The Anti-Federalist Papers | Cato 4
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The Anti-Federalist Papers | Cato 4


To the CITIZENS of the STATE of NEW-YORK. Admitting, however, that the vast extent of
America, together with the various other reasons which I offered you in my last number, against
the practicability of the just exercise of the new government are insufficient to convince
you; still it is an undeniable truth, that its several parts are either possessed of
principles, which you have heretofore considered as ruinous, and that others are omitted which
you have established as fundamental to your political security, and must in their operation,
I will venture to assert-fetter your tongues and minds, enchain your bodies, and ultimately
extinguish all that is great and noble in man. In pursuance of my plan, I shall begin with
observations on the executive branch of this new system; and though it is not the first
in order, as arranged therein, yet being the chief, is perhaps entitled by the rules of
rank to the first consideration. The executive power as described in the 2d
article, consists of a president and vice-president, who are to hold their offices during the term
of four years; the same article has marked the manner and time of their election, and
established the qualifications of the president; it also provides against the removal, death,
or inability of the president and vice-president—regulates the salary of the president, delineates his
duties and powers; and lastly, declares the causes for which the president and vice-president
shall be removed from office. Notwithstanding the great learning and abilities
of the gentlemen who composed the convention, it may be here remarked with deference, that
the construction of the first paragraph of the first section of the second article, is
vague and inexplicit, and leaves the mind in doubt, as to the election of a president
and vice-president, after the expiration of the election for the first term of four years—in
every other case, the election of these great officers is expressly provided for; but there
is no explicit provision for their election in case of the expiration of their offices,
subsequent to the election which is to set this political machine in motion—no certain
and express terms as in your state constitution, that statedly once in every four years, and
as often as these offices shall become vacant, by expiration or otherwise, as is therein
expressed, an election shall be held as follows, &c.—this inexplicitness perhaps may lead
to an establishment for life. It is remarked by Montesquieu, in treating
of republics, that in all magistracies, the greatness of the power must be compensated
by the brevity of the duration; and that a longer time than a year, would be dangerous. It is therefore obvious to the least intelligent
mind, to account why, great power in the hands of a magistrate, and that power connected,
with a considerable duration, may be dangerous to the liberties of a republic—the deposit
of vast trusts in the hands of a single magistrate, enables him in their exercise, to create a
numerous train of dependants—this tempts his ambition, which in a republican magistrate
is also remarked, to be pernicious and the duration of his office for any considerable
time favours his views, gives him the means and time to perfect and execute his designs—he
therefore fancies that he may be great and glorious by oppressing his fellow citizens,
and raising himself to permanent grandieur on the ruins of his country—And here it
may be necessary to compare the vast and important powers of the president, together with his
continuance in office with the foregoing doctrine—his eminent magisterial situation will attach
many adherents to him, and he will be surrounded by expectants and courtiers—his power of
nomination and influence on all appointments—the strong posts in each state comprised within
his superintendance, and garrisoned by troops under his direction—his controul over the
army, militia, and navy—the unrestrained power of granting pardons for treason, which
may be used to screen from punishment, those whom he had secretly instigated to commit
the crime, and thereby prevent a discovery of his own guilt—his duration in office
for four years: these, and various other principles evidently prove the truth of the position—that
if the president is possessed of ambition, he has power and time sufficient to ruin his
country. Though the president, during the sitting of
the legislature, is assisted by the senate, yet he is without a constitutional council
in their recess—he will therefore be unsupported by proper information and advice, and will
generally be directed by minions and favorites, or a council of state will grow out of the
principal officers of the great departments, the most dangerous council in a free country. The ten miles square, which is to become the
seat of government, will of course be the place of residence for the president and the
great officers of state—the same observations of a great man will apply to the court of
a president possessing the powers of a monarch, that is observed of that of a monarch—ambition
with idleness-baseness with pride-the thirst of riches without labour-aversion to truth-flattery-treason-perfidy-violation
of engagements-contempt of civil duties-hope from the magistrates weakness; but above all,
the perpetual ridicule of virtue—these, he remarks, are the characteristics by which
the courts in all ages have been distinguished. The language and the manners of this court
will be what distinguishes them from the rest of the community, not what assimilates them
to it, and in being remarked for a behaviour that shews they are not meanly born, and in
adulation to people of fortune and power. The establishment of a vice president is as
unnecessary as it is dangerous. This officer, for want of other employment,
is made president of the senate, thereby blending the executive and legislative powers, besides
always giving to some one state, from which he is to come, an unjust pre-eminence. It is a maxim in republics, that the representative
of the people should be of their immediate choice; but by the manner in which the president
is chosen he arrives to this office at the fourth or fifth hand, nor does the highest
votes, in the way he is elected, determine the choice—for it is only necessary that
he should be taken from the highest of five, who may have a plurality of votes. Compare your past opinions and sentiments
with the present proposed establishment, and you will find, that if you adopt it, that
it will lead you into a system which you heretofore reprobated as odious. Every American whig, not long since, bore
his emphatic testimony against a monarchical government, though limited, because of the
dangerous inequality that it created among citizens as relative to their rights and property;
and wherein does this president, invested with his powers and prerogatives, essentially
differ from the king of Great-Britain (save as to name, the creation of nobility and some
immaterial incidents, the off-spring of absurdity and locality) the direct prerogatives of the
president, as springing from his political character, are among the following:—It is
necessary, in order to distinguish him from the rest of the community, and enable him
to keep, and maintain his court, that the compensation for his services; or in other
words, his revenue should be such as to enable him to appear with the splendor of a prince;
he has the power of receiving embassadors from, and a great influence on their appointments
to foreign courts; as also to make treaties, leagues, and alliances with foreign states,
assisted by the senate, which when made, become the supreme law of the land: he is a constituent
part of the legislative power; for every bill which shall pass the house of representatives
and senate, is to be presented to him for approbation; if he approves of it, he is to
sign it, if he disapproves, he is to return it with objections, which in many cases will
amount to a compleat negative; and in this view he will have a great share in the power
of making peace, coining money, &c. and all the various objects of legislation, expressed
or implied in this Constitution: for though it may be asserted that the king of Great-Britain
has the express power of making peace or war, yet he never thinks it prudent so to do without
the advice of his parliament from whom he is to derive his support, and therefore these
powers, in both president and king, are substantially the same: he is the generalissimo of the nation,
and of course, has the command & controul of the army, navy and militia; he is the general
conservator of the peace of the union—he may pardon all offences, except in cases of
impeachment, and the principal fountain of all offices & employments. Will not the exercise of these powers therefore
tend either to the establishment of a vile and arbitrary aristocracy, or monarchy? The safety of the people in a republic depends
on the share or proportion they have in the government; but experience ought to teach
you, that when a man is at the head of an elective government invested with great powers,
and interested in his re-election, in what circle appointments will be made; by which
means an imperfect aristocracy bordering on monarchy may be established. You must, however, my countrymen, beware,
that the advocates of this new system do not deceive you, by a fallacious resemblance between
it and your own state government, which you so much prize; and if you examine, you will
perceive that the chief magistrate of this state, is your immediate choice, controuled
and checked by a just and full representation of the people, divested of the perogative
of influencing war and peace, making treaties, receiving and sending embassies, and commanding
standing armies and navies, which belong to the power of the confederation, and will be
convinced that this government is no more like a true picture of your own, than an Angel
of darkness resembles an Angel of light.

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