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


Other Defects of the Present Confederation
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
HAVING in the three last numbers taken a summary review of the
principal circumstances and events which have depicted the genius
and fate of other confederate governments, I shall now proceed in
the enumeration of the most important of those defects which have
hitherto disappointed our hopes from the system established among
ourselves. To form a safe and satisfactory judgment of the proper
remedy, it is absolutely necessary that we should be well acquainted
with the extent and malignity of the disease.
The next most palpable defect of the subsisting Confederation,
is the total want of a SANCTION to its laws. The United States, as
now composed, have no powers to exact obedience, or punish
disobedience to their resolutions, either by pecuniary mulcts, by a
suspension or divestiture of privileges, or by any other
constitutional mode. There is no express delegation of authority to
them to use force against delinquent members; and if such a right
should be ascribed to the federal head, as resulting from the nature
of the social compact between the States, it must be by inference
and construction, in the face of that part of the second article, by
which it is declared, ``that each State shall retain every power,
jurisdiction, and right, not EXPRESSLY delegated to the United
States in Congress assembled.'' There is, doubtless, a striking
absurdity in supposing that a right of this kind does not exist, but
we are reduced to the dilemma either of embracing that supposition,
preposterous as it may seem, or of contravening or explaining away a
provision, which has been of late a repeated theme of the eulogies
of those who oppose the new Constitution; and the want of which, in
that plan, has been the subject of much plausible animadversion, and
severe criticism. If we are unwilling to impair the force of this
applauded provision, we shall be obliged to conclude, that the
United States afford the extraordinary spectacle of a government
destitute even of the shadow of constitutional power to enforce the
execution of its own laws. It will appear, from the specimens which
have been cited, that the American Confederacy, in this particular,
stands discriminated from every other institution of a similar kind,
and exhibits a new and unexampled phenomenon in the political world.
The want of a mutual guaranty of the State governments is
another capital imperfection in the federal plan. There is nothing
of this kind declared in the articles that compose it; and to imply
a tacit guaranty from considerations of utility, would be a still
more flagrant departure from the clause which has been mentioned,
than to imply a tacit power of coercion from the like considerations.
The want of a guaranty, though it might in its consequences
endanger the Union, does not so immediately attack its existence as
the want of a constitutional sanction to its laws.
Without a guaranty the assistance to be derived from the Union
in repelling those domestic dangers which may sometimes threaten the
existence of the State constitutions, must be renounced. Usurpation
may rear its crest in each State, and trample upon the liberties of
the people, while the national government could legally do nothing
more than behold its encroachments with indignation and regret. A
successful faction may erect a tyranny on the ruins of order and
law, while no succor could constitutionally be afforded by the Union
to the friends and supporters of the government. The tempestuous
situation from which Massachusetts has scarcely emerged, evinces
that dangers of this kind are not merely speculative. Who can
determine what might have been the issue of her late convulsions, if
the malcontents had been headed by a Caesar or by a Cromwell? Who
can predict what effect a despotism, established in Massachusetts,
would have upon the liberties of New Hampshire or Rhode Island, of
Connecticut or New York?
The inordinate pride of State importance has suggested to some
minds an objection to the principle of a guaranty in the federal
government, as involving an officious interference in the domestic
concerns of the members. A scruple of this kind would deprive us of
one of the principal advantages to be expected from union, and can
only flow from a misapprehension of the nature of the provision
itself. It could be no impediment to reforms of the State
constitution by a majority of the people in a legal and peaceable
mode. This right would remain undiminished. The guaranty could
only operate against changes to be effected by violence. Towards
the preventions of calamities of this kind, too many checks cannot
be provided. The peace of society and the stability of government
depend absolutely on the efficacy of the precautions adopted on this
head. Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of
the people, there is the less pretense for the use of violent
remedies in partial or occasional distempers of the State. The
natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or
representative constitution, is a change of men. A guaranty by the
national authority would be as much levelled against the usurpations
of rulers as against the ferments and outrages of faction and
sedition in the community.
The principle of regulating the contributions of the States to
the common treasury by QUOTAS is another fundamental error in the
Confederation. Its repugnancy to an adequate supply of the national
exigencies has been already pointed out, and has sufficiently
appeared from the trial which has been made of it. I speak of it
now solely with a view to equality among the States. Those who have
been accustomed to contemplate the circumstances which produce and
constitute national wealth, must be satisfied that there is no
common standard or barometer by which the degrees of it can be
ascertained. Neither the value of lands, nor the numbers of the
people, which have been successively proposed as the rule of State
contributions, has any pretension to being a just representative.
If we compare the wealth of the United Netherlands with that of
Russia or Germany, or even of France, and if we at the same time
compare the total value of the lands and the aggregate population of
that contracted district with the total value of the lands and the
aggregate population of the immense regions of either of the three
last-mentioned countries, we shall at once discover that there is no
comparison between the proportion of either of these two objects and
that of the relative wealth of those nations. If the like parallel
were to be run between several of the American States, it would
furnish a like result. Let Virginia be contrasted with North
Carolina, Pennsylvania with Connecticut, or Maryland with New
Jersey, and we shall be convinced that the respective abilities of
those States, in relation to revenue, bear little or no analogy to
their comparative stock in lands or to their comparative population.
The position may be equally illustrated by a similar process
between the counties of the same State. No man who is acquainted
with the State of New York will doubt that the active wealth of
King's County bears a much greater proportion to that of Montgomery
than it would appear to be if we should take either the total value
of the lands or the total number of the people as a criterion!
The wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes.
Situation, soil, climate, the nature of the productions, the
nature of the government, the genius of the citizens, the degree of
information they possess, the state of commerce, of arts, of
industry, these circumstances and many more, too complex, minute, or
adventitious to admit of a particular specification, occasion
differences hardly conceivable in the relative opulence and riches
of different countries. The consequence clearly is that there can
be no common measure of national wealth, and, of course, no general
or stationary rule by which the ability of a state to pay taxes can
be determined. The attempt, therefore, to regulate the
contributions of the members of a confederacy by any such rule,
cannot fail to be productive of glaring inequality and extreme
This inequality would of itself be sufficient in America to work
the eventual destruction of the Union, if any mode of enforcing a
compliance with its requisitions could be devised. The suffering
States would not long consent to remain associated upon a principle
which distributes the public burdens with so unequal a hand, and
which was calculated to impoverish and oppress the citizens of some
States, while those of others would scarcely be conscious of the
small proportion of the weight they were required to sustain. This,
however, is an evil inseparable from the principle of quotas and
There is no method of steering clear of this inconvenience, but
by authorizing the national government to raise its own revenues in
its own way. Imposts, excises, and, in general, all duties upon
articles of consumption, may be compared to a fluid, which will, in
time, find its level with the means of paying them. The amount to
be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be at his own
option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources. The
rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal; and private
oppression may always be avoided by a judicious selection of objects
proper for such impositions. If inequalities should arise in some
States from duties on particular objects, these will, in all
probability, be counterbalanced by proportional inequalities in
other States, from the duties on other objects. In the course of
time and things, an equilibrium, as far as it is attainable in so
complicated a subject, will be established everywhere. Or, if
inequalities should still exist, they would neither be so great in
their degree, so uniform in their operation, nor so odious in their
appearance, as those which would necessarily spring from quotas,
upon any scale that can possibly be devised.
It is a signal advantage of taxes on articles of consumption,
that they contain in their own nature a security against excess.
They prescribe their own limit; which cannot be exceeded without
defeating the end proposed, that is, an extension of the revenue.
When applied to this object, the saying is as just as it is witty,
that, ``in political arithmetic, two and two do not always make four.''
If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the
collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so
great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds.
This forms a complete barrier against any material oppression of
the citizens by taxes of this class, and is itself a natural
limitation of the power of imposing them.
Impositions of this kind usually fall under the denomination of
indirect taxes, and must for a long time constitute the chief part
of the revenue raised in this country. Those of the direct kind,
which principally relate to land and buildings, may admit of a rule
of apportionment. Either the value of land, or the number of the
people, may serve as a standard. The state of agriculture and the
populousness of a country have been considered as nearly connected
with each other. And, as a rule, for the purpose intended, numbers,
in the view of simplicity and certainty, are entitled to a
preference. In every country it is a herculean task to obtain a
valuation of the land; in a country imperfectly settled and
progressive in improvement, the difficulties are increased almost to
impracticability. The expense of an accurate valuation is, in all
situations, a formidable objection. In a branch of taxation where
no limits to the discretion of the government are to be found in the
nature of things, the establishment of a fixed rule, not
incompatible with the end, may be attended with fewer inconveniences
than to leave that discretion altogether at large.


The Same Subject Continued
(Other Defects of the Present Confederation)
From the New York Packet.
Friday, December 14, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
IN ADDITION to the defects already enumerated in the existing
federal system, there are others of not less importance, which
concur in rendering it altogether unfit for the administration of
the affairs of the Union.
The want of a power to regulate commerce is by all parties
allowed to be of the number. The utility of such a power has been
anticipated under the first head of our inquiries; and for this
reason, as well as from the universal conviction entertained upon
the subject, little need be added in this place. It is indeed
evident, on the most superficial view, that there is no object,
either as it respects the interests of trade or finance, that more
strongly demands a federal superintendence. The want of it has
already operated as a bar to the formation of beneficial treaties
with foreign powers, and has given occasions of dissatisfaction
between the States. No nation acquainted with the nature of our
political association would be unwise enough to enter into
stipulations with the United States, by which they conceded
privileges of any importance to them, while they were apprised that
the engagements on the part of the Union might at any moment be
violated by its members, and while they found from experience that
they might enjoy every advantage they desired in our markets,
without granting us any return but such as their momentary
convenience might suggest. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at
that Mr. Jenkinson, in ushering into the House of Commons a bill for
regulating the temporary intercourse between the two countries,
should preface its introduction by a declaration that similar
provisions in former bills had been found to answer every purpose to
the commerce of Great Britain, and that it would be prudent to
persist in the plan until it should appear whether the American
government was likely or not to acquire greater consistency. [1]
Several States have endeavored, by separate prohibitions,
restrictions, and exclusions, to influence the conduct of that
kingdom in this particular, but the want of concert, arising from
the want of a general authority and from clashing and dissimilar
views in the State, has hitherto frustrated every experiment of the
kind, and will continue to do so as long as the same obstacles to a
uniformity of measures continue to exist.
The interfering and unneighborly regulations of some States,
contrary to the true spirit of the Union, have, in different
instances, given just cause of umbrage and complaint to others, and
it is to be feared that examples of this nature, if not restrained
by a national control, would be multiplied and extended till they
became not less serious sources of animosity and discord than
injurious impediments to the intercourse between the different parts
of the Confederacy. ``The commerce of the German empire [2] is in
continual trammels from the multiplicity of the duties which the
several princes and states exact upon the merchandises passing
through their territories, by means of which the fine streams and
navigable rivers with which Germany is so happily watered are
rendered almost useless.'' Though the genius of the people of this
country might never permit this description to be strictly
applicable to us, yet we may reasonably expect, from the gradual
conflicts of State regulations, that the citizens of each would at
length come to be considered and treated by the others in no better
light than that of foreigners and aliens.
The power of raising armies, by the most obvious construction of
the articles of the Confederation, is merely a power of making
requisitions upon the States for quotas of men. This practice in
the course of the late war, was found replete with obstructions to a
vigorous and to an economical system of defense. It gave birth to a
competition between the States which created a kind of auction for
men. In order to furnish the quotas required of them, they outbid
each other till bounties grew to an enormous and insupportable size.
The hope of a still further increase afforded an inducement to
those who were disposed to serve to procrastinate their enlistment,
and disinclined them from engaging for any considerable periods.
Hence, slow and scanty levies of men, in the most critical
emergencies of our affairs; short enlistments at an unparalleled
expense; continual fluctuations in the troops, ruinous to their
discipline and subjecting the public safety frequently to the
perilous crisis of a disbanded army. Hence, also, those oppressive
expedients for raising men which were upon several occasions
practiced, and which nothing but the enthusiasm of liberty would
have induced the people to endure.
This method of raising troops is not more unfriendly to economy
and vigor than it is to an equal distribution of the burden. The
States near the seat of war, influenced by motives of
self-preservation, made efforts to furnish their quotas, which even
exceeded their abilities; while those at a distance from danger
were, for the most part, as remiss as the others were diligent, in
their exertions. The immediate pressure of this inequality was not
in this case, as in that of the contributions of money, alleviated
by the hope of a final liquidation. The States which did not pay
their proportions of money might at least be charged with their
deficiencies; but no account could be formed of the deficiencies in
the supplies of men. We shall not, however, see much reason to
reget the want of this hope, when we consider how little prospect
there is, that the most delinquent States will ever be able to make
compensation for their pecuniary failures. The system of quotas and
requisitions, whether it be applied to men or money, is, in every
view, a system of imbecility in the Union, and of inequality and
injustice among the members.
The right of equal suffrage among the States is another
exceptionable part of the Confederation. Every idea of proportion
and every rule of fair representation conspire to condemn a
principle, which gives to Rhode Island an equal weight in the scale
of power with Massachusetts, or Connecticut, or New York; and to
Deleware an equal voice in the national deliberations with
Pennsylvania, or Virginia, or North Carolina. Its operation
contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which
requires that the sense of the majority should prevail. Sophistry
may reply, that sovereigns are equal, and that a majority of the
votes of the States will be a majority of confederated America. But
this kind of logical legerdemain will never counteract the plain
suggestions of justice and common-sense. It may happen that this
majority of States is a small minority of the people of
America [3]; and two thirds of the people of America could not
long be persuaded, upon the credit of artificial distinctions and
syllogistic subtleties, to submit their interests to the management
and disposal of one third. The larger States would after a while
revolt from the idea of receiving the law from the smaller. To
acquiesce in such a privation of their due importance in the
political scale, would be not merely to be insensible to the love of
power, but even to sacrifice the desire of equality. It is neither
rational to expect the first, nor just to require the last. The
smaller States, considering how peculiarly their safety and welfare
depend on union, ought readily to renounce a pretension which, if
not relinquished, would prove fatal to its duration.
It may be objected to this, that not seven but nine States, or
two thirds of the whole number, must consent to the most important
resolutions; and it may be thence inferred that nine States would
always comprehend a majority of the Union. But this does not
obviate the impropriety of an equal vote between States of the most
unequal dimensions and populousness; nor is the inference accurate
in point of fact; for we can enumerate nine States which contain
less than a majority of the people [4]; and it is constitutionally
possible that these nine may give the vote. Besides, there are
matters of considerable moment determinable by a bare majority; and
there are others, concerning which doubts have been entertained,
which, if interpreted in favor of the sufficiency of a vote of seven
States, would extend its operation to interests of the first
magnitude. In addition to this, it is to be observed that there is
a probability of an increase in the number of States, and no
provision for a proportional augmentation of the ratio of votes.
But this is not all: what at first sight may seem a remedy, is,
in reality, a poison. To give a minority a negative upon the
majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is
requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense
of the greater number to that of the lesser. Congress, from the
nonattendance of a few States, have been frequently in the situation
of a Polish diet, where a single VOTE has been sufficient to put a
stop to all their movements. A sixtieth part of the Union, which is
about the proportion of Delaware and Rhode Island, has several times
been able to oppose an entire bar to its operations. This is one of
those refinements which, in practice, has an effect the reverse of
what is expected from it in theory. The necessity of unanimity in
public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been
founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security.
But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to
destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the
pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or
corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a
respectable majority. In those emergencies of a nation, in which
the goodness or badness, the weakness or strength of its government,
is of the greatest importance, there is commonly a necessity for
action. The public business must, in some way or other, go forward.
If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority,
respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order
that something may be done, must conform to the views of the
minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule
that of the greater, and give a tone to the national proceedings.
Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue;
contemptible compromises of the public good. And yet, in such a
system, it is even happy when such compromises can take place: for
upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and
then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or
fatally defeated. It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining
the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of
inaction. Its situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes
border upon anarchy.
It is not difficult to discover, that a principle of this kind
gives greater scope to foreign corruption, as well as to domestic
faction, than that which permits the sense of the majority to
decide; though the contrary of this has been presumed. The mistake
has proceeded from not attending with due care to the mischiefs that
may be occasioned by obstructing the progress of government at
certain critical seasons. When the concurrence of a large number is
required by the Constitution to the doing of any national act, we
are apt to rest satisfied that all is safe, because nothing improper
will be likely TO BE DONE, but we forget how much good may be
prevented, and how much ill may be produced, by the power of
hindering the doing what may be necessary, and of keeping affairs in
the same unfavorable posture in which they may happen to stand at
particular periods.
Suppose, for instance, we were engaged in a war, in conjunction
with one foreign nation, against another. Suppose the necessity of
our situation demanded peace, and the interest or ambition of our
ally led him to seek the prosecution of the war, with views that
might justify us in making separate terms. In such a state of
things, this ally of ours would evidently find it much easier, by
his bribes and intrigues, to tie up the hands of government from
making peace, where two thirds of all the votes were requisite to
that object, than where a simple majority would suffice. In the
first case, he would have to corrupt a smaller number; in the last,
a greater number. Upon the same principle, it would be much easier
for a foreign power with which we were at war to perplex our
councils and embarrass our exertions. And, in a commercial view, we
may be subjected to similar inconveniences. A nation, with which we
might have a treaty of commerce, could with much greater facility
prevent our forming a connection with her competitor in trade,
though such a connection should be ever so beneficial to ourselves.
Evils of this description ought not to be regarded as imaginary.
One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous
advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign
corruption. An hereditary monarch, though often disposed to
sacrifice his subjects to his ambition, has so great a personal
interest in the government and in the external glory of the nation,
that it is not easy for a foreign power to give him an equivalent
for what he would sacrifice by treachery to the state. The world
has accordingly been witness to few examples of this species of
royal prostitution, though there have been abundant specimens of
every other kind.
In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community,
by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great
pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their
trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior
virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in
the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty. Hence
it is that history furnishes us with so many mortifying examples of
the prevalency of foreign corruption in republican governments. How
much this contributed to the ruin of the ancient commonwealths has
been already delineated. It is well known that the deputies of the
United Provinces have, in various instances, been purchased by the
emissaries of the neighboring kingdoms. The Earl of Chesterfield
(if my memory serves me right), in a letter to his court, intimates
that his success in an important negotiation must depend on his
obtaining a major's commission for one of those deputies. And in
Sweden the parties were alternately bought by France and England in
so barefaced and notorious a manner that it excited universal
disgust in the nation, and was a principal cause that the most
limited monarch in Europe, in a single day, without tumult,
violence, or opposition, became one of the most absolute and
A circumstance which crowns the defects of the Confederation
remains yet to be mentioned, the want of a judiciary power. Laws
are a dead letter without courts to expound and define their true
meaning and operation. The treaties of the United States, to have
any force at all, must be considered as part of the law of the land.
Their true import, as far as respects individuals, must, like all
other laws, be ascertained by judicial determinations. To produce
uniformity in these determinations, they ought to be submitted, in
the last resort, to one SUPREME TRIBUNAL. And this tribunal ought
to be instituted under the same authority which forms the treaties
themselves. These ingredients are both indispensable. If there is
in each State a court of final jurisdiction, there may be as many
different final determinations on the same point as there are courts.
There are endless diversities in the opinions of men. We often
see not only different courts but the judges of the came court
differing from each other. To avoid the confusion which would
unavoidably result from the contradictory decisions of a number of
independent judicatories, all nations have found it necessary to
establish one court paramount to the rest, possessing a general
superintendence, and authorized to settle and declare in the last
resort a uniform rule of civil justice.
This is the more necessary where the frame of the government is
so compounded that the laws of the whole are in danger of being
contravened by the laws of the parts. In this case, if the
particular tribunals are invested with a right of ultimate
jurisdiction, besides the contradictions to be expected from
difference of opinion, there will be much to fear from the bias of
local views and prejudices, and from the interference of local
regulations. As often as such an interference was to happen, there
would be reason to apprehend that the provisions of the particular
laws might be preferred to those of the general laws; for nothing
is more natural to men in office than to look with peculiar
deference towards that authority to which they owe their official
existence. The treaties of the United States, under the present
Constitution, are liable to the infractions of thirteen different
legislatures, and as many different courts of final jurisdiction,
acting under the authority of those legislatures. The faith, the
reputation, the peace of the whole Union, are thus continually at
the mercy of the prejudices, the passions, and the interests of
every member of which it is composed. Is it possible that foreign
nations can either respect or confide in such a government? Is it
possible that the people of America will longer consent to trust
their honor, their happiness, their safety, on so precarious a
In this review of the Confederation, I have confined myself to
the exhibition of its most material defects; passing over those
imperfections in its details by which even a great part of the power
intended to be conferred upon it has been in a great measure
rendered abortive. It must be by this time evident to all men of
reflection, who can divest themselves of the prepossessions of
preconceived opinions, that it is a system so radically vicious and
unsound, as to admit not of amendment but by an entire change in its
leading features and characters.
The organization of Congress is itself utterly improper for the
exercise of those powers which are necessary to be deposited in the
Union. A single assembly may be a proper receptacle of those
slender, or rather fettered, authorities, which have been heretofore
delegated to the federal head; but it would be inconsistent with
all the principles of good government, to intrust it with those
additional powers which, even the moderate and more rational
adversaries of the proposed Constitution admit, ought to reside in
the United States. If that plan should not be adopted, and if the
necessity of the Union should be able to withstand the ambitious
aims of those men who may indulge magnificent schemes of personal
aggrandizement from its dissolution, the probability would be, that
we should run into the project of conferring supplementary powers
upon Congress, as they are now constituted; and either the machine,
from the intrinsic feebleness of its structure, will moulder into
pieces, in spite of our ill-judged efforts to prop it; or, by
successive augmentations of its force an energy, as necessity might
prompt, we shall finally accumulate, in a single body, all the most
important prerogatives of sovereignty, and thus entail upon our
posterity one of the most execrable forms of government that human
infatuation ever contrived. Thus, we should create in reality that
very tyranny which the adversaries of the new Constitution either
are, or affect to be, solicitous to avert.
It has not a little contributed to the infirmities of the
existing federal system, that it never had a ratification by the
PEOPLE. Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the
several legislatures, it has been exposed to frequent and intricate
questions concerning the validity of its powers, and has, in some
instances, given birth to the enormous doctrine of a right of
legislative repeal. Owing its ratification to the law of a State,
it has been contended that the same authority might repeal the law
by which it was ratified. However gross a heresy it may be to
maintain that a PARTY to a COMPACT has a right to revoke that
COMPACT, the doctrine itself has had respectable advocates. The
possibility of a question of this nature proves the necessity of
laying the foundations of our national government deeper than in the
mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire
ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The
streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure,
original fountain of all legitimate authority.
FNA1-@1 This, as nearly as I can recollect, was the sense of his
speech on introducing the last bill.
FNA1-@2 Encyclopedia, article ``Empire.''
FNA1-@3 New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia,
South Carolina, and Maryland are a majority of the whole number of
the States, but they do not contain one third of the people.
FNA1-@4 Add New York and Connecticut to the foregoing seven, and they
will be less than a majority.


The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to
the Preservation of the Union
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, December 18, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
THE necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with
the one proposed, to the preservation of the Union, is the point at
the examination of which we are now arrived.
This inquiry will naturally divide itself into three
branches the objects to be provided for by the federal government,
the quantity of power necessary to the accomplishment of those
objects, the persons upon whom that power ought to operate. Its
distribution and organization will more properly claim our attention
under the succeeding head.
The principal purposes to be answered by union are these the
common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace
as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the
regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States;
the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial,
with foreign countries.
The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to
raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for
the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for
their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation,
that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this
reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power
to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be
coextensive with all the possible combinations of such
circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same
councils which are appointed to preside over the common defense.
This is one of those truths which, to a correct and unprejudiced
mind, carries its own evidence along with it; and may be obscured,
but cannot be made plainer by argument or reasoning. It rests upon
axioms as simple as they are universal; the MEANS ought to be
proportioned to the END; the persons, from whose agency the
attainment of any END is expected, ought to possess the MEANS by
which it is to be attained.
Whether there ought to be a federal government intrusted with
the care of the common defense, is a question in the first instance,
open for discussion; but the moment it is decided in the
affirmative, it will follow, that that government ought to be
clothed with all the powers requisite to complete execution of its
trust. And unless it can be shown that the circumstances which may
affect the public safety are reducible within certain determinate
limits; unless the contrary of this position can be fairly and
rationally disputed, it must be admitted, as a necessary
consequence, that there can be no limitation of that authority which
is to provide for the defense and protection of the community, in
any matter essential to its efficacy that is, in any matter
Defective as the present Confederation has been proved to be,
this principle appears to have been fully recognized by the framers
of it; though they have not made proper or adequate provision for
its exercise. Congress have an unlimited discretion to make
requisitions of men and money; to govern the army and navy; to
direct their operations. As their requisitions are made
constitutionally binding upon the States, who are in fact under the
most solemn obligations to furnish the supplies required of them,
the intention evidently was that the United States should command
whatever resources were by them judged requisite to the ``common
defense and general welfare.'' It was presumed that a sense of
their true interests, and a regard to the dictates of good faith,
would be found sufficient pledges for the punctual performance of
the duty of the members to the federal head.
The experiment has, however, demonstrated that this expectation
was ill-founded and illusory; and the observations, made under the
last head, will, I imagine, have sufficed to convince the impartial
and discerning, that there is an absolute necessity for an entire
change in the first principles of the system; that if we are in
earnest about giving the Union energy and duration, we must abandon
the vain project of legislating upon the States in their collective
capacities; we must extend the laws of the federal government to
the individual citizens of America; we must discard the fallacious
scheme of quotas and requisitions, as equally impracticable and
unjust. The result from all this is that the Union ought to be
invested with full power to levy troops; to build and equip fleets;
and to raise the revenues which will be required for the formation
and support of an army and navy, in the customary and ordinary modes
practiced in other governments.
If the circumstances of our country are such as to demand a
compound instead of a simple, a confederate instead of a sole,
government, the essential point which will remain to be adjusted
will be to discriminate the OBJECTS, as far as it can be done, which
shall appertain to the different provinces or departments of power;
allowing to each the most ample authority for fulfilling the
objects committed to its charge. Shall the Union be constituted the
guardian of the common safety? Are fleets and armies and revenues
necessary to this purpose? The government of the Union must be
empowered to pass all laws, and to make all regulations which have
relation to them. The same must be the case in respect to commerce,
and to every other matter to which its jurisdiction is permitted to
extend. Is the administration of justice between the citizens of
the same State the proper department of the local governments?
These must possess all the authorities which are connected with
this object, and with every other that may be allotted to their
particular cognizance and direction. Not to confer in each case a
degree of power commensurate to the end, would be to violate the
most obvious rules of prudence and propriety, and improvidently to
trust the great interests of the nation to hands which are disabled
from managing them with vigor and success.
Who is likely to make suitable provisions for the public
defense, as that body to which the guardianship of the public safety
is confided; which, as the centre of information, will best
understand the extent and urgency of the dangers that threaten; as
the representative of the WHOLE, will feel itself most deeply
interested in the preservation of every part; which, from the
responsibility implied in the duty assigned to it, will be most
sensibly impressed with the necessity of proper exertions; and
which, by the extension of its authority throughout the States, can
alone establish uniformity and concert in the plans and measures by
which the common safety is to be secured? Is there not a manifest
inconsistency in devolving upon the federal government the care of
the general defense, and leaving in the State governments the
EFFECTIVE powers by which it is to be provided for? Is not a want
of co-operation the infallible consequence of such a system? And
will not weakness, disorder, an undue distribution of the burdens
and calamities of war, an unnecessary and intolerable increase of
expense, be its natural and inevitable concomitants? Have we not
had unequivocal experience of its effects in the course of the
revolution which we have just accomplished?
Every view we may take of the subject, as candid inquirers after
truth, will serve to convince us, that it is both unwise and
dangerous to deny the federal government an unconfined authority, as
to all those objects which are intrusted to its management. It will
indeed deserve the most vigilant and careful attention of the
people, to see that it be modeled in such a manner as to admit of
its being safely vested with the requisite powers. If any plan
which has been, or may be, offered to our consideration, should not,
upon a dispassionate inspection, be found to answer this
description, it ought to be rejected. A government, the
constitution of which renders it unfit to be trusted with all the
powers which a free people OUGHT TO DELEGATE TO ANY GOVERNMENT,
would be an unsafe and improper depositary of the NATIONAL INTERESTS.
Wherever THESE can with propriety be confided, the coincident
powers may safely accompany them. This is the true result of all
just reasoning upon the subject. And the adversaries of the plan
promulgated by the convention ought to have confined themselves to
showing, that the internal structure of the proposed government was
such as to render it unworthy of the confidence of the people. They
ought not to have wandered into inflammatory declamations and
unmeaning cavils about the extent of the powers. The POWERS are not
too extensive for the OBJECTS of federal administration, or, in
other words, for the management of our NATIONAL INTERESTS; nor can
any satisfactory argument be framed to show that they are chargeable
with such an excess. If it be true, as has been insinuated by some
of the writers on the other side, that the difficulty arises from
the nature of the thing, and that the extent of the country will not
permit us to form a government in which such ample powers can safely
be reposed, it would prove that we ought to contract our views, and
resort to the expedient of separate confederacies, which will move
within more practicable spheres. For the absurdity must continually
stare us in the face of confiding to a government the direction of
the most essential national interests, without daring to trust it to
the authorities which are indispensible to their proper and
efficient management. Let us not attempt to reconcile
contradictions, but firmly embrace a rational alternative.
I trust, however, that the impracticability of one general
system cannot be shown. I am greatly mistaken, if any thing of
weight has yet been advanced of this tendency; and I flatter
myself, that the observations which have been made in the course of
these papers have served to place the reverse of that position in as
clear a light as any matter still in the womb of time and experience
can be susceptible of. This, at all events, must be evident, that
the very difficulty itself, drawn from the extent of the country, is
the strongest argument in favor of an energetic government; for any
other can certainly never preserve the Union of so large an empire.
If we embrace the tenets of those who oppose the adoption of the
proposed Constitution, as the standard of our political creed, we
cannot fail to verify the gloomy doctrines which predict the
impracticability of a national system pervading entire limits of the
present Confederacy.


The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
To THE powers proposed to be conferred upon the federal
government, in respect to the creation and direction of the national
forces, I have met with but one specific objection, which, if I
understand it right, is this, that proper provision has not been
made against the existence of standing armies in time of peace; an
objection which, I shall now endeavor to show, rests on weak and
unsubstantial foundations.
It has indeed been brought forward in the most vague and general
form, supported only by bold assertions, without the appearance of
argument; without even the sanction of theoretical opinions; in
contradiction to the practice of other free nations, and to the
general sense of America, as expressed in most of the existing
constitutions. The proprietory of this remark will appear, the
moment it is recollected that the objection under consideration
turns upon a supposed necessity of restraining the LEGISLATIVE
authority of the nation, in the article of military establishments;
a principle unheard of, except in one or two of our State
constitutions, and rejected in all the rest.
A stranger to our politics, who was to read our newspapers at
the present juncture, without having previously inspected the plan
reported by the convention, would be naturally led to one of two
conclusions: either that it contained a positive injunction, that
standing armies should be kept up in time of peace; or that it
vested in the EXECUTIVE the whole power of levying troops, without
subjecting his discretion, in any shape, to the control of the
If he came afterwards to peruse the plan itself, he would be
surprised to discover, that neither the one nor the other was the
case; that the whole power of raising armies was lodged in the
LEGISLATURE, not in the EXECUTIVE; that this legislature was to be
a popular body, consisting of the representatives of the people
periodically elected; and that instead of the provision he had
supposed in favor of standing armies, there was to be found, in
respect to this object, an important qualification even of the
legislative discretion, in that clause which forbids the
appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer
period than two years a precaution which, upon a nearer view of it,
will appear to be a great and real security against the keeping up
of troops without evident necessity.
Disappointed in his first surmise, the person I have supposed
would be apt to pursue his conjectures a little further. He would
naturally say to himself, it is impossible that all this vehement
and pathetic declamation can be without some colorable pretext. It
must needs be that this people, so jealous of their liberties, have,
in all the preceding models of the constitutions which they have
established, inserted the most precise and rigid precautions on this
point, the omission of which, in the new plan, has given birth to
all this apprehension and clamor.
If, under this impression, he proceeded to pass in review the
several State constitutions, how great would be his disappointment
to find that TWO ONLY of them [1] contained an interdiction of
standing armies in time of peace; that the other eleven had either
observed a profound silence on the subject, or had in express terms
admitted the right of the Legislature to authorize their existence.
Still, however he would be persuaded that there must be some
plausible foundation for the cry raised on this head. He would
never be able to imagine, while any source of information remained
unexplored, that it was nothing more than an experiment upon the
public credulity, dictated either by a deliberate intention to
deceive, or by the overflowings of a zeal too intemperate to be
ingenuous. It would probably occur to him, that he would be likely
to find the precautions he was in search of in the primitive compact
between the States. Here, at length, he would expect to meet with a
solution of the enigma. No doubt, he would observe to himself, the
existing Confederation must contain the most explicit provisions
against military establishments in time of peace; and a departure
from this model, in a favorite point, has occasioned the discontent
which appears to influence these political champions.
If he should now apply himself to a careful and critical survey
of the articles of Confederation, his astonishment would not only be
increased, but would acquire a mixture of indignation, at the
unexpected discovery, that these articles, instead of containing the
prohibition he looked for, and though they had, with jealous
circumspection, restricted the authority of the State legislatures
in this particular, had not imposed a single restraint on that of
the United States. If he happened to be a man of quick sensibility,
or ardent temper, he could now no longer refrain from regarding
these clamors as the dishonest artifices of a sinister and
unprincipled opposition to a plan which ought at least to receive a
fair and candid examination from all sincere lovers of their
country! How else, he would say, could the authors of them have
been tempted to vent such loud censures upon that plan, about a
point in which it seems to have conformed itself to the general
sense of America as declared in its different forms of government,
and in which it has even superadded a new and powerful guard unknown
to any of them? If, on the contrary, he happened to be a man of
calm and dispassionate feelings, he would indulge a sigh for the
frailty of human nature, and would lament, that in a matter so
interesting to the happiness of millions, the true merits of the
question should be perplexed and entangled by expedients so
unfriendly to an impartial and right determination. Even such a man
could hardly forbear remarking, that a conduct of this kind has too
much the appearance of an intention to mislead the people by
alarming their passions, rather than to convince them by arguments
addressed to their understandings.
But however little this objection may be countenanced, even by
precedents among ourselves, it may be satisfactory to take a nearer
view of its intrinsic merits. From a close examination it will
appear that restraints upon the discretion of the legislature in
respect to military establishments in time of peace, would be
improper to be imposed, and if imposed, from the necessities of
society, would be unlikely to be observed.
Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet
there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of
confidence or security. On one side of us, and stretching far into
our rear, are growing settlements subject to the dominion of Britain.
On the other side, and extending to meet the British settlements,
are colonies and establishments subject to the dominion of Spain.
This situation and the vicinity of the West India Islands,
belonging to these two powers create between them, in respect to
their American possessions and in relation to us, a common interest.
The savage tribes on our Western frontier ought to be regarded as
our natural enemies, their natural allies, because they have most to
fear from us, and most to hope from them. The improvements in the
art of navigation have, as to the facility of communication,
rendered distant nations, in a great measure, neighbors. Britain
and Spain are among the principal maritime powers of Europe. A
future concert of views between these nations ought not to be
regarded as improbable. The increasing remoteness of consanguinity
is every day diminishing the force of the family compact between
France and Spain. And politicians have ever with great reason
considered the ties of blood as feeble and precarious links of
political connection. These circumstances combined, admonish us not
to be too sanguine in considering ourselves as entirely out of the
reach of danger.
Previous to the Revolution, and ever since the peace, there has
been a constant necessity for keeping small garrisons on our Western
frontier. No person can doubt that these will continue to be
indispensable, if it should only be against the ravages and
depredations of the Indians. These garrisons must either be
furnished by occasional detachments from the militia, or by
permanent corps in the pay of the government. The first is
impracticable; and if practicable, would be pernicious. The
militia would not long, if at all, submit to be dragged from their
occupations and families to perform that most disagreeable duty in
times of profound peace. And if they could be prevailed upon or
compelled to do it, the increased expense of a frequent rotation of
service, and the loss of labor and disconcertion of the industrious
pursuits of individuals, would form conclusive objections to the
scheme. It would be as burdensome and injurious to the public as
ruinous to private citizens. The latter resource of permanent corps
in the pay of the government amounts to a standing army in time of
peace; a small one, indeed, but not the less real for being small.
Here is a simple view of the subject, that shows us at once the
impropriety of a constitutional interdiction of such establishments,
and the necessity of leaving the matter to the discretion and
prudence of the legislature.
In proportion to our increase in strength, it is probable, nay,
it may be said certain, that Britain and Spain would augment their
military establishments in our neighborhood. If we should not be
willing to be exposed, in a naked and defenseless condition, to
their insults and encroachments, we should find it expedient to
increase our frontier garrisons in some ratio to the force by which
our Western settlements might be annoyed. There are, and will be,
particular posts, the possession of which will include the command
of large districts of territory, and facilitate future invasions of
the remainder. It may be added that some of those posts will be
keys to the trade with the Indian nations. Can any man think it
would be wise to leave such posts in a situation to be at any
instant seized by one or the other of two neighboring and formidable
powers? To act this part would be to desert all the usual maxims of
prudence and policy.
If we mean to be a commercial people, or even to be secure on
our Atlantic side, we must endeavor, as soon as possible, to have a
navy. To this purpose there must be dock-yards and arsenals; and
for the defense of these, fortifications, and probably garrisons.
When a nation has become so powerful by sea that it can protect its
dock-yards by its fleets, this supersedes the necessity of garrisons
for that purpose; but where naval establishments are in their
infancy, moderate garrisons will, in all likelihood, be found an
indispensable security against descents for the destruction of the
arsenals and dock-yards, and sometimes of the fleet itself.
FNA1-@1 This statement of the matter is taken from the printed
collection of State constitutions. Pennsylvania and North Carolina
are the two which contain the interdiction in these words: ``As
standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, THEY
OUGHT NOT to be kept up.'' This is, in truth, rather a CAUTION than
a PROHIBITION. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Maryland
have, in each of their bils of rights, a clause to this effect:
``Standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be
is a formal admission of the authority of the Legislature. New York
has no bills of rights, and her constitution says not a word about
the matter. No bills of rights appear annexed to the constitutions
of the other States, except the foregoing, and their constitutions
are equally silent. I am told, however that one or two States have
bills of rights which do not appear in this collection; but that
those also recognize the right of the legislative authority in this


The Same Subject Continued
(The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered)
From the New York Packet.
Friday, December 21, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
IT MAY perhaps be urged that the objects enumerated in the
preceding number ought to be provided for by the State governments,
under the direction of the Union. But this would be, in reality, an
inversion of the primary principle of our political association, as
it would in practice transfer the care of the common defense from
the federal head to the individual members: a project oppressive to
some States, dangerous to all, and baneful to the Confederacy.
The territories of Britain, Spain, and of the Indian nations in
our neighborhood do not border on particular States, but encircle
the Union from Maine to Georgia. The danger, though in different
degrees, is therefore common. And the means of guarding against it
ought, in like manner, to be the objects of common councils and of a
common treasury. It happens that some States, from local situation,
are more directly exposed. New York is of this class. Upon the
plan of separate provisions, New York would have to sustain the
whole weight of the establishments requisite to her immediate
safety, and to the mediate or ultimate protection of her neighbors.
This would neither be equitable as it respected New York nor safe
as it respected the other States. Various inconveniences would
attend such a system. The States, to whose lot it might fall to
support the necessary establishments, would be as little able as
willing, for a considerable time to come, to bear the burden of
competent provisions. The security of all would thus be subjected
to the parsimony, improvidence, or inability of a part. If the
resources of such part becoming more abundant and extensive, its
provisions should be proportionally enlarged, the other States would
quickly take the alarm at seeing the whole military force of the
Union in the hands of two or three of its members, and those
probably amongst the most powerful. They would each choose to have
some counterpoise, and pretenses could easily be contrived. In this
situation, military establishments, nourished by mutual jealousy,
would be apt to swell beyond their natural or proper size; and
being at the separate disposal of the members, they would be engines
for the abridgment or demolition of the national authority.
Reasons have been already given to induce a supposition that the
State governments will too naturally be prone to a rivalship with
that of the Union, the foundation of which will be the love of
power; and that in any contest between the federal head and one of
its members the people will be most apt to unite with their local
government. If, in addition to this immense advantage, the ambition
of the members should be stimulated by the separate and independent
possession of military forces, it would afford too strong a
temptation and too great a facility to them to make enterprises
upon, and finally to subvert, the constitutional authority of the
Union. On the other hand, the liberty of the people would be less
safe in this state of things than in that which left the national
forces in the hands of the national government. As far as an army
may be considered as a dangerous weapon of power, it had better be
in those hands of which the people are most likely to be jealous
than in those of which they are least likely to be jealous. For it
is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the
people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their
rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the
least suspicion.
The framers of the existing Confederation, fully aware of the
danger to the Union from the separate possession of military forces
by the States, have, in express terms, prohibited them from having
either ships or troops, unless with the consent of Congress. The
truth is, that the existence of a federal government and military
establishments under State authority are not less at variance with
each other than a due supply of the federal treasury and the system
of quotas and requisitions.
There are other lights besides those already taken notice of, in
which the impropriety of restraints on the discretion of the
national legislature will be equally manifest. The design of the
objection, which has been mentioned, is to preclude standing armies
in time of peace, though we have never been informed how far it is
designed the prohibition should extend; whether to raising armies
as well as to KEEPING THEM UP in a season of tranquillity or not.
If it be confined to the latter it will have no precise
signification, and it will be ineffectual for the purpose intended.
When armies are once raised what shall be denominated ``keeping
them up,'' contrary to the sense of the Constitution? What time
shall be requisite to ascertain the violation? Shall it be a week,
a month, a year? Or shall we say they may be continued as long as
the danger which occasioned their being raised continues? This
would be to admit that they might be kept up IN TIME OF PEACE,
against threatening or impending danger, which would be at once to
deviate from the literal meaning of the prohibition, and to
introduce an extensive latitude of construction. Who shall judge of
the continuance of the danger? This must undoubtedly be submitted
to the national government, and the matter would then be brought to
this issue, that the national government, to provide against
apprehended danger, might in the first instance raise troops, and
might afterwards keep them on foot as long as they supposed the
peace or safety of the community was in any degree of jeopardy. It
is easy to perceive that a discretion so latitudinary as this would
afford ample room for eluding the force of the provision.
The supposed utility of a provision of this kind can only be
founded on the supposed probability, or at least possibility, of a
combination between the executive and the legislative, in some
scheme of usurpation. Should this at any time happen, how easy
would it be to fabricate pretenses of approaching danger! Indian
hostilities, instigated by Spain or Britain, would always be at hand.
Provocations to produce the desired appearances might even be
given to some foreign power, and appeased again by timely
concessions. If we can reasonably presume such a combination to
have been formed, and that the enterprise is warranted by a
sufficient prospect of success, the army, when once raised, from
whatever cause, or on whatever pretext, may be applied to the
execution of the project.
If, to obviate this consequence, it should be resolved to extend
the prohibition to the RAISING of armies in time of peace, the
United States would then exhibit the most extraordinary spectacle
which the world has yet seen, that of a nation incapacitated by its
Constitution to prepare for defense, before it was actually invaded.
As the ceremony of a formal denunciation of war has of late fallen
into disuse, the presence of an enemy within our territories must be
waited for, as the legal warrant to the government to begin its
levies of men for the protection of the State. We must receive the
blow, before we could even prepare to return it. All that kind of
policy by which nations anticipate distant danger, and meet the
gathering storm, must be abstained from, as contrary to the genuine
maxims of a free government. We must expose our property and
liberty to the mercy of foreign invaders, and invite them by our
weakness to seize the naked and defenseless prey, because we are
afraid that rulers, created by our choice, dependent on our will,
might endanger that liberty, by an abuse of the means necessary to
its preservation.
Here I expect we shall be told that the militia of the country
is its natural bulwark, and would be at all times equal to the
national defense. This doctrine, in substance, had like to have
lost us our independence. It cost millions to the United States
that might have been saved. The facts which, from our own
experience, forbid a reliance of this kind, are too recent to permit
us to be the dupes of such a suggestion. The steady operations of
war against a regular and disciplined army can only be successfully
conducted by a force of the same kind. Considerations of economy,
not less than of stability and vigor, confirm this position. The
American militia, in the course of the late war, have, by their
valor on numerous occasions, erected eternal monuments to their
fame; but the bravest of them feel and know that the liberty of
their country could not have been established by their efforts
alone, however great and valuable they were. War, like most other
things, is a science to be acquired and perfected by diligence, by
perserverance, by time, and by practice.
All violent policy, as it is contrary to the natural and
experienced course of human affairs, defeats itself. Pennsylvania,
at this instant, affords an example of the truth of this remark.
The Bill of Rights of that State declares that standing armies are
dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be kept up in time of peace.
Pennsylvania, nevertheless, in a time of profound peace, from the
existence of partial disorders in one or two of her counties, has
resolved to raise a body of troops; and in all probability will
keep them up as long as there is any appearance of danger to the
public peace. The conduct of Massachusetts affords a lesson on the
same subject, though on different ground. That State (without
waiting for the sanction of Congress, as the articles of the
Confederation require) was compelled to raise troops to quell a
domestic insurrection, and still keeps a corps in pay to prevent a
revival of the spirit of revolt. The particular constitution of
Massachusetts opposed no obstacle to the measure; but the instance
is still of use to instruct us that cases are likely to occur under
our government, as well as under those of other nations, which will
sometimes render a military force in time of peace essential to the
security of the society, and that it is therefore improper in this
respect to control the legislative discretion. It also teaches us,
in its application to the United States, how little the rights of a
feeble government are likely to be respected, even by its own
constituents. And it teaches us, in addition to the rest, how
unequal parchment provisions are to a struggle with public necessity.
It was a fundamental maxim of the Lacedaemonian commonwealth,
that the post of admiral should not be conferred twice on the same
person. The Peloponnesian confederates, having suffered a severe
defeat at sea from the Athenians, demanded Lysander, who had before
served with success in that capacity, to command the combined fleets.
The Lacedaemonians, to gratify their allies, and yet preserve the
semblance of an adherence to their ancient institutions, had
recourse to the flimsy subterfuge of investing Lysander with the
real power of admiral, under the nominal title of vice-admiral.
This instance is selected from among a multitude that might be
cited to confirm the truth already advanced and illustrated by
domestic examples; which is, that nations pay little regard to
rules and maxims calculated in their very nature to run counter to
the necessities of society. Wise politicians will be cautious about
fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed,
because they know that every breach of the fundamental laws, though
dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence which ought to
be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a
country, and forms a precedent for other breaches where the same
plea of necessity does not exist at all, or is less urgent and


The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the
Common Defense Considered
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
IT WAS a thing hardly to be expected that in a popular
revolution the minds of men should stop at that happy mean which
marks the salutary boundary between POWER and PRIVILEGE, and
combines the energy of government with the security of private
rights. A failure in this delicate and important point is the great
source of the inconveniences we experience, and if we are not
cautious to avoid a repetition of the error, in our future attempts
to rectify and ameliorate our system, we may travel from one
chimerical project to another; we may try change after change; but
we shall never be likely to make any material change for the better.
The idea of restraining the legislative authority, in the means
of providing for the national defense, is one of those refinements
which owe their origin to a zeal for liberty more ardent than
enlightened. We have seen, however, that it has not had thus far an
extensive prevalency; that even in this country, where it made its
first appearance, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the only two
States by which it has been in any degree patronized; and that all
the others have refused to give it the least countenance; wisely
judging that confidence must be placed somewhere; that the
necessity of doing it, is implied in the very act of delegating
power; and that it is better to hazard the abuse of that confidence
than to embarrass the government and endanger the public safety by
impolitic restrictions on the legislative authority. The opponents
of the proposed Constitution combat, in this respect, the general
decision of America; and instead of being taught by experience the
propriety of correcting any extremes into which we may have
heretofore run, they appear disposed to conduct us into others still
more dangerous, and more extravagant. As if the tone of government
had been found too high, or too rigid, the doctrines they teach are
calculated to induce us to depress or to relax it, by expedients
which, upon other occasions, have been condemned or forborne. It
may be affirmed without the imputation of invective, that if the
principles they inculcate, on various points, could so far obtain as
to become the popular creed, they would utterly unfit the people of
this country for any species of government whatever. But a danger
of this kind is not to be apprehended. The citizens of America have
too much discernment to be argued into anarchy. And I am much
mistaken, if experience has not wrought a deep and solemn conviction
in the public mind, that greater energy of government is essential
to the welfare and prosperity of the community.
It may not be amiss in this place concisely to remark the origin
and progress of the idea, which aims at the exclusion of military
establishments in time of peace. Though in speculative minds it may
arise from a contemplation of the nature and tendency of such
institutions, fortified by the events that have happened in other
ages and countries, yet as a national sentiment, it must be traced
to those habits of thinking which we derive from the nation from
whom the inhabitants of these States have in general sprung.
In England, for a long time after the Norman Conquest, the
authority of the monarch was almost unlimited. Inroads were
gradually made upon the prerogative, in favor of liberty, first by
the barons, and afterwards by the people, till the greatest part of
its most formidable pretensions became extinct. But it was not till
the revolution in 1688, which elevated the Prince of Orange to the
throne of Great Britain, that English liberty was completely
triumphant. As incident to the undefined power of making war, an
acknowledged prerogative of the crown, Charles II. had, by his own
authority, kept on foot in time of peace a body of 5,000 regular
troops. And this number James II. increased to 30,000; who were
paid out of his civil list. At the revolution, to abolish the
exercise of so dangerous an authority, it became an article of the
Bill of Rights then framed, that ``the raising or keeping a standing
army within the kingdom in time of peace, UNLESS WITH THE CONSENT OF
PARLIAMENT, was against law.''
In that kingdom, when the pulse of liberty was at its highest
pitch, no security against the danger of standing armies was thought
requisite, beyond a prohibition of their being raised or kept up by
the mere authority of the executive magistrate. The patriots, who
effected that memorable revolution, were too temperate, too
wellinformed, to think of any restraint on the legislative
discretion. They were aware that a certain number of troops for
guards and garrisons were indispensable; that no precise bounds
could be set to the national exigencies; that a power equal to
every possible contingency must exist somewhere in the government:
and that when they referred the exercise of that power to the
judgment of the legislature, they had arrived at the ultimate point
of precaution which was reconcilable with the safety of the
From the same source, the people of America may be said to have
derived an hereditary impression of danger to liberty, from standing
armies in time of peace. The circumstances of a revolution
quickened the public sensibility on every point connected with the
security of popular rights, and in some instances raise the warmth
of our zeal beyond the degree which consisted with the due
temperature of the body politic. The attempts of two of the States
to restrict the authority of the legislature in the article of
military establishments, are of the number of these instances. The
principles which had taught us to be jealous of the power of an
hereditary monarch were by an injudicious excess extended to the
representatives of the people in their popular assemblies. Even in
some of the States, where this error was not adopted, we find
unnecessary declarations that standing armies ought not to be kept
call them unnecessary, because the reason which had introduced a
similar provision into the English Bill of Rights is not applicable
to any of the State constitutions. The power of raising armies at
all, under those constitutions, can by no construction be deemed to
reside anywhere else, than in the legislatures themselves; and it
was superfluous, if not absurd, to declare that a matter should not
be done without the consent of a body, which alone had the power of
doing it. Accordingly, in some of these constitutions, and among
others, in that of this State of New York, which has been justly
celebrated, both in Europe and America, as one of the best of the
forms of government established in this country, there is a total
silence upon the subject.
It is remarkable, that even in the two States which seem to have
meditated an interdiction of military establishments in time of
peace, the mode of expression made use of is rather cautionary than
prohibitory. It is not said, that standing armies SHALL NOT BE kept
up, but that they OUGHT NOT to be kept up, in time of peace. This
ambiguity of terms appears to have been the result of a conflict
between jealousy and conviction; between the desire of excluding
such establishments at all events, and the persuasion that an
absolute exclusion would be unwise and unsafe.
Can it be doubted that such a provision, whenever the situation
of public affairs was understood to require a departure from it,
would be interpreted by the legislature into a mere admonition, and
would be made to yield to the necessities or supposed necessities of
the State? Let the fact already mentioned, with respect to
Pennsylvania, decide. What then (it may be asked) is the use of
such a provision, if it cease to operate the moment there is an
inclination to disregard it?
Let us examine whether there be any comparison, in point of
efficacy, between the provision alluded to and that which is
contained in the new Constitution, for restraining the
appropriations of money for military purposes to the period of two
years. The former, by aiming at too much, is calculated to effect
nothing; the latter, by steering clear of an imprudent extreme, and
by being perfectly compatible with a proper provision for the
exigencies of the nation, will have a salutary and powerful
The legislature of the United States will be OBLIGED, by this
provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the
propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new
resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter,
by a formal vote in the face of their constituents. They are not AT
LIBERTY to vest in the executive department permanent funds for the
support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be
willing to repose in it so improper a confidence. As the spirit of
party, in different degrees, must be expected to infect all
political bodies, there will be, no doubt, persons in the national
legislature willing enough to arraign the measures and criminate the
views of the majority. The provision for the support of a military
force will always be a favorable topic for declamation. As often as
the question comes forward, the public attention will be roused and
attracted to the subject, by the party in opposition; and if the
majority should be really disposed to exceed the proper limits, the
community will be warned of the danger, and will have an opportunity
of taking measures to guard against it. Independent of parties in
the national legislature itself, as often as the period of
discussion arrived, the State legislatures, who will always be not
only vigilant but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of
the citizens against encroachments from the federal government, will
constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national
rulers, and will be ready enough, if any thing improper appears, to
sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but, if
necessary, the ARM of their discontent.
Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community REQUIRE
TIME to mature them for execution. An army, so large as seriously
to menace those liberties, could only be formed by progressive
augmentations; which would suppose, not merely a temporary
combination between the legislature and executive, but a continued
conspiracy for a series of time. Is it probable that such a
combination would exist at all? Is it probable that it would be
persevered in, and transmitted along through all the successive
variations in a representative body, which biennial elections would
naturally produce in both houses? Is it presumable, that every man,
the instant he took his seat in the national Senate or House of
Representatives, would commence a traitor to his constituents and to
his country? Can it be supposed that there would not be found one
man, discerning enough to detect so atrocious a conspiracy, or bold
or honest enough to apprise his constituents of their danger? If
such presumptions can fairly be made, there ought at once to be an
end of all delegated authority. The people should resolve to recall
all the powers they have heretofore parted with out of their own
hands, and to divide themselves into as many States as there are
counties, in order that they may be able to manage their own
concerns in person.
If such suppositions could even be reasonably made, still the
concealment of the design, for any duration, would be impracticable.
It would be announced, by the very circumstance of augmenting the
army to so great an extent in time of profound peace. What
colorable reason could be assigned, in a country so situated, for
such vast augmentations of the military force? It is impossible
that the people could be long deceived; and the destruction of the
project, and of the projectors, would quickly follow the discovery.
It has been said that the provision which limits the
appropriation of money for the support of an army to the period of
two years would be unavailing, because the Executive, when once
possessed of a force large enough to awe the people into submission,
would find resources in that very force sufficient to enable him to
dispense with supplies from the acts of the legislature. But the
question again recurs, upon what pretense could he be put in
possession of a force of that magnitude in time of peace? If we
suppose it to have been created in consequence of some domestic
insurrection or foreign war, then it becomes a case not within the
principles of the objection; for this is levelled against the power
of keeping up troops in time of peace. Few persons will be so
visionary as seriously to contend that military forces ought not to
be raised to quell a rebellion or resist an invasion; and if the
defense of the community under such circumstances should make it
necessary to have an army so numerous as to hazard its liberty, this
is one of those calamaties for which there is neither preventative
nor cure. It cannot be provided against by any possible form of
government; it might even result from a simple league offensive and
defensive, if it should ever be necessary for the confederates or
allies to form an army for common defense.
But it is an evil infinitely less likely to attend us in a
united than in a disunited state; nay, it may be safely asserted
that it is an evil altogether unlikely to attend us in the latter
situation. It is not easy to conceive a possibility that dangers so
formidable can assail the whole Union, as to demand a force
considerable enough to place our liberties in the least jeopardy,
especially if we take into our view the aid to be derived from the
militia, which ought always to be counted upon as a valuable and
powerful auxiliary. But in a state of disunion (as has been fully
shown in another place), the contrary of this supposition would
become not only probable, but almost unavoidable.


The Same Subject Continued
(The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to
the Common Defense Considered)
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, December 25, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
IT HAS been urged, in different shapes, that a Constitution of
the kind proposed by the convention cannot operate without the aid
of a military force to execute its laws. This, however, like most
other things that have been alleged on that side, rests on mere
general assertion, unsupported by any precise or intelligible
designation of the reasons upon which it is founded. As far as I
have been able to divine the latent meaning of the objectors, it
seems to originate in a presupposition that the people will be
disinclined to the exercise of federal authority in any matter of an
internal nature. Waiving any exception that might be taken to the
inaccuracy or inexplicitness of the distinction between internal and
external, let us inquire what ground there is to presuppose that
disinclination in the people. Unless we presume at the same time
that the powers of the general government will be worse administered
than those of the State government, there seems to be no room for
the presumption of ill-will, disaffection, or opposition in the
people. I believe it may be laid down as a general rule that their
confidence in and obedience to a government will commonly be
proportioned to the goodness or badness of its administration. It
must be admitted that there are exceptions to this rule; but these
exceptions depend so entirely on accidental causes, that they cannot
be considered as having any relation to the intrinsic merits or
demerits of a constitution. These can only be judged of by general
principles and maxims.
Various reasons have been suggested, in the course of these
papers, to induce a probability that the general government will be
better administered than the particular governments; the principal
of which reasons are that the extension of the spheres of election
will present a greater option, or latitude of choice, to the people;
that through the medium of the State legislatures which are select
bodies of men, and which are to appoint the members of the national
Senate there is reason to expect that this branch will generally be
composed with peculiar care and judgment; that these circumstances
promise greater knowledge and more extensive information in the
national councils, and that they will be less apt to be tainted by
the spirit of faction, and more out of the reach of those occasional
ill-humors, or temporary prejudices and propensities, which, in
smaller societies, frequently contaminate the public councils, beget
injustice and oppression of a part of the community, and engender
schemes which, though they gratify a momentary inclination or
desire, terminate in general distress, dissatisfaction, and disgust.
Several additional reasons of considerable force, to fortify that
probability, will occur when we come to survey, with a more critical
eye, the interior structure of the edifice which we are invited to
erect. It will be sufficient here to remark, that until
satisfactory reasons can be assigned to justify an opinion, that the
federal government is likely to be administered in such a manner as
to render it odious or contemptible to the people, there can be no
reasonable foundation for the supposition that the laws of the Union
will meet with any greater obstruction from them, or will stand in
need of any other methods to enforce their execution, than the laws
of the particular members.
The hope of impunity is a strong incitement to sedition; the
dread of punishment, a proportionably strong discouragement to it.
Will not the government of the Union, which, if possessed of a due
degree of power, can call to its aid the collective resources of the
whole Confederacy, be more likely to repress the FORMER sentiment
and to inspire the LATTER, than that of a single State, which can
only command the resources within itself? A turbulent faction in a
State may easily suppose itself able to contend with the friends to
the government in that State; but it can hardly be so infatuated as
to imagine itself a match for the combined efforts of the Union. If
this reflection be just, there is less danger of resistance from
irregular combinations of individuals to the authority of the
Confederacy than to that of a single member.
I will, in this place, hazard an observation, which will not be
the less just because to some it may appear new; which is, that the
more the operations of the national authority are intermingled in
the ordinary exercise of government, the more the citizens are
accustomed to meet with it in the common occurrences of their
political life, the more it is familiarized to their sight and to
their feelings, the further it enters into those objects which touch
the most sensible chords and put in motion the most active springs
of the human heart, the greater will be the probability that it will
conciliate the respect and attachment of the community. Man is very
much a creature of habit. A thing that rarely strikes his senses
will generally have but little influence upon his mind. A
government continually at a distance and out of sight can hardly be
expected to interest the sensations of the people. The inference
is, that the authority of the Union, and the affections of the
citizens towards it, will be strengthened, rather than weakened, by
its extension to what are called matters of internal concern; and
will have less occasion to recur to force, in proportion to the
familiarity and comprehensiveness of its agency. The more it
circulates through those channels and currents in which the passions
of mankind naturally flow, the less will it require the aid of the
violent and perilous expedients of compulsion.
One thing, at all events, must be evident, that a government
like the one proposed would bid much fairer to avoid the necessity
of using force, than that species of league contend for by most of
its opponents; the authority of which should only operate upon the
States in their political or collective capacities. It has been
shown that in such a Confederacy there can be no sanction for the
laws but force; that frequent delinquencies in the members are the
natural offspring of the very frame of the government; and that as
often as these happen, they can only be redressed, if at all, by war
and violence.
The plan reported by the convention, by extending the authority
of the federal head to the individual citizens of the several
States, will enable the government to employ the ordinary magistracy
of each, in the execution of its laws. It is easy to perceive that
this will tend to destroy, in the common apprehension, all
distinction between the sources from which they might proceed; and
will give the federal government the same advantage for securing a
due obedience to its authority which is enjoyed by the government of
each State, in addition to the influence on public opinion which
will result from the important consideration of its having power to
call to its assistance and support the resources of the whole Union.
It merits particular attention in this place, that the laws of the
Confederacy, as to the ENUMERATED and LEGITIMATE objects of its
jurisdiction, will become the SUPREME LAW of the land; to the
observance of which all officers, legislative, executive, and
judicial, in each State, will be bound by the sanctity of an oath.
Thus the legislatures, courts, and magistrates, of the respective
members, will be incorporated into the operations of the national
and will be rendered auxiliary to the enforcement of its laws. [1%]
Any man who will pursue, by his own reflections, the consequences
of this situation, will perceive that there is good ground to
calculate upon a regular and peaceable execution of the laws of the
Union, if its powers are administered with a common share of
prudence. If we will arbitrarily suppose the contrary, we may
deduce any inferences we please from the supposition; for it is
certainly possible, by an injudicious exercise of the authorities of
the best government that ever was, or ever can be instituted, to
provoke and precipitate the people into the wildest excesses. But
though the adversaries of the proposed Constitution should presume
that the national rulers would be insensible to the motives of
public good, or to the obligations of duty, I would still ask them
how the interests of ambition, or the views of encroachment, can be
promoted by such a conduct?
FNA1-@1 The sophistry which has been employed to show that this will
tend to the destruction of the State governments, will, in its will,
in its proper place, be fully detected.


The Same Subject Continued
(The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to
the Common Defense Considered)
For the Independent Journal.


To the People of the State of New York:
THAT there may happen cases in which the national government may
be necessitated to resort to force, cannot be denied. Our own
experience has corroborated the lessons taught by the examples of
other nations; that emergencies of this sort will sometimes arise
in all societies, however constituted; that seditions and
insurrections are, unhappily, maladies as inseparable from the body
politic as tumors and eruptions from the natural body; that the
idea of governing at all times by the simple force of law (which we
have been told is the only admissible principle of republican
government), has no place but in the reveries of those political
doctors whose sagacity disdains the admonitions of experimental
Should such emergencies at any time happen under the national
government, there could be no remedy but force. The means to be
employed must be proportioned to the extent of the mischief. If it
should be a slight commotion in a small part of a State, the militia
of the residue would be adequate to its suppression; and the
national presumption is that they would be ready to do their duty.
An insurrection, whatever may be its immediate cause, eventually
endangers all government. Regard to the public peace, if not to the
rights of the Union, would engage the citizens to whom the contagion
had not communicated itself to oppose the insurgents; and if the
general government should be found in practice conducive to the
prosperity and felicity of the people, it were irrational to believe
that they would be disinclined to its support.
If, on the contrary, the insurrection should pervade a whole
State, or a principal part of it, the employment of a different kind
of force might become unavoidable. It appears that Massachusetts
found it necessary to raise troops for repressing the disorders
within that State; that Pennsylvania, from the mere apprehension of
commotions among a part of her citizens, has thought proper to have
recourse to the same measure. Suppose the State of New York had
been inclined to re-establish her lost jurisdiction over the
inhabitants of Vermont, could she have hoped for success in such an
enterprise from the efforts of the militia alone? Would she not
have been compelled to raise and to maintain a more regular force
for the execution of her design? If it must then be admitted that
the necessity of recurring to a force different from the militia, in
cases of this extraordinary nature, is applicable to the State
governments themselves, why should the possibility, that the
national government might be under a like necessity, in similar
extremities, be made an objection to its existence? Is it not
surprising that men who declare an attachment to the Union in the
abstract, should urge as an objection to the proposed Constitution
what applies with tenfold weight to the plan for which they contend;
and what, as far as it has any foundation in truth, is an
inevitable consequence of civil society upon an enlarged scale? Who
would not prefer that possibility to the unceasing agitations and
frequent revolutions which are the continual scourges of petty
Let us pursue this examination in another light. Suppose, in
lieu of one general system, two, or three, or even four
Confederacies were to be formed, would not the same difficulty
oppose itself to the operations of either of these Confederacies?
Would not each of them be exposed to the same casualties; and when
these happened, be obliged to have recourse to the same expedients
for upholding its authority which are objected to in a government
for all the States? Would the militia, in this supposition, be more
ready or more able to support the federal authority than in the case
of a general union? All candid and intelligent men must, upon due
consideration, acknowledge that the principle of the objection is
equally applicable to either of the two cases; and that whether we
have one government for all the States, or different governments for
different parcels of them, or even if there should be an entire
separation of the States, there might sometimes be a necessity to
make use of a force constituted differently from the militia, to
preserve the peace of the community and to maintain the just
authority of the laws against those violent invasions of them which
amount to insurrections and rebellions.
Independent of all other reasonings upon the subject, it is a
full answer to those who require a more peremptory provision against
military establishments in time of peace, to say that the whole
power of the proposed government is to be in the hands of the
representatives of the people. This is the essential, and, after
all, only efficacious security for the rights and privileges of the
people, which is attainable in civil society. [1]
If the representatives of the people betray their constituents,
there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original
right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of
government, and which against the usurpations of the national
rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success
than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a
single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become
usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which
it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no
regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously
to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except
in their courage and despair. The usurpers, clothed with the forms
of legal authority, can too often crush the opposition in embryo.
The smaller the extent of the territory, the more difficult will it
be for the people to form a regular or systematic plan of
opposition, and the more easy will it be to defeat their early
efforts. Intelligence can be more speedily obtained of their
preparations and movements, and the military force in the possession
of the usurpers can be more rapidly directed against the part where
the opposition has begun. In this situation there must be a
peculiar coincidence of circumstances to insure success to the
popular resistance.
The obstacles to usurpation and the facilities of resistance
increase with the increased extent of the state, provided the
citizens understand their rights and are disposed to defend them.
The natural strength of the people in a large community, in
proportion to the artificial strength of the government, is greater
than in a small, and of course more competent to a struggle with the
attempts of the government to establish a tyranny. But in a
confederacy the people, without exaggeration, may be said to be
entirely the masters of their own fate. Power being almost always
the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand
ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these
will have the same disposition towards the general government. The
people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly
make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they
can make use of the other as the instrument of redress. How wise
will it be in them by cherishing the union to preserve to themselves
an advantage which can never be too highly prized!
It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system,
that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies,
afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by
the national authority. Projects of usurpation cannot be masked
under pretenses so likely to escape the penetration of select bodies
of men, as of the people at large. The legislatures will have
better means of information. They can discover the danger at a
distance; and possessing all the organs of civil power, and the
confidence of the people, they can at once adopt a regular plan of
opposition, in which they can combine all the resources of the
community. They can readily communicate with each other in the
different States, and unite their common forces for the protection
of their common liberty.
The great extent of the country is a further security. We have
already experienced its utility against the attacks of a foreign
power. And it would have precisely the same effect against the
enterprises of ambitious rulers in the national councils. If the
federal army should be able to quell the resistance of one State,
the distant States would have it in their power to make head with
fresh forces. The advantages obtained in one place must be
abandoned to subdue the opposition in others; and the moment the
part which had been reduced to submission was left to itself, its
efforts would be renewed, and its resistance revive.
We should recollect that the extent of the military force must,
at all events, be regulated by the resources of the country. For a
long time to come, it will not be possible to maintain a large army;
and as the means of doing this increase, the population and natural
strength of the community will proportionably increase. When will
the time arrive that the federal government can raise and maintain
an army capable of erecting a despotism over the great body of the
people of an immense empire, who are in a situation, through the
medium of their State governments, to take measures for their own
defense, with all the celerity, regularity, and system of
independent nations? The apprehension may be considered as a
disease, for which there can be found no cure in the resources of
argument and reasoning.
FNA1-@1 Its full efficacy will be examined hereafter.


Concerning the Militia
From the Daily Advertiser.
Thursday, January 10, 1788


To the People of the State of New York:
THE power of regulating the militia, and of commanding its
services in times of insurrection and invasion are natural incidents
to the duties of superintending the common defense, and of watching
over the internal peace of the Confederacy.
It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that
uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would
be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were
called into service for the public defense. It would enable them to
discharge the duties of the camp and of the field with mutual
intelligence and concert an advantage of peculiar moment in the
operations of an army; and it would fit them much sooner to acquire
the degree of proficiency in military functions which would be
essential to their usefulness. This desirable uniformity can only
be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the
direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the
most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to
empower the Union ``to provide for organizing, arming, and
disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may
be employed in the service of the United States, RESERVING TO THE
Of the different grounds which have been taken in opposition to
the plan of the convention, there is none that was so little to have
been expected, or is so untenable in itself, as the one from which
this particular provision has been attacked. If a well-regulated
militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought
certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that
body which is constituted the guardian of the national security. If
standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over
the militia, in the body to whose care the protection of the State
is committed, ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement
and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the federal
government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies
which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate,
it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind
of force. If it cannot avail itself of the former, it will be
obliged to recur to the latter. To render an army unnecessary, will
be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand
prohibitions upon paper.
In order to cast an odium upon the power of calling forth the
militia to execute the laws of the Union, it has been remarked that
there is nowhere any provision in the proposed Constitution for
calling out the POSSE COMITATUS, to assist the magistrate in the
execution of his duty, whence it has been inferred, that military
force was intended to be his only auxiliary. There is a striking
incoherence in the objections which have appeared, and sometimes
even from the same quarter, not much calculated to inspire a very
favorable opinion of the sincerity or fair dealing of their authors.
The same persons who tell us in one breath, that the powers of the
federal government will be despotic and unlimited, inform us in the
next, that it has not authority sufficient even to call out the
POSSE COMITATUS. The latter, fortunately, is as much short of the
truth as the former exceeds it. It would be as absurd to doubt,
that a right to pass all laws NECESSARY AND PROPER to execute its
declared powers, would include that of requiring the assistance of
the citizens to the officers who may be intrusted with the execution
of those laws, as it would be to believe, that a right to enact laws
necessary and proper for the imposition and collection of taxes
would involve that of varying the rules of descent and of the
alienation of landed property, or of abolishing the trial by jury in
cases relating to it. It being therefore evident that the
supposition of a want of power to require the aid of the POSSE
COMITATUS is entirely destitute of color, it will follow, that the
conclusion which has been drawn from it, in its application to the
authority of the federal government over the militia, is as uncandid
as it is illogical. What reason could there be to infer, that force
was intended to be the sole instrument of authority, merely because
there is a power to make use of it when necessary? What shall we
think of the motives which could induce men of sense to reason in
this manner? How shall we prevent a conflict between charity and
By a curious refinement upon the spirit of republican jealousy,
we are even taught to apprehend danger from the militia itself, in
the hands of the federal government. It is observed that select
corps may be formed, composed of the young and ardent, who may be
rendered subservient to the views of arbitrary power. What plan for
the regulation of the militia may be pursued by the national
government, is impossible to be foreseen. But so far from viewing
the matter in the same light with those who object to select corps
as dangerous, were the Constitution ratified, and were I to deliver
my sentiments to a member of the federal legislature from this State
on the subject of a militia establishment, I should hold to him, in
substance, the following discourse:
``The project of disciplining all the militia of the United
States is as futile as it would be injurious, if it were capable of
being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military
movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not
a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it.
To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes
of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through
military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to
acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the
character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to
the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss. It would
form an annual deduction from the productive labor of the country,
to an amount which, calculating upon the present numbers of the
people, would not fall far short of the whole expense of the civil
establishments of all the States. To attempt a thing which would
abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent,
would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed,
because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be
aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them
properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not
neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in
the course of a year.
``But though the scheme of disciplining the whole nation must be
abandoned as mischievous or impracticable; yet it is a matter of
the utmost importance that a well-digested plan should, as soon as
possible, be adopted for the proper establishment of the militia.
The attention of the government ought particularly to be directed
to the formation of a select corps of moderate extent, upon such
principles as will really fit them for service in case of need. By
thus circumscribing the plan, it will be possible to have an
excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field
whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not
only lessen the call for military establishments, but if
circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an
army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the
liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens,
little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of
arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their
fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be
devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against
it, if it should exist.''
Thus differently from the adversaries of the proposed
Constitution should I reason on the same subject, deducing arguments
of safety from the very sources which they represent as fraught with
danger and perdition. But how the national legislature may reason
on the point, is a thing which neither they nor I can foresee.
There is something so far-fetched and so extravagant in the idea
of danger to liberty from the militia, that one is at a loss whether
to treat it with gravity or with raillery; whether to consider it
as a mere trial of skill, like the paradoxes of rhetoricians; as a
disingenuous artifice to instil prejudices at any price; or as the
serious offspring of political fanaticism. Where in the name of
common-sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our
brothers, our neighbors, our fellow-citizens? What shadow of danger
can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their
countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings,
sentiments, habits and interests? What reasonable cause of
apprehension can be inferred from a power in the Union to prescribe
regulations for the militia, and to command its services when
necessary, while the particular States are to have the SOLE AND
seriously to indulge a jealousy of the militia upon any conceivable
establishment under the federal government, the circumstance of the
officers being in the appointment of the States ought at once to
extinguish it. There can be no doubt that this circumstance will
always secure to them a preponderating influence over the militia.
In reading many of the publications against the Constitution, a
man is apt to imagine that he is perusing some ill-written tale or
romance, which instead of natural and agreeable images, exhibits to
the mind nothing but frightful and distorted shapes ``Gorgons, hydras,
and chimeras dire''; discoloring and disfiguring whatever it represents,
and transforming everything it touches into a monster.
A sample of this is to be observed in the exaggerated and
improbable suggestions which have taken place respecting the power
of calling for the services of the militia. That of New Hampshire
is to be marched to Georgia, of Georgia to New Hampshire, of New
York to Kentucky, and of Kentucky to Lake Champlain. Nay, the debts
due to the French and Dutch are to be paid in militiamen instead of
louis d'ors and ducats. At one moment there is to be a large army
to lay prostrate the liberties of the people; at another moment the
militia of Virginia are to be dragged from their homes five or six
hundred miles, to tame the republican contumacy of Massachusetts;
and that of Massachusetts is to be transported an equal distance to
subdue the refractory haughtiness of the aristocratic Virginians.
Do the persons who rave at this rate imagine that their art or
their eloquence can impose any conceits or absurdities upon the
people of America for infallible truths?
If there should be an army to be made use of as the engine of
despotism, what need of the militia? If there should be no army,
whither would the militia, irritated by being called upon to
undertake a distant and hopeless expedition, for the purpose of
riveting the chains of slavery upon a part of their countrymen,
direct their course, but to the seat of the tyrants, who had
meditated so foolish as well as so wicked a project, to crush them
in their imagined intrenchments of power, and to make them an
example of the just vengeance of an abused and incensed people? Is
this the way in which usurpers stride to dominion over a numerous
and enlightened nation? Do they begin by exciting the detestation
of the very instruments of their intended usurpations? Do they
usually commence their career by wanton and disgustful acts of
power, calculated to answer no end, but to draw upon themselves
universal hatred and execration? Are suppositions of this sort the
sober admonitions of discerning patriots to a discerning people? Or
are they the inflammatory ravings of incendiaries or distempered
enthusiasts? If we were even to suppose the national rulers
actuated by the most ungovernable ambition, it is impossible to
believe that they would employ such preposterous means to accomplish
their designs.
In times of insurrection, or invasion, it would be natural and
proper that the militia of a neighboring State should be marched
into another, to resist a common enemy, or to guard the republic
against the violence of faction or sedition. This was frequently
the case, in respect to the first object, in the course of the late
war; and this mutual succor is, indeed, a principal end of our
political association. If the power of affording it be placed under
the direction of the Union, there will be no danger of a supine and
listless inattention to the dangers of a neighbor, till its near
approach had superadded the incitements of selfpreservation to the
too feeble impulses of duty and sympathy.


Concerning the General Power of Taxation
From the New York Packet.
Friday, December 28, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:
IT HAS been already observed that the federal government ought
to possess the power of providing for the support of the national
forces; in which proposition was intended to be included the
expense of raising troops, of building and equipping fleets, and all
other expenses in any wise connected with military arrangements and
operations. But these are not the only objects to which the
jurisdiction of the Union, in respect to revenue, must necessarily
be empowered to extend. It must embrace a provision for the support
of the national civil list; for the payment of the national debts
contracted, or that may be contracted; and, in general, for all
those matters which will call for disbursements out of the national
treasury. The conclusion is, that there must be interwoven, in the
frame of the government, a general power of taxation, in one shape
or another.
Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of
the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and
enables it to perform its most essential functions. A complete
power, therefore, to procure a regular and adequate supply of it, as
far as the resources of the community will permit, may be regarded
as an indispensable ingredient in every constitution. From a
deficiency in this particular, one of two evils must ensue; either
the people must be subjected to continual plunder, as a substitute
for a more eligible mode of supplying the public wants, or the
government must sink into a fatal atrophy, and, in a short course of
time, perish.
In the Ottoman or Turkish empire, the sovereign, though in other
respects absolute master of the lives and fortunes of his subjects,
has no right to impose a new tax. The consequence is that he
permits the bashaws or governors of provinces to pillage the people
without mercy; and, in turn, squeezes out of them the sums of which
he stands in need, to satisfy his own exigencies and those of the
state. In America, from a like cause, the government of the Union
has gradually dwindled into a state of decay, approaching nearly to
annihilation. Who can doubt, that the happiness of the people in
both countries would be promoted by competent authorities in the
proper hands, to provide the revenues which the necessities of the
public might require?
The present Confederation, feeble as it is intended to repose in
the United States, an unlimited power of providing for the pecuniary
wants of the Union. But proceeding upon an erroneous principle, it
has been done in such a manner as entirely to have frustrated the
intention. Congress, by the articles which compose that compact (as
has already been stated), are authorized to ascertain and call for
any sums of money necessary, in their judgment, to the service of
the United States; and their requisitions, if conformable to the
rule of apportionment, are in every constitutional sense obligatory
upon the States. These have no right to question the propriety of
the demand; no discretion beyond that of devising the ways and
means of furnishing the sums demanded. But though this be strictly
and truly the case; though the assumption of such a right would be
an infringement of the articles of Union; though it may seldom or
never have been avowedly claimed, yet in practice it has been
constantly exercised, and would continue to be so, as long as the
revenues of the Confederacy should remain dependent on the
intermediate agency of its members. What the consequences of this
system have been, is within the knowledge of every man the least
conversant in our public affairs, and has been amply unfolded in
different parts of these inquiries. It is this which has chiefly
contributed to reduce us to a situation, which affords ample cause
both of mortification to ourselves, and of triumph to our enemies.
What remedy can there be for this situation, but in a change of
the system which has produced it in a change of the fallacious and
delusive system of quotas and requisitions? What substitute can
there be imagined for this ignis fatuus in finance, but that of
permitting the national government to raise its own revenues by the
ordinary methods of taxation authorized in every well-ordered
constitution of civil government? Ingenious men may declaim with
plausibility on any subject; but no human ingenuity can point out
any other expedient to rescue us from the inconveniences and
embarrassments naturally resulting from defective supplies of the
public treasury.
The more intelligent adversaries of the new Constitution admit
the force of this reasoning; but they qualify their admission by a
distinction between what they call INTERNAL and EXTERNAL taxation.
The former they would reserve to the State governments; the
latter, which they explain into commercial imposts, or rather duties
on imported articles, they declare themselves willing to concede to
the federal head. This distinction, however, would violate the
maxim of good sense and sound policy, which dictates that every
POWER ought to be in proportion to its OBJECT; and would still
leave the general government in a kind of tutelage to the State
governments, inconsistent with every idea of vigor or efficiency.
Who can pretend that commercial imposts are, or would be, alone
equal to the present and future exigencies of the Union? Taking
into the account the existing debt, foreign and domestic, upon any
plan of extinguishment which a man moderately impressed with the
importance of public justice and public credit could approve, in
addition to the establishments which all parties will acknowledge to
be necessary, we could not reasonably flatter ourselves, that this
resource alone, upon the most improved scale, would even suffice for
its present necessities. Its future necessities admit not of
calculation or limitation; and upon the principle, more than once
adverted to, the power of making provision for them as they arise
ought to be equally unconfined. I believe it may be regarded as a
position warranted by the history of mankind, that, IN THE USUAL

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