Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Part 2 out of 10

Adobe PDF icon
Download - Full Text Free Book (Part 2/10) pdf
File size: 1.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

millions of people--increasing in rapid progression, for the most
part exclusively addicted to agriculture, and likely from local
circumstances to remain so--to any manufacturing nation; and the
immense difference there would be to the trade and navigation of
such a nation, between a direct communication in its own ships, and
an indirect conveyance of its products and returns, to and from
America, in the ships of another country. Suppose, for instance, we
had a government in America, capable of excluding Great Britain
(with whom we have at present no treaty of commerce) from all our
ports; what would be the probable operation of this step upon her
politics? Would it not enable us to negotiate, with the fairest
prospect of success, for commercial privileges of the most valuable
and extensive kind, in the dominions of that kingdom? When these
questions have been asked, upon other occasions, they have received
a plausible, but not a solid or satisfactory answer. It has been
said that prohibitions on our part would produce no change in the
system of Britain, because she could prosecute her trade with us
through the medium of the Dutch, who would be her immediate
customers and paymasters for those articles which were wanted for
the supply of our markets. But would not her navigation be
materially injured by the loss of the important advantage of being
her own carrier in that trade? Would not the principal part of its
profits be intercepted by the Dutch, as a compensation for their
agency and risk? Would not the mere circumstance of freight
occasion a considerable deduction? Would not so circuitous an
intercourse facilitate the competitions of other nations, by
enhancing the price of British commodities in our markets, and by
transferring to other hands the management of this interesting
branch of the British commerce?
A mature consideration of the objects suggested by these
questions will justify a belief that the real disadvantages to
Britain from such a state of things, conspiring with the
pre-possessions of a great part of the nation in favor of the
American trade, and with the importunities of the West India
islands, would produce a relaxation in her present system, and would
let us into the enjoyment of privileges in the markets of those
islands elsewhere, from which our trade would derive the most
substantial benefits. Such a point gained from the British
government, and which could not be expected without an equivalent in
exemptions and immunities in our markets, would be likely to have a
correspondent effect on the conduct of other nations, who would not
be inclined to see themselves altogether supplanted in our trade.
A further resource for influencing the conduct of European
nations toward us, in this respect, would arise from the
establishment of a federal navy. There can be no doubt that the
continuance of the Union under an efficient government would put it
in our power, at a period not very distant, to create a navy which,
if it could not vie with those of the great maritime powers, would
at least be of respectable weight if thrown into the scale of either
of two contending parties. This would be more peculiarly the case
in relation to operations in the West Indies. A few ships of the
line, sent opportunely to the reinforcement of either side, would
often be sufficient to decide the fate of a campaign, on the event
of which interests of the greatest magnitude were suspended. Our
position is, in this respect, a most commanding one. And if to this
consideration we add that of the usefulness of supplies from this
country, in the prosecution of military operations in the West
Indies, it will readily be perceived that a situation so favorable
would enable us to bargain with great advantage for commercial
privileges. A price would be set not only upon our friendship, but
upon our neutrality. By a steady adherence to the Union we may
hope, erelong, to become the arbiter of Europe in America, and to be
able to incline the balance of European competitions in this part of
the world as our interest may dictate.
But in the reverse of this eligible situation, we shall discover
that the rivalships of the parts would make them checks upon each
other, and would frustrate all the tempting advantages which nature
has kindly placed within our reach. In a state so insignificant our
commerce would be a prey to the wanton intermeddlings of all nations
at war with each other; who, having nothing to fear from us, would
with little scruple or remorse, supply their wants by depredations
on our property as often as it fell in their way. The rights of
neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an
adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even
the privilege of being neutral.
Under a vigorous national government, the natural strength and
resources of the country, directed to a common interest, would
baffle all the combinations of European jealousy to restrain our
growth. This situation would even take away the motive to such
combinations, by inducing an impracticability of success. An active
commerce, an extensive navigation, and a flourishing marine would
then be the offspring of moral and physical necessity. We might
defy the little arts of the little politicians to control or vary
the irresistible and unchangeable course of nature.
But in a state of disunion, these combinations might exist and
might operate with success. It would be in the power of the
maritime nations, availing themselves of our universal impotence, to
prescribe the conditions of our political existence; and as they
have a common interest in being our carriers, and still more in
preventing our becoming theirs, they would in all probability
combine to embarrass our navigation in such a manner as would in
effect destroy it, and confine us to a PASSIVE COMMERCE. We should
then be compelled to content ourselves with the first price of our
commodities, and to see the profits of our trade snatched from us to
enrich our enemies and persecutors. That unequaled spirit of
enterprise, which signalizes the genius of the American merchants
and navigators, and which is in itself an inexhaustible mine of
national wealth, would be stifled and lost, and poverty and disgrace
would overspread a country which, with wisdom, might make herself
the admiration and envy of the world.
There are rights of great moment to the trade of America which
are rights of the Union--I allude to the fisheries, to the navigation
of the Western lakes, and to that of the Mississippi. The
dissolution of the Confederacy would give room for delicate
questions concerning the future existence of these rights; which
the interest of more powerful partners would hardly fail to solve to
our disadvantage. The disposition of Spain with regard to the
Mississippi needs no comment. France and Britain are concerned with
us in the fisheries, and view them as of the utmost moment to their
navigation. They, of course, would hardly remain long indifferent
to that decided mastery, of which experience has shown us to be
possessed in this valuable branch of traffic, and by which we are
able to undersell those nations in their own markets. What more
natural than that they should be disposed to exclude from the lists
such dangerous competitors?
This branch of trade ought not to be considered as a partial
benefit. All the navigating States may, in different degrees,
advantageously participate in it, and under circumstances of a
greater extension of mercantile capital, would not be unlikely to do
it. As a nursery of seamen, it now is, or when time shall have more
nearly assimilated the principles of navigation in the several
States, will become, a universal resource. To the establishment of
a navy, it must be indispensable.
To this great national object, a NAVY, union will contribute in
various ways. Every institution will grow and flourish in
proportion to the quantity and extent of the means concentred
towards its formation and support. A navy of the United States, as
it would embrace the resources of all, is an object far less remote
than a navy of any single State or partial confederacy, which would
only embrace the resources of a single part. It happens, indeed,
that different portions of confederated America possess each some
peculiar advantage for this essential establishment. The more
southern States furnish in greater abundance certain kinds of naval
stores--tar, pitch, and turpentine. Their wood for the construction
of ships is also of a more solid and lasting texture. The
difference in the duration of the ships of which the navy might be
composed, if chiefly constructed of Southern wood, would be of
signal importance, either in the view of naval strength or of
national economy. Some of the Southern and of the Middle States
yield a greater plenty of iron, and of better quality. Seamen must
chiefly be drawn from the Northern hive. The necessity of naval
protection to external or maritime commerce does not require a
particular elucidation, no more than the conduciveness of that
species of commerce to the prosperity of a navy.
An unrestrained intercourse between the States themselves will
advance the trade of each by an interchange of their respective
productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants at home,
but for exportation to foreign markets. The veins of commerce in
every part will be replenished, and will acquire additional motion
and vigor from a free circulation of the commodities of every part.
Commercial enterprise will have much greater scope, from the
diversity in the productions of different States. When the staple
of one fails from a bad harvest or unproductive crop, it can call to
its aid the staple of another. The variety, not less than the
value, of products for exportation contributes to the activity of
foreign commerce. It can be conducted upon much better terms with a
large number of materials of a given value than with a small number
of materials of the same value; arising from the competitions of
trade and from the fluctations of markets. Particular articles may
be in great demand at certain periods, and unsalable at others; but
if there be a variety of articles, it can scarcely happen that they
should all be at one time in the latter predicament, and on this
account the operations of the merchant would be less liable to any
considerable obstruction or stagnation. The speculative trader will
at once perceive the force of these observations, and will
acknowledge that the aggregate balance of the commerce of the United
States would bid fair to be much more favorable than that of the
thirteen States without union or with partial unions.
It may perhaps be replied to this, that whether the States are
united or disunited, there would still be an intimate intercourse
between them which would answer the same ends; this intercourse
would be fettered, interrupted, and narrowed by a multiplicity of
causes, which in the course of these papers have been amply detailed.
A unity of commercial, as well as political, interests, can only
result from a unity of government.
There are other points of view in which this subject might be
placed, of a striking and animating kind. But they would lead us
too far into the regions of futurity, and would involve topics not
proper for a newspaper discussion. I shall briefly observe, that
our situation invites and our interests prompt us to aim at an
ascendant in the system of American affairs. The world may
politically, as well as geographically, be divided into four parts,
each having a distinct set of interests. Unhappily for the other
three, Europe, by her arms and by her negotiations, by force and by
fraud, has, in different degrees, extended her dominion over them
all. Africa, Asia, and America, have successively felt her
domination. The superiority she has long maintained has tempted her
to plume herself as the Mistress of the World, and to consider the
rest of mankind as created for her benefit. Men admired as profound
philosophers have, in direct terms, attributed to her inhabitants a
physical superiority, and have gravely asserted that all animals,
and with them the human species, degenerate in America--that even
dogs cease to bark after having breathed awhile in our
atmosphere.1 Facts have too long supported these arrogant
pretensions of the Europeans. It belongs to us to vindicate the
honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother,
moderation. Union will enable us to do it. Disunion will will add
another victim to his triumphs. Let Americans disdain to be the
instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen States, bound
together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one
great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic
force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection
between the old and the new world!
``Recherches philosophiques sur les Americains.''


The Utility of the Union In Respect to Revenue
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, November 27, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE effects of Union upon the commercial prosperity of the
States have been sufficiently delineated. Its tendency to promote
the interests of revenue will be the subject of our present inquiry.
The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by
all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most
productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a
primary object of their political cares. By multiplying the means of
gratification, by promoting the introduction and circulation of the
precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice and
enterprise, it serves to vivify and invigorate the channels of
industry, and to make them flow with greater activity and
copiousness. The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the
active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer,--all orders of
men, look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to
this pleasing reward of their toils. The often-agitated question
between agriculture and commerce has, from indubitable experience,
received a decision which has silenced the rivalship that once
subsisted between them, and has proved, to the satisfaction of their
friends, that their interests are intimately blended and interwoven.
It has been found in various countries that, in proportion as
commerce has flourished, land has risen in value. And how could it
have happened otherwise? Could that which procures a freer vent for
the products of the earth, which furnishes new incitements to the
cultivation of land, which is the most powerful instrument in
increasing the quantity of money in a state--could that, in fine,
which is the faithful handmaid of labor and industry, in every
shape, fail to augment that article, which is the prolific parent of
far the greatest part of the objects upon which they are exerted?
It is astonishing that so simple a truth should ever have had an
adversary; and it is one, among a multitude of proofs, how apt a
spirit of ill-informed jealousy, or of too great abstraction and
refinement, is to lead men astray from the plainest truths of reason
and conviction.
The ability of a country to pay taxes must always be
proportioned, in a great degree, to the quantity of money in
circulation, and to the celerity with which it circulates.
Commerce, contributing to both these objects, must of necessity
render the payment of taxes easier, and facilitate the requisite
supplies to the treasury. The hereditary dominions of the Emperor
of Germany contain a great extent of fertile, cultivated, and
populous territory, a large proportion of which is situated in mild
and luxuriant climates. In some parts of this territory are to be
found the best gold and silver mines in Europe. And yet, from the
want of the fostering influence of commerce, that monarch can boast
but slender revenues. He has several times been compelled to owe
obligations to the pecuniary succors of other nations for the
preservation of his essential interests, and is unable, upon the
strength of his own resources, to sustain a long or continued war.
But it is not in this aspect of the subject alone that Union
will be seen to conduce to the purpose of revenue. There are other
points of view, in which its influence will appear more immediate
and decisive. It is evident from the state of the country, from the
habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point
itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums
by direct taxation. Tax laws have in vain been multiplied; new
methods to enforce the collection have in vain been tried; the
public expectation has been uniformly disappointed, and the
treasuries of the States have remained empty. The popular system of
administration inherent in the nature of popular government,
coinciding with the real scarcity of money incident to a languid and
mutilated state of trade, has hitherto defeated every experiment for
extensive collections, and has at length taught the different
legislatures the folly of attempting them.
No person acquainted with what happens in other countries will
be surprised at this circumstance. In so opulent a nation as that
of Britain, where direct taxes from superior wealth must be much
more tolerable, and, from the vigor of the government, much more
practicable, than in America, far the greatest part of the national
revenue is derived from taxes of the indirect kind, from imposts,
and from excises. Duties on imported articles form a large branch
of this latter description.
In America, it is evident that we must a long time depend for
the means of revenue chiefly on such duties. In most parts of it,
excises must be confined within a narrow compass. The genius of the
people will ill brook the inquisitive and peremptory spirit of
excise laws. The pockets of the farmers, on the other hand, will
reluctantly yield but scanty supplies, in the unwelcome shape of
impositions on their houses and lands; and personal property is too
precarious and invisible a fund to be laid hold of in any other way
than by the inperceptible agency of taxes on consumption.
If these remarks have any foundation, that state of things which
will best enable us to improve and extend so valuable a resource
must be best adapted to our political welfare. And it cannot admit
of a serious doubt, that this state of things must rest on the basis
of a general Union. As far as this would be conducive to the
interests of commerce, so far it must tend to the extension of the
revenue to be drawn from that source. As far as it would contribute
to rendering regulations for the collection of the duties more
simple and efficacious, so far it must serve to answer the purposes
of making the same rate of duties more productive, and of putting it
into the power of the government to increase the rate without
prejudice to trade.
The relative situation of these States; the number of rivers
with which they are intersected, and of bays that wash there shores;
the facility of communication in every direction; the affinity of
language and manners; the familiar habits of intercourse; --all
these are circumstances that would conspire to render an illicit
trade between them a matter of little difficulty, and would insure
frequent evasions of the commercial regulations of each other. The
separate States or confederacies would be necessitated by mutual
jealousy to avoid the temptations to that kind of trade by the
lowness of their duties. The temper of our governments, for a long
time to come, would not permit those rigorous precautions by which
the European nations guard the avenues into their respective
countries, as well by land as by water; and which, even there, are
found insufficient obstacles to the adventurous stratagems of
In France, there is an army of patrols (as they are called)
constantly employed to secure their fiscal regulations against the
inroads of the dealers in contraband trade. Mr. Neckar computes the
number of these patrols at upwards of twenty thousand. This shows
the immense difficulty in preventing that species of traffic, where
there is an inland communication, and places in a strong light the
disadvantages with which the collection of duties in this country
would be encumbered, if by disunion the States should be placed in a
situation, with respect to each other, resembling that of France
with respect to her neighbors. The arbitrary and vexatious powers
with which the patrols are necessarily armed, would be intolerable
in a free country.
If, on the contrary, there be but one government pervading all
the States, there will be, as to the principal part of our commerce,
but ONE SIDE to guard--the ATLANTIC COAST. Vessels arriving directly
from foreign countries, laden with valuable cargoes, would rarely
choose to hazard themselves to the complicated and critical perils
which would attend attempts to unlade prior to their coming into
port. They would have to dread both the dangers of the coast, and
of detection, as well after as before their arrival at the places of
their final destination. An ordinary degree of vigilance would be
competent to the prevention of any material infractions upon the
rights of the revenue. A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed
at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made
useful sentinels of the laws. And the government having the same
interest to provide against violations everywhere, the co-operation
of its measures in each State would have a powerful tendency to
render them effectual. Here also we should preserve by Union, an
advantage which nature holds out to us, and which would be
relinquished by separation. The United States lie at a great
distance from Europe, and at a considerable distance from all other
places with which they would have extensive connections of foreign
trade. The passage from them to us, in a few hours, or in a single
night, as between the coasts of France and Britain, and of other
neighboring nations, would be impracticable. This is a prodigious
security against a direct contraband with foreign countries; but a
circuitous contraband to one State, through the medium of another,
would be both easy and safe. The difference between a direct
importation from abroad, and an indirect importation through the
channel of a neighboring State, in small parcels, according to time
and opportunity, with the additional facilities of inland
communication, must be palpable to every man of discernment.
It is therefore evident, that one national government would be
able, at much less expense, to extend the duties on imports, beyond
comparison, further than would be practicable to the States
separately, or to any partial confederacies. Hitherto, I believe,
it may safely be asserted, that these duties have not upon an
average exceeded in any State three per cent. In France they are
estimated to be about fifteen per cent., and in Britain they exceed
this proportion.1 There seems to be nothing to hinder their
being increased in this country to at least treble their present
amount. The single article of ardent spirits, under federal
regulation, might be made to furnish a considerable revenue. Upon a
ratio to the importation into this State, the whole quantity
imported into the United States may be estimated at four millions of
gallons; which, at a shilling per gallon, would produce two hundred
thousand pounds. That article would well bear this rate of duty;
and if it should tend to diminish the consumption of it, such an
effect would be equally favorable to the agriculture, to the
economy, to the morals, and to the health of the society. There is,
perhaps, nothing so much a subject of national extravagance as these
What will be the consequence, if we are not able to avail
ourselves of the resource in question in its full extent? A nation
cannot long exist without revenues. Destitute of this essential
support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded
condition of a province. This is an extremity to which no
government will of choice accede. Revenue, therefore, must be had
at all events. In this country, if the principal part be not drawn
from commerce, it must fall with oppressive weight upon land. It
has been already intimated that excises, in their true
signification, are too little in unison with the feelings of the
people, to admit of great use being made of that mode of taxation;
nor, indeed, in the States where almost the sole employment is
agriculture, are the objects proper for excise sufficiently numerous
to permit very ample collections in that way. Personal estate (as
has been before remarked), from the difficulty in tracing it, cannot
be subjected to large contributions, by any other means than by
taxes on consumption. In populous cities, it may be enough the
subject of conjecture, to occasion the oppression of individuals,
without much aggregate benefit to the State; but beyond these
circles, it must, in a great measure, escape the eye and the hand of
the tax-gatherer. As the necessities of the State, nevertheless,
must be satisfied in some mode or other, the defect of other
resources must throw the principal weight of public burdens on the
possessors of land. And as, on the other hand, the wants of the
government can never obtain an adequate supply, unless all the
sources of revenue are open to its demands, the finances of the
community, under such embarrassments, cannot be put into a situation
consistent with its respectability or its security. Thus we shall
not even have the consolations of a full treasury, to atone for the
oppression of that valuable class of the citizens who are employed
in the cultivation of the soil. But public and private distress
will keep pace with each other in gloomy concert; and unite in
deploring the infatuation of those counsels which led to disunion.
1 If my memory be right they amount to twenty per cent.


Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
As CONNECTED with the subject of revenue, we may with propriety
consider that of economy. The money saved from one object may be
usefully applied to another, and there will be so much the less to
be drawn from the pockets of the people. If the States are united
under one government, there will be but one national civil list to
support; if they are divided into several confederacies, there will
be as many different national civil lists to be provided for--and
each of them, as to the principal departments, coextensive with that
which would be necessary for a government of the whole. The entire
separation of the States into thirteen unconnected sovereignties is
a project too extravagant and too replete with danger to have many
advocates. The ideas of men who speculate upon the dismemberment of
the empire seem generally turned toward three confederacies--one
consisting of the four Northern, another of the four Middle, and a
third of the five Southern States. There is little probability that
there would be a greater number. According to this distribution,
each confederacy would comprise an extent of territory larger than
that of the kingdom of Great Britain. No well-informed man will
suppose that the affairs of such a confederacy can be properly
regulated by a government less comprehensive in its organs or
institutions than that which has been proposed by the convention.
When the dimensions of a State attain to a certain magnitude, it
requires the same energy of government and the same forms of
administration which are requisite in one of much greater extent.
This idea admits not of precise demonstration, because there is no
rule by which we can measure the momentum of civil power necessary
to the government of any given number of individuals; but when we
consider that the island of Britain, nearly commensurate with each
of the supposed confederacies, contains about eight millions of
people, and when we reflect upon the degree of authority required to
direct the passions of so large a society to the public good, we
shall see no reason to doubt that the like portion of power would be
sufficient to perform the same task in a society far more numerous.
Civil power, properly organized and exerted, is capable of
diffusing its force to a very great extent; and can, in a manner,
reproduce itself in every part of a great empire by a judicious
arrangement of subordinate institutions.
The supposition that each confederacy into which the States
would be likely to be divided would require a government not less
comprehensive than the one proposed, will be strengthened by another
supposition, more probable than that which presents us with three
confederacies as the alternative to a general Union. If we attend
carefully to geographical and commercial considerations, in
conjunction with the habits and prejudices of the different States,
we shall be led to conclude that in case of disunion they will most
naturally league themselves under two governments. The four Eastern
States, from all the causes that form the links of national sympathy
and connection, may with certainty be expected to unite. New York,
situated as she is, would never be unwise enough to oppose a feeble
and unsupported flank to the weight of that confederacy. There are
other obvious reasons that would facilitate her accession to it.
New Jersey is too small a State to think of being a frontier, in
opposition to this still more powerful combination; nor do there
appear to be any obstacles to her admission into it. Even
Pennsylvania would have strong inducements to join the Northern
league. An active foreign commerce, on the basis of her own
navigation, is her true policy, and coincides with the opinions and
dispositions of her citizens. The more Southern States, from
various circumstances, may not think themselves much interested in
the encouragement of navigation. They may prefer a system which
would give unlimited scope to all nations to be the carriers as well
as the purchasers of their commodities. Pennsylvania may not choose
to confound her interests in a connection so adverse to her policy.
As she must at all events be a frontier, she may deem it most
consistent with her safety to have her exposed side turned towards
the weaker power of the Southern, rather than towards the stronger
power of the Northern, Confederacy. This would give her the fairest
chance to avoid being the Flanders of America. Whatever may be the
determination of Pennsylvania, if the Northern Confederacy includes
New Jersey, there is no likelihood of more than one confederacy to
the south of that State.
Nothing can be more evident than that the thirteen States will
be able to support a national government better than one half, or
one third, or any number less than the whole. This reflection must
have great weight in obviating that objection to the proposed plan,
which is founded on the principle of expense; an objection,
however, which, when we come to take a nearer view of it, will
appear in every light to stand on mistaken ground.
If, in addition to the consideration of a plurality of civil
lists, we take into view the number of persons who must necessarily
be employed to guard the inland communication between the different
confederacies against illicit trade, and who in time will infallibly
spring up out of the necessities of revenue; and if we also take
into view the military establishments which it has been shown would
unavoidably result from the jealousies and conflicts of the several
nations into which the States would be divided, we shall clearly
discover that a separation would be not less injurious to the
economy, than to the tranquillity, commerce, revenue, and liberty of
every part.


Objections to the Proposed Constitution From Extent of Territory
From the New York Packet.
Friday, November 30, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
WE HAVE seen the necessity of the Union, as our bulwark against
foreign danger, as the conservator of peace among ourselves, as the
guardian of our commerce and other common interests, as the only
substitute for those military establishments which have subverted
the liberties of the Old World, and as the proper antidote for the
diseases of faction, which have proved fatal to other popular
governments, and of which alarming symptoms have been betrayed by
our own. All that remains, within this branch of our inquiries, is
to take notice of an objection that may be drawn from the great
extent of country which the Union embraces. A few observations on
this subject will be the more proper, as it is perceived that the
adversaries of the new Constitution are availing themselves of the
prevailing prejudice with regard to the practicable sphere of
republican administration, in order to supply, by imaginary
difficulties, the want of those solid objections which they endeavor
in vain to find.
The error which limits republican government to a narrow
district has been unfolded and refuted in preceding papers. I
remark here only that it seems to owe its rise and prevalence
chiefly to the confounding of a republic with a democracy, applying
to the former reasonings drawn from the nature of the latter. The
true distinction between these forms was also adverted to on a
former occasion. It is, that in a democracy, the people meet and
exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and
administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy,
consequently, will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be
extended over a large region.
To this accidental source of the error may be added the artifice
of some celebrated authors, whose writings have had a great share in
forming the modern standard of political opinions. Being subjects
either of an absolute or limited monarchy, they have endeavored to
heighten the advantages, or palliate the evils of those forms, by
placing in comparison the vices and defects of the republican, and
by citing as specimens of the latter the turbulent democracies of
ancient Greece and modern Italy. Under the confusion of names, it
has been an easy task to transfer to a republic observations
applicable to a democracy only; and among others, the observation
that it can never be established but among a small number of people,
living within a small compass of territory.
Such a fallacy may have been the less perceived, as most of the
popular governments of antiquity were of the democratic species;
and even in modern Europe, to which we owe the great principle of
representation, no example is seen of a government wholly popular,
and founded, at the same time, wholly on that principle. If Europe
has the merit of discovering this great mechanical power in
government, by the simple agency of which the will of the largest
political body may be concentred, and its force directed to any
object which the public good requires, America can claim the merit
of making the discovery the basis of unmixed and extensive republics.
It is only to be lamented that any of her citizens should wish to
deprive her of the additional merit of displaying its full efficacy
in the establishment of the comprehensive system now under her
As the natural limit of a democracy is that distance from the
central point which will just permit the most remote citizens to
assemble as often as their public functions demand, and will include
no greater number than can join in those functions; so the natural
limit of a republic is that distance from the centre which will
barely allow the representatives to meet as often as may be
necessary for the administration of public affairs. Can it be said
that the limits of the United States exceed this distance? It will
not be said by those who recollect that the Atlantic coast is the
longest side of the Union, that during the term of thirteen years,
the representatives of the States have been almost continually
assembled, and that the members from the most distant States are not
chargeable with greater intermissions of attendance than those from
the States in the neighborhood of Congress.
That we may form a juster estimate with regard to this
interesting subject, let us resort to the actual dimensions of the
Union. The limits, as fixed by the treaty of peace, are: on the
east the Atlantic, on the south the latitude of thirty-one degrees,
on the west the Mississippi, and on the north an irregular line
running in some instances beyond the forty-fifth degree, in others
falling as low as the forty-second. The southern shore of Lake Erie
lies below that latitude. Computing the distance between the
thirty-first and forty-fifth degrees, it amounts to nine hundred and
seventy-three common miles; computing it from thirty-one to
forty-two degrees, to seven hundred and sixty-four miles and a half.
Taking the mean for the distance, the amount will be eight hundred
and sixty-eight miles and three-fourths. The mean distance from the
Atlantic to the Mississippi does not probably exceed seven hundred
and fifty miles. On a comparison of this extent with that of
several countries in Europe, the practicability of rendering our
system commensurate to it appears to be demonstrable. It is not a
great deal larger than Germany, where a diet representing the whole
empire is continually assembled; or than Poland before the late
dismemberment, where another national diet was the depositary of the
supreme power. Passing by France and Spain, we find that in Great
Britain, inferior as it may be in size, the representatives of the
northern extremity of the island have as far to travel to the
national council as will be required of those of the most remote
parts of the Union.
Favorable as this view of the subject may be, some observations
remain which will place it in a light still more satisfactory.
In the first place it is to be remembered that the general
government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and
administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain
enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic,
but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any.
The subordinate governments, which can extend their care to all
those other subjects which can be separately provided for, will
retain their due authority and activity. Were it proposed by the
plan of the convention to abolish the governments of the particular
States, its adversaries would have some ground for their objection;
though it would not be difficult to show that if they were
abolished the general government would be compelled, by the
principle of self-preservation, to reinstate them in their proper
A second observation to be made is that the immediate object of
the federal Constitution is to secure the union of the thirteen
primitive States, which we know to be practicable; and to add to
them such other States as may arise in their own bosoms, or in their
neighborhoods, which we cannot doubt to be equally practicable. The
arrangements that may be necessary for those angles and fractions of
our territory which lie on our northwestern frontier, must be left
to those whom further discoveries and experience will render more
equal to the task.
Let it be remarked, in the third place, that the intercourse
throughout the Union will be facilitated by new improvements. Roads
will everywhere be shortened, and kept in better order;
accommodations for travelers will be multiplied and meliorated; an
interior navigation on our eastern side will be opened throughout,
or nearly throughout, the whole extent of the thirteen States. The
communication between the Western and Atlantic districts, and
between different parts of each, will be rendered more and more easy
by those numerous canals with which the beneficence of nature has
intersected our country, and which art finds it so little difficult
to connect and complete.
A fourth and still more important consideration is, that as
almost every State will, on one side or other, be a frontier, and
will thus find, in regard to its safety, an inducement to make some
sacrifices for the sake of the general protection; so the States
which lie at the greatest distance from the heart of the Union, and
which, of course, may partake least of the ordinary circulation of
its benefits, will be at the same time immediately contiguous to
foreign nations, and will consequently stand, on particular
occasions, in greatest need of its strength and resources. It may
be inconvenient for Georgia, or the States forming our western or
northeastern borders, to send their representatives to the seat of
government; but they would find it more so to struggle alone
against an invading enemy, or even to support alone the whole
expense of those precautions which may be dictated by the
neighborhood of continual danger. If they should derive less
benefit, therefore, from the Union in some respects than the less
distant States, they will derive greater benefit from it in other
respects, and thus the proper equilibrium will be maintained
I submit to you, my fellow-citizens, these considerations, in
full confidence that the good sense which has so often marked your
decisions will allow them their due weight and effect; and that you
will never suffer difficulties, however formidable in appearance, or
however fashionable the error on which they may be founded, to drive
you into the gloomy and perilous scene into which the advocates for
disunion would conduct you. Hearken not to the unnatural voice
which tells you that the people of America, knit together as they
are by so many cords of affection, can no longer live together as
members of the same family; can no longer continue the mutual
guardians of their mutual happiness; can no longer be
fellowcitizens of one great, respectable, and flourishing empire.
Hearken not to the voice which petulantly tells you that the form
of government recommended for your adoption is a novelty in the
political world; that it has never yet had a place in the theories
of the wildest projectors; that it rashly attempts what it is
impossible to accomplish. No, my countrymen, shut your ears against
this unhallowed language. Shut your hearts against the poison which
it conveys; the kindred blood which flows in the veins of American
citizens, the mingled blood which they have shed in defense of their
sacred rights, consecrate their Union, and excite horror at the idea
of their becoming aliens, rivals, enemies. And if novelties are to
be shunned, believe me, the most alarming of all novelties, the most
wild of all projects, the most rash of all attempts, is that of
rendering us in pieces, in order to preserve our liberties and
promote our happiness. But why is the experiment of an extended
republic to be rejected, merely because it may comprise what is new?
Is it not the glory of the people of America, that, whilst they
have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other
nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity,
for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own
good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of
their own experience? To this manly spirit, posterity will be
indebted for the possession, and the world for the example, of the
numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of
private rights and public happiness. Had no important step been
taken by the leaders of the Revolution for which a precedent could
not be discovered, no government established of which an exact model
did not present itself, the people of the United States might, at
this moment have been numbered among the melancholy victims of
misguided councils, must at best have been laboring under the weight
of some of those forms which have crushed the liberties of the rest
of mankind. Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole
human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They
accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of
human society. They reared the fabrics of governments which have no
model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great
Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve
and perpetuate. If their works betray imperfections, we wonder at
the fewness of them. If they erred most in the structure of the
Union, this was the work most difficult to be executed; this is the
work which has been new modelled by the act of your convention, and
it is that act on which you are now to deliberate and to decide.


The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York.
IN THE course of the preceding papers, I have endeavored, my
fellow-citizens, to place before you, in a clear and convincing
light, the importance of Union to your political safety and
happiness. I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to
which you would be exposed, should you permit that sacred knot which
binds the people of America together be severed or dissolved by
ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation. In the
sequel of the inquiry through which I propose to accompany you, the
truths intended to be inculcated will receive further confirmation
from facts and arguments hitherto unnoticed. If the road over which
you will still have to pass should in some places appear to you
tedious or irksome, you will recollect that you are in quest of
information on a subject the most momentous which can engage the
attention of a free people, that the field through which you have to
travel is in itself spacious, and that the difficulties of the
journey have been unnecessarily increased by the mazes with which
sophistry has beset the way. It will be my aim to remove the
obstacles from your progress in as compendious a manner as it can be
done, without sacrificing utility to despatch.
In pursuance of the plan which I have laid down for the
discussion of the subject, the point next in order to be examined is
the ``insufficiency of the present Confederation to the preservation
of the Union.'' It may perhaps be asked what need there is of
reasoning or proof to illustrate a position which is not either
controverted or doubted, to which the understandings and feelings of
all classes of men assent, and which in substance is admitted by the
opponents as well as by the friends of the new Constitution. It
must in truth be acknowledged that, however these may differ in
other respects, they in general appear to harmonize in this
sentiment, at least, that there are material imperfections in our
national system, and that something is necessary to be done to
rescue us from impending anarchy. The facts that support this
opinion are no longer objects of speculation. They have forced
themselves upon the sensibility of the people at large, and have at
length extorted from those, whose mistaken policy has had the
principal share in precipitating the extremity at which we are
arrived, a reluctant confession of the reality of those defects in
the scheme of our federal government, which have been long pointed
out and regretted by the intelligent friends of the Union.
We may indeed with propriety be said to have reached almost the
last stage of national humiliation. There is scarcely anything that
can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent
nation which we do not experience. Are there engagements to the
performance of which we are held by every tie respectable among men?
These are the subjects of constant and unblushing violation. Do we
owe debts to foreigners and to our own citizens contracted in a time
of imminent peril for the preservation of our political existence?
These remain without any proper or satisfactory provision for their
discharge. Have we valuable territories and important posts in the
possession of a foreign power which, by express stipulations, ought
long since to have been surrendered? These are still retained, to
the prejudice of our interests, not less than of our rights. Are we
in a condition to resent or to repel the aggression? We have
neither troops, nor treasury, nor government.1 Are we even in a
condition to remonstrate with dignity? The just imputations on our
own faith, in respect to the same treaty, ought first to be removed.
Are we entitled by nature and compact to a free participation in
the navigation of the Mississippi? Spain excludes us from it. Is
public credit an indispensable resource in time of public danger?
We seem to have abandoned its cause as desperate and irretrievable.
Is commerce of importance to national wealth? Ours is at the
lowest point of declension. Is respectability in the eyes of
foreign powers a safeguard against foreign encroachments? The
imbecility of our government even forbids them to treat with us.
Our ambassadors abroad are the mere pageants of mimic sovereignty.
Is a violent and unnatural decrease in the value of land a symptom
of national distress? The price of improved land in most parts of
the country is much lower than can be accounted for by the quantity
of waste land at market, and can only be fully explained by that
want of private and public confidence, which are so alarmingly
prevalent among all ranks, and which have a direct tendency to
depreciate property of every kind. Is private credit the friend and
patron of industry? That most useful kind which relates to
borrowing and lending is reduced within the narrowest limits, and
this still more from an opinion of insecurity than from the scarcity
of money. To shorten an enumeration of particulars which can afford
neither pleasure nor instruction, it may in general be demanded,
what indication is there of national disorder, poverty, and
insignificance that could befall a community so peculiarly blessed
with natural advantages as we are, which does not form a part of the
dark catalogue of our public misfortunes?
This is the melancholy situation to which we have been brought
by those very maxims and councils which would now deter us from
adopting the proposed Constitution; and which, not content with
having conducted us to the brink of a precipice, seem resolved to
plunge us into the abyss that awaits us below. Here, my countrymen,
impelled by every motive that ought to influence an enlightened
people, let us make a firm stand for our safety, our tranquillity,
our dignity, our reputation. Let us at last break the fatal charm
which has too long seduced us from the paths of felicity and
It is true, as has been before observed that facts, too stubborn
to be resisted, have produced a species of general assent to the
abstract proposition that there exist material defects in our
national system; but the usefulness of the concession, on the part
of the old adversaries of federal measures, is destroyed by a
strenuous opposition to a remedy, upon the only principles that can
give it a chance of success. While they admit that the government
of the United States is destitute of energy, they contend against
conferring upon it those powers which are requisite to supply that
energy. They seem still to aim at things repugnant and
irreconcilable; at an augmentation of federal authority, without a
diminution of State authority; at sovereignty in the Union, and
complete independence in the members. They still, in fine, seem to
cherish with blind devotion the political monster of an imperium
in imperio. This renders a full display of the principal defects
of the Confederation necessary, in order to show that the evils we
experience do not proceed from minute or partial imperfections, but
from fundamental errors in the structure of the building, which
cannot be amended otherwise than by an alteration in the first
principles and main pillars of the fabric.
The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing
Confederation is in the principle of LEGISLATION for STATES or
contradistinguished from the INDIVIDUALS of which they consist.
Though this principle does not run through all the powers delegated
to the Union, yet it pervades and governs those on which the
efficacy of the rest depends. Except as to the rule of appointment,
the United States has an indefinite discretion to make requisitions
for men and money; but they have no authority to raise either, by
regulations extending to the individual citizens of America. The
consequence of this is, that though in theory their resolutions
concerning those objects are laws, constitutionally binding on the
members of the Union, yet in practice they are mere recommendations
which the States observe or disregard at their option.
It is a singular instance of the capriciousness of the human
mind, that after all the admonitions we have had from experience on
this head, there should still be found men who object to the new
Constitution, for deviating from a principle which has been found
the bane of the old, and which is in itself evidently incompatible
with the idea of GOVERNMENT; a principle, in short, which, if it is
to be executed at all, must substitute the violent and sanguinary
agency of the sword to the mild influence of the magistracy.
There is nothing absurd or impracticable in the idea of a league
or alliance between independent nations for certain defined purposes
precisely stated in a treaty regulating all the details of time,
place, circumstance, and quantity; leaving nothing to future
discretion; and depending for its execution on the good faith of
the parties. Compacts of this kind exist among all civilized
nations, subject to the usual vicissitudes of peace and war, of
observance and non-observance, as the interests or passions of the
contracting powers dictate. In the early part of the present
century there was an epidemical rage in Europe for this species of
compacts, from which the politicians of the times fondly hoped for
benefits which were never realized. With a view to establishing the
equilibrium of power and the peace of that part of the world, all
the resources of negotiation were exhausted, and triple and
quadruple alliances were formed; but they were scarcely formed
before they were broken, giving an instructive but afflicting lesson
to mankind, how little dependence is to be placed on treaties which
have no other sanction than the obligations of good faith, and which
oppose general considerations of peace and justice to the impulse of
any immediate interest or passion.
If the particular States in this country are disposed to stand
in a similar relation to each other, and to drop the project of a
general DISCRETIONARY SUPERINTENDENCE, the scheme would indeed be
pernicious, and would entail upon us all the mischiefs which have
been enumerated under the first head; but it would have the merit
of being, at least, consistent and practicable Abandoning all views
towards a confederate government, this would bring us to a simple
alliance offensive and defensive; and would place us in a situation
to be alternate friends and enemies of each other, as our mutual
jealousies and rivalships, nourished by the intrigues of foreign
nations, should prescribe to us.
But if we are unwilling to be placed in this perilous situation;
if we still will adhere to the design of a national government, or,
which is the same thing, of a superintending power, under the
direction of a common council, we must resolve to incorporate into
our plan those ingredients which may be considered as forming the
characteristic difference between a league and a government; we
must extend the authority of the Union to the persons of the
citizens, --the only proper objects of government.
Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to
the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in
other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be
no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands
which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than
advice or recommendation. This penalty, whatever it may be, can
only be inflicted in two ways: by the agency of the courts and
ministers of justice, or by military force; by the COERCION of the
magistracy, or by the COERCION of arms. The first kind can
evidently apply only to men; the last kind must of necessity, be
employed against bodies politic, or communities, or States. It is
evident that there is no process of a court by which the observance
of the laws can, in the last resort, be enforced. Sentences may be
denounced against them for violations of their duty; but these
sentences can only be carried into execution by the sword. In an
association where the general authority is confined to the
collective bodies of the communities, that compose it, every breach
of the laws must involve a state of war; and military execution
must become the only instrument of civil obedience. Such a state of
things can certainly not deserve the name of government, nor would
any prudent man choose to commit his happiness to it.
There was a time when we were told that breaches, by the States,
of the regulations of the federal authority were not to be expected;
that a sense of common interest would preside over the conduct of
the respective members, and would beget a full compliance with all
the constitutional requisitions of the Union. This language, at the
present day, would appear as wild as a great part of what we now
hear from the same quarter will be thought, when we shall have
received further lessons from that best oracle of wisdom, experience.
It at all times betrayed an ignorance of the true springs by which
human conduct is actuated, and belied the original inducements to
the establishment of civil power. Why has government been
instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to
the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint. Has it been
found that bodies of men act with more rectitude or greater
disinterestedness than individuals? The contrary of this has been
inferred by all accurate observers of the conduct of mankind; and
the inference is founded upon obvious reasons. Regard to reputation
has a less active influence, when the infamy of a bad action is to
be divided among a number than when it is to fall singly upon one.
A spirit of faction, which is apt to mingle its poison in the
deliberations of all bodies of men, will often hurry the persons of
whom they are composed into improprieties and excesses, for which
they would blush in a private capacity.
In addition to all this, there is, in the nature of sovereign
power, an impatience of control, that disposes those who are
invested with the exercise of it, to look with an evil eye upon all
external attempts to restrain or direct its operations. From this
spirit it happens, that in every political association which is
formed upon the principle of uniting in a common interest a number
of lesser sovereignties, there will be found a kind of eccentric
tendency in the subordinate or inferior orbs, by the operation of
which there will be a perpetual effort in each to fly off from the
common centre. This tendency is not difficult to be accounted for.
It has its origin in the love of power. Power controlled or
abridged is almost always the rival and enemy of that power by which
it is controlled or abridged. This simple proposition will teach us
how little reason there is to expect, that the persons intrusted
with the administration of the affairs of the particular members of
a confederacy will at all times be ready, with perfect good-humor,
and an unbiased regard to the public weal, to execute the
resolutions or decrees of the general authority. The reverse of
this results from the constitution of human nature.
If, therefore, the measures of the Confederacy cannot be
executed without the intervention of the particular administrations,
there will be little prospect of their being executed at all. The
rulers of the respective members, whether they have a constitutional
right to do it or not, will undertake to judge of the propriety of
the measures themselves. They will consider the conformity of the
thing proposed or required to their immediate interests or aims;
the momentary conveniences or inconveniences that would attend its
adoption. All this will be done; and in a spirit of interested and
suspicious scrutiny, without that knowledge of national
circumstances and reasons of state, which is essential to a right
judgment, and with that strong predilection in favor of local
objects, which can hardly fail to mislead the decision. The same
process must be repeated in every member of which the body is
constituted; and the execution of the plans, framed by the councils
of the whole, will always fluctuate on the discretion of the
ill-informed and prejudiced opinion of every part. Those who have
been conversant in the proceedings of popular assemblies; who have
seen how difficult it often is, where there is no exterior pressure
of circumstances, to bring them to harmonious resolutions on
important points, will readily conceive how impossible it must be to
induce a number of such assemblies, deliberating at a distance from
each other, at different times, and under different impressions,
long to co-operate in the same views and pursuits.
In our case, the concurrence of thirteen distinct sovereign
wills is requisite, under the Confederation, to the complete
execution of every important measure that proceeds from the Union.
It has happened as was to have been foreseen. The measures of the
Union have not been executed; the delinquencies of the States have,
step by step, matured themselves to an extreme, which has, at
length, arrested all the wheels of the national government, and
brought them to an awful stand. Congress at this time scarcely
possess the means of keeping up the forms of administration, till
the States can have time to agree upon a more substantial substitute
for the present shadow of a federal government. Things did not come
to this desperate extremity at once. The causes which have been
specified produced at first only unequal and disproportionate
degrees of compliance with the requisitions of the Union. The
greater deficiencies of some States furnished the pretext of example
and the temptation of interest to the complying, or to the least
delinquent States. Why should we do more in proportion than those
who are embarked with us in the same political voyage? Why should
we consent to bear more than our proper share of the common burden?
These were suggestions which human selfishness could not withstand,
and which even speculative men, who looked forward to remote
consequences, could not, without hesitation, combat. Each State,
yielding to the persuasive voice of immediate interest or
convenience, has successively withdrawn its support, till the frail
and tottering edifice seems ready to fall upon our heads, and to
crush us beneath its ruins.
1 ``I mean for the Union.''


The Same Subject Continued
(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, December 4, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE tendency of the principle of legislation for States, or
communities, in their political capacities, as it has been
exemplified by the experiment we have made of it, is equally
attested by the events which have befallen all other governments of
the confederate kind, of which we have any account, in exact
proportion to its prevalence in those systems. The confirmations of
this fact will be worthy of a distinct and particular examination.
I shall content myself with barely observing here, that of all the
confederacies of antiquity, which history has handed down to us, the
Lycian and Achaean leagues, as far as there remain vestiges of them,
appear to have been most free from the fetters of that mistaken
principle, and were accordingly those which have best deserved, and
have most liberally received, the applauding suffrages of political
This exceptionable principle may, as truly as emphatically, be
styled the parent of anarchy: It has been seen that delinquencies
in the members of the Union are its natural and necessary offspring;
and that whenever they happen, the only constitutional remedy is
force, and the immediate effect of the use of it, civil war.
It remains to inquire how far so odious an engine of government,
in its application to us, would even be capable of answering its end.
If there should not be a large army constantly at the disposal of
the national government it would either not be able to employ force
at all, or, when this could be done, it would amount to a war
between parts of the Confederacy concerning the infractions of a
league, in which the strongest combination would be most likely to
prevail, whether it consisted of those who supported or of those who
resisted the general authority. It would rarely happen that the
delinquency to be redressed would be confined to a single member,
and if there were more than one who had neglected their duty,
similarity of situation would induce them to unite for common
defense. Independent of this motive of sympathy, if a large and
influential State should happen to be the aggressing member, it
would commonly have weight enough with its neighbors to win over
some of them as associates to its cause. Specious arguments of
danger to the common liberty could easily be contrived; plausible
excuses for the deficiencies of the party could, without difficulty,
be invented to alarm the apprehensions, inflame the passions, and
conciliate the good-will, even of those States which were not
chargeable with any violation or omission of duty. This would be
the more likely to take place, as the delinquencies of the larger
members might be expected sometimes to proceed from an ambitious
premeditation in their rulers, with a view to getting rid of all
external control upon their designs of personal aggrandizement; the
better to effect which it is presumable they would tamper beforehand
with leading individuals in the adjacent States. If associates
could not be found at home, recourse would be had to the aid of
foreign powers, who would seldom be disinclined to encouraging the
dissensions of a Confederacy, from the firm union of which they had
so much to fear. When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men
observe no bounds of moderation. The suggestions of wounded pride,
the instigations of irritated resentment, would be apt to carry the
States against which the arms of the Union were exerted, to any
extremes necessary to avenge the affront or to avoid the disgrace of
submission. The first war of this kind would probably terminate in
a dissolution of the Union.
This may be considered as the violent death of the Confederacy.
Its more natural death is what we now seem to be on the point of
experiencing, if the federal system be not speedily renovated in a
more substantial form. It is not probable, considering the genius
of this country, that the complying States would often be inclined
to support the authority of the Union by engaging in a war against
the non-complying States. They would always be more ready to pursue
the milder course of putting themselves upon an equal footing with
the delinquent members by an imitation of their example. And the
guilt of all would thus become the security of all. Our past
experience has exhibited the operation of this spirit in its full
light. There would, in fact, be an insuperable difficulty in
ascertaining when force could with propriety be employed. In the
article of pecuniary contribution, which would be the most usual
source of delinquency, it would often be impossible to decide
whether it had proceeded from disinclination or inability. The
pretense of the latter would always be at hand. And the case must
be very flagrant in which its fallacy could be detected with
sufficient certainty to justify the harsh expedient of compulsion.
It is easy to see that this problem alone, as often as it should
occur, would open a wide field for the exercise of factious views,
of partiality, and of oppression, in the majority that happened to
prevail in the national council.
It seems to require no pains to prove that the States ought not
to prefer a national Constitution which could only be kept in motion
by the instrumentality of a large army continually on foot to
execute the ordinary requisitions or decrees of the government. And
yet this is the plain alternative involved by those who wish to deny
it the power of extending its operations to individuals. Such a
scheme, if practicable at all, would instantly degenerate into a
military despotism; but it will be found in every light
impracticable. The resources of the Union would not be equal to the
maintenance of an army considerable enough to confine the larger
States within the limits of their duty; nor would the means ever be
furnished of forming such an army in the first instance. Whoever
considers the populousness and strength of several of these States
singly at the present juncture, and looks forward to what they will
become, even at the distance of half a century, will at once dismiss
as idle and visionary any scheme which aims at regulating their
movements by laws to operate upon them in their collective
capacities, and to be executed by a coercion applicable to them in
the same capacities. A project of this kind is little less romantic
than the monster-taming spirit which is attributed to the fabulous
heroes and demi-gods of antiquity.
Even in those confederacies which have been composed of members
smaller than many of our counties, the principle of legislation for
sovereign States, supported by military coercion, has never been
found effectual. It has rarely been attempted to be employed, but
against the weaker members; and in most instances attempts to
coerce the refractory and disobedient have been the signals of
bloody wars, in which one half of the confederacy has displayed its
banners against the other half.
The result of these observations to an intelligent mind must be
clearly this, that if it be possible at any rate to construct a
federal government capable of regulating the common concerns and
preserving the general tranquillity, it must be founded, as to the
objects committed to its care, upon the reverse of the principle
contended for by the opponents of the proposed Constitution. It
must carry its agency to the persons of the citizens. It must stand
in need of no intermediate legislations; but must itself be
empowered to employ the arm of the ordinary magistrate to execute
its own resolutions. The majesty of the national authority must be
manifested through the medium of the courts of justice. The
government of the Union, like that of each State, must be able to
address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals;
and to attract to its support those passions which have the
strongest influence upon the human heart. It must, in short,
possess all the means, and have aright to resort to all the methods,
of executing the powers with which it is intrusted, that are
possessed and exercised by the government of the particular States.
To this reasoning it may perhaps be objected, that if any State
should be disaffected to the authority of the Union, it could at any
time obstruct the execution of its laws, and bring the matter to the
same issue of force, with the necessity of which the opposite scheme
is reproached.
The plausibility of this objection will vanish the moment we
advert to the essential difference between a mere NON-COMPLIANCE and
a DIRECT and ACTIVE RESISTANCE. If the interposition of the State
legislatures be necessary to give effect to a measure of the Union,
they have only NOT TO ACT, or to ACT EVASIVELY, and the measure is
defeated. This neglect of duty may be disguised under affected but
unsubstantial provisions, so as not to appear, and of course not to
excite any alarm in the people for the safety of the Constitution.
The State leaders may even make a merit of their surreptitious
invasions of it on the ground of some temporary convenience,
exemption, or advantage.
But if the execution of the laws of the national government
should not require the intervention of the State legislatures, if
they were to pass into immediate operation upon the citizens
themselves, the particular governments could not interrupt their
progress without an open and violent exertion of an unconstitutional
power. No omissions nor evasions would answer the end. They would
be obliged to act, and in such a manner as would leave no doubt that
they had encroached on the national rights. An experiment of this
nature would always be hazardous in the face of a constitution in
any degree competent to its own defense, and of a people enlightened
enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal
usurpation of authority. The success of it would require not merely
a factious majority in the legislature, but the concurrence of the
courts of justice and of the body of the people. If the judges were
not embarked in a conspiracy with the legislature, they would
pronounce the resolutions of such a majority to be contrary to the
supreme law of the land, unconstitutional, and void. If the people
were not tainted with the spirit of their State representatives,
they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution, would throw
their weight into the national scale and give it a decided
preponderancy in the contest. Attempts of this kind would not often
be made with levity or rashness, because they could seldom be made
without danger to the authors, unless in cases of a tyrannical
exercise of the federal authority.
If opposition to the national government should arise from the
disorderly conduct of refractory or seditious individuals, it could
be overcome by the same means which are daily employed against the
same evil under the State governments. The magistracy, being
equally the ministers of the law of the land, from whatever source
it might emanate, would doubtless be as ready to guard the national
as the local regulations from the inroads of private licentiousness.
As to those partial commotions and insurrections, which sometimes
disquiet society, from the intrigues of an inconsiderable faction,
or from sudden or occasional illhumors that do not infect the great
body of the community the general government could command more
extensive resources for the suppression of disturbances of that kind
than would be in the power of any single member. And as to those
mortal feuds which, in certain conjunctures, spread a conflagration
through a whole nation, or through a very large proportion of it,
proceeding either from weighty causes of discontent given by the
government or from the contagion of some violent popular paroxysm,
they do not fall within any ordinary rules of calculation. When
they happen, they commonly amount to revolutions and dismemberments
of empire. No form of government can always either avoid or control
them. It is in vain to hope to guard against events too mighty for
human foresight or precaution, and it would be idle to object to a
government because it could not perform impossibilities.


The Same Subject Continued
(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
AN OBJECTION, of a nature different from that which has been
stated and answered, in my last address, may perhaps be likewise
urged against the principle of legislation for the individual
citizens of America. It may be said that it would tend to render
the government of the Union too powerful, and to enable it to absorb
those residuary authorities, which it might be judged proper to
leave with the States for local purposes. Allowing the utmost
latitude to the love of power which any reasonable man can require,
I confess I am at a loss to discover what temptation the persons
intrusted with the administration of the general government could
ever feel to divest the States of the authorities of that
description. The regulation of the mere domestic police of a State
appears to me to hold out slender allurements to ambition.
Commerce, finance, negotiation, and war seem to comprehend all the
objects which have charms for minds governed by that passion; and
all the powers necessary to those objects ought, in the first
instance, to be lodged in the national depository. The
administration of private justice between the citizens of the same
State, the supervision of agriculture and of other concerns of a
similar nature, all those things, in short, which are proper to be
provided for by local legislation, can never be desirable cares of a
general jurisdiction. It is therefore improbable that there should
exist a disposition in the federal councils to usurp the powers with
which they are connected; because the attempt to exercise those
powers would be as troublesome as it would be nugatory; and the
possession of them, for that reason, would contribute nothing to the
dignity, to the importance, or to the splendor of the national
But let it be admitted, for argument's sake, that mere
wantonness and lust of domination would be sufficient to beget that
disposition; still it may be safely affirmed, that the sense of the
constituent body of the national representatives, or, in other
words, the people of the several States, would control the
indulgence of so extravagant an appetite. It will always be far
more easy for the State governments to encroach upon the national
authorities than for the national government to encroach upon the
State authorities. The proof of this proposition turns upon the
greater degree of influence which the State governments if they
administer their affairs with uprightness and prudence, will
generally possess over the people; a circumstance which at the same
time teaches us that there is an inherent and intrinsic weakness in
all federal constitutions; and that too much pains cannot be taken
in their organization, to give them all the force which is
compatible with the principles of liberty.
The superiority of influence in favor of the particular
governments would result partly from the diffusive construction of
the national government, but chiefly from the nature of the objects
to which the attention of the State administrations would be
It is a known fact in human nature, that its affections are
commonly weak in proportion to the distance or diffusiveness of the
object. Upon the same principle that a man is more attached to his
family than to his neighborhood, to his neighborhood than to the
community at large, the people of each State would be apt to feel a
stronger bias towards their local governments than towards the
government of the Union; unless the force of that principle should
be destroyed by a much better administration of the latter.
This strong propensity of the human heart would find powerful
auxiliaries in the objects of State regulation.
The variety of more minute interests, which will necessarily
fall under the superintendence of the local administrations, and
which will form so many rivulets of influence, running through every
part of the society, cannot be particularized, without involving a
detail too tedious and uninteresting to compensate for the
instruction it might afford.
There is one transcendant advantage belonging to the province of
the State governments, which alone suffices to place the matter in a
clear and satisfactory light,--I mean the ordinary administration of
criminal and civil justice. This, of all others, is the most
powerful, most universal, and most attractive source of popular
obedience and attachment. It is that which, being the immediate and
visible guardian of life and property, having its benefits and its
terrors in constant activity before the public eye, regulating all
those personal interests and familiar concerns to which the
sensibility of individuals is more immediately awake, contributes,
more than any other circumstance, to impressing upon the minds of
the people, affection, esteem, and reverence towards the government.
This great cement of society, which will diffuse itself almost
wholly through the channels of the particular governments,
independent of all other causes of influence, would insure them so
decided an empire over their respective citizens as to render them
at all times a complete counterpoise, and, not unfrequently,
dangerous rivals to the power of the Union.
The operations of the national government, on the other hand,
falling less immediately under the observation of the mass of the
citizens, the benefits derived from it will chiefly be perceived and
attended to by speculative men. Relating to more general interests,
they will be less apt to come home to the feelings of the people;
and, in proportion, less likely to inspire an habitual sense of
obligation, and an active sentiment of attachment.
The reasoning on this head has been abundantly exemplified by
the experience of all federal constitutions with which we are
acquainted, and of all others which have borne the least analogy to
Though the ancient feudal systems were not, strictly speaking,
confederacies, yet they partook of the nature of that species of
association. There was a common head, chieftain, or sovereign,
whose authority extended over the whole nation; and a number of
subordinate vassals, or feudatories, who had large portions of land
allotted to them, and numerous trains of INFERIOR vassals or
retainers, who occupied and cultivated that land upon the tenure of
fealty or obedience, to the persons of whom they held it. Each
principal vassal was a kind of sovereign, within his particular
demesnes. The consequences of this situation were a continual
opposition to authority of the sovereign, and frequent wars between
the great barons or chief feudatories themselves. The power of the
head of the nation was commonly too weak, either to preserve the
public peace, or to protect the people against the oppressions of
their immediate lords. This period of European affairs is
emphatically styled by historians, the times of feudal anarchy.
When the sovereign happened to be a man of vigorous and warlike
temper and of superior abilities, he would acquire a personal weight
and influence, which answered, for the time, the purpose of a more
regular authority. But in general, the power of the barons
triumphed over that of the prince; and in many instances his
dominion was entirely thrown off, and the great fiefs were erected
into independent principalities or States. In those instances in
which the monarch finally prevailed over his vassals, his success
was chiefly owing to the tyranny of those vassals over their
dependents. The barons, or nobles, equally the enemies of the
sovereign and the oppressors of the common people, were dreaded and
detested by both; till mutual danger and mutual interest effected a
union between them fatal to the power of the aristocracy. Had the
nobles, by a conduct of clemency and justice, preserved the fidelity
and devotion of their retainers and followers, the contests between
them and the prince must almost always have ended in their favor,
and in the abridgment or subversion of the royal authority.
This is not an assertion founded merely in speculation or
conjecture. Among other illustrations of its truth which might be
cited, Scotland will furnish a cogent example. The spirit of
clanship which was, at an early day, introduced into that kingdom,
uniting the nobles and their dependants by ties equivalent to those
of kindred, rendered the aristocracy a constant overmatch for the
power of the monarch, till the incorporation with England subdued
its fierce and ungovernable spirit, and reduced it within those
rules of subordination which a more rational and more energetic
system of civil polity had previously established in the latter
The separate governments in a confederacy may aptly be compared
with the feudal baronies; with this advantage in their favor, that
from the reasons already explained, they will generally possess the
confidence and good-will of the people, and with so important a
support, will be able effectually to oppose all encroachments of the
national government. It will be well if they are not able to
counteract its legitimate and necessary authority. The points of
similitude consist in the rivalship of power, applicable to both,
and in the CONCENTRATION of large portions of the strength of the
community into particular DEPOSITS, in one case at the disposal of
individuals, in the other case at the disposal of political bodies.
A concise review of the events that have attended confederate
governments will further illustrate this important doctrine; an
inattention to which has been the great source of our political
mistakes, and has given our jealousy a direction to the wrong side.
This review shall form the subject of some ensuing papers.


The Same Subject Continued
(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
AMONG the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was
that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic
council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated
institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present
Confederation of the American States.
The members retained the character of independent and sovereign
states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council
had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged
necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on
war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the
members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force
of the confederacy against the disobedient; to admit new members.
The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense
riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right
of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those
who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the
efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend
and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath,
and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.
In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply
sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances,
they exceed the powers enumerated in the articles of confederation.
The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times,
one of the principal engines by which government was then
maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against
refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on
the necessary occasions.
Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory.
The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered
by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political
capacities; and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence
the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the
confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in
awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest.
Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece
seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it
twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of
Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination.
It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the
deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the
weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party.
Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia
and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or
fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common
enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic
vicissitudes convulsions, and carnage.
After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the
Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned
out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The
Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer
partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become
masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated
the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency
of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful
members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The
smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to
revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had
become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.
Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were
courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the
necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of
the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms, to
establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy,
Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they
had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies; and did each
other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes.
Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the
celebrated Peloponnesian war; which itself ended in the ruin and
slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.
As a weak government, when not at war, is ever agitated by
internal dissentions, so these never fail to bring on fresh
calamities from abroad. The Phocians having ploughed up some
consecrated ground belonging to the temple of Apollo, the
Amphictyonic council, according to the superstition of the age,
imposed a fine on the sacrilegious offenders. The Phocians, being
abetted by Athens and Sparta, refused to submit to the decree. The
Thebans, with others of the cities, undertook to maintain the
authority of the Amphictyons, and to avenge the violated god. The
latter, being the weaker party, invited the assistance of Philip of
Macedon, who had secretly fostered the contest. Philip gladly
seized the opportunity of executing the designs he had long planned
against the liberties of Greece. By his intrigues and bribes he won
over to his interests the popular leaders of several cities; by
their influence and votes, gained admission into the Amphictyonic
council; and by his arts and his arms, made himself master of the
Such were the consequences of the fallacious principle on which
this interesting establishment was founded. Had Greece, says a
judicious observer on her fate, been united by a stricter
confederation, and persevered in her union, she would never have
worn the chains of Macedon; and might have proved a barrier to the
vast projects of Rome.
The Achaean league, as it is called, was another society of
Grecian republics, which supplies us with valuable instruction.
The Union here was far more intimate, and its organization much
wiser, than in the preceding instance. It will accordingly appear,
that though not exempt from a similar catastrophe, it by no means
equally deserved it.
The cities composing this league retained their municipal
jurisdiction, appointed their own officers, and enjoyed a perfect
equality. The senate, in which they were represented, had the sole
and exclusive right of peace and war; of sending and receiving
ambassadors; of entering into treaties and alliances; of
appointing a chief magistrate or praetor, as he was called, who
commanded their armies, and who, with the advice and consent of ten
of the senators, not only administered the government in the recess
of the senate, but had a great share in its deliberations, when
assembled. According to the primitive constitution, there were two
praetors associated in the administration; but on trial a single
one was preferred.
It appears that the cities had all the same laws and customs,
the same weights and measures, and the same money. But how far this
effect proceeded from the authority of the federal council is left
in uncertainty. It is said only that the cities were in a manner
compelled to receive the same laws and usages. When Lacedaemon was
brought into the league by Philopoemen, it was attended with an
abolition of the institutions and laws of Lycurgus, and an adoption
of those of the Achaeans. The Amphictyonic confederacy, of which
she had been a member, left her in the full exercise of her
government and her legislation. This circumstance alone proves a
very material difference in the genius of the two systems.
It is much to be regretted that such imperfect monuments remain
of this curious political fabric. Could its interior structure and
regular operation be ascertained, it is probable that more light
would be thrown by it on the science of federal government, than by
any of the like experiments with which we are acquainted.
One important fact seems to be witnessed by all the historians
who take notice of Achaean affairs. It is, that as well after the
renovation of the league by Aratus, as before its dissolution by the
arts of Macedon, there was infinitely more of moderation and justice
in the administration of its government, and less of violence and
sedition in the people, than were to be found in any of the cities
exercising SINGLY all the prerogatives of sovereignty. The Abbe
Mably, in his observations on Greece, says that the popular
government, which was so tempestuous elsewhere, caused no disorders
in the members of the Achaean republic, BECAUSE IT WAS THERE
We are not to conclude too hastily, however, that faction did
not, in a certain degree, agitate the particular cities; much less
that a due subordination and harmony reigned in the general system.
The contrary is sufficiently displayed in the vicissitudes and fate
of the republic.
Whilst the Amphictyonic confederacy remained, that of the
Achaeans, which comprehended the less important cities only, made
little figure on the theatre of Greece. When the former became a
victim to Macedon, the latter was spared by the policy of Philip and
Alexander. Under the successors of these princes, however, a
different policy prevailed. The arts of division were practiced
among the Achaeans. Each city was seduced into a separate interest;
the union was dissolved. Some of the cities fell under the tyranny
of Macedonian garrisons; others under that of usurpers springing
out of their own confusions. Shame and oppression erelong awaken
their love of liberty. A few cities reunited. Their example was
followed by others, as opportunities were found of cutting off their
tyrants. The league soon embraced almost the whole Peloponnesus.
Macedon saw its progress; but was hindered by internal dissensions
from stopping it. All Greece caught the enthusiasm and seemed ready
to unite in one confederacy, when the jealousy and envy in Sparta
and Athens, of the rising glory of the Achaeans, threw a fatal damp
on the enterprise. The dread of the Macedonian power induced the
league to court the alliance of the Kings of Egypt and Syria, who,
as successors of Alexander, were rivals of the king of Macedon.
This policy was defeated by Cleomenes, king of Sparta, who was led
by his ambition to make an unprovoked attack on his neighbors, the
Achaeans, and who, as an enemy to Macedon, had interest enough with
the Egyptian and Syrian princes to effect a breach of their
engagements with the league.
The Achaeans were now reduced to the dilemma of submitting to
Cleomenes, or of supplicating the aid of Macedon, its former
oppressor. The latter expedient was adopted. The contests of the
Greeks always afforded a pleasing opportunity to that powerful
neighbor of intermeddling in their affairs. A Macedonian army
quickly appeared. Cleomenes was vanquished. The Achaeans soon
experienced, as often happens, that a victorious and powerful ally
is but another name for a master. All that their most abject
compliances could obtain from him was a toleration of the exercise
of their laws. Philip, who was now on the throne of Macedon, soon
provoked by his tyrannies, fresh combinations among the Greeks. The
Achaeans, though weakened by internal dissensions and by the
revolt of Messene, one of its members, being joined by the AEtolians
and Athenians, erected the standard of opposition. Finding
themselves, though thus supported, unequal to the undertaking, they
once more had recourse to the dangerous expedient of introducing the
succor of foreign arms. The Romans, to whom the invitation was
made, eagerly embraced it. Philip was conquered; Macedon subdued.
A new crisis ensued to the league. Dissensions broke out among it
members. These the Romans fostered. Callicrates and other popular
leaders became mercenary instruments for inveigling their countrymen.
The more effectually to nourish discord and disorder the Romans
had, to the astonishment of those who confided in their sincerity,
already proclaimed universal liberty1 throughout Greece. With
the same insidious views, they now seduced the members from the
league, by representing to their pride the violation it committed on
their sovereignty. By these arts this union, the last hope of
Greece, the last hope of ancient liberty, was torn into pieces; and
such imbecility and distraction introduced, that the arms of Rome
found little difficulty in completing the ruin which their arts had
commenced. The Achaeans were cut to pieces, and Achaia loaded with
chains, under which it is groaning at this hour.
I have thought it not superfluous to give the outlines of this
important portion of history; both because it teaches more than one
lesson, and because, as a supplement to the outlines of the Achaean
constitution, it emphatically illustrates the tendency of federal
bodies rather to anarchy among the members, than to tyranny in the
1 This was but another name more specious for the independence
of the members on the federal head.


The Same Subject Continued
(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE examples of ancient confederacies, cited in my last paper,
have not exhausted the source of experimental instruction on this
subject. There are existing institutions, founded on a similar
principle, which merit particular consideration. The first which
presents itself is the Germanic body.
In the early ages of Christianity, Germany was occupied by seven
distinct nations, who had no common chief. The Franks, one of the
number, having conquered the Gauls, established the kingdom which
has taken its name from them. In the ninth century Charlemagne, its
warlike monarch, carried his victorious arms in every direction;
and Germany became a part of his vast dominions. On the
dismemberment, which took place under his sons, this part was
erected into a separate and independent empire. Charlemagne and his
immediate descendants possessed the reality, as well as the ensigns
and dignity of imperial power. But the principal vassals, whose
fiefs had become hereditary, and who composed the national diets
which Charlemagne had not abolished, gradually threw off the yoke
and advanced to sovereign jurisdiction and independence. The force
of imperial sovereignty was insufficient to restrain such powerful
dependants; or to preserve the unity and tranquillity of the empire.
The most furious private wars, accompanied with every species of
calamity, were carried on between the different princes and states.
The imperial authority, unable to maintain the public order,
declined by degrees till it was almost extinct in the anarchy, which
agitated the long interval between the death of the last emperor of
the Suabian, and the accession of the first emperor of the Austrian
lines. In the eleventh century the emperors enjoyed full
sovereignty: In the fifteenth they had little more than the symbols
and decorations of power.
Out of this feudal system, which has itself many of the
important features of a confederacy, has grown the federal system
which constitutes the Germanic empire. Its powers are vested in a
diet representing the component members of the confederacy; in the
emperor, who is the executive magistrate, with a negative on the
decrees of the diet; and in the imperial chamber and the aulic
council, two judiciary tribunals having supreme jurisdiction in
controversies which concern the empire, or which happen among its
The diet possesses the general power of legislating for the
empire; of making war and peace; contracting alliances; assessing
quotas of troops and money; constructing fortresses; regulating
coin; admitting new members; and subjecting disobedient members to
the ban of the empire, by which the party is degraded from his
sovereign rights and his possessions forfeited. The members of the
confederacy are expressly restricted from entering into compacts
prejudicial to the empire; from imposing tolls and duties on their
mutual intercourse, without the consent of the emperor and diet;
from altering the value of money; from doing injustice to one
another; or from affording assistance or retreat to disturbers of
the public peace. And the ban is denounced against such as shall
violate any of these restrictions. The members of the diet, as
such, are subject in all cases to be judged by the emperor and diet,
and in their private capacities by the aulic council and imperial
The prerogatives of the emperor are numerous. The most
important of them are: his exclusive right to make propositions to
the diet; to negative its resolutions; to name ambassadors; to
confer dignities and titles; to fill vacant electorates; to found
universities; to grant privileges not injurious to the states of
the empire; to receive and apply the public revenues; and
generally to watch over the public safety. In certain cases, the
electors form a council to him. In quality of emperor, he possesses
no territory within the empire, nor receives any revenue for his
support. But his revenue and dominions, in other qualities,
constitute him one of the most powerful princes in Europe.
From such a parade of constitutional powers, in the
representatives and head of this confederacy, the natural
supposition would be, that it must form an exception to the general
character which belongs to its kindred systems. Nothing would be
further from the reality. The fundamental principle on which it
rests, that the empire is a community of sovereigns, that the diet
is a representation of sovereigns and that the laws are addressed to
sovereigns, renders the empire a nerveless body, incapable of
regulating its own members, insecure against external dangers, and
agitated with unceasing fermentations in its own bowels.
The history of Germany is a history of wars between the emperor
and the princes and states; of wars among the princes and states
themselves; of the licentiousness of the strong, and the oppression
of the weak; of foreign intrusions, and foreign intrigues; of
requisitions of men and money disregarded, or partially complied
with; of attempts to enforce them, altogether abortive, or attended
with slaughter and desolation, involving the innocent with the
guilty; of general inbecility, confusion, and misery.
In the sixteenth century, the emperor, with one part of the
empire on his side, was seen engaged against the other princes and
states. In one of the conflicts, the emperor himself was put to
flight, and very near being made prisoner by the elector of Saxony.
The late king of Prussia was more than once pitted against his
imperial sovereign; and commonly proved an overmatch for him.
Controversies and wars among the members themselves have been so
common, that the German annals are crowded with the bloody pages
which describe them. Previous to the peace of Westphalia, Germany
was desolated by a war of thirty years, in which the emperor, with
one half of the empire, was on one side, and Sweden, with the other
half, on the opposite side. Peace was at length negotiated, and
dictated by foreign powers; and the articles of it, to which
foreign powers are parties, made a fundamental part of the Germanic
If the nation happens, on any emergency, to be more united by
the necessity of self-defense, its situation is still deplorable.
Military preparations must be preceded by so many tedious
discussions, arising from the jealousies, pride, separate views, and
clashing pretensions of sovereign bodies, that before the diet can
settle the arrangements, the enemy are in the field; and before the
federal troops are ready to take it, are retiring into winter
The small body of national troops, which has been judged
necessary in time of peace, is defectively kept up, badly paid,
infected with local prejudices, and supported by irregular and
disproportionate contributions to the treasury.
The impossibility of maintaining order and dispensing justice
among these sovereign subjects, produced the experiment of dividing
the empire into nine or ten circles or districts; of giving them an
interior organization, and of charging them with the military
execution of the laws against delinquent and contumacious members.
This experiment has only served to demonstrate more fully the
radical vice of the constitution. Each circle is the miniature
picture of the deformities of this political monster. They either
fail to execute their commissions, or they do it with all the
devastation and carnage of civil war. Sometimes whole circles are
defaulters; and then they increase the mischief which they were
instituted to remedy.
We may form some judgment of this scheme of military coercion
from a sample given by Thuanus. In Donawerth, a free and imperial
city of the circle of Suabia, the Abb 300 de St. Croix enjoyed
certain immunities which had been reserved to him. In the exercise
of these, on some public occasions, outrages were committed on him
by the people of the city. The consequence was that the city was
put under the ban of the empire, and the Duke of Bavaria, though
director of another circle, obtained an appointment to enforce it.
He soon appeared before the city with a corps of ten thousand
troops, and finding it a fit occasion, as he had secretly intended
from the beginning, to revive an antiquated claim, on the pretext
that his ancestors had suffered the place to be dismembered from his
territory,1 he took possession of it in his own name, disarmed,
and punished the inhabitants, and reannexed the city to his domains.
It may be asked, perhaps, what has so long kept this disjointed
machine from falling entirely to pieces? The answer is obvious:
The weakness of most of the members, who are unwilling to expose
themselves to the mercy of foreign powers; the weakness of most of
the principal members, compared with the formidable powers all
around them; the vast weight and influence which the emperor
derives from his separate and heriditary dominions; and the
interest he feels in preserving a system with which his family pride
is connected, and which constitutes him the first prince in Europe;
--these causes support a feeble and precarious Union; whilst the
repellant quality, incident to the nature of sovereignty, and which
time continually strengthens, prevents any reform whatever, founded
on a proper consolidation. Nor is it to be imagined, if this
obstacle could be surmounted, that the neighboring powers would
suffer a revolution to take place which would give to the empire the
force and preeminence to which it is entitled. Foreign nations have
long considered themselves as interested in the changes made by
events in this constitution; and have, on various occasions,
betrayed their policy of perpetuating its anarchy and weakness.
If more direct examples were wanting, Poland, as a government
over local sovereigns, might not improperly be taken notice of. Nor
could any proof more striking be given of the calamities flowing
from such institutions. Equally unfit for self-government and
self-defense, it has long been at the mercy of its powerful
neighbors; who have lately had the mercy to disburden it of one
third of its people and territories.
The connection among the Swiss cantons scarcely amounts to a
confederacy; though it is sometimes cited as an instance of the
stability of such institutions.
They have no common treasury; no common troops even in war; no
common coin; no common judicatory; nor any other common mark of
They are kept together by the peculiarity of their topographical
position; by their individual weakness and insignificancy; by the
fear of powerful neighbors, to one of which they were formerly
subject; by the few sources of contention among a people of such
simple and homogeneous manners; by their joint interest in their
dependent possessions; by the mutual aid they stand in need of, for
suppressing insurrections and rebellions, an aid expressly
stipulated and often required and afforded; and by the necessity of
some regular and permanent provision for accomodating disputes among
the cantons. The provision is, that the parties at variance shall
each choose four judges out of the neutral cantons, who, in case of
disagreement, choose an umpire. This tribunal, under an oath of
impartiality, pronounces definitive sentence, which all the cantons
are bound to enforce. The competency of this regulation may be
estimated by a clause in their treaty of 1683, with Victor Amadeus
of Savoy; in which he obliges himself to interpose as mediator in
disputes between the cantons, and to employ force, if necessary,
against the contumacious party.
So far as the peculiarity of their case will admit of comparison
with that of the United States, it serves to confirm the principle
intended to be established. Whatever efficacy the union may have
had in ordinary cases, it appears that the moment a cause of
difference sprang up, capable of trying its strength, it failed.
The controversies on the subject of religion, which in three
instances have kindled violent and bloody contests, may be said, in
fact, to have severed the league. The Protestant and Catholic
cantons have since had their separate diets, where all the most
important concerns are adjusted, and which have left the general
diet little other business than to take care of the common bailages.
That separation had another consequence, which merits attention.
It produced opposite alliances with foreign powers: of Berne, at
the head of the Protestant association, with the United Provinces;
and of Luzerne, at the head of the Catholic association, with
1 Pfeffel, ``Nouvel Abreg. Chronol. de l'Hist., etc.,
d'Allemagne,'' says the pretext was to indemnify himself for the
expense of the expedition.


The Same Subject Continued
(The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, December 11, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE United Netherlands are a confederacy of republics, or rather
of aristocracies of a very remarkable texture, yet confirming all
the lessons derived from those which we have already reviewed.
The union is composed of seven coequal and sovereign states, and
each state or province is a composition of equal and independent
cities. In all important cases, not only the provinces but the
cities must be unanimous.
The sovereignty of the Union is represented by the
States-General, consisting usually of about fifty deputies appointed
by the provinces. They hold their seats, some for life, some for
six, three, and one years; from two provinces they continue in
appointment during pleasure.
The States-General have authority to enter into treaties and
alliances; to make war and peace; to raise armies and equip
fleets; to ascertain quotas and demand contributions. In all these
cases, however, unanimity and the sanction of their constituents are
requisite. They have authority to appoint and receive ambassadors;
to execute treaties and alliances already formed; to provide for
the collection of duties on imports and exports; to regulate the
mint, with a saving to the provincial rights; to govern as
sovereigns the dependent territories. The provinces are restrained,
unless with the general consent, from entering into foreign
treaties; from establishing imposts injurious to others, or
charging their neighbors with higher duties than their own subjects.
A council of state, a chamber of accounts, with five colleges of
admiralty, aid and fortify the federal administration.
The executive magistrate of the union is the stadtholder, who is
now an hereditary prince. His principal weight and influence in the
republic are derived from this independent title; from his great
patrimonial estates; from his family connections with some of the
chief potentates of Europe; and, more than all, perhaps, from his
being stadtholder in the several provinces, as well as for the
union; in which provincial quality he has the appointment of town
magistrates under certain regulations, executes provincial decrees,
presides when he pleases in the provincial tribunals, and has
throughout the power of pardon.
As stadtholder of the union, he has, however, considerable
In his political capacity he has authority to settle disputes
between the provinces, when other methods fail; to assist at the
deliberations of the States-General, and at their particular
conferences; to give audiences to foreign ambassadors, and to keep
agents for his particular affairs at foreign courts.
In his military capacity he commands the federal troops,
provides for garrisons, and in general regulates military affairs;
disposes of all appointments, from colonels to ensigns, and of the
governments and posts of fortified towns.
In his marine capacity he is admiral-general, and superintends
and directs every thing relative to naval forces and other naval
affairs; presides in the admiralties in person or by proxy;
appoints lieutenant-admirals and other officers; and establishes
councils of war, whose sentences are not executed till he approves
His revenue, exclusive of his private income, amounts to three
hundred thousand florins. The standing army which he commands
consists of about forty thousand men.
Such is the nature of the celebrated Belgic confederacy, as
delineated on parchment. What are the characters which practice has
stamped upon it? Imbecility in the government; discord among the
provinces; foreign influence and indignities; a precarious
existence in peace, and peculiar calamities from war.
It was long ago remarked by Grotius, that nothing but the hatred
of his countrymen to the house of Austria kept them from being
ruined by the vices of their constitution.
The union of Utrecht, says another respectable writer, reposes
an authority in the States-General, seemingly sufficient to secure
harmony, but the jealousy in each province renders the practice very
different from the theory.
The same instrument, says another, obliges each province to levy
certain contributions; but this article never could, and probably
never will, be executed; because the inland provinces, who have
little commerce, cannot pay an equal quota.
In matters of contribution, it is the practice to waive the
articles of the constitution. The danger of delay obliges the
consenting provinces to furnish their quotas, without waiting for
the others; and then to obtain reimbursement from the others, by
deputations, which are frequent, or otherwise, as they can. The
great wealth and influence of the province of Holland enable her to
effect both these purposes.
It has more than once happened, that the deficiencies had to be
ultimately collected at the point of the bayonet; a thing
practicable, though dreadful, in a confedracy where one of the
members exceeds in force all the rest, and where several of them are
too small to meditate resistance; but utterly impracticable in one
composed of members, several of which are equal to each other in
strength and resources, and equal singly to a vigorous and
persevering defense.
Foreign ministers, says Sir William Temple, who was himself a
foreign minister, elude matters taken ad referendum, by
tampering with the provinces and cities. In 1726, the treaty of
Hanover was delayed by these means a whole year. Instances of a
like nature are numerous and notorious.
In critical emergencies, the States-General are often compelled
to overleap their constitutional bounds. In 1688, they concluded a
treaty of themselves at the risk of their heads. The treaty of
Westphalia, in 1648, by which their independence was formerly and
finally recognized, was concluded without the consent of Zealand.
Even as recently as the last treaty of peace with Great Britain,
the constitutional principle of unanimity was departed from. A weak
constitution must necessarily terminate in dissolution, for want of
proper powers, or the usurpation of powers requisite for the public
safety. Whether the usurpation, when once begun, will stop at the
salutary point, or go forward to the dangerous extreme, must depend
on the contingencies of the moment. Tyranny has perhaps oftener
grown out of the assumptions of power, called for, on pressing
exigencies, by a defective constitution, than out of the full
exercise of the largest constitutional authorities.
Notwithstanding the calamities produced by the stadtholdership,
it has been supposed that without his influence in the individual
provinces, the causes of anarchy manifest in the confederacy would
long ago have dissolved it. ``Under such a government,'' says the
Abbe Mably, ``the Union could never have subsisted, if the provinces
had not a spring within themselves, capable of quickening their
tardiness, and compelling them to the same way of thinking. This
spring is the stadtholder.'' It is remarked by Sir William Temple,
``that in the intermissions of the stadtholdership, Holland, by her
riches and her authority, which drew the others into a sort of
dependence, supplied the place.''
These are not the only circumstances which have controlled the
tendency to anarchy and dissolution. The surrounding powers impose
an absolute necessity of union to a certain degree, at the same time
that they nourish by their intrigues the constitutional vices which
keep the republic in some degree always at their mercy.
The true patriots have long bewailed the fatal tendency of these
vices, and have made no less than four regular experiments by
EXTRAORDINARY ASSEMBLIES, convened for the special purpose, to apply
a remedy. As many times has their laudable zeal found it impossible
to UNITE THE PUBLIC COUNCILS in reforming the known, the
acknowledged, the fatal evils of the existing constitution. Let us
pause, my fellow-citizens, for one moment, over this melancholy and
monitory lesson of history; and with the tear that drops for the
calamities brought on mankind by their adverse opinions and selfish
passions, let our gratitude mingle an ejaculation to Heaven, for the
propitious concord which has distinguished the consultations for our
political happiness.
A design was also conceived of establishing a general tax to be
administered by the federal authority. This also had its
adversaries and failed.
This unhappy people seem to be now suffering from popular
convulsions, from dissensions among the states, and from the actual
invasion of foreign arms, the crisis of their destiny. All nations
have their eyes fixed on the awful spectacle. The first wish
prompted by humanity is, that this severe trial may issue in such a
revolution of their government as will establish their union, and
render it the parent of tranquillity, freedom and happiness: The
next, that the asylum under which, we trust, the enjoyment of these
blessings will speedily be secured in this country, may receive and
console them for the catastrophe of their own.

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest