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CHAPTER 14 | Document 25

A Democratic Federalist

17 Oct. 1787Storing 3.5.1--4

The arguments of the Honorable Mr. Wilson, expressed in the speech he made at the state-house on the Saturday preceding the general election (as stated in the Pennsylvania Herald,) although extremely ingenious and the best that could be adduced in support of so bad a cause, are yet extremely futile, and will not stand the test of investigation.

In the first place, Mr. Wilson pretends to point out a leading discrimination between the State Constitutions, and the Constitution of the United States.--In the former, he says, every power which is not reserved is given, and in the latter, every power which is not given is reserved: And this may furnish an answer, he adds, to those who object, that a bill of rights has not been introduced in the proposed Federal Constitution. If this doctrine is true, and since it is the only security that we are to have for our natural rights, it ought at least to have been clearly expressed in the plan of government. The 2d. section of the present articles of confederation says: Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independance, AND EVERY POWER, JURISDICTION AND RIGHT WHICH IS NOT BY THIS CONFEDERATION EXPRESSLY DELEGATED TO THE United States in Congress assembled.--This declaration (for what purpose I know not) is entirely omitted in the proposed Constitution. And yet there is a material difference between this Constitution and the present confederation, for Congress in the latter are merely an executive body; it has no power to raise money, it has no judicial jurisdiction. In the other, on the contrary, the federal rulers are vested with each of the three essential powers of government--their laws are to be paramount to the laws of the different States, what then will there be to oppose to their encroachments? Should they ever pretend to tyrannize over the people, their standing army, will silence every popular effort, it will be theirs to explain the powers which have been granted to them; Mr. Wilson's distinction will be forgot, denied or explained away, and the liberty of the people will be no more.

It is said in the 2d. section of the 3d. article of the Federal Plan: "The judicial power shall extend to ALL CASES in law and equity, arising under this constitution." It is very clear that under this clause, the tribunal of the United States, may claim a right to the cognizance of all offences against the general government, and libels will not probably be excluded. Nay, those offences may be by them construed, or by law declared, misprision of treason, an offence which comes literally under their express jurisdiction.--Where is then the safety of our boasted liberty of the press? And in case of a conflict of jurisdiction between the courts of the United States, and those of the several Commonwealths, is it not easy to foresee which of the two will obtain the advantage?

Under the enormous power of the new confederation, which extends to the individuals as well as to the States of America, a thousand means may be devised to destroy effectually the liberty of the press--There is no knowing what corrupt and wicked judges may do in process of time, when they are not restrained by express laws. The case of John Peter Zenger of New-York, ought still to be present to our minds, to convince us how displeasing the liberty of the press is to men in high power--At any rate, I lay it down as a general rule, that wherever the powers of a government extend to the lives, the persons, and properties of the subject, all their rights ought to be clearly and expressly defined--otherwise they have but a poor security for their liberties.


The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 14, Document 25
http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch14s25.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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