Federal v. Consolidated Government

[Volume 1, Page 264]

CHAPTER 8 | Document 17

William Findley, Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention

1 Dec. 1787McMaster 300--301

On Saturday [Dec. 1st] Mr. Findley delivered an eloquent and powerful speech, to prove that the proposed plan of government amounted to a consolidation, and not a confederation of the states. Mr. Wilson had before admitted that if this was a just objection, it would be strongly against the system; and it seems from the subsequent silence of all its advocates upon that subject (except Doctor Rush, who on Monday insinuated that he saw and rejoiced at the eventual annihilation of the state sovereignties) Mr. Findley has established his position. Previous to an investigation of the plan, that gentleman animadverted upon the argument of necessity, which had been so much insisted upon, and showed that we were in an eligible situation to attempt the improvement of the Federal Government, but not so desperately circumstanced as to be obliged to adopt any system, however destructive to the liberties of the people, and the sovereign rights of the states. He then argued that the proposed constitution established a general government and destroyed the individual governments, from the following evidence taken from the system itself: 1st. In the preamble, it is said, We the People, and not We the States, which therefore is a compact between individuals entering into society, and not between separate states enjoying independent power, and delegating a portion of that power for their common benefit. 2d. That in the legislature each member has a vote, whereas in a confederation, as we have hitherto practised it, and from the very nature of the thing, a state can only have one voice, and therefore all the delegates of any state can only give one vote. 3d. The powers given to the Federal body for imposing internal taxation will necessarily destroy the state sovereignties, for there cannot exist two independent sovereign taxing powers in the same community, and the strongest will of course annihilate the weaker. 4th. The power given to regulate and judge of elections is a proof of a consolidation, for there cannot be two powers employed at the same time in regulating the same elections, and if they were a confederated body, the individual states would judge of the elections, and the general Congress would judge of the credentials which proved the election of its members. 5th. The judiciary power, which is coextensive with the legislative, is another evidence of a consolidation. 6th. The manner in which the wages of the members is paid, makes another proof; and lastly, The oath of allegiance directed to be taken establishes it incontrovertibly; for would it not be absurd, that the members of the legislative and executive branches of a sovereign state should take a test of allegiance to another sovereign or independent body?

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 8, Document 17
The University of Chicago Press

McMaster, John Bach, and Stone, Frederick D., eds. Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787--1788. Lancaster: Published for the Subscribers by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1888.