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Article 1, Section 8, Clause 12



Document 26

A [Maryland] Farmer, no. 2

29 Feb. 1788Storing 5.1.41--45

It will be asked how has England preserved her liberties, with at least an apparent standing army?--I answer, she did loose them; but as there was no standing army until lately, she regained them again:--She lost them under the Tudors, who broke the then oppressive power of the aristocracy, but the unparalleled avarice of Henry VIIth, the boundless extravagance of Henry VIIIth, the short reign of Edward VIth, (which was but the sickly blaze of a dying candle) the bigotry of that weak woman Mary, who had no other object than religious persecution, and lastly the parsimony of Elizabeth, who had no children of her own to provide for, and who hated her legal successor and his family--all conspired to prevent their establishing a military standing force, sufficient to secure their usurpations; and the nation recovered from their paroxism under the Stuarts, who were too weak and too wicked to command even respect, nothwithstanding their dignity.--On the revolution in 1688, the patriots of that day formed some glorious bulwarks, which seem as yet to have secured them from the evils and danger of their present standing army, though still in my opinion, they hold their remaining liberties by a very precarious tenure indeed, as the first enterprizing and popular Prince will most probably convince them.

Let us now examine these defences and compare them with those of the proposed constitution.

In England, by their bill of rights, a standing army is declared to be contrary to their constitution, and a militia the only natural and safe defence of a free people--This keeps the jealousy of the nation constantly awake, and has proved the foundation of all the other checks.

In the American constitution, there is no such declaration, or check at all.

In England, the military are declared by their constitution to be in all cases subordinate to the civil power; and consequently the civil officers have always been active in supporting this pre-eminence.

In the American constitution, there is no such declaration.

In England, the mutiny bill can only be passed from year to year, or on its expiration every soldier is as free, and the equal by law of the first general officer of the land.

In America, the articles of war (which is the same thing) has been already considered as perpetual (as I am well informed) under even the present Congress, although the constitutions of all the States positively forbid any standing troops at all, much less laws for them.

In England, the appropriation of money for the support of their army must be from year to year; in America it may be for double the period.

How favorable is this contrast to Britain--that Britain which we lavished our blood and treasure to separate ourselves from, as a country of slavery--But we then held different sentiments from those now become so fashionable; for this I appeal to the constitutions of the several States.

In the declaration of rights of Massachusetts, sect. 17.--The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And as in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature, and the military power shall always be held in exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.

Sect. 27. In time of peace, no soldier ought to be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner; and in time of war, such quarters ought not to be made but by the civil magistrate, in a manner ordained by the legislature.

Declaration of rights of Pennsylvania, sect. 13.--That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State; and as standing armies in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up: And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by civil power.

Declaration of rights of Maryland, sect. 25.--That a well regulated militia is the proper and natural defence of a free government.

Sect. 26. That standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be raised or kept without consent of the legislature.

Sect. 27. That in all cases and at all times the military ought to be under strict subordination to, and controul of the civil power.

Sect. 28. That no soldier ought to be quartered in any house in time of peace, without the consent of the owner; and in time of war, in such manner only as the legislature shall direct.

Declaration of rights of Delaware, in the same words as Maryland.

Declaration of rights of North-Carolina, sect. 17.--That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of the State; and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.

Constitution of South-Carolina, sect. 42.--That the military be subordinate to the civil power of the State.

But we are told by Aristides, that our poverty is our best security against many standing troops.--Are we then, and our posterity, always to be poor? This security would certainly cease with our poverty; but the truth is, our poverty instead of preventing will be the first cause of the increase of a standing army.--Our poverty will render the people less able to pay the few troops it is admitted we must keep.--This expence added to the immense public and private debts, which an efficient government seems to be requisite to enforce payment of, together with the onerous and complicated civil governments, both Continental and State, will be productive of future uneasiness and discontent.--The most sanguine among us must expect some turbulence and commotion; let the smallest appearance of commotion peep out again in any part of the Continent, and there is not a rich man in the United States, who will think himself or his property safe, until both are surrounded with standing troops. This is the only public purpose for which these men ever did, or ever will willingly contribute their money. But then, according to their laudable custom, they must have interest for their advances;--this increases the public burthens--Commotion is followed by commotion, until the spirit of the people is broken and sunk by the halter, the scaffold, and a regular standing army.--


The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 12, Document 26
http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_12s26.html
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Easy to print version.


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