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"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution


The Federalist Papers 
A series of 85 articles advocating the ratification of the United States Constitution. 

The Federalist remains a primary source for interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, as the essays outline a lucid and compelling version of the philosophy and motivation of the proposed system of government.  The authors of  The Federalist wanted both to influence the vote in favor of ratification and to shape future interpretations of the Constitution. 

Alexander Hamilton -  John Jay - James Madison


General Introduction
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, October 27, 1787


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

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


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 Constitution.



Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence
For the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, October 31, 1787


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

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

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 advisable.

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 poet: "FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL




The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, November 3, 1787


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

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

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.
Wednesday, November 7, 1787


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 confederacies.

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

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 traffic.

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 composure.

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 whatever.

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 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.
Saturday, November 10, 1787


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 ENDEAVORS TO

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., FORMIDABLE ONLY TO EACH

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

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 protect.

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 nations.




Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States
For the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, November 14, 1787


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

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 commonwealth.

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

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 conquest.

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 republic.

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

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 navigation, and sometimes even
the more culpable desire of sharing in the commerce of other nations
without their consent.

The last war but between Britain and Spain sprang from the attempts of
the British merchants to prosecute an illicit trade with the Spanish
main. These unjustifiable practices on their part produced severity on
the part of the Spaniards toward the subjects of Great Britain which
were not more justifiable, because they exceeded the bounds of a just
retaliation and were chargeable with inhumanity and cruelty. Many of the
English who were taken on the Spanish coast were sent to dig in the
mines of Potosi; and by the usual progress of a spirit of resentment,
the innocent were, after a while, confounded with the guilty in
indiscriminate punishment. The complaints of the merchants kindled a
violent flame throughout the nation, which soon after broke out in the
House of Commons, and was communicated from that body to the ministry.
Letters of reprisal were granted, and a war ensued, which in its
consequences overthrew all the alliances that but twenty years before
had been formed with sanguine expectations of the most beneficial

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. 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 states.

10. The Duke of Marlborough.

11. Vide "Principes des Negociations" par l'Abb�de Mably.



The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States)
For the Independent Journal.
Thursday, November 15, 1787


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 removed.

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
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 impera[1] must be the motto of every nation that either
hates or fears us.[2]


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

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 authority.

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 overmatch 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

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. It 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 kingdom.

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

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 subject.



The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
For the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, November 21, 1787


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

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

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

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 he[1]) "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 CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC."

"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

"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

"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 Laws," vol. i., book ix., chap. i.



The Same Subject Continued
(The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and
From the Daily Advertiser.
Thursday, November 22, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed 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

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 government.

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

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

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 State.

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 Navy
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, November 24, 1787


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 ministers.

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

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 p
rsecutors. 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

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 multipying 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

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 avarice.

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

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 spirits.

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.
Wednesday, November 28, 1787


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 jurisdiction.

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 throughout.

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 fellow citizens 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 Union
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, December 1, 1787


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

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 prosperity.

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 Union)
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 writers.

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

The pausibility 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 Union)
For the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, December 5, 1787


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 directed.

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 them.

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 kingdom.

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 DEPOSITORIES, 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 Union)
For the New York Packet.
Friday, December 7, 1787


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

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

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 confederacy.

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

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

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,

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 weakenened 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
liberty[1] 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 head.


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 Union)
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, December 8, 1787


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 members.

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 chamber.

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 quarters.

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 Abbe 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

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 sovereignty.

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

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 France.


1. Pfeffel, "Nouvel Abr�. 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 Union)
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

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 prerogatives.

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 them.

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

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

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 distiny. 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




Other Defects of the Present Confederation
For the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, December 12, 1787


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

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

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

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 oppression.

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 requisitions.

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 intcrcourse
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

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 uncontrolled.

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

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 foundation?

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

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.


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

2. Encyclopedia, article "Empire."

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.

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, BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO
SATISFY THEM. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are
infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be
imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. 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 essential to

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.
Wednesday, December 19, 1787


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 legislature.

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

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.


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 raised or kept up WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF
THE LEGISLATURE"; which 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

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

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

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

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 palpable.




The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the
Common Defense Considered
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, December 22, 1788


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

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 community.

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 up, in time of peace, WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE LEGISLATURE.
I 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 operation.

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

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

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

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

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
channls 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 government AS FAR AS ITS JUST AND
CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY EXTENDS; 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


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.
Wednesday, December 26, 1787


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 instruction.

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 republics?

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

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.


1. Its full efficacy will be examined hereafter.



Concerning the Militia
From the New York Packet.
Wednesday, January 9, 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

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 conviction?

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
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
self-preservation 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

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

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 discarded.

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 Independent Journal.
Wednesday, January 2, 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

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 Independent Journal.
Wednesday, January 2, 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 harmless.

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
land tax 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 goverment,
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 Independent Journal.
Saturday, January 5, 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 greatness.

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 arithmetic.

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

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

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




The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, January 5, 1788


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 community.

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 all.

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 legislature.

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 States.

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

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 oppression!

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.][E1]

[I have now gone through the examination of those powers proposed to be
conferred upon the federal government which relate more peculiarly to
its energy, and to its efficiency for answering the great and primary
objects of union. There are others which, though omitted here, will, in
order to render the view of the subject more complete, be taken notice
of under the next head of our inquiries. I flatter myself the progress
already made will have sufficed to satisfy the candid and judicious part
of the community that some of the objections which have been most
strenuously urged against the Constitution, and which were most
formidable in their first appearance, are not only destitute of
substance, but if they had operated in the formation of the plan, would
have rendered it incompetent to the great ends of public happiness and
national prosperity. I equally flatter myself that a further and more
critical investigation of the system will serve to recommend it still
more to every sincere and disinterested advocate for good government and
will leave no doubt with men of this character of the propriety and
expediency of adopting it. Happy will it be for ourselves, and more
honorable for human nature, if we have wisdom and virtue enough to set
so glorious an example to mankind!][E1]


1. The New England States.

E1. Two versions of this paragraph appear in different editions.



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 them.

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 ermination
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

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 all.

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 Independent Journal.
Saturday, January 12, 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

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 lawgivers.

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.
Wednesday, January 16, 1788


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

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 behavior.

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

"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 authority.

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

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 NATIONAL, but a FEDERAL act.

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 features.

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 combated.

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
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

The proposed Constitution, therefore, [even when tested by the rules laid 
down by its antagonists,][1] 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 



1. This phrase appears in the Rossiter edition, but not in the Cooke 



On the Powers of the Convention to Form a Mixed Government Examined
and Sustained
For 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

"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
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 the federal Constitution ADEQUATE TO THE

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 OF
CONFEDERATION, as it is expressed in the act of Congress, or by SUCH
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

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 ALTERATIONS and PROVISIONS in the
ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION; 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 States[1] 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

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
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
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

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.


1. Connecticut and Rhode Island.

2. Declaration of Independence.



General View of the Powers Conferred by The Constitution
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, January 19, 1788


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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
commerce," 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

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




The Same Subject Continued (The Powers Conferred by the
Constitution Further Considered)
For the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, January 23, 1788


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

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

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

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

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

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

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.




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

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 lessinformed 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

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

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.




The Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State
Governments Considered
For the Independent Fournal.
Saturday, January 26, 1788


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 governments 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 essental purposes of the Union.




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

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

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 uninterupted 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.




The Particular Structure of the New Government and the
Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts
For the Independent Journal. 
Wednesday, January 30, 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 GOVERNMENT WILL
AMITY." Her constitution 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 counoil 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 irferior 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.




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

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

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 WAS PROVIDED
BETWEEN THESE SEVERAL POWERS. The judiciary and the 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 have been

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

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

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; SECOND,
in most of the other instances, they conformed either to the declared or
the known sentiments of the legislative department; THIRD, 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.




Method of Guarding Against the Encroachments of Any One Department of 
Government by Appealing to the People Through a Convention
For the Independent Journal. 
Saturday, February 2, 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

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

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

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.




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 PREVENTING AND

It 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

Second. 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

Third. 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.

Fourth. 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.

Fifth. 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.




The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks
and Balances Between the Different Departments
For the Independent Journal. 
Wednesday, February 6, 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

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

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
gradnally 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

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.




The Same Subject Continued (The House of Representatives)
For the Independent Journal. 
Saturday, February 9, 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

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 the 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

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.




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 taxes.

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 abservation. 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

"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

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.




The Total Number of the House of Representatives
For the Independent Journal. 
Wednesday, February 13, 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.




The Same Subject Continued (The Total Number of the House of
For the Independent Journal. 
Saturday, February 16, 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

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

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.][E1]

[With regard to the regulation of the militia, there are scarcely any
circumstances in reference to which local knowledge can be said to be
necessary. The general face of the country, whether mountainous or level,
most fit for the operations of infantry or cavalry, is almost the only
consideration of this nature that can occur. The art of war teaches
general principles of organization, movement, and discipline, which
apply universally.][E1]

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.


1. Burgh's "Political Disquisitions."

E1. Two versions of this paragraph appear in different editions.


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

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

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.




Objection That The Number of Members Will Not Be Augmented as the
Progress of Population Demands Considered
For the Independent Journal
Wednesday, February 20, 1788


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

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

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 contrary, AFTER
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.




Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members
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 GOVERNMENT OUGHT
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

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

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
nultiply 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.


1. 1st clause, 4th section, of the 1st article. 



The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members)
From the Independent Journal.
Saturday, February 23, 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 �till 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

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 Union.

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 voerthrow 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 Members)
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 year.

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.
Wednesday, February 27, 1788


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 Senate. 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 Senate.

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
tability 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

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

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 contemplation.

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 institution.

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

Second. 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.

Third. 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 senate?

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.

Fourth. 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 transactions.

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 fixed?

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 policy.

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.
Saturday, March 1, 1788


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

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

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

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 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

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, lies IN THE TOTAL EXCLUSION
PEOPLE from the 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

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

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 anything 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 to be
exemplified in the United States. Unfortunately, however, for the
anti-federal argument, the British history informs us that this
hereditary assembly has not been able to defend itself against the
continual encroachments of the House of Representatives; and that it no
sooner lost the support of the monarch, than it was actually crushed by
the weight of the popular branch.

As far as antiquity can instruct us on this subject, its examples
support the reasoning which we have employed. In Sparta, the Ephori, the
annual representatives of the people, were found an overmatch for the
senate for life, continually gained on its authority and finally drew
all power into their own hands. The Tribunes of Rome, who were the
representatives of the people, prevailed, it is well known, in almost
every contest with the senate for life, and in the end gained the most
complete triumph over it. The fact is the more remarkable, as unanimity
was required in every act of the Tribunes, even after their number was
augmented to ten. It proves the irresistible force possessed by that
branch of a free government, which has the people on its side. To these
examples might be added that of Carthage, whose senate, according to the
testimony of Polybius, instead of drawing all power into its vortex,
had, at the commencement of the second Punic War, lost almost the whole
of its original portion.

Besides the conclusive evidence resulting from this assemblage of facts,
that the federal Senate will never be able to transform itself, by
gradual usurpations, into an independent and aristocratic body, we are
warranted in believing, that if such a revolution should ever happen
from causes which the foresight of man cannot guard against, the House
of Representatives, with the people on their side, will at all times be
able to bring back the Constitution to its primitive form and
principles. Against the force of the immediate representatives of the
people, nothing will be able to maintain even the constitutional
authority of the Senate, but such a display of enlightened policy, and
attachment to the public good, as will divide with that branch of the
legislature the affections and support of the entire body of the people




The Powers of the Senate
From the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, March 5, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT IS a just and not a new observation, that enemies to particular
persons, and opponents to particular measures, seldom confine their
censures to such things only in either as are worthy of blame. Unless on
this principle, it is difficult to explain the motives of their conduct,
who condemn the proposed Constitution in the aggregate, and treat with
severity some of the most unexceptionable articles in it.

The second section gives power to the President, "BY AND WITH THE ADVICE

The power of making treaties is an important one, especially as it
relates to war, peace, and commerce; and it should not be delegated but
in such a mode, and with such precautions, as will afford the highest
security that it will be exercised by men the best qualified for the
purpose, and in the manner most conducive to the public good. The
convention appears to have been attentive to both these points: they
have directed the President to be chosen by select bodies of electors,
to be deputed by the people for that express purpose; and they have
committed the appointment of senators to the State legislatures. This
mode has, in such cases, vastly the advantage of elections by the people
in their collective capacity, where the activity of party zeal, taking
the advantage of the supineness, the ignorance, and the hopes and fears
of the unwary and interested, often places men in office by the votes of
a small proportion of the electors.

As the select assemblies for choosing the President, as well as the
State legislatures who appoint the senators, will in general be composed
of the most enlightened and respectable citizens, there is reason to
presume that their attention and their votes will be directed to those
men only who have become the most distinguished by their abilities and
virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence. The
Constitution manifests very particular attention to this object. By
excluding men under thirty-five from the first office, and those under
thirty from the second, it confines the electors to men of whom the
people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they
will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of
genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead
as well as dazzle. If the observation be well founded, that wise kings
will always be served by able ministers, it is fair to argue, that as an
assembly of select electors possess, in a greater degree than kings, the
means of extensive and accurate information relative to men and
characters, so will their appointments bear at least equal marks of
discretion and discernment. The inference which naturally results from
these considerations is this, that the President and senators so chosen
will always be of the number of those who best understand our national
interests, whether considered in relation to the several States or to
foreign nations, who are best able to promote those interests, and whose
reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence. With such men
the power of making treaties may be safely lodged.

Although the absolute necessity of system, in the conduct of any
business, is universally known and acknowledged, yet the high importance
of it in national affairs has not yet become sufficiently impressed on
the public mind. They who wish to commit the power under consideration
to a popular assembly, composed of members constantly coming and going
in quick succession, seem not to recollect that such a body must
necessarily be inadequate to the attainment of those great objects,
which require to be steadily contemplated in all their relations and
circumstances, and which can only be approached and achieved by measures
which not only talents, but also exact information, and often much time,
are necessary to concert and to execute. It was wise, therefore, in the
convention to provide, not only that the power of making treaties should
be committed to able and honest men, but also that they should continue
in place a sufficient time to become perfectly acquainted with our
national concerns, and to form and introduce a a system for the
management of them. The duration prescribed is such as will give them an
opportunity of greatly extending their political information, and of
rendering their accumulating experience more and more beneficial to
their country. Nor has the convention discovered less prudence in
providing for the frequent elections of senators in such a way as to
obviate the inconvenience of periodically transferring those great
affairs entirely to new men; for by leaving a considerable residue of
the old ones in place, uniformity and order, as well as a constant
succession of official information will be preserved.

There are a few who will not admit that the affairs of trade and
navigation should be regulated by a system cautiously formed and
steadily pursued; and that both our treaties and our laws should
correspond with and be made to promote it. It is of much consequence
that this correspondence and conformity be carefully maintained; and
they who assent to the truth of this position will see and confess that
it is well provided for by making concurrence of the Senate necessary
both to treaties and to laws.

It seldom happens in the negotiation of treaties, of whatever nature,
but that perfect SECRECY and immediate DESPATCH are sometimes requisite.
These are cases where the most useful intelligence may be obtained, if
the persons possessing it can be relieved from apprehensions of
discovery. Those apprehensions will operate on those persons whether
they are actuated by mercenary or friendly motives; and there doubtless
are many of both descriptions, who would rely on the secrecy of the
President, but who would not confide in that of the Senate, and still
less in that of a large popular Assembly. The convention have done well,
therefore, in so disposing of the power of making treaties, that
although the President must, in forming them, act by the advice and
consent of the Senate, yet he will be able to manage the business of
intelligence in such a manner as prudence may suggest.

They who have turned their attention to the affairs of men, must have
perceived that there are tides in them; tides very irregular in their
duration, strength, and direction, and seldom found to run twice exactly
in the same manner or measure. To discern and to profit by these tides
in national affairs is the business of those who preside over them; and
they who have had much experience on this head inform us, that there
frequently are occasions when days, nay, even when hours, are precious.
The loss of a battle, the death of a prince, the removal of a minister,
or other circumstances intervening to change the present posture and
aspect of affairs, may turn the most favorable tide into a course
opposite to our wishes. As in the field, so in the cabinet, there are
moments to be seized as they pass, and they who preside in either should
be left in capacity to improve them. So often and so essentially have we
heretofore suffered from the want of secrecy and despatch, that the
Constitution would have been inexcusably defective, if no attention had
been paid to those objects. Those matters which in negotiations usually
require the most secrecy and the most despatch, are those preparatory
and auxiliary measures which are not otherwise important in a national
view, than as they tend to facilitate the attainment of the objects of
the negotiation. For these, the President will find no difficulty to
provide; and should any circumstance occur which requires the advice and
consent of the Senate, he may at any time convene them. Thus we see that
the Constitution provides that our negotiations for treaties shall have
every advantage which can be derived from talents, information,
integrity, and deliberate investigations, on the one hand, and from
secrecy and despatch on the other.

But to this plan, as to most others that have ever appeared, objections
are contrived and urged.

Some are displeased with it, not on account of any errors or defects in
it, but because, as the treaties, when made, are to have the force of
laws, they should be made only by men invested with legislative
authority. These gentlemen seem not to consider that the judgments of
our courts, and the commissions constitutionally given by our governor,
are as valid and as binding on all persons whom they concern, as the
laws passed by our legislature. All constitutional acts of power,
whether in the executive or in the judicial department, have as much
legal validity and obligation as if they proceeded from the legislature;
and therefore, whatever name be given to the power of making treaties,
or however obligatory they may be when made, certain it is, that the
people may, with much propriety, commit the power to a distinct body
from the legislature, the executive, or the judicial. It surely does not
follow, that because they have given the power of making laws to the
legislature, that therefore they should likewise give them the power to
do every other act of sovereignty by which the citizens are to be bound
and affected.

Others, though content that treaties should be made in the mode
proposed, are averse to their being the SUPREME laws of the land. They
insist, and profess to believe, that treaties like acts of assembly,
should be repealable at pleasure. This idea seems to be new and peculiar
to this country, but new errors, as well as new truths, often appear.
These gentlemen would do well to reflect that a treaty is only another
name for a bargain, and that it would be impossible to find a nation who
would make any bargain with us, which should be binding on them
ABSOLUTELY, but on us only so long and so far as we may think proper to
be bound by it. They who make laws may, without doubt, amend or repeal
them; and it will not be disputed that they who make treaties may alter
or cancel them; but still let us not forget that treaties are made, not
by only one of the contracting parties, but by both; and consequently,
that as the consent of both was essential to their formation at first,
so must it ever afterwards be to alter or cancel them. The proposed
Constitution, therefore, has not in the least extended the obligation of
treaties. They are just as binding, and just as far beyond the lawful
reach of legislative acts now, as they will be at any future period, or
under any form of government.

However useful jealousy may be in republics, yet when like bile in the
natural, it abounds too much in the body politic, the eyes of both
become very liable to be deceived by the delusive appearances which that
malady casts on surrounding objects. From this cause, probably, proceed
the fears and apprehensions of some, that the President and Senate may
make treaties without an equal eye to the interests of all the States.
Others suspect that two thirds will oppress the remaining third, and ask
whether those gentlemen are made sufficiently responsible for their
conduct; whether, if they act corruptly, they can be punished; and if
they make disadvantageous treaties, how are we to get rid of those

As all the States are equally represented in the Senate, and by men the
most able and the most willing to promote the interests of their
constituents, they will all have an equal degree of influence in that
body, especially while they continue to be careful in appointing proper
persons, and to insist on their punctual attendance. In proportion as
the United States assume a national form and a national character, so
will the good of the whole be more and more an object of attention, and
the government must be a weak one indeed, if it should forget that the
good of the whole can only be promoted by advancing the good of each of
the parts or members which compose the whole. It will not be in the
power of the President and Senate to make any treaties by which they and
their families and estates will not be equally bound and affected with
the rest of the community; and, having no private interests distinct
from that of the nation, they will be under no temptations to neglect
the latter.

As to corruption, the case is not supposable. He must either have been
very unfortunate in his intercourse with the world, or possess a heart
very susceptible of such impressions, who can think it probable that the
President and two thirds of the Senate will ever be capable of such
unworthy conduct. The idea is too gross and too invidious to be
entertained. But in such a case, if it should ever happen, the treaty so
obtained from us would, like all other fraudulent contracts, be null and
void by the law of nations.

With respect to their responsibility, it is difficult to conceive how it
could be increased. Every consideration that can influence the human
mind, such as honor, oaths, reputations, conscience, the love of
country, and family affections and attachments, afford security for
their fidelity. In short, as the Constitution has taken the utmost care
that they shall be men of talents and integrity, we have reason to be
persuaded that the treaties they make will be as advantageous as, all
circumstances considered, could be made; and so far as the fear of
punishment and disgrace can operate, that motive to good behavior is
amply afforded by the article on the subject of impeachments.




The Powers of the Senate Continued
From the New York Packet.
Friday, March 7, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE remaining powers which the plan of the convention allots to the
Senate, in a distinct capacity, are comprised in their participation
with the executive in the appointment to offices, and in their judicial
character as a court for the trial of impeachments. As in the business
of appointments the executive will be the principal agent, the
provisions relating to it will most properly be discussed in the
examination of that department. We will, therefore, conclude this head
with a view of the judicial character of the Senate.

A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not
more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly
elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which
proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the
abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may
with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly
to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of
them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the
whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or
inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the
pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities,
partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and
in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision
will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by
the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the
political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the
administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty
of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of
periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is
considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that
circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning
or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be
expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct
may be the subject of scrutiny.

The convention, it appears, thought the Senate the most fit depositary
of this important trust. Those who can best discern the intrinsic
difficulty of the thing, will be least hasty in condemning that opinion,
and will be most inclined to allow due weight to the arguments which may
be supposed to have produced it.

What, it may be asked, is the true spirit of the institution itself? Is
it not designed as a method of NATIONAL INQUEST into the conduct of
public men? If this be the design of it, who can so properly be the
inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation
themselves? It is not disputed that the power of originating the
inquiry, or, in other words, of preferring the impeachment, ought to be
lodged in the hands of one branch of the legislative body. Will not the
reasons which indicate the propriety of this arrangement strongly plead
for an admission of the other branch of that body to a share of the
inquiry? The model from which the idea of this institution has been
borrowed, pointed out that course to the convention. In Great Britain it
is the province of the House of Commons to prefer the impeachment, and
of the House of Lords to decide upon it. Several of the State
constitutions have followed the example. As well the latter, as the
former, seem to have regarded the practice of impeachments as a bridle
in the hands of the legislative body upon the executive servants of the
government. Is not this the true light in which it ought to be regarded?

Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal
sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body
would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to
preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an

Could the Supreme Court have been relied upon as answering this
description? It is much to be doubted, whether the members of that
tribunal would at all times be endowed with so eminent a portion of
fortitude, as would be called for in the execution of so difficult a
task; and it is still more to be doubted, whether they would possess the
degree of credit and authority, which might, on certain occasions, be
indispensable towards reconciling the people to a decision that should
happen to clash with an accusation brought by their immediate
representatives. A deficiency in the first, would be fatal to the
accused; in the last, dangerous to the public tranquillity. The hazard
in both these respects, could only be avoided, if at all, by rendering
that tribunal more numerous than would consist with a reasonable
attention to economy. The necessity of a numerous court for the trial of
impeachments, is equally dictated by the nature of the proceeding. This
can never be tied down by such strict rules, either in the delineation
of the offense by the prosecutors, or in the construction of it by the
judges, as in common cases serve to limit the discretion of courts in
favor of personal security. There will be no jury to stand between the
judges who are to pronounce the sentence of the law, and the party who
is to receive or suffer it. The awful discretion which a court of
impeachments must necessarily have, to doom to honor or to infamy the
most confidential and the most distinguished characters of the
community, forbids the commitment of the trust to a small number of

These considerations seem alone sufficient to authorize a conclusion,
that the Supreme Court would have been an improper substitute for the
Senate, as a court of impeachments. There remains a further
consideration, which will not a little strengthen this conclusion. It is
this: The punishment which may be the consequence of conviction upon
impeachment, is not to terminate the chastisement of the offender. After
having been sentenced to a prepetual ostracism from the esteem and
confidence, and honors and emoluments of his country, he will still be
liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law.
Would it be proper that the persons who had disposed of his fame, and
his most valuable rights as a citizen in one trial, should, in another
trial, for the same offense, be also the disposers of his life and his
fortune? Would there not be the greatest reason to apprehend, that
error, in the first sentence, would be the parent of error in the second
sentence? That the strong bias of one decision would be apt to overrule
the influence of any new lights which might be brought to vary the
complexion of another decision? Those who know anything of human nature,
will not hesitate to answer these questions in the affirmative; and will
be at no loss to perceive, that by making the same persons judges in
both cases, those who might happen to be the objects of prosecution
would, in a great measure, be deprived of the double security intended
them by a double trial. The loss of life and estate would often be
virtually included in a sentence which, in its terms, imported nothing
more than dismission from a present, and disqualification for a future,
office. It may be said, that the intervention of a jury, in the second
instance, would obviate the danger. But juries are frequently influenced
by the opinions of judges. They are sometimes induced to find special
verdicts, which refer the main question to the decision of the court.
Who would be willing to stake his life and his estate upon the verdict
of a jury acting under the auspices of judges who had predetermined his

Would it have been an improvement of the plan, to have united the
Supreme Court with the Senate, in the formation of the court of
impeachments? This union would certainly have been attended with several
advantages; but would they not have been overbalanced by the signal
disadvantage, already stated, arising from the agency of the same judges
in the double prosecution to which the offender would be liable? To a
certain extent, the benefits of that union will be obtained from making
the chief justice of the Supreme Court the president of the court of
impeachments, as is proposed to be done in the plan of the convention;
while the inconveniences of an entire incorporation of the former into
the latter will be substantially avoided. This was perhaps the prudent
mean. I forbear to remark upon the additional pretext for clamor against
the judiciary, which so considerable an augmentation of its authority
would have afforded.

Would it have been desirable to have composed the court for the trial of
impeachments, of persons wholly distinct from the other departments of
the government? There are weighty arguments, as well against, as in
favor of, such a plan. To some minds it will not appear a trivial
objection, that it could tend to increase the complexity of the
political machine, and to add a new spring to the government, the
utility of which would at best be questionable. But an objection which
will not be thought by any unworthy of attention, is this: a court
formed upon such a plan, would either be attended with a heavy expense,
or might in practice be subject to a variety of casualties and
inconveniences. It must either consist of permanent officers, stationary
at the seat of government, and of course entitled to fixed and regular
stipends, or of certain officers of the State governments to be called
upon whenever an impeachment was actually depending. It will not be easy
to imagine any third mode materially different, which could rationally
be proposed. As the court, for reasons already given, ought to be
numerous, the first scheme will be reprobated by every man who can
compare the extent of the public wants with the means of supplying them.
The second will be espoused with caution by those who will seriously
consider the difficulty of collecting men dispersed over the whole
Union; the injury to the innocent, from the procrastinated determination
of the charges which might be brought against them; the advantage to the
guilty, from the opportunities which delay would afford to intrigue and
corruption; and in some cases the detriment to the State, from the
prolonged inaction of men whose firm and faithful execution of their
duty might have exposed them to the persecution of an intemperate or
designing majority in the House of Representatives. Though this latter
supposition may seem harsh, and might not be likely often to be
verified, yet it ought not to be forgotten that the demon of faction
will, at certain seasons, extend his sceptre over all numerous bodies of

But though one or the other of the substitutes which have been examined,
or some other that might be devised, should be thought preferable to the
plan in this respect, reported by the convention, it will not follow
that the Constitution ought for this reason to be rejected. If mankind
were to resolve to agree in no institution of government, until every
part of it had been adjusted to the most exact standard of perfection,
society would soon become a general scene of anarchy, and the world a
desert. Where is the standard of perfection to be found? Who will
undertake to unite the discordant opinions of a whole commuity, in the
same judgment of it; and to prevail upon one conceited projector to
renounce his INFALLIBLE criterion for the FALLIBLE criterion of his more
CONCEITED NEIGHBOR? To answer the purpose of the adversaries of the
Constitution, they ought to prove, not merely that particular provisions
in it are not the best which might have been imagined, but that the plan
upon the whole is bad and pernicious.




Objections to the Power of the Senate To Set as a Court for
Impeachments Further Considered
From the Independent Journal.
Saturday, March 8, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

A REVIEW of the principal objections that have appeared against the
proposed court for the trial of impeachments, will not improbably
eradicate the remains of any unfavorable impressions which may still
exist in regard to this matter.

The FIRST of these objections is, that the provision in question
confounds legislative and judiciary authorities in the same body, in
violation of that important and wellestablished maxim which requires a
separation between the different departments of power. The true meaning
of this maxim has been discussed and ascertained in another place, and
has been shown to be entirely compatible with a partial intermixture of
those departments for special purposes, preserving them, in the main,
distinct and unconnected. This partial intermixture is even, in some
cases, not only proper but necessary to the mutual defense of the
several members of the government against each other. An absolute or
qualified negative in the executive upon the acts of the legislative
body, is admitted, by the ablest adepts in political science, to be an
indispensable barrier against the encroachments of the latter upon the
former. And it may, perhaps, with no less reason be contended, that the
powers relating to impeachments are, as before intimated, an essential
check in the hands of that body upon the encroachments of the executive.
The division of them between the two branches of the legislature,
assigning to one the right of accusing, to the other the right of
judging, avoids the inconvenience of making the same persons both
accusers and judges; and guards against the danger of persecution, from
the prevalency of a factious spirit in either of those branches. As the
concurrence of two thirds of the Senate will be requisite to a
condemnation, the security to innocence, from this additional
circumstance, will be as complete as itself can desire.

It is curious to observe, with what vehemence this part of the plan is
assailed, on the principle here taken notice of, by men who profess to
admire, without exception, the constitution of this State; while that
constitution makes the Senate, together with the chancellor and judges
of the Supreme Court, not only a court of impeachments, but the highest
judicatory in the State, in all causes, civil and criminal. The
proportion, in point of numbers, of the chancellor and judges to the
senators, is so inconsiderable, that the judiciary authority of New
York, in the last resort, may, with truth, be said to reside in its
Senate. If the plan of the convention be, in this respect, chargeable
with a departure from the celebrated maxim which has been so often
mentioned, and seems to be so little understood, how much more culpable
must be the constitution of New York?[1]

A SECOND objection to the Senate, as a court of impeachments, is, that
it contributes to an undue accumulation of power in that body, tending
to give to the government a countenance too aristocratic. The Senate, it
is observed, is to have concurrent authority with the Executive in the
formation of treaties and in the appointment to offices: if, say the
objectors, to these prerogatives is added that of deciding in all cases
of impeachment, it will give a decided predominancy to senatorial
influence. To an objection so little precise in itself, it is not easy
to find a very precise answer. Where is the measure or criterion to
which we can appeal, for determining what will give the Senate too much,
too little, or barely the proper degree of influence? Will it not be
more safe, as well as more simple, to dismiss such vague and uncertain
calculations, to examine each power by itself, and to decide, on general
principles, where it may be deposited with most advantage and least

If we take this course, it will lead to a more intelligible, if not to a
more certain result. The disposition of the power of making treaties,
which has obtained in the plan of the convention, will, then, if I
mistake not, appear to be fully justified by the considerations stated
in a former number, and by others which will occur under the next head
of our inquiries. The expediency of the junction of the Senate with the
Executive, in the power of appointing to offices, will, I trust, be
placed in a light not less satisfactory, in the disquisitions under the
same head. And I flatter myself the observations in my last paper must
have gone no inconsiderable way towards proving that it was not easy, if
practicable, to find a more fit receptacle for the power of determining
impeachments, than that which has been chosen. If this be truly the
case, the hypothetical dread of the too great weight of the Senate ought
to be discarded from our reasonings.

But this hypothesis, such as it is, has already been refuted in the
remarks applied to the duration in office prescribed for the senators.
It was by them shown, as well on the credit of historical examples, as
from the reason of the thing, that the most POPULAR branch of every
government, partaking of the republican genius, by being generally the
favorite of the people, will be as generally a full match, if not an
overmatch, for every other member of the Government.

But independent of this most active and operative principle, to secure
the equilibrium of the national House of Representatives, the plan of
the convention has provided in its favor several important counterpoises
to the additional authorities to be conferred upon the Senate. The
exclusive privilege of originating money bills will belong to the House
of Representatives. The same house will possess the sole right of
instituting impeachments: is not this a complete counterbalance to that
of determining them? The same house will be the umpire in all elections
of the President, which do not unite the suffrages of a majority of the
whole number of electors; a case which it cannot be doubted will
sometimes, if not frequently, happen. The constant possibility of the
thing must be a fruitful source of influence to that body. The more it
is contemplated, the more important will appear this ultimate though
contingent power, of deciding the competitions of the most illustrious
citizens of the Union, for the first office in it. It would not perhaps
be rash to predict, that as a mean of influence it will be found to
outweigh all the peculiar attributes of the Senate.

A THIRD objection to the Senate as a court of impeachments, is drawn
from the agency they are to have in the appointments to office. It is
imagined that they would be too indulgent judges of the conduct of men,
in whose official creation they had participated. The principle of this
objection would condemn a practice, which is to be seen in all the State
governments, if not in all the governments with which we are acquainted:
I mean that of rendering those who hold offices during pleasure,
dependent on the pleasure of those who appoint them. With equal
plausibility might it be alleged in this case, that the favoritism of
the latter would always be an asylum for the misbehavior of the former.
But that practice, in contradiction to this principle, proceeds upon the
presumption, that the responsibility of those who appoint, for the
fitness and competency of the persons on whom they bestow their choice,
and the interest they will have in the respectable and prosperous
administration of affairs, will inspire a sufficient disposition to
dismiss from a share in it all such who, by their conduct, shall have
proved themselves unworthy of the confidence reposed in them. Though
facts may not always correspond with this presumption, yet if it be, in
the main, just, it must destroy the supposition that the Senate, who
will merely sanction the choice of the Executive, should feel a bias,
towards the objects of that choice, strong enough to blind them to the
evidences of guilt so extraordinary, as to have induced the
representatives of the nation to become its accusers.

If any further arguments were necessary to evince the improbability of
such a bias, it might be found in the nature of the agency of the Senate
in the business of appointments. It will be the office of the President
to NOMINATE, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to APPOINT.
There will, of course, be no exertion of CHOICE on the part of the
Senate. They may defeat one choice of the Executive, and oblige him to
make another; but they cannot themselves CHOOSE -- they can only ratify
or reject the choice of the President. They might even entertain a
preference to some other person, at the very moment they were assenting
to the one proposed, because there might be no positive ground of
opposition to him; and they could not be sure, if they withheld their
assent, that the subsequent nomination would fall upon their own
favorite, or upon any other person in their estimation more meritorious
than the one rejected. Thus it could hardly happen, that the majority of
the Senate would feel any other complacency towards the object of an
appointment than such as the appearances of merit might inspire, and the
proofs of the want of it destroy.

A FOURTH objection to the Senate in the capacity of a court of
impeachments, is derived from its union with the Executive in the power
of making treaties. This, it has been said, would constitute the
senators their own judges, in every case of a corrupt or perfidious
execution of that trust. After having combined with the Executive in
betraying the interests of the nation in a ruinous treaty, what
prospect, it is asked, would there be of their being made to suffer the
punishment they would deserve, when they were themselves to decide upon
the accusation brought against them for the treachery of which they have
been guilty?

This objection has been circulated with more earnestness and with
greater show of reason than any other which has appeared against this
part of the plan; and yet I am deceived if it does not rest upon an
erroneous foundation.

The security essentially intended by the Constitution against corruption
and treachery in the formation of treaties, is to be sought for in the
numbers and characters of those who are to make them. The JOINT AGENCY
of the Chief Magistrate of the Union, and of two thirds of the members
of a body selected by the collective wisdom of the legislatures of the
several States, is designed to be the pledge for the fidelity of the
national councils in this particular. The convention might with
propriety have meditated the punishment of the Executive, for a
deviation from the instructions of the Senate, or a want of integrity in
the conduct of the negotiations committed to him; they might also have
had in view the punishment of a few leading individuals in the Senate,
who should have prostituted their influence in that body as the
mercenary instruments of foreign corruption: but they could not, with
more or with equal propriety, have contemplated the impeachment and
punishment of two thirds of the Senate, consenting to an improper
treaty, than of a majority of that or of the other branch of the
national legislature, consenting to a pernicious or unconstitutional
law -- a principle which, I believe, has never been admitted into any
government. How, in fact, could a majority in the House of
Representatives impeach themselves? Not better, it is evident, than two
thirds of the Senate might try themselves. And yet what reason is there,
that a majority of the House of Representatives, sacrificing the
interests of the society by an unjust and tyrannical act of legislation,
should escape with impunity, more than two thirds of the Senate,
sacrificing the same interests in an injurious treaty with a foreign
power? The truth is, that in all such cases it is essential to the
freedom and to the necessary independence of the deliberations of the
body, that the members of it should be exempt from punishment for acts
done in a collective capacity; and the security to the society must
depend on the care which is taken to confide the trust to proper hands,
to make it their interest to execute it with fidelity, and to make it as
difficult as possible for them to combine in any interest opposite to
that of the public good.

So far as might concern the misbehavior of the Executive in perverting
the instructions or contravening the views of the Senate, we need not be
apprehensive of the want of a disposition in that body to punish the
abuse of their confidence or to vindicate their own authority. We may
thus far count upon their pride, if not upon their virtue. And so far
even as might concern the corruption of leading members, by whose arts
and influence the majority may have been inveigled into measures odious
to the community, if the proofs of that corruption should be
satisfactory, the usual propensity of human nature will warrant us in
concluding that there would be commonly no defect of inclination in the
body to divert the public resentment from themselves by a ready
sacrifice of the authors of their mismanagement and disgrace.


1. In that of New Jersey, also, the final judiciary authority is in a
branch of the legislature. In New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, one branch of the legislature is the
court for the trial of impeachments.



The Executive Department
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, March 11, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE constitution of the executive department of the proposed government,
claims next our attention.

There is hardly any part of the system which could have been attended
with greater difficulty in the arrangement of it than this; and there
is, perhaps, none which has been inveighed against with less candor or
criticised with less judgment.

Here the writers against the Constitution seem to have taken pains to
signalize their talent of misrepresentation. Calculating upon the
aversion of the people to monarchy, they have endeavored to enlist all
their jealousies and apprehensions in opposition to the intended
President of the United States; not merely as the embryo, but as the
full-grown progeny, of that detested parent. To establish the pretended
affinity, they have not scrupled to draw resources even from the regions
of fiction. The authorities of a magistrate, in few instances greater,
in some instances less, than those of a governor of New York, have been
magnified into more than royal prerogatives. He has been decorated with
attributes superior in dignity and splendor to those of a king of Great
Britain. He has been shown to us with the diadem sparkling on his brow
and the imperial purple flowing in his train. He has been seated on a
throne surrounded with minions and mistresses, giving audience to the
envoys of foreign potentates, in all the supercilious pomp of majesty.
The images of Asiatic despotism and voluptuousness have scarcely been
wanting to crown the exaggerated scene. We have been taught to tremble
at the terrific visages of murdering janizaries, and to blush at the
unveiled mysteries of a future seraglio.

Attempts so extravagant as these to disfigure or, it might rather be
said, to metamorphose the object, render it necessary to take an
accurate view of its real nature and form: in order as well to ascertain
its true aspect and genuine appearance, as to unmask the disingenuity
and expose the fallacy of the counterfeit resemblances which have been
so insidiously, as well as industriously, propagated.

In the execution of this task, there is no man who would not find it an
arduous effort either to behold with moderation, or to treat with
seriousness, the devices, not less weak than wicked, which have been
contrived to pervert the public opinion in relation to the subject. They
so far exceed the usual though unjustifiable licenses of party artifice,
that even in a disposition the most candid and tolerant, they must force
the sentiments which favor an indulgent construction of the conduct of
political adversaries to give place to a voluntary and unreserved
indignation. It is impossible not to bestow the imputation of deliberate
imposture and deception upon the gross pretense of a similitude between
a king of Great Britain and a magistrate of the character marked out for
that of the President of the United States. It is still more impossible
to withhold that imputation from the rash and barefaced expedients which
have been employed to give success to the attempted imposition.

In one instance, which I cite as a sample of the general spirit, the
temerity has proceeded so far as to ascribe to the President of the
United States a power which by the instrument reported is EXPRESSLY
allotted to the Executives of the individual States. I mean the power of
filling casual vacancies in the Senate.

This bold experiment upon the discernment of his countrymen has been
hazarded by a writer who (whatever may be his real merit) has had no
inconsiderable share in the applauses of his party[1]; and who, upon
this false and unfounded suggestion, has built a series of observations
equally false and unfounded. Let him now be confronted with the evidence
of the fact, and let him, if he be able, justify or extenuate the
shameful outrage he has offered to the dictates of truth and to the
rules of fair dealing.

The second clause of the second section of the second article empowers
the President of the United States "to nominate, and by and with the
advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint ambassadors, other public
ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other
OFFICERS of United States whose appointments are NOT in the Constitution
Immediately after this clause follows another in these words: "The
President shall have power to fill up all VACANCIES that may happen
DURING THE RECESS OF THE SENATE, by granting commissions which shall
EXPIRE AT THE END OF THEIR NEXT SESSION." It is from this last provision
that the pretended power of the President to fill vacancies in the
Senate has been deduced. A slight attention to the connection of the
clauses, and to the obvious meaning of the terms, will satisfy us that
the deduction is not even colorable.

The first of these two clauses, it is clear, only provides a mode for
appointing such officers, "whose appointments are NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED
FOR in the Constitution, and which SHALL BE ESTABLISHED BY LAW"; of
course it cannot extend to the appointments of senators, whose
appointments are OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR in the Constitution[2], and who
are ESTABLISHED BY THE CONSTITUTION, and will not require a future
establishment by law. This position will hardly be contested.

The last of these two clauses, it is equally clear, cannot be understood
to comprehend the power of filling vacancies in the Senate, for the
following reasons: First. The relation in which that clause stands to
the other, which declares the general mode of appointing officers of the
United States, denotes it to be nothing more than a supplement to the
other, for the purpose of establishing an auxiliary method of
appointment, in cases to which the general method was inadequate. The
ordinary power of appointment is confined to the President and Senate
JOINTLY, and can therefore only be exercised during the session of the
Senate; but as it would have been improper to oblige this body to be
continually in session for the appointment of officers and as vacancies
might happen IN THEIR RECESS, which it might be necessary for the public
service to fill without delay, the succeeding clause is evidently
intended to authorize the President, SINGLY, to make temporary
appointments "during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions
which shall expire at the end of their next session." Second. If this
clause is to be considered as supplementary to the one which precedes,
the VACANCIES of which it speaks must be construed to relate to the
"officers" described in the preceding one; and this, we have seen,
excludes from its description the members of the Senate. Third. The
time within which the power is to operate, "during the recess of the
Senate," and the duration of the appointments, "to the end of the next
session" of that body, conspire to elucidate the sense of the provision,
which, if it had been intended to comprehend senators, would naturally
have referred the temporary power of filling vacancies to the recess of
the State legislatures, who are to make the permanent appointments, and
not to the recess of the national Senate, who are to have no concern in
those appointments; and would have extended the duration in office of
the temporary senators to the next session of the legislature of the
State, in whose representation the vacancies had happened, instead of
making it to expire at the end of the ensuing session of the national
Senate. The circumstances of the body authorized to make the permanent
appointments would, of course, have governed the modification of a power
which related to the temporary appointments; and as the national Senate
is the body, whose situation is alone contemplated in the clause upon
which the suggestion under examination has been founded, the vacancies
to which it alludes can only be deemed to respect those officers in
whose appointment that body has a concurrent agency with the President.
But last, the first and second clauses of the third section of the
first article, not only obviate all possibility of doubt, but destroy
the pretext of misconception. The former provides, that "the Senate of
the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State,
chosen BY THE LEGISLATURE THEREOF for six years"; and the latter
directs, that, "if vacancies in that body should happen by resignation
Executive THEREOF may make temporary appointments until the NEXT MEETING
OF THE LEGISLATURE, which shall then fill such vacancies." Here is an
express power given, in clear and unambiguous terms, to the State
Executives, to fill casual vacancies in the Senate, by temporary
appointments; which not only invalidates the supposition, that the
clause before considered could have been intended to confer that power
upon the President of the United States, but proves that this
supposition, destitute as it is even of the merit of plausibility, must
have originated in an intention to deceive the people, too palpable to
be obscured by sophistry, too atrocious to be palliated by hypocrisy.

I have taken the pains to select this instance of misrepresentation, and
to place it in a clear and strong light, as an unequivocal proof of the
unwarrantable arts which are practiced to prevent a fair and impartial
judgment of the real merits of the Constitution submitted to the
consideration of the people. Nor have I scrupled, in so flagrant a case,
to allow myself a severity of animadversion little congenial with the
general spirit of these papers. I hesitate not to submit it to the
decision of any candid and honest adversary of the proposed government,
whether language can furnish epithets of too much asperity, for so
shameless and so prostitute an attempt to impose on the citizens of


1. See CATO, No. V.

2. Article I, section 3, clause 1.



The Mode of Electing the President
From the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, March 12, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is
almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has
escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark
of approbation from its opponents. The most plausible of these, who has
appeared in print, has even deigned to admit that the election of the
President is pretty well guarded.[1] I venture somewhat further, and
hesitate not to affirm, that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is
at least excellent. It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages,
the union of which was to be wished for.[E1]

It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the
choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided.
This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to
any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special
purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by
men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and
acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious
combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to
govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their
fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess
the information and discernment requisite to such complicated

It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as
possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded
in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency
in the administration of the government as the President of the United
States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the
system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this
mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of
electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any
extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was
himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the
electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in
which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose
them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from
them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in
one place.

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle
should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly
adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected
to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from
the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our
councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature
of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention
have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident
and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the
President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be
tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have
referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of
America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and
sole purpose of making the appointment. And they have excluded from
eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be
suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator,
representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under
the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors. Thus without
corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election
will at least enter upon the task free from any sinister bias. Their
transient existence, and their detached situation, already taken notice
of, afford a satisfactory prospect of their continuing so, to the
conclusion of it. The business of corruption, when it is to embrace so
considerable a number of men, requires time as well as means. Nor would
it be found easy suddenly to embark them, dispersed as they would be
over thirteen States, in any combinations founded upon motives, which
though they could not properly be denominated corrupt, might yet be of a
nature to mislead them from their duty.

Another and no less important desideratum was, that the Executive should
be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people
themselves. He might otherwise be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his
complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his
official consequence. This advantage will also be secured, by making his
re-election to depend on a special body of representatives, deputed by
the society for the single purpose of making the important choice.

All these advantages will happily combine in the plan devised by the
convention; which is, that the people of each State shall choose a
number of persons as electors, equal to the number of senators and
representatives of such State in the national government, who shall
assemble within the State, and vote for some fit person as President.
Their votes, thus given, are to be transmitted to the seat of the
national government, and the person who may happen to have a majority of
the whole number of votes will be the President. But as a majority of
the votes might not always happen to centre in one man, and as it might
be unsafe to permit less than a majority to be conclusive, it is
provided that, in such a contingency, the House of Representatives shall
select out of the candidates who shall have the five highest number of
votes, the man who in their opinion may be best qualified for the

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of
President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent
degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low
intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to
elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require
other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the
esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a
portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate
for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will
not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of
seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and
virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the
Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the
executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill
administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of
the poet who says:

"For forms of government let fools contest --
That which is best administered is best," --

yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is
its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

The Vice-President is to be chosen in the same manner with the
President; with this difference, that the Senate is to do, in respect to
the former, what is to be done by the House of Representatives, in
respect to the latter.

The appointment of an extraordinary person, as Vice-President, has been
objected to as superfluous, if not mischievous. It has been alleged,
that it would have been preferable to have authorized the Senate to
elect out of their own body an officer answering that description. But
two considerations seem to justify the ideas of the convention in this
respect. One is, that to secure at all times the possibility of a
definite resolution of the body, it is necessary that the President
should have only a casting vote. And to take the senator of any State
from his seat as senator, to place him in that of President of the
Senate, would be to exchange, in regard to the State from which he came,
a constant for a contingent vote. The other consideration is, that as
the Vice-President may occasionally become a substitute for the
President, in the supreme executive magistracy, all the reasons which
recommend the mode of election prescribed for the one, apply with great
if not with equal force to the manner of appointing the other. It is
remarkable that in this, as in most other instances, the objection which
is made would lie against the constitution of this State. We have a
Lieutenant-Governor, chosen by the people at large, who presides in the
Senate, and is the constitutional substitute for the Governor, in
casualties similar to those which would authorize the Vice-President to
exercise the authorities and discharge the duties of the President.


1. Vide federal farmer.

E1. Some editions substitute "desired" for "wished for".



The Real Character of the Executive
From the New York Packet.
Friday, March 14, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

I PROCEED now to trace the real characters of the proposed Executive, as
they are marked out in the plan of the convention. This will serve to
place in a strong light the unfairness of the representations which have
been made in regard to it.

The first thing which strikes our attention is, that the executive
authority, with few exceptions, is to be vested in a single magistrate.
This will scarcely, however, be considered as a point upon which any
comparison can be grounded; for if, in this particular, there be a
resemblance to the king of Great Britain, there is not less a
resemblance to the Grand Seignior, to the khan of Tartary, to the Man of
the Seven Mountains, or to the governor of New York.

That magistrate is to be elected for four years; and is to be
re-eligible as often as the people of the United States shall think him
worthy of their confidence. In these circumstances there is a total
dissimilitude between him and a king of Great Britain, who is an
hereditary monarch, possessing the crown as a patrimony descendible to
his heirs forever; but there is a close analogy between him and a
governor of New York, who is elected for three years, and is re-eligible
without limitation or intermission. If we consider how much less time
would be requisite for establishing a dangerous influence in a single
State, than for establishing a like influence throughout the United
States, we must conclude that a duration of four years for the Chief
Magistrate of the Union is a degree of permanency far less to be dreaded
in that office, than a duration of three years for a corresponding
office in a single State.

The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached,
tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or
misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to
prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. The person of
the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable; there is no
constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable; no punishment to which
he can be subjected without involving the crisis of a national
revolution. In this delicate and important circumstance of personal
responsibility, the President of Confederated America would stand upon
no better ground than a governor of New York, and upon worse ground than
the governors of Maryland and Delaware.

The President of the United States is to have power to return a bill,
which shall have passed the two branches of the legislature, for
reconsideration; and the bill so returned is to become a law, if, upon
that reconsideration, it be approved by two thirds of both houses. The
king of Great Britain, on his part, has an absolute negative upon the
acts of the two houses of Parliament. The disuse of that power for a
considerable time past does not affect the reality of its existence; and
is to be ascribed wholly to the crown's having found the means of
substituting influence to authority, or the art of gaining a majority in
one or the other of the two houses, to the necessity of exerting a
prerogative which could seldom be exerted without hazarding some degree
of national agitation. The qualified negative of the President differs
widely from this absolute negative of the British sovereign; and tallies
exactly with the revisionary authority of the council of revision of
this State, of which the governor is a constituent part. In this respect
the power of the President would exceed that of the governor of New
York, because the former would possess, singly, what the latter shares
with the chancellor and judges; but it would be precisely the same with
that of the governor of Massachusetts, whose constitution, as to this
article, seems to have been the original from which the convention have

The President is to be the "commander-in-chief of the army and navy of
the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called
into the actual service of the United States. He is to have power to
grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States,
except in cases of impeachment; to recommend to the consideration of
Congress such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; to
convene, on extraordinary occasions, both houses of the legislature, or
either of them, and, in case of disagreement between them with respect
to the time of adjournment, to adjourn them to such time as he shall
think proper; to take care that the laws be faithfully executed; and to
commission all officers of the United States." In most of these
particulars, the power of the President will resemble equally that of
the king of Great Britain and of the governor of New York. The most
material points of difference are these: -- First. The President will have
only the occasional command of such part of the militia of the nation as
by legislative provision may be called into the actual service of the
Union. The king of Great Britain and the governor of New York have at
all times the entire command of all the militia within their several
jurisdictions. In this article, therefore, the power of the President
would be inferior to that of either the monarch or the governor.
Second. The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy
of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally
the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much
inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command
and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and
admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to
the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and
armies -- all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would
appertain to the legislature.[1] The governor of New York, on the other
hand, is by the constitution of the State vested only with the command
of its militia and navy. But the constitutions of several of the States
expressly declare their governors to be commanders-in-chief, as well of
the army as navy; and it may well be a question, whether those of New
Hampshire and Massachusetts, in particular, do not, in this instance,
confer larger powers upon their respective governors, than could be
claimed by a President of the United States. Third. The power of the
President, in respect to pardons, would extend to all cases, except
those of impeachment. The governor of New York may pardon in all cases,
even in those of impeachment, except for treason and murder. Is not the
power of the governor, in this article, on a calculation of political
consequences, greater than that of the President? All conspiracies and
plots against the government, which have not been matured into actual
treason, may be screened from punishment of every kind, by the
interposition of the prerogative of pardoning. If a governor of New
York, therefore, should be at the head of any such conspiracy, until the
design had been ripened into actual hostility he could insure his
accomplices and adherents an entire impunity. A President of the Union,
on the other hand, though he may even pardon treason, when prosecuted in
the ordinary course of law, could shelter no offender, in any degree,
from the effects of impeachment and conviction. Would not the prospect
of a total indemnity for all the preliminary steps be a greater
temptation to undertake and persevere in an enterprise against the
public liberty, than the mere prospect of an exemption from death and
confiscation, if the final execution of the design, upon an actual
appeal to arms, should miscarry? Would this last expectation have any
influence at all, when the probability was computed, that the person who
was to afford that exemption might himself be involved in the
consequences of the measure, and might be incapacitated by his agency in
it from affording the desired impunity? The better to judge of this
matter, it will be necessary to recollect, that, by the proposed
Constitution, the offense of treason is limited "to levying war upon the
United States, and adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and
comfort"; and that by the laws of New York it is confined within similar
bounds. Fourth. The President can only adjourn the national
legislature in the single case of disagreement about the time of
adjournment. The British monarch may prorogue or even dissolve the
Parliament. The governor of New York may also prorogue the legislature
of this State for a limited time; a power which, in certain situations,
may be employed to very important purposes.

The President is to have power, with the advice and consent of the
Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the senators present
concur. The king of Great Britain is the sole and absolute
representative of the nation in all foreign transactions. He can of his
own accord make treaties of peace, commerce, alliance, and of every
other description. It has been insinuated, that his authority in this
respect is not conclusive, and that his conventions with foreign powers
are subject to the revision, and stand in need of the ratification, of
Parliament. But I believe this doctrine was never heard of, until it was
broached upon the present occasion. Every jurist[2] of that kingdom, and
every other man acquainted with its Constitution, knows, as an
established fact, that the prerogative of making treaties exists in the
crown in its utomst plentitude; and that the compacts entered into by
the royal authority have the most complete legal validity and
perfection, independent of any other sanction. The Parliament, it is
true, is sometimes seen employing itself in altering the existing laws
to conform them to the stipulations in a new treaty; and this may have
possibly given birth to the imagination, that its co-operation was
necessary to the obligatory efficacy of the treaty. But this
parliamentary interposition proceeds from a different cause: from the
necessity of adjusting a most artificial and intricate system of revenue
and commercial laws, to the changes made in them by the operation of the
treaty; and of adapting new provisions and precautions to the new state
of things, to keep the machine from running into disorder. In this
respect, therefore, there is no comparison between the intended power of
the President and the actual power of the British sovereign. The one can
perform alone what the other can do only with the concurrence of a
branch of the legislature. It must be admitted, that, in this instance,
the power of the federal Executive would exceed that of any State
Executive. But this arises naturally from the sovereign power which
relates to treaties. If the Confederacy were to be dissolved, it would
become a question, whether the Executives of the several States were not
solely invested with that delicate and important prerogative.

The President is also to be authorized to receive ambassadors and other
public ministers. This, though it has been a rich theme of declamation,
is more a matter of dignity than of authority. It is a circumstance
which will be without consequence in the administration of the
government; and it was far more convenient that it should be arranged in
this manner, than that there should be a necessity of convening the
legislature, or one of its branches, upon every arrival of a foreign
minister, though it were merely to take the place of a departed

The President is to nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the
Senate, to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, judges of the
Supreme Court, and in general all officers of the United States
established by law, and whose appointments are not otherwise provided
for by the Constitution. The king of Great Britain is emphatically and
truly styled the fountain of honor. He not only appoints to all offices,
but can create offices. He can confer titles of nobility at pleasure;
and has the disposal of an immense number of church preferments. There
is evidently a great inferiority in the power of the President, in this
particular, to that of the British king; nor is it equal to that of the
governor of New York, if we are to interpret the meaning of the
constitution of the State by the practice which has obtained under it.
The power of appointment is with us lodged in a council, composed of the
governor and four members of the Senate, chosen by the Assembly. The
governor claims, and has frequently exercised, the right of nomination,
and is entitled to a casting vote in the appointment. If he really has
the right of nominating, his authority is in this respect equal to that
of the President, and exceeds it in the article of the casting vote. In
the national government, if the Senate should be divided, no appointment
could be made; in the government of New York, if the council should be
divided, the governor can turn the scale, and confirm his own
nomination.[3] If we compare the publicity which must necessarily attend
the mode of appointment by the President and an entire branch of the
national legislature, with the privacy in the mode of appointment by the
governor of New York, closeted in a secret apartment with at most four,
and frequently with only two persons; and if we at the same time
consider how much more easy it must be to influence the small number of
which a council of appointment consists, than the considerable number of
which the national Senate would consist, we cannot hesitate to pronounce
that the power of the chief magistrate of this State, in the disposition
of offices, must, in practice, be greatly superior to that of the Chief
Magistrate of the Union.

Hence it appears that, except as to the concurrent authority of the
President in the article of treaties, it would be difficult to determine
whether that magistrate would, in the aggregate, possess more or less
power than the Governor of New York. And it appears yet more
unequivocally, that there is no pretense for the parallel which has been
attempted between him and the king of Great Britain. But to render the
contrast in this respect still more striking, it may be of use to throw
the principal circumstances of dissimilitude into a closer group.

The President of the United States would be an officer elected by the
people for four years; the king of Great Britain is a perpetual and
hereditary prince. The one would be amenable to personal punishment and
disgrace; the person of the other is sacred and inviolable. The one
would have a qualified negative upon the acts of the legislative body;
the other has an absolute negative. The one would have a right to
command the military and naval forces of the nation; the other, in
addition to this right, possesses that of declaring war, and of raising
and regulating fleets and armies by his own authority. The one would
have a concurrent power with a branch of the legislature in the
formation of treaties; the other is the sole possessor of the power of
making treaties. The one would have a like concurrent authority in
appointing to offices; the other is the sole author of all appointments.
The one can confer no privileges whatever; the other can make denizens
of aliens, noblemen of commoners; can erect corporations with all the
rights incident to corporate bodies. The one can prescribe no rules
concerning the commerce or currency of the nation; the other is in
several respects the arbiter of commerce, and in this capacity can
establish markets and fairs, can regulate weights and measures, can lay
embargoes for a limited time, can coin money, can authorize or prohibit
the circulation of foreign coin. The one has no particle of spiritual
jurisdiction; the other is the supreme head and governor of the national
church! What answer shall we give to those who would persuade us that
things so unlike resemble each other? The same that ought to be given to
those who tell us that a government, the whole power of which would be
in the hands of the elective and periodical servants of the people, is
an aristocracy, a monarchy, and a despotism.


1. A writer in a Pennsylvania paper, under the signature of TAMONY, has
asserted that the king of Great Britain oweshis prerogative as
commander-in-chief to an annual mutiny bill. The truth is, on the
contrary, that his prerogative, in this respect, is immenmorial, and was
only disputed, "contrary to all reason and precedent," as Blackstone
vol. i., page 262, expresses it, by the Long Parliament of Charles I.
but by the statute the 13th of Charles II., chap. 6, it was declared to
be in the king alone, for that the sole supreme government and command
of the militia within his Majesty's realms and dominions, and of all
forces by sea and land, and of all forts and places of strength, EVER
WAS AND IS the undoubted right of his Majesty and his royal
predecessors, kings and queens of England, and that both or either house
of Parliament cannot nor ought to pretend to the same.

2. Vide Blackstone's Commentaries, Vol I., p. 257.

3. Candor, however, demands an acknowledgment that I do not think the
claim of the governor to a right of nomination well founded. Yet it is
always justifiable to reason from the practice of a government, till its
propriety has been constitutionally questioned. And independent of this
claim, when we take into view the other considerations, and pursue them
through all their consequences, we shall be inclined to draw much the
same conclusion.



The Executive Department Further Considered
From the Independent Journal.
Saturday, March 15, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THERE is an idea, which is not without its advocates, that a vigorous
Executive is inconsistent with the genius of republican government. The
enlightened well-wishers to this species of government must at least
hope that the supposition is destitute of foundation; since they can
never admit its truth, without at the same time admitting the
condemnation of their own principles. Energy in the Executive is a
leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential
to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not
less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the
protection of property against those irregular and high-handed
combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice;
to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of
ambition, of faction, and of anarchy. Every man the least conversant in
Roman story, knows how often that republic was obliged to take refuge in
the absolute power of a single man, under the formidable title of
Dictator, as well against the intrigues of ambitious individuals who
aspired to the tyranny, and the seditions of whole classes of the
community whose conduct threatened the existence of all government, as
against the invasions of external enemies who menaced the conquest and
destruction of Rome.

There can be no need, however, to multiply arguments or examples on this
head. A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A
feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a
government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in
practice, a bad government.

Taking it for granted, therefore, that all men of sense will agree in
the necessity of an energetic Executive, it will only remain to inquire,
what are the ingredients which constitute this energy? How far can they
be combined with those other ingredients which constitute safety in the
republican sense? And how far does this combination characterize the
plan which has been reported by the convention?

The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first,
unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its
support; fourthly, competent powers.

The ingredients which constitute safety in the repub lican sense are,
first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility.

Those politicians and statesmen who have been the most celebrated for
the soundness of their principles and for the justice of their views,
have declared in favor of a single Executive and a numerous legislature.
They have with great propriety, considered energy as the most necessary
qualification of the former, and have regarded this as most applicable
to power in a single hand, while they have, with equal propriety,
considered the latter as best adapted to deliberation and wisdom, and
best calculated to conciliate the confidence of the people and to secure
their privileges and interests.

That unity is conducive to energy will not be disputed. Decision,
activity, secrecy, and despatch will generally characterize the
proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the
proceedings of any greater number; and in proportion as the number is
increased, these qualities will be diminished.

This unity may be destroyed in two ways: either by vesting the power in
two or more magistrates of equal dignity and authority; or by vesting it
ostensibly in one man, subject, in whole or in part, to the control and
co-operation of others, in the capacity of counsellors to him. Of the
first, the two Consuls of Rome may serve as an example; of the last, we
shall find examples in the constitutions of several of the States. New
York and New Jersey, if I recollect right, are the only States which
have intrusted the executive authority wholly to single men.[1] Both
these methods of destroying the unity of the Executive have their
partisans; but the votaries of an executive council are the most
numerous. They are both liable, if not to equal, to similar objections,
and may in most lights be examined in conjunction.

The experience of other nations will afford little instruction on this
head. As far, however, as it teaches any thing, it teaches us not to be
enamoured of plurality in the Executive. We have seen that the Achaeans,
on an experiment of two Praetors, were induced to abolish one. The Roman
history records many instances of mischiefs to the republic from the
dissensions between the Consuls, and between the military Tribunes, who
were at times substituted for the Consuls. But it gives us no specimens
of any peculiar advantages derived to the state from the circumstance of
the plurality of those magistrates. That the dissensions between them
were not more frequent or more fatal, is a matter of astonishment, until
we advert to the singular position in which the republic was almost
continually placed, and to the prudent policy pointed out by the
circumstances of the state, and pursued by the Consuls, of making a
division of the government between them. The patricians engaged in a
perpetual struggle with the plebeians for the preservation of their
ancient authorities and dignities; the Consuls, who were generally
chosen out of the former body, were commonly united by the personal
interest they had in the defense of the privileges of their order. In
addition to this motive of union, after the arms of the republic had
considerably expanded the bounds of its empire, it became an established
custom with the Consuls to divide the administration between themselves
by lot -- one of them remaining at Rome to govern the city and its
environs, the other taking the command in the more distant provinces.
This expedient must, no doubt, have had great influence in preventing
those collisions and rivalships which might otherwise have embroiled the
peace of the republic.

But quitting the dim light of historical research, attaching ourselves
purely to the dictates of reason and good sense, we shall discover much
greater cause to reject than to approve the idea of plurality in the
Executive, under any modification whatever.

Wherever two or more persons are engaged in any common enterprise or
pursuit, there is always danger of difference of opinion. If it be a
public trust or office, in which they are clothed with equal dignity and
authority, there is peculiar danger of personal emulation and even
animosity. From either, and especially from all these causes, the most
bitter dissensions are apt to spring. Whenever these happen, they lessen
the respectability, weaken the authority, and distract the plans and
operation of those whom they divide. If they should unfortunately assail
the supreme executive magistracy of a country, consisting of a plurality
of persons, they might impede or frustrate the most important measures
of the government, in the most critical emergencies of the state. And
what is still worse, they might split the community into the most
violent and irreconcilable factions, adhering differently to the
different individuals who composed the magistracy.

Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in
planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they
dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to
disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an
indispensable duty of self-love. They seem to think themselves bound in
honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the
success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments. Men
of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking,
with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes
carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to
the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who
have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting
to mankind. Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its
consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable
frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.

Upon the principles of a free government, inconveniences from the source
just mentioned must necessarily be submitted to in the formation of the
legislature; but it is unnecessary, and therefore unwise, to introduce
them into the constitution of the Executive. It is here too that they
may be most pernicious. In the legislature, promptitude of decision is
oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the
jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they
may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation
and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority. When a
resolution too is once taken, the opposition must be at an end. That
resolution is a law, and resistance to it punishable. But no favorable
circumstances palliate or atone for the disadvantages of dissension in
the executive department. Here, they are pure and unmixed. There is no
point at which they cease to operate. They serve to embarrass and weaken
the execution of the plan or measure to which they relate, from the
first step to the final conclusion of it. They constantly counteract
those qualities in the Executive which are the most necessary
ingredients in its composition -- vigor and expedition, and this without
anycounterbalancing good. In the conduct of war, in which the energy of
the Executive is the bulwark of the national security, every thing would
be to be apprehended from its plurality.

It must be confessed that these observations apply with principal weight
to the first case supposed -- that is, to a plurality of magistrates of
equal dignity and authority a scheme, the advocates for which are not
likely to form a numerous sect; but they apply, though not with equal,
yet with considerable weight to the project of a council, whose
concurrence is made constitutionally necessary to the operations of the
ostensible Executive. An artful cabal in that council would be able to
distract and to enervate the whole system of administration. If no such
cabal should exist, the mere diversity of views and opinions would alone
be sufficient to tincture the exercise of the executive authority with a
spirit of habitual feebleness and dilatoriness.

[But one of the weightiest objections to a plurality in the Executive,
and which lies as much against the last as the first plan, is, that it
tends to conceal faults and destroy responsibility. Responsibility is of
two kinds -- to censure and to punishment. The first is the more important
of the two, especially in an elective office. Man, in public trust, will
much oftener act in such a manner as to render him unworthy of being any
longer trusted, than in such a manner as to make him obnoxious to legal
punishment. But the multiplication of the Executive adds to the
difficulty of detection in either case. It often becomes impossible,
amidst mutual accusations, to determine on whom the blame or the
punishment of a pernicious measure, or series of pernicious measures,
ought really to fall. It is shifted from one to another with so much
dexterity, and under such plausible appearances, that the public opinion
is left in suspense about the real author. The circumstances which may
have led to any national miscarriage or misfortune are sometimes so
complicated that, where there are a number of actors who may have had
different degrees and kinds of agency, though we may clearly see upon
the whole that there has been mismanagement, yet it may be impracticable
to pronounce to whose account the evil which may have been incurred is
truly chargeable.][E1]

[But one of the weightiest objections to a plurality in the Executive,
and which lies as much against the last as the first plan, is, that it
tends to conceal faults and destroy responsibility.

Responsibility is of two kinds -- to censure and to punishment. The first
is the more important of the two, especially in an elective office. Man,
in public trust, will much oftener act in such a manner as to render him
unworthy of being any longer trusted, than in such a manner as to make
him obnoxious to legal punishment. But the multiplication of the
Executive adds to the difficulty of detection in either case. It often
becomes impossible, amidst mutual accusations, to determine on whom the
blame or the punishment of a pernicious measure, or series of pernicious
measures, ought really to fall. It is shifted from one to another with
so much dexterity, and under such plausible appearances, that the public
opinion is left in suspense about the real author. The circumstances
which may have led to any national miscarriage or misfortune are
sometimes so complicated that, where there are a number of actors who
may have had different degrees and kinds of agency, though we may
clearly see upon the whole that there has been mismanagement, yet it may
be impracticable to pronounce to whose account the evil which may have
been incurred is truly chargeable.][E1]

"I was overruled by my council. The council were so divided in their
opinions that it was impossible to obtain any better resolution on the
point." These and similar pretexts are constantly at hand, whether true
or false. And who is there that will either take the trouble or incur
the odium, of a strict scrunity into the secret springs of the
transaction? Should there be found a citizen zealous enough to undertake
the unpromising task, if there happen to be collusion between the
parties concerned, how easy it is to clothe the circumstances with so
much ambiguity, as to render it uncertain what was the precise conduct
of any of those parties?

In the single instance in which the governor of this State is coupled
with a council -- that is, in the appointment to offices, we have seen the
mischiefs of it in the view now under consideration. Scandalous
appointments to important offices have been made. Some cases, indeed,
have been so flagrant that ALL PARTIES have agreed in the impropriety of
the thing. When inquiry has been made, the blame has been laid by the
governor on the members of the council, who, on their part, have charged
it upon his nomination; while the people remain altogether at a loss to
determine, by whose influence their interests have been committed to
hands so unqualified and so manifestly improper. In tenderness to
individuals, I forbear to descend to particulars.

It is evident from these considerations, that the plurality of the
Executive tends to deprive the people of the two greatest securities
they can have for the faithful exercise of any delegated power, first,
the restraints of public opinion, which lose their efficacy, as well on
account of the division of the censure attendant on bad measures among a
number, as on account of the uncertainty on whom it ought to fall; and,
second, the opportunity of discovering with facility and clearness the
misconduct of the persons they trust, in order either to their removal
from office or to their actual punishment in cases which admit of it.

In England, the king is a perpetual magistrate; and it is a maxim which
has obtained for the sake of the pub lic peace, that he is unaccountable
for his administration, and his person sacred. Nothing, therefore, can
be wiser in that kingdom, than to annex to the king a constitutional
council, who may be responsible to the nation for the advice they give.
Without this, there would be no responsibility whatever in the executive
department an idea inadmissible in a free government. But even there the
king is not bound by the resolutions of his council, though they are
answerable for the advice they give. He is the absolute master of his
own conduct in the exercise of his office, and may observe or disregard
the counsel given to him at his sole discretion.

But in a republic, where every magistrate ought to be personally
responsible for his behavior in office the reason which in the British
Constitution dictates the propriety of a council, not only ceases to
apply, but turns against the institution. In the monarchy of Great
Britain, it furnishes a substitute for the prohibited responsibility of
the chief magistrate, which serves in some degree as a hostage to the
national justice for his good behavior. In the American republic, it
would serve to destroy, or would greatly diminish, the intended and
necessary responsibility of the Chief Magistrate himself.

The idea of a council to the Executive, which has so generally obtained
in the State constitutions, has been derived from that maxim of
republican jealousy which considers power as safer in the hands of a
number of men than of a single man. If the maxim should be admitted to
be applicable to the case, I should contend that the advantage on that
side would not counterbalance the numerous disadvantages on the opposite
side. But I do not think the rule at all applicable to the executive
power. I clearly concur in opinion, in this particular, with a writer
whom the celebrated Junius pronounces to be "deep, solid, and
ingenious," that "the executive power is more easily confined when it is
ONE";[2] that it is far more safe there should be a single object for
the jealousy and watchfulness of the people; and, in a word, that all
multiplication of the Executive is rather dangerous than friendly to

A little consideration will satisfy us, that the species of security
sought for in the multiplication of the Executive, is nattainable.
Numbers must be so great as to render combination difficult, or they are
rather a source of danger than of security. The united credit and
influence of several individuals must be more formidable to liberty,
than the credit and influence of either of them separately. When power,
therefore, is placed in the hands of so small a number of men, as to
admit of their interests and views being easily combined in a common
enterprise, by an artful leader, it becomes more liable to abuse, and
more dangerous when abused, than if it be lodged in the hands of one
man; who, from the very circumstance of his being alone, will be more
narrowly watched and more readily suspected, and who cannot unite so
great a mass of influence as when he is associated with others. The
Decemvirs of Rome, whose name denotes their number,[3] were more to be
dreaded in their usurpation than any ONE of them would have been. No
person would think of proposing an Executive much more numerous than
that body; from six to a dozen have been suggested for the number of the
council. The extreme of these numbers, is not too great for an easy
combination; and from such a combination America would have more to
fear, than from the ambition of any single individual. A council to a
magistrate, who is himself responsible for what he does, are generally
nothing better than a clog upon his good intentions, are often the
instruments and accomplices of his bad and are almost always a cloak to
his faults.

I forbear to dwell upon the subject of expense; though it be evident
that if the council should be numerous enough to answer the principal
end aimed at by the institution, the salaries of the members, who must
be drawn from their homes to reside at the seat of government, would
form an item in the catalogue of public expenditures too serious to be
incurred for an object of equivocal utility. I will only add that, prior
to the appearance of the Constitution, I rarely met with an intelligent
man from any of the States, who did not admit, as the result of
experience, that the UNITY of the executive of this State was one of the
best of the distinguishing features of our constitution.


1. New York has no council except for the single purpose of appointing to
offices; New Jersey has a council whom the governor may consult. But I
think, from the terms of the constitution, their resolutions do not bind

2. De Lolme.

3. Ten.

E1. Two versions of these paragraphs appear in different editions.



The Duration in Office of the Executive
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, March 18, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

DURATION in office has been mentioned as the second requisite to the
energy of the Executive authority. This has relation to two objects: to
the personal firmness of the executive magistrate, in the employment of
his constitutional powers; and to the stability of the system of
administration which may have been adopted under his auspices. With
regard to the first, it must be evident, that the longer the duration in
office, the greater will be the probability of obtaining so important an
advantage. It is a general principle of human nature, that a man will be
interested in whatever he possesses, in proportion to the firmness or
precariousness of the tenure by which he holds it; will be less attached
to what he holds by a momentary or uncertain title, than to what he
enjoys by a durable or certain title; and, of course, will be willing to
risk more for the sake of the one, than for the sake of the other. This
remark is not less applicable to a political privilege, or honor, or
trust, than to any article of ordinary property. The inference from it
is, that a man acting in the capacity of chief magistrate, under a
consciousness that in a very short time he MUST lay down his office,
will be apt to feel himself too little interested in it to hazard any
material censure or perplexity, from the independent exertion of his
powers, or from encountering the ill-humors, however transient, which
may happen to prevail, either in a considerable part of the society
itself, or even in a predominant faction in the legislative body. If the
case should only be, that he MIGHT lay it down, unless continued by a
new choice, and if he should be desirous of being continued, his wishes,
conspiring with his fears, would tend still more powerfully to corrupt
his integrity, or debase his fortitude. In either case, feebleness and
irresolution must be the characteristics of the station.

There are some who would be inclined to regard the servile pliancy of
the Executive to a prevailing current, either in the community or in the
legislature, as its best recommendation. But such men entertain very
crude notions, as well of the purposes for which government was
instituted, as of the true means by which the public happiness may be
promoted. The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of
the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they intrust
the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified
complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient
impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter
their prejudices to betray their interests. It is a just observation,
that the people commonly INTEND the PUBLIC GOOD. This often applies to
their very errors. But their good sense would despise the adulator who
should pretend that they always REASON RIGHT about the MEANS of
promoting it. They know from experience that they sometimes err; and the
wonder is that they so seldom err as they do, beset, as they continually
are, by the wiles of parasites and sycophants, by the snares of the
ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who
possess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who
seek to possess rather than to deserve it. When occasions present
themselves, in which the interests of the people are at variance with
their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have
appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the
temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more
cool and sedate reflection. Instances might be cited in which a conduct
of this kind has saved the people from very fatal consequences of their
own mistakes, and has procured lasting monuments of their gratitude to
the men who had courage and magnanimity enough to serve them at the
peril of their displeasure.

But however inclined we might be to insist upon an unbounded
complaisance in the Executive to the inclinations of the people, we can
with no propriety contend for a like complaisance to the humors of the
legislature. The latter may sometimes stand in opposition to the former,
and at other times the people may be entirely neutral. In either
supposition, it is certainly desirable that the Executive should be in a
situation to dare to act his own opinion with vigor and decision.

The same rule which teaches the propriety of a partition between the
various branches of power, teaches us likewise that this partition ought
to be so contrived as to render the one independent of the other. To
what purpose separate the executive or the judiciary from the
legislative, if both the executive and the judiciary are so constituted
as to be at the absolute devotion of the legislative? Such a separation
must be merely nominal, and incapable of producing the ends for which it
was established. It is one thing to be subordinate to the laws, and
another to be dependent on the legislative body. The first comports
with, the last violates, the fundamental principles of good government;
and, whatever may be the forms of the Constitution, unites all power in
the same hands. The tendency of the legislative authority to absorb
every other, has been fully displayed and illustrated by examples in
some preceding numbers. In governments purely republican, this tendency
is almost irresistible. The representatives of the people, in a popular
assembly, seem sometimes to fancy that they are the people themselves,
and betray strong symptoms of impatience and disgust at the least sign
of opposition from any other quarter; as if the exercise of its rights,
by either the executive or judiciary, were a breach of their privilege
and an outrage to their dignity. They often appear disposed to exert an
imperious control over the other departments; and as they commonly have
the people on their side, they always act with such momentum as to make
it very difficult for the other members of the government to maintain
the balance of the Constitution.

It may perhaps be asked, how the shortness of the duration in office can
affect the independence of the Executive on the legislature, unless the
one were possessed of the power of appointing or displacing the other.
One answer to this inquiry may be drawn from the principle already
remarked that is, from the slender interest a man is apt to take in a
short-lived advantage, and the little inducement it affords him to
expose himself, on account of it, to any considerable inconvenience or
hazard. Another answer, perhaps more obvious, though not more
conclusive, will result from the consideration of the influence of the
legislative body over the people; which might be employed to prevent the
re-election of a man who, by an upright resistance to any sinister
project of that body, should have made himself obnoxious to its

It may be asked also, whether a duration of four years would answer the
end proposed; and if it would not, whether a less period, which would at
least be recommended by greater security against ambitious designs,
would not, for that reason, be preferable to a longer period, which was,
at the same time, too short for the purpose of inspiring the desired
firmness and independence of the magistrate.

It cannot be affirmed, that a duration of four years, or any other
limited duration, would completely answer the end proposed; but it would
contribute towards it in a degree which would have a material influence
upon the spirit and character of the government. Between the
commencement and termination of such a period, there would always be a
considerable interval, in which the prospect of annihilation would be
sufficiently remote, not to have an improper effect upon the conduct of
a man indued with a tolerable portion of fortitude; and in which he
might reasonably promise himself, that there would be time enough before
it arrived, to make the community sensible of the propriety of the
measures he might incline to pursue. Though it be probable that, as he
approached the moment when the public were, by a new election, to
signify their sense of his conduct, his confidence, and with it his
firmness, would decline; yet both the one and the other would derive
support from the opportunities which his previous continuance in the
station had afforded him, of establishing himself in the esteem and
good-will of his constituents. He might, then, hazard with safety, in
proportion to the proofs he had given of his wisdom and integrity, and
to the title he had acquired to the respect and attachment of his
fellow-citizens. As, on the one hand, a duration of four years will
contribute to the firmness of the Executive in a sufficient degree to
render it a very valuable ingredient in the composition; so, on the
other, it is not enough to justify any alarm for the public liberty. If
a British House of Commons, from the most feeble beginnings, FROM THE
have, by rapid strides, reduced the prerogatives of the crown and the
privileges of the nobility within the limits they conceived to be
compatible with the principles of a free government, while they raised
themselves to the rank and consequence of a coequal branch of the
legislature; if they have been able, in one instance, to abolish both
the royalty and the aristocracy, and to overturn all the ancient
establishments, as well in the Church as State; if they have been able,
on a recent occasion, to make the monarch tremble at the prospect of an
innovation[1] attempted by them, what would be to be feared from an
elective magistrate of four years' duration, with the confined
authorities of a President of the United States? What, but that he might
be unequal to the task which the Constitution assigns him? I shall only
add, that if his duration be such as to leave a doubt of his firmness,
that doubt is inconsistent with a jealousy of his encroachments.


1. This was the case with respect to Mr. Fox's India bill, which
was carried in the House of Commons, and rejected in the House of
Lords, to the entire satisfaction, as it is said, of the people.



The Same Subject Continued, and Re-Eligibility of the Executive
From the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, March 19, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE administration of government, in its largest sense, comprehends all
the operations of the body politic, whether legislative, executive, or
judiciary; but in its most usual, and perhaps its most precise
signification. it is limited to executive details, and falls peculiarly
within the province of the executive department. The actual conduct of
foreign negotiations, the preparatory plans of finance, the application
and disbursement of the public moneys in conformity to the general
appropriations of the legislature, the arrangement of the army and navy,
the directions of the operations of war -- these, and other matters of a
like nature, constitute what seems to be most properly understood by the
administration of government. The persons, therefore, to whose immediate
management these different matters are committed, ought to be considered
as the assistants or deputies of the chief magistrate, and on this
account, they ought to derive their offices from his appointment, at
least from his nomination, and ought to be subject to his
superintendence. This view of the subject will at once suggest to us the
intimate connection between the duration of the executive magistrate in
office and the stability of the system of administration. To reverse and
undo what has been done by a predecessor, is very often considered by a
successor as the best proof he can give of his own capacity and desert;
and in addition to this propensity, where the alteration has been the
result of public choice, the person substituted is warranted in
supposing that the dismission of his predecessor has proceeded from a
dislike to his measures; and that the less he resembles him, the more he
will recommend himself to the favor of his constituents. These
considerations, and the influence of personal confidences and
attachments, would be likely to induce every new President to promote a
change of men to fill the subordinate stations; and these causes
together could not fail to occasion a disgraceful and ruinous mutability
in the administration of the government.

With a positive duration of considerable extent, I connect the
circumstance of re-eligibility. The first is necessary to give to the
officer himself the inclination and the resolution to act his part well,
and to the community time and leisure to observe the tendency of his
measures, and thence to form an experimental estimate of their merits.
The last is necessary to enable the people, when they see reason to
approve of his conduct, to continue him in his station, in order to
prolong the utility of his talents and virtues, and to secure to the
government the advantage of permanency in a wise system of

Nothing appears more plausible at first sight, nor more ill-founded upon
close inspection, than a scheme which in relation to the present point
has had some respectable advocates -- I mean that of continuing the chief
magistrate in office for a certain time, and then excluding him from it,
either for a limited period or forever after. This exclusion, whether
temporary or perpetual, would have nearly the same effects, and these
effects would be for the most part rather pernicious than salutary.

One ill effect of the exclusion would be a diminution of the inducements
to good behavior. There are few men who would not feel much less zeal in
the discharge of a duty when they were conscious that the advantages of
the station with which it was connected must be relinquished at a
determinate period, than when they were permitted to entertain a hope of
obtaining, by meriting, a continuance of them. This position will not be
disputed so long as it is admitted that the desire of reward is one of
the strongest incentives of human conduct; or that the best security for
the fidelity of mankind is to make their interests coincide with their
duty. Even the love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest minds,
which would prompt a man to plan and undertake extensive and arduous
enterprises for the public benefit, requiring considerable time to
mature and perfect them, if he could flatter himself with the prospect
of being allowed to finish what he had begun, would, on the contrary,
deter him from the undertaking, when he foresaw that he must quit the
scene before he could accomplish the work, and must commit that,
together with his own reputation, to hands which might be unequal or
unfriendly to the task. The most to be expected from the generality of
men, in such a situation, is the negative merit of not doing harm,
instead of the positive merit of doing good.

Another ill effect of the exclusion would be the temptation to sordid
views, to peculation, and, in some instances, to usurpation. An
avaricious man, who might happen to fill the office, looking forward to
a time when he must at all events yield up the emoluments he enjoyed,
would feel a propensity, not easy to be resisted by such a man, to make
the best use of the opportunity he enjoyed while it lasted, and might
not scruple to have recourse to the most corrupt expedients to make the
harvest as abundant as it was transitory; though the same man, probably,
with a different prospect before him, might content himself with the
regular perquisites of his situation, and might even be unwilling to
risk the consequences of an abuse of his opportunities. His avarice
might be a guard upon his avarice. Add to this that the same man might
be vain or ambitious, as well as avaricious. And if he could expect to
prolong his honors by his good conduct, he might hesitate to sacrifice
his appetite for them to his appetite for gain. But with the prospect
before him of approaching an inevitable annihilation, his avarice would
be likely to get the victory over his caution, his vanity, or his

An ambitious man, too, when he found himself seated on the summit of his
country's honors, when he looked forward to the time at which he must
descend from the exalted eminence for ever, and reflected that no
exertion of merit on his part could save him from the unwelcome reverse;
such a man, in such a situation, would be much more violently tempted to
embrace a favorable conjuncture for attempting the prolongation of his
power, at every personal hazard, than if he had the probability of
answering the same end by doing his duty.

Would it promote the peace of the community, or the stability of the
government to have half a dozen men who had had credit enough to be
raised to the seat of the supreme magistracy, wandering among the people
like discontented ghosts, and sighing for a place which they were
destined never more to possess?

A third ill effect of the exclusion would be, the depriving the
community of the advantage of the experience gained by the chief
magistrate in the exercise of his office. That experience is the parent
of wisdom, is an adage the truth of which is recognized by the wisest as
well as the simplest of mankind. What more desirable or more essential
than this quality in the governors of nations? Where more desirable or
more essential than in the first magistrate of a nation? Can it be wise
to put this desirable and essential quality under the ban of the
Constitution, and to declare that the moment it is acquired, its
possessor shall be compelled to abandon the station in which it was
acquired, and to which it is adapted? This, nevertheless, is the precise
import of all those regulations which exclude men from serving their
country, by the choice of their fellowcitizens, after they have by a
course of service fitted themselves for doing it with a greater degree
of utility.

A fourth ill effect of the exclusion would be the banishing men from
stations in which, in certain emergencies of the state, their presence
might be of the greatest moment to the public interest or safety. There
is no nation which has not, at one period or another, experienced an
absolute necessity of the services of particular men in particular
situations; perhaps it would not be too strong to say, to the
preservation of its political existence. How unwise, therefore, must be
every such self-denying ordinance as serves to prohibit a nation from
making use of its own citizens in the manner best suited to its
exigencies and circumstances! Without supposing the personal
essentiality of the man, it is evident that a change of the chief
magistrate, at the breaking out of a war, or at any similar crisis, for
another, even of equal merit, would at all times be detrimental to the
community, inasmuch as it would substitute inexperience to experience,
and would tend to unhinge and set afloat the already settled train of
the administration.

A fifth ill effect of the exclusion would be, that it would operate as a
constitutional interdiction of stability in the administration. By
necessitating a change of men, in the first office of the nation, it
would necessitate a mutability of measures. It is not generally to be
expected, that men will vary and measures remain uniform. The contrary
is the usual course of things. And we need not be apprehensive that
there will be too much stability, while there is even the option of
changing; nor need we desire to prohibit the people from continuing
their confidence where they think it may be safely placed, and where, by
constancy on their part, they may obviate the fatal inconveniences of
fluctuating councils and a variable policy.

These are some of the disadvantages which would flow from the principle
of exclusion. They apply most forcibly to the scheme of a perpetual
exclusion; but when we consider that even a partial exclusion would
always render the readmission of the person a remote and precarious
object, the observations which have been made will apply nearly as fully
to one case as to the other.

What are the advantages promised to counterbalance these disadvantages?
They are represented to be: 1st, greater independence in the magistrate;
2d, greater security to the people. Unless the exclusion be perpetual,
there will be no pretense to infer the first advantage. But even in that
case, may he have no object beyond his present station, to which he may
sacrifice his independence? May he have no connections, no friends, for
whom he may sacrifice it? May he not be less willing by a firm conduct,
to make personal enemies, when he acts under the impression that a time
is fast approaching, on the arrival of which he not only MAY, but MUST,
be exposed to their resentments, upon an equal, perhaps upon an
inferior, footing? It is not an easy point to determine whether his
independence would be most promoted or impaired by such an arrangement.

As to the second supposed advantage, there is still greater reason to
entertain doubts concerning it. If the exclusion were to be perpetual, a
man of irregular ambition, of whom alone there could be reason in any
case to entertain apprehension, would, with infinite reluctance, yield
to the necessity of taking his leave forever of a post in which his
passion for power and pre-eminence had acquired the force of habit. And
if he had been fortunate or adroit enough to conciliate the good-will of
the people, he might induce them to consider as a very odious and
unjustifiable restraint upon themselves, a provision which was
calculated to debar them of the right of giving a fresh proof of their
attachment to a favorite. There may be conceived circumstances in which
this disgust of the people, seconding the thwarted ambition of such a
favorite, might occasion greater danger to liberty, than could ever
reasonably be dreaded from the possibility of a perpetuation in office,
by the voluntary suffrages of the community, exercising a constitutional

There is an excess of refinement in the idea of disabling the people to
continue in office men who had entitled themselves, in their opinion, to
approbation and confidence; the advantages of which are at best
speculative and equivocal, and are overbalanced by disadvantages far
more certain and decisive.




The Provision For The Support of the Executive, and the Veto Power
From the New York Packet.
Friday, March 21, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE third ingredient towards constituting the vigor of the executive
authority, is an adequate provision for its support. It is evident that,
without proper attention to this article, the separation of the
executive from the legislative department would be merely nominal and
nugatory. The legislature, with a discretionary power over the salary
and emoluments of the Chief Magistrate, could render him as obsequious
to their will as they might think proper to make him. They might, in
most cases, either reduce him by famine, or tempt him by largesses, to
surrender at discretion his judgment to their inclinations. These
expressions, taken in all the latitude of the terms, would no doubt
convey more than is intended. There are men who could neither be
distressed nor won into a sacrifice of their duty; but this stern virtue
is the growth of few soils; and in the main it will be found that a
power over a man's support is a power over his will. If it were
necessary to confirm so plain a truth by facts, examples would not be
wanting, even in this country, of the intimidation or seduction of the
Executive by the terrors or allurements of the pecuniary arrangements of
the legislative body.

It is not easy, therefore, to commend too highly the judicious attention
which has been paid to this subject in the proposed Constitution. It is
there provided that "The President of the United States shall, at stated
times, receive for his services a compensation which shall neither be
increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been
elected; and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument
from the United States, or any of them." It is impossible to imagine any
provision which would have been more eligible than this. The
legislature, on the appointment of a President, is once for all to
declare what shall be the compensation for his services during the time
for which he shall have been elected. This done, they will have no power
to alter it, either by increase or diminution, till a new period of
service by a new election commences. They can neither weaken his
fortitude by operating on his necessities, nor corrupt his integrity by
appealing to his avarice. Neither the Union, nor any of its members,
will be at liberty to give, nor will he be at liberty to receive, any
other emolument than that which may have been determined by the first
act. He can, of course, have no pecuniary inducement to renounce or
desert the independence intended for him by the Constitution.

The last of the requisites to energy, which have been enumerated, are
competent powers. Let us proceed to consider those which are proposed to
be vested in the President of the United States.

The first thing that offers itself to our observation, is the qualified
negative of the President upon the acts or resolutions of the two houses
of the legislature; or, in other words, his power of returning all bills
with objections, to have the effect of preventing their becoming laws,
unless they should afterwards be ratified by two thirds of each of the
component members of the legislative body.

The propensity of the legislative department to intrude upon the rights,
and to absorb the powers, of the other departments, has been already
suggested and repeated; the insufficiency of a mere parchment
delineation of the boundaries of each, has also been remarked upon; and
the necessity of furnishing each with constitutional arms for its own
defense, has been inferred and proved. From these clear and indubitable
principles results the propriety of a negative, either absolute or
qualified, in the Executive, upon the acts of the legislative branches.
Without the one or the other, the former would be absolutely unable to
defend himself against the depredations of the latter. He might
gradually be stripped of his authorities by successive resolutions, or
annihilated by a single vote. And in the one mode or the other, the
legislative and executive powers might speedily come to be blended in
the same hands. If even no propensity had ever discovered itself in the
legislative body to invade the rights of the Executive, the rules of
just reasoning and theoretic propriety would of themselves teach us,
that the one ought not to be left to the mercy of the other, but ought
to possess a constitutional and effectual power of selfdefense.

But the power in question has a further use. It not only serves as a
shield to the Executive, but it furnishes an additional security against
the enaction of improper laws. It establishes a salutary check upon the
legislative body, calculated to guard the community against the effects
of faction, precipitancy, or of any impulse unfriendly to the public
good, which may happen to influence a majority of that body.

The propriety of a negative has, upon some occasions, been combated by
an observation, that it was not to be presumed a single man would
possess more virtue and wisdom than a number of men; and that unless
this presumption should be entertained, it would be improper to give the
executive magistrate any species of control over the legislative body.

But this observation, when examined, will appear rather specious than
solid. The propriety of the thing does not turn upon the supposition of
superior wisdom or virtue in the Executive, but upon the supposition
that the legislature will not be infallible; that the love of power may
sometimes betray it into a disposition to encroach upon the rights of
other members of the government; that a spirit of faction may sometimes
pervert its deliberations; that impressions of the moment may sometimes
hurry it into measures which itself, on maturer reflexion, would
condemn. The primary inducement to conferring the power in question upon
the Executive is, to enable him to defend himself; the secondary one is
to increase the chances in favor of the community against the passing of
bad laws, through haste, inadvertence, or design. The oftener the
measure is brought under examination, the greater the diversity in the
situations of those who are to examine it, the less must be the danger
of those errors which flow from want of due deliberation, or of those
missteps which proceed from the contagion of some common passion or
interest. It is far less probable, that culpable views of any kind
should infect all the parts of the government at the same moment and in
relation to the same object, than that they should by turns govern and
mislead every one of them.

It may perhaps be said that the power of preventing bad laws includes
that of preventing good ones; and may be used to the one purpose as well
as to the other. But this objection will have little weight with those
who can properly estimate the mischiefs of that inconstancy and
mutability in the laws, which form the greatest blemish in the character
and genius of our governments. They will consider every institution
calculated to restrain the excess of law-making, and to keep things in
the same state in which they happen to be at any given period, as much
more likely to do good than harm; because it is favorable to greater
stability in the system of legislation. The injury which may possibly be
done by defeating a few good laws, will be amply compensated by the
advantage of preventing a number of bad ones.

Nor is this all. The superior weight and influence of the legislative
body in a free government, and the hazard to the Executive in a trial of
strength with that body, afford a satisfactory security that the
negative would generally be employed with great caution; and there would
oftener be room for a charge of timidity than of rashness in the
exercise of it. A king of Great Britain, with all his train of sovereign
attributes, and with all the influence he draws from a thousand sources,
would, at this day, hesitate to put a negative upon the joint
resolutions of the two houses of Parliament. He would not fail to exert
the utmost resources of that influence to strangle a measure
disagreeable to him, in its progress to the throne, to avoid being
reduced to the dilemma of permitting it to take effect, or of risking
the displeasure of the nation by an opposition to the sense of the
legislative body. Nor is it probable, that he would ultimately venture
to exert his prerogatives, but in a case of manifest propriety, or
extreme necessity. All well-informed men in that kingdom will accede to
the justness of this remark. A very considerable period has elapsed
since the negative of the crown has been exercised.

If a magistrate so powerful and so well fortified as a British monarch,
would have scruples about the exercise of the power under consideration,
how much greater caution may be reasonably expected in a President of
the United States, clothed for the short period of four years with the
executive authority of a government wholly and purely republican?

It is evident that there would be greater danger of his not using his
power when necessary, than of his using it too often, or too much. An
argument, indeed, against its expediency, has been drawn from this very
source. It has been represented, on this account, as a power odious in
appearance, useless in practice. But it will not follow, that because it
might be rarely exercised, it would never be exercised. In the case for
which it is chiefly designed, that of an immediate attack upon the
constitutional rights of the Executive, or in a case in which the public
good was evidently and palpably sacrificed, a man of tolerable firmness
would avail himself of his constitutional means of defense, and would
listen to the admonitions of duty and responsibility. In the former
supposition, his fortitude would be stimulated by his immediate interest
in the power of his office; in the latter, by the probability of the
sanction of his constituents, who, though they would naturally incline
to the legislative body in a doubtful case, would hardly suffer their
partiality to delude them in a very plain case. I speak now with an eye
to a magistrate possessing only a common share of firmness. There are
men who, under any circumstances, will have the courage to do their duty
at every hazard.

But the convention have pursued a mean in this business, which will both
facilitate the exercise of the power vested in this respect in the
executive magistrate, and make its efficacy to depend on the sense of a
considerable part of the legislative body. Instead of an absolute
negative, it is proposed to give the Executive the qualified negative
already described. This is a power which would be much more readily
exercised than the other. A man who might be afraid to defeat a law by
his single VETO, might not scruple to return it for reconsideration;
subject to being finally rejected only in the event of more than one
third of each house concurring in the sufficiency of his objections. He
would be encouraged by the reflection, that if his opposition should
prevail, it would embark in it a very respectable proportion of the
legislative body, whose influence would be united with his in supporting
the propriety of his conduct in the public opinion. A direct and
categorical negative has something in the appearance of it more harsh,
and more apt to irritate, than the mere suggestion of argumentative
objections to be approved or disapproved by those to whom they are
addressed. In proportion as it would be less apt to offend, it would be
more apt to be exercised; and for this very reason, it may in practice
be found more effectual. It is to be hoped that it will not often happen
that improper views will govern so large a proportion as two thirds of
both branches of the legislature at the same time; and this, too, in
spite of the counterposing weight of the Executive. It is at any rate
far less probable that this should be the case, than that such views
should taint the resolutions and conduct of a bare majority. A power of
this nature in the Executive, will often have a silent and unperceived,
though forcible, operation. When men, engaged in unjustifiable pursuits,
are aware that obstructions may come from a quarter which they cannot
control, they will often be restrained by the bare apprehension of
opposition, from doing what they would with eagerness rush into, if no
such external impediments were to be feared.

This qualified negative, as has been elsewhere remarked, is in this
State vested in a council, consisting of the governor, with the
chancellor and judges of the Supreme Court, or any two of them. It has
been freely employed upon a variety of occasions, and frequently with
success. And its utility has become so apparent, that persons who, in
compiling the Constitution, were violent opposers of it, have from
experience become its declared admirers.[1]

I have in another place remarked, that the convention, in the formation
of this part of their plan, had departed from the model of the
constitution of this State, in favor of that of Massachusetts. Two
strong reasons may be imagined for this preference. One is that the
judges, who are to be the interpreters of the law, might receive an
improper bias, from having given a previous opinion in their revisionary
capacities; the other is that by being often associated with the
Executive, they might be induced to embark too far in the political
views of that magistrate, and thus a dangerous combination might by
degrees be cemented between the executive and judiciary departments. It
is impossible to keep the judges too distinct from every other avocation
than that of expounding the laws. It is peculiarly dangerous to place
them in a situation to be either corrupted or influenced by the


1. Mr. Abraham Yates, a warm opponent of the plan of the convention is
of this number.



The Command of the Military and Naval Forces, and the Pardoning
Power of the Executive
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, March 25, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE President of the United States is to be "commander-in-chief of the
army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several
States when called into the actual service of the United States." The
propriety of this provision is so evident in itself, and it is, at the
same time, so consonant to the precedents of the State constitutions in
general, that little need be said to explain or enforce it. Even those
of them which have, in other respects, coupled the chief magistrate with
a council, have for the most part concentrated the military authority in
him alone. Of all the cares or concerns of government, the direction of
war most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the
exercise of power by a single hand. The direction of war implies the
direction of the common strength; and the power of directing and
employing the common strength, forms a usual and essential part in the
definition of the executive authority.

"The President may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal
officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating
to the duties of their respective officers." This I consider as a mere
redundancy in the plan, as the right for which it provides would result
of itself from the office.

He is also to be authorized to grant "reprieves and pardons for offenses
against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." Humanity and
good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of
pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The
criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity,
that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt,
justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel. As the sense
of responsibility is always strongest, in proportion as it is undivided,
it may be inferred that a single man would be most ready to attend to
the force of those motives which might plead for a mitigation of the
rigor of the law, and least apt to yield to considerations which were
calculated to shelter a fit object of its vengeance. The reflection that
the fate of a fellow-creature depended on his sole fiat, would naturally
inspire scrupulousness and caution; the dread of being accused of
weakness or connivance, would beget equal circumspection, though of a
different kind. On the other hand, as men generally derive confidence
from their numbers, they might often encourage each other in an act of
obduracy, and might be less sensible to the apprehension of suspicion or
censure for an injudicious or affected clemency. On these accounts, one
man appears to be a more eligible dispenser of the mercy of government,
than a body of men.

The expediency of vesting the power of pardoning in the President has,
if I mistake not, been only contested in relation to the crime of
treason. This, it has been urged, ought to have depended upon the assent
of one, or both, of the branches of the legislative body. I shall not
deny that there are strong reasons to be assigned for requiring in this
particular the concurrence of that body, or of a part of it. As treason
is a crime levelled at the immediate being of the society, when the laws
have once ascertained the guilt of the offender, there seems a fitness
in referring the expediency of an act of mercy towards him to the
judgment of the legislature. And this ought the rather to be the case,
as the supposition of the connivance of the Chief Magistrate ought not
to be entirely excluded. But there are also strong objections to such a
plan. It is not to be doubted, that a single man of prudence and good
sense is better fitted, in delicate conjunctures, to balance the motives
which may plead for and against the remission of the punishment, than
any numerous body whatever. It deserves particular attention, that
treason will often be connected with seditions which embrace a large
proportion of the community; as lately happened in Massachusetts. In
every such case, we might expect to see the representation of the people
tainted with the same spirit which had given birth to the offense. And
when parties were pretty equally matched, the secret sympathy of the
friends and favorers of the condemned person, availing itself of the
good-nature and weakness of others, might frequently bestow impunity
where the terror of an example was necessary. On the other hand, when
the sedition had proceeded from causes which had inflamed the
resentments of the major party, they might often be found obstinate and
inexorable, when policy demanded a conduct of forbearance and clemency.
But the principal argument for reposing the power of pardoning in this
case to the Chief Magistrate is this: in seasons of insurrection or
rebellion, there are often critical moments, when a welltimed offer of
pardon to the insurgents or rebels may restore the tranquillity of the
commonwealth; and which, if suffered to pass unimproved, it may never be
possible afterwards to recall. The dilatory process of convening the
legislature, or one of its branches, for the purpose of obtaining its
sanction to the measure, would frequently be the occasion of letting
slip the golden opportunity. The loss of a week, a day, an hour, may
sometimes be fatal. If it should be observed, that a discretionary
power, with a view to such contingencies, might be occasionally
conferred upon the President, it may be answered in the first place,
that it is questionable, whether, in a limited Constitution, that power
could be delegated by law; and in the second place, that it would
generally be impolitic beforehand to take any step which might hold out
the prospect of impunity. A proceeding of this kind, out of the usual
course, would be likely to be construed into an argument of timidity or
of weakness, and would have a tendency to embolden guilt.




The Treaty-Making Power of the Executive
For the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, March 26, 1788


To the People of the State of New York:

THE President is to have power, "by and with the advice and consent of
the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the senators
present concur." Though this provision has been assailed, on different
grounds, with no small degree of vehemence, I scruple not to declare my
firm persuasion, that it is one of the best digested and most
unexceptionable parts of the plan. One ground of objection is the trite
topic of the intermixture of powers; some contending that the President
ought alone to possess the power of making treaties; others, that it
ought to have been exclusively deposited in the Senate. Another source
of objection is derived from the small number of persons by whom a
treaty may be made. Of those who espouse this objection, a part are of
opinion that the House of Representatives ought to have been associated
in the business, while another part seem to think that nothing more was
necessary than to have substituted two thirds of all the members of the
Senate, to two thirds of the members present. As I flatter myself the
observations made in a preceding number upon this part of the plan must
have sufficed to place it, to a discerning eye, in a very favorable
light, I shall here content myself with offering only some supplementary
remarks, principally with a view to the objections which have been just

With regard to the intermixture of powers, I shall rely upon the
explanations already given in other places, of the true sense of the
rule upon which that objection is founded; and shall take it for
granted, as an inference from them, that the union of the Executive with
the Senate, in the article of treaties, is no infringement of that rule.
I venture to add, that the particular nature of the power of making
treaties indicates a peculiar propriety in that union. Though several
writers on the subject of government place that power in the class of
executive authorities, yet this is evidently an arbitrary disposition;
for if we attend carefully to its operation, it will be found to partake
more of the legislative than of the executive character, though it does
not seem strictly to fall within the definition of either of them. The
essence of the legislative authority is to enact laws, or, in other
words, to prescribe rules for the regulation of the society; while the
execution of the laws, and the employment of the common strength, either
for this purpose or for the common defense, seem to comprise all the
functions of the executive magistrate. The power of making treaties is,
plainly, neither the one nor the other. It relates neither to the
execution of the subsisting laws, nor to the enaction of new ones; and
still less to an exertion of the common strength. Its objects are
CONTRACTS with foreign nations, which have the force of law, but derive
it from the obligations of good faith. They are not rules prescribed by
the sovereign to the subject, but agreements between sovereign and
sovereign. The power in question seems therefore to form a distinct
department, and to belong, properly, neither to the legislative nor to
the executive. The qualities elsewhere detailed as indispensable in the
management of foreign negotiations, point out the Executive as the most
fit agent in those transactions; while the vast importance of the trust,
and the operation of treaties as laws, plead strongly for the
participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the
office of making them.

However proper or safe it may be in governments where the executive
magistrate is an hereditary monarch, to commit to him the entire power
of making treaties, it would be utterly unsafe and improper to intrust
that power to an elective magistrate of four years' duration. It has
been remarked, upon another occasion, and the remark is unquestionably
just, that an hereditary monarch, though often the oppressor of his
people, has personally too much stake in the government to be in any
material danger of being corrupted by foreign powers. But a man raised
from the station of a private citizen to the rank of chief magistrate,
possessed of a moderate or slender fortune, and looking forward to a
period not very remote when he may probably be obliged to return to the
station from which he was taken, might sometimes be under temptations to
sacrifice his duty to his interest, which it would require superlative
virtue to withstand. An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the
interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man
might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the
price of his treachery to his constituents. The history of human conduct
does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make
it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a
kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world,
to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would
be a President of the United States.

To have intrusted the power of making treaties to the Senate alone,
would have been to relinquish the benefits of the constitutional agency
of the President in the conduct of foreign negotiations. It is true that
the Senate would, in that case, have the option of employing him in this
capacity, but they would also have the option of letting it alone, and
pique or cabal might induce the latter rather than the former. Besides
this, the ministerial servant of the Senate could not be expected to
enjoy the confidence and respect of foreign powers in the same degree
with the constitutional representatives of the nation, and, of course,
would not be able to act with an equal degree of weight or efficacy.
While the Union would, from this cause, lose a considerable advantage in
the management of its external concerns, the people would lose the
additional security which would result from the co-operation of the
Executive. Though it would be imprudent to confide in him solely so
important a trust, yet it cannot be doubted that his participation would
materially add to the safety of the society. It must indeed be clear to
a demonstration that the joint possession of the power in question, by
the President and Senate, would afford a greater prospect of security,
than the separate possession of it by either of them. And whoever has
maturely weighed the circumstances which must concur in the appointment
of a President, will be satisfied that the office will always bid fair
to be filled by men of such characters as to render their concurrence in
the formation of treaties peculiarly desirable, as well on the score of
wisdom, as on that of integrity.

The remarks made in a former number, which have been alluded to in
another part of this paper, will apply with conclusive force against the
admission of the House of Representatives to a share in the formation of
treaties. The fluctuating and, taking its future increase into the
account, the multitudinous composition of that body, forbid us to expect
in it those qualities which are essential to the proper execution of
such a trust. Accurate and comprehensive knowledge of foreign politics;
a steady and systematic adherence to the same views; a nice and uniform
sensibility to national character; decision, secrecy, and despatch, are
incompatible with the genius of a body so variable and so numerous. The
very complication of the business, by introducing a necessity of the
concurrence of so many different bodies, would of itself afford a solid
objection. The greater frequency of the calls upon the House of
Representatives, and the greater length of time which it would often be
necessary to keep them together when convened, to obtain their sanction
in the progressive stages of a treaty, would be a source of so great
inconvenience and expense as alone ought to condemn the project.

The only objection which remains to be canvassed, is that which would
substitute the proportion of two thirds of all the members composing the
senatorial body, to that of two thirds of the members present. It has
been shown, under the second head of our inquiries, that all provisions
which require more than the majority of any body to its resolutions,
have a direct tendency to embarrass the operations of the government,
and an indirect one to subject the sense of the majority to that of the
minority. This consideration seems sufficient to determine our opinion,
that the convention have gone as far in the endeavor to secure the
advantage of numbers in the formation of treaties as could have been
reconciled either with the activity of the public councils or with a
reasonable regard to the major sense of the community. If two thirds of
the whole number of members had been required, it would, in many cases,
from the non-attendance of a part, amount in practice to a necessity of
unanimity. And the history of every political establishment in which
this principle has prevailed, is a history of impotence, perplexity, and
disorder. Proofs of this position might be adduced from the examples of
the Roman Tribuneship, the Polish Diet, and the States-General of the
Netherlands, did not an example at home render foreign precedents

To require a fixed proportion of the whole body would not, in all
probability, contribute to the advantages of a numerous agency, better
then merely to require a proportion of the attending members. The
former, by making a determinate number at all times requisite to a
resolution, diminishes the motives to punctual attendance. The latter,
by making the capacity of the body to depend on a proportion which may
be varied by the absence or presence of a single member, has the
contrary effect. And as, by promoting punctuality, it tends to keep the
body complete, there is great likelihood that its resolutions would
generally be dictated by as great a number in this case as in the other;
while there would be much fewer occasions of delay. It ought not to be
forgotten that, under the existing Confederation, two members may, and
usually do, represent a State; whence it happens that Congress, who now
are solely invested with all the powers of the Union, rarely consist of
a greater number of persons than would compose the intended Senate. If
we add to this, that as the members vote by States, and that where there
is only a single member present from a State, his vote is lost, it will
justify a supposition that the active voices in the Senate, where the
members are to vote individually, would rarely fall short in number of
the active voices in the existing Congress. When, in addition to these
considerations, we take into view the co-operation of the President, we
shall not hesitate to infer that the people of America would have
greater security against an improper use of the power of making
treaties, under the new Constitution, than they now enjoy under the
Confederation. And when we proceed still one step further, and look
forward to the probable augmentation of the Senate, by the erection of
new States, we shall not only perceive ample ground of confidence in the
sufficiency of the members to whose agency that power will be intrusted,
but we shall probably be led to conclude that a body more numerous than
the Senate would be likely to become, would be very little fit for the
proper discharge of the trust.




The Appointing Power of the Executive
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, April 1, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE President is "to nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent
of the Senate, to appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and
consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the
United States whose appointments are not otherwise provided for in the
Constitution. But the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such
inferior officers as they think proper, in the President alone, or in
the courts of law, or in the heads of departments. The President shall
have power to fill up all vacancies which may happen during the recess
of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of
their next session."

It has been observed in a former paper, that "the true test of a good
government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good
administration." If the justness of this observation be admitted, the
mode of appointing the officers of the United States contained in the
foregoing clauses, must, when examined, be allowed to be entitled to
particular commendation. It is not easy to conceive a plan better
calculated than this to promote a judicious choice of men for filling
the offices of the Union; and it will not need proof, that on this point
must essentially depend the character of its administration.

It will be agreed on all hands, that the power of appointment, in
ordinary cases, ought to be modified in one of three ways. It ought
either to be vested in a single man, or in a select assembly of a
moderate number; or in a single man, with the concurrence of such an
assembly. The exercise of it by the people at large will be readily
admitted to be impracticable; as waiving every other consideration, it
would leave them little time to do anything else. When, therefore,
mention is made in the subsequent reasonings of an assembly or body of
men, what is said must be understood to relate to a select body or
assembly, of the description already given. The people collectively,
from their number and from their dispersed situation, cannot be
regulated in their movements by that systematic spirit of cabal and
intrigue, which will be urged as the chief objections to reposing the
power in question in a body of men.

Those who have themselves reflected upon the subject, or who have
attended to the observations made in other parts of these papers, in
relation to the appointment of the President, will, I presume, agree to
the position, that there would always be great probability of having the
place supplied by a man of abilities, at least respectable. Premising
this, I proceed to lay it down as a rule, that one man of discernment is
better fitted to analyze and estimate the peculiar qualities adapted to
particular offices, than a body of men of equal or perhaps even of
superior discernment.

The sole and undivided responsibility of one man will naturally beget a
livelier sense of duty and a more exact regard to reputation. He will,
on this account, feel himself under stronger obligations, and more
interested to investigate with care the qualities requisite to the
stations to be filled, and to prefer with impartiality the persons who
may have the fairest pretensions to them. He will have fewer personal
attachments to gratify, than a body of men who may each be supposed to
have an equal number; and will be so much the less liable to be misled
by the sentiments of friendship and of affection. A single well-directed
man, by a single understanding, cannot be distracted and warped by that
diversity of views, feelings, and interests, which frequently distract
and warp the resolutions of a collective body. There is nothing so apt
to agitate the passions of mankind as personal considerations whether
they relate to ourselves or to others, who are to be the objects of our
choice or preference. Hence, in every exercise of the power of
appointing to offices, by an assembly of men, we must expect to see a
full display of all the private and party likings and dislikes,
partialities and antipathies, attachments and animosities, which are
felt by those who compose the assembly. The choice which may at any time
happen to be made under such circumstances, will of course be the result
either of a victory gained by one party over the other, or of a
compromise between the parties. In either case, the intrinsic merit of
the candidate will be too often out of sight. In the first, the
qualifications best adapted to uniting the suffrages of the party, will
be more considered than those which fit the person for the station. In
the last, the coalition will commonly turn upon some interested
equivalent: "Give us the man we wish for this office, and you shall have
the one you wish for that." This will be the usual condition of the
bargain. And it will rarely happen that the advancement of the public
service will be the primary object either of party victories or of party

The truth of the principles here advanced seems to have been felt by the
most intelligent of those who have found fault with the provision made,
in this respect, by the convention. They contend that the President
ought solely to have been authorized to make the appointments under the
federal government. But it is easy to show, that every advantage to be
expected from such an arrangement would, in substance, be derived from
the power of nomination, which is proposed to be conferred upon him;
while several disadvantages which might attend the absolute power of
appointment in the hands of that officer would be avoided. In the act of
nomination, his judgment alone would be exercised; and as it would be
his sole duty to point out the man who, with the approbation of the
Senate, should fill an office, his responsibility would be as complete
as if he were to make the final appointment. There can, in this view, be
no difference between nominating and appointing. The same motives which
would influence a proper discharge of his duty in one case, would exist
in the other. And as no man could be appointed but on his previous
nomination, every man who might be appointed would be, in fact, his

But might not his nomination be overruled? I grant it might, yet this
could only be to make place for another nomination by himself. The
person ultimately appointed must be the object of his preference, though
perhaps not in the first degree. It is also not very probable that his
nomination would often be overruled. The Senate could not be tempted, by
the preference they might feel to another, to reject the one proposed;
because they could not assure themselves, that the person they might
wish would be brought forward by a second or by any subsequent
nomination. They could not even be certain, that a future nomination
would present a candidate in any degree more acceptable to them; and as
their dissent might cast a kind of stigma upon the individual rejected,
and might have the appearance of a reflection upon the judgment of the
chief magistrate, it is not likely that their sanction would often be
refused, where there were not special and strong reasons for the

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer,
that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though,
in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a
spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent
the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family
connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In
addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole
disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private
inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the
propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a
different and independent body, and that body an entier branch of the
legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to
care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of
an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a
spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the
observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming
that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one
and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward,
for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no
other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he
particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally
allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy
to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

To this reasoning it has been objected that the President, by the
influence of the power of nomination, may secure the complaisance of the
Senate to his views. This supposition of universal venalty in human
nature is little less an error in political reasoning, than the
supposition of universal rectitude. The institution of delegated power
implies, that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind,
which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence; and experience
justifies the theory. It has been found to exist in the most corrupt
periods of the most corrupt governments. The venalty of the British
House of Commons has been long a topic of accusation against that body,
in the country to which they belong as well as in this; and it cannot be
doubted that the charge is, to a considerable extent, well founded. But
it is as little to be doubted, that there is always a large proportion
of the body, which consists of independent and public-spirited men, who
have an influential weight in the councils of the nation. Hence it is
(the present reign not excepted) that the sense of that body is often
seen to control the inclinations of the monarch, both with regard to men
and to measures. Though it might therefore be allowable to suppose that
the Executive might occasionally influence some individuals in the
Senate, yet the supposition, that he could in general purchase the
integrity of the whole body, would be forced and improbable. A man
disposed to view human nature as it is, without either flattering its
virtues or exaggerating its vices, will see sufficient ground of
confidence in the probity of the Senate, to rest satisfied, not only
that it will be impracticable to the Executive to corrupt or seduce a
majority of its members, but that the necessity of its co-operation, in
the business of appointments, will be a considerable and salutary
restraint upon the conduct of that magistrate. Nor is the integrity of
the Senate the only reliance. The Constitution has provided some
important guards against the danger of executive influence upon the
legislative body: it declares that "No senator or representative shall
during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil
office under the United States, which shall have been created, or the
emoluments whereof shall have been increased, during such time; and no
person, holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of
either house during his continuance in office."




The Appointing Power Continued and Other Powers of the Executive
From the Independent Journal.
Wednesday, April 2, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

IT HAS been mentioned as one of the advantages to be expected from the
co-operation of the Senate, in the business of appointments, that it
would contribute to the stability of the administration. The consent of
that body would be necessary to displace as well as to appoint. A change
of the Chief Magistrate, therefore, would not occasion so violent or so
general a revolution in the officers of the government as might be
expected, if he were the sole disposer of offices. Where a man in any
station had given satisfactory evidence of his fitness for it, a new
President would be restrained from attempting a change in favor of a
person more agreeable to him, by the apprehension that a discountenance
of the Senate might frustrate the attempt, and bring some degree of
discredit upon himself. Those who can best estimate the value of a
steady administration, will be most disposed to prize a provision which
connects the official existence of public men with the approbation or
disapprobation of that body which, from the greater permanency of its
own composition, will in all probability be less subject to inconstancy
than any other member of the government.

To this union of the Senate with the President, in the article of
appointments, it has in some cases been suggested that it would serve to
give the President an undue influence over the Senate, and in others
that it would have an opposite tendency -- a strong proof that neither
suggestion is true.

To state the first in its proper form, is to refute it. It amounts to
this: the President would have an improper influence over the Senate,
because the Senate would have the power of restraining him. This is an
absurdity in terms. It cannot admit of a doubt that the entire power of
appointment would enable him much more effectually to establish a
dangerous empire over that body, than a mere power of nomination subject
to their control.

Let us take a view of the converse of the proposition: "the Senate would
influence the Executive." As I have had occasion to remark in several
other instances, the indistinctness of the objection forbids a precise
answer. In what manner is this influence to be exerted? In relation to
what objects? The power of influencing a person, in the sense in which
it is here used, must imply a power of conferring a benefit upon him.
How could the Senate confer a benefit upon the President by the manner
of employing their right of negative upon his nominations? If it be said
they might sometimes gratify him by an acquiescence in a favorite
choice, when public motives might dictate a different conduct, I answer,
that the instances in which the President could be personally interested
in the result, would be too few to admit of his being materially
affected by the compliances of the Senate. The POWER which can originate
the disposition of honors and emoluments, is more likely to attract than
to be attracted by the POWER which can merely obstruct their course. If
by influencing the President be meant restraining him, this is precisely
what must have been intended. And it has been shown that the restraint
would be salutary, at the same time that it would not be such as to
destroy a single advantage to be looked for from the uncontrolled agency
of that Magistrate. The right of nomination would produce all the [good,
without the ill.][E1] [good of that of appointment, and would in a great
measure avoid its evils.][E1]

Upon a comparison of the plan for the appointment of the officers of the
proposed government with that which is established by the constitution
of this State, a decided preference must be given to the former. In that
plan the power of nomination is unequivocally vested in the Executive.
And as there would be a necessity for submitting each nomination to the
judgment of an entire branch of the legislature, the circumstances
attending an appointment, from the mode of conducting it, would
naturally become matters of notoriety; and the public would be at no
loss to determine what part had been performed by the different actors.
The blame of a bad nomination would fall upon the President singly and
absolutely. The censure of rejecting a good one would lie entirely at
the door of the Senate; aggravated by the consideration of their having
counteracted the good intentions of the Executive. If an ill appointment
should be made, the Executive for nominating, and the Senate for
approving, would participate, though in different degrees, in the
opprobrium and disgrace.

The reverse of all this characterizes the manner of appointment in this
State. The council of appointment consists of from three to five
persons, of whom the governor is always one. This small body, shut up in
a private apartment, impenetrable to the public eye, proceed to the
execution of the trust committed to them. It is known that the governor
claims the right of nomination, upon the strength of some ambiguous
expressions in the constitution; but it is not known to what extent, or
in what manner he exercises it; nor upon what occasions he is
contradicted or opposed. The censure of a bad appointment, on account of
the uncertainty of its author, and for want of a determinate object, has
neither poignancy nor duration. And while an unbounded field for cabal
and intrigue lies open, all idea of responsibility is lost. The most
that the public can know, is that the governor claims the right of
nomination; that two out of the inconsiderable number of four men can
too often be managed without much difficulty; that if some of the
members of a particular council should happen to be of an uncomplying
character, it is frequently not impossible to get rid of their
opposition by regulating the times of meeting in such a manner as to
render their attendance inconvenient; and that from whatever cause it
may proceed, a great number of very improper appointments are from time
to time made. Whether a governor of this State avails himself of the
ascendant he must necessarily have, in this delicate and important part
of the administration, to prefer to offices men who are best qualified
for them, or whether he prostitutes that advantage to the advancement of
persons whose chief merit is their implicit devotion to his will, and to
the support of a despicable and dangerous system of personal influence,
are questions which, unfortunately for the community, can only be the
subjects of speculation and conjecture.

Every mere council of appointment, however constituted, will be a
conclave, in which cabal and intrigue will have their full scope. Their
number, without an unwarrantable increase of expense, cannot be large
enough to preclude a facility of combination. And as each member will
have his friends and connections to provide for, the desire of mutual
gratification will beget a scandalous bartering of votes and bargaining
for places. The private attachments of one man might easily be
satisfied; but to satisfy the private attachments of a dozen, or of
twenty men, would occasion a monopoly of all the principal employments
of the government in a few families, and would lead more directly to an
aristocracy or an oligarchy than any measure that could be contrived.
If, to avoid an accumulation of offices, there was to be a frequent
change in the persons who were to compose the council, this would
involve the mischiefs of a mutable administration in their full extent.
Such a council would also be more liable to executive influence than the
Senate, because they would be fewer in number, and would act less
immediately under the public inspection. Such a council, in fine, as a
substitute for the plan of the convention, would be productive of an
increase of expense, a multiplication of the evils which spring from
favoritism and intrigue in the distribution of public honors, a decrease
of stability in the administration of the government, and a diminution
of the security against an undue influence of the Executive. And yet
such a council has been warmly contended for as an essential amendment
in the proposed Constitution.

I could not with propriety conclude my observations on the subject of
appointments without taking notice of a scheme for which there have
appeared some, though but few advocates; I mean that of uniting the
House of Representatives in the power of making them. I shall, however,
do little more than mention it, as I cannot imagine that it is likely to
gain the countenance of any considerable part of the community. A body
so fluctuating and at the same time so numerous, can never be deemed
proper for the exercise of that power. Its unfitness will appear
manifest to all, when it is recollected that in half a century it may
consist of three or four hundred persons. All the advantages of the
stability, both of the Executive and of the Senate, would be defeated by
this union, and infinite delays and embarrassments would be occasioned.
The example of most of the States in their local constitutions
encourages us to reprobate the idea.

The only remaining powers of the Executive are comprehended in giving
information to Congress of the state of the Union; in recommending to
their consideration such measures as he shall judge expedient; in
convening them, or either branch, upon extraordinary occasions; in
adjourning them when they cannot themselves agree upon the time of
adjournment; in receiving ambassadors and other public ministers; in
faithfully executing the laws; and in commissioning all the officers of
the United States.

Except some cavils about the power of convening either house of the
legislature, and that of receiving ambassadors, no objection has been
made to this class of authorities; nor could they possibly admit of any.
It required, indeed, an insatiable avidity for censure to invent
exceptions to the parts which have been excepted to. In regard to the
power of convening either house of the legislature, I shall barely
remark, that in respect to the Senate at least, we can readily discover
a good reason for it. AS this body has a concurrent power with the
Executive in the article of treaties, it might often be necessary to
call it together with a view to this object, when it would be
unnecessary and improper to convene the House of Representatives. As to
the reception of ambassadors, what I have said in a former paper will
furnish a sufficient answer.

We have now completed a survey of the structure and powers of the
executive department, which, I have endeavored to show, combines, as far
as republican principles will admit, all the requisites to energy. The
remaining inquiry is: Does it also combine the requisites to safety, in
a republican sense -- a due dependence on the people, a due
responsibility? The answer to this question has been anticipated in the
investigation of its other characteristics, and is satisfactorily
deducible from these circumstances; from the election of the President
once in four years by persons immediately chosen by the people for that
purpose; and from his being at all times liable to impeachment, trial,
dismission from office, incapacity to serve in any other, and to
forfeiture of life and estate by subsequent prosecution in the common
course of law. But these precautions, great as they are, are not the
only ones which the plan of the convention has provided in favor of the
public security. In the only instances in which the abuse of the
executive authority was materially to be feared, the Chief Magistrate of
the United States would, by that plan, be subjected to the control of a
branch of the legislative body. What more could be desired by an
enlightened and reasonable people?


E1. These two alternate endings of this sentence appear in different



The Judiciary Department
From McLEAN'S Edition, New York.
Wednesday, May 28, 1788


To the People of the State of New York:

WE PROCEED now to an examination of the judiciary department of the
proposed government.

In unfolding the defects of the existing Confederation, the utility and
necessity of a federal judicature have been clearly pointed out. It is
the less necessary to recapitulate the considerations there urged, as
the propriety of the institution in the abstract is not disputed; the
only questions which have been raised being relative to the manner of
constituting it, and to its extent. To these points, therefore, our
observations shall be confined.

The manner of constituting it seems to embrace these several objects:
1st. The mode of appointing the judges. 2d. The tenure by which they are
to hold their places. 3d. The partition of the judiciary authority
between different courts, and their relations to each other.

First. As to the mode of appointing the judges; this is the same with
that of appointing the officers of the Union in general, and has been so
fully discussed in the two last numbers, that nothing can be said here
which would not be useless repetition.

Second. As to the tenure by which the judges are to hold their places;
this chiefly concerns their duration in office; the provisions for their
support; the precautions for their responsibility.

According to the plan of the convention, all judges who may be appointed
by the United States are to hold their offices during good behavior;
which is conformable to the most approved of the State constitutions and
among the rest, to that of this State. Its propriety having been drawn
into question by the adversaries of that plan, is no light symptom of
the rage for objection, which disorders their imaginations and
judgments. The standard of good behavior for the continuance in office
of the judicial magistracy, is certainly one of the most valuable of the
modern improvements in the practice of government. In a monarchy it is
an excellent barrier to the despotism of the prince; in a republic it is
a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the
representative body. And it is the best expedient which can be devised
in any government, to secure a steady, upright, and impartial
administration of the laws.

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must
perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each
other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be
the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because
it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive
not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The
legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by
which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The
judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or
the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the
society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be
said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must
ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the
efficacy of its judgments.

This simple view of the matter suggests several important consequences.
It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the
weakest of the three departments of power[1]; that it can never attack
with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is
requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It
equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then
proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people
can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the
judiciary remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the
Executive. For I agree, that "there is no liberty, if the power of
judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers."[2]
And it proves, in the last place, that as liberty can have nothing to
fear from the judiciary alone, but would have every thing to fear from
its union with either of the other departments; that as all the effects
of such a union must ensue from a dependence of the former on the
latter, notwithstanding a nominal and apparent separation; that as, from
the natural feebleness of the judiciary, it is in continual jeopardy of
being overpowered, awed, or influenced by its co-ordinate branches; and
that as nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence
as permanency in office, this quality may therefore be justly regarded
as an indispensable ingredient in its constitution, and, in a great
measure, as the citadel of the public justice and the public security.

The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly
essential in a limited Constitution. By a limited Constitution, I
understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the
legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no
bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like. Limitations of
this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the
medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts
contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this,
all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to

Some perplexity respecting the rights of the courts to pronounce
legislative acts void, because contrary to the Constitution, has arisen
from an imagination that the doctrine would imply a superiority of the
judiciary to the legislative power. It is urged that the authority which
can declare the acts of another void, must necessarily be superior to
the one whose acts may be declared void. As this doctrine is of great
importance in all the American constitutions, a brief discussion of the
ground on which it rests cannot be unacceptable.

There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that
every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the
commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act,
therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this,
would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that
the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people
are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of
powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what
they forbid.

If it be said that the legislative body are themselves the
constitutional judges of their own powers, and that the construction
they put upon them is conclusive upon the other departments, it may be
answered, that this cannot be the natural presumption, where it is not
to be collected from any particular provisions in the Constitution. It
is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to
enable the representatives of the people to substitute their will to
that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the
courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and
the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within
the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws
is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in
fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It
therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the
meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If
there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two,
that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to
be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred
to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their

Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the
judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of
the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the
legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of
the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be
governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate
their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are
not fundamental.

This exercise of judicial discretion, in determining between two
contradictory laws, is exemplified in a familiar instance. It not
uncommonly happens, that there are two statutes existing at one time,
clashing in whole or in part with each other, and neither of them
containing any repealing clause or expression. In such a case, it is the
province of the courts to liquidate and fix their meaning and operation.
So far as they can, by any fair construction, be reconciled to each
other, reason and law conspire to dictate that this should be done;
where this is impracticable, it becomes a matter of necessity to give
effect to one, in exclusion of the other. The rule which has obtained in
the courts for determining their relative validity is, that the last in
order of time shall be preferred to the first. But this is a mere rule
of construction, not derived from any positive law, but from the nature
and reason of the thing. It is a rule not enjoined upon the courts by
legislative provision, but adopted by themselves, as consonant to truth
and propriety, for the direction of their conduct as interpreters of the
law. They thought it reasonable, that between the interfering acts of an
EQUAL authority, that which was the last indication of its will should
have the preference.

But in regard to the interfering acts of a superior and subordinate
authority, of an original and derivative power, the nature and reason of
the thing indicate the converse of that rule as proper to be followed.
They teach us that the prior act of a superior ought to be preferred to
the subsequent act of an inferior and subordinate authority; and that
accordingly, whenever a particular statute contravenes the Constitution,
it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter
and disregard the former.

It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a
repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional
intentions of the legislature. This might as well happen in the case of
two contradictory statutes; or it might as well happen in every
adjudication upon any single statute. The courts must declare the sense
of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of
JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their
pleasure to that of the legislative body. The observation, if it prove
any thing, would prove that there ought to be no judges distinct from
that body.

If, then, the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of
a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments, this
consideration will afford a strong argument for the permanent tenure of
judicial offices, since nothing will contribute so much as this to that
independent spirit in the judges which must be essential to the faithful
performance of so arduous a duty.

This independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the
Constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill
humors, which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular
conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people themselves, and
which, though they speedily give place to better information, and more
deliberate reflection, have a tendency, in the meantime, to occasion
dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the
minor party in the community. Though I trust the friends of the proposed
Constitution will never concur with its enemies,[3] in questioning that
fundamental principle of republican government, which admits the right
of the people to alter or abolish the established Constitution, whenever
they find it inconsistent with their happiness, yet it is not to be
inferred from this principle, that the representatives of the people,
whenever a momentary inclination happens to lay hold of a majority of
their constituents, incompatible with the provisions in the existing
Constitution, would, on that account, be justifiable in a violation of
those provisions; or that the courts would be under a greater obligation
to connive at infractions in this shape, than when they had proceeded
wholly from the cabals of the representative body. Until the people
have, by some solemn and authoritative act, annulled or changed the
established form, it is binding upon themselves collectively, as well as
individually; and no presumption, or even knowledge, of their
sentiments, can warrant their representatives in a departure from it,
prior to such an act. But it is easy to see, that it would require an
uncommon portion of fortitude in the judges to do their duty as faithful
guardians of the Constitution, where legislative invasions of it had
been instigated by the major voice of the community.

But it is not with a view to infractions of the Constitution only, that
the independence of the judges may be an essential safeguard against the
effects of occasional ill humors in the society. These sometimes extend
no farther than to the injury of the private rights of particular
classes of citizens, by unjust and partial laws. Here also the firmness
of the judicial magistracy is of vast importance in mitigating the
severity and confining the operation of such laws. It not only serves to
moderate the immediate mischiefs of those which may have been passed,
but it operates as a check upon the legislative body in passing them;
who, perceiving that obstacles to the success of iniquitous intention
are to be expected from the scruples of the courts, are in a manner
compelled, by the very motives of the injustice they meditate, to
qualify their attempts. This is a circumstance calculated to have more
influence upon the character of our governments, than but few may be
aware of. The benefits of the integrity and moderation of the judiciary
have already been felt in more States than one; and though they may have
displeased those whose sinister expectations they may have disappointed,
they must have commanded the esteem and applause of all the virtuous and
disinterested. Considerate men, of every description, ought to prize
whatever will tend to beget or fortify that temper in the courts: as no
man can be sure that he may not be to-morrow the victim of a spirit of
injustice, by which he may be a gainer to-day. And every man must now
feel, that the inevitable tendency of such a spirit is to sap the
foundations of public and private confidence, and to introduce in its
stead universal distrust and distress.

That inflexible and uniform adherence to the rights of the Constitution,
and of individuals, which we perceive to be indispensable in the courts
of justice, can certainly not be expected from judges who hold their
offices by a temporary commission. Periodical appointments, however
regulated, or by whomsoever made, would, in some way or other, be fatal
to their necessary independence. If the power of making them was
committed either to the Executive or legislature, there would be danger
of an improper complaisance to the branch which possessed it; if to
both, there would be an unwillingness to hazard the displeasure of
either; if to the people, or to persons chosen by them for the special
purpose, there would be too great a disposition to consult popularity,
to justify a reliance that nothing would be consulted but the
Constitution and the laws.

There is yet a further and a weightier reason for the permanency of the
judicial offices, which is deducible from the nature of the
qualifications they require. It has been frequently remarked, with great
propriety, that a voluminous code of laws is one of the inconveniences
necessarily connected with the advantages of a free government. To avoid
an arbitrary discretion in the courts, it is indispensable that they
should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to
define and point out their duty in every particular case that comes
before them; and it will readily be conceived from the variety of
controversies which grow out of the folly and wickedness of mankind,
that the records of those precedents must unavoidably swell to a very
considerable bulk, and must demand long and laborious study to acquire a
competent knowledge of them. Hence it is, that there can be but few men
in the society who will have sufficient skill in the laws to qualify
them for the stations of judges. And making the proper deductions for
the ordinary depravity of human nature, the number must be still smaller
of those who unite the requisite integrity with the requisite knowledge.
These considerations apprise us, that the government can have no great
option between fit character; and that a temporary duration in office,
which would naturally discourage such characters from quitting a
lucrative line of practice to accept a seat on the bench, would have a
tendency to throw the administration of justice into hands less able,
and less well qualified, to conduct it with utility and dignity. In the
present circumstances of this country, and in those in which it is
likely to be for a long time to come, the disadvantages on this score
would be greater than they may at first sight appear; but it must be
confessed, that they are far inferior to those which present themselves
under the other aspects of the subject.

Upon the whole, there can be no room to doubt that the convention acted
wisely in copying from the models of those constitutions which have
established good behavior as the tenure of their judicial offices, in
point of duration; and that so far from being blamable on this account,
their plan would have been inexcusably defective, if it had wanted this
important feature of good government. The experience of Great Britain
affords an illustrious comment on the excellence of the institution.


1. The celebrated Montesquieu, speaking of them, says: "Of the three
powers above mentioned, the judiciary is next to nothing." -- Spirit of
Laws. Vol. I, page 186.

2. Idem, page 181.

3. Vide Protest of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania,
Martin's Speech, etc.



The Judiciary Continued
From MCLEAN's Edition, New York.
Wednesday, May 28, 1788


To the People of the State of New York:

NEXT to permanency in office, nothing can contribute more to the
independence of the judges than a fixed provision for their support. The
remark made in relation to the President is equally applicable here. In
the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence
amounts to a power over his will. And we can never hope to see realized
in practice, the complete separation of the judicial from the
legislative power, in any system which leaves the former dependent for
pecuniary resources on the occasional grants of the latter. The
enlightened friends to good government in every State, have seen cause
to lament the want of precise and explicit precautions in the State
constitutions on this head. Some of these indeed have declared that
permanent[1] salaries should be established for the judges; but the
experiment has in some instances shown that such expressions are not
sufficiently definite to preclude legislative evasions. Something still
more positive and unequivocal has been evinced to be requisite. The plan
of the convention accordingly has provided that the judges of the United
States "shall at stated times receive for their services a compensation
which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office."

This, all circumstances considered, is the most eligible provision that
could have been devised. It will readily be understood that the
fluctuations in the value of money and in the state of society rendered
a fixed rate of compensation in the Constitution inadmissible. What
might be extravagant to-day, might in half a century become penurious
and inadequate. It was therefore necessary to leave it to the discretion
of the legislature to vary its provisions in conformity to the
variations in circumstances, yet under such restrictions as to put it
out of the power of that body to change the condition of the individual
for the worse. A man may then be sure of the ground upon which he
stands, and can never be deterred from his duty by the apprehension of
being placed in a less eligible situation. The clause which has been
quoted combines both advantages. The salaries of judicial officers may
from time to time be altered, as occasion shall require, yet so as never
to lessen the allowance with which any particular judge comes into
office, in respect to him. It will be observed that a difference has
been made by the convention between the compensation of the President
and of the judges, That of the former can neither be increased nor
diminished; that of the latter can only not be diminished. This probably
arose from the difference in the duration of the respective offices. As
the President is to be elected for no more than four years, it can
rarely happen that an adequate salary, fixed at the commencement of that
period, will not continue to be such to its end. But with regard to the
judges, who, if they behave properly, will be secured in their places
for life, it may well happen, especially in the early stages of the
government, that a stipend, which would be very sufficient at their
first appointment, would become too small in the progress of their

This provision for the support of the judges bears every mark of
prudence and efficacy; and it may be safely affirmed that, together with
the permanent tenure of their offices, it affords a better prospect of
their independence than is discoverable in the constitutions of any of
the States in regard to their own judges.

The precautions for their responsibility are comprised in the article
respecting impeachments. They are liable to be impeached for malconduct
by the House of Representatives, and tried by the Senate; and, if
convicted, may be dismissed from office, and disqualified for holding
any other. This is the only provision on the point which is consistent
with the necessary independence of the judicial character, and is the
only one which we find in our own Constitution in respect to our own

The want of a provision for removing the judges on account of inability
has been a subject of complaint. But all considerate men will be
sensible that such a provision would either not be practiced upon or
would be more liable to abuse than calculated to answer any good
purpose. The mensuration of the faculties of the mind has, I believe, no
place in the catalogue of known arts. An attempt to fix the boundary
between the regions of ab