The Anti-Federalist Papers | Federal Farmer 17
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The Anti-Federalist Papers | Federal Farmer 17

Dear sir, I believe the people of the United States
are full in the opinion, that a free and mild government can be preserved in their extensive
territories, only under the substantial forms of a federal republic. As several of the ablest advocates for the
system proposed, have acknowledged this (and I hope the confessions they have published
will be preserved and remembered) I shall not take up time to establish this point. A question then arises, how far that system
partakes of a federal republic. — I observed in a former letter, that it
appears to be the first important step to a consolidation of the states; that its strong
tendency is to that point. But what do we mean by a federal republic?
and what by a consolidated government? To erect a federal republic, we must first
make a number of states on republican principles; each state with a government organized for
the internal management of its affairs: The states, as such, must unite under a federal
head, and delegate to it powers to make and execute laws in certain enumerated cases,
under certain restrictions; this head may be a single assembly, like the present congress,
or the Amphictionic council; or it may consist of a legislature, with one or more branches;
of an executive, and of a judiciary. To form a consolidated, or one entire government,
there must be no state, or local governments, but all things, persons and property, must
be subject to the laws of one legislature alone; to one executive, and one judiciary. Each state government, as the government of
New Jersey, &c. is a consolidated, or one entire government, as it respects the counties,
towns, citizens and property within the limits of the state. — The state governments are the basis, the
pillar on which the federal head is placed, and the whole together, when formed on elective
principles, constitute a federal republic. A federal republic in itself supposes state
or local governments to exist, as the body or props, on which the federal head rests,
and that it cannot remain a moment after they cease. In erecting the federal government, and always
in its councils, each state must be known as a sovereign body; but in erecting this
government, I conceive, the legislature of the state, by the expressed or implied assent
of the people, or the people of the state, under the direction of the government of it,
may accede to the federal compact: Nor do I conceive it to be necessarily a part of
a confederacy of states, that each have an equal voice in the general councils. A confederated republic being organized, each
state must retain powers for managing its internal police, and all delegate to the union
power to manage general concerns: The quantity of power the union must possess is one thing,
the mode of exercising the powers given, is quite a different consideration; and it is
the mode of exercising them, that makes one of the essential distinctions between one
entire or consolidated government, and a federal republic; that is, however the government
may be organized, if the laws of the union, in most important concerns, as in levying
and collecting taxes, raising troops, &c. operate immediately upon the persons and property
of individuals, and not on states, extend to organizing the militia, &c. the government,
as to its administration, as to making and executing laws, is not federal, but consolidated. To illustrate my idea — the union makes
a requisition, and assigns to each state its quota of men or monies wanted; each state,
by its own laws and officers, in its own way, furnishes its quota: here the state governments
stand between the union and individuals; the laws of the union operate only on states,
as such, and federally: Here nothing can be done without the meetings of the state legislatures
— but in the other case the union, though the state legislatures should not meet for
years together, proceeds immediately, by its own laws and officers, to levy and collect
monies of individuals, to inlist men, form armies, &c. here the laws of the union operate
immediately on the body of the people, on persons and property; in the same manner the
laws of one entire consolidated government operate. — These two modes are very distinct, and
in their operation and consequences have directly opposite tendencies: The first makes the existence
of the state governments indispensable, and throws all the detail business of levying
and collecting the taxes, &c. into the hands of those governments, and into the hands,
of course, of many thousand officers solely created by, and dependent on the state. The last entirely excludes the agency of the
respective states, and throws the whole business of levying and collecting taxes, &c. into
the hands of many thousand officers solely created by, and dependent upon the union,
and makes the existence of the state government of no consequence in the case. It is true, congress in raising any given
sum in direct taxes, must by the constitution, raise so much of it in one state, and so much
in another, by a fixed rule, which most of the states some time since agreed to: But
this does not effect the principle in question, it only secures each state against any arbitrary
proportions. The federal mode is perfectly safe and eligible,
founded in the true spirit of a confederated republic there could be no possible exception
to it, did we not find by experience, that the states will sometimes neglect to comply
with the reasonable requisitions of the union. It being according to the fundamental principles
of federal republics, to raise men and monies by requisitions, and for the states individually
to organize and train the militia, I conceive, there can be no reason whatever for departing
from them, except this, that the states sometimes neglect to comply with reasonable requisitions,
and that it is dangerous to attempt to compel a delinquent state by force, as it may often
produce a war. We ought, therefore, to enquire attentively,
how extensive the evils to be guarded against are, and cautiously limit the remedies to
the extent of the evils. I am not about to defend the confederation,
or to charge the proposed constitution with imperfections not in it; but we ought to examine
facts, and strip them of the false colourings often given them by incautious observations,
by unthinking or designing men. We ought to premise, that laws for raising
men and monies, even in consolidated governments, are not often punctually complied with. Historians, except in extraordinary cases,
but very seldom take notice of the detail collection of taxes; but these facts we have
fully proved, and well attested; that the most energetic governments have relinquished
taxes frequently, which were of many years standing. These facts amply prove, that taxes assessed,
have remained many years uncollected. I agree there have been instances in the republics
of Greece, Holland, &c. in the course of several centuries, of states neglecting to pay their
quotas of requisitions; but it is a circumstance certainly deserving of attention, whether
these nations which have depended on requisitions principally for their defence, have not raised
men and monies nearly as punctually as entire governments, which have taxed directly; whether
we have not found the latter as often distressed for the want of troops and monies, as the
former. It has been said, that the Amphictionic council,
and the Germanic head, have not possessed sufficient powers to controul the members
of the republic in a proper manner. Is this, if true, to be imputed to requisitions? Is it not principally to be imputed to the
unequal powers of those members, connected with this important circumstance, that each
member possessed power to league itself with foreign powers, and powerful neighbours, without
the consent of the head. After all, has not the Germanic body a government
as good as its neighbours in general? and did not the Grecian republic remain united
several centuries, and form the theatre of human greatness? No government in Europe has commanded monies
more plentifully than the government of Holland. As to the United States, the separate states
lay taxes directly, and the union calls for taxes by way of requisitions; and is it a
fact, that more monies are due in proportion on requisitions in the United States, than
on the state taxes directly laid? — It is but about ten years since congress
begun to make requisitions, and in that time, the monies, &c. required, and the bounties
given for men required of the states, have amounted, specie value, to about 36 millions
dollars, about 24 millions of dollars of which have been actually paid; and a very considerable
part of the 12 millions not paid, remains so not so much from the neglect of the states,
as from the sudden changes in paper money, &c. which in a great measure rendered payments
of no service, and which often induced the union indirectly to relinquish one demand,
by making another in a different form. Before we totally condemn requisitions, we
ought to consider what immense bounties the states gave, and what prodigious exertions
they made in the war, in order to comply with the requisitions of congress; and if since
the peace they have been delinquent, ought we not carefully to enquire, whether that
delinquency is to be imputed solely to the nature of requisitions? ought it not in part to be imputed to two
other causes? I mean first, an opinion, that has extensively
prevailed, that the requisitions for domestic interest have not been founded on just principles;
and secondly, the circumstance, that the government itself, by proposing imposts, &c. has departed
virtually from the constitutional system; which proposed changes, like all changes proposed
in government, produce an inattention and negligence in the execution of the government
in being. I am not for depending wholly on requisitions;
but I mention these few facts to shew they are not so totally futile as many pretend. For the truth of many of these facts I appeal
to the public records; and for the truth of the others, I appeal to many republican characters,
who are best informed in the affairs of the United States. Since the peace, and till the convention reported,
the wisest men in the United States generally supposed, that certain limited funds would
answer the purposes of the union: and though the states are by no means in so good a condition
as I wish they were, yet, I think, I may very safely affirm, they are in a better condition
than they would be had congress always possessed the powers of taxation now contended for. The fact is admitted, that our federal government
does not possess sufficient powers to give life and vigor to the political system; and
that we experience disappointments, and several inconveniencies; but we ought carefully to
distinguish those which are merely the consequences of a severe and tedious war, from those which
arise from defects in the federal system. There has been an entire revolution in the
United States within thirteen years, and the least we can compute the waste of labour and
property at, during that period, by the war, is three hundred million of dollars. Our people are like a man just recovering
from a severe fit of sickness. It was the war that disturbed the course of
commerce, introduced floods of paper money, the stagnation of credit, and threw many valuable
men out of steady business. From these sources our greatest evils arise;
men of knowledge and reflection must perceive it; — but then, have we not done more in
three or four years past, in repairing the injuries of the war, by repairing houses and
estates, restoring industry, frugality, the fisheries, manufactures, &c. and thereby laying
the foundation of good government, and of individual and political happiness, than any
people ever did in a like time; we must judge from a view of the country and facts, and
not from foreign newspapers, or our own, which are printed chiefly in the commercial towns,
where imprudent living, imprudent importations, and many unexpected disappointments, have
produced a despondency, and a disposition to view every thing on the dark side. Some of the evils we feel, all will agree,
ought to be imputed to the defective administration of the governments. From these and various considerations, I am
very clearly of opinion, that the evils we sustain, merely on account of the defects
of the confederation, are but as a feather in the balance against a mountain, compared
with those which would, infallibly, be the result of the loss of general liberty, and
that happiness men enjoy under a frugal, free, and mild government. Heretofore we do not seem to have seen danger
any where, but in giving power to congress, and now no where but in congress wanting powers;
and, without examining the extent of the evils to be remedied, by one step, we are for giving
up to congress almost all powers of any importance without limitation. The defects of the confederation are extravagantly
magnified, and every species of pain we feel imputed to them: and hence it is inferred,
there must be a total change of the principles, as well as forms of government: and in the
main point, touching the federal powers, we rest all on a logical inference, totally inconsistent
with experience and sound political reasoning. It is said, that as the federal head must
make peace and war, and provide for the common defence, it ought to possess all powers necessary
to that end: that powers unlimited, as to the purse and sword, to raise men and monies,
and form the militia, are necessary to that end; and, therefore, the federal head ought
to possess them. This reasoning is far more specious than solid:
it is necessary that these powers so exist in the body politic, as to be called into
exercise whenever necessary for the public safety; but it is by no means true, that the
man, or congress of men, whose duty it more immediately is to provide for the common defence,
ought to possess them without limitation. But clear it is, that if such men, or congress,
be not in a situation to hold them without danger to liberty, he or they ought not to
possess them. It has long been thought to be a well founded
position, that the purse and sword ought not to be placed in the same hands in a free government. Our wise ancestors have carefully separated
them — placed the sword in the hands of their king, even under considerable limitations,
and the purse in the hands of the commons alone: yet the king makes peace and war, and
it is his duty to provide for the common defence of the nation. This authority at least goes thus far — that
a nation, well versed in the science of government, does not conceive it to be necessary or expedient
for the man entrusted with the common defence and general tranquility, to possess unlimitedly
the powers in question, or even in any considerable degree. Could he, whose duty it is to defend the public,
possess in himself independently, all the means of doing it consistent with the public
good, it might be convenient: but the people of England know that their liberties and happiness
would be in infinitely greater danger from the king’s unlimited possession of these
powers, than from all external enemies and internal commotions to which they might be
exposed: therefore, though they have made it his duty to guard the empire, yet they
have wisely placed in other hands, the hands of their representatives, the power to deal
out and controul the means. In Holland their high mightinesses must provide
for the common defence, but for the means they depend, in a considerable degree, upon
requisitions made on the state or local assemblies. Reason and facts evince, that however convenient
it might be for an executive magistrate, or federal head, more immediately charged with
the national defence and safety, solely, directly, and independently to possess all the means;
yet such magistrate, or head, never ought to possess them, if thereby the public liberties
shall be endangered. The powers in question never have been, by
nations wise and free, deposited, nor can they ever be, with safety, any where, but
in the principal members of the national system: — where these form one entire government,
as in Great-Britain, they are separated and lodged in the principal members of it. But in a federal republic, there is quite
a different organization; the people form this kind of government, generally, because
their territories are too extensive to admit of their assembling in one legislature, or
of executing the laws on free principles under one entire government. They convene in their local assemblies, for
local purposes, and for managing their internal concerns, and unite their states under a federal
head for general purposes. It is the essential characteristic of a confederated
republic, that this head be dependant on, and kept within limited bounds by, the local
governments; and it is because, in these alone, in fact, the people can be substantially assembled
or represented. It is, therefore, we very universally see,
in this kind of government, the congressional powers placed in a few hands, and accordingly
limited, and specifically enumerated: and the local assemblies strong and well guarded,
and composed of numerous members. Wise men will always place the controuling
power where the people are substantially collected by their representatives. By the proposed system, the federal head will
possess, without limitation, almost every species of power that can, in its exercise,
tend to change the government, or to endanger liberty; while in it, I think it has been
fully shewn, the people will have but the shadow of representation, and but the shadow
of security for their rights and liberties. In a confederated republic, the division of
representation, &c. in its nature, requires a correspondent division and deposit of powers,
relative to taxes and military concerns: and I think the plan offered stands quite alone,
in confounding the principles of governments in themselves totally distinct. I wish not to exculpate the states for their
improper neglects in not paying their quotas of requisitions; but, in applying the remedy,
we must be governed by reason and facts. It will not be denied, that the people have
a right to change the government when the majority chuse it, if not restrained by some
existing compact — that they have a right to displace their rulers, and consequently
to determine when their measures are reasonable or not — and that they have a right, at
any time, to put a stop to those measures they may deem prejudicial to them, by such
forms and negatives as they may see fit to provide. From all these, and many other well founded
considerations, I need not mention, a question arises, what powers shall there be delegated
to the federal head, to insure safety, as well as energy, in the government? I think there is a safe and proper medium
pointed out by experience, by reason, and facts. When we have organized the government, we
ought to give power to the union, so far only as experience and present circumstances shall
direct, with a reasonable regard to time to come. Should future circumstances, contrary to our
expectations, require that further powers be transferred to the union, we can do it
far more easily, than get back those we may now imprudently give. The system proposed is untried: candid advocates
and opposers admit, that it is, in a degree, a mere experiment, and that its organization
is weak and imperfect; surely then, the safe ground is cautiously to vest power in it,
and when we are sure we have given enough for ordinary exigencies, to be extremely careful
how we delegate powers, which, in common cases, must necessarily be useless or abused, and
of very uncertain effect in uncommon ones. By giving the union power to regulate commerce,
and to levy and collect taxes by imposts, we give it an extensive authority, and permanent
productive funds, I believe quite as adequate to the present demands of the union, as excises
and direct taxes can be made to the present demands of the separate states. The state governments are now about four times
as expensive as that of the union; and their several state debts added together, are nearly
as large as that of the union — Our impost duties since the peace have been almost as
productive as the other sources of taxation, and when under one general system of regulations,
the probability is, that those duties will be very considerably increased: Indeed the
representation proposed will hardly justify giving to congress unlimited powers to raise
taxes by imposts, in addition to the other powers the union must necessarily have. It is said, that if congress possess only
authority to raise taxes by imposts, trade probably will be overburdened with taxes,
and the taxes of the union be found inadequate to any uncommon exigencies: To this we may
observe, that trade generally finds its own level, and will naturally and necessarily
heave off any undue burdens laid upon it: further, if congress alone possess the impost,
and also unlimited power to raise monies by excises and direct taxes, there must be much
more danger that two taxing powers, the union and states, will carry excises and direct
taxes to an unreasonable extent, especially as these have not the natural boundaries taxes
on trade have. However, it is not my object to propose to
exclude congress from raising monies by internal taxes, as by duties, excises, and direct taxes;
but my opinion is, that congress, especially in its proposed organization, ought not to
raise monies by internal taxes, except in strict conformity to the federal plan; that
is, by the agency of the state governments in all cases, except where a state shall neglect,
for an unreasonable time, to pay its quota of a requisition; and never where so many
of the state legislatures as represent a majority of the people, shall formally determine an
excise law or requisition is improper, in their next session after the same be laid
before them. We ought always to recollect that the evil
to be guarded against is found by our own experience, and the experience of others,
to be mere neglect in the states to pay their quotas; and power in the union to levy and
collect the neglecting states’ quotas with interest, is fully adequate to the evil. By this federal plan, with this exception
mentioned, we secure the means of collecting the taxes by the usual process of law, and
avoid the evil of attempting to compel or coerce a state; and we avoid also a circumstance,
which never yet could be, and I am fully confident never can be, admitted in a free federal republic;
I mean a permanent and continued system of tax laws of the union, executed in the bowels
of the states by many thousand officers, dependent as to the assessing and collecting federal
taxes, solely upon the union. On every principle then, we ought to provide,
that the union render an exact account of all monies raised by imposts and other taxes;
and that whenever monies shall be wanted for the purposes of the union, beyond the proceeds
of the impost duties, requisitions shall be made on the states for the monies so wanted;
and that the power of laying and collecting shall never be exercised, except in cases
where a state shall neglect, a given time, to pay its quota. This mode seems to be strongly pointed out
by the reason of the case, and spirit of the government; and I believe, there is no instance
to be found in a federal republic, where the congressional powers ever extended generally
to collecting monies by direct taxes or excises. Creating all these restrictions, still the
powers of the union in matters of taxation, will be too unlimited; further checks, in
my mind, are indispensably necessary. Nor do I conceive, that as full a representation
as is practicable in the federal government, will afford sufficient security: the strength
of the government, and the confidence of the people, must be collected principally in the
local assemblies; every part or branch of the federal head must be feeble, and unsafely
trusted with large powers. A government possessed of more power than
its constituent parts will justify, will not only probably abuse it, but be unequal to
bear its own burden; it may as soon be destroyed by the pressure of power, as languish and
perish for want of it. There are two ways further of raising checks,
and guarding against undue combinations and influence in a federal system. The first is, in levying taxes, raising and
keeping up armies, in building navies, in forming plans for the militia, and in appropriating
monies for the support of the military, to require the attendance of a large proportion
of the federal representatives, as two-thirds or three-fourths of them; and in passing laws,
in these important cases, to require the consent of two-thirds or three-fourths of the members
present. The second is, by requiring that certain important
laws of the federal head, as a requisition or a law for raising monies by excise shall
be laid before the state legislatures, and if disapproved of by a given number of them,
say by as many of them as represent a majority of the people, the law shall have no effect. Whether it would be adviseable to adopt both,
or either of these checks, I will not undertake to determine. We have seen them both exist in confederated
republics. The first exists substantially in the confederation,
and will exist in some measure in the plan proposed, as in chusing a president by the
house, in expelling members; in the senate, in making treaties, and in deciding on impeachments,
and in the whole in altering the constitution. The last exists in the United Netherlands,
but in a much greater extent. The first is founded on this principle, that
these important measures may, sometimes, be adopted by a bare quorum of members, perhaps,
from a few states, and that a bare majority of the federal representatives may frequently
be of the aristocracy, or some particular interests, connections, or parties in the
community, and governed by motives, views, and inclinations not compatible with the general
interest. — The last is founded on this principle,
that the people will be substantially represented, only in their state or local assemblies; that
their principal security must be found in them; and that, therefore, they ought to have
ultimately a constitutional controul over such interesting measures. I have often heard it observed, that our people
are well informed, and will not submit to oppressive governments; that the state governments
will be their ready advocates, and possess their confidence, mix with them, and enter
into all their wants and feelings. This is all true; but of what avail will these
circumstances be, if the state governments, thus allowed to be the guardians of the people,
possess no kind of power by the forms of the social compact, to stop, in their passage,
the laws of congress injurious to the people. State governments must stand and see the law
take place; they may complain and petition — so may individuals; the members of them,
in extreme cases, may resist, on the principles of self-defence — so may the people and
individuals. It has been observed, that the people, in
extensive territories, have more power, compared with that of their rulers, than in small states. Is not directly the opposite true? The people in a small state can unite and
act in concert, and with vigour; but in large territories, the men who govern find it more
easy to unite, while people cannot; while they cannot collect the opinions of each part,
while they move to different points, and one part is often played off against the other. It has been asserted, that the confederate
head of a republic at best, is in general weak and dependent; — that the people will
attach themselves to, and support their local governments, in all disputes with the union. Admit the fact: is it any way to remove the
inconvenience by accumulating powers upon a weak organization? The fact is, that the detail administration
of affairs, in this mixed republic, depends principally on the local governments; and
the people would be wretched without them: and a great proportion of social happiness
depends on the internal administration of justice, and on internal police. The splendor of the monarch, and the power
of the government are one thing. The happiness of the subject depends on very
different causes: but it is to the latter, that the best men, the greatest ornaments
of human nature, have most carefully attended: it is to the former tyrants and oppressors
have always aimed.

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