Federal v. Consolidated Government

CHAPTER 8 | Document 39

George Clinton, New York Ratifying Convention

11 July 1788Storing 6.13.25--27

The objects of this government as expressed in the preface to it, are "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty"--These include every object for which government was established amongst man, and in every dispute about the powers granted, it is fair to infer that the means are commensurate with the end--and I believe we may venture to assert, that a good judge would not hesitate to draw this inference, especially when supported by the undefined powers granted by the 8th. section of the 1st. article and the construction that naturally arises from the prohibition against the creation of a nobility, a power which would otherwise appear to be neither expressly or impliedly granted.

I am sensible, it may be said, that the state governments are component parts of the general government and therefore that of necessity their existence must be preserved and that the Constitution has guaranteed to them a republican form[;] but this, on the least reflection, will appear to be too feeble a security to be relied on, when they are divested of every resource for their own support and the terms too indefinite to afford any security to the liberties of the people, as it includes in it the idea of an arbitrary aristocracy as well as of a free government--The form may exist without the substance. It will be remembered that this was the case in Rome when under a despotism--The Senate existed as formerly--Consuls, Tribunes etc. were chosen by the people--but their powers were merely nominal, as they were ruled by the will of the reigning Tyrant--and the most arbitrary ministers and judges generally preserve the forms of law, while they disregard its precepts and pervert them to the purposes of oppression.

From these observations, it is evident, that the general government is not constructed upon federal principles, and that its operations will terminate in a dissolution of the States--That even if this should not be the case, they will be so enfeebled as not to afford that effectual security to the rights and liberties of the people, against the undue and extensive powers vested in the general government, as its advocates have led them to expect. This being the case, the objections which have been stated against the system, must appear to well founded--and it therefore becomes our indispensable duty to obviate them by suitable amendments calculated to abridge and limit the powers to general objects. The evils pointed out in the system are now within our power to remedy--but if we suffer ourselves to be influenced by specious reasoning unsupported by example to an unconditional adoption of an imperfect government, the opportunity will be forever lost, for history does not furnish a single instance of a government once established, voluntarily yielding up its powers to secure the rights and liberties of the people.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 8, Document 39
The University of Chicago Press

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

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