction of America, not to have found a ready preference with

the convention. All this is admitted, it will perhaps be said;

but does it follow, from an admission of numbers for the measure

of representation, or of slaves combined with free citizens as a

ratio of taxation, that slaves ought to be included in the

numerical rule of representation? Slaves are considered as

property, not as persons. They ought therefore to be comprehended

in estimates of taxation which are founded on property, and to be

excluded from representation which is regulated by a census of

persons. This is the objection, as I understand it, stated in its

full force. I shall be equally candid in stating the reasoning

which may be offered on the opposite side. “We subscribe to the

doctrine,” might one of our Southern brethren observe, “that

representation relates more immediately to persons, and taxation

more immediately to property, and we join in the application of

this distinction to the case of our slaves. But we must deny the

fact, that slaves are considered merely as property, and in no

respect whatever as persons. The true state of the case is, that

they partake of both these qualities: being considered by our

laws, in some respects, as persons, and in other respects as

property. In being compelled to labor, not for himself, but for

a master; in being vendible by one master to another master; and

in being subject at all times to be restrained in his liberty and

chastised in his body, by the capricious will of another, the

slave may appear to be degraded from the human rank, and classed

with those irrational animals which fall under the legal

denomination of property. In being protected, on the other hand,

in his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all

others, even the master of his labor and his liberty; and in

being punishable himself for all violence committed against

others, the slave is no less evidently regarded by the law as a

member of the society, not as a part of the irrational creation;

as a moral person, not as a mere article of property. The

federal Constitution, therefore, decides with great propriety on

the case of our slaves, when it views them in the mixed character

of persons and of property. This is in fact their true

character. It is the character bestowed on them by the laws

under which they live; and it will not be denied, that these are

the proper criterion; because it is only under the pretext that

the laws have transformed the negroes into subjects of property,

that a place is disputed them in the computation of numbers; and

it is admitted, that if the laws were to restore the rights which

have been taken away, the negroes could no longer be refused an

equal share of representation with the other inhabitants. “This

question may be placed in another light. It is agreed on all

sides, that numbers are the best scale of wealth and taxation, as

they are the only proper scale of representation. Would the

convention have been impartial or consistent, if they had

rejected the slaves from the list of inhabitants, when the shares

of representation were to be calculated, and inserted them on the

lists when the tariff of contributions was to be adjusted? Could

it be reasonably expected, that the Southern States would concur

in a system, which considered their slaves in some degree as men,

when burdens were to be imposed, but refused to consider them in

the same light, when advantages were to be conferred? Might not

some surprise also be expressed, that those who reproach the

Southern States with the barbarous policy of considering as

property a part of their human brethren, should themselves

contend, that the government to which all the States are to be

parties, ought to consider this unfortunate race more completely

in the unnatural light of property, than the very laws of which

they complain? “It may be replied, perhaps, that slaves are not

included in the estimate of representatives in any of the States

possessing them. They neither vote themselves nor increase the

votes of their masters. Upon what principle, then, ought they to

be taken into the federal estimate of representation? In

rejecting them altogether, the Constitution would, in this

respect, have followed the very laws which have been appealed to

as the proper guide. “This objection is repelled by a single

observation. It is a fundamental principle of the proposed

Constitution, that as the aggregate number of representatives

allotted to the several States is to be determined by a federal

rule, founded on the aggregate number of inhabitants, so the

right of choosing this allotted number in each State is to be

exercised by such part of the inhabitants as the State itself may

designate. The qualifications on which the right of suffrage

depend are not, perhaps, the same in any two States. In some of

the States the difference is very material. In every State, a

certain proportion of inhabitants are deprived of this right by

the constitution of the State, who will be included in the census

by which the federal Constitution apportions the representatives.

In this point of view the Southern States might retort the

complaint, by insisting that the principle laid down by the

convention required that no regard should be had to the policy of

particular States towards their own inhabitants; and

consequently, that the slaves, as inhabitants, should have been

admitted into the census according to their full number, in like

manner with other inhabitants, who, by the policy of other

States, are not admitted to all the rights of citizens. A

rigorous adherence, however, to this principle, is waived by

those who would be gainers by it. All that they ask is that

equal moderation be shown on the other side. Let the case of the

slaves be considered, as it is in truth, a peculiar one. Let the

compromising expedient of the Constitution be mutually adopted,

which regards them as inhabitants, but as debased by servitude

below the equal level of free inhabitants, which regards the

SLAVE as divested of two fifths of the MAN. “After all, may not

another ground be taken on which this article of the

Constitution will admit of a still more ready defense? We have

hitherto proceeded on the idea that representation related to

persons only, and not at all to property. But is it a just idea?

Government is instituted no less for protection of the property,

than of the persons, of individuals. The one as well as the

other, therefore, may be considered as represented by those who

are charged with the government. Upon this principle it is, that

in several of the States, and particularly in the State of New

York, one branch of the government is intended more especially to

be the guardian of property, and is accordingly elected by that

part of the society which is most interested in this object of

government. In the federal Constitution, this policy does not

prevail. The rights of property are committed into the same hands

with the personal rights. Some attention ought, therefore, to be

paid to property in the choice of those hands. “For another

reason, the votes allowed in the federal legislature to the

people of each State, ought to bear some proportion to the

comparative wealth of the States. States have not, like

individuals, an influence over each other, arising from superior

advantages of fortune. If the law allows an opulent citizen but a

single vote in the choice of his representative, the respect and

consequence which he derives from his fortunate situation very

frequently guide the votes of others to the objects of his

choice; and through this imperceptible channel the rights of

property are conveyed into the public representation. A State

possesses no such influence over other States. It is not probable

that the richest State in the Confederacy will ever influence the

choice of a single representative in any other State. Nor will

the representatives of the larger and richer States possess any

other advantage in the federal legislature, over the

representatives of other States, than what may result from their

superior number alone. As far, therefore, as their superior

wealth and weight may justly entitle them to any advantage, it

ought to be secured to them by a superior share of

representation. The new Constitution is, in this respect,

materially different from the existing Confederation, as well as

from that of the United Netherlands, and other similar

confederacies. In each of the latter, the efficacy of the

federal resolutions depends on the subsequent and voluntary

resolutions of the states composing the union. Hence the states,

though possessing an equal vote in the public councils, have an

unequal influence, corresponding with the unequal importance of

these subsequent and voluntary resolutions. Under the proposed

Constitution, the federal acts will take effect without the

necessary intervention of the individual States. They will depend

merely on the majority of votes in the federal legislature, and

consequently each vote, whether proceeding from a larger or

smaller State, or a State more or less wealthy or powerful, will

have an equal weight and efficacy: in the same manner as the

votes individually given in a State legislature, by the

representatives of unequal counties or other districts, have

each a precise equality of value and effect; or if there be any

difference in the case, it proceeds from the difference in the

personal character of the individual representative, rather than

from any regard to the extent of the district from which he

comes. “Such is the reasoning which an advocate for the

Southern interests might employ on this subject; and although it

may appear to be a little strained in some points, yet, on the

whole, I must confess that it fully reconciles me to the scale of

representation which the convention have established. In one

respect, the establishment of a common measure for representation

and taxation will have a very salutary effect. As the accuracy

of the census to be obtained by the Congress will necessarily

depend, in a considerable degree on the disposition, if not on

the co-operation, of the States, it is of great importance that

the States should feel as little bias as possible, to swell or to

reduce the amount of their numbers. Were their share of

representation alone to be governed by this rule, they would have

an interest in exaggerating their inhabitants. Were the rule to

decide their share of taxation alone, a contrary temptation would

prevail. By extending the rule to both objects, the States will

have opposite interests, which will control and balance each

other, and produce the requisite impartiality. PUBLIUS.


The Total Number of the House of Representatives

From the New York Packet. Friday, February 15, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE number of which the House of Representatives is to consist,

forms another and a very interesting point of view, under which

this branch of the federal legislature may be contemplated.

Scarce any article, indeed, in the whole Constitution seems to be

rendered more worthy of attention, by the weight of character and

the apparent force of argument with which it has been assailed.

The charges exhibited against it are, first, that so small a

number of representatives will be an unsafe depositary of the

public interests; secondly, that they will not possess a proper

knowledge of the local circumstances of their numerous

constituents; thirdly, that they will be taken from that class of

citizens which will sympathize least with the feelings of the

mass of the people, and be most likely to aim at a permanent

elevation of the few on the depression of the many; fourthly,

that defective as the number will be in the first instance, it

will be more and more disproportionate, by the increase of the

people, and the obstacles which will prevent a correspondent

increase of the representatives. In general it may be remarked on

this subject, that no political problem is less susceptible of a

precise solution than that which relates to the number most

convenient for a representative legislature; nor is there any

point on which the policy of the several States is more at

variance, whether we compare their legislative assemblies

directly with each other, or consider the proportions which they

respectively bear to the number of their constituents. Passing

over the difference between the smallest and largest States, as

Delaware, whose most numerous branch consists of twenty-one

representatives, and Massachusetts, where it amounts to between

three and four hundred, a very considerable difference is

observable among States nearly equal in population. The number of

representatives in Pennsylvania is not more than one fifth of

that in the State last mentioned. New York, whose population is

to that of South Carolina as six to five, has little more than

one third of the number of representatives. As great a disparity

prevails between the States of Georgia and Delaware or Rhode

Island. In Pennsylvania, the representatives do not bear a

greater proportion to their constituents than of one for every

four or five thousand. In Rhode Island, they bear a proportion of

at least one for every thousand. And according to the

constitution of Georgia, the proportion may be carried to one to

every ten electors; and must unavoidably far exceed the

proportion in any of the other States. Another general remark to

be made is, that the ratio between the representatives and the

people ought not to be the same where the latter are very

numerous as where they are very few. Were the representatives in

Virginia to be regulated by the standard in Rhode Island, they

would, at this time, amount to between four and five hundred; and

twenty or thirty years hence, to a thousand. On the other hand,

the ratio of Pennsylvania, if applied to the State of Delaware,

would reduce the representative assembly of the latter to seven

or eight members. Nothing can be more fallacious than to found

our political calculations on arithmetical principles. Sixty or

seventy men may be more properly trusted with a given degree of

power than six or seven. But it does not follow that six or seven

hundred would be proportionably a better depositary. And if we

carry on the supposition to six or seven thousand, the whole

reasoning ought to be reversed. The truth is, that in all cases a

certain number at least seems to be necessary to secure the

benefits of free consultation and discussion, and to guard

against too easy a combination for improper purposes; as, on the

other hand, the number ought at most to be kept within a certain

limit, in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a

multitude. In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character

composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.

Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian

assembly would still have been a mob.
It is necessary also to

recollect here the observations which were applied to the case of

biennial elections. For the same reason that the limited powers

of the Congress, and the control of the State legislatures,

justify less frequent elections than the public safely might

otherwise require, the members of the Congress need be less

numerous than if they possessed the whole power of legislation,

and were under no other than the ordinary restraints of other

legislative bodies. With these general ideas in our mind, let us

weigh the objections which have been stated against the number of

members proposed for the House of Representatives. It is said, in

the first place, that so small a number cannot be safely trusted

with so much power. The number of which this branch of the

legislature is to consist, at the outset of the government, will

be sixtyfive. Within three years a census is to be taken, when

the number may be augmented to one for every thirty thousand

inhabitants; and within every successive period of ten years the

census is to be renewed, and augmentations may continue to be

made under the above limitation. It will not be thought an

extravagant conjecture that the first census will, at the rate of

one for every thirty thousand, raise the number of

representatives to at least one hundred. Estimating the negroes

in the proportion of three fifths, it can scarcely be doubted

that the population of the United States will by that time, if it

does not already, amount to three millions. At the expiration of

twenty-five years, according to the computed rate of increase,

the number of representatives will amount to two hundred, and of

fifty years, to four hundred. This is a number which, I presume,

will put an end to all fears arising from the smallness of the

body. I take for granted here what I shall, in answering the

fourth objection, hereafter show, that the number of

representatives will be augmented from time to time in the

manner provided by the Constitution. On a contrary supposition, I

should admit the objection to have very great weight indeed. The

true question to be decided then is, whether the smallness of the

number, as a temporary regulation, be dangerous to the public

liberty? Whether sixty-five members for a few years, and a

hundred or two hundred for a few more, be a safe depositary for a

limited and well-guarded power of legislating for the United

States? I must own that I could not give a negative answer to

this question, without first obliterating every impression which

I have received with regard to the present genius of the people

of America, the spirit which actuates the State legislatures, and

the principles which are incorporated with the political

character of every class of citizens I am unable to conceive that

the people of America, in their present temper, or under any

circumstances which can speedily happen, will choose, and every

second year repeat the choice of, sixty-five or a hundred men who

would be disposed to form and pursue a scheme of tyranny or

treachery. I am unable to conceive that the State legislatures,

which must feel so many motives to watch, and which possess so

many means of counteracting, the federal legislature, would fail

either to detect or to defeat a conspiracy of the latter against

the liberties of their common constituents. I am equally unable

to conceive that there are at this time, or can be in any short

time, in the United States, any sixty-five or a hundred men

capable of recommending themselves to the choice of the people at

large, who would either desire or dare, within the short space of

two years, to betray the solemn trust committed to them. What

change of circumstances, time, and a fuller population of our

country may produce, requires a prophetic spirit to declare,

which makes no part of my pretensions. But judging from the

circumstances now before us, and from the probable state of them

within a moderate period of time, I must pronounce that the

liberties of America cannot be unsafe in the number of hands

proposed by the federal Constitution. From what quarter can the

danger proceed? Are we afraid of foreign gold? If foreign gold

could so easily corrupt our federal rulers and enable them to

ensnare and betray their constituents, how has it happened that

we are at this time a free and independent nation? The Congress

which conducted us through the Revolution was a less numerous

body than their successors will be; they were not chosen by, nor

responsible to, their fellowcitizens at large; though appointed

from year to year, and recallable at pleasure, they were

generally continued for three years, and prior to the

ratification of the federal articles, for a still longer term.

They held their consultations always under the veil of secrecy;

they had the sole transaction of our affairs with foreign

nations; through the whole course of the war they had the fate of

their country more in their hands than it is to be hoped will

ever be the case with our future representatives; and from the

greatness of the prize at stake, and the eagerness of the party

which lost it, it may well be supposed that the use of other

means than force would not have been scrupled. Yet we know by

happy experience that the public trust was not betrayed; nor has

the purity of our public councils in this particular ever

suffered, even from the whispers of calumny. Is the danger

apprehended from the other branches of the federal government?

But where are the means to be found by the President, or the

Senate, or both? Their emoluments of office, it is to be

presumed, will not, and without a previous corruption of the

House of Representatives cannot, more than suffice for very

different purposes; their private fortunes, as they must allbe

American citizens, cannot possibly be sources of danger. The

only means, then, which they can possess, will be in the

dispensation of appointments. Is it here that suspicion rests

her charge? Sometimes we are told that this fund of corruption

is to be exhausted by the President in subduing the virtue of the

Senate. Now, the fidelity of the other House is to be the

victim. The improbability of such a mercenary and perfidious

combination of the several members of government, standing on as

different foundations as republican principles will well admit,

and at the same time accountable to the society over which they

are placed, ought alone to quiet this apprehension. But,

fortunately, the Constitution has provided a still further

safeguard. The members of the Congress are rendered ineligible

to any civil offices that may be created, or of which the

emoluments may be increased, during the term of their election.

No offices therefore can be dealt out to the existing members but

such as may become vacant by ordinary casualties: and to suppose

that these would be sufficient to purchase the guardians of the

people, selected by the people themselves, is to renounce every

rule by which events ought to be calculated, and to substitute an

indiscriminate and unbounded jealousy, with which all reasoning

must be vain. The sincere friends of liberty, who give

themselves up to the extravagancies of this passion, are not

aware of the injury they do their own cause. As there is a

degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of

circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in

human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and

confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of

these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the

pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some

among us faithful likenesses of the human character, the

inference would be, that there is not sufficient virtue among men

for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of

despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one

another. PUBLIUS.


The Same Subject Continued (The Total Number of the House of


From the New York Packet. Tuesday, February 19, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE SECOND charge against the House of Representatives is, that

it will be too small to possess a due knowledge of the interests

of its constituents. As this objection evidently proceeds from a

comparison of the proposed number of representatives with the

great extent of the United States, the number of their

inhabitants, and the diversity of their interests, without taking

into view at the same time the circumstances which will

distinguish the Congress from other legislative bodies, the best

answer that can be given to it will be a brief explanation of

these peculiarities. It is a sound and important principle that

the representative ought to be acquainted with the interests and

circumstances of his constituents. But this principle can extend

no further than to those circumstances and interests to which the

authority and care of the representative relate. An ignorance of

a variety of minute and particular objects, which do not lie

within the compass of legislation, is consistent with every

attribute necessary to a due performance of the legislative

trust. In determining the extent of information required in the

exercise of a particular authority, recourse then must be had to

the objects within the purview of that authority. What are to be

the objects of federal legislation? Those which are of most

importance, and which seem most to require local knowledge, are

commerce, taxation, and the militia. A proper regulation of

commerce requires much information, as has been elsewhere

remarked; but as far as this information relates to the laws and

local situation of each individual State, a very few

representatives would be very sufficient vehicles of it to the

federal councils. Taxation will consist, in a great measure, of

duties which will be involved in the regulation of commerce. So

far the preceding remark is applicable to this object. As far as

it may consist of internal collections, a more diffusive

knowledge of the circumstances of the State may be necessary. But

will not this also be possessed in sufficient degree by a very

few intelligent men, diffusively elected within the State? Divide

the largest State into ten or twelve districts, and it will be

found that there will be no peculiar local interests in either,

which will not be within the knowledge of the representative of

the district. Besides this source of information, the laws of the

State, framed by representatives from every part of it, will be

almost of themselves a sufficient guide. In every State there

have been made, and must continue to be made, regulations on this

subject which will, in many cases, leave little more to be done

by the federal legislature, than to review the different laws,

and reduce them in one general act. A skillful individual in his

closet with all the local codes before him, might compile a law

on some subjects of taxation for the whole union, without any aid

from oral information, and it may be expected that whenever

internal taxes may be necessary, and particularly in cases

requiring uniformity throughout the States, the more simple

objects will be preferred. To be fully sensible of the facility

which will be given to this branch of federal legislation by the

assistance of the State codes, we need only suppose for a moment

that this or any other State were divided into a number of parts,

each having and exercising within itself a power of local

legislation. Is it not evident that a degree of local information

and preparatory labor would be found in the several volumes of

their proceedings, which would very much shorten the labors of

the general legislature, and render a much smaller number of

members sufficient for it? The federal councils will derive great

advantage from another circumstance. The representatives of each

State will not only bring with them a considerable knowledge of

its laws, and a local knowledge of their respective districts,

but will probably in all cases have been members, and may even at

the very time be members, of the State legislature, where all the

local information and interests of the State are assembled, and

from whence they may easily be conveyed by a very few hands into

the legislature of the United States. The observations made on

the subject of taxation apply with greater force to the case of

the militia. For however different the rules of discipline may be

in different States, they are the same throughout each particular

State; and depend on circumstances which can differ but little in

different parts of the same State. The attentive reader will

discern that the reasoning here used, to prove the sufficiency of

a moderate number of representatives, does not in any respect

contradict what was urged on another occasion with regard to the

extensive information which the representatives ought to possess,

and the time that might be necessary for acquiring it. This

information, so far as it may relate to local objects, is

rendered necessary and difficult, not by a difference of laws and

local circumstances within a single State, but of those among

different States. Taking each State by itself, its laws are the

same, and its interests but little diversified. A few men,

therefore, will possess all the knowledge requisite for a proper

representation of them. Were the interests and affairs of each

individual State perfectly simple and uniform, a knowledge of

them in one part would involve a knowledge of them in every

other, and the whole State might be competently represented by a

single member taken from any part of it. On a comparison of the

different States together, we find a great dissimilarity in their

laws, and in many other circumstances connected with the objects

of federal legislation, with all of which the federal

representatives ought to have some acquaintance. Whilst a few

representatives, therefore, from each State, may bring with them

a due knowledge of their own State, every representative will

have much information to acquire concerning all the other States.

The changes of time, as was formerly remarked, on the comparative

situation of the different States, will have an assimilating

effect. The effect of time on the internal affairs of the States,

taken singly, will be just the contrary. At present some of the

States are little more than a society of husbandmen. Few of them

have made much progress in those branches of industry which give

a variety and complexity to the affairs of a nation. These,

however, will in all of them be the fruits of a more advanced

population, and will require, on the part of each State, a fuller

representation. The foresight of the convention has accordingly

taken care that the progress of population may be accompanied

with a proper increase of the representative branch of the

government. The experience of Great Britain, which presents to

mankind so many political lessons, both of the monitory and

exemplary kind, and which has been frequently consulted in the

course of these inquiries, corroborates the result of the

reflections which we have just made. The number of inhabitants in

the two kingdoms of England and Scotland cannot be stated at less

than eight millions. The representatives of these eight millions

in the House of Commons amount to five hundred and fifty-eight.

Of this number, one ninth are elected by three hundred and

sixty-four persons, and one half, by five thousand seven hundred

and twenty-three persons. 1 It cannot be supposed that the half

thus elected, and who do not even reside among the people at

large, can add any thing either to the security of the people

against the government, or to the knowledge of their

circumstances and interests in the legislative councils. On the

contrary, it is notorious, that they are more frequently the

representatives and instruments of the executive magistrate, than

the guardians and advocates of the popular rights. They might

therefore, with great propriety, be considered as something more

than a mere deduction from the real representatives of the

nation. We will, however, consider them in this light alone, and

will not extend the deduction to a considerable number of

others, who do not reside among their constitutents, are very

faintly connected with them, and have very little particular

knowledge of their affairs. With all these concessions, two

hundred and seventy-nine persons only will be the depository of

the safety, interest, and happiness of eight millions that is to

say, there will be one representative only to maintain the rights

and explain the situation OF TWENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED

AND SEVENTY constitutents, in an assembly exposed to the whole

force of executive influence, and extending its authority to

every object of legislation within a nation whose affairs are in

the highest degree diversified and complicated. Yet it is very

certain, not only that a valuable portion of freedom has been

preserved under all these circumstances, but that the defects in

the British code are chargeable, in a very small proportion, on

the ignorance of the legislature concerning the circumstances of

the people. Allowing to this case the weight which is due to it,

and comparing it with that of the House of Representatives as

above explained it seems to give the fullest assurance, that a

representative for every THIRTY THOUSAND INHABITANTS will render

the latter both a safe and competent guardian of the interests

which will be confided to it. PUBLIUS. Burgh’s “Political

Disquisitions. “


The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the

Expense of the Many Considered in Connection with Representation

From the New York Packet. Tuesday, February 19, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE THIRD charge against the House of Representatives is, that it

will be taken from that class of citizens which will have least

sympathy with the mass of the people, and be most likely to aim

at an ambitious sacrifice of the many to the aggrandizement of

the few. Of all the objections which have been framed against the

federal Constitution, this is perhaps the most extraordinary.

Whilst the objection itself is levelled against a pretended

oligarchy, the principle of it strikes at the very root of

republican government. The aim of every political constitution

is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess

most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common

good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most

effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they

continue to hold their public trust. The elective mode of

obtaining rulers is the characteristic policy of republican

government. The means relied on in this form of government for

preventing their degeneracy are numerous and various. The most

effectual one, is such a limitation of the term of appointments

as will maintain a proper responsibility to the people. Let me

now ask what circumstance there is in the constitution of the

House of Representatives that violates the principles of

republican government, or favors the elevation of the few on the

ruins of the many? Let me ask whether every circumstance is not,

on the contrary, strictly conformable to these principles, and

scrupulously impartial to the rights and pretensions of every

class and description of citizens? Who are to be the electors of

the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor;

not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of

distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and

unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of

the people of the United States. They are to be the same who

exercise the right in every State of electing the corresponding

branch of the legislature of the State. Who are to be the objects

of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to

the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of

wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession is

permitted to fetter the judgement or disappoint the inclination

of the people. If we consider the situation of the men on whom

the free suffrages of their fellow-citizens may confer the

representative trust, we shall find it involving every security

which can be devised or desired for their fidelity to their

constituents. In the first place, as they will have been

distinguished by the preference of their fellow-citizens, we are

to presume that in general they will be somewhat distinguished

also by those qualities which entitle them to it, and which

promise a sincere and scrupulous regard to the nature of their

engagements. In the second place, they will enter into the public

service under circumstances which cannot fail to produce a

temporary affection at least to their constituents. There is in

every breast a sensibility to marks of honor, of favor, of

esteem, and of confidence, which, apart from all considerations

of interest, is some pledge for grateful and benevolent returns.

Ingratitude is a common topic of declamation against human

nature; and it must be confessed that instances of it are but too

frequent and flagrant, both in public and in private life. But

the universal and extreme indignation which it inspires is itself

a proof of the energy and prevalence of the contrary sentiment.

In the third place, those ties which bind the representative to

his constituents are strengthened by motives of a more selfish

nature. His pride and vanity attach him to a form of government

which favors his pretensions and gives him a share in its honors

and distinctions. Whatever hopes or projects might be entertained

by a few aspiring characters, it must generally happen that a

great proportion of the men deriving their advancement from their

influence with the people, would have more to hope from a

preservation of the favor, than from innovations in the

government subversive of the authority of the people. All these

securities, however, would be found very insufficient without the

restraint of frequent elections. Hence, in the fourth place, the

House of Representatives is so constituted as to support in the

members an habitual recollection of their dependence on the

people. Before the sentiments impressed on their minds by the

mode of their elevation can be effaced by the exercise of power,

they will be compelled to anticipate the moment when their power

is to cease, when their exercise of it is to be reviewed, and

when they must descend to the level from which they were raised;

there forever to remain unless a faithful discharge of their

trust shall have established their title to a renewal of it. I

will add, as a fifth circumstance in the situation of the House

of Representatives, restraining them from oppressive measures,

that they can make no law which will not have its full operation

on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of

the society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest

bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people

together. It creates between them that communion of interests and

sympathy of sentiments, of which few governments have furnished

examples; but without which every government degenerates into

tyranny. If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of

Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of

themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the

genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional

laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates

the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in

return is nourished by it. If this spirit shall ever be so far

debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature,

as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate

any thing but liberty. Such will be the relation between the

House of Representatives and their constituents. Duty, gratitude,

interest, ambition itself, are the chords by which they will be

bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people.

It is possible that these may all be insufficient to control the

caprice and wickedness of man. But are they not all that

government will admit, and that human prudence can devise? Are

they not the genuine and the characteristic means by which

republican government provides for the liberty and happiness of

the people? Are they not the identical means on which every State

government in the Union relies for the attainment of these

important ends? What then are we to understand by the objection

which this paper has combated? What are we to say to the men who

profess the most flaming zeal for republican government, yet

boldly impeach the fundamental principle of it; who pretend to be

champions for the right and the capacity of the people to choose

their own rulers, yet maintain that they will prefer those only

who will immediately and infallibly betray the trust committed to

them? Were the objection to be read by one who had not seen the

mode prescribed by the Constitution for the choice of

representatives, he could suppose nothing less than that some

unreasonable qualification of property was annexed to the right

of suffrage; or that the right of eligibility was limited to

persons of particular families or fortunes; or at least that the

mode prescribed by the State constitutions was in some respect or

other, very grossly departed from. We have seen how far such a

supposition would err, as to the two first points. Nor would it,

in fact, be less erroneous as to the last. The only difference

discoverable between the two cases is, that each representative

of the United States will be elected by five or six thousand

citizens; whilst in the individual States, the election of a

representative is left to about as many hundreds. Will it be

pretended that this difference is sufficient to justify an

attachment to the State governments, and an abhorrence to the

federal government? If this be the point on which the objection

turns, it deserves to be examined. Is it supported by REASON?

This cannot be said, without maintaining that five or six

thousand citizens are less capable of choosing a fit

representative, or more liable to be corrupted by an unfit one,

than five or six hundred. Reason, on the contrary, assures us,

that as in so great a number a fit representative would be most

likely to be found, so the choice would be less likely to be

diverted from him by the intrigues of the ambitious or the

ambitious or the bribes of the rich. Is the CONSEQUENCE from

this doctrine admissible? If we say that five or six hundred

citizens are as many as can jointly exercise their right of

suffrage, must we not deprive the people of the immediate choice

of their public servants, in every instance where the

administration of the government does not require as many of them

as will amount to one for that number of citizens? Is the

doctrine warranted by FACTS? It was shown in the last paper, that

the real representation in the British House of Commons very

little exceeds the proportion of one for every thirty thousand

inhabitants. Besides a variety of powerful causes not existing

here, and which favor in that country the pretensions of rank and

wealth, no person is eligible as a representative of a county,

unless he possess real estate of the clear value of six hundred

pounds sterling per year; nor of a city or borough, unless he

possess a like estate of half that annual value. To this

qualification on the part of the county representatives is added

another on the part of the county electors, which restrains the

right of suffrage to persons having a freehold estate of the

annual value of more than twenty pounds sterling, according to

the present rate of money. Notwithstanding these unfavorable

circumstances, and notwithstanding some very unequal laws in the

British code, it cannot be said that the representatives of the

nation have elevated the few on the ruins of the many. But we

need not resort to foreign experience on this subject. Our own

is explicit and decisive. The districts in New Hampshire in

which the senators are chosen immediately by the people, are

nearly as large as will be necessary for her representatives in

the Congress. Those of Massachusetts are larger than will be

necessary for that purpose; and those of New York still more so.

In the last State the members of Assembly for the cities and

counties of New York and Albany are elected by very nearly as

many voters as will be entitled to a representative in the

Congress, calculating on the number of sixty-five representatives

only. It makes no difference that in these senatorial districts

and counties a number of representatives are voted for by each

elector at the same time. If the same electors at the same time

are capable of choosing four or five representatives, they cannot

be incapable of choosing one. Pennsylvania is an additional

example. Some of her counties, which elect her State

representatives, are almost as large as her districts will be by

which her federal representatives will be elected. The city of

Philadelphia is supposed to contain between fifty and sixty

thousand souls. It will therefore form nearly two districts for

the choice of federal representatives. It forms, however, but

one county, in which every elector votes for each of its

representatives in the State legislature. And what may appear to

be still more directly to our purpose, the whole city actually

elects a SINGLE MEMBER for the executive council. This is the

case in all the other counties of the State. Are not these facts

the most satisfactory proofs of the fallacy which has been

employed against the branch of the federal government under

consideration? Has it appeared on trial that the senators of New

Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York, or the executive council

of Pennsylvania, or the members of the Assembly in the two last

States, have betrayed any peculiar disposition to sacrifice the

many to the few, or are in any respect less worthy of their

places than the representatives and magistrates appointed in

other States by very small divisions of the people? But there are

cases of a stronger complexion than any which I have yet quoted.

One branch of the legislature of Connecticut is so constituted

that each member of it is elected by the whole State. So is the

governor of that State, of Massachusetts, and of this State, and

the president of New Hampshire. I leave every man to decide

whether the result of any one of these experiments can be said to

countenance a suspicion, that a diffusive mode of choosing

representatives of the people tends to elevate traitors and to

undermine the public liberty. PUBLIUS.


Objection That The Number of Members Will Not Be Augmented as the

Progress of Population Demands Considered


To the People of the State of New York:

THE remaining charge against the House of Representatives, which

I am to examine, is grounded on a supposition that the number of

members will not be augmented from time to time, as the progress

of population may demand. It has been admitted, that this

objection, if well supported, would have great weight. The

following observations will show that, like most other objections

against the Constitution, it can only proceed from a partial view

of the subject, or from a jealousy which discolors and disfigures

every object which is beheld. 1. Those who urge the objection

seem not to have recollected that the federal Constitution will

not suffer by a comparison with the State constitutions, in the

security provided for a gradual augmentation of the number of

representatives. The number which is to prevail in the first

instance is declared to be temporary. Its duration is limited to

the short term of three years. Within every successive term of

ten years a census of inhabitants is to be repeated. The

unequivocal objects of these regulations are, first, to readjust,

from time to time, the apportionment of representatives to the

number of inhabitants, under the single exception that each State

shall have one representative at least; secondly, to augment the

number of representatives at the same periods, under the sole

limitation that the whole number shall not exceed one for every

thirty thousand inhabitants. If we review the constitutions of

the several States, we shall find that some of them contain no

determinate regulations on this subject, that others correspond

pretty much on this point with the federal Constitution, and that

the most effectual security in any of them is resolvable into a

mere directory provision. 2. As far as experience has taken place

on this subject, a gradual increase of representatives under the

State constitutions has at least kept pace with that of the

constituents, and it appears that the former have been as ready

to concur in such measures as the latter have been to call for

them. 3. There is a peculiarity in the federal Constitution which

insures a watchful attention in a majority both of the people and

of their representatives to a constitutional augmentation of the

latter. The peculiarity lies in this, that one branch of the

legislature is a representation of citizens, the other of the

States: in the former, consequently, the larger States will have

most weight; in the latter, the advantage will be in favor of the

smaller States. From this circumstance it may with certainty be

inferred that the larger States will be strenuous advocates for

increasing the number and weight of that part of the legislature

in which their influence predominates. And it so happens that

four only of the largest will have a majority of the whole votes

in the House of Representatives. Should the representatives or

people, therefore, of the smaller States oppose at any time a

reasonable addition of members, a coalition of a very few States

will be sufficient to overrule the opposition; a coalition which,

notwithstanding the rivalship and local prejudices which might

prevent it on ordinary occasions, would not fail to take place,

when not merely prompted by common interest, but justified by

equity and the principles of the Constitution. It may be

alleged, perhaps, that the Senate would be prompted by like

motives to an adverse coalition; and as their concurrence would

be indispensable, the just and constitutional views of the other

branch might be defeated. This is the difficulty which has

probably created the most serious apprehensions in the jealous

friends of a numerous representation. Fortunately it is among

the difficulties which, existing only in appearance, vanish on a

close and accurate inspection. The following reflections will,

if I mistake not, be admitted to be conclusive and satisfactory

on this point. Notwithstanding the equal authority which will

subsist between the two houses on all legislative subjects,

except the originating of money bills, it cannot be doubted that

the House, composed of the greater number of members, when

supported by the more powerful States, and speaking the known and

determined sense of a majority of the people, will have no small

advantage in a question depending on the comparative firmness of

the two houses. This advantage must be increased by the

consciousness, felt by the same side of being supported in its

demands by right, by reason, and by the Constitution; and the

consciousness, on the opposite side, of contending against the

force of all these solemn considerations. It is farther to be

considered, that in the gradation between the smallest and

largest States, there are several, which, though most likely in

general to arrange themselves among the former are too little

removed in extent and population from the latter, to second an

opposition to their just and legitimate pretensions. Hence it is

by no means certain that a majority of votes, even in the

Senate, would be unfriendly to proper augmentations in the number

of representatives. It will not be looking too far to add, that

the senators from all the new States may be gained over to the

just views of the House of Representatives, by an expedient too

obvious to be overlooked. As these States will, for a great

length of time, advance in population with peculiar rapidity,

they will be interested in frequent reapportionments of the

representatives to the number of inhabitants. The large States,

therefore, who will prevail in the House of Representatives, will

have nothing to do but to make reapportionments and augmentations

mutually conditions of each other; and the senators from all the

most growing States will be bound to contend for the latter, by

the interest which their States will feel in the former. These

considerations seem to afford ample security on this subject, and

ought alone to satisfy all the doubts and fears which have been

indulged with regard to it. Admitting, however, that they should

all be insufficient to subdue the unjust policy of the smaller

States, or their predominant influence in the councils of the

Senate, a constitutional and infallible resource still remains

with the larger States, by which they will be able at all times

to accomplish their just purposes. The House of Representatives

cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies

requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold

the purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the

history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble

representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of

its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it

seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other

branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in

fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with

which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of

the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for

carrying into effect every just and salutary measure. But will

not the House of Representatives be as much interested as the

Senate in maintaining the government in its proper functions, and

will they not therefore be unwilling to stake its existence or

its reputation on the pliancy of the Senate? Or, if such a trial

of firmness between the two branches were hazarded, would not the

one be as likely first to yield as the other? These questions

will create no difficulty with those who reflect that in all

cases the smaller the number, and the more permanent and

conspicuous the station, of men in power, the stronger must be

the interest which they will individually feel in whatever

concerns the government. Those who represent the dignity of their

country in the eyes of other nations, will be particularly

sensible to every prospect of public danger, or of dishonorable

stagnation in public affairs. To those causes we are to ascribe

the continual triumph of the British House of Commons over the

other branches of the government, whenever the engine of a money

bill has been employed. An absolute inflexibility on the side of

the latter, although it could not have failed to involve every

department of the state in the general confusion, has neither

been apprehended nor experienced. The utmost degree of firmness

that can be displayed by the federal Senate or President, will

not be more than equal to a resistance in which they will be

supported by constitutional and patriotic principles. In this

review of the Constitution of the House of Representatives, I

have passed over the circumstances of economy, which, in the

present state of affairs, might have had some effect in lessening

the temporary number of representatives, and a disregard of which

would probably have been as rich a theme of declamation against

the Constitution as has been shown by the smallness of the number

proposed. I omit also any remarks on the difficulty which might

be found, under present circumstances, in engaging in the federal

service a large number of such characters as the people will

probably elect. One observation, however, I must be permitted to

add on this subject as claiming, in my judgment, a very serious

attention. It is, that in all legislative assemblies the greater

the number composing them may be, the fewer will be the men who

will in fact direct their proceedings. In the first place, the

more numerous an assembly may be, of whatever characters

composed, the greater is known to be the ascendency of passion

over reason. In the next place, the larger the number, the

greater will be the proportion of members of limited information

and of weak capacities. Now, it is precisely on characters of

this description that the eloquence and address of the few are

known to act with all their force. In the ancient republics,

where the whole body of the people assembled in person, a single

orator, or an artful statesman, was generally seen to rule with

as complete a sway as if a sceptre had been placed in his single

hand. On the same principle, the more multitudinous a

representative assembly may be rendered, the more it will partake

of the infirmities incident to collective meetings of the people.

Ignorance will be the dupe of cunning, and passion the slave of

sophistry and declamation. The people can never err more than in

supposing that by multiplying their representatives beyond a

certain limit, they strengthen the barrier against the government

of a few. Experience will forever admonish them that, on the



WHOLE SOCIETY, they will counteract their own views by every

addition to their representatives. The countenance of the

government may become more democratic, but the soul that animates

it will be more oligarchic. The machine will be enlarged, but the

fewer, and often the more secret, will be the springs by which

its motions are directed. As connected with the objection against

the number of representatives, may properly be here noticed, that

which has been suggested against the number made competent for

legislative business. It has been said that more than a majority

ought to have been required for a quorum; and in particular

cases, if not in all, more than a majority of a quorum for a

decision. That some advantages might have resulted from such a

precaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additional

shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle

generally to hasty and partial measures. But these considerations

are outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. In

all cases where justice or the general good might require new

laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the

fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It

would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would

be transferred to the minority. Were the defensive privilege

limited to particular cases, an interested minority might take

advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices to

the general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extort

unreasonable indulgences. Lastly, it would facilitate and foster

the baneful practice of secessions; a practice which has shown

itself even in States where a majority only is required; a

practice subversive of all the principles of order and regular

government; a practice which leads more directly to public

convulsions, and the ruin of popular governments, than any other

which has yet been displayed among us. PUBLIUS.


Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of


From the New York Packet. Friday, February 22, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE natural order of the subject leads us to consider, in this

place, that provision of the Constitution which authorizes the

national legislature to regulate, in the last resort, the

election of its own members. It is in these words: “The TIMES,

PLACES, and MANNER of holding elections for senators and

representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the

legislature thereof; but the Congress may, at any time, by law,

make or alter SUCH REGULATIONS, except as to the PLACES of

choosing senators. “1 This provision has not only been declaimed

against by those who condemn the Constitution in the gross, but

it has been censured by those who have objected with less

latitude and greater moderation; and, in one instance it has been

thought exceptionable by a gentleman who has declared himself the

advocate of every other part of the system. I am greatly

mistaken, notwithstanding, if there be any article in the whole

plan more completely defensible than this. Its propriety rests

upon the evidence of this plain proposition, that EVERY


PRESERVATION. Every just reasoner will, at first sight, approve

an adherence to this rule, in the work of the convention; and

will disapprove every deviation from it which may not appear to

have been dictated by the necessity of incorporating into the

work some particular ingredient, with which a rigid conformity to

the rule was incompatible. Even in this case, though he may

acquiesce in the necessity, yet he will not cease to regard and

to regret a departure from so fundamental a principle, as a

portion of imperfection in the system which may prove the seed of

future weakness, and perhaps anarchy. It will not be alleged,

that an election law could have been framed and inserted in the

Constitution, which would have been always applicable to every

probable change in the situation of the country; and it will

therefore not be denied, that a discretionary power over

elections ought to exist somewhere. It will, I presume, be as

readily conceded, that there were only three ways in which this

power could have been reasonably modified and disposed: that it

must either have been lodged wholly in the national legislature,

or wholly in the State legislatures, or primarily in the latter

and ultimately in the former. The last mode has, with reason,

been preferred by the convention. They have submitted the

regulation of elections for the federal government, in the first

instance, to the local administrations; which, in ordinary

cases, and when no improper views prevail, may be both more

convenient and more satisfactory; but they have reserved to the

national authority a right to interpose, whenever extraordinary

circumstances might render that interposition necessary to its

safety. Nothing can be more evident, than that an exclusive

power of regulating elections for the national government, in the

hands of the State legislatures, would leave the existence of the

Union entirely at their mercy. They could at any moment

annihilate it, by neglecting to provide for the choice of persons

to administer its affairs. It is to little purpose to say, that

a neglect or omission of this kind would not be likely to take

place. The constitutional possibility of the thing, without an

equivalent for the risk, is an unanswerable objection. Nor has

any satisfactory reason been yet assigned for incurring that

risk. The extravagant surmises of a distempered jealousy can

never be dignified with that character. If we are in a humor to

presume abuses of power, it is as fair to presume them on the

part of the State governments as on the part of the general

government. And as it is more consonant to the rules of a just

theory, to trust the Union with the care of its own existence,

than to transfer that care to any other hands, if abuses of power

are to be hazarded on the one side or on the other, it is more

rational to hazard them where the power would naturally be

placed, than where it would unnaturally be placed. Suppose an

article had been introduced into the Constitution, empowering the

United States to regulate the elections for the particular

States, would any man have hesitated to condemn it, both as an

unwarrantable transposition of power, and as a premeditated

engine for the destruction of the State governments? The

violation of principle, in this case, would have required no

comment; and, to an unbiased observer, it will not be less

apparent in the project of subjecting the existence of the

national government, in a similar respect, to the pleasure of the

State governments. An impartial view of the matter cannot fail

to result in a conviction, that each, as far as possible, ought

to depend on itself for its own preservation. As an objection to

this position, it may be remarked that the constitution of the

national Senate would involve, in its full extent, the danger

which it is suggested might flow from an exclusive power in the

State legislatures to regulate the federal elections. It may be

alleged, that by declining the appointment of Senators, they

might at any time give a fatal blow to the Union; and from this

it may be inferred, that as its existence would be thus rendered

dependent upon them in so essential a point, there can be no

objection to intrusting them with it in the particular case under

consideration. The interest of each State, it may be added, to

maintain its representation in the national councils, would be a

complete security against an abuse of the trust. This argument,

though specious, will not, upon examination, be found solid. It

is certainly true that the State legislatures, by forbearing the

appointment of senators, may destroy the national government. But

it will not follow that, because they have a power to do this in

one instance, they ought to have it in every other. There are

cases in which the pernicious tendency of such a power may be far

more decisive, without any motive equally cogent with that which

must have regulated the conduct of the convention in respect to

the formation of the Senate, to recommend their admission into

the system. So far as that construction may expose the Union to

the possibility of injury from the State legislatures, it is an

evil; but it is an evil which could not have been avoided without

excluding the States, in their political capacities, wholly from

a place in the organization of the national government. If this

had been done, it would doubtless have been interpreted into an

entire dereliction of the federal principle; and would certainly

have deprived the State governments of that absolute safeguard

which they will enjoy under this provision. But however wise it

may have been to have submitted in this instance to an

inconvenience, for the attainment of a necessary advantage or a

greater good, no inference can be drawn from thence to favor an

accumulation of the evil, where no necessity urges, nor any

greater good invites. It may be easily discerned also that the

national government would run a much greater risk from a power in

the State legislatures over the elections of its House of

Representatives, than from their power of appointing the members

of its Senate. The senators are to be chosen for the period of

six years; there is to be a rotation, by which the seats of a

third part of them are to be vacated and replenished every two

years; and no State is to be entitled to more than two senators;

a quorum of the body is to consist of sixteen members. The joint

result of these circumstances would be, that a temporary

combination of a few States to intermit the appointment of

senators, could neither annul the existence nor impair the

activity of the body; and it is not from a general and permanent

combination of the States that we can have any thing to fear. The

first might proceed from sinister designs in the leading members

of a few of the State legislatures; the last would suppose a

fixed and rooted disaffection in the great body of the people,

which will either never exist at all, or will, in all

probability, proceed from an experience of the inaptitude of the

general government to the advancement of their happiness in which

event no good citizen could desire its continuance. But with

regard to the federal House of Representatives, there is intended

to be a general election of members once in two years. If the

State legislatures were to be invested with an exclusive power of

regulating these elections, every period of making them would be

a delicate crisis in the national situation, which might issue in

a dissolution of the Union, if the leaders of a few of the most

important States should have entered into a previous conspiracy

to prevent an election. I shall not deny, that there is a degree

of weight in the observation, that the interests of each State,

to be represented in the federal councils, will be a security

against the abuse of a power over its elections in the hands of

the State legislatures. But the security will not be considered

as complete, by those who attend to the force of an obvious

distinction between the interest of the people in the public

felicity, and the interest of their local rulers in the power and

consequence of their offices. The people of America may be

warmly attached to the government of the Union, at times when the

particular rulers of particular States, stimulated by the natural

rivalship of power, and by the hopes of personal aggrandizement,

and supported by a strong faction in each of those States, may be

in a very opposite temper. This diversity of sentiment between a

majority of the people, and the individuals who have the

greatest credit in their councils, is exemplified in some of the

States at the present moment, on the present question. The

scheme of separate confederacies, which will always multiply the

chances of ambition, will be a never failing bait to all such

influential characters in the State administrations as are

capable of preferring their own emolument and advancement to the

public weal. With so effectual a weapon in their hands as the

exclusive power of regulating elections for the national

government, a combination of a few such men, in a few of the most

considerable States, where the temptation will always be the

strongest, might accomplish the destruction of the Union, by

seizing the opportunity of some casual dissatisfaction among the

people (and which perhaps they may themselves have excited), to

discontinue the choice of members for the federal House of

Representatives. It ought never to be forgotten, that a firm

union of this country, under an efficient government, will

probably be an increasing object of jealousy to more than one

nation of Europe; and that enterprises to subvert it will

sometimes originate in the intrigues of foreign powers, and will

seldom fail to be patronized and abetted by some of them. Its

preservation, therefore ought in no case that can be avoided, to

be committed to the guardianship of any but those whose situation

will uniformly beget an immediate interest in the faithful and

vigilant performance of the trust. PUBLIUS. Ist clause, 4th

section, of the Ist article.


The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of


From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, February 26, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

WE HAVE seen, that an uncontrollable power over the elections to
the federal government could not, without hazard, be committed to
the State legislatures. Let us now see, what would be the danger on
the other side; that is, from confiding the ultimate right of
regulating its own elections to the Union itself. It is not
pretended, that this right would ever be used for the exclusion of
any State from its share in the representation. The interest of all
would, in this respect at least, be the security of all. But it is
alleged, that it might be employed in such a manner as to promote
the election of some favorite class of men in exclusion of others,
by confining the places of election to particular districts, and
rendering it impracticable to the citizens at large to partake in
the choice. Of all chimerical suppositions, this seems to be the
most chimerical. On the one hand, no rational calculation of
probabilities would lead us to imagine that the disposition which a
conduct so violent and extraordinary would imply, could ever find
its way into the national councils; and on the other, it may be
concluded with certainty, that if so improper a spirit should ever
gain admittance into them, it would display itself in a form
altogether different and far more decisive.

The improbability of the attempt may be satisfactorily inferred
from this single reflection, that it could never be made without
causing an immediate revolt of the great body of the people, headed
and directed by the State governments. It is not difficult to
conceive that this characteristic right of freedom may, in certain
turbulent and factious seasons, be violated, in respect to a
particular class of citizens, by a victorious and overbearing
majority; but that so fundamental a privilege, in a country so
situated and enlightened, should be invaded to the prejudice of the
great mass of the people, by the deliberate policy of the
government, without occasioning a popular revolution, is altogether
inconceivable and incredible.

In addition to this general reflection, there are considerations
of a more precise nature, which forbid all apprehension on the
subject. The dissimilarity in the ingredients which will compose
the national government, and still more in the manner in which they
will be brought into action in its various branches, must form a
powerful obstacle to a concert of views in any partial scheme of
elections. There is sufficient diversity in the state of property,
in the genius, manners, and habits of the people of the different
parts of the Union, to occasion a material diversity of disposition
in their representatives towards the different ranks and conditions
in society. And though an intimate intercourse under the same
government will promote a gradual assimilation in some of these
respects, yet there are causes, as well physical as moral, which
may, in a greater or less degree, permanently nourish different
propensities and inclinations in this respect. But the circumstance
which will be likely to have the greatest influence in the matter,
will be the dissimilar modes of constituting the several component
parts of the government. The House of Representatives being to be
elected immediately by the people, the Senate by the State
legislatures, the President by electors chosen for that purpose by
the people, there would be little probability of a common interest
to cement these different branches in a predilection for any
particular class of electors.

As to the Senate, it is impossible that any regulation of “time
and manner,” which is all that is proposed to be submitted to the
national government in respect to that body, can affect the spirit
which will direct the choice of its members. The collective sense
of the State legislatures can never be influenced by extraneous
circumstances of that sort; a consideration which alone ought to
satisfy us that the discrimination apprehended would never be
attempted. For what inducement could the Senate have to concur in a
preference in which itself would not be included? Or to what
purpose would it be established, in reference to one branch of the
legislature, if it could not be extended to the other? The
composition of the one would in this case counteract that of the
other. And we can never suppose that it would embrace the
appointments to the Senate, unless we can at the same time suppose
the voluntary co-operation of the State legislatures. If we make
the latter supposition, it then becomes immaterial where the power
in question is placed whether in their hands or in those of the

But what is to be the object of this capricious partiality in
the national councils? Is it to be exercised in a discrimination
between the different departments of industry, or between the
different kinds of property, or between the different degrees of
property? Will it lean in favor of the landed interest, or the
moneyed interest, or the mercantile interest, or the manufacturing
interest? Or, to speak in the fashionable language of the
adversaries to the Constitution, will it court the elevation of
“the wealthy and the well-born,” to the exclusion and debasement
of all the rest of the society?

If this partiality is to be exerted in favor of those who are
concerned in any particular description of industry or property, I
presume it will readily be admitted, that the competition for it
will lie between landed men and merchants. And I scruple not to
affirm, that it is infinitely less likely that either of them should
gain an ascendant in the national councils, than that the one or the
other of them should predominate in all the local councils. The
inference will be, that a conduct tending to give an undue
preference to either is much less to be dreaded from the former than
from the latter.

The several States are in various degrees addicted to
agriculture and commerce. In most, if not all of them, agriculture
is predominant. In a few of them, however, commerce nearly divides
its empire, and in most of them has a considerable share of
influence. In proportion as either prevails, it will be conveyed
into the national representation; and for the very reason, that
this will be an emanation from a greater variety of interests, and
in much more various proportions, than are to be found in any single
State, it will be much less apt to espouse either of them with a
decided partiality, than the representation of any single State.

In a country consisting chiefly of the cultivators of land,
where the rules of an equal representation obtain, the landed
interest must, upon the whole, preponderate in the government. As
long as this interest prevails in most of the State legislatures, so
long it must maintain a correspondent superiority in the national
Senate, which will generally be a faithful copy of the majorities of
those assemblies. It cannot therefore be presumed, that a sacrifice
of the landed to the mercantile class will ever be a favorite object
of this branch of the federal legislature. In applying thus
particularly to the Senate a general observation suggested by the
situation of the country, I am governed by the consideration, that
the credulous votaries of State power cannot, upon their own
principles, suspect, that the State legislatures would be warped
from their duty by any external influence. But in reality the same
situation must have the same effect, in the primative composition at
least of the federal House of Representatives: an improper bias
towards the mercantile class is as little to be expected from this
quarter as from the other.

In order, perhaps, to give countenance to the objection at any
rate, it may be asked, is there not danger of an opposite bias in
the national government, which may dispose it to endeavor to secure
a monopoly of the federal administration to the landed class? As
there is little likelihood that the supposition of such a bias will
have any terrors for those who would be immediately injured by it, a
labored answer to this question will be dispensed with. It will be
sufficient to remark, first, that for the reasons elsewhere
assigned, it is less likely that any decided partiality should
prevail in the councils of the Union than in those of any of its
members. Secondly, that there would be no temptation to violate the
Constitution in favor of the landed class, because that class would,
in the natural course of things, enjoy as great a preponderancy as
itself could desire. And thirdly, that men accustomed to
investigate the sources of public prosperity upon a large scale,
must be too well convinced of the utility of commerce, to be
inclined to inflict upon it so deep a wound as would result from the
entire exclusion of those who would best understand its interest
from a share in the management of them. The importance of commerce,
in the view of revenue alone, must effectually guard it against the
enmity of a body which would be continually importuned in its favor,
by the urgent calls of public necessity.

I the rather consult brevity in discussing the probability of a
preference founded upon a discrimination between the different kinds
of industry and property, because, as far as I understand the
meaning of the objectors, they contemplate a discrimination of
another kind. They appear to have in view, as the objects of the
preference with which they endeavor to alarm us, those whom they
designate by the description of “the wealthy and the well-born.”
These, it seems, are to be exalted to an odious pre-eminence over
the rest of their fellow-citizens. At one time, however, their
elevation is to be a necessary consequence of the smallness of the
representative body; at another time it is to be effected by
depriving the people at large of the opportunity of exercising their
right of suffrage in the choice of that body.

But upon what principle is the discrimination of the places of
election to be made, in order to answer the purpose of the meditated
preference? Are “the wealthy and the well-born,” as they are
called, confined to particular spots in the several States? Have
they, by some miraculous instinct or foresight, set apart in each of
them a common place of residence? Are they only to be met with in
the towns or cities? Or are they, on the contrary, scattered over
the face of the country as avarice or chance may have happened to
cast their own lot or that of their predecessors? If the latter is
the case, (as every intelligent man knows it to be,1) is it not
evident that the policy of confining the places of election to
particular districts would be as subversive of its own aim as it
would be exceptionable on every other account? The truth is, that
there is no method of securing to the rich the preference
apprehended, but by prescribing qualifications of property either
for those who may elect or be elected. But this forms no part of
the power to be conferred upon the national government. Its
authority would be expressly restricted to the regulation of the
TIMES, the PLACES, the MANNER of elections. The qualifications of
the persons who may choose or be chosen, as has been remarked upon
other occasions, are defined and fixed in the Constitution, and are
unalterable by the legislature.

Let it, however, be admitted, for argument sake, that the
expedient suggested might be successful; and let it at the same
time be equally taken for granted that all the scruples which a
sense of duty or an apprehension of the danger of the experiment
might inspire, were overcome in the breasts of the national rulers,
still I imagine it will hardly be pretended that they could ever
hope to carry such an enterprise into execution without the aid of a
military force sufficient to subdue the resistance of the great body
of the people. The improbability of the existence of a force equal
to that object has been discussed and demonstrated in different
parts of these papers; but that the futility of the objection under
consideration may appear in the strongest light, it shall be
conceded for a moment that such a force might exist, and the
national government shall be supposed to be in the actual possession
of it. What will be the conclusion? With a disposition to invade
the essential rights of the community, and with the means of
gratifying that disposition, is it presumable that the persons who
were actuated by it would amuse themselves in the ridiculous task of
fabricating election laws for securing a preference to a favorite
class of men? Would they not be likely to prefer a conduct better
adapted to their own immediate aggrandizement? Would they not
rather boldly resolve to perpetuate themselves in office by one
decisive act of usurpation, than to trust to precarious expedients
which, in spite of all the precautions that might accompany them,
might terminate in the dismission, disgrace, and ruin of their
authors? Would they not fear that citizens, not less tenacious than
conscious of their rights, would flock from the remote extremes of
their respective States to the places of election, to overthrow
their tyrants, and to substitute men who would be disposed to avenge
the violated majesty of the people?


1 Particularly in the Southern States and in this State.


The Same Subject Continued

(Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of


From the New York Packet.

Tuesday, February 26, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE more candid opposers of the provision respecting elections,
contained in the plan of the convention, when pressed in argument,
will sometimes concede the propriety of that provision; with this
qualification, however, that it ought to have been accompanied with
a declaration, that all elections should be had in the counties
where the electors resided. This, say they, was a necessary
precaution against an abuse of the power. A declaration of this
nature would certainly have been harmless; so far as it would have
had the effect of quieting apprehensions, it might not have been
undesirable. But it would, in fact, have afforded little or no
additional security against the danger apprehended; and the want of
it will never be considered, by an impartial and judicious examiner,
as a serious, still less as an insuperable, objection to the plan.
The different views taken of the subject in the two preceding
papers must be sufficient to satisfy all dispassionate and
discerning men, that if the public liberty should ever be the victim
of the ambition of the national rulers, the power under examination,
at least, will be guiltless of the sacrifice.

If those who are inclined to consult their jealousy only, would
exercise it in a careful inspection of the several State
constitutions, they would find little less room for disquietude and
alarm, from the latitude which most of them allow in respect to
elections, than from the latitude which is proposed to be allowed to
the national government in the same respect. A review of their
situation, in this particular, would tend greatly to remove any ill
impressions which may remain in regard to this matter. But as that
view would lead into long and tedious details, I shall content
myself with the single example of the State in which I write. The
constitution of New York makes no other provision for LOCALITY of
elections, than that the members of the Assembly shall be elected in
the COUNTIES; those of the Senate, in the great districts into
which the State is or may be divided: these at present are four in
number, and comprehend each from two to six counties. It may
readily be perceived that it would not be more difficult to the
legislature of New York to defeat the suffrages of the citizens of
New York, by confining elections to particular places, than for the
legislature of the United States to defeat the suffrages of the
citizens of the Union, by the like expedient. Suppose, for
instance, the city of Albany was to be appointed the sole place of
election for the county and district of which it is a part, would
not the inhabitants of that city speedily become the only electors
of the members both of the Senate and Assembly for that county and
district? Can we imagine that the electors who reside in the remote
subdivisions of the counties of Albany, Saratoga, Cambridge, etc.,
or in any part of the county of Montgomery, would take the trouble
to come to the city of Albany, to give their votes for members of
the Assembly or Senate, sooner than they would repair to the city of
New York, to participate in the choice of the members of the federal
House of Representatives? The alarming indifference discoverable in
the exercise of so invaluable a privilege under the existing laws,
which afford every facility to it, furnishes a ready answer to this
question. And, abstracted from any experience on the subject, we
can be at no loss to determine, that when the place of election is
at an INCONVENIENT DISTANCE from the elector, the effect upon his
conduct will be the same whether that distance be twenty miles or
twenty thousand miles. Hence it must appear, that objections to the
particular modification of the federal power of regulating elections
will, in substance, apply with equal force to the modification of
the like power in the constitution of this State; and for this
reason it will be impossible to acquit the one, and to condemn the
other. A similar comparison would lead to the same conclusion in
respect to the constitutions of most of the other States.

If it should be said that defects in the State constitutions
furnish no apology for those which are to be found in the plan
proposed, I answer, that as the former have never been thought
chargeable with inattention to the security of liberty, where the
imputations thrown on the latter can be shown to be applicable to
them also, the presumption is that they are rather the cavilling
refinements of a predetermined opposition, than the well-founded
inferences of a candid research after truth. To those who are
disposed to consider, as innocent omissions in the State
constitutions, what they regard as unpardonable blemishes in the
plan of the convention, nothing can be said; or at most, they can
only be asked to assign some substantial reason why the
representatives of the people in a single State should be more
impregnable to the lust of power, or other sinister motives, than
the representatives of the people of the United States? If they
cannot do this, they ought at least to prove to us that it is easier
to subvert the liberties of three millions of people, with the
advantage of local governments to head their opposition, than of two
hundred thousand people who are destitute of that advantage. And in
relation to the point immediately under consideration, they ought to
convince us that it is less probable that a predominant faction in a
single State should, in order to maintain its superiority, incline
to a preference of a particular class of electors, than that a
similar spirit should take possession of the representatives of
thirteen States, spread over a vast region, and in several respects
distinguishable from each other by a diversity of local
circumstances, prejudices, and interests.

Hitherto my observations have only aimed at a vindication of the
provision in question, on the ground of theoretic propriety, on that
of the danger of placing the power elsewhere, and on that of the
safety of placing it in the manner proposed. But there remains to
be mentioned a positive advantage which will result from this
disposition, and which could not as well have been obtained from any
other: I allude to the circumstance of uniformity in the time of
elections for the federal House of Representatives. It is more than
possible that this uniformity may be found by experience to be of
great importance to the public welfare, both as a security against
the perpetuation of the same spirit in the body, and as a cure for
the diseases of faction. If each State may choose its own time of
election, it is possible there may be at least as many different
periods as there are months in the year. The times of election in
the several States, as they are now established for local purposes,
vary between extremes as wide as March and November. The
consequence of this diversity would be that there could never happen
a total dissolution or renovation of the body at one time. If an
improper spirit of any kind should happen to prevail in it, that
spirit would be apt to infuse itself into the new members, as they
come forward in succession. The mass would be likely to remain
nearly the same, assimilating constantly to itself its gradual
accretions. There is a contagion in example which few men have
sufficient force of mind to resist. I am inclined to think that
treble the duration in office, with the condition of a total
dissolution of the body at the same time, might be less formidable
to liberty than one third of that duration subject to gradual and
successive alterations.

Uniformity in the time of elections seems not less requisite for
executing the idea of a regular rotation in the Senate, and for
conveniently assembling the legislature at a stated period in each

It may be asked, Why, then, could not a time have been fixed in
the Constitution? As the most zealous adversaries of the plan of
the convention in this State are, in general, not less zealous
admirers of the constitution of the State, the question may be
retorted, and it may be asked, Why was not a time for the like
purpose fixed in the constitution of this State? No better answer
can be given than that it was a matter which might safely be
entrusted to legislative discretion; and that if a time had been
appointed, it might, upon experiment, have been found less
convenient than some other time. The same answer may be given to
the question put on the other side. And it may be added that the
supposed danger of a gradual change being merely speculative, it
would have been hardly advisable upon that speculation to establish,
as a fundamental point, what would deprive several States of the
convenience of having the elections for their own governments and
for the national government at the same epochs.



The Senate

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

HAVING examined the constitution of the House of

Representatives, and answered such of the objections against it as

seemed to merit notice, I enter next on the examination of the


The heads into which this member of the government may be
considered are: I. The qualification of senators; II. The
appointment of them by the State legislatures; III. The equality of
representation in the Senate; IV. The number of senators, and the
term for which they are to be elected; V. The powers vested in the

I. The qualifications proposed for senators, as distinguished
from those of representatives, consist in a more advanced age and a
longer period of citizenship. A senator must be thirty years of age
at least; as a representative must be twenty-five. And the former
must have been a citizen nine years; as seven years are required
for the latter. The propriety of these distinctions is explained by
the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent
of information and stability of character, requires at the same time
that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to
supply these advantages; and which, participating immediately in
transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none who
are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits
incident to foreign birth and education. The term of nine years
appears to be a prudent mediocrity between a total exclusion of
adopted citizens, whose merits and talents may claim a share in the
public confidence, and an indiscriminate and hasty admission of
them, which might create a channel for foreign influence on the
national councils.

II. It is equally unnecessary to dilate on the appointment of
senators by the State legislatures. Among the various modes which
might have been devised for constituting this branch of the
government, that which has been proposed by the convention is
probably the most congenial with the public opinion. It is
recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select
appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency
in the formation of the federal government as must secure the
authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the
two systems.

III. The equality of representation in the Senate is another
point, which, being evidently the result of compromise between the
opposite pretensions of the large and the small States, does not
call for much discussion. If indeed it be right, that among a
people thoroughly incorporated into one nation, every district ought
to have a PROPORTIONAL share in the government, and that among
independent and sovereign States, bound together by a simple league,
the parties, however unequal in size, ought to have an EQUAL share
in the common councils, it does not appear to be without some reason
that in a compound republic, partaking both of the national and
federal character, the government ought to be founded on a mixture
of the principles of proportional and equal representation. But it
is superfluous to try, by the standard of theory, a part of the
Constitution which is allowed on all hands to be the result, not of
theory, but “of a spirit of amity, and that mutual deference and
concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered
indispensable.” A common government, with powers equal to its
objects, is called for by the voice, and still more loudly by the
political situation, of America. A government founded on principles
more consonant to the wishes of the larger States, is not likely to
be obtained from the smaller States. The only option, then, for the
former, lies between the proposed government and a government still
more objectionable. Under this alternative, the advice of prudence
must be to embrace the lesser evil; and, instead of indulging a
fruitless anticipation of the possible mischiefs which may ensue, to
contemplate rather the advantageous consequences which may qualify
the sacrifice.

In this spirit it may be remarked, that the equal vote allowed
to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion
of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument
for preserving that residuary sovereignty. So far the equality
ought to be no less acceptable to the large than to the small
States; since they are not less solicitous to guard, by every
possible expedient, against an improper consolidation of the States
into one simple republic.

Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the
constitution of the Senate is, the additional impediment it must
prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution
can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of
the people, and then, of a majority of the States. It must be
acknowledged that this complicated check on legislation may in some
instances be injurious as well as beneficial; and that the peculiar
defense which it involves in favor of the smaller States, would be
more rational, if any interests common to them, and distinct from
those of the other States, would otherwise be exposed to peculiar
danger. But as the larger States will always be able, by their
power over the supplies, to defeat unreasonable exertions of this
prerogative of the lesser States, and as the faculty and excess of
law-making seem to be the diseases to which our governments are most
liable, it is not impossible that this part of the Constitution may
be more convenient in practice than it appears to many in

IV. The number of senators, and the duration of their
appointment, come next to be considered. In order to form an
accurate judgment on both of these points, it will be proper to
inquire into the purposes which are to be answered by a senate; and
in order to ascertain these, it will be necessary to review the
inconveniences which a republic must suffer from the want of such an

First. It is a misfortune incident to republican
government, though in a less degree than to other governments, that
those who administer it may forget their obligations to their
constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust. In
this point of view, a senate, as a second branch of the legislative
assembly, distinct from, and dividing the power with, a first, must
be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the
security to the people, by requiring the concurrence of two distinct
bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, where the ambition or
corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient. This is a
precaution founded on such clear principles, and now so well
understood in the United States, that it would be more than
superfluous to enlarge on it. I will barely remark, that as the
improbability of sinister combinations will be in proportion to the
dissimilarity in the genius of the two bodies, it must be politic to
distinguish them from each other by every circumstance which will
consist with a due harmony in all proper measures, and with the
genuine principles of republican government.

Secondly. The necessity of a senate is not less indicated
by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to
the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by
factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.
Examples on this subject might be cited without number; and from
proceedings within the United States, as well as from the history of
other nations. But a position that will not be contradicted, need
not be proved. All that need be remarked is, that a body which is
to correct this infirmity ought itself to be free from it, and
consequently ought to be less numerous. It ought, moreover, to
possess great firmness, and consequently ought to hold its authority
by a tenure of considerable duration.

Thirdly. Another defect to be supplied by a senate lies in
a want of due acquaintance with the objects and principles of
legislation. It is not possible that an assembly of men called for
the most part from pursuits of a private nature, continued in
appointment for a short time, and led by no permanent motive to
devote the intervals of public occupation to a study of the laws,
the affairs, and the comprehensive interests of their country,
should, if left wholly to themselves, escape a variety of important
errors in the exercise of their legislative trust. It may be
affirmed, on the best grounds, that no small share of the present
embarrassments of America is to be charged on the blunders of our
governments; and that these have proceeded from the heads rather
than the hearts of most of the authors of them. What indeed are all
the repealing, explaining, and amending laws, which fill and
disgrace our voluminous codes, but so many monuments of deficient
wisdom; so many impeachments exhibited by each succeeding against
each preceding session; so many admonitions to the people, of the
value of those aids which may be expected from a well-constituted

A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the
object of government, which is the happiness of the people;
secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best
attained. Some governments are deficient in both these qualities;
most governments are deficient in the first. I scruple not to
assert, that in American governments too little attention has been
paid to the last. The federal Constitution avoids this error; and
what merits particular notice, it provides for the last in a mode
which increases the security for the first.

Fourthly. The mutability in the public councils arising
from a rapid succession of new members, however qualified they may
be, points out, in the strongest manner, the necessity of some
stable institution in the government. Every new election in the
States is found to change one half of the representatives. From
this change of men must proceed a change of opinions; and from a
change of opinions, a change of measures. But a continual change
even of good measures is inconsistent with every rule of prudence
and every prospect of success. The remark is verified in private
life, and becomes more just, as well as more important, in national

To trace the mischievous effects of a mutable government would
fill a volume. I will hint a few only, each of which will be
perceived to be a source of innumerable others.

In the first place, it forfeits the respect and confidence of
other nations, and all the advantages connected with national
character. An individual who is observed to be inconstant to his
plans, or perhaps to carry on his affairs without any plan at all,
is marked at once, by all prudent people, as a speedy victim to his
own unsteadiness and folly. His more friendly neighbors may pity
him, but all will decline to connect their fortunes with his; and
not a few will seize the opportunity of making their fortunes out of
his. One nation is to another what one individual is to another;
with this melancholy distinction perhaps, that the former, with
fewer of the benevolent emotions than the latter, are under fewer
restraints also from taking undue advantage from the indiscretions
of each other. Every nation, consequently, whose affairs betray a
want of wisdom and stability, may calculate on every loss which can
be sustained from the more systematic policy of their wiser
neighbors. But the best instruction on this subject is unhappily
conveyed to America by the example of her own situation. She finds
that she is held in no respect by her friends; that she is the
derision of her enemies; and that she is a prey to every nation
which has an interest in speculating on her fluctuating councils and
embarrassed affairs.

The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more
calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be
of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of
their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be
read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be
repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such
incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can
guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of
action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable
advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the
moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people.
Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way
affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a
new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its
consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils
and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens. This is a
state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws
are made for the FEW, not for the MANY.

In another point of view, great injury results from an unstable
government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps
every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend
on a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant
will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows
not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be
executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the
encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment,
when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and
advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant government?
In a word, no great improvement or laudable enterprise can go
forward which requires the auspices of a steady system of national

But the most deplorable effect of all is that diminution of
attachment and reverence which steals into the hearts of the people,
towards a political system which betrays so many marks of infirmity,
and disappoints so many of their flattering hopes. No government,
any more than an individual, will long be respected without being
truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a
certain portion of order and stability.



The Senate Continued

For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:

A FIFTH desideratum, illustrating the utility of a senate, is
the want of a due sense of national character. Without a select and
stable member of the government, the esteem of foreign powers will
not only be forfeited by an unenlightened and variable policy,
proceeding from the causes already mentioned, but the national
councils will not possess that sensibility to the opinion of the
world, which is perhaps not less necessary in order to merit, than
it is to obtain, its respect and confidence.

An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to
every government for two reasons: the one is, that, independently
of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable, on
various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the
offspring of a wise and honorable policy; the second is, that in
doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be
warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or
known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can
be followed. What has not America lost by her want of character
with foreign nations; and how many errors and follies would she not
have avoided, if the justice and propriety of her measures had, in
every instance, been previously tried by the light in which they
would probably appear to the unbiased part of mankind?

Yet however requisite a sense of national character may be, it
is evident that it can never be sufficiently possessed by a numerous
and changeable body. It can only be found in a number so small that
a sensible degree of the praise and blame of public measures may be
the portion of each individual; or in an assembly so durably
invested with public trust, that the pride and consequence of its
members may be sensibly incorporated with the reputation and
prosperity of the community. The half-yearly representatives of
Rhode Island would probably have been little affected in their
deliberations on the iniquitous measures of that State, by arguments
drawn from the light in which such measures would be viewed by
foreign nations, or even by the sister States; whilst it can
scarcely be doubted that if the concurrence of a select and stable
body had been necessary, a regard to national character alone would
have prevented the calamities under which that misguided people is
now laboring.

I add, as a SIXTH defect the want, in some important cases, of a
due responsibility in the government to the people, arising from
that frequency of elections which in other cases produces this
responsibility. This remark will, perhaps, appear not only new, but
paradoxical. It must nevertheless be acknowledged, when explained,
to be as undeniable as it is important.

Responsibility, in order to be reasonable, must be limited to
objects within the power of the responsible party, and in order to
be effectual, must relate to operations of that power, of which a
ready and proper judgment can be formed by the constituents. The
objects of government may be divided into two general classes: the
one depending on measures which have singly an immediate and
sensible operation; the other depending on a succession of
well-chosen and well-connected measures, which have a gradual and
perhaps unobserved operation. The importance of the latter
description to the collective and permanent welfare of every
country, needs no explanation. And yet it is evident that an
assembly elected for so short a term as to be unable to provide more
than one or two links in a chain of measures, on which the general
welfare may essentially depend, ought not to be answerable for the
final result, any more than a steward or tenant, engaged for one
year, could be justly made to answer for places or improvements
which could not be accomplished in less than half a dozen years.
Nor is it possible for the people to estimate the SHARE of
influence which their annual assemblies may respectively have on
events resulting from the mixed transactions of several years. It
is sufficiently difficult to preserve a personal responsibility in
the members of a NUMEROUS body, for such acts of the body as have an
immediate, detached, and palpable operation on its constituents.

The proper remedy for this defect must be an additional body in
the legislative department, which, having sufficient permanency to
provide for such objects as require a continued attention, and a
train of measures, may be justly and effectually answerable for the
attainment of those objects.

Thus far I have considered the circumstances which point out the
necessity of a well-constructed Senate only as they relate to the
representatives of the people. To a people as little blinded by
prejudice or corrupted by flattery as those whom I address, I shall
not scruple to add, that such an institution may be sometimes
necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary
errors and delusions. As the cool and deliberate sense of the
community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free
governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so
there are particular moments in public affairs when the people,
stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or
misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call
for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready
to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will
be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of
citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the
blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason,
justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind?
What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often
escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard
against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might
then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same
citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next.

It may be suggested, that a people spread over an extensive
region cannot, like the crowded inhabitants of a small district, be
subject to the infection of violent passions, or to the danger of
combining in pursuit of unjust measures. I am far from denying that
this is a distinction of peculiar importance. I have, on the
contrary, endeavored in a former paper to show, that it is one of
the principal recommendations of a confederated republic. At the
same time, this advantage ought not to be considered as superseding
the use of auxiliary precautions. It may even be remarked, that the
same extended situation, which will exempt the people of America
from some of the dangers incident to lesser republics, will expose
them to the inconveniency of remaining for a longer time under the
influence of those misrepresentations which the combined industry of
interested men may succeed in distributing among them.

It adds no small weight to all these considerations, to
recollect that history informs us of no long-lived republic which
had not a senate. Sparta, Rome, and Carthage are, in fact, the only
states to whom that character can be applied. In each of the two
first there was a senate for life. The constitution of the senate
in the last is less known. Circumstantial evidence makes it
probable that it was not different in this particular from the two
others. It is at least certain, that it had some quality or other
which rendered it an anchor against popular fluctuations; and that
a smaller council, drawn out of the senate, was appointed not only
for life, but filled up vacancies itself. These examples, though as
unfit for the imitation, as they are repugnant to the genius, of
America, are, notwithstanding, when compared with the fugitive and
turbulent existence of other ancient republics, very instructive
proofs of the necessity of some institution that will blend
stability with liberty. I am not unaware of the circumstances which
distinguish the American from other popular governments, as well
ancient as modern; and which render extreme circumspection
necessary, in reasoning from the one case to the other. But after
allowing due weight to this consideration, it may still be
maintained, that there are many points of similitude which render
these examples not unworthy of our attention. Many of the defects,
as we have seen, which can only be supplied by a senatorial
institution, are common to a numerous assembly frequently elected by
the people, and to the people themselves. There are others peculiar
to the former, which require the control of such an institution.
The people can never wilfully betray their own interests; but they
may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people; and
the danger will be evidently greater where the whole legislative
trust is lodged in the hands of one body of men, than where the
concurrence of separate and dissimilar bodies is required in every
public act.

The difference most relied on, between the American and other
republics, consists in the principle of representation; which is
the pivot on which the former move, and which is supposed to have
been unknown to the latter, or at least to the ancient part of them.
The use which has been made of this difference, in reasonings
contained in former papers, will have shown that I am disposed
neither to deny its existence nor to undervalue its importance. I
feel the less restraint, therefore, in observing, that the position
concerning the ignorance of the ancient governments on the subject
of representation, is by no means precisely true in the latitude
commonly given to it. Without entering into a disquisition which
here would be misplaced, I will refer to a few known facts, in
support of what I advance.

In the most pure democracies of Greece, many of the executive
functions were performed, not by the people themselves, but by
officers elected by the people, and REPRESENTING the people in their
EXECUTIVE capacity.

Prior to the reform of Solon, Athens was governed by nine
Archons, annually ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE AT LARGE. The degree of
power delegated to them seems to be left in great obscurity.
Subsequent to that period, we find an assembly, first of four, and
afterwards of six hundred members, annually ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE;
and PARTIALLY representing them in their LEGISLATIVE capacity,
since they were not only associated with the people in the function
of making laws, but had the exclusive right of originating
legislative propositions to the people. The senate of Carthage,
also, whatever might be its power, or the duration of its
appointment, appears to have been ELECTIVE by the suffrages of the
people. Similar instances might be traced in most, if not all the
popular governments of antiquity.

Lastly, in Sparta we meet with the Ephori, and in Rome with the
Tribunes; two bodies, small indeed in numbers, but annually ELECTED
BY THE WHOLE BODY OF THE PEOPLE, and considered as the
REPRESENTATIVES of the people, almost in their PLENIPOTENTIARY
capacity. The Cosmi of Crete were also annually ELECTED BY THE
PEOPLE, and have been considered by some authors as an institution
analogous to those of Sparta and Rome, with this difference only,
that in the election of that representative body the right of
suffrage was communicated to a part only of the people.

From these facts, to which many others might be added, it is
clear that the principle of representation was neither unknown to
the ancients nor wholly overlooked in their political constitutions.
The true distinction between these and the American governments,
CAPACITY, from any share in the LATTER, and not in the TOTAL
administration of the FORMER. The distinction, however, thus
qualified, must be admitted to leave a most advantageous superiority
in favor of the United States. But to insure to this advantage its
full effect, we must be careful not to separate it from the other
advantage, of an extensive territory. For it cannot be believed,
that any form of representative government could have succeeded
within the narrow limits occupied by the democracies of Greece.

In answer to all these arguments, suggested by reason,
illustrated by examples, and enforced by our own experience, the
jealous adversary of the Constitution will probably content himself
with repeating, that a senate appointed not immediately by the
people, and for the term of six years, must gradually acquire a
dangerous pre-eminence in the government, and finally transform it
into a tyrannical aristocracy.

To this general answer, the general reply ought to be
sufficient, that liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty
as well as by the abuses of power; that there are numerous
instances of the former as well as of the latter; and that the
former, rather than the latter, are apparently most to be
apprehended by the United States. But a more particular reply may
be given.

Before such a revolution can be effected, the Senate, it is to
be observed, must in the first place corrupt itself; must next
corrupt the State legislatures; must then corrupt the House of
Representatives; and must finally corrupt the people at large. It
is evident that the Senate must be first corrupted before it can
attempt an establishment of tyranny. Without corrupting the State
legislatures, it cannot prosecute the attempt, because the
periodical change of members would otherwise regenerate the whole
body. Without exerting the means of corruption with equal success
on the House of Representatives, the opposition of that coequal
branch of the government would inevitably defeat the attempt; and
without corrupting the people themselves, a succession of new
representatives would speedily restore all things to their pristine
order. Is there any man who can seriously persuade himself that the
proposed Senate can, by any possible means within the compass of
human address, arrive at the object of a lawless ambition, through
all these obstructions?

If reason condemns the suspicion, the same sentence is
pronounced by experience. The constitution of Maryland furnishes
the most apposite example. The Senate of that State is elected, as
the federal Senate will be, indirectly by the people, and for a term
less by one year only than the federal Senate. It is distinguished,
also, by the remarkable prerogative of filling up its own vacancies
within the term of its appointment, and, at the same time, is not
under the control of any such rotation as is provided for the
federal Senate. There are some other lesser distinctions, which
would expose the former to colorable objections, that do not lie
against the latter. If the federal Senate, therefore, really
contained the danger which has been so loudly proclaimed, some
symptoms at least of a like danger ought by this time to have been
betrayed by the Senate of Maryland, but no such symptoms have
appeared. On the contrary, the jealousies at first entertained by
men of the same description with those who view with terror the
correspondent part of the federal Constitution, have been gradually
extinguished by the progress of the experiment; and the Maryland
constitution is daily deriving, from the salutary operation of this
part of it, a reputation in which it will probably not be rivalled
by that of any State in the Union.

But if any thing could silence the jealousies on this subject,
it ought to be the British example. The Senate there instead of
being elected for a term of six years, and of being unconfined to
particular families or fortunes, is an hereditary assembly of
opulent nobles. The House of Representatives, instead of being
elected for two years, and by the whole body of the people, is
elected for seven years, and, in very great proportion, by a very
small proportion of the people. Here, unquestionably, ought to be
seen in full display the aristocratic usurpations and tyranny which
are at some future period