Anti-Federalist No. 15 – 28

Antifederalist No. 15


This essay appeared in The Massachusetts Gazette, December 7, 1787, as reprinted From The
Freeman’s Journal; (Or, The North-American Intelligencer?)
The abuse which has been thrown upon the state of Rhode Island seems to be greatly unmerited.
Popular favor is variable, and those who are now despised and insulted may soon change
situations with the present idols of the people. Rhode Island has out done even Pennsylvania in
the glorious work of freeing the Negroes in this country, without which the patriotism of some
states appears ridiculous. The General Assembly of the state of Rhode Island has prevented the
further importation of Negroes, and have made a law by which all blacks born in that state after
March, 1784, are absolutely and at once free.
They have fully complied with the recommendations of Congress in regard to the late treaty of
peace with Great Britain, and have passed an act declaring it to be the law of the land. They have
never refused their quota of taxes demanded by Congress, excepting the five per cent impost,
which they considered as a dangerous tax, and for which at present there is perhaps no great
necessity, as the western territory, of which a part has very lately been sold at a considerable
price, may soon produce an immense revenue; and, in the interim, Congress may raise in the old
manner the taxes which shall be found necessary for the support of the government.
The state of Rhode Island refused to send delegates to the Federal Convention, and the event has
manifested that their refusal was a happy one as the new constitution, which the Convention has
proposed to us, is an elective monarchy, which is proverbially the worst government. This new
government would have been supported at a vast expense, by which our taxes-the right of which
is solely vested in Congress, (a circumstance which manifests that the various states of the union
will be merely corporations) — would be doubled or trebled. The liberty of the press is not
stipulated for, and therefore may be invaded at pleasure. The supreme continental court is to
have, almost in every case, “appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact,” which signifies, if
there is any meaning in words, the setting aside the trial by jury. Congress will have the power of
guaranteeing to every state a right to import Negroes for twenty one years, by which some of the
states, who have now declined that iniquitous traffic, may re-enter into it-for the private laws of
every state are to submit to the superior jurisdiction of Congress. A standing army is to be kept
on foot, by which the vicious, the sycophantick, and the time- serving will be exalted, and the
brave, the patriotic, and the virtuous will be depressed.
The writer, therefore, thinks it the part of wisdom to abide, like the state of Rhode Island, by the
old articles of confederation, which, if re-examined with attention, we shall find worthy of great
regard; that we should give high praise to the manly and public spirited sixteen members, who
lately seceded from our house of Assembly [in Pennsylvania]; and that we should all impress
with great care, this truth on our minds-That it is very easy to change a free government into an
arbitrary one, but that it is very difficult to convert tyranny into freedom.

Antifederalist No. 16


“ALFRED” defended the Articles of Confederation, taken from The New-York Journal,
December 25, 1787 as reprinted from the [Philadelphia] Independent Gazetteer.
To the real PATRIOTS of America: . . . America is now free. She now enjoys a greater portion
of political liberty than any other country under heaven. How long she may continue so depends
entirely upon her own caution and wisdom. If she would look to herself more, and to Europe
less, I am persuaded it would tend to promote her felicity. She possesses all the advantages
which characterize a rich country-rich within herself, she ought less to regard the politics, the
manufactures, and the interests of distant nations.
When I look to our situation-climate, extent, soil, and its productions, rivers, ports; when I find I
can at this time purchase grain, bread, meat, and other necessaries of life at as reasonable a rate
as in any country; when I see we are sending great quantities of tobacco, wheat and flour to
England and other parts of the globe beyond the Atlantic; when I get on the other side of the
western mountains, and see an extensive country, which for its multitude of rivers and fertility of
soil is equal, if not superior, to any other whatever when I see these things, I cannot be brought to
believe that America is in that deplorable ruined condition which some designing politicians
represent; or that we are in a state of anarchy beyond redemption, unless we adopt, without any
addition or amendment, the new constitution proposed by the late convention; a constitution
which, in my humble opinion, contains the seeds and scions of slavery and despotism. When the
volume of American constitutions [by John Adams] first made its appearance in Europe, we find
some of the most eminent political writers of the present age, and the reviewers of literature, full
of admiration and declaring they had never before seen so much good sense, freedom, and real
wisdom in one publication. Our good friend Dr. [Richard] Price was charmed, and almost
prophesied the near approach of the happy days of the millennium. We have lived under these
constitutions; and, after the experience of a few years, some among us are ready to trample them
under their feet, though they have been esteemed, even by our enemies, as “pearls of great price.”
Let us not, ye lovers of freedom, be rash and hasty. Perhaps the real evils we labor under do not
arise from these systems. There may be other causes to which our misfortunes may be properly
attributed. Read the American constitutions, and you will find our essential rights and privileges
well guarded and secured. May not our manners be the source of our national evils? May not our
attachment to foreign trade increase them? Have we not acted imprudently in exporting almost
all our gold and silver for foreign luxuries? It is now acknowledged that we have not a sufficient
quantity of the precious metals to answer the various purposes of government and commerce;
and without a breach of charity, it may be said, that this deficiency arises from the want of public
virtue, in preferring private interest to every other consideration.
If the states had in any tolerable degree been able to answer the requisitions of Congress-if the
continental treasury had been so far assisted, as to have enabled us to pay the interest of our
foreign debt-possibly we should have heard little, very little about a new system of government.
It is a just observation that in modern times money does everything. If a government can
command this unum necessarium from a certain revenue, it may be considered as wealthy and
respectable; if not, it will lose its dignity, become inefficient and contemptible. But cannot we
regulate our finances and lay the foundations for a permanent and certain revenue, without
undoing all that we have done, without making an entire new government? The most wise and
philosophic characters have bestowed on our old systems the highest encomiums. Are we sure
this new political phenomenon will not fail? If it should fail, is there not a great probability, that
our last state will be worse than the first? Orators may declaim on the badness of the times as
long as they please, but I must tell them that the want of public virtue, and the want of money,
are two of the principal sources of our grievances; and if we are -under the pressure of these
wants, it ought to teach us frugality-to adopt a frugal administration of public affairs….

Antifederalist No. 17


The “necessary and proper” clause has, from the beginning, been a thorn in the side of those
seeking to reduce federal power, but its attack by Brutus served to call attention to it, leaving a
paper trail of intent verifying its purpose was not to give Congress anything the Constitution
“forgot,” but rather to show two additional tests for any legislation Congress should attempt: to
wit–that the intended actions would be both necessary AND proper to executing powers given
under clauses 1-17 of Article I Section 8. This is the fameous BRUTUS.
This [new] government is to possess absolute and uncontrollable powers, legislative, executive
and judicial, with respect to every object to which it extends, for by the last clause of section
eighth, article first, it is declared, that the Congress shall have power “to make all laws which
shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other
powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department
or office thereof.” And by the sixth article, it is declared, “that this Constitution, and the laws of
the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and the treaties made, or which
shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and
the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or law of any State
to the contrary notwithstanding.” It appears from these articles, that there is no need of any
intervention of the State governments, between the Congress and the people, to execute any one
power vested in the general government, and that the Constitution and laws of every State are
nullified and declared void, so far as they are or shall be inconsistent with this Constitution, or
the laws made in pursuance of it, or with treaties made under the authority of the United States.
The government, then, so far as it extends, is a complete one, and not a confederation. It is as
much one complete government as that of New York or Massachusetts; has as absolute and
perfect powers to make and execute all laws, to appoint officers, institute courts, declare
offenses, and annex penalties, with respect to every object to which it extends, as any other in the
world. So far, therefore, as its powers reach, all ideas of confederation are given up and lost. It is
true this government is limited to certain objects, or to speak more properly, some small degree
of power is still left to the States; but a little attention to the powers vested in the general
government, will convince every candid man, that if it is capable of being executed, all that is
reserved for the individual States must very soon be annihilated, except so far as they are barely
necessary to the organization of the general government. The powers of the general legislature
extend to every case that is of the least importance-there is nothing valuable to human nature,
nothing dear to freemen, but what is within its power. It has the authority to make laws which
will affect the lives, the liberty, and property of every man in the United States; nor can the
Constitution or laws of any State, in any way prevent or impede the full and complete execution
of every power given. The legislative power is competent to lay taxes, duties, imposts, and
excises;-there is no limitation to this power, unless it be said that the clause which directs the use
to which those taxes and duties shall be applied, may be said to be a limitation. But this is no
restriction of the power at all, for by this clause they are to be applied to pay the debts and
provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but the legislature
have authority to contract debts at their discretion; they are the sole judges of what is necessary
to provide for the common defense, and they only are to determine what is for the general
welfare. This power, therefore, is neither more nor less than a power to lay and collect taxes,
imposts, and excises, at their pleasure; not only the power to lay taxes unlimited as to the amount
they may require, but it is perfect and absolute to raise ;hem in any mode they please. No State
legislature, or any power in the State governments, have any more to do in carrying this into
effect than the authority of one State has to do with that of another. In the business, therefore, of
laying and collecting taxes, the idea of confederation is totally lost, and that of one entire
republic is embraced. It is proper here to remark, that the authority to lay and collect taxes is the
most important of any power that can be granted; it connects with it almost all other powers, or
at least will in process of time draw all others after it; it is the great mean of protection, security,
and defense, in a good government, and the great engine of oppression and tyranny in a bad one.
This cannot fail of being the case, if we consider the contracted limits which are set by this
Constitution, to the State governments, on this article of raising money. No State can emit paper
money, lay any duties or imposts, on imports, or exports, but by consent of the Congress; and
then the net produce shall be for the benefit of the United States. The only means, therefore, left
for any State to support its government and discharge its debts, is by direct taxation; and the
United States have also power to lay and collect taxes, in any way they please. Everyone who
has thought on the subject, must be convinced that but small sums of money can he collected in
any country, by direct tax; when the federal government begins to exercise the right of taxation
in all its parts, the legislatures of the several states will find it impossible to raise monies to
support their governments. Without money they cannot be supported, and they must dwindle
away, and, as before observed, their powers be absorbed in that of the general government.
It might be here shown, that the power in the federal legislature, to raise and support armies at
pleasure, as well in peace as in war, and their control over the militia, tend not only to a
consolidation of the government, but the destruction of liberty. I shall not, however, dwell upon
these, as a few observations upon the judicial power of this government, in addition to the
preceding, will fully evince the truth of the position.
The judicial power of the United States is to be vested in a supreme court, and in such inferior
courts as Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish. The powers of these courts are
very extensive; their jurisdiction comprehends all civil causes, except such as arise between
citizens of the same State; and it extends to all cases in law and equity arising under the
Constitution. One inferior court must be established, I presume, in each State, at least, with the
necessary executive officers appendant thereto. It is easy to see, that in the common course of
things, these courts will eclipse the dignity, and take away from the respectability, of the State
courts. These courts will be, in themselves, totally independent of the States, deriving their
authority from the United States, and receiving from them fixed salaries; and in the course of
human events it is to be expected that they will swallow up all the powers of the courts in the
respective States.
How far the clause in the eighth section of the first article may operate to do away with all idea
of confederated States, and to effect an entire consolidation of the whole into one general
government, it is impossible to say. The powers given by this article are very general and
comprehensive, and it may receive a construction to justify the passing almost any law. A power
to make all laws, which shall be necessary and proper, for carrying into execution all powers
vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or any department or officer
thereof, is a power very comprehensive and definite, and may, for aught I know, be exercised in
such manner as entirely to abolish the State legislatures. Suppose the legislature of a State should
pass a law to raise money to support their government and pay the State debt; may the Congress
repeal this law, because it may prevent the collection of a tax which they may think proper and
necessary to lay, to provide for the general welfare of the United States? For all laws made, in
pursuance of this Constitution, are the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every State
shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of the different States to the contrary
notwithstanding. By such a law, the government of a particular State might be overturned at one
stroke, and thereby be deprived of every means of its support.
It is not meant, by stating this case, to insinuate that the Constitution would warrant a law of this
kind! Or unnecessarily to alarm the fears of the people, by suggesting that the Federal legislature
would be more likely to pass the limits assigned them by the Constitution, than that of an
individual State, further than they are less responsible to the people. But what is meant is, that
the legislature of the United States are vested with the great and uncontrollable powers of laying
and collecting taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; of regulating trade, raising and supporting
armies, organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, instituting courts, and other general
powers; and are by this clause invested with the power of making all laws, proper and necessary,
for carrying all these into execution; and they may so exercise this power as entirely to annihilate
all the State governments, and reduce this country to one single government. And if they may do
it, it is pretty certain they will; for it will be found that the power retained by individual States,
small as it is, will be a clog upon the wheels of the government of the United States; the latter,
therefore, will be naturally inclined to remove it out of the way. Besides, it is a truth confirmed
by the unerring experience of ages, that every man, and every body of men, invested with power,
are ever disposed to increase it, and to acquire a superiority over everything that stands in their
way. This disposition, which is implanted in human nature, will operate in the Federal legislature
to lessen and ultimately to subvert the State authority, and having such advantages, will most
certainly succeed, if the Federal government succeeds at all. It must be very evident, then, that
what this Constitution wants of being a complete consolidation of the several parts of the union
into one complete government, possessed of perfect legislative, judicial, and executive powers,
to all intents and purposes, it will necessarily acquire in its exercise in operation.

Antifederalist No. 18-20

(PART 1)

“AN OLD WHIG,” taken from The Massachusetts Gazette, November 27, 1787, as reprinted
from the [Philadelphia] Independent Gazetteer.
. . . . By the proposed constitution, every law, before it passes, is to undergo repeated revisions;
and the constitution of every state in the union provide for the revision of the most trifling laws,
either by their passing through different houses of assembly and senate, or by requiring them to
be published for the consideration of the people. Why then is a constitution which affects all the
inhabitants of the United States-which is to be the foundation of all laws and the source of
misery or happiness to one- quarter of the globe-why is this to be so hastily adopted or rejected,
that it cannot admit of a revision? If a law to regulate highways requires to be leisurely
considered and undergo the examination of different bodies of men, one after another, before it
be passed, why is it that the framing of a constitution for the government of a great people-a
work which has been justly considered as the greatest effort of human genius, and which from
the beginning of the world has so often baffled the skill of the wisest men in every age-shall be
considered as a thing to be thrown out, in the first shape which it may happen to assume? Where
is the impracticability of a revision? Cannot the same power which called the late convention call
another? Are not the people still their own masters? If, when the several state conventions come
to consider this constitution, they should not approve of it, in its present form, they may easily
apply to congress and state their objections. Congress may as easily direct the calling another
convention, as they did the calling the last. The plan may then be reconsidered, deliberately
received and corrected, so as to meet the approbation of every friend to his country. A few
months only will be necessary for this purpose; and if we consider the magnitude of the object,
we shall deem it well worth a little time and attention. It is Much better to pause and reflect
before hand, than to repent when it is too late; when no peaceable remedy will be left us, and
unanimity will be forever banished. The struggles of the people against a bad government, when
it is once fixed, afford but a gloomy picture in the annals of mankind, They are often
unfortunate; they are always destructive of private and public happiness; but the peaceable
consent of a people to establish a free and effective government is one of the most glorious
objects that is ever exhibited on the theater of human affairs. Some, I know, have objected that
another convention will not be likely to agree upon anything-I am far however from being of that
opinion. The public voice calls so loudly for a new constitution that I have no doubt we shall
have one of some sort. My only fear is that the impatience of the people will lead them to accept
the first that is offered them without examining whether it is right or wrong. And after all, if a
new convention cannot agree upon any amendments in the constitution, which is at present
proposed, we can still adopt this in its present form; and all further opposition being vain, it is to
be hoped we shall be unanimous in endeavouring to make the best of it. The experiment is at
least worth trying, and I shall be much astonished, if a new convention called together for the
purpose of revising the proposed constitution, do not greatly reform it …
It is beyond a doubt that the new federal constitution, if adopted, will in a great measure destroy,
if it does not totally annihilate, the separate governments of the several states. We shall, in effect,
become one great republic. Every measure of any importance will be continental. What will be
the consequence of this? One thing is evident-that no republic of so great magnitude ever did or
ever can exist. But a few years elapsed, from the time in which ancient Rome extended her
dominions beyond the bounds of Italy, until the downfall of her republic. And all political writers
agree, that a republican government can exist only in a narrow territory. But a confederacy of
different republics has, in many instances, existed and flourished for a long time together. The
celebrated Helvetian league, which exists at this moment in full vigor, and with unimpaired
strength, while its origin may be traced to the confines of antiquity, is one among many examples
on this head; and at the same time furnishes an eminent proof of how much less importance it is,
that the constituent parts of a confederacy of republics may be rightly framed, than it is that the
confederacy itself should be rightly organized. For hardly any two of the Swiss cantons have the
same form of government, and they are almost equally divided in their religious principles,
which have so often rent asunder the firmest establishments. A confederacy of republics must be
the establishment in America, or we must cease altogether to retain the republican form of
government. From the moment we become one great republic, either in form or substance, the
period is very shortly removed when we shall sink first into monarchy, and then into despotism. .
. . If the men who at different times have been entrusted to form plans of government for the
world, had been really actuated by no other motives than the public good, the condition of human
nature in all ages would have been widely different from that which has been exhibited to us in
history. In this country perhaps we are possessed of more than our share of political virtue. If we
will exercise a little patience and bestow our best endeavors on the business, I do not think it
impossible, that we may yet form a federal constitution much superior to any form of
government which has ever existed in the world. But whenever this important work shall be
accomplished, I venture to pronounce that it will not be done without a careful attention to the
Framing of a bill of rights. . . .
In different nations, we find different grants or reservations of privileges appealed to in the
struggles between the rulers and the people; many of which, in the different nations of Europe,
have long since been swallowed up and lost by time, or destroyed by the arbitrary hand of power.
In England, we find the people, with the barons at their head, exacting a solemn resignation of
their rights from King John, in their celebrated magna charta, which was many times renewed in
Parliament during the reigns of his successors. The petition of rights was afterwards consented to
by Charles I and contained a declaration of the liberties of the people. The habeas corpus act,
after the restoration of Charles 11, the bill of rights, which was obtained of the Prince and
Princess of Orange, on their accession to the throne, and the act of settlement, at the accession of
the Hanover family-are other instances to show the care and watchfulness of that nation to
improve every Opportunity, of the reign of a weak prince or the revolution in their government,
to obtain the most explicit declarations in favor of their liberties. In like manner the people of
this country, at the revolution, having all power in their own hands, in forming the constitutions
of the several states, took care to secure themselves, by bills of rights, so as to prevent as far as
possible the encroachments of their future rulers upon the rights of the people. Some of these
rights are said to be unalienable, such as the rights of conscience. Yet even these have been often
invaded, where they have not been carefully secured, by express and solemn bills and
declarations in their favor.
Before we establish a government, whose acts will be the supreme law of the land, and whose
power will extend to almost every case without exception, we ought carefully to guard ourselves
by a bill of rights, against the invasion of those liberties which it is essential for us to retain,
which it is of no real use for government to deprive us of; but which, in the course of human
events, have been too often insulted with all the wantonness of an idle barbarity.

Antifederalist No. 18-20


“A NEWPORT MAN,” wrote this wit which appeared in The Newport Mercury, March 17,
. . . – I perceive in your last [issue a] piece signed “A Rhode-Island Man,” it seems wrote with an
air of confidence and triumph; he speaks of reason and reasoning-I wish he had known or
practised some of that reasoning he so much pretends to; his essay had been much shorter. We
are told in this piece, as well as others on the same side, that an ability given to British subjects
to recover their debts in this country will be one of the blessings of a new government, by
inducing the British to abandon the frontiers, or be left without excuse. But the British have no
other reason for holding the posts, after the time named in the treaty for their evacuation, than the
last reason of Kings, that is, their guns. And giving them the treasure of the United States is a
very unlikely means of removing that. If the British subject met with legal impediments to the
recovery of his debts in this country, for [the] British government to have put the same stop on
our citizens would have been a proper, an ample retaliation. But there is nothing within the
compass of possibility of which I am not perfectly sure, that I am more fully persuaded of than I
am, that the British will never relinquish the posts in question until compelled by force; because
no nation pays less regard to the faith of treaties than the British. Witness their conduct to the
French in 1755, when they took a very great number of men of war and merchant ships before
war was declared, because the French had built some forts on the south side of an imaginary line
in the wilds of America; and again, the violation of the articles by which the people of Boston
resigned their arms; and the violation of the capitulation of Charles Town. Again we are told that
Congress has no credit with foreigners, because they have no power to fulfill their engagements.
And this we are told, with a boldness exceeded by nothing but its falsehood, perhaps in the same
paper that announces to the world the loan of a million of Holland gilders-if I mistake not the
sum; a sum equal to 250,000 Spanish Dollars-and all this done by the procurement of that very
Congress whose insignificancy and want of power had been constantly proclaimed for two or
three years before. The Dutch are the most cautious people on earth, and it is reasonable to
suppose they were abundantly persuaded of the permanency and efficacy of our government by
their risking so much money on it.
We are told that so long as we withhold this power from Congress we shall be a weak, despised
people. We were long contending for Independence, and now we are in a passion to be rid of it.
But let us attempt to reason on this subject, and see to which side that will lead us. Reason is
truly defined, in all cases short of mathematical demonstration, to be a supposing that the like
causes will produce the like effects. Let us proceed by this rule. The Swiss Cantons for a hundred
years have remained separate Independent States, consequently without any controlling power.
Even the little Republic of St. Marino, containing perhaps but little more ground than the town of
Newport, and about five thousand inhabitants, surrounded by powerful and ambitious neighbors,
has kept its freedom and independence these thirteen hundred years, and is mentioned by
travellers as a very enlightened and happy people. If these small republics, in the neighborhood
of the warlike and intriguing Courts of Paris, Vienna, and Berlin, have kept their freedom and
original form of government, is it not reasonable to suppose that the same good sense and love of
freedom, on this side the Atlantic, will secure us from all attempt within and without. And the
only internal discord that has happened in Switzerland was on a religious account, and a supreme
controlling power is no security against this, as appears by what happened in Ireland in the time
of Charles the First, and in France in the time of Henry the Fourth. It seems rational in a case of
this importance to consult the opinion of the ablest men, and to whom can we better appeal than
to J. J. Rousseau, a republican by birth and education-one of the most exalted geniuses and one
of the greatest writers of his age, or perhaps any age; a man the most disinterested and
benevolent towards mankind; a man the most industrious in the acquisition of knowledge and
information, by travel, conversation, reading, and thinking; and one who has wrote a Volume on
Government entitled the Social Contract, wherein he inculcates, that the people should examine
and determine every public act themselves. His words are, that “every law that the people have
not ratified in person, is void; it is no law. The people of England think they are free. They are
much mistaken. They are never so but during the election of members of Parliament. As soon as
they are elected, they are slaves, they are nothing. And by the use they make of their liberty
during the short moments they possess it, they well deserve to lose it.” This is far from advising
that thirty thousand souls should resign their judgments and wishes entirely to one man for two
years-to a man, who, perhaps, may go from home sincere and patriotic but by the time he has
dined in pomp for a week with the wealthy citizens of New York or Philadelphia, will have lost
all his rigid ideas of economy and equality. He becomes fascinated with the elegancies and
luxuries of wealth. . . . Objects and intimations like these soon change the champion for the
people to an advocate for power; and the people, finding themselves thus basely betrayed, cry
that virtue is but a name. We are not sure that men have more virtue at this time and place than
they had in England in the time of George the Second. Let anyone look into the history of those
times, and see with what boldness men changed sides and deserted the people in pursuit of profit
and power. If to take up the cross and renounce the pomps and vanities of this sinful world is a
hard lesson for divines, ’tis much harder for politicians. A Cincinnatus, a Cato, a Fabricius, and a
Washington, are rarely to be found. We are told that the Trustees of our powers and freedom,
being mostly married men, and all of them inhabitants and proprietors of the country, is an ample
security against an abuse of power. Whether human nature be less corrupt than formerly I will
not determine-but this I know: that Julius Caesar, Oliver Cromwell, and the nobles of Venice,
were natives and inhabitants of the countries whose power they usurped and drenched in blood.
Again, our country is compared to a ship of which we are all passengers, and, from thence ’tis
gravely concluded that no officer can ever betray or abuse his trust. But that men will sacrifice
the public to their private interest, is a saying too well known to need repeating. And the
instances of designed shipwrecks, and ships run away with by a combination of masters,
supercargoes, and part owners, is so great that nothing can equal them but those instances in
which pretended patriots and politicians have raised themselves and families to power and
greatness, by destroying that freedom and those laws they were chosen to defend.
If it were necessary to cite more precedents to prove that the people ought not to trust or remove
their power any further from them, the little Republic of Lucca may be mentioned-which,
surrounded by the Dukedom of Tuscany, has existed under its present constitution about five
hundred years, and as Mr. Addison says, is for the extent of its dominion the richest and best
peopled of all the States of Italy. And he says further that “the whole administration of the
government passes into different hands every two months.” This is very far from confirming the
doctrine of choosing those officers for two years who were before chosen for one. The want of a
decisive, efficient power is much talked of by the discontented, and that we are in danger of
being conquered by the intrigues of European powers. But it has already been shown that we
have delegated a more decisive power to our Congress than is granted by the Republic Swiss
Cantons to their General Diet. These Republics have enjoyed peace some hundreds of years;
while those governments which possess this decisive, efficient power, so much aimed at, are as
often as twenty or thirty years, drawing their men from the plough and loom to be shot at and cut
each other’s throats for the honor of their respective nations. And by how much further we are
from Europe than the Swiss Cantons with their allies, and Lucca and St. Marino are from France,
Prussia, and Austria, by so much less are we in danger of being conquered than those republics
which have existed, some earlier than others, but the youngest of them one hundred and thirty
years, without being conquered. As for the United Provinces of Holland, they are but nominal
Republics; their Stadtholder, very much like our intended President, making them in reality a
monarchy, and subject to all its calamities. But supposing that the present constitution, penned
by the ablest men, four or five years in completion, and its adoption considered as the happiest
event-supposing, I say, the present Constitution destroyed, can a new one be ratified with more
solemnity, agreed to in stronger or more binding terms? What security can be given that in seven
years hence, another Convention shall not be called to frame a third Constitution? And as ancient
Greece counted by olympiads, and monarchies by their Kings’ reigns, we shall date in the first,
second, or third year, of the seventh, eighth, or ninth Constitution.
In treating this subject I have not presumed to advise, and have intruded but few comments. I
have mentioned the state of those countries which most resemble our own and leave to the
natural sense of the reader to make his own conclusions. The malcontents, the lovers of novelty,
delight much in allegory. Should I be indulged a few words in that way, I should not compare the
new Constitution to a house. I should fetch my simile from the country and compare it to
Siberian Wheat (otherwise called Siberian cheat) which is known to have been the most praised,
the most dear, the most worthless, and most short-lived thing that was ever adopted. But if the
free men of this continent are weary of that power and freedom they have so dearly bought and
so shortly enjoyed- the power of judging and determining what laws are most wholesome; what
taxes are requisite and sufficient-I say, if the people are tired of these privileges, now is the time
to part with them forever. Much more might be said to show the bitterness and mischief
contained in this gilded pill, but being fond of brevity, I shall rely on the good sense of the public
to keep themselves out of the trap, and sign myself in plain English.

Antifederalist No. 21


This essay is composed of excerpts from “CENTINEL” letters appearing in the (Philadelphia)
Independent Gazetteer, October 5 and November 30, 1787.
That the present confederation is inadequate to the objects of the union, seems to be universally
allowed. The only question is, what additional powers are wanting to give due energy to the
federal government? We should, however, be careful, in forming our opinion on this subject, not
to impute the temporary and extraordinary difficulties that have hitherto impeded the execution
of the confederation, to defects in the system itself. For years past, the harpies of power have
been industriously inculcating the idea that all our difficulties proceed from the impotency of
Congress, and have at length succeeded to give to this sentiment almost universal currency and
belief. The devastations, losses and burdens occasioned by the late war; the excessive
importations of foreign merchandise and luxuries, which have drained the country of its specie
and involved it in debt, are all overlooked, and the inadequacy of the powers of the present
confederation is erroneously supposed to be the only cause of our difficulties. Hence persons of
every description are revelling in the anticipation of the halcyon days consequent on the
establishment of the new constitution. What gross deception and fatal delusion! Although very
considerable benefit might be derived from strengthening the hands of Congress, so as to enable
them to regulate commerce, and counteract the adverse restrictions of other nations, which would
meet with the concurrence of all persons; yet this benefit is accompanied in the new constitution
with the scourge of despotic power. . . .
Taxation is in every government a very delicate and difficult subject. Hence it has been the
policy of all wise statesmen, as far as circumstances permitted, to lead the people by small
beginnings and almost imperceptible degrees, into the habits of taxation. Where the contrary
conduct has been pursued, it has ever failed of full success, not unfrequently proving the ruin of
the projectors. The imposing of a burdensome tax at once on a people, without the usual
gradations, is the severest test that any government can be put to; despotism itself has often
proved unequal to the attempt. Under this conviction, let us take a review of our situation before
and since the revolution. From the first settlement of this country until the commencement of the
late war, the taxes were so light and trivial as to be scarcely felt by the people. When we engaged
in the expensive contest with Great Britain, the Congress, sensible of the difficulty of levying the
monies necessary to its support, by direct taxation, had resource to an anticipation of the public
resources, by emitting bills of credit, and thus postponed the necessity of taxation for several
years. This means was pursued to a most ruinous length. But about the year 80 or 81, it was
wholly exhausted, the bills of credit had suffered such a depreciation from the excessive
quantities in circulation, that they ceased to be useful as a medium. The country at this period
was very much impoverished and exhausted; commerce had been suspended for near six years;
the husbandman, for want of a market, limited his crops to his own subsistence; the frequent calls
of the militia and long continuance in actual service, the devastations of the enemy, the
subsistence of our own armies, the evils of the depreciation of the paper money, which fell
chiefly upon the patriotic and virtuous part of the community, had all concurred to produce great
distress throughout America. In this situation of affairs, we still had the same powerful enemy to
contend with, who had even more numerous and better appointed armies in the field than at any
former time. Our allies were applied to in this exigency, but the pecuniary assistance that we
could procure from them was soon exhausted. The only resource now remaining was to obtain by
direct taxation, the moneys necessary for our defense. The history of mankind does not furnish a
similar instance of an attempt to levy such enormous taxes at once, nor of a people so wholly
unprepared and uninured to them-the lamp of sacred liberty must indeed have burned with
unsullied lustre, every sordid principle of the mind must have been then extinct, when the people
not only submitted to the grievous impositions, but cheerfully exerted themselves to comply with
the calls of their country. Their abilities, however, were not equal to furnish the necessary sumsindeed,
the requisition of the year 1782, amounted to the whole income of their farms and other
property, including the means of their subsistence. Perhaps the strained exertions of two years
would not have sufficed to the discharge of this requisition. How then can we impute the
difficulties of the people to a due compliance with the requisitions of Congress, to a defect in the
confederation? Any government, however energetic, in similar circumstances, would have
experienced the same fate. If we review the proceedings of the States, we shall find that they
gave every sanction and authority to the requisitions of Congress that their laws could confer,
that they attempted to collect the sums called for in the same manner as is proposed to be done in
future by the general government, instead of the State legislatures….
The wheels of the general government having been thus clogged, and the arrearages of taxes still
accumulating, it may be asked what prospect is there of the government resuming its proper tone,
-unless more compulsory powers are granted? To this it may be answered, that the produce of
imposts on commerce, which all agree to vest in Congress, together with the immense tracts of
land at their disposal, will rapidly lessen and eventually discharge the present encumbrances.
When this takes place, the mode by requisition will be found perfectly adequate to the
extraordinary exigencies of the union. Congress have lately sold land to the amount of eight
millions of dollars, which is a considerable portion of the whole debt.
It is to be lamented that the interested and designing have availed themselves so successfully of
the present crisis, and under the specious pretence of having discovered a panacea for all the ills
of the people, they are about establishing a system of government, that will prove more
destructive to them than the wooden horse filled with soldiers did in ancient times to the city of
Troy. This horse was introduced by their hostile enemy the Grecians, by a prostitution of the
sacred rites of their religion; in like manner, my fellow citizens, are aspiring despots among
yourselves prostituting the name of a Washington to cloak their designs upon your liberties.
I would ask how was the proposed Constitution to have showered down those treasures upon
every class of citizens, as has been so industriously inculcated and so fondly believed by some?
Would it have been by the addition of numerous and expensive establishments? By doubling our
judiciaries, instituting federal courts in every county of every state? By a superb presidential
court? By a large standing army? In short, by putting it in the power of the future government to
levy money at pleasure, and placing this government so independent of the people as to enable
the administration to gratify every corrupt passion of the mind, to riot on your spoils, without
check or control?
A transfer to Congress of the power of imposing imposts on commerce, the unlimited regulation
of trade, and to make treaties, I believe is all that is wanting to render America as prosperous as
it is in the power of any form of government to render her; this properly understood would meet
the views of all the honest and well meaning.
What gave birth to the late continental Convention? Was it not the situation of our commerce,
which lay at the mercy of every foreign power, who, from motives of interest or enmity, could
restrict and control it without risking a retaliation on the part of America, as Congress was
impotent on this subject? Such indeed was the case with respect to Britain, whose hostile
regulations gave such a stab to our navigation as to threaten its annihilation, it became the
interest of even the American merchant to give a preference to foreign bottoms; hence the
distress of our seamen, shipwrights, and every mechanic art dependent on navigation.
By these regulations too, we were limited in markets for our produce; our vessels were excluded
from their West India islands; many of our staple commodities were denied entrance in Britain.
Hence the husbandman were distressed by the demand for their crops being lessened and their
prices reduced. This is the source to which may be traced every evil we experience, that can be
relieved by a more energetic government. Recollect the language of complaint for years past;
compare the recommendations of Congress, founded on such complaints, pointing out the
remedy; examine the reasons assigned by the different states for appointing delegates to the late
Convention; view the powers vested in that body-they all harmonize in the sentiment, that the
due regulation of trade and navigation was the anxious wish of every class of citizens, was the
great object of calling the Convention.
This object being provided for by the Constitution proposed by the general Convention, people
overlooked and were not sensible of the needless sacrifice they were making for it. Allowing for
a moment that it would be possible for trade to flourish under a despotic government, of what
avail would be a prosperous state of commerce, when the produce of it would be at the absolute
disposal of an arbitrary unchecked general government, who may levy at pleasure the most
oppressive taxes; who may destroy every principle of freedom; who may even destroy the
privilege of complaining….
After so recent a triumph over British despots, after such torrents of blood and treasure have
been spent, after involving ourselves in the distresses of an arduous war, and incurring such a
debt, for the express purpose of asserting the rights of humanity, it is truly astonishing that a set
of men among ourselves should have had the effrontery to attempt the destruction of our
liberties. But in this enlightened age, to dupe the people by the arts they are practising, is still
more extraordinary. . .

Antifederalist No. 22


Benjamin Austin of Massachusetts, used the pen-name “CANDIDUS.” Taken from two letters
by “Candidus” which appeared in the [Boston] Independent Chronicle, December 6 and 20,
…. Many people are sanguine for the Constitution, because they apprehend our commerce will be
benefited. I would advise those persons to distinguish between the evils that arise from
extraneous causes and our private imprudencies, and those that arise from our government. It
does not appear that the embarrassments of our trade will be removed by the adoption of this
Constitution. The powers of Europe do not lay any extraordinary duties on our oil, fish, or
tobacco, because of our government; neither do they discourage our ship building on this
account. I would ask what motive would induce Britain to repeal the duties on our oil, or France
on our fish, if we should adopt the proposed Constitution? Those nations laid these duties to
promote their own fishery, etc., and let us adopt what mode of government we please, they will
pursue their own politics respecting our imports and exports, unless we can check them by some
commercial regulations.
But it may be said, that such commercial regulations will take place after we have adopted the
Constitution, and that the northern states would then become carriers for the southern. The great
question then is, whether it is necessary in order to obtain these purposes, for every state to give
up their whole power of legislation and taxation, and become an unwieldy republic, when it is
probable the important object of our commerce could be effected by a uniform navigation act,
giving Congress full power to regulate the whole commerce of the States? This power Congress
have often said was sufficient to answer all their purposes. The circular letter from the Boston
merchants and others, was urgent on this subject. Also the navigation act of this state
[Massachusetts], was adopted upon similar principles, and . . . was declared by our Minister in
England, to be the most effectual plan to promote our navigation, provided it had been adopted
by the whole confederacy.
But it may be said, this regulation of commerce, without energy to enforce a compliance, is quite
ideal. Coercion with some persons seems the principal object, but I believe we have more to
expect from the affections of the people, than from an armed body of men. Provided a uniform
commercial system was adopted, and each State felt its agreeable operations, we should have but
little occasion to exercise force. But however, as power is thought necessary to raise an army, if
required, to carry into effect any federal measure, I am willing to place it, where it is likely to be
used with the utmost caution. This power I am willing to place among the confederated States, to
be exercised when two thirds of them in their legislative capacities shall say the common good
requires it. But to trust this power in the hands of a few men delegated for two, four and six
years, is complimenting the ambition of human nature too highly, to risk the tranquility of these
States on their absolute determination. Certain characters now on the stage, we have reason to
venerate, but though this country is now blessed with a Washington, Franklin, Hancock and
Adams, yet posterity may have reason to rue the day when their political welfare depends on the
decision of men who may fill the places of these worthies….
The advocates for the Constitution, have always assumed an advantage by saying, that their
opposers have never offered any plan as a substitute; the following outlines are therefore
submitted, not as originating from an individual, but as copied from former resolutions of
Congress, and united with some parts of the Constitution proposed by the respectable
convention. This being the case, I presume it will not be invalidated by the cant term of
lst. That the Legislature of each state, empower Congress to frame a navigation act, to operate
uniformly throughout the states; receiving to Congress all necessary powers to regulate our
commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes. The
revenue arising from the impost to be subject to their appropriations, “to enable them to fulfill
their public engagements with foreign creditors.”
2nd. That the Legislature of each state, instruct their delegates in Congress, to frame a treaty of
AMITY for the purposes of discharging each state’s proportion of the public debt, either foreign
or domestic, and to enforce (if necessary) their immediate payment. Each state obligating
themselves in the treaty of amity, to furnish (whenever required by Congress) a proportionate
number of the Militia who are ever to be well organized and disciplined, for the purposes of
repelling any invasion; suppressing any insurrection; or reducing any delinquent state within the
confederacy, to a compliance with the federal treaty of commerce and amity. Such assistance to
be furnished by the Supreme Executive of each state, on the application of Congress. The troops
in cases of invasion to be under the command of the Supreme Executive of the state immediately
in danger; but in cases of insurrection, and when employed against any delinquent state in the
confederacy, the troops to be under the command of Congress.
3d. That such states as did not join the confederacy of commerce and amity, should be
considered as aliens; and any goods brought from such state into any of the confederated states,
together with their vessels, should be subject to heavy extra duties.
4th. The treaty of amity, agreed to by the several states, should expressly declare that no State
(without the consent of Congress) should enter into any treaty, alliances, or confederacy; grant
letters of marque and reprisal; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of
debts; pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law, or impair the obligations of contracts;
engage in war, or declare peace.
5th. A Supreme Judicial Court to be constituted for the following federal purposes-to extend to
all treaties made previous to, or which shall be made under the authority of the confederacy; all
cases affecting Ambassadors, and other public Ministers and Consuls; controversies between two
or more states; and between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different
states; to define and punish piracies, and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses
against the law of nations.
6th. That it be recommended to Congress, that the said navigation act, and treaty of amity, be
sent to the Legislatures (or people) of the several states, for their assenting to, and ratifying the
7th. A regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures, of all public monies,
should be published from time to time.
The above plan it is humbly conceived-secures the internal government of the several states;
promotes the commerce of the whole union; preserves a due degree of energy; lays restraints on
aliens; secures the several states against invasions and insurrection by a MILITIA, rather than a
STANDING ARMY; checks all ex post facto laws; cements the states by certain federal
restrictions; confines the judiciary powers to national matters; and provides for the public
information of receipts and expenditures. In a word, it places us in a complete federal state.
The resolves of Congress, 18th April, 1783, “recommends to the several States, to invest them
with powers to levy for the use of the United States, certain duties upon goods, imported from
any foreign port, island or plantation;” which measures is declared by them, “to be a system more
free, from well founded exception, and is better calculated to receive the approbation of the
several States, than any other, that the wisdom of Congress could devise; and if adopted, would
enable them to fulfill their public engagements with their foreign creditors.”. . . .
Should we adopt this plan, no extraordinary expenses would arise, and Congress having but one
object to attend, every commercial regulation would be uniformly adopted; the duties of impost
and excise, would operate equally throughout the states; our ship building and carrying trade,
would claim their immediate attention; and in consequence thereof, our agriculture, trade and
manufactures would revive and flourish. No acts of legislation, independent of this great
business, would disaffect one State against the other; but the whole, . . . in one Federal System of
commerce, would serve to remove all local attachments, and establish our navigation upon a
most extensive basis. The powers of Europe, would be alarmed at our Union, and would fear lest
we should retaliate on them by laying restrictions on their trade….
These states, by the blessing of Heaven, are now in a very tranquil state. This government, in
particular, has produced an instance of ENERGY, in suppressing a late rebellion, which no
absolute monarchy can boast. And notwithstanding the insinuations of a “small party,” who are
ever branding the PEOPLE with the most opprobrious epithets-representing them as aiming to
level all distinctions; emit paper money; encourage the rebellion-yet the present General Court,
the voice of that body, whom they have endeavored to stigmatize, have steadily pursued
measures foreign from the suggestions of such revilers. And the public credit has been constantly
appreciating since the present Administration.
Let us then be cautious how we disturb this general harmony. Every exertion is now making, by
the people, to discharge their taxes. Industry and frugality prevail. Our commerce is every day
increasing by the enterprise of our merchants. And above all, the PEOPLE of the several states
are convinced of the necessity of adopting some Federal Commercial Plan….

Antifederalist No. 23


In Federalist No. 23, Alexander Hamilton spoke of the necessity for an energetic government.
“BRUTUS” replied.
Taken from the 7th and 8th essays of “Brutus” in The New-York Journal, January 3 and 10,
In a confederated government, where the powers are divided between the general and the state
government, it is essential . . . that the revenues of the country, without which no government can
exist, should be divided between them, and so apportioned to each, as to answer their respective
exigencies, as far as human wisdom can effect such a division and apportionment….
No such allotment is made in this constitution, but every source of revenue is under the control
of Congress; it therefore follows, that if this system is intended to be a complex and not a simple,
a confederate and not an entire consolidated government, it contains in it the sure seeds of its
own dissolution. One of two things must happen. Either the new constitution will become a mere
nudum pactum, and all the authority of the rulers under it be cried down, as has happened to the
present confederacy. Or the authority of the individual states will be totally supplanted, and they
will retain the mere form without any of the powers of government. To one or the other of these
issues, I think, this new government, if it is adopted, will advance with great celerity.
It is said, I know, that such a separation of the sources of revenue, cannot be made without
endangering the public safety-“unless (says a writer) [Alexander Hamilton] 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, etc.”(1)
(1 Federalist, No. 23.)
The pretended demonstration of this writer will instantly vanish, when it is considered, that the
protection and defense of the community is not intended to be entrusted solely into the hands of
the general government, and by his own confession it ought not to be. It is true this system
commits to the general government the protection and defense of the community against foreign
force and invasion, against piracies and felonies on the high seas, and against insurrection among
ourselves. They are also authorized to provide for the administration of justice in certain matters
of a general concern, and in some that I think are not so. But it ought to be left to the state
governments to provide for the protection and defense of the citizen against the hand of private
violence, and the wrongs done or attempted by individuals to each other. Protection and defense
against the murderer, the robber, the thief, the cheat, and the unjust person, is to be derived from
the respective state governments. The just way of reasoning therefore on this subject is this, the
general government is to provide for the protection and defense of the community against foreign
attacks, etc. They therefore ought to have authority sufficient to effect this, so far as is consistent
with the providing for our internal protection and defense. The state governments are entrusted
with the care of administering justice among its citizens, and the management of other internal
concerns; they ought therefore to retain power adequate to that end. The preservation of internal
peace and good order, and the due administration of law and justice, ought to be the first care of
every government. The happiness of a people depends infinitely more on this than it does upon
all that glory and respect which nations acquire by the most brilliant martial achievements. And I
believe history will furnish but few examples of nations who have duly attended to these, who
have been subdued by foreign invaders. If a proper respect and submission to the laws prevailed
over all orders of men in our country; and if a spirit of public and private justice, economy, and
industry influenced the people, we need not be under any apprehensions but what they would be
ready to repel any invasion that might be made on the country. And more than this, I would not
wish from them. A defensive war is the only one I think justifiable. I do not make these
observations to prove, that a government ought not to be authorised to provide for the protection
and defense of a country against external enemies, but to show that this is not the most
important, much less the only object of their care.
The European governments are almost all of them framed, and administered with a view to arms,
and war, as that in which their chief glory consists. They mistake the end of government. It was
designed to save men’s lives, not to destroy them. We ought to furnish the world with an example
of a great people, who in their civil institutions hold chiefly in view, the attainment of virtue, and
happiness among ourselves. Let the monarchs in Europe share among them the glory of
depopulating countries, and butchering thousands of their innocent citizens, to revenge private
quarrels, or to punish an insult offered to a wife, a mistress, or a favorite. I envy them not the
honor, and I pray heaven this country may never be ambitious of it. The czar Peter the great,
acquired great glory by his arms; but all this was nothing, compared with the true glory which he
obtained, by civilizing his rude and barbarous subjects, diffusing among them knowledge, and
establishing and cultivating the arts of life. By the former he desolated countries, and drenched
the earth with human blood; by the latter he softened the ferocious nature of his people, and
pointed them to the means of human happiness. The most important end of government then, is
the proper direction of its internal police, and economy; this is the province of the state
governments, and it is evident, and is indeed admitted, that these ought to be under their control.
Is it not then preposterous, and in the highest degree absurd, when the state governments are
vested with powers so essential to the peace and good order of society, to take from them the
means of their own preservation?
The idea that the powers of congress in respect to revenue ought to be unlimited, because ‘the
circumstances which may affect the public safety are not reducible to certain determinate limits’
is novel, as it relates to the government of the United States. The inconveniencies which resulted
from the feebleness of the present confederation was discerned, and felt soon after its adoption. It
was soon discovered, that a power to require money, without either the authority or means to
enforce a collection of it, could not be relied upon either to provide for the common defense,
discharge the national debt, or for support of government. Congress therefore, as early as
February 1781, recommended to the states to invest them with a power to levy an impost of :five
per cent ad valorem, on all imported goods, as a fund to be appropriated to discharge the debts
already contracted, or which should hereafter be contracted for the support of the war, to be
continued until the debts should be fully and finally discharged. There is not the most distant
idea held out in this act, that an unlimited power to collect taxes, duties and excises was
necessary to be vested in the United States, and yet this was a time of the most pressing danger
and distress. The idea then was, that if certain definite funds were assigned to the union, which
were certain in their natures, productive, and easy of collection, it would enable them to answer
their engagements, and provide for their defense, and the impost of five per cent was fixed upon
for the purpose.
This same subject was revived in the winter and spring of 1783, and after a long consideration of
the subject, many schemes were proposed. The result was, a recommendation of the revenue
system of April 1783; this system does not suggest an idea that it was necessary to grant the
United States unlimited authority in matters of revenue. A variety of amendments were proposed
to this system, some of which are upon the journals of Congress, but it does not appear that any
of them proposed to invest the general government with discretionary power to raise money. On
the contrary, all of them limit them to certain definite objects, and fix the bounds over which
they could not pass. This recommendation was passed at the conclusion of the war, and was
founded on an estimate of the whole national debt. It was computed, that one million and an half
of dollars, in addition to the impost, was a sufficient sum to pay the annual interest of the debt,
and gradually to abolish the principal. Events have proved that their estimate was sufficiently
liberal, as the domestic debt appears upon its being adjusted to be less than it was computed; and
since this period a considerable portion of the principal of the domestic debt has been discharged
by the sale of the western lands. It has been constantly urged by Congress, and by individuals,
ever since, until lately, that had this revenue been appropriated by the states, as it was
recommended, it would have been adequate to every exigency of the union. Now indeed it is
insisted, that all the treasures of the country are to be under the control of that body, whom we
are to appoint to provide for our protection and defense against foreign enemies. The debts of the
several states, and the support of the governments of them are to trust to fortune and accident. If
the union should not have occasion for all the money they can raise, they will leave a portion for
the state, but this must be a matter of mere grace and favor. Doctrines like these would not have
been listened to by any state in the union, at a time when we were pressed on every side by a
powerful enemy, and were called upon to make greater exertions than we have any reason to
expect we shall ever be again. . . .
I may be asked to point out the sources, from which the general government could derive a
sufficient revenue, to answer the demands of the union. … There is one source of revenue, which
it is agreed, the general government ought to have the sole control of. This is an impost upon all
goods imported from foreign countries. This would, of itself, be very productive, and would be
collected with ease and certainty. It will be a fund too, constantly increasing, for our commerce
will grow with the productions of the country. And these, together with our consumption of
foreign goods, wilt increase with our population. It is said, that the impost will not produce a
sufficient sum to satisfy the demands of the general government; perhaps it would not…. My own
opinion is, that the objects from which the general government should have authority to raise a
revenue, should be of such a nature, that the tax should be raised by simple laws, with few
officers, with certainty and expedition, and with the least interference with the internal police of
the states. Of this nature is the impost on imported goods. And it appears to me that a duty on
exports, would also be of this nature. Therefore, for ought I can discover, this would be the best
source of revenue to grant the general government. I know neither the Congress nor the state
legislatures will have authority under the new constitution to raise a revenue in this way. But I
cannot perceive the reason of the restriction. It appears to me evident, that a tax on articles
exported, would be as nearly equal as any that we can expect to lay, and it certainly would be
collected with more ease and less expense than any direct tax. I do not however, contend for this
mode; it may be liable to well founded objections that have not occurred to me. But this I do
contend for, that some mode is practicable, and that limits must be marked between the general
government, and the states on this head, or if they be not, either the Congress in the exercise of
this power, will deprive the state legislatures of the means of their existence, or the states by
resisting the constitutional authority of the general government, will render it nugatory….
The next powers vested by this Constitution in the general government, which we shall consider,
are those which authorize them to “borrow money on the credit of the United States, and to raise
and support armies.” I take these two together and connect them with the power to lay and
collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, because their extent, and the danger that will arise
from the exercise of these powers, cannot be fully understood, unless they are viewed in relation
to each other.
The power to borrow money is general and unlimited, and the clause so often before referred to,
authorizes the passing [of] any laws proper and necessary to carry this into execution. Under this
authority, Congress may mortgage any or all the revenues of the union, as a fund to loan money
upon; and it is probable, in this way, they may borrow of foreign nations, a principal sum, the
interest of which will be equal to the annual revenues of the country. By this means, they may
create a national debt, so large, as to exceed the ability of the country ever to sink. I can scarcely
contemplate a greater calamity that could befall this country, than to be loaded with a debt
exceeding their ability ever to discharge. If this be a just remark, it is unwise and improvident to
vest in the general government a power to borrow at discretion, without any limitation or
It may possibly happen that the safety and welfare of the country may require, that money be
borrowed, and it is proper when such a necessity arises that the power should be exercised by the
general government. But it certainly ought never to be exercised, but on the most urgent
occasions, and then we should not borrow of foreigners if we could possibly avoid it.
The constitution should therefore have so restricted the exercise of this power as to have
rendered it very difficult for the government to practice it. The present confederation requires the
assent of nine states to exercise this, and a number of other important powers of the confederacy.
It would certainly have been a wise provision in this constitution, to have made it necessary that
two thirds of the members should assent to borrowing money. When the necessity was
indispensable, this assent would always be given, and in no other cause ought it to be.
The power to raise armies is indefinite and unlimited, and authorises the raising [of] forces, as
well in peace as in war. Whether the clause which empowers the Congress to pass all laws which
are proper and necessary, to carry this into execution, will not authorise them to impress men for
the army, is a question well worthy [of] consideration. If the general legislature deem it for the
general welfare to raise a body of troops, and they cannot be procured by voluntary enlistments,
it seems evident, that it will be proper and necessary to effect it, that men be impressed from the
militia to make up the deficiency.
These powers taken in connection, amount to this: that the general government have unlimited
authority and control over all the wealth and all the force of the union. The advocates for this
scheme, would favor the world with a new discovery, if they would show, what kind of freedom
or independency is left to the state governments, when they cannot command any part of the
property or of the force of the country, but at the will of the Congress. It seems to me as absurd,
as it would be to say, that I was free and independent, when I had conveyed all my property to
another, and was tenant to him, and had beside, given an indenture of myself to serve him during
life. . . .

Antifederalist No. 24



The first essay is taken from the ninth letter of “BRUTUS” which appeared in The New-York
Journal, January 17, 1788.
. . . . Standing armies are dangerous to the liberties of a people. . . . [If] necessary, the truth of the
position might be confirmed by the history of almost every nation in the world. A cloud of the
most illustrious patriots of every age and country, where freedom has been enjoyed, might be
adduced as witnesses in support of the sentiment. But I presume it would be useless, to enter into
a labored argument, to prove to the people of America, a position which has so long and so
generally been received by them as a kind of axiom.
Some of the advocates for this new system controvert this sentiment, as they do almost every
other that has been maintained by the best writers on free government. Others, though they will
not expressly deny, that standing armies in times of peace are dangerous, yet join with these in
maintaining, that it is proper the general government should be vested with the power to do it. I
shall now proceed to examine the arguments they adduce in support of their opinions.
A writer, in favor of this system, treats this objection as a ridiculous one. He supposes it would
be as proper to provide against the introduction of Turkish Janizaries, or against making the
Alcoran a rule of faith.’
{1 A citizen of America [Noah Webster], An Examination Into the Leading Principles of the
Federal Constitution proposed by the late Convention held at Philadelphia. With Answers to the
Principal Objections Raised Against the System (Philadelphia, 1787), reprinted in Ford (ed.),
Pamphlets pp. 29-65.}
From the positive, and dogmatic manner, in which this author delivers his opinions, and answers
objections made to his sentiments-one would conclude, that he was some pedantic pedagogue
who had been accustomed to deliver his dogmas to pupils, who always placed implicit faith in
what he delivered.
But, why is this provision so ridiculous? Because, says this author, it is unnecessary. But, why is
it unnecessary? Because, “the principles and habits, as well as the power of the Americans are
directly opposed to standing armies; and there is as little necessity to guard against them by
positive constitutions, as to prohibit the establishment of the Mahometan religion.” It is admitted
then, that a standing army in time of peace is an evil. I ask then, why should this government be
authorised to do evil? If the principles and habits of the people of this country are opposed to
standing armies in time of peace, if they do not contribute to the public good, but would
endanger the public liberty and happiness, why should the government be vested with the power?
No reason can be given, why rulers should be authorised to do, what, if done, would oppose the
principles and habits of the people, and endanger the public safety; but there is every reason in
the world, that they should be prohibited from the exercise of such a power. But this author
supposes, that no danger is to be apprehended from the exercise of this power, because if armies
are kept up, it will be by the people themselves, and therefore, to provide against it would be as
absurd as for a man to “pass a law in his family, that no troops should be quartered in his family
by his consent.” This reasoning supposes, that the general government is to be exercised by the
people of America themselves. But such an idea is groundless and absurd. There is surely a
distinction between the people and their rulers, even when the latter are representatives of the
former. They certainly are not identically the same, and it cannot be disputed, but it may and
often does happen, that they do not possess the same sentiments or pursue the same interests. I
think I have shown [in a previous paper] that as this government is constructed, there is little
reason to expect, that the interest of the people and their rulers will be the same.
Besides, if the habits and sentiments of the people of America are to be relied upon, as the sole
security against the encroachment of their rulers, all restrictions in constitutions are unnecessary;
nothing more is requisite, than to declare who shall be authorized to exercise the powers of
government, and about this we need not be very careful-for the habits and principles of the
people will oppose every abuse of power. This I suppose to be the sentiments of this author, as it
seems to be of many of the advocates of this new system. An opinion like this, is as directly
opposed to the principles and habits of the people of America, as it is to the sentiments of every
writer of reputation on the science of government, and repugnant to the principles of reason and
common sense.
The idea that there is no danger of the establishment of a standing army, under the new
constitution, is without foundation.
It is a well known fact, that a number of those who had an agency in producing this system, and
many of those who it is probable will have a principal share in the administration of the
government under it, if it is adopted, are avowedly in favor of standing armies. It is a language
common among them, “That no people can be kept in order, unless the government have an army
to awe them into obedience; it is necessary to support the dignity of government, to have a
military establishment. And there will not be wanting a variety of plausible reasons to justify the
raising one, drawn from the danger we are in from the Indians on our frontiers, or from the
European provinces in our neighborhood. If to this we add, that an army will afford a decent
support, and agreeable employment to the young men of many families, who are too indolent to
follow occupations that will require care and industry, and too poor to live without doing any
business, we can have little reason to doubt but that we shall have a large standing army as soon
as this government can find money to pay them, and perhaps sooner.
A writer, who is the boast of the advocates of this new constitution, has taken great pains to
show, that this power was proper and necessary to be vested in the general government.
He sets out with calling in question the candor and integrity of those who advance the objection;
and with insinuating, that it is their intention to mislead the people, by alarming their passions,
rather than to convince them by arguments addressed to their understandings.
The man who reproves another for a fault, should be careful that he himself be not guilty of it.
How far this writer has manifested a spirit of candor, and has pursued fair reasoning on this
subject, the impartial public will judge, when his arguments pass before them in review.
He first attempts to show, that this objection is futile and disingenuous, because the power to
keep up standing armies, in time of peace, is vested, under the present government, in the
legislature of every state in the union, except two. Now this is so far from being true, that it is
expressly declared by the present articles of confederation, that no body of forces “Shall be kept
up by any state, in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgment of the United
States in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the
defence of such state.” Now, was it candid and ingenuous to endeavour to persuade the public,
that the general government had no other power than your own legislature have on this head;
when the truth is, your legislature have no authority to raise and keep up any forces?
He next tells us, that the power given by this constitution, on this head, is similar to that which
Congress possess under the present confederation. As little ingenuity is manifested in this
representation as in that of the former.
I shall not undertake to inquire whether or not Congress are vested with a power to keep up a
standing army in time of peace; it has been a subject warmly debated in Congress, more than
once, since the peace; and one of the most respectable states in the union, were so fully
convinced that they had no such power, that they expressly instructed their delegates to enter a
solemn protest against it on the journals of Congress, should they attempt to exercise it.
But should it be admitted that they have the power, there is such a striking dissimilarity between
the restrictions under which the present Congress can exercise it, and that of the proposed
government, that the comparison will serve rather to show the impropriety of vesting the
proposed government with the power, than of justifying it.
It is acknowledged by this writer, that the powers of Congress, under the present confederation,
amount to little more than that of recommending. If they determine to raise troops, they are
obliged to effect it through the authority of the state legislatures. This will, in the first instance,
be a most powerful restraint upon them, against ordering troops to be raised. But if they should
vote an army, contrary to the opinion and wishes of the people, the legislatures of the respective
states would not raise them. Besides, the present Congress hold their places at the wilt and
pleasure of the legislatures of the states who send them, and no troops can be raised, but by the
assent of nine states out of the thirteen. Compare the power proposed to be lodged in the
legislature on this head, under this constitution, with that vested in the present Congress, and
every person of the least discernment, whose understanding is not totally blinded by prejudice,
will perceive, that they bear no analogy to each other. Under the present confederation, the
representatives of nine states, out of thirteen, must assent to the raising of troops, or they cannot
be levied. Under the proposed constitution, a less number than the representatives of two states,
in the house of representatives, and the representatives of three states and an half in the senate,
with the assent of the president, may raise any number of troops they please. The present
Congress are restrained from an undue exercise of this power; from this consideration, they
know the state legislatures, through whose authority it must be carried into effect, would not
comply with the requisition for the purpose, [if] it was evidently opposed to the public good. The
proposed constitution authorizes the legislature to carry their determinations into execution,
without intervention of any other body between them and the people. The Congress under the
present form are amenable to, and removable by, the legislatures of the respective states, and are
chosen for one year only. The proposed constitution does not make the members of the
legislature accountable to, or removable by the state legislatures at all; and they are chosen, the
one house for six, and the other for two years; and cannot be removed until their time of service
is expired, let them conduct ever so badly. The public will judge, from the above comparison,
how just a claim this writer has to that candor he asserts to possess. In the mean time, to
convince him, and the advocates for this system, that I possess some share of candor, I pledge
myself to give up all opposition to it, on the head of standing armies, if the power to raise them
be restricted as it is in the present confederation; and I believe I may safely answer, not only for
myself, but for all who make the objection, that they will [not] be satisfied with less.

Antifederalist No. 25



From the tenth letter of “BRUTUS” appearing in The New-York Journal, January 24, 1788.
The liberties of a people are in danger from a large standing army, not only because the rulers
may employ them for the purposes of supporting themselves in any usurpations of power, which
they may see proper to exercise; but there is great hazard, that an army will subvert the forms of
the government, under whose authority they are raised, and establish one [rule] according to the
pleasure of their leaders.
We are informed, in the faithful pages of history, of such events frequently happening. Two
instances have been mentioned in a former paper. They are so remarkable, that they are worthy
of the most careful attention of every lover of freedom. They are taken from the history of the
two most powerful nations that have ever existed in the world; and who are the most renowned,
for the freedom they enjoyed, and the excellency of their constitutions-I mean Rome and Britain.
In the first, the liberties of the commonwealth were destroyed, and the constitution over-turned,
by an army, led by Julius Caesar, who was appointed to the command by the constitutional
authority of that commonwealth. He changed it from a free republic, whose fame … is still
celebrated by all the world, into that of the most absolute despotism. A standing army effected
this change, and a standing army supported it through a succession of ages, which are marked in
the annals of history with the most horrid cruelties, bloodshed, and carnage-the most devilish,
beastly, and unnatural vices, that ever punished or disgraced human nature.
The same army, that in Britain, vindicated the liberties of that people from the encroachments
and despotism of a tyrant king, assisted Cromwell, their General, in wresting from the people
that liberty they had so dearly earned.
You may be told, these instances will not apply to our case. But those who would persuade you
to believe this, either mean to deceive you, or have not themselves considered the subject.
I firmly believe, no country in the world had ever a more patriotic army, than the one which so
ably served this country in the late war. But had the General who commanded them been
possessed of the spirit of a Julius Caesar or a Cromwell, the liberties of this country . – . [might
have] in all probability terminated with the war. Or bad they been maintained, [they] might have
cost more blood and treasure than was expended in the conflict with Great Britain. When an
anonymous writer addressed the officers of the army at the close of the war, advising them not to
part with their arms, until justice was done them-the effect it had is well known. It affected them
like an electric shock. He wrote like Caesar; and had the commander in chief, and a few more
officers of rank, countenanced the measure, the desperate resolution. . . [might have] been taken,
to refuse to disband. What the consequences of such a determination would have been, heaven
only knows. The army were in the full vigor of health and spirits, in the habit of discipline, and
possessed of all our military stores and apparatus. They would have acquired great accessions of
strength from the country. Those who were disgusted at our republican forms of government (for
such there then were, of high rank among us) would have lent them all their aid. We should in all
probability have seen a constitution and laws dictated to us, at the head of an army, and at the
point of a bayonet, and the liberties for which we had so severely struggled, snatched from us in
a moment. It remains a secret, yet to be revealed, whether this measure was not suggested, or at
least countenanced, by some, who have bad great influence in producing the present system.
Fortunately indeed for this country, it had at the head of the army, a patriot as well as a general;
and many of our principal officers had not abandoned the characters of citizens, by assuming that
of soldiers; and therefore, the scheme proved abortive. But are we to expect, that this will always
be the case? Are we so much better than the people of other ages and of other countries, that the
same allurements of power and greatness, which led them aside from their duty, will have no
influence upon men in our country? Such an idea is wild and extravagant. Had we indulged such
a delusion, enough has appeared in a little time past, to convince the most credulous, that the
passion for pomp, power, and greatness, works as powerfully in the hearts of many of our better
sort, as it ever did in any country under heaven. Were the same opportunity again to offer, we
should very probably be grossly disappointed, if we made dependence, that all who then rejected
the overture, would do it again.
From these remarks, it appears, that the evils to be feared from a large standing army in time of
peace, do not arise solely from the apprehension, that the rulers may employ them for the
purpose of promoting their own ambitious views; but that equal, and perhaps greater danger, is to
be apprehended from their overturning the constitutional powers of the government, and
assuming the power to dictate any form they please.
The advocates for power, in support of this right in the proposed government, urge that a
restraint upon the discretion of the legislatures, in respect to military establishments in time of
peace, would be improper to be imposed, because they say, it will be necessary to maintain small
garrisons on the frontiers, to guard against the depredations of the Indians, and to be prepared to
repel any encroachments or invasions that may be made by Spain or Britain.
The amount of this argument stripped of the abundant verbiages with which the author has
dressed it, is this:
It will probably be necessary to keep up a small body of troops to garrison a few posts, which it
will be necessary to maintain, in order to guard against the sudden encroachments of the Indians,
or of the Spaniards and British; and therefore, the general government ought to be invested with
power to raise and keep up a standing army in time of peace, without restraint, at their discretion.
I confess, I cannot perceive that the conclusion follows from the premises. Logicians say, it is
not good reasoning to infer a general conclusion from particular premises. Though I am not
much of a logician, it seems to me, this argument is very like that species of reasoning.
When the patriots in the parliament in Great Britain, contended with such force of argument, and
all the powers of eloquence, against keeping up standing armies in time of peace, it is obvious
they never entertained an idea, that small garrisons on their frontiers, or in the neighborhood of
powers from whom they were in danger of encroachments, or guards to take care of public
arsenals, would thereby be prohibited.
The advocates for this power further urge that it is necessary, because it may, and probably will
happen, that circumstances will render it requisite to raise an army to be prepared to repel attacks
of an enemy, before a formal declaration of war, which in modern times has fallen into disuse. If
the constitution prohibited the raising an army, until a war actually commenced, it would deprive
the government of the power of providing for the defense of the country, until the enemy were
within our territory. If the restriction is not to extend to the raising armies in cases of emergency,
but only to the keeping them up, this would leave the matter to the discretion of the legislature,
and they might, under the pretence that there was danger of an invasion, keep up the army as
long as they judged proper-and hence it is inferred, that the legislature should have authority to
raise and keep up an army without any restriction. But from these premises nothing more will
follow than this: that the legislature should not be so restrained, as to put it out of their power to
raise an army, when such exigencies as are instanced shall arise. But it does not thence follow,
that the government should be empowered to raise and maintain standing armies at their
discretion as well in peace as in war. If indeed, it is impossible to vest the general government
with the power of raising troops to garrison the frontier posts, to guard arsenals, or to be prepared
to repel an attack, when we saw a power preparing to make one, without giving them a general
and indefinite authority to raise and keep up armies, without any restriction or qualification, then
this reasoning might have weight; but this has not been proved nor can it be.
It is admitted that to prohibit the general government from keeping up standing armies, while yet
they were authorised to raise them in case of exigency, would be an insufficient guard against the
danger. A discretion of such latitude would give room to elude the force of the provision.
It is also admitted that an absolute prohibition against raising troops, except in cases of actual
war, would be improper; because it will be requisite to raise and support a small number of
troops to garrison the important frontier posts, and to guard arsenals; and it may happen, that the
danger of an attack from a foreign power may be so imminent, as to render it highly proper we
should raise an army, in order to be prepared to resist them. But to raise and keep up forces for
such purposes and on such occasions, is not included in the idea of keeping up standing armies in
times of peace.
It is a thing very practicable to give the government sufficient authority to provide for these
cases, and at the same time to provide a reasonable and competent security against the evil of a
standing army-a clause to the following purpose would answer the end:
As standing armies in time of peace arc dangerous to liberty, and have often been the means of
overturning the best constitutions of government, no standing army, or troops of any description
whatsoever, shall be raised or kept up by the legislature, except so many as shall be necessary for
guards to the arsenals of the United States, or for garrisons to such posts on the frontiers, as it
shall be deemed absolutely necessary to hold, to secure the inhabitants, and facilitate the trade
with the Indians: unless when the United States are threatened with an attack or invasion from
some foreign power, in which case the legislature shall be authorised to raise an army to be
prepared to repel the attack; provided that no troops whatsoever shall be raised in time of peace,
without the assent of two thirds of the members, composing both houses of the legislature.
A clause similar to this would afford sufficient latitude to the legislature to raise troops in all
cases that were really necessary, and at the same time competent security against the
establishment of that dangerous engine of despotism, a standing army.
The same writer who advances the arguments I have noticed, makes a number of other
observations with a view to prove that the power to raise and keep up armies ought to be
discretionary in the general legislature. Some of them are curious. He instances the raising of
troops in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, to show the necessity of keeping a standing army in
time of peace; the least reflection must convince every candid mind that both these cases are
totally foreign to his purpose. Massachusetts raised a body of troops for six months, at the
expiration of which they were to disband … ; this looks very little like a standing army. But
beside, was that commonwealth in a state of peace at that time? So far from it, that they were in
the most violent commotions and contests, and their legislature had formally declared that an
unnatural rebellion existed within the state. The situation of Pennsylvania was similar; a number
of armed men had levied war against the authority of the state and openly avowed their intention
of withdrawing their allegiance from it. To what purpose examples are brought, of states raising
troops for short periods in times of war or insurrections, on a question concerning the propriety
of keeping up standing armies in times of peace, the public must judge.
It is further said, that no danger can arise from this power being lodged in the hands of the
general government, because the legislatures will be a check upon them, to prevent their abusing
This is offered, as what force there is in it will hereafter receive a more particular examination.
At present, I shall only remark, that it is difficult to conceive how the state legislatures can, in
any case, hold a check over the general legislature, in a constitutional way. The latter has, in
every instance to which their powers extend, complete control over the former. The state
legislatures can, in no case-by law, resolution, or otherwise of right, prevent or impede the
general government, from enacting any law, or executing it, which this constitution authorizes
them to enact or execute. If then the state legislatures check the general legislature, it must be by
exciting the people to resist constitutional laws. In this way every individual, or every body of
men, may check any government, in proportion to the influence they may have over the body of
the people. But such kinds of checks as these, though they sometimes correct the abuses of
government, [more) often destroy all government.
It is further said, that no danger is to be apprehended from the exercise of this power, because it
is lodged in the hands of representatives of the people. If they abuse it, it is in the power of the
people to remove them, and choose others who will pursue their interests…. That it is unwise in
any people, to authorize their rulers to do, what, if done, would prove injurious-I have, in some
former numbers, shown. . . . The representation in the proposed government will be a mere
shadow without the substance. I am so confident that I am well founded in this opinion, that I am
persuaded if it was to be adopted or rejected, upon a fair discussion of its merits without taking
into contemplation circumstances extraneous to it, as reasons for its adoption, nineteentwentieths
of the sensible men in the union would reject it on this account alone; unless its
powers were confined to much fewer objects than it embraces.

Antifederalist No. 26


“A FARMER AND PLANTER” had his work printed in The Maryland Journal, and Baltimore
Advertiser, April 1, 1788.
The time is nearly at hand, when you are called upon to render up that glorious liberty you
obtained, by resisting the tyranny and oppression of George the Third, King of England, and his
ministers. The first Monday in April is the day appointed by our assembly, for you to meet and
choose delegates in each county, to take into consideration the new Federal Government, and
either adopt or refuse it. Let me entreat you, my fellows, to consider well what you are about.
Read the said constitution, and consider it well before you act. I have done so, and can find that
we are to receive but little good, and a great deal of evil. Aristocracy, or government in the hands
of a very few nobles, or RICH MEN, is therein concealed in the most artful wrote plan that ever
was formed to entrap a free people. The contrivers of it have so completely entrapped you, and
laid their plans so sure and secretly, that they have only left you to do one of two things-that is
either to receive or refuse it. And in order to bring you into their snare, you may daily read new
pieces published in the newspapers, in favor of this new government; and should a writer dare to
publish any piece against it, he is immediately abused and vilified.
Look round you and observe well the RICH MEN, who are to be your only rulers, lords and
masters in future! Are they not all for it? Yes! Ought not this to put you on your guard? Does not
riches beget power, and power, oppression and tyranny?
I am told that four of the richest men in Ann-Arundel County [Maryland], have offered
themselves candidates to serve in the convention, who are all in favor of the new Federal
Government. Let me beg of you to reflect a moment on the danger you run. If you choose these
men, or others like them, they certainly will do everything in their power to adopt the new
government. Should they succeed, your liberty is gone forever; and you will then be nothing
better than a strong ass crouching down between two burdens. The new form of government
gives Congress liberty at any time, by their laws, to alter the state laws, and the time, places and
manner of holding elections for representatives. By this clause they may command, by their
laws, the people of Maryland to go to Georgia, and the people of Georgia to go to Boston, to
choose their representatives. Congress, or our future lords and masters, are to have power to lay
and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises. Excise is a new thing in America, and few country
farmers and planters know the meaning of it. But it is not so in Old England, where I have seen
the effects of it, and felt the smart. It is there a duty, or tax, laid upon almost every necessary of
life and convenience, and a great number of other articles. The excise on salt in the year 1762, to
the best of my recollection, in England, was 4s. sterling per bushel, for all that was made use of
in families; and the price of salt per bushel about 6s. sterling, and the excise 4s.6d. on every
gallon of rum made use of. If a private family make their own soap, candles, beer, cider, etc.,
they pay an excise duty on them. And if they neglect calling in an excise officer at the time of
making these things, they are liable to grievous fines and forfeitures, besides a long train of evils
and inconveniences attending this detestable excise-to enumerate particularly would fill a
volume. The excise officers have power to enter your houses at all times, by night or day, and if
you refuse them entrance, they can, under pretense of searching for exciseable goods, that the
duty has not been paid on, break open your doors, chests, trunks, desks, boxes, and rummage
your houses from bottom to top. Nay, they often search the clothes, petticoats and pockets of
ladies or gentlemen (particularly when they are coming from on board an East-India ship), and if
they find any the least article that you cannot prove the duty to be paid on, seize it and carry it
away with them; who are the very scum and refuse of mankind, who value not their oaths, and
will break them for a shilling. This is their true character in England, and I speak from
experience, for I have had the opportunity of putting their virtue to the test, and saw two of them
break their oath for one guinea, and a third for one shilling’s worth of punch. What do you think
of a law to let loose such a set of vile officers among you! Do you expect the Congress exciseofficers
will be any better-if God, in his anger, should think it proper to punish us for our
ignorance, and sins of ingratitude to him, after carrying us through the late war, and giving us
liberty, and now so tamely to give it up by adopting this aristocratical government?
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be
included within this union according to their respective numbers. This seems to imply, that we
shall be taxed by the poll again, which is contrary to our Bill of Rights. But it is possible that the
rich men, who are the great land holders, will tax us in this manner, which will exempt them
from paying assessments on their great bodies of land in the old and new parts of the United
States; many of them having but few taxable by the poll. Our great Lords and Masters are to lay
taxes, raise and support armies, provide a navy, and may appropriate money for two years, call
forth the militia to execute their laws, suppress insurrections, and the President is to have the
command of the militia. Now, my countrymen, I would ask you, why are all these things directed
and put into their power? Why, I conceive, they are to keep you in a good humor; and if you
should, at any time, think you are imposed upon by Congress and your great Lords and Masters,
and refuse or delay to pay your taxes, or do anything that they shall think proper to order you to
do, they can, and I have not a doubt but they will, send the militia of Pennsylvania, Boston, or
any other state or place, to cut your throats, ravage and destroy your plantations, drive away your
cattle and horses, abuse your wives, kill your infants, and ravish your daughters, and live in free
quarters, until you get into a good humor, and pay all that they may think proper to ask of you,
and you become good and faithful servants and slaves.1 Such things have been done, and I have
no doubt will be done again, if you consent to the adoption of this new Federal Government. You
labored under many hardships while the British tyrannized over you! You fought, conquered and
gained your liberty-then keep it, I pray you, as a precious jewel. Trust it not out of your own
hands; be assured, if you do, you will never more regain it. The train is laid, the match is on fire,
and they only wait for yourselves to put it to the train, to blow up all your liberty and
commonwealth governments, and introduce aristocracy and monarchy, and despotism will
follow of course in a few years. Four-years President will be in time a King for life; and after
him, his son, or he that has the greatest power among them, will be King also. View your danger,
and find out good men to represent you in convention-men of your own profession and station in
life; men who will not adopt this destructive and diabolical form of a federal government. There
are many among you that will not be led by the nose by rich men, and would scorn a bribe. Rich
men can live easy under any government, be it ever so tyrannical. They come in for a great share
of the tyranny, because they are the ministers of tyrants, and always engross the places of honor
and profit, while the greater part of the common people are led by the nose, and played about by
these very men, for the destruction of themselves and their class. Be wise, be virtuous, and catch
the precious moment as it passes, to refuse this newfangled federal government, and extricate
yourselves and posterity from tyranny, oppression, aristocratical or monarchical government. . . .
1 See the history of the confederate Grecian states-also the history of England, for the massacre
of the people in the valley of Glenco, in the time of William the Third. [Note by “A Farmer and

Antifederalist No. 27


JOHN HUMBLE’s,” following piece was published in the Independent Gazetteer, October 29,
The humble address of the low-born of the United States of America, to their fellow slaves
scattered throughout the world-greeting:
Whereas it hath been represented unto us that a most dreadful disease hath for these five years
last past infected, preyed upon and almost ruined the government and people of this our country;
and of this malady we ourselves have had perfect demonstration, not mentally, but bodily,
through every one of the five senses. For although our sensations in regard to the mind be not
just so nice as those of the well born, yet our feeling, through the medium of the plow, the hoe
and the grubbing ax, is as acute as any nobleman’s in the world. And, whereas, a number of
skillful physicians having met together at Philadelphia last summer, for the purpose of exploring,
and, if possible, removing the cause of this direful disease, have, through the assistance of John
Adams, Esq., in the profundity of their great political knowledge, found out and discovered that
nothing but a new government, consisting of three different branches, namely, king, lords, and
commons or, in the American language, President, Senate and Representatives-can save this, our
country, from inevitable destruction. And, whereas, it has been reported that several of our lowborn
brethren have had the horrid audacity to think for themselves in regard to this new system
of government, and, dreadful thought! have wickedly begun to doubt concerning the perfection
of this evangelical constitution, which our political doctors have declared to be a panacea, which
(by inspiration) they know will infallibly heal every distemper in the confederation, and finally
terminate in the salvation of America.
Now we the low born, that is, all the people of the United States, except 600 thereabouts, well
born, do by this our humble address, declare and most solemnly engage, that we will allow and
admit the said 600 well born, immediately to establish and confirm this most noble, most
excellent and truly divine constitution. And we further declare that without any equivocation or
mental reservation whatever we will support and maintain the same according to the best of our
power, and after the manner and custom of all other slaves in foreign countries, namely by the
sweat and toil of our body. Nor will we at any future period of time ever attempt to complain of
this our royal government, let the consequences be what they may.
And although it appears to us that a standing army, composed of the purgings of the jails of
Great Britain, Ireland and Germany, shall be employed in collecting the revenues of this our king
and government, yet, we again in the most solemn manner declare, that we will abide by our
present determination of non- resistance and passive obedience-so that we shall not dare to
molest or disturb those military gentlemen in the service of our royal government. And (which is
not improbable) should any one of those soldiers when employed on duty in collecting the taxes,
strike off the arm (with his sword) of one of our fellow slaves, we will conceive our case
remarkably fortunate if he leaves the other arm on. And moreover, because we are aware that
many of our fellow slaves shall be unable to pay their taxes, and this incapacity of theirs is a just
cause of impeachment of treason; wherefore in such cases we will use our utmost endeavors, in
conjunction with the standing army, to bring such atrocious offenders before our federal judges,
who shall have power, without jury or trial, to order the said miscreants for immediate execution;
nor will we think their sentence severe unless after being hanged they are also to be both
beheaded and quartered. And finally we shall henceforth and forever leave all power, authority
and dominion over our persons and properties in the hands of the well born, who were designed
by Providence to govern. And in regard to the liberty of the press, we renounce all claim to it
forever more, Amen; and we shall in future be perfectly contented if our tongues be left us to lick
the feet of our well born masters.
Done on behalf of three millions of low-born American slaves.
JOHN HUMBLE, Secretary

Antifederalist No. 28


his essay was published in either the (Philadelphia) Freeman’s Journal; or, The North-American
Intelligencer, January 16, 1788.
The Congress under the new Constitution have the power “of organizing, arming and
disciplining the militia, and of governing them when in the service of the United States, giving to
the separate States the appointment of the officers and the authority of training the militia
according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” Let us inquire why they have assumed this
great power. Was it to strengthen the power which is now lodged in your hands, and relying
upon you and you solely for aid and support to the civil power in the execution of all the laws of
the new Congress? Is this probable? Does the complexion of this new plan countenance such a
supposition? When they unprecedently claim the power of raising and supporting armies, do they
tell you for what purposes they are to be raised? How they are to be employed? How many they
are to consist of, and where to be stationed? Is this power fettered with any one of those
restrictions, which will show they depend upon the militia, and not upon this infernal engine of
oppression to execute their civil laws? The nature of the demand in itself contradicts such a
supposition, and forces you to believe that it is for none of these causes-but rather for the purpose
of consolidating and finally destroying your strength, as your respective governments are to be
destroyed. They well know the impolicy of putting or keeping arms in the hands of a nervous
people, at a distance from the seat of a government, upon whom they mean to exercise the
powers granted in that government. They have no idea of calling upon or trusting to the party
aggrieved to support and enforce their own grievances, (notwithstanding they may select and
subject them to as strict subordination as regular troops) unless they have a standing army to
back and compel the execution of their orders. It is asserted by the most respectable writers upon
government, that a well regulated militia, composed of the yeomanry of the country, have ever
been considered as the bulwark of a free people. Tyrants have never placed any confidence on a
militia composed of freemen. Experience has taught them that a standing body of regular forces,
whenever they can be completely introduced, are always efficacious in enforcing their edicts,
however arbitrary; and slaves by profession themselves, are “nothing loth” to break down the
barriers of freedom with a gout. No, my fellow citizens, this plainly shows they do not mean to
depend upon the citizens of the States alone to enforce their powers. They mean to lean upon
something more substantial and summary. They have left the appointment of officers in the
breasts of the several States; but this appears to me an insult rather than a privilege, for what
avails this right if they at their pleasure may arm or disarm all or any part of the freemen of the
United States, so that when their army is sufficiently numerous, they may put it out of the power
of the freemen militia of America to assert and defend their liberties, however they might be
encroached upon by Congress. Does any, after reading this provision for a regular standing army,
suppose that they intended to apply to the militia in all cases, and to pay particular attention to
making them the bulwark of this continent? And would they not be equal to such an
undertaking? Are they not abundantly able to give security and stability to your government as
long as it is free? Are they not the only proper persons to do it? Are they not the most respectable
body of yeomanry in that character upon earth? Have they not been engaged in some of the most
brilliant actions in America, and more than once decided the fate of princes? In short, do they not
preclude the necessity of any standing army whatsoever, unless in case of invasion? And in that
case it would be time enough to raise them, for no free government under heaven, with a well
disciplined militia, was ever yet subdued by mercenary troops.
The advocates at the present day, for a standing army in the new Congress, pretend it is
necessary for the respectability of government. I defy them to produce an instance in any
country, in the Old or New World, where they have not finally done away the liberties of the
people. Every writer upon government– Locke, Sidney, Hampden, and a list of others have
uniformly asserted, that standing armies are a solecism in any government; that no nation ever
supported them, that did not resort to, rely upon, and finally become a prey to them. No western
historians have yet been hardy enough to advance principles that look a different way. What
historians have asserted, all the Grecian republics have verified. They are brought up to
obedience and unconditional submission; with arms in their bands, they are taught to feel the
weight of rigid discipline; they are excluded from the enjoyments which liberty gives to its
votaries; they, in consequence, hate and envy the rest of the community in which they are placed,
and indulge a malignant pleasure in destroying those privileges to which they never can be
admitted. “Without a standing army,” (says the Marquis of Beccaria), “in every society there is
an effort constantly tending to confer on one part the height and to reduce the other to the
extreme of weakness, and this is of itself sufficient to employ the people’s attention.” There is no
instance of any government being reduced to a confirmed tyranny without military oppression.
And the first policy of tyrants has been to annihilate all other means of national activity and
defense, when they feared opposition, and to rely solely upon standing troops. Repeated were the
trials, before the sovereigns of Europe dared to introduce them upon any pretext whatever; and
the whole record of the transactions of mankind cannot furnish an instance, (unless the proposed
constitution may be called part of that record) where the motives which caused that
establishment were not completely disguised. Peisistratus in Greece, and Dionysius in Syracuse,
Charles in France, and Henry in England, all cloaked their villainous intentions under an idea of
raising a small body as a guard for their persons; and Spain could not succeed in the same
nefarious plan, until thro’ the influence of an ambitious priest (who have in all countries and in
all ages, even at this day, encouraged and preached up arbitrary power) they obtained it. “Caesar,
who first attacked the commonwealth with mines, very soon opened his batteries.”
Notwithstanding all these objections to this engine of oppression, which are made by the most
experienced men, and confirmed by every country where the rays of freedom ever extended-yet
in America, which has hitherto been her favorite abode; in this civilized territory, where property
is so valuable, and men are found with feelings that win not patiently submit to arbitrary control;
in this western region, where, my fellow countrymen, it is confessedly proper that you should
associate and dwell in society from choice and reflection, and not be kept together by force and
fear-you are modestly requested to engraft into the component parts of your constitution a
Standing Army, without any qualifying restraints whatever, certainly to exist somewhere in the
bowels of your country in time of peace. It is very true that Lawyer [James] Wilson-member of
the Federal Convention, and who we may suppose breathes in some measure the spirit of that
body-tells you it is for the purpose of forming cantonments upon your frontiers, and for the
dignity and safety of your country, as it respects foreign nations. No man that loves his country
could object to their being raised for the first of these causes, but for the last it cannot be
necessary. God has so separated us by an extensive ocean from the rest of mankind; he hath so
liberally endowed us with privileges, and so abundantly taught us to esteem them precious, it
would be impossible while we retain our integrity, and advert to first principles, for any nation
whatever to subdue us. We have succeeded in our opposition to the most powerful people upon
the globe; and the wound that America received in the struggle, where is it? As speedily healed
as the track in the ocean is buried by the succeeding wave. It has scarcely stopped her progress,
and our private dissensions only, at this moment, tarnish the lustre of the most illustrious infant
nation under heaven.
You cannot help suspecting this gentleman [James Wilson], when he goes on to tell you “that
standing armies in time of peace have always been a topic of popular declamation, but Europe
hath found them necessary to maintain the appearance of strength in a season of the most
profound tranquility.” This shows you his opinion-and that he, as one of the Convention, was for
unequivocally establishing them in time of peace; and to object to them, is a mere popular
declamation. But I will not, my countrymen-I cannot believe you to be of the same sentiment.
Where is the standing army in the world that, like the musket they make use of, hath been in time
of peace brightened and burnished for the sake only of maintaining an appearance of strength,
without being put to a different use-without having had a pernicious influence upon the morals,
the habits, and the sentiments of society, and finally, taking a chief part in executing its laws? . . .
If tyranny is at all feared, the tyranny of the many is to be guarded against MORE than that of a
single person. The Athenians found by sad experience, that 30 tyrants were thirty times worse
than one. A bad aristocracy is thirty times worse than a bad monarchy, allowing each to have a
standing army as unrestricted as in the proposed constitution.
If the people are not in general disposed to execute the powers of government, it is time to
suspect there is something wrong in that government; and rather than employ a standing army,
they had better have another. For, in my humble opinion, it is yet much too early to set it down
for a fact, that mankind cannot be governed but by force.

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