Anti-Federalist No. 44 – 58


Anti-federalist No. 44


“DELIBERATOR” appeared in The Freeman’s Journal; or, The North-American Intelligencer,
February 20, 1788.
A writer in the Pennsylvania Packet, under the signature of A Freeman, has lately entered the
lists as another champion for the proposed constitution. Particularly he has endeavored to show
that our apprehensions of this plan of government being a consolidation of the United States into
one government, and not a confederacy of sovereign independent states, is entirely groundless;
and it must be acknowledged that he has advocated this cause with as much show of reason,
perhaps, as the subject will admit.
The words states, several states, and united states are, he observes, frequently mentioned in the
constitution. And this is an argument that their separate sovereignty and independence cannot be
endangered! He has enumerated a variety of matters which, he says, congress cannot do; and
which the states, in their individual capacity, must or may do, and thence infers their sovereignty
and independence. In some of these, however, I apprehend he is a little mistaken.
1. “Congress cannot train the militia.” This is not strictly true. For by the 1st Article they are
empowered “to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining” them; and tho’ the respective
states are said to have the authority of training the militia, it must be “according to the discipline
prescribed by Congress.” In this business, therefore, they will be no other than subalterns under
Congress, to execute their orders; which, if they shall neglect to do, Congress will have
constitutional powers to provide for, by any other means they shall think proper. They shall have
power to declare what description of persons shall compose the militia; to appoint the stated
times and places for exercising them; to compel personal attendance, whether when called for
into actual service, or on other occasions, under what penalties they shall think proper, without
regard to scruples of conscience or any other consideration. Their executive officer may march
and countermarch them from one extremity of the state to the other-and all this without so much
as consulting the legislature of the particular states to which they belong! Where then is that
boasted security against the annihilation of the state governments, arising from “the powerful
military support” they will have from their militia?
2. “Congress cannot enact laws for the inspection of the produce of the country.” Neither is this
strictly true. Their power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several
states, and to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying this power (among
others vested in them by the constitution) into execution,” most certainly extends to the enacting
of inspection laws. The particular states may indeed propose such laws to them; but it is
expressly declared, in the lst article, that “all such laws shall be subject to the revision and
control of the Congress.”
3. “The several states can prohibit or impose duties on the importation of slaves into their own
ports.” Nay, not even this can they do, “without the consent of Congress,” as is expressly
declared in the close of the lst article. The duty which Congress may, and it is probable will lay
on the importation of slaves, will form a branch of their revenue. But this impost, as well as all
others, “must be uniform throughout the United States.” Congress therefore cannot consent that
one state should impose an additional duty on this article of commerce, unless all other states
should do the same; and it is not very likely that some of the states will ever ask this favor.
4. “Congress cannot interfere with the opening of rivers and canals; the making or regulation of
roads, except post roads; building bridges; erecting ferries; building lighthouses, etc.” In one
case, which may very frequently happen, this proposition also fails. For if the river, canal, road,
bridge, ferry, etc., be common to two states, or a matter in which they may be both concerned,
and consequently must both concur, then the interference and consent of Congress becomes
absolutely necessary, since it is declared in the constitution that “no state shall, without the
consent of Congress, enter into any agreement or compact with another state.”
5. “The elections of the President, Vice President, senators and representatives are exclusively in
the hands of the states-even as to filling vacancies.” This, in one important part, is not true. For,
by the 2d article, “in case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation,
or inability to discharge the duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice
President, and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, etc., both of the
President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then act as president, and such officer
shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a president shall be elected.” But no
such election is provided for by the constitution, till the return of the periodical election at the
expiration of the four years for which the former president was chosen. And thus may the great
powers of this supreme magistrate of the United States be exercised, for years together, by a man
who, perhaps, never had one vote of the people for any office of government in his life.
6. “Congress cannot interfere with the constitution of any state.” This has been often said, but
alas, with how little truth-since it is declared in the 6th article that “this constitution and the laws
of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties, etc., shall be the
supreme law of the land, and every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or
laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”
But, sir, in order to form a proper judgment of the probable effects of this plan of general
government on the sovereignties of the several states, it is necessary also to take a view of what
Congress may, constitutionally, do and of what the states may not do. This matter, however, the
above writer has thought proper to pass over in silence. I would therefore beg leave in some
measure, to supply this omission; and if in anything I should appear to be mistaken I hope he will
take the same liberty with me that I have done with him-he will correct my mistake.
1. Congress may, even in time of peace, raise an army of 100,000 men, whom they may canton
through the several states, and billet out on the inhabitants, in order to serve as necessary
instruments in executing their decrees.
2. Upon the inhabitants of any state proving refractory to the will of Congress, or upon any other
pretense whatsoever, Congress may can out even all the militia of as many states as they think
proper, and keep them in actual service, without pay, as long as they please, subject to the utmost
rigor of military discipline, corporal punishment, and death itself not excepted.
3. Congress may levy and collect a capitation or poll tax, to what amount they shall think proper;
of which the poorest taxable in the state must pay as much as the richest.
4. Congress may, under the sanction of that clause in the constitution which empowers them to
regulate commerce, authorize the importation of slaves, even into those states where this
iniquitous trade is or may be prohibited by their laws or constitutions.
5. Congress may, under the sanction of that clause which empowers them to lay and collect
duties (as distinct from imposts and excises) impose so heavy a stamp duty on newspapers and
other periodical publications, as shall effectually prevent all necessary information to the people
through these useful channels of intelligence.
6. Congress may, by imposing a duty on foreigners coming into the country, check the progress
of its population. And after a few years they may prohibit altogether, not only the emigration of
foreigners into our country, but also that of our own citizens to any other country.
7. Congress may withhold, as long as they think proper, all information respecting their
proceedings from the people.
8. Congress may order the elections for members of their own body, in the several states, to be
held at what times, in what places, and in what manner they shall think proper. Thus, in
Pennsylvania, they may order the elections to be held in the middle of winter, at the city of
Philadelphia; by which means the inhabitants of nine-tenths of the state will be effectually (tho’
constitutionally) deprived of the exercise of their right of suffrage.
9. Congress may, in their courts of judicature, abolish trial by jury in civil cases altogether; and
even in criminal cases, trial by a jury of the vicinage is not secured by the constitution. A crime
committed at Fort Pitt may be tried by a jury of the citizens of Philadelphia.
10. Congress may, if they shall think it for the “general welfare,” establish an uniformity in
religion throughout the United States. Such establishments have been thought necessary, and
have accordingly taken place in almost all the other countries in the world, and will no doubt be
thought equally necessary in this.
11. Though I believe it is not generally so understood, yet certain it is, that Congress may emit
paper money, and even make it a legal tender throughout the United States; and, what is still
worse, may, after it shall have depreciated in the hands of the people, call it in by taxes, at any
rate of depreciation (compared with gold and silver) which they may think proper. For though no
state can emit bills of credit, or pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts, yet the
Congress themselves are under no constitutional restraints on these points.
12. The number of representatives which shall compose the principal branch of Congress is so
small as to occasion general complaint. Congress, however, have no power to increase the
number of representatives, but may reduce it even to one fifth part of the present arrangement.
13. On the other hand, no state can call forth its militia even to suppress any insurrection or
domestic violence which may take place among its own citizens. This power is, by the
constitution, vested in Congress.
14. No state can compel one of its own citizens to pay a debt due to a citizen of a neighboring
state. Thus a Jersey-man will be unable to recover the price of a turkey sold in the Philadelphia
market, if the purchaser shall be inclined to dispute, without commencing an action in one of the
federal courts.
15. No state can encourage its own manufactures either by prohibiting or even laying a duty on
the importation of foreign articles.
16. No state can give relief to insolvent debtors, however distressing their situation may be, since
Congress will have the exclusive right of establishing uniform laws on the subject of
bankruptcies throughout the United States; and the particular states are expressly prohibited from
passing any law impairing the obligation of contracts.
Robert Yates, a delegate to the 1787 convention from New York, left on July 10, 1787. He
became an Antifederalist leader. Under the nome de plume “Sydney” he wrote in the New York
Daily Patriotic Register, June 13 and 14, 1788.
Although a variety of objections to the proposed new constitution for the government of the
United States have been laid before the public by men of the best abilities, I am led to believe
that representing it in a point of view which has escaped their observation may be of use, that is,
by comparing it with the constitution of the State of New York.
The following contrast is therefore submitted to the public, to show in what instances the powers
of the state government will be either totally or partially absorbed, and enable us to determine
whether the remaining powers will, from those kind of pillars, be capable of supporting the
mutilated fabric of a government which even the advocates for the new constitution admit excels
“the boasted models of Greece or Rome, and those of all other nations, in having precisely
marked out the power of the government and the rights of the people.”
It may be proper to premise that the pressure of necessity and distress (and not corruption) had a
principal tendency to induce the adoption of the state constitutions and the existing
confederation; that power was even then vested in the rulers with the greatest caution; and that,
as from every circumstance we have reason to infer that the Dew constitution does not originate
from a pure source, we ought deliberately to trace the extent and tendency of the trust we are
about to repose, under the conviction that a reassumption of that trust will at least be difficult, if
not impracticable. If we take a retrospective view of the measures of Congress. . . . we can
scarcely entertain a doubt but that a plan has long since been framed to subvert the
confederation; that that plan has been matured with the most persevering industry and unremitted
attention; and that the objects expressed in the preamble to the constitution, that is “to promote
the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” were
merely the ostensible, and not the real reasons of its framers. . .
The state governments are considered in . . . [the new constitution] as mere dependencies,
existing solely by its toleration, and possessing powers of which they may be deprived whenever
the general government is disposed so to do. If then the powers of the state governments are to
be totally absorbed, in which all agree, and only differ as to the mode-whether it will be effected
by a rapid progression, or by as certain, but slower, operations-what is to limit the oppression of
the general government? Where are the rights, which are declared to be incapable of violation?
And what security have people against the wanton oppression of unprincipled governors? No
constitutional redress is pointed out, and no express declaration is contained in it, to limit the
boundaries of their rulers. Beside which the mode and period of their being elected tends to take
away their responsibility to the people over whom they may, by the power of the purse and the
sword, domineer at discretion. Nor is there a power on earth to tell them, What dost thou? or,
Why dost thou so? I shall now proceed to compare the constitution of the state of New York with
the proposed federal government, distinguishing the paragraphs in the former, which are
rendered nugatory by the latter; those which are in a great measure enervated, and such as are in
the discretion of the general government to permit or not….
1 & 37
The 1st “Ordains, determines, and declares that no authority shall on any pretence whatever be
exercised over the people or the members of this State, but such as shall be derived from and
granted by them.”
The 37th, “That no purchases or contracts for the sale of lands with or of the Indians within the
limits of this state, shall be binding on the Indians, or deemed valid, unless made under the
authority and with the consent of the legislature of this state.”
. . . What have we reasonably to expect will be their conduct [i.e., the new national government]
when possessed of the powers “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the
several states, and with the Indian tribes,” when they are armed with legislative, executive, and
judicial powers, and their laws the supreme laws of the land. And when the states are prohibited,
without the consent of Congress, to lay any “imposts or duties on imports,” and if they do they
shall be for the use of the Treasury of the United States-and all such laws subject to the revision
and control of Congress.
It is . . . evident that this state, by adopting the new government, will enervate their legislative
rights, and totally surrender into the hands of Congress the management and regulation of the
Indian trade to an improper government, and the traders to be fleeced by iniquitous impositions,
operating at one and the same time as a monopoly and a poll-tax. . . .
The 2nd provides “that the supreme legislative power within this state shall be vested in two
separate and distinct bodies of men, the one to be called the assembly, and the other to be called
the senate of the state of New York, who together shall form the legislature.”
The 3rd provides against laws that may be hastily and inadvertently passed, inconsistent with the
spirit of the constitution and the public good, and that “the governor, the chancellor and judges of
the supreme court, shall revise all bills about to be passed into laws, by the legislature.”
The 9th provides “that the assembly shall be the judge of their own members, and enjoy the same
privileges, and proceed in doing business in like manner as the assembly of the colony of New
York of right formerly did.”
The 12th provides “that the senate shall, in like manner, be judges of their own members,” etc.
The 31st describes even the style of laws-that the style of alt laws shall be as follows: “Be it
enacted by the people of the state of New York represented in senate and assembly,” and that all
writs and proceedings shall run in the name of the people of the state of New York, and tested in
the name of the chancellor or the chief judge from whence they shall issue.
The powers vested in the legislature of this state by these paragraphs will be weakened, for the
proposed new government declares that “all legislative powers therein granted shall be vested in
a congress of the United States, which shall consist of a senate and a house of representatives,”
and it further prescribes, that “this constitution and the laws of the United States, which shall be
made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shalt 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, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding;
and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of
the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this
Those who are full of faith, suppose that the words “in pursuance thereof” are restrictive, but if
they reflect a moment and take into consideration the comprehensive expressions of the
instrument, they will find that their restrictive construction is unavailing, and this is evidenced by
1st art., 8th sect., where this government has a power “to lay and collect all taxes, duties, imposts
and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the
United States,” and also “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into
execution the foregoing powers vested by this constitution in the government of the United
States, or in any department or office thereof.”
. . . . To conclude my observation on this head, it appears to me as impossible that these powers
in the state constitution and those in the general government can exist and operate together, as it
would be for a man to serve two masters whose interests clash, and secure the approbation of
both. Can there at the same time and place be and operate two supreme legislatures, executives,
and judicials? Will a “guarantee of a republican form of government to every state in the union”
be of any avail, or secure the establishment and retention of state rights?
If this guarantee had remained, as it was first reported by the committee of the whole house, to
wit, “that a republican constitution, and its existing laws, ought to be guaranteed to each state by
the United States,” it would have been substantial; but the changing the word constitution into
the word form bears no favorable appearance. . . .
13, 35, 41
By the 13th paragraph “no member of this State shall be disfranchised, or deprived of any of the
rights or privileges secured to the subjects of the State by the constitution, unless by the law of
the land, or judgment of its peers.”
The 35th adopts, under certain exceptions and modifications, the common law of England, the
statute law of England and Great Britain, and the acts of the legislature of the colony, which
together formed the law on the 19th of April, 1775.
The 41st provides “that the trial by jury remain inviolate forever; that no acts of attainder shall be
passed by the legislature of this State for crimes other than those committed before the
termination of the present war. And that the legislature shall at no time hereafter institute any
new courts but such as shall proceed according to the course of the common law.
There can be no doubt that if the new government be adopted in all its latitude, every one of
these paragraphs will become a dead letter. Nor will it solve any difficulties, if the United States
guarantee “to every state in the union a republican form of government;” we may be allowed the
form and not the substance, and that it was so intended will appear from the changing the word
constitution to the word form and the omission of the words, and its existing laws. And I do not
even think it uncharitable to suppose that it was designedly done; but whether it was so or not, by
leaving out these words the jurisprudence of each state is left to the mercy of the new
17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 27, 40
The 17th orders “That the supreme executive power and authority of this State shall be vested in
a governor.”
By the 18th he is commander- in-chief of the militia and admiral of the navy of the State; may
grant pardons to all persons convicted of crimes; he may suspend the execution of the sentence in
treason or murder.
By the 19th paragraph he is to see that the laws and resolutions of the legislature be faithfully
The 20th and 21st paragraphs give the lieutenant-governor, on the death, resignation, removal
from office, or impeachment of the governor, all the powers of a governor.
By the 27th he [the Governor] is president of the council of appointment, and has a casting vote
and the commissioning of all officers.
The 40th paragraph orders that the militia at all times, both in peace and war, shall be armed and
disciplined, and kept in readiness; in what manner the Quakers shall be excused; and that a
magazine of warlike stores be forever kept at the expense of the State, and by act of the
legislature, established, maintained, and continued in every county in the State.
Whoever considers the following powers vested in the [national] government, and compares
them with the above, must readily perceive they are either all enervated or annihilated.
By the 1st art., 8th sec., 15th, 16th and 17th clauses, Congress will be empowered to call forth
the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; to provide
for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, for the governing such part of them as may be
employed in the service of the United States, and for the erection of forts, magazines, etc.
And by the 2nd art., 2nd sec., “The president shall be commander- in-chief of the army and navy
of the United States, and of the militia of the several States when called into actual service of the
United States. . . . except in cases of impeachment.”
And by the 6th art., “The members of the several state legislatures, and all the executive and
judicial officers; both of the United States, and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or
affirmation to support the constitution.”
Can this oath be taken by those who have already taken one under the constitution of this state?
… From these powers lodged in Congress and the powers vested in the states, it is clear that there
must be a government within a government; two legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The
power of raising an army in time of peace, and to command the militia, will give the president
ample means to enforce the supreme laws of the land. . . .
This paragraph provides “that it shalt be in the discretion of the legislature to naturalize all such
persons and in such manner as they shall think proper.”
The 1st art., 8th sec., 4th clause, give to the new government power to establish a uniform rule of
naturalization. And by the 4th art., 2nd sec., “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the
privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states,” whereby the clause is rendered
entirely nugatory.
From this contrast it appears that the general government, when completely organized, will
absorb all those powers of the state which the framers of its constitution had declared should be
only exercised by the representatives of the people of the state; that the burdens and expense of
supporting a state establishment will be perpetuated; but its operations to ensure or contribute to
any essential measures promotive of the happiness of the people may be totally prostrated, the
general government arrogating to itself the right of interfering in the most minute objects of
internal police, and the most trifling domestic concerns of every state, by possessing a power of
passing laws “to provide for the general welfare of the United States,” which may affect life,
liberty and property in every modification they may think expedient, unchecked by cautionary
reservations, and unrestrained by a declaration of any of those rights which the wisdom and
prudence of America in the year 1776 held ought to be at all events protected from violation.
In a word, the new constitution will prove finally to dissolve all the power of the several state
legislatures, and destroy the rights and liberties of the people; for the power of the first will be all
in all, and of the latter a mere shadow and form without substance, and if adopted we may (in
imitation of the Carthagenians) say, Delenda vit America.
Antifederalist No. 46 “WHERE THEN IS THE RESTRAINT?”
This essay by “AN OLD WHIG” (see AFP #’s Nos. 18-20, 49, 50, and 70) appeared in the
Maryland Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser on Nov. 2, 1788.
Let us look to the first article of the proposed new constitution, which treats of the legislative
powers of Congress; and to the eighth section, which pretends to define those powers. We find
here that the Congress in its legislative capacity, shall have the power to lay and collect taxes,
duties, and excises; to borrow money; to regulate commerce; to fix the rule for naturalization and
the laws of bankruptcy; to coin money; to punish counterfeiters; to establish post offices and post
roads; to secure copy rights to authors; to constitute tribunals; to define and punish piracies; to
declare war; to raise and support armies; to provide and support a navy; to call forth the militia;
to organize, arm and discipline the militia; to exercise absolute power over a district ten miles
square, independent of all the State legislatures, and to be alike absolute over all forts,
magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings thereunto belonging. This is a short
abstract of the powers given to Congress. These powers are very extensive, but I shall not stay at
present to inquire whether these express powers were necessary to be given to Congress?
Whether they are too great or too small?
My object is to consider that undefined, unbounded and immense power which is comprised in
the following clause – “And 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 offices thereof.” Under such a clause as
this, can anything be said to be reserved and kept back from Congress? Can it be said that the
Congress have no power but what is expressed? “To make all laws which shall be necessary and
proper” – or, in other words, to make all such laws which the Congress shall think necessary and
proper – for who shalt judge for the legislature what is necessary and proper? Who shall set
themselves above the sovereign? What inferior legislature shall set itself above the supreme
legislature? To me it appears that no other power on earth can dictate to them, or control them,
unless by force; and force, either internal or external, is one of those calamities which every good
man would wish his country at all times to be delivered from. This generation in America have
seen enough of war, and its usual concomitants, to prevent all of us from wishing to see any
more of it-all except those who make a trade of war. But to the question – without force what can
restrain the Congress from making such laws as they please? What limits are there to their
authority? I fear none at all. For surely it cannot be justly said that they have no power but what
is expressly given to them, when by the very terms of their creation they are vested with the
powers of making laws in all cases -necessary and proper; when from the nature of their power,
they must necessarily be the judges what laws are necessary and proper.
The British act of Parliament, declaring the power of Parliament to make laws to bind America
in all cases whatsoever, was not more extensive. For it is as true as a maxim, that even the British
Parliament neither could nor would pass any law in any case in which they did not either deem it
necessary and proper to make such a law, or pretend to deem it so. And in such cases it is not of
a farthing consequence whether they really are of opinion that the law is necessary and proper, or
only pretend to think so, for who can overrule their pretensions? No one; unless we had a Bill of
Rights, to which we might appeal and under which we might contend against any assumption of
undue power, and appeal to the judicial branch of the government to protect us by their
judgments. This reasoning, I fear, is but too just. And yet, if any man should doubt the truth of it,
let me ask him one other question: What is the meaning of the latter part of the clause which
vests the Congress with the authority of making all laws which shall be necessary and proper for
carrying into execution all other powers (besides the foregoing powers vested, etc., etc.)? Was it
thought that the foregoing powers might perhaps admit of some restraint, in their construction as
to what was necessary and proper to carry them into execution? Or was it deemed right to add
still further that they should not be restrained to the powers already named? Besides the powers
already mentioned, other powers may be assumed hereafter as contained by implication in this
constitution. The Congress shall judge of what is necessary and proper in all these cases, and in
all other cases-in short, in all cases whatsoever.
Where then is the restraint? How are Congress bound down to the powers expressly given? What
is reserved, or can be reserved? Yet even this is not all. As if it were determined that no doubt
should remain, by the sixth article of the Constitution it is declared that “this Constitution and the
laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or
which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shalt be the supreme law of the
land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitutions or laws
of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” The Congress are therefore vested with the
supreme legislative power, without control. In giving such immense, such unlimited powers, was
there no necessity of a Bill of Rights, to secure to the people their liberties?
Is it not evident that we are left wholly dependent on the wisdom and virtue of the men who shall
from time to time be the members of Congress? And who shall be able to say seven years hence,
the members of Congress will be wise and good men, or of the contrary character?
Antifederalist No. 47 “BALANCE” OF DEPARTMENTS NOT
This essay is made up of of excerpts from “CENTINEL’s,” letters of October 5 and 24, 1787.
Taken from The Independent Gazetteer,
I am fearful that the principles of government inculcated in Mr. [John] Adams’ treatise [Defence
of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America], and enforced in the
numerous essays and paragraphs in the newspapers, have misled some well designing members
of the late Convention. But it will appear in the sequel, that the construction of the proposed plan
of government is infinitely more extravagant.
I have been anxiously expecting that some enlightened patriot would, ere this, have taken up the
pen to expose the futility, and counteract the baneful tendency of such principles. Mr. Adams’
sine qua non of a good government is three balancing powers; whose repelling qualities are to
produce an equilibrium of interests, and thereby promote the happiness of the whole community.
He asserts that the administrators of every government, will ever be actuated by views of private
interest and ambition, to the prejudice of the public good; that therefore the only effectual
method to secure the rights of the people and promote their welfare, is to create an opposition of
interests between the members of two distinct bodies, in the exercise of the powers of
government, and balanced by those of a third. This hypothesis supposes human wisdom
competent to the task of instituting three co-equal orders in government, and a corresponding
weight in the community to enable them respectively to exercise their several parts, and whose
views and interests should be so distinct as to prevent a coalition of any two of them for the
destruction of the third. Mr. Adams, although he has traced the constitution of every form of
government that ever existed, as far as history affords materials, has not been able to adduce a
single instance of such a government. He indeed says that the British constitution is such in
theory, but this is rather a confirmation that his principles are chimerical and not to be reduced to
practice. If such an organization of power were practicable, how long would it continue? Not a
day-for there is so great a disparity in the talents, wisdom and industry of mankind, that the scale
would presently preponderate to one or the other body, and with every accession of power the
means of further increase would be greatly extended. The state of society in England is much
more favorable to such a scheme of government than that of America. There they have a
powerful hereditary nobility, and real distinctions of rank and interests; but even there, for want
of that perfect equality of power and distinction of interests in the three orders of government,
they exist but in name. The only operative and efficient check upon the conduct of
administration, is the sense of the people at large.
Suppose a government could be formed and supported on such principles, would it answer the
great purposes of civil society? If the administrators of every government are actuated by views
of private interest and ambition, how is the welfare and happiness of the community to be the
result of such jarring adverse interests?
Therefore, as different orders in government will not produce the good of the whole, we must
recur to other principles. I believe it will be found that the form of government, which holds
those entrusted with power in the greatest responsibility to their constituents, the best calculated
for freemen. A republican, or free government, can only exist where the body of the people are
virtuous, and where property is pretty equally divided. In such a government the people are the
sovereign and their sense or opinion is the criterion of every public measure. For when this
ceases to be the case, the nature of the government is changed, and an aristocracy, monarchy or
despotism will rise on its ruin. The highest responsibility is to be attained in a simple structure of
government, for the great body of the people never steadily attend to the operations of
government, and for want of due information are liable to be imposed on. If you complicate the
plan by various orders, the people will be perplexed and divided in their sentiment about the
source of abuses or misconduct; some will impute it to the senate, others to the house of
representatives, and so on, that the interposition of the people may be rendered imperfect or
perhaps wholly abortive. But if, imitating the constitution of Pennsylvania, you vest all the
legislative power in one body of men (separating the executive and judicial) elected for a short
period, and necessarily excluded by rotation from permanency, and guarded from precipitancy
and surprise by delays imposed on its proceedings, you will create the most perfect
responsibility. For then, whenever the people feel a grievance, they cannot mistake the authors,
and will apply the remedy with certainty and effect, discarding them at the next election. This tie
of responsibility will obviate all the dangers apprehended from a single legislature, and will the
best secure the rights of the people.
Having premised this much, I shall now proceed to the examination of the proposed plan of
government, and I trust, shall make it appear to the meanest capacity, that it has none of the
essential requisites of a free government; that it is neither founded on those balancing restraining
powers, recommended by Mr. Adams and attempted in the British constitution, or possessed of
that responsibility to its constituents, which, in my opinion, is the only effectual security for the
liberties and happiness of the people. But on the contrary, that it is a most daring attempt to
establish a despotic aristocracy among freemen, that the world has ever witnessed….
Thus we see, the house of representatives are on the part of the people to balance the senate, who
I suppose will be composed of the better sort, the well born, etc. The number of the
representatives (being only one for every 30,000 inhabitants) appears to be too few, either to
communicate the requisite information of the wants, local circumstances and sentiments of so
extensive an empire, or to prevent corruption and undue influence, in the exercise of such great
powers; the term for which they are to be chosen, too long to preserve a due dependence and
accountability to their constituents; and the mode and places of their election not sufficiently
ascertained, for as Congress have the control over both, they may govern the choice, by ordering
the representatives of a whole State, to be elected in one place, and that too may be the most
The senate, the great efficient body in this plan of government, is constituted on the most
unequal principles. The smallest State in the Union has equal weight with the great States of
Virginia, Massachusetts, or Pennsylvania. The senate, besides its legislative functions, has a very
considerable share in the executive; none of the principal appointments to office can be made
without its advice and consent. The terin and mode of its appointment will lead to permanency.
The members are chosen for six years, the mode is under the control of Congress, and as there is
no exclusion by rotation, they may be continued for life, which, from their extensive means of
influence, would follow of course. The President, who would be a mere pageant of State, unless
he coincides with the views of the senate, would either become the bead of the aristocratic junto
in that body, or its minion; besides, their influence being the most predominant, could the best
secure his re-election to office. And from his power of granting pardons, he might screen from
punishment the most treasonable attempts on the liberties of the people, when instigated by the
Mr. [James] Wilson asserts that never was charge made with less reason, than that which predicts
the institution of a baneful aristocracy in the federal Senate.’ In my first number, I stated that this
body would be a very unequal representation of the several States, that the members being
appointed for the long term of six years, and there being no exclusion by rotation, they might be
continued for life, which would follow of course from their extensive means of influence, and
that possessing a considerable share in the executive as well as the legislative, it would become a
permanent aristocracy, and swallow up the other orders in the government.
That these fears are not imaginary, a knowledge of the history of other nations, where the powers
of government have been injudiciously placed, will fully demonstrate. Mr. Wilson says, “the
senate branches into two characters; the one legislative and the other executive. In its legislative
character it can effect no purpose, without the co-operation of the house of representatives, and
in its executive character it can accomplish no object without the concurrence of the president.
Thus fettered, I do not know any act which the senate can of itself perform, and such dependence
necessarily precludes every idea of influence and superiority.” This I confess is very specious,
but experience demonstrates that checks in government, unless accompanied with adequate
power and independently placed, prove merely nominal, and will be inoperative. Is it probable,
that the President of the United States, limited as he is in power, and dependent on the will of the
senate, in appointments to office, will either have the firmness or inclination to exercise his
prerogative of a conditional control upon the proceedings of that body, however injurious they
may be to the public welfare? It will be his interest to coincide with the views of the senate, and
thus become the head of the aristocratic junto. The king of England is a constituent part in the
legislature, but although an hereditary monarch, in possession of the whole executive power,
including the unrestrained appointment to offices, and an immense revenue, enjoys but in name
the prerogative of a negative upon the parliament. Even the king of England, circumstanced as he
is, has not dared to exercise it for near a century past. The check of the house of representatives
upon the senate will likewise be rendered nugatory for want of due weight in the democratic
branch, and from their constitution they may become so independent of the people as to be
indifferent of its interests. Nay, as Congress would have the control over the mode and place of
their election, by ordering the representatives of a whole state to be elected at one place, and that
too the most inconvenient, the ruling powers may govern the choice, and thus the house of
representatives may be composed of the creatures of the senate. Still the semblance of checks
may remain, but without operation.
This mixture of the legislative and executive moreover highly tends to corruption. The chief
improvement in government, in modern times, has been the complete separation of the great
distinctions of power; placing the legislative in different hands from those which hold the
executive; and again severing the judicial part from the ordinary administrative. “When the
legislative and executive powers (says Montesquieu) are united in the same person or in the same
body of magistrates, there can be no liberty.”
Antifederalist No. Antifederalist No. 48 NO SEPARATION
“LEONIDAS,” from London, obviously did not understand Article II Section I of the proposed
new Constitution. But his works were welcomed in the London Times, and either The Freeman’s
Journal, or The North-American Intelligencer on July 30, 1788.
In the new constitution for the future government of the thirteen United States of America, the
President and Senate have all the executive and two thirds of the Legislative power.
This is a material deviation from those principles of the English constitution, for which they
fought with us; and in all good governments it should be a fundamental maxim, that, to give a
proper balance to the political system, the different branches of the legislature should be
unconnected, and the legislative and executive powers should be separate. By the new
constitution of America this union of the executive and legislative bodies operates in the most
weighty matters of the state. They jointly make all treaties; they jointly appoint all officers civil
and military; and, they jointly try all impeachments, either of their own members, or the officers
appointed by themselves.
In this formidable combination of power, there is no responsibility. And where there is power
without responsibility, how can there be liberty?
The president of the United States is elected for four years, and each of the thirteen states has one
vote at his election; which vote is not of the people, but of electors two degrees from the people.
The senate is a body of six years duration; and as in the choice of presidents, the largest state has
but one vote, so it is in the choice of senators. Now this shows, that responsibility is as little to be
apprehended from amenability to constituents, as from the terror of impeachment; for to the
members of the senate it is clear, that trial by impeachment is nothing but parade.
From such an union in governments, it requires no great depth of political knowledge to
prophesy, that monarchy or aristocracy must be generated, and perhaps of the most grievous
kind. The only check in favor of the democratic principle is the house of representatives; but its
smallness of number, and great comparative disparity of power, render that house of little effect
to promote good or restrain bad government.
The power given to this ill- constructed senate is, to judge of what may be for the general
welfare; and such engagements, when made the acts of Congress, become the supreme laws of
the land.
This is a power co-extensive with every possible object of human legislation. Yet there is no
restraint, no charter of rights, no residuum of human privileges, not intended to be given up to
society. The rights of conscience, the freedom of the press, and trial by jury, are at the mercy of
this senate. Trial by jury has been already materially injured. The trial in criminal cases is not by
twelve men of the vicinage, or of the county, but of the state; and the states are from fifty to
seven hundred miles in extent! In criminal cases this new system says, the trial shall be by jury.
On civil cases it is silent. There it is fair to infer, that as in criminal cases it has been materially
impaired, in civil cases it may be altogether omitted. But it is in truth, strongly discountenanced
in civil cases; for this new system gives the supreme court in matters of appeal, jurisdiction both
of law and fact.
This being the beginning of American freedom, it is very clear the ending will be slavery, for it
cannot be denied that this constitution is, in its first principles, highly and dangerously
oligarchical; and it is every where agreed, that a government administered by a few, is, of all
governments, the worst.
The following essay is in two parts: the first is by “MASSACHUSETTENSIS,” and is reprinted
from The Massachusetts Gazette of January 29, 1788; the second part was written by “AN OLD
WHIG,” and is taken from The New-York Journal of November 27, 1787.
That the new constitution cannot make a union of states, but only of individuals, and purposes
the beginning of one new society, one new government in all matters, is evident from these
considerations, viz: It marks no line of distinction between separate state matters, and what
would of right come under the control of the powers ordained in a union of states. To say that no
line could be drawn, is giving me the argument. For what can be more absurd than to say, that
states are united where a general power is established that extends to all objects of government,
i.e., all that exist among the people who make the compact? And is it not clear that Congress
have the right (by the constitution), to make general laws for proving all acts, records,
proceedings, and the effect thereof, in what are now called the states? Is it possible after this that
any state act can exist, or any public business be done, without the direction and sanction of
Congress, or by virtue of some subordinate authority? If not, how in the nature of things can
there be a union of states? Does not the uniting of states, as states, necessarily imply the
existence of separate state powers?
Again, the constitution makes no consistent, adequate provision for amendments to be made to it
by states, as states. Not they who drew up the amendments (should any be made), but they who
ratify them, must be considered as making them. Three fourths of the legislatures of the several
states, as they are now called, may ratify amendments-that is, if Congress see fit, but not without.
Where is then any independent state authority recognized in the plan? And if there is no
independent state authority, how can there be a union of states? But is it not a question of
importance why the states in their present capacity, cannot ratify the original? I mean, why the
legislatures of the several states cannot do this business? I wish to be informed where to find the
regular exercise and legal sanction of state power, if the legislative authority of the state is set
aside. Have the people some other constitutional means by which they can give their united voice
in state affairs? This leads me to observe, that should the new constitution be received as it
stands, it can never be proved that it originated from any proper state authority; because there is
no such authority recognized either in the form of it, or in the mode fixed upon for its
ratification. It says, “We the people of the United States,” etc., make this constitution; but does
this phrase, “We the people of the United States,” prove that the people are acting in state
character, or that the several states must of necessity exist with separate governments? Who that
understands the subject will believe either? …
The plan does not acknowledge any constitutional state authority as necessary in the ratification
of it. This work is to be done by a mere convention, only in consequence of mere
recommendation; which does by no means amount to a proper state act. As no state act can exist
independent of the supreme authority of the state, and this authority is out of the question in the
ratification of the new constitution, it clearly follows that the ratifying of it, by a mere
convention, is no proper state business. To conclude, the people may make the original, but the
people have no right to alter it. Congress may order this matter just as they please, and
consequently have whom they please elected for governors or representatives, not of the states
but of the people; and not of the people as men but as property. . . .
It appears to me that I was mistaken in supposing that we could so very easily make trial of this
constitution, and again change it at our pleasure. The conventions of the several states cannot
propose any alterations-they are only to give their assent and ratification. And after the
constitution is once ratified, it must remain fixed until two thirds of both the houses of Congress
shall deem it necessary to propose amendments; or the legislatures of two thirds of the several
states shall make application to Congress for the calling a convention for proposing amendments
– which amendments shall not be valid until they are ratified by the legislatures of three fourths
of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as one or the other mode of
ratification may be proposed by Congress. This appears to me to be only a cunning way of
saying that no alteration shall ever be made; so that whether it is a good constitution or a bad
constitution, it will remain forever unamended. Lycurgus, when he promulgated his laws to the
Spartans, made them swear that they would make no alterations in them until he should return
from a journey which he was then about to undertake. He chose never to return, and therefore no
alteration could be made in his laws. The people were made to believe that they could make trial
of his laws for a few months or years, during his absence, and as soon as he returned they could
continue to observe them or reject at pleasure. Thus this celebrated republic was in reality
established by a trick. In like manner the proposed constitution holds out a prospect of being
subject to be changed if it be found necessary or convenient to change it; but the conditions upon
which an alteration can take place, are such as in all probability will never exist. The
consequence will be that when the constitution is once established it never can be altered or
amended without some violent convulsion or civil war.
The conditions, I say, upon which any alterations can take place, appear to me to be such as
never will exist. Two thirds of both houses of congress, or the legislatures of two thirds of the
states, must agree in desiring a convention to be called. This will probably never happen. But if it
should happen, then the convention may agree to the amendments or not, as they think right; and
after all three fourths of the states must ratify the amendments. Before all this labyrinth can be
traced to a conclusion, ages will revolve, and perhaps the great principles upon which our late
glorious revolution was founded, will be totally forgotten. If the principles of liberty are not
firmly fixed and established in the present constitution, in vain may we hope for retrieving them
hereafter. People once possessed of power are always loathe to part with it; and we shall never
find two thirds of a Congress voting or proposing anything which shall derogate from their own
authority and importance, or agreeing to give back to the people any part of those privileges
which they have once parted with-so far from it, that the greater occasion there may be for a
reformation, the less likelihood will there be of accomplishing it. The greater the abuse of power,
the more obstinately is it always persisted in. As to any expectation of two thirds of the
legislatures concurring in such a request, it is if possible still more remote. The legislatures of the
states will be but forms and shadows, and it will be the height of arrogance and presumption in
them, to turn their thoughts to such high subjects. After this constitution is once established, it is
too evident that we shall be obliged to fill up the offices of assemblymen and councillors, as we
do those of constables, by appointing men to serve whether they will or not, and fining them if
they refuse. The members thus appointed, as soon as they can hurry through a law or two for
repairing highways, or impounding cattle, will conclude the business of their sessions as
suddenly as possible, that they may return to their own business. Their heads will not be
perplexed with the great affairs of state. We need not expect two thirds of them ever to interfere
in so momentous a question as that of calling a continental convention. The different legislatures
will have no communication with one another, from the time of the new constitution being
ratified to the end of the world. Congress will be the great focus of power as well as the great and
only medium of communication from one state to another. The great and the wise and the mighty
will be in possession of places and offices; they will oppose all changes in favor of liberty; they
will steadily pursue the acquisition of more and more power to themselves and their adherents….

Antifederalists sought a second constitutional convention immediately after conclusion of the
first. This essay by “AN OLD WHIG,” is from either The Freeman’s Journal or The North-
American Intelligencer, of November 28, 1787.
It is true that the Continental Convention have directed their proposed constitution to be laid
before a Convention of Delegates to be chosen in each state “for their assent and ratification,”
which seems to preclude the idea of any power in the several Conventions of proposing any
alterations; or, indeed, even of rejecting the plan proposed if they should disapprove of it. Still,
however, the question recurs, what authority the late Convention had to bind the people of the
United States to any particular form of government, or to forbid them to adopt such form of
government, as they should think fit. I know it is a language frequent in the mouths of some
heaven-born Phaetons among us-who, like the son of Apollo, think themselves entitled to guide
the chariot of the sun-that common people have no right to judge of the affairs of government;
that they are not fit for it; that they should leave these matters to their superiors. This, however,
is not the language of men of real understanding, even among the advocates for the proposed
Constitution; but these still recognize the authority of the people, and will admit, at least in
words, that the people have a right to be consulted. Then I ask, if the people in the different states
have a right to be consulted in the new form of continental government, what authority could the
late Convention have to preclude them from proposing amendments to the plan they should
offer? Had the Convention any right to bind the people to the form of government they should
propose? Let us consider this matter.
The late Convention were chosen by the General Assembly of each state. They had the sanction
of Congress. For what? To consider what alterations were necessary to be made in the articles of
Confederation. What have they done? They have made a new Constitution for the United States.
I will not say that in doing so they have exceeded their authority; but, on the other hand, I trust
that no man of understanding among them will pretend to say that anything they did, or could do,
was of the least avail to lessen the right of the people to judge for themselves in the last resort.
This right is perhaps unalienable; but, at all events, there is no pretense for saying that this right
was ever meant to be surrendered up into the hands of the late Continental Convention. The
people have an undoubted right to judge of every part of the government which is offered to
them. No power on earth has a right to preclude them; and they may exercise this choice either
by themselves or their delegates legally chosen in the state Convention. I venture to say that no
man, reasoning upon Revolution principles, can possibly controvert this right.
Indeed, very few go so far as to controvert the right of the people to propose amendments. But
we are told the thing is impracticable; that if we begin to propose amendments there will be no
end to them; that the several states will never agree in their amendments; that we shall never
unite in any plan; that if we reject this, we shall either have a worse one or none at all; that we
ought therefore to adopt this at once without alteration or amendment. Now, these are very kind
gentlemen who insist upon doing so much good for us, whether we will or not. Idiots and
maniacs ought certainly to be restrained from doing themselves mischief, and ought to be
compelled to that which is for their own good. Whether the people of America are to be
considered in this light and treated accordingly, is a question which deserves, perhaps, more
consideration than it has yet received. A contest between the patients and their doctors, which are
mad or which are fools, might possibly be a very unhappy one. I hope at least that we shall be
able to settle this important business without so preposterous a dispute. What then would you
have us do, it may be asked? Would you have us adopt the proposed constitution or reject it? The
method I would propose is this:
1. Let the conventions of each state, as they meet, after considering the proposed constitution,
state their objections and propose their amendments. So far from these objections and
amendments clashing with each other in irreconcilable discord, as it has too often been suggested
they would do, that from what has been hitherto published in the different states in opposition to
the proposed constitution we have a right to expect that they will harmonize in a very great
degree. The reason I say so is that about the same time, in very different parts of the continent,
the very same objections have been made, and the very same alterations proposed by different
writers, who I verily believe know nothing at all of each other and were very far from acting by a
premeditated concert; and that others who have not appeared as writers in the newspapers in the
different states, have appeared to act and speak in perfect unison with those objections and
amendments, particularly in the article of a bill of rights; that in short, the very same sentiments
seem to have been echoed from the different parts of the continent by the opposers of the
proposed constitution. And these sentiments have been very little contradicted by its friends,
otherwise than by suggesting their fears that by opposing the constitution at present proposed, we
might be disappointed of any federal government, or receive a worse one than the present. It
would be a most delightful surprise to find ourselves all of one opinion at last. And I cannot
forbear hoping that when we come fairly to compare our sentiments, we shalt find ourselves
much more nearly agreed, than in the hurry and surprise in which we have been involved on this
subject, we ever suffered ourselves to imagine.
2. When the conventions have stated these objections and amendments, let them transmit them to
congress, and adjourn, praying that congress will direct another convention to be called from the
different states, to consider of these objections and amendments, and pledging themselves to
abide by whatever decision shall be made by such future convention on the subject whether it be
to amend the proposed constitution or to reject any alterations, and ratify it as it stands.
3. If a new convention of the United States should meet, and revise the proposed constitution, let
us agree to abide by their decision. It is past a doubt that every good citizen of America pants for
an efficient federal government. T have no doubt we shall concur at last in some plan of
continental government, even if many people could imagine exceptions to it. But if the
exceptions which are made at present shall be maturely considered, and even be pronounced by
our future representatives as of no importance (which I trust they will not), even in that case I
have no doubt that almost every man will give up his own private opinion and concur in that
4. If, by any means, another continental convention should fail to meet, then let the conventions
of the several states again assemble and at last decide the great solemn question, whether we
shall adopt the constitution now proposed or reject it. And whenever it becomes necessary to
decide upon this point one, at least, who from the beginning has been invariably anxious for the
liberty and independence of this country, will concur in adopting and supporting this
constitution, rather than none; though, I confess, I could easily imagine some other form of
confederation which I should think better entitled to my hearty approbation, and indeed I am not
afraid of a worse.
This satire is from a pamphlet of “ARISTOCROTIS,” The Government of Nature Delineated; Or
An Exact Picture of the New Federal Constitution (Carlisle, PA, 1788)
The present is an active period. Europe is in a ferment breaking their constitutions; America is in
a similar state, making a constitution. For this valuable purpose a convention was appointed,
consisting of such as excelled in wisdom and knowledge, who met in Philadelphia last May. For
my own part, I was so smitten with the character of the members, that I had assented to their
production, while it was yet in embryo. And I make no doubt but every good republican did so
too. But how great was my surprise, when it appeared with such a venerable train of names
annexed to its tail, to find some of the people under different signatures-such as Centinel, Old
Whig, Brutus, etc. – daring to oppose it, and that too with barefaced arguments, obstinate reason
and stubborn truth. This is certainly a piece of the most extravagant impudence to presume to
contradict the collected wisdom of the United States; or to suppose a body, who engrossed the
whole wisdom of the continent, was capable of erring. I expected the superior character of the
convention would have secured it from profane sallies of a plebeian’s pen; and its inherent
infallibility debarred the interference of impertinent reason or truth. It was too great an act of
condescension to permit the people, by their state conventions, “to assent and ratify,” what the
grand convention prescribed to them; but to inquire into its principles, or investigate its
properties, was a presumption too daring to escape resentment. Such licentious conduct practised
by the people, is a striking proof of our feeble governments, and calls aloud for the pruning
knife, i.e., the establishment of some proper plan of discipline. This the convention, in the depth
of their united wisdom hath prescribed, which when established, will certainly put a stop to the
growing evil. A consciousness of this, is, no doubt, the cause which stimulates the people to
oppose it with so much vehemence. They deprecate the idea of being confined within their
proper sphere; they cannot endure the thought of being obliged to mind their own business, and
leave the affairs of government to those whom nature hath destined to rule. I say nature, for it is
a fundamental principle, as clear as an axiom, that nature hath placed proper degrees and
subordinations amongst mankind and ordained a few(1) to rule, and many to obey. I am not
obliged to prove this principle because it would be madness in the extreme to attempt to prove a
self- evident truth.
(1) If any person is so stupidly dull as not to discern who these few are, I would refer such to
nature herself for information. Let them observe her ways and be wise. Let them mark those men
whom she hath endued with the necessary qualifications of authority; such as the dictatorial air,
the magisterial voice, the imperious tone, the haughty countenance, the lofty look, the majestic
mien. Let them consider those whom she hath taught to command with authority, but comply
with disgust; to be fond of sway, but impatient of control; to consider themselves as Gods, and
all the rest of mankind as two legged brutes. Now it is evident that the possessors of these divine
qualities must have been ordained by nature to dominion and empire; for it would be blasphemy
against her supreme highness to suppose that she confers her gifts in vain. Fortune hath also
distinguished those upon whom nature hath imprinted the lineaments of authority. She hath
heaped her favors and lavished her gifts upon those very persons whom nature delighteth to
honor. Indeed, instinct hath taught those men that authority is their natural right, and therefore
they grasp at it with an eagerness bordering on rapacity.
But with all due submission to the infallible wisdom of the grand convention, let me presume to
examine whether they have not, in the new plan of government, inviolably adhered to this
supreme principle. . . .
In article first, section first, of the new plan, it is declared that “all legislative powers herein
granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States which shall consist of a Senate”-very
right, quite agreeable to nature and House of Representatives”-not quite so right. This is a
palpable compliance with the humors and corrupt practices of the times. But what follows in
section 2 is still worse: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen
every second year by the people of the several states.” This is a most dangerous power, and must
soon produce fatal and pernicious consequences, were it not circumscribed and poised by proper
checks and balances. But in this is displayed the unparalleled sagacity of the august convention:
that when such bulwarks of prejudice surrounded the evil, so as to render it both difficult and
dangerous to attack it by assault and storm, they have invested and barricaded it so closely as
will certainly deprive it of its baneful influence and prevent its usual encroachments. They have
likewise stationed their miners and sappers so judiciously, that they will certainly, in process of
time, entirely reduce and demolish this obnoxious practice of popular election. There is a small
thrust given to it in the body of the conveyance itself. The term of holding elections is every two
years; this is much better than the detestable mode of annual elections, so fatal to energy.
However, if nothing more than this were done, it would still remain an insupportable
inconvenience. But in section 4 it is provided that congress by law may alter and make such
regulations with respect to the times, places, and manner of holding elections, as to them seemeth
fit and proper. This is certainly a very salutary provision, most excellently adapted to
counterbalance the great and apparently dangerous concessions made to the plebeians in the first
and second sections. With such a prudent restriction as this they are quite harmless: no evil can
arise from them if congress have only the sagacity and fortitude to avail themselves of the power
they possess by this section. For when the stated term (for which the primary members was
elected) is nigh expired, congress may appoint [the] next election to be held in one place in each
state; and so as not to give the rabble needless disgust, they may appoint the most central place
for that purpose. They can never be at a loss for an ostensible reason to vary and shift from place
to place until they may fix it at any extremity of the state it suits. This will be the business of the
senate, to observe the particular places in each state, where their influence is most extensive, and
where the inhabitants are most obsequious to the will of their superiors, and there appoint the
elections to be held. By this means, such members will be returned to the house of
representatives (as it is called) as the president and senate shall be pleased to recommend; and
they no doubt will recommend such gentlemen only as are distinguished by some peculiar
federal feature-so that unanimity and concord will shine conspicuous through every branch of
government. This section is ingeniously calculated, and must have been intended by the
convention, to exterminate electioneering entirely. For by putting the time of election in the
hands of congress they have thereby given them a power to perpetuate themselves when they
shall find it safe and convenient to make the experiment. For though a preceding clause says,
“that representatives shall be chosen for two years, and senators for six years,” yet this clause
being subsequent annuls the former, and puts it in the power of congress, (when some favorable
juncture intervenes) to alter the time to four and twelve years. This cannot be deemed an
unconstitutional stretch of power, for the constitution in express terms puts the time of holding
elections in their power, and certainly they are the proper judges when to exert that power. Thus
by doubling the period from time to time, its extent will soon be rendered coeval with the life of
man. And it is but a very short and easy transition from this to hereditary succession, which is
most agreeable to the institutions of nature, who in all her works, hath ordained the descendant of
every species of beings to succeed its immediate progenitor, in the same actions, ends and order.
The indefatigable laborious ass never aspires to the honors, nor assumes the employment of the
sprightly warlike steed, nor does he ever pretend that it is his right to succeed him in all his
offices and dignities, because he bears some resemblance to the defunct in his figure and nature.
The llama, though useful enough for the purposes for which he was intended by nature, is every
way incompetent to perform the offices of the elephant; nor does he ever pretend to usurp his
elevated station. Every species of beings, animate and inanimate, seem fully satisfied with the
station assigned them by nature. But perverse, obstinate man, he alone spurns at her institutions,
and inverts her order.’ He alone repines at his situation, and endeavors to usurp the station of his
superiors. But this digression has led me from the subject in hand. . . .
(2) This is only to be understood of the inferior class of mankind. The superior order have
aspiring feelings given them by nature, such as ambition, emulation, etc., which makes it their
duty to persevere in the pursuit of gratifying these refined passions.
The next object that presents itself is the power which the new constitution gives to congress to
regulate the manner of elections. The common practice of voting at present is by ballot. By this
mode it is impossible for a gentleman to know how he is served by his dependent, who may be
possessed of a vote. Therefore this mode must be speedily altered for that viva voce, which will
secure to a rich man all the votes of his numerous dependents and friends and their dependents.
By this means he may command any office in the gift of the people, which he pleases to set up
for. This will answer a good end while electioneering exists; and will likewise contribute
something towards its destruction. A government founded agreeable to nature must be entirely
independent; that is, it must be beyond the reach of annoyance or control from every power on
earth, Now in order to render it thus, several things are necessary.
The next object that presents itself is the power which the new constitution gives to congress to
regulate the manner of elections. The common practice of voting at present is by ballot. By this
mode it is impossible for a gentleman to know how he is served by his dependent, who may be
possessed of a vote. Therefore this mode must be speedily altered for that viva voce, which will
secure to a rich man all the votes of his numerous dependents and friends and their dependents.
By this means he may command any office in the gift of the people, which he pleases to set up
for. This will answer a good end while electioneering exists; and will likewise contribute
something towards its destruction. A government founded agreeable to nature must be entirely
independent; that is, it must be beyond the reach of annoyance or control from every power on
earth, Now in order to render it thus, several things are necessary.
2dly. It will create and diffuse a spirit of industry among the people. They will then be obliged to
labor for money to pay their taxes. There will be no trifling from time to time, as is done now.
The new government will have energy sufficient to compel immediate payment.
3dly. This will make the people attend to their own business, and not be dabbling in politics –
things they are entirely ignorant of; nor is it proper they should understand. But it is very
probable that the exercise of this power may be opposed by the refractory plebeians, who (such
is the perverseness of their natures) often refuse to comply with what is manifestly for their
advantage. But to prevent all inconvenience from this quarter the congress have power to raise
and support armies. This is the second thing necessary to render government independent. The
creatures who compose these armies are a species of animals, wholly at the disposal of
government; what others call their natural rights they resign into the hands of their superiorseven
the right of self-preservation (so precious to all other beings) they entirely surrender, and
put their very lives in the power of their masters. Having no rights of their own to care for, they
become naturally jealous and envious of those possessed by others. They are therefore proper
instruments in the hands of government to divest the people of their usurped rights. But the
capital business of these armies will be to assist the collectors of taxes, imposts, and excise, in
raising the revenue; and this they will perform with the greatest alacrity, as it is by this they are
supported; but for this they would be in a great measure useless; and without this they could not
exist. . . .
From these remarks, I think it is evident, that the grand convention hath dexterously provided for
the removal of every thing that hath ever operated as a restraint upon government in any place or
age of the world. But perhaps some weak heads may think that the constitution itself will be a
check upon the new congress. But this I deny, for the convention has so happily worded
themselves, that every part of this constitution either bears double meaning, or no meaning at all;
and if any concessions are made to the people in one place, it is effectually cancelled in anotherso
that in fact this constitution is much better and gives more scope to the rulers than they durst
safely take if there was no constitution at all. For then the people might contend that the power
was inherent in them, and that they had made some implied reserves in the original grant. But
now they cannot, for every thing is expressly given away to government in this plan. Perhaps
some people may think that power which the house of representatives possesses, of impeaching
the officers of government, will be a restraint upon them. But this entirely vanishes, when it is
considered that the senate hath the principal say in appointing these officers, and that they are the
sole judges of all impeachments. Now it would be absurd to suppose that they would remove
their own servants for performing their secret orders. . . . For the interest of rulers and the ruled
will then be two distinct things. The mode of electing the president is another excellent
regulation, most wisely calculated to render him the obsequious machine of congress. He is to be
chosen by electors appointed in such manner as the state legislators shall direct. But then the
highest in votes cannot be president, without he has the majority of all the electors; and if none
have this majority, then the congress is to choose the president out of the five highest on the
return. By this means the congress will always have the making of the president after the first
election. So that if the reigning president pleases his masters, he need be under no apprehensions
of being turned out for any severities used to the people, for though the congress may not have
influence enough to procure him the majority of the votes of the electoral college, yet they will
always be able to prevent any other from having such a majority; and to have him returned
among the five highest, so that they may have the appointing of him themselves. All these wise
regulations, prove to a demonstration, that the grand convention was infallible. The congress
having thus disentangled themselves from all popular checks and choices, and being supported
by a well disciplined army and active militia, will certainly command dread and respect abroad,
obedience and submission at home. They will then look down with awful dignity and
tremendous majesty from the pinnacle of glory to which fortune has raised them upon the
insignificant creatures, their subjects, whom they have reduced to that state of vassalage and
servile submission, for which they were primarily destined by nature. America will then be great
amongst the nations(3) and princess amongst the provinces. Her fleets will cover the deserts of
the ocean and convert it into a popular city; and her invincible armies overturn the thrones of
princes. The glory of Britain (4) shall fall like lightning before her puissant arm; when she
ariseth to shake the nations, and take vengeance on all who dare oppose her. O! thou most
venerable and august congress! with what astonishing ideas my mind is ravished! when I
contemplate thy rising grandeur, and anticipate thy future glory! Happy thy servants! happy thy
vassals! and happy thy slaves, which fit under the shade of thy omnipotent authority, and behold
the glory of thy majesty! for such a state who would not part with ideal blessings of liberty? who
would not cheerfully resign the nominal advantages of freedom? the dazzling splendor of
Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian and Roman greatness will then be totally eclipsed by the radiant
blaze of this glorious western luminary! These beautiful expressions, aristocracy, and oligarchy,
upon which the popular odium hath fixed derision and contempt, will then resume their natural
emphasis; their genuine signification will be perfectly understood, and no more perverted or
(3) That is, if we may credit the prognostications with which our federal news-papers and
pamphlets daily teem.
(4) Britain once the supreme ruler of this country, but her authority was rejected. Not, as a great
many believe, because her claims were tyrannical and oppressive, but because her dominion
excluded those from monopolizing the government into their own hands, whom nature had
qualified to rule. It is certainly no more than the natural right of rulers “to bind their subjects, in
all cases whatsoever.” This power is perfectly synonymous with that clause in the constitution
which invests congress with power to make all laws which shall be “necessary and proper for
carrying into execution the foregoing powers and all other powers,” etc., and that which says “the
constitution, laws, and treaties of congress shall be the supreme law of the land; any thing in the
constitutions or laws of any of the states to the contrary notwithstanding.” But nothing less
would satisfy Britain, than a power to bind the natural rulers as well as subjects.
Antifederalist No. 52 ON THE GUARANTEE OF
The following essay was signed by Consider Arms, Malichi Maynard, and Samuel Field. It was
taken from The Hampshire Gazette of April 9, 1788.
We the subscribers being of the number, who did not assent to the ratification of the federal
constitution, under consideration in the late state convention, held at Boston, to which we were
called by the suffrages of the corporations to which we respectively belong-beg leave, through
the channel of your paper, to lay before the public in general, and our constituents in particular,
the reasons of our dissent, and the principles which governed us in our decision of this important
Fully convinced, ever since the late revolution, of the necessity of a firm, energetic government,
we should have rejoiced in an opportunity to have given our assent to such a one; and should in
the present case, most cordially have done it, could we at the same time been happy to have seen
the liberties of the people and the rights of mankind properly guarded and secured. We conceive
that the very notion of government carries along with it the idea of justice and equity, and that
the whole design of instituting government in the world, was to preserve men’s properties from
rapine, and their bodies from violence and bloodshed.
These propositions being established, we conceive must of necessity produce the following
consequence: That every constitution or system, which does not quadrate with this original
design, is not government, but in fact a subversion of it.
Having premised thus much, we proceed to mention some things in this constitution to which we
object, and to enter into an inquiry, whether, and how far they coincide with those simple and
original notions of government before mentioned.
In the first place, as direct taxes are to be apportioned according to the numbers in each state, and
as Massachusetts has none in it but what are declared free men, so the whole, blacks as well as
whites, must be numbered; this must therefore operate against us, as two-fifths of the slaves in
the southern states are to be left out of the numeration. Consequently, three Massachusetts
infants will increase the tax equal to five sturdy full-grown Negroes of theirs, who work every
day in the week for their masters, saving the Sabbath, upon which they are allowed to get
something for their own support. We can see no justice in this way of apportioning taxes. Neither
can we see any good reason why this was consented to on the part of our delegates.
We suppose it next to impossible that every individual in this vast continental union, should have
his wish with regard to every single article composing a frame of government. And therefore,
although we think it More agreeable to the principles of republicanism, that elections should be
annual, yet as the elections in our own state government are so, we did not view it so dangerous
to the liberties of the people, that we should have rejected the constitution merely on account of
the biennial elections of the representatives-had we been sure that the people have any security
even of this. But this we could not find. For although it is said, that “the House of
Representatives shall be chosen every second year, by the people of the several states,” etc., and
that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be
prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof,” yet all this is wholely superseded by a
subsequent provision, which empowers Congress at any time to enact a law, whereby such
regulations may be altered, except as to the places of choosing senators. Here we conceive the
people may be very materially injured, and in time reduced to a state of as abject vassalage as
any people were under the control of the most mercenary despot that ever tarnished the pages of
history. The depravity of human nature, illustrated by examples from history, will warrant us to
say, it may be possible, if not probable, that the congress may be composed of men, who will
wish to burden and oppress the people. In such case, will not their inventions be fruitful enough
to devise occasions for postponing the elections? And if they can do this once, they can twice; if
they can twice, they can thrice, so by degrees render themselves absolute and perpetual. Or, if
they choose, they have another expedient. They can alter the place of holding elections. They can
say, whatever the legislature of this state may order to the contrary, that all the elections of our
representatives shall be made at Mechias, or at Williamstown. Consequently, nine- tenths of the
people will never vote. And if this should be thought a measure favorable to their reelection, or
the election of some tool for their mercenary purposes, we doubt not it will be thus ordered. But
says the advocates for the constitution, “it is not likely this will ever happen; we are not to expect
our rulers will ever proceed to a wanton exercise of the powers given them.” But what reason
have we more than past ages, to expect that we shall be blessed with impeccable rulers? We
think not any. Although it has been said that every generation grows wiser and wiser, yet we
have no reason to think they grow better and better. And therefore the probability lies upon the
dark side. Does not the experience of past ages leach, that men have generally exercised all the
powers they had given them, and even have usurped upon them, in order to accomplish their own
sinister and avaricious designs, whenever they thought they could do it with impunity? This we
presume will not be denied. And it appeared to us that the arguments made use of by the favorers
of the constitution, in the late convention at Boston, proceeded upon the plan of righteousness in
those who are to rule over us, by virtue of this new form of government. But these arguments, we
confess, could have no weight with us, while we judge them to be founded altogether upon a
slippery perhaps.
We are sensible, that in order to the due administration of government, it is necessary that certain
powers should be delegated to the rulers from the people. At the same time, we think they ought
carefully to guard against giving so much as will enable those rulers, by that means, at once, or
even in process of time, to render themselves absolute and despotic. This we think is the case
with the form of government lately submitted to our consideration. We could not, therefore,
acting uprightly, consulting our own good and the good of our constituents, give our assent unto
it. We could not then and we still cannot see, that because people are many times guilty of crimes
and deserving of punishment, that it from thence follows the authority ought to have power to
punish them when they are not guilty, or to punish the innocent with the guilty without
discrimination, which amounts to the same thing. But this we think in fact to be the case as to
this federal constitution. For the congress, whether they have provocation or not, can at any time
order the elections in any or all the states to be conducted in such manner as wholely to defeat
and render entirely nugatory the intention of those elections, and convert that which was
considered and intended to be the palladium of the liberties of the people-the grand bulwark
against any invasion upon them-into a formidable engine, by which to overthrow them all, and
thus involve them in the depth of misery and distress. But it was pled by some of the ablest
advocates of the constitution, that if congress should exercise such powers to the prejudice of the
people (and they did not deny but they could if they should be disposed) they (the people) would
not suffer it. They would have recourse to the ultima ratio, the dernier resort of the oppressed-the
But it appeared to us a piece of superlative incongruity indeed, that the people, whilst in the full
and indefeasible possession of their liberties and privileges, should be so very profuse, so very
liberal in the disposal of them, as consequently to place themselves in a predicament miserable to
an extreme. So wretched indeed, that they may at once be reduced to the sad alternative of
yielding themselves vassals into the hands of a venal and corrupt administration, whose only
wish may be to aggrandize themselves and families-to wallow in luxury and every species of
dissipation, and riot upon the spoils of the community; or take up the sword and involve their
country in all the horrors of a civil war-the consequences of which, we think, we may venture to
augur will more firmly rivet their shackles and end in the entailment of vassalage to their
posterity. We think this by no means can fall within the description of government before
mentioned. Neither can we think these suggestions merely chimerical, or that they proceed from
an overheated enthusiasm in favor of republicanism; neither yet from an illplaced detestation of
aristocracy; but from the apparent danger the people are in by establishing this constitution.
When we take a forward view of the proposed congress-seated in the federal city, ten miles
square, fortified and replenished with all kinds of military stores and every implement; with a
navy at command on one side, and a land army on the other-we say, when we view them thus
possessed of the sword in one hand and the purse strings of the people in the other, we can see no
security left for them in the enjoyment of their liberties, but what may proceed from the bare
possibility that this supreme authority of the nation may be possessed of virtue and integrity
sufficient to influence them in the administration of equal justice and equity among those whom
they shall govern. But why should we voluntarily choose to trust our all upon so precarious a
tenure as this? We confess it gives us pain to anticipate the future scene: a scene presenting to
view miseries so complicated and extreme, that it may be part of the charms of eloquence to
extenuate, or the power of art to remove.
Antifederalist No. 53 A PLEA FOR THE RIGHT OF RECALL
“AMICUS” appeared in the Columbian Herald, August 28, 1788.
Some time before a Convention of the United States was held, I mentioned in a paragraph which
was published in one of the Charlestown papers, that it would be acting wisely in the formation
of a constitution for a free government, to enact, that the electors should recall their
representatives when they thought proper, although they should be chosen for a certain term of
years; as a right to appoint (where the right of appointing originates with the appointees) implies
a right to recall. As the persons appointed are meant to act for the benefit of the appointees, as
well as themselves, they, if they mean to act for their mutual benefit, can have no objection to a
proposal of this kind. But if they have any sinister designs, they will certainly oppose it,
foreseeing that their electors will displace them as soon as they begin to act contrary to their
interest. I am therefore glad to find that the state of New York has proposed an amendment of
this kind to the federal constitution, viz: That the legislatures of the respective states may recall
their senators, or either of them, and elect others in their stead, to serve the remainder of the time
for which the senators so recalled were appointed. I wish this had been extended to the
representatives in both houses, as it is as prudent to have a check over the members of one house
as of the other.
Some persons as object to this amendment, in fact say, that it is safer to give a man an
irrevocable power of attorney, than a revocable one; and that it is right to let a representative ruin
us, rather than recall him and put a real friend of his country, and a truly honest man in his place,
who would rather suffer ten thousand deaths than injure his country, or sully his honor and
reputation. Such persons seem to say, that power ought not to originate with the people (which is
the wish, I fear, of some among us); and also that we are not safe in trusting our own legislature
with the power of recalling such senators as will not abide by such instructions – as shall be
either given them, when chosen, or sent to them afterwards, by the legislature of this or any other
state, or by the electors that chose them, although they should have met together in a body for the
purpose of instructing or sending them instructions on a matter on which the salvation of the
state depends. That we should insist on the amendment respecting this matter taking place, which
the state of New York has proposed, appears to me to be absolutely necessary, the security of
each state may be almost said to rest on it. For my own part, I would rather that this amendment
should take place and give the new government unlimited powers to act for the public good, than
give them limited powers, and at the same time put it out of our power, for a certain term of
years, to recall our representatives, although we saw they were exceeding their powers, and were
bent on making us miserable and themselves, by means of a standing army-a perpetual and
absolute government. For power is a very intoxicating thing, and has made many a man do
unwarrantable actions, which before he was invested with it, he had no thoughts of doing. I hope
by what I have said I shall not be thought to cast even the shadow of a reflection on the
principles of either of the members of the federal convention-it is far from being my intention. I
wish for nothing more than a good government and a constitution under which our liberties will
be perfectly safe. To preserve which, I think the wisest conduct will be to keep the staff of power
in our own hands as much as possible, and not wantonly and inconsiderately give up a greater
share of our liberties with a view of contributing to the public good, than what the necessity of
the case requires.
For our own sakes we shall keep in power those persons whose conduct pleases us as long as we
can, and shall perhaps sometimes wish (when we meet with a person of an extra worthy
character and abilities) that we could keep him in power for life. On the other hand, we shall
dismiss from our employ as soon as possible, such persons as do not consult our interest and will
not follow our instructions. For there are, I fear, a few persons among us, so wise in their own
eyes, that they would if they could, pursue their own will and inclinations, in opposition to the
instructions of their constituents. In so doing, they may perhaps, once in a hundred times, act for
the interest of those they represent, more than if they followed the instructions given them. But I
wish that we would never suffer any person to continue our representative that obeyed not our
instructions, unless something unforeseen and unknown by us turned up, which he knew would
alter our sentiments, if we were made acquainted with it; and which would make his complying
with our will highly imprudent. In every government matter, on which our representatives were
not instructed, we should leave them to act agreeable to their own judgment; on which account
we should always choose men of integrity, honor and abilities to represent us. But when we did
instruct them, as they are our representatives and agents, we should insist on their acting and
voting conformable to our directions. But as they would each of them be a member of the
community, they should have a right to deliver to the houses of representatives of which they
were members, their own private sentiments so that if their private sentiments contained cogent
reasons for acting contrary to the instructions given them-the other members of said houses who
would not be bound by said instructions, would be guided by them; in which case, that would
take place which would be most for the public good, which ought to be the wish of all of us.
This four part essay shows both northern and southern dissatisfaction with “the Great
The first is taken from the third essay of “BRUTUS.”
The second: from the speeches of Rawlins Lowndes to the South Carolina ratifying convention
on January 16, 17, and 18, 1788.
The third: from the sixth essay by “CATO.”
The fourth: from an essay by “A GEORGIAN,” appearing in The Gazette of the State of Georgia
on November 15, 1787.
“Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be
included in this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by
adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years,
and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.” What a strange and
unnecessary accumulation of words are here used to conceal from the public eye what might
have been expressed in the following concise manner: Representatives are to be proportioned
among the States respectively, according to the number of freemen and slaves inhabiting them,
counting five slaves for three freemen.
“In a free State,” says the celebrated Montesquieu, “every man, who is supposed to be a free
agent, ought to be concerned in his own government, therefore the legislature should reside in
the whole body of the people, or their representatives.” But it has never been alleged that those
who are not free agents can, upon any rational principle, have anything to do in government,
either by themselves or others. If they have no share in government, why is the number of
members in the assembly to be increased on their account? Is it because in some of the States, a
considerable part of the property of the inhabitants consists in a number of their fellow-men, who
are held in bondage, in defiance of every idea of benevolence, justice and religion, and contrary
to all the principles of liberty which have been publicly avowed in the late Glorious Revolution?
If this be a just ground for representation, the horses in some of the States, and the oxen in
others, ought to be represented-for a great share of property in some of them consists in these
animals; and they have as much control over their own actions as these poor unhappy creatures,
who are intended to be described in the above recited clause, by the words, “all other persons.”
By this mode of apportionment, the representatives of the different parts of the Union will be
extremely unequal; in some of the Southern States the slaves are nearly equal in number to the
free men; and for all these slaves they will be entitled to a proportionate share in the legislature;
this will give them an unreasonable weight in the government, which can derive no additional
strength, protection, nor defense from the slaves, but the contrary. Why, then, should they be
represented? What adds to the evil is, that these States are to be permitted to continue the
inhuman traffic of importing slaves until the year 1808-and for every cargo of these unhappy
people which unfeeling, unprincipled, barbarous and avaricious wretches may tear from their
country, friends and tender connections, and bring into those States, they are to be rewarded by
having an increase of members in the General Assembly….
. . . . six of the Eastern States formed a majority in the House of Representatives. In the
enumeration he passed Rhode Island, and included Pennsylvania. Now, was it consonant with
reason, with wisdom, with policy, to suppose, in a legislature where a majority of persons sat
whose interests were greatly different from ours, that we had the smallest chance of receiving
adequate advantages? Certainly not. He believed the gentlemen that went from this state, to
represent us in Convention, possessed as much integrity, and stood as high in point of character,
as any gentlemen that could have been selected; and he also believed that they had done every
thing in their power to procure for us a proportionate share in this new government; but the very
little they had gained proved what we may expect in future-that the interest of the Northern
States would so predominate as to divest us of any pretensions to the title of a republic. In the
first place, what cause was there for jealousy of our importing Negroes? Why confine us to
twenty years, or rather why limit us at all? For his part, he thought this trade could be justified on
the principles of religion, humanity, and justice; for certainly to translate a set of human beings
from a bad country to a better, was fulfilling every part of these principles. But they don’t like
our slaves, because they have none themselves, and therefore want to exclude us from this great
advantage. Why should the Southern States allow of this, without the consent of nine states? . . .
We had a law prohibiting the importation of Negroes for three years, a law he greatly approved
of; but there was no reason offered why the Southern States might not find it necessary to alter
their conduct, and open their ports.
Without Negroes, this state would degenerate into one of the most contemptible in the Union;
and he cited an expression that fell from General Pinckney on a former debate, that whilst there
remained one acre of swampland in South Carolina, he should raise his voice against restricting
the importation of Negroes. Even in granting the importation for twenty years, care had been
taken to make us pay for this indulgence, each negro being liable, on importation, to pay a duty
not exceeding ten dollars; and, in addition to this, they were liable to a capitation tax. Negroes
were our wealth, our only natural resource; yet behold how our kind friends in the north were
determined soon to tie up our hands, and drain us of what we had! The Eastern States drew their
means of subsistence, in a great measure, from their shipping; and, on that head, they had been
particularly careful not to allow of any burdens: they were not to pay tonnage or duties; no, not
even the form of clearing out: all ports were free and open to them! Why, then, call this a
reciprocal bargain, which took all from one party, to bestow it on the other!
Major [Pierce] BUTLER observed, that they were to pay five per cent impost.
This, Mr. LOWNDES proved, must fall upon the consumer. They are to be the carriers; and, we
being the consumers, therefore all expenses would fall upon us. A great number of gentlemen
were captivated with this new Constitution, because those who were in debt would be compelled
to pay; others pleased themselves with the reflection that no more confiscation laws would be
passed; but those were small advantages, in proportion to the evils that might be apprehended
from the laws that might be passed by Congress, whenever there was a majority of
representatives from the Eastern States, who were governed by prejudices and ideas extremely
different from ours. . . .
Great stress was laid on the admirable checks which guarded us, under the new Constitution,
from the encroachments of tyranny; but too many checks in a political machine must produce the
same mischief as in a mechanical one-that of throwing all into confusion. But supposing we
considered ourselves so much aggrieved as to reduce us to the necessity of insisting on redress,
what probability had we of relief? Very little indeed. In the revolving on misfortune, some little
gleams of comfort resulted from a hope of being able to resort to an impartial tribunal for
redress; but pray what reason was there for expectancy that, in Congress, the interest of five
Southern States would be considered in a preferable point of view to the nine Eastern ones?
…. the mode of legislation in the infancy of free communities was by the collective body, and
this consisted of free persons, or those whose age admitted them to the right of mankind and
citizenship, whose sex made them capable of protecting the state, and whose birth may be
denominated Free Born; and no traces can be found that ever women, children, and slaves, or
those who were not sui juris, in the early days of legislation, met with the free members of the
community to deliberate on public measures; hence is derived this maxim in free governments,
that representation ought to bear a proportion to the number of free inhabitants in a community;
this principle your own state constitution, and others, have observed in the establishment of a
future census, in order to apportion the representatives, and to increase or diminish the
representation to the ratio of the increase or diminution of electors. But, what aid can the
community derive from the assistance women, infants and slaves, in their deliberation, or in their
defense? What motives, therefore, could the convention have in departing from just and rational
principle of representation, which is the governing prince of this state and of all America?
Article 1, section 2. This section mentions that, within three years after the first meeting of the
Congress of the United States, an enumeration shall take place, the number of representatives not
to exceed one member for every 30,000. This article I believe to be inadmissable. First, it affords
to small a representation, (supposing 48 at the highest calculation) and especially in the southern
states, their climate, soil, and produce, . . . not being capable of that population as in the northern
states. Would it not therefore be better to increase the number of representatives, say one
member for every 20,000 for the states north of Virginia, and one for every 15,000 south of the
said state, itself included? Or, secondly, divide the states into districts which shall choose the
representatives, by which every part of a state will have an equal chance, without being liable to
parties or factions? Should it be said it will increase the expense, it will be money well laid out,
and the more so if we retain the paying them out of our own bands. And, supposing the voting in
the house of representatives was continued as heretofore by states, would it not be more equal
still? At any rate I would strenuously recommend to vote by states, and not individually, as it
will be accommodating the idea of equality, which should ever be observed in a republican form
of government. Or, thirdly, if it was in proportion to the quotas of the states, as rated in taxation,
then the number of members would increase with the proportion of tax, and at that rate there
would always be an equality in the quota of tax as well as representation; for what chance of
equality according to the constitution in question, can a state have that has only one or two votes,
when others have eight or ten, (for it is evident that each representative, as well as senator, is
meant to have a vote, as it mentions no other mode but in choosing the president), and as it is
generally allowed that the United States are divided into two natural divisions, the northern as far
as Virginia, the latter included forms the southern? This produces a wide difference in climate,
soil, customs, manners of living, and the produce of the land, as well as trade, also in population,
to which it is well observed the latter is not so favorable as the former, and never can nor will be,
nature itself being the great obstacle. And when taxation is in agitation, as also many other
points, it must produce differences in sentiments; and, in such dispute, how is it likely to be
decided? According to the mode of voting, the number of members north of Virginia the first
three years is 42, and the southern, Virginia included, 23….
Is human nature above self interest? If the northern states do not horde the southern in taxation, it
would appear then really that they are more disinterested men than we know of.
Antifederalist No. 55 WILL THE HOUSE OF
Following are four essays by “THE FEDERAL FARMER”
…. It being impracticable for the people to assemble to make laws, they must elect legislators,
and assign men to the different departments of the government. In the representative branch we
must expect chiefly to collect the confidence of the people, and in it to find almost entirely the
force of persuasion. In forming this branch, therefore, several important considerations must be
attended to. It must possess abilities to discern the situation of the people and of public affairs, a
disposition to sympathize with the people, and a capacity and inclination to make laws congenial
to their circumstances and condition. It must afford security against interest combinations,
corruption and influence. It must possess the confidence, and have the voluntary support of the
I think these positions will not be controverted, nor the one I formerly advanced, that a fair and
equal representation is that in which the interests, feelings, opinions and views of the people are
collected, in such manner as they would be were the people all assembled. Having made these
general observations, I shall proceed to consider further my principal position, viz. that there is
no substantial representation of the people provided for in a government, in which the most
essential powers, even as to the internal police of the country, are proposed to be lodged; and to
propose certain amendments as to the representative branch….
The representation is insubstantial and ought to be increased. In matters where there is much
room for opinion, you will not expect me to establish my positions with mathematical certainty;
you must only expect my observations to be candid, and such as are well founded in the mind of
the writer. I am in a field where doctors disagree; and as to genuine representation, though no
feature in government can be more important, perhaps, no one has been less understood, and no
one that has received so imperfect a consideration by political writers. The ephori in Sparta, and
the tribunes in Rome, were but the shadow; the representation in Great Britain is unequal and
insecure. In America we have done more in establishing this important branch on its true
principles, than, perhaps, all the world besides. Yet even here, I conceive, that very great
improvements in representation may be made. In fixing this branch, the situation of the people
must be surveyed, and the number of representatives and forms of election apportioned to that
situation. When we find a numerous people settled in a fertile and extensive country, possessing
equality, and few or none of them oppressed with riches or wants, it ought to be the anxious care
of the constitution and laws, to arrest them from national depravity, and to preserve them in their
happy condition. A virtuous people make just laws, and good laws tend to preserve unchanged a
virtuous people. A virtuous and happy people by laws uncongenial to their characters, may easily
be gradually changed into servile and depraved creatures. Where the people, or their
representatives, make the laws, it is probable they will generally be fitted to the national
character and circumstances, unless the representation be partial, and the imperfect substitute of
the people. However the people may be electors, if the representation be so formed as to give one
or more of the natural classes of men in society an undue ascendancy over others, it is imperfect;
the former will gradually become masters, and the latter slaves. It is the first of all among the
political balances, to preserve in its proper station each of these classes. We talk of balances in
the legislature, and among the departments of government; we ought to carry them to the body of
the people. Since I advanced the idea of balancing the several orders of men in a community, in
forming a genuine representation, and seen that idea considered as chimerical, I have been
sensibly struck with a sentence in the Marquis Beccaria’s treatise. This sentence was quoted by
Congress in 1774, and is as follows:-“In every society there is an effort continually tending to
confer on one part the height of power and happiness, and to reduce the others to the extreme of
weakness and misery; the intent of good laws is to oppose this effort, and to diffuse their
influence universally and equally.” Add to this Montesquieu’s opinion, that “in a free state every
man, who is supposed to be a free agent, ought to be concerned in his own government:
therefore, the legislative should reside in the whole body of the people, or their representatives.”
It is extremely clear that these writers had in view the several orders of men in society, which we
call aristocratical, democratical, mercantile, mechanics etc., and perceived the efforts they are
constantly, from interested and ambitious views, disposed to make to elevate themselves and
oppress others. Each order must have a share in the business of legislation actually and
efficiently. It is deceiving a people to tell them they are electors, and can choose their legislators,
if they cannot, in the nature of things, choose men from among themselves, and genuinely like
themselves. I wish you to take another idea along with you. We are not only to balance these
natural efforts, but we are also to guard against accidental combinations; combinations founded
in the connections of offices and private interests, both evils which are increased in proportion as
the number of men, among which the elected must be, are decreased. To set this matter in a
proper point of view, we must form some general ideas and descriptions of the different classes
of men, as they may be divided by occupation and politically. The first class is the aristocratical.
There are three kinds of aristocracy spoken of in this country-the first is a constitutional one,
which does not exist in the United States in our common acceptation of the word. Montesquieu,
it is true, observes that where part of the persons in a society, for want of property, age, or moral
character, are excluded any share in the government, the others, who alone are the constitutional
electors and elected, form this aristocracy. This, according to him, exists in each of the United
States, where a considerable number of persons, as all convicted of crimes, under age, or not
possessed of certain property, are excluded any share in the government. The second is an
aristocratic faction, a junto of unprincipled men, often distinguished for their wealth or abilities,
who combine together and make their object their private interests and aggrandizement. The
existence of this description is merely accidental, but particularly to be guarded against. The
third is the natural aristocracy; this term we use to designate a respectable order of men, the line
between whom and the natural democracy is in some degree arbitrary. We may place men on one
side of this line, which others may place on the other, and in all disputes between the few and the
many, a considerable number are wavering and uncertain themselves on which side they are, or
ought to be. In my idea of our natural aristocracy in the United States, I include about four or
five thousand men; and among these I reckon those who have been placed in the offices of
governors, of members of Congress, and state senators generally, in the principal officers of the
army and militia, the superior judges, the most eminent professional men, etc., and men of large
property. The other persons and orders in the community form the natural democracy; this
includes in general, the yeomanry, the subordinate officers, civil and military, the fishermen,
mechanics and traders, many of the merchants and professional men. It is easy to perceive that
men of these two classes, the aristocratical and democratical, with views equally honest, have
sentiments widely different, especially respecting public and private expenses, salaries, taxes,
etc. Men of the first class associate more extensively, have a high sense of honor, possess
abilities, ambition, and general knowledge; men of the second class are not so much used to
combining great objects; they possess less ambition, and a larger share of honesty; their
dependence is principally on middling and small estates, industrious pursuits, and hard labor,
while that of the former is principally on the emoluments of large estates, and of the chief offices
of government. Not only the efforts of these two great parties are to be balanced, but other
interests and parties also, which do not always oppress each other merely for want of power, and
for fear of the consequences; though they, in fact, mutually depend on each other. Yet such are
their general views, that the merchants alone would never fail to make laws favorable to
themselves and oppressive to the farmers. The farmers alone would act on like principles; the
former would tax the land, the latter the trade. The manufacturers are often disposed to contend
for monopolies; buyers make every exertion to lower prices; and sellers to raise them. Men who
live by fees and salaries endeavor to raise them; and the part of the people who pay them,
endeavor to lower them; the public creditors to augment the taxes, and the people at large to
lessen them. Thus, in every period of society, and in all the transactions of men, we see parties
verifying the observation made by the Marquis; and those classes which have not their centinels
in the government, in proportion to what they have to gain or lose, must infallibly be ruined.
Efforts among parties are not merely confined to property. They contend for rank and
distinctions; all their passions in turn are enlisted in political controversies. Men, elevated in
society, are often disgusted with the changeableness of the democracy, and the latter are often
agitated with the passions of jealousy and envy. The yeomanry possess a large share of property
and strength, are nervous and firm in their opinions and habits; the mechanics of towns are
ardent and changeable-honest and credulous, they are inconsiderable for numbers, weight and
strength, not always sufficiently stable for supporting free governments; the fishing interest
partakes partly of the strength and stability of the landed, and partly of the changeableness of the
mechanic interest. As to merchants and traders, they are our agents in almost all money
transactions, give activity to government, and possess a considerable share of influence in it. It
has been observed by an able writer, that frugal industrious merchants are generally advocates
for liberty. It is an observation, I believe, well founded, that the schools produce but few
advocates for republican forms of government. Gentlemen of the law, divinity, physic, etc.,
probably form about a fourth part of the people; yet their political influence, perhaps, is equal to
that of all the other descriptions of men. If we may judge from the appointments to Congress, the
legal characters will often, in a small representation, be the majority; but the more the
representatives are increased, the more of the farmers, merchants, etc., will be found to be
brought into the government.
These general observations will enable you to discern what I intend by different classes, and the
general scope of my ideas, when I contend for uniting and balancing their interests, feelings,
opinions, and views in the legislature. We may not only so unite and balance these as to prevent
a change in the government by the gradual exaltation of one part to the depression of others, but
we may derive many other advantages from the combination and full representation. A small
representation can never be well informed as to the circumstances of the people. The members of
it must be too far removed from the people, in general, to sympathize with them, and too few to
communicate with them. A representation must be extremely imperfect where the representatives
are not circumstanced to make the proper communications to their constituents, and where the
constituents in turn cannot, with tolerable convenience, make known their wants, circumstances,
and opinions to their representatives. Where there is but one representative to 30,000 or 40,000
inhabitants, it appears to me, he can only mix and be acquainted with a few respectable
characters among his constituents. Even double the general representation, and then there must
be a very great distance between the representatives and the people in general represented. On
the proposed plan, the state of Delaware, the city of Philadelphia, the state of Rhode Island, the
province of Maine, the county of Suffolk in Massachusetts, will have one representative each.
There can be but little personal knowledge, or but few communications, between him and the
people at large of either of those districts. It has been observed that mixing only with the
respectable men, he will get the best information and ideas from them; he will also receive
impressions favorable to their purposes particularly….
Could we get over all our difficulties respecting a balance of interests and party efforts, to raise
some and oppress others, the want of sympathy, information and intercourse between the
representatives and the people, an insuperable difficulty will still remain. I mean the constant
liability of a small number of representatives to private combinations. The tyranny of the one, or
the licentiousness of the multitude, are, in my mind, but small evils, compared with the factions
of the few. It is a consideration well worth pursuing, how far this house of representatives will be
liable to be formed into private juntos, how far influenced by expectations of appointments and
offices, how far liable to be managed by the president and senate, and how far the people will
have confidence in them….

Anti-Federalist No. 56 WILL THE HOUSE OF
. . . . Why in England have the revolutions always ended in stipulations in favor of general
liberty, equal laws, and the common rights of the people, and in most other countries in favor
only of a few influential men? The reasons, in my mind, are obvious. In England the people have
been substantially represented in many respects; in the other countries it has not been so. Perhaps
a small degree of attention to a few simple facts will illustrate this. In England, from the
oppressions of the Norman Kings to the revolution in 1688, during which period of two or three
hundred years, the English liberties were ascertained and established, the aristocratic part of that
nation was substantially represented by a very large number of nobles, possessing similar
interests and feelings with those they represented. The body of the people, about four or five
millions, then mostly a frugal landed people, were represented by about five hundred
representatives, taken not from the order of men which formed the aristocracy, but from the body
of the people, and possessed of the same interests and feelings. De Lolme, speaking of the
British representation, expressly founds all his reasons on this union; this similitude of interests,
feelings, views and circumstances. He observes the English have preserved their liberties,
because they and their leaders or representatives have been strictly united in interests, and in
contending for general liberty. Here we see a genuine balance founded in the actual state of
things. The whole community, probably, not more than two-fifths more numerous than we now
are, were represented by seven or eight hundred men; the barons stipulated with the common
people, and the king with the whole. Had the legal distinction between lords and commons been
broken down, and the people of that island been called upon to elect forty-five senators, and one
hundred and twenty representatives, about the proportion we propose to establish, their whole
legislature evidently would have been of the natural aristocracy, and the body of the people
would not have had scarcely a single sincere advocate. Their interests would have been
neglected, general and equal liberty forgot, and the balance lost. Contests and conciliations, as in
most other countries, would have been merely among the few, and as it might have been
necessary to serve their purposes, the people at large would have been flattered or threatened,
and probably not a single stipulation made in their favor. In Rome the people were miserable,
though they bad three orders, the consuls, senators, and tribunes, and approved the laws, and all
for want of a genuine representation. The people were too numerous to assemble, and do any
thing properly themselves. The voice of a few, the dupes of artifice, was called the voice of the
people. It is difficult for the people to defend themselves against the arts and intrigues of the
great, but by selecting a suitable number of men fixed to their interests to represent them, and to
oppose ministers and senators. . . . [Much] depends on the number of the men selected, and the
manner of doing it. To be convinced of this, we need only attend to the reason of the case, the
conduct of the British commons, and of the Roman tribunes. Equal liberty prevails in England,
because there was a representation of the people, in fact and reality, to establish it. Equal liberty
never prevailed in Rome because there was but the shadow of a representation. There were
consuls in Rome annually elected to execute the laws; several hundred senators represented the
great families; the body of the people annually chose tribunes from among themselves to defend
them and to secure their rights; I think the number of tribunes annually chosen never exceeded
ten. This representation, perhaps, was not proportionally so numerous as the representation
proposed in the new plan; but the difference will not appear to be so great, when it shall be
recollected, that these tribunes were chosen annually, that the great patrician families were not
admitted to these offices of tribunes, and that the people of Italy who elected the tribunes were a
long while, if not always, a small people compared with the people of the United States. What
was the consequence of this trifling representation? The people of Rome always elected for their
tribunes men conspicuous for their riches, military commands, professional popularity, etc., great
commoners, between whom and the noble families there was only the shadowy difference of
legal distinction. Among all the tribunes the people chose for several centuries, they had scarcely
five real friends to their interests. These tribunes lived, felt and saw, not like the people, but like
the great patrician families, like senators and great officers of state, to get into which it was
evident by their conduct, was their sole object. These tribunes often talked about the rights and
prerogatives of the people, and that was all; for they never even attempted to establish equal
liberty. So far from establishing the rights of the people, they suffered the senate, to the
exclusion of the people, to engross the powers of taxation; those excellent and almost only real
weapons of defense even the people of England possess. The tribunes obtained that the people
should be eligible to some of the great offices of state, and marry, if they pleased, into the noble
families; these were advantages in their nature, confined to a few elevated commoners, and of
trifling importance to the people at large. Nearly the same observations may be made as to the
ephori of Sparta.
We may amuse ourselves with names; but the fact is, men will be governed by the motives and
temptations that surround their situation. Political evils to be guarded against are in the human
character, and not in the name of patrician or plebeian. Had the people of Italy, in the early
period of the republic, selected yearly or biennially, four or five hundred of their best informed
men, emphatically from among themselves, these representatives would have formed an honest
respectable assembly, capable of combining in them the views and exertions of the people and
their respectability would have procured them honest and able leaders, and we should have seen
equal liberty established. True liberty stands in need of a fostering band,- from the days of Adam
she has found but one temple to dwell in securely. She has laid the foundation of one, perhaps
her last in America; whether this is to be completed and have duration, is yet a question. Equal
liberty never yet found many advocates among the great. It is a disagreeable truth that power
perverts men’s views in a greater degree than public employments inform their understandings.
They become hardened in certain maxims, and more lost to fellow feelings. Men may always be
too cautious to commit alarming and glaring iniquities; but they, as well as systems, are liable to
be corrupted by slow degrees. Junius well observes, we are not only to guard against what men
will do, but even against what they may do. Men in high public offices are in stations where they
gradually lose sight of the people, and do not often think of attending to them, except when
necessary to answer private purposes.
The body of the people must have this true representative security placed some where in the
nation. And in the United States, or in any extended empire, I am fully persuaded [it] can be
placed no where, but in the forms of a federal republic, where we can divide and place it in
several state or district legislatures, giving the people in these the means of opposing heavy
internal taxes and oppressive measures in the proper stages. A great empire contains the amities
and animosities of a world within itself. We are not like the people of England, one people
compactly settled on a small island, with a great city filled with frugal merchants, serving as a
common centre of liberty and union. We are dispersed, and it is impracticable for any but the few
to assemble in one place. The few must be watched, checked, and often resisted. Tyranny has
ever shown a predilection to be in close amity with them, or the one man. Drive it from kings
and it flies to senators, to decemviri, to dictators, to tribunes, to popular leaders, to military
chiefs, etc.
De Lolme well observes, that in societies, laws which were to be equal to all are soon warped to
the private interests of the administrators, and made to defend the usurpations of a few. The
English, who had tasted the sweets of equal laws, were aware of this, and though they restored
their king, they carefully delegated to parliament the advocates of freedom.
I have often lately heard it observed that it will do very well for a people to make a constitution
and ordain that at stated periods they will choose, in a certain manner, a first magistrate, a given
number of senators and representatives, and let them have all power to do as they please. This
doctrine, however it may do for a small republic-as Connecticut, for instance, where the people
may choose so many senators and representatives to assemble in the legislature, [representing] in
an eminent degree, the interests, the views, feelings, and genuine sentiments of the people
themselves – can never be admitted in an extensive country. And when this power is lodged in
the hands of a few, not to limit the few is but one step short of giving absolute power to one man.
In a numerous representation the abuse of power is a common injury, and has no temptation;
among the few, the abuse of power may often operate to the private emolument of those who
abuse it.
Antifederalist No. 57 WILL THE HOUSE OF
. . . . But “the people must elect good men.” Examine the system-is it practicable for them to
elect fit and proper representatives where the number is so small? “But the people may choose
whom they please.” This is an observation, I believe, made without due attention to facts and the
state of the community, To explain my meaning, I will consider the descriptions of men
commonly presented to the people as candidates for the offices of representatives. We may rank
them in three classes.
1. The men who form the natural aristocracy, as before defined.
2. Popular demagogues-these men also are often politically elevated, so as to be seen by the
people through the extent of large districts; they often have some abilities, fare] without
principle, and rise into notice by their noise and arts.
3. The substantial and respectable part of the democracy- they are a numerous and valuable set of
men, who discern and judge well, but from being generally silent in public assemblies are often
overlooked. They are the most substantial and best informed men in the several towns, who
occasionally fill the middle grades of offices, etc., who hold not a splendid, but respectable rank
in private concerns. These men are extensively diffused through all the counties, towns and small
districts in the union; even they, and their immediate connections, are raised above the majority
of the people, and as representatives are only brought to a level with a more numerous part of the
community, the middle orders, and a degree nearer the mass of the people. Hence it is, that the
best practical representation, even in a small state, must be several degrees more aristocratical
than the body of the people. A representation so formed as to admit but few or none of the third
class, is in my opinion, not deserving of the name. Even in armies, courts-martial are so formed
as to admit subaltern officers into them. The true idea is, so to open and enlarge the
representation as to let in a due proportion of the third class with those of the first. Now, my
opinion is, that the representation proposed is so small as that ordinarily very few or none of
them can be elected. And, therefore, after all the parade of words and forms, the government
must possess the soul of aristocracy, or something worse, the spirit of popular leaders.
I observed in a former letter, that the state of Delaware, of Rhode Island, the Province of Maine,
and each of the great counties in Massachusetts, etc., would have one member, and rather more
than one when the representatives shall be increased to one for each 30,000 inhabitants. In some
districts the people are more dispersed and unequal than in others. In Delaware they are compact,
in the Province of Maine dispersed; how can the elections in either of those districts be regulated
so that a man of the third class can be elected? Exactly the same principles and motives, the same
uncontrollable circumstances, must govern the elections as in the choice of the governors. Call
upon the people of either of those districts to choose a governor, and it will probably never
happen that they will not bestow a major part, or the greatest number, of their votes on some very
conspicuous or very popular character. A man that is known among a few thousands of people,
may be quite unknown among thirty or forty thousand. On the whole it appears to me to be
almost a self- evident position, that when we call on thirty or forty thousand inhabitants to unite
in giving their votes for one man it will be uniformly impracticable for them to unite in any men,
except those few who have become eminent for their civil or military rank, or their popular legal
abilities. It will be found totally impracticable for men in the private walks of life, except in the
profession of the law, to become conspicuous enough to attract the notice of so many electors
and have their suffrages.
But if I am right, it is asked why so many respectable men advocate the adoption of the proposed
system. Several reasons may be given. Many of our gentlemen are attached to the principles of
monarchy and aristocracy; they have an aversion to democratic republics. The body of the people
have acquired large powers and substantial influence by the revolution. In the unsettled state of
things, their numerous representatives, in some instances, misused their powers, and have
induced many good men suddenly to adopt ideas unfavorable to such republics, and which ideas
they will discard on reflection. Without scrutinizing into the particulars of the proposed system,
we immediately perceive that its general tendency is to collect the powers of government, now in
the body of the people in reality, and to place them in the higher orders and fewer hands; no
wonder then that all those of and about these orders are attached to it. They feel there is
something in this system advantageous to them. On the other hand, the body of the people
evidently feel there is something wrong and disadvantageous to them. Both descriptions perceive
there is something tending to bestow on the former the height of power and happiness, and to
reduce the latter to weakness, insignificance, and misery. The people evidently feel all this
though they want expressions to convey their ideas. Further, even the respectable part of the
democracy have never yet been able to distinguish clearly where the fallacy lies. They find there
are defects in the confederation; they see a system presented; they think something must be done;
and, while their minds are in suspense, the zealous advocates force a reluctant consent. Nothing
can be a stronger evidence of the nature of this system, than the general sense of the several
orders in the community respecting its tendency. The parts taken generally by them proves my
position, that notwithstanding the parade of words and forms, the government must possess the
soul of aristocracy.
Congress, heretofore, have asked for moderate additional powers. The cry was give them-be
federal. But the proper distinction between the cases that produce this disposition, and the system
proposed, has not been fairly made and seen in all its consequences. We have seen some of our
state representations too numerous and without examining a medium we run to the opposite
extreme. It is true, the proper number of federal representatives, is matter of opinion in some
degree; but there are extremes which we immediately perceive, and others which we clearly
discover on examination. We should readily pronounce a representative branch of 15 members
small in a federal government, having complete powers as to taxes, military matters, commerce,
the coin, etc. On the other hand, we should readily pronounce a federal representation as
numerous as those of the several states, consisting of about 1,500 representatives, unwieldy and
totally improper. It is asked, has not the wisdom of the convention found the medium? Perhaps
not. The convention was divided on this point of numbers. At least some of its ablest members
urged, that instead of 65 representatives there ought to be 130 in the first instance. They fixed
one representative for each 40,000 inhabitants, and at the close of the work, the president
suggested that the representation appeared to be too small and without debate, it was put at, not
exceeding one for each 30,000. I mention these facts to show, that the convention went on no
fixed data. In this extensive country it is difficult to get a representation sufficiently numerous.
Necessity, I believe, will oblige us to sacrifice in some degree the true genuine principles of
representation. But this sacrifice ought to be as little as possible. How far we ought to increase
the representation I will not pretend to say; but that we ought to increase it very considerably, is
clear-to double it at least, making full allowances for the state representations. And this we may
evidently do and approach accordingly towards safety and perfection without encountering any
inconveniences. It is with great difficulty the people can unite these different interests and views
even tolerably, in the state senators, who are more than twice as numerous as the federal
representatives, as proposed by the convention; even these senators are considered as so far
removed from the people, that they are not allowed immediately to hold their purse strings. The
principal objections made to the increase of the representation are, the expense and difficulty in
getting the members to attend. The first cannot be important; the last, if founded, is against any
federal government. As to the expense, I presume the house of representatives will not be in
sessions more than four months in the year. We find by experience that about two-thirds of the
members of representative assemblies usually attend; therefore, of the representation proposed
by the convention, about forty-five members probably will attend. Doubling their number, about
90 will probably attend. Their pay, in one case, at four dollars a day each (which is putting it
high enough) will amount to, yearly, 21,600 dollars; in the other case, 43,200 dollars-[a]
difference [of] 21,600 dollars. Reduce the state representatives from 1,500 down to 1,000 and
thereby save the attendance of two-thirds of the 500, say three months in a year, at one dollar and
a quarter a day each [would amount to] 37,125 dollars. Thus we may leave the state
representations sufficient large, and yet save enough by the reduction nearly to support
exceeding well the whole federal representation I propose. Surely we -never can be so unwise as
to sacrifice, essentially, the all- important principles of representation for so small a sum as
21,600 dollars a year for the United States. A single company of soldiers would cost this sum. It
is a fact that can easily be shown, that we expend three times this sum every year upon useless
inferior offices and very trifling concerns. It is also a fact which can be shown that the United
States in the late war suffered more by a faction in the federal government, then the pay of the
federal representation will amount to for twenty years.
As to the attendance-can we be so unwise as to establish an unsafe and inadequate representative
branch, and give it as a reason, that we believe only a few members will be induced to attend?
We ought certainly to establish an adequate representative branch, and adopt measures to induce
an attendance. I believe that a due proportion of 130 or 140 members may be induced to attend.
There are various reasons for the non-attendance of the members of the present congress; it is to
be presumed that these will not exist under the new system…
In the second place, it is said the members of congress must return home, and share in the
burdens they may impose; and, therefore, private motives will induce them to make mild laws, to
support liberty, and ease the burdens of the people, This brings us to a mere question of interest
under this head. I think these observations will appear, on examination, altogether fallacious;
because this individual interest, which may coincide with the rights and interests of the people,
will be far more than balanced by opposite motives and opposite interests. If, on a fair
calculation, a man will gain more by measures oppressive to others than he will lose by them, he
is interested in their adoption. It is true, that those who govern generally, by increasing the public
burdens, increase their own share of them; but by this increase they may, and often do, increase
their salaries, fees, and emoluments, in a tenfold proportion, by increasing salaries, forming
armies and navies, and by making offices. If it shall appear the members of congress will have
these temptations before them, the argument is on my side. They will view the account, and be
induced continually to make efforts advantageous to themselves and connections, and oppressive
to others.
We must examine facts. Congress, in its present form, have but few offices to dispose of worth
the attention of the members, or of men of the aristocracy. Yet from 1774 to this time, we find a
large proportion of those offices assigned to those who were or had been members of congress;
and though the states choose annually sixty or seventy members, many of them have been
provided for. But few men are known to congress in this extensive country, and, probably, but
few will be to the president and senate, except those who have or shall appear as members of
congress, or those whom the members may bring forward. The states may now choose yearly
ninety-one members of congress; under the new constitution they will have it in their power to
choose exactly the same number, perhaps afterwards, one hundred and :fifteen, but these must be
chosen once in two and six years. So that, in the course of ten years together, not more than twothirds
so many members of congress will be elected and brought into view, as there now are
under the confederation in the same term of time. But at least there will be five, if not ten times,
as many offices and places worthy of the attention of the members, under the new constitution,
as there are under the confederation. Therefore, we may fairly presume, that a very great
proportion of the members of congress, especially the influential ones, instead of returning to
private life, will be provided for with lucrative offices, in the civil or military department; and
not only the members, but many of their sons, friends, and connections. These offices will be in
the constitutional disposition of the president and senate, and, corruption out of the question,
what kind of security can we expect in a representation so many of the members of which may
rationally feel themselves candidates for these offices? Let common sense decide. It is true, that
members chosen to offices must leave their seats in congress; and to some few offices they
cannot be elected till the time shall be expired for which they were elected members. But this
scarcely will effect the bias arising from the hopes and expectations of office….
But it is asked how shall we remedy the evil, so as to complete and perpetuate the temple of
equal laws and equal liberty? Perhaps we never can do it. Possibly we never may be able to do it
in this immense country, under any one system of laws however modified. Nevertheless, at
present, I think the experiment worth making. I feel an aversion to the disunion of the states, and
to separate confederacies; the states have fought and bled in a common cause, and great dangers
too may attend these confederacies. I think the system proposed capable of very considerable
degrees of perfection, if we pursue first principles. I do not think that De Lolme, or any writer I
have seen, has sufficiently pursued the proper inquiries and efficient means for making
representation and balances in government more perfect. It is our task to do this in America. Our
object is equal liberty, and equal laws diffusing their influence among all orders of men. To
obtain this we must guard against the bias of interest and passions, against interested
combinations, secret or open. We must aim at a balance of efforts and strength.
Clear it is, by increasing the representation we lessen the prospects of each member of congress
being provided for in public offices. We proportionably lessen official influence, and strengthen
his prospects of becoming a private citizen, subject to the common burdens, without the
compensation of the emoluments of office. By increasing the representation we make it more
difficult to corrupt and influence the members. We diffuse them more extensively among the
body of the people, perfect the balance, multiply information, strengthen the confidence of the
people, and consequently support the laws on equal and free principles. There are two other
ways, I think, of obtaining in some degree the security we want; the one is, by excluding more
extensively the members from being appointed to offices; the other is, by limiting some of their
powers. These two I shall examine hereafter.
Antifederalist No. 58 WILL THE HOUSE OF
It is said that our people have a high sense of freedom, possess power, property, and the strong
arm; meaning, I presume, that the body of the people can take care of themselves, and awe their
rulers; and, therefore, particular provision in the constitution for their security may not be
essential. When I come to examine these observations, they appear to me too trifling and loose to
deserve a serious answer.
To palliate for the smallness of the representation, it is observed, that the state governments in
which the people are fully represented, necessarily form a part of the system. This idea ought to
be fully examined. We ought to inquire if the convention have made the proper use of these
essential parts. The state governments then, we are told, will stand between the arbitrary exercise
of power and the people. True they may, but armless and helpless, perhaps, with the privilege of
making a noise when hurt. This is no more than individuals may do. Does the constitution
provide a single check for a single measure by which the state governments can constitutionally
and regularly check the arbitrary measures of congress? Congress may raise immediately fifty
thousand men and twenty millions of dollars in taxes, build a navy, model the militia, etc., and
all this constitutionally. Congress may arm on every point, and the state governments can do no
more than an individual, by petition to congress, suggest their measures are alarming and not
I conceive the position to be undeniable, that the federal government will be principally in the
hands of the natural aristocracy, and the state governments principally in the hands of the
democracy, the representatives of the body of the people. These representatives in Great Britain
hold the purse, and have a negative upon all laws. We must yield to circumstances and depart
something from this plan, and strike out a new medium so as to give efficacy to the whole
system, supply the wants of the union, and leave the several states, or the people assembled in
the state legislatures, the means of defense.
It has been often mentioned that the objects of congress will be few and national, and require a
small representation; that the objects of each state will be many and local, and require a
numerous representation. This circumstance has not the weight of a feather in my mind. It is
certainly inadvisable to lodge in 65 representatives, and 26 senators, unlimited power to establish
systems of taxation, armies, navies, model the militia, and to do every thing that may essentially
tend soon to change, totally, the affairs of the community; and to assemble 1500 state
representatives, and 160 senators, to make fence laws and laws to regulate the descent and
conveyance of property, the administration of justice between man and man, to appoint militia
officers, etc.
It is not merely the quantity of information I contend for. Two taxing powers may be
inconvenient; but the point is, congress, like the senate of Rome, will have taxing powers, and
the people no check. When the power is abused, the people may complain and grow angry, so
may the state governments; they may remonstrate and counteract, by passing laws to prohibit the
collection of congressional taxes. But these will be acts of the people, acts of sovereign power,
the dernier resort unknown to the constitution; acts operating in terrorum, acts of resistance, and
not the exercise of any constitutional power to stop or check a measure before matured. A check
properly is the stopping, by one branch in the same legislature, a measure proposed by the other
in it. In fact the constitution provides for the states no check, properly speaking, upon the
measures of congress. Congress can immediately enlist soldiers, and apply to the pockets of the
These few considerations bring us to the very strong distinction between the plan that operates
on federal principles, and the plan that operates on consolidated principles. A plan may be
federal or not as to its organization each state may retain its vote or not; the sovereignty of the
state may be represented, or the people of it. A plan may be federal or not as to its operationfederal
when it requires men and monies of the states, and the states as such make the laws for
raising the men and monies; not federal when it leaves the states’ governments out of the
question, and operates immediately upon the persons and property of the citizens. The first is the
case with the confederation; the second with the new plan. In the first the state governments may
be [a] check; in the last none at all. . . .
It is also said that the constitution gives no more power to congress than the confederation,
respecting money and military matters; that congress under the confederation, may require men
and monies to any amount, and the states are bound to comply. This is generally true; but, I think
. . . that the states have well founded checks for securing their liberties. I admit the force of the
observation that all the federal powers, by the confederation, are lodged in a single assembly.
However, I think much more may be said in defense of the leading principles of the
confederation. I do not object to the qualifications of the electors of representatives, and I fully
agree that the people ought to elect one branch.
Further, it may be observed, that the present congress is principally an executive body, which
ought not to be numerous; that the house of representatives will be a mere legislative branch, and
being the democratic on ought to be numerous. It is one of the greatest advantages of a
government of different branches, that each branch may be conveniently made conformable to
the nature of the business assigned it, and all be made conformable to the condition of the several
orders of the people. After all the possible checks and limitations we can devise, the powers of
the union must be very extensive; the sovereignty of the nation cannot produce the object in
view, the defense and tranquility of the whole, without such powers, executive and judicial. I
dislike the present congress-a single assembly-because it is impossible to fit it to receive those
powers. The executive and judicial powers, in the nature of things, ought to be lodged in a few
hands; the legislature in many hands. Therefore, want of safety and unavoidable hasty measures
out of the question, they never can all be lodged in one assembly properly-it, in its very
formation, must imply a contradiction.
In objection to increasing the representation, it has also been observed that it is difficult to
assemble a hundred men or more without making the tumultuous and a mere mob. Reason and
experience do not support this observation. The most respectable assemblies we have any
knowledge of and the wisest, have been those, each of which consisted of several hundred
members – as the senate of Rome, of Carthage, of Venice, the British Parliament, etc. I think I
may, without hazarding much, affirm that our more numerous state assemblies and conventions
have universally discovered more wisdom, and as much order, as the less numerous ones. There
must be also a very great difference between the characters of two or three hundred men
assembled from a single state, and the characters of that number or half the number assembled
from all the united states.
It is added, that on the proposed plan the house of representatives in fifty or a hundred years will
consist of several hundred members. The plan will begin with sixty-five, and we have no
certainty that the number ever will increase, for this plain reason-that all that combination of
interests and influence which has produced this plan, and supported [it] so far, will constantly
oppose the increase of the representation, knowing that thereby the government will become
more free and democratic. But admitting, after a few years, there will be a member for each
30,000 inhabitants, the observation is trifling; the government is in a considerable measure to
take its tone from its early movements, and by means of a small representation it may in half of
50 or 100 years, get moved from its basis, or at least so far as to be incapable of ever being
recovered. We ought, therefore, . . . now to fix the government on proper principles, and fit to
our present condition. When the representation shall become too numerous, alter it. Or we may
now make provision, that when the representation shall be increased to a given number, that then
there shall be one for each given number of inhabitants, etc.
Another observation is, that congress will have no temptations to do wrong. The men that make
it must be very uninformed, or suppose they are talking to children. In the first place, the
members will be governed by all those motives which govern the conduct of men, and have
before them all the allurements of offices and temptations to establish unequal burdens, before
described. In the second place, they and their friends, probably, will find it for their interests to
keep up large armies, navies, salaries, etc., and in laying adequate taxes. In the third place, we
have no good grounds to presume, from reason or experience, that it will be agreeable to their
characters or views, that the body of the people should continue to have power effectually to
interfere in the affairs of government. But it is confidently added, that congress will not have it in
their power to oppress or enslave the people; that the people will not bear it. It is not supposed
that congress will act the tyrant immediately, and in the face of daylight. It is not supposed
congress will adopt important measures without plausible pretenses, especially those which may
tend to alarm or produce opposition. We are to consider the natural progress of things-that men
unfriendly to republican equality will go systematically to work, gradually to exclude the body of
the people from any share in the government, first of the substance, and then of the forms. The
men who will have these views will not be without their agents and supporters. When we reflect,
that a few years ago we established democratic republics, and fixed the state governments as the
barriers between congress and the pickets of the people, what great progress has been made in
less than seven years to break down those barriers, and essentially to change the principles of our
governments, even by the armless few-is it chimerical to suppose that in fifteen or twenty years
to come, that much more can be performed, especially after the adoption of the constitution,
when the few will be so much better armed with power and influence, to continue the struggle?
Probably they will be wise enough never to alarm, but gradually prepare the minds of the people
for one specious change after another, till the final object shall be obtained. Say the advocates,
these are only possibilities. They are probabilities a wise people ought to guard against; and the
address made use of to keep the evils out of sight, and the means to prevent them, confirm my
But to obviate all objections to the proposed plan in the last resort, it is said our people will be
free, so long as they possess the habits of freemen, and when they lose them, they must receive
some other forms of government. To this I shall only observe, that this is very humiliating
language, and can, I trust, never suit a manly people who have contended nobly for liberty, and
declared to the world they will be free.

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