"CINCINNATUS" is an Anti-Federalist writer. In this essay, from anAddress to a Meeting of the Citizens of Philadelphia, the writer responds toJames Wilson's statements about Congress' powers to tax under the Constitution. It appeared in the November 29 and December 6, 1787, New-York Journal, asreprinted from a Philadelphia newspaper.
The "necessary and proper" clause has, from the beginning, been athorn in the side of those seeking to reduce federal power, but its attack byBrutus served to call attention to it, leaving a paper trail of intent verifyingits purpose was not to give Congress anything the Constitution "forgot,"but rather to show two additional tests for any legislation Congress shouldattempt: to wit - that the intended actions would be both necessary AND properto executing powers given under clauses 1-17 of Article I Section 8. This isthe fameous BRUTUS.
The other specter that has been raised to terrify and alarm the people outof the exercise of their judgment on this great occasion, is the dread of oursplitting into separate confederacies or republics, that might become rivalpowers and consequently liable to mutual wars from the usual motives ofcontention. This is an event still more improbable than the foregoing. It is apresumption unwarranted, either by the situation of affairs, or the sentimentsof the people; no disposition leading to it exists; the advocates of the newconstitution seem to view such a separation with horror, and its opponents arestrenuously contending for a confederation that shall embrace all America underits comprehensive and salutary protection. This hobgoblin appears to havesprung from the deranged brain of Publius, [The Federalist] a New York writer,who, mistaking sound for argument, has with Herculean labor accumulated myriadsof unmeaning sentences, and mechanically endeavored to force conviction by atorrent of misplaced words. He might have spared his readers the fatigue ofwading through his long-winded disquisitions on the direful effects of thecontentions of inimical states, as totally inapplicable to the subject he wasprofessedly treating; this writer has devoted much time, and wasted more paperin combating chimeras of his own creation.
We are now, in the strictest sense of the terms, a federal republic. Eachpart has within its own limits the sovereignty over its citizens, while some ofthe general concerns are committed to Congress. The complaints of thedeficiency of the Congressional powers are confined to two articles. They arenot able to raise a revenue by taxation, and they have not a complete regulationof the intercourse between us and foreigners. For each of these complaintsthere is some foundation, but not enough to justify the clamor which has beenraised. . . .
Like the nome de plume "Publius" used by pro Constitution writersin the Federalist Papers, several Anti-Federalists signed their writings "AFARMER. " While the occupation of the writers may not have coincided withthe name given, the arguments against consolidating power in the hands of acentral government were widely read. The following was published in theMaryland Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser, March 7, 1788. The true identity ofthe author is unknown.
Some persons as object to this amendment, in fact say, that it is safer togive a man an irrevocable power of attorney, than a revocable one; and that itis right to let a representative ruin us, rather than recall him and put a realfriend of his country, and a truly honest man in his place, who would rathersuffer ten thousand deaths than injure his country, or sully his honor andreputation. Such persons seem to say, that power ought not to originate withthe people (which is the wish, I fear, of some among us); and also that we arenot safe in trusting our own legislature with the power of recalling suchsenators as will not abide by such instructions - as shall be either given them,when chosen, or sent to them afterwards, by the legislature of this or any otherstate, or by the electors that chose them, although they should have mettogether in a body for the purpose of instructing or sending them instructionson a matter on which the salvation of the state depends. That we should insiston the amendment respecting this matter taking place, which the state of NewYork has proposed, appears to me to be absolutely necessary, the security ofeach state may be almost said to rest on it. For my own part, I would ratherthat this amendment should take place and give the new government unlimitedpowers to act for the public good, than give them limited powers, and at thesame time put it out of our power, for a certain term of years, to recall ourrepresentatives, although we saw they were exceeding their powers, and were benton making us miserable and themselves, by means of a standing army - a perpetualand absolute government. For power is a very intoxicating thing, and has mademany a man do unwarrantable actions, which before he was invested with it, hehad no thoughts of doing. I hope by what I have said I shall not be thought tocast even the shadow of a reflection on the principles of either of the membersof the federal convention - it is far from being my intention. I wish for nothingmore than a good government and a constitution under which our liberties will beperfectly safe. To preserve which, I think the wisest conduct will be to keepthe staff of power in our own hands as much as possible, and not wantonly andinconsiderately give up a greater share of our liberties with a view ofcontributing to the public good, than what the necessity of the case requires.
We the subscribers being of the number, who did not assent to theratification of the federal constitution, under consideration in the late stateconvention, held at Boston, to which we were called by the suffrages of thecorporations to which we respectively belong - beg leave, through the channel ofyour paper, to lay before the public in general, and our constituents inparticular, the reasons of our dissent, and the principles which governed us inour decision of this important question.
1. Let the conventions of each state, as they meet, after considering theproposed constitution, state their objections and propose their amendments. Sofar from these objections and amendments clashing with each other inirreconcilable discord, as it has too often been suggested they would do, thatfrom what has been hitherto published in the different states in opposition tothe proposed constitution we have a right to expect that they will harmonize ina very great degree. The reason I say so is that about the same time, in verydifferent parts of the continent, the very same objections have been made, andthe very same alterations proposed by different writers, who I verily believeknow nothing at all of each other and were very far from acting by apremeditated concert; and that others who have not appeared as writers in thenewspapers in the different states, have appeared to act and speak in perfectunison with those objections and amendments, particularly in the article of abill of rights; that in short, the very same sentiments seem to have been echoedfrom the different parts of the continent by the opposers of the proposedconstitution. And these sentiments have been very little contradicted by itsfriends, otherwise than by suggesting their fears that by opposing theconstitution at present proposed, we might be disappointed of any federalgovernment, or receive a worse one than the present. It would be a mostdelightful surprise to find ourselves all of one opinion at last. And I cannotforbear hoping that when we come fairly to compare our sentiments, we shalt findourselves much more nearly agreed, than in the hurry and surprise in which wehave been involved on this subject, we ever suffered ourselves to imagine.
Should future circumstances, contrary to our expectations, require that furtherpowers be transferred to the union, we can do it far more easily, than get backthose we may now imprudently give. The system proposed is untried. Candidadvocates and opposers admit, that it is in a degree, a mere experiment, andthat its organization is weak and imperfect. Surely then, the safe ground iscautiously to vest power in it, and when we are sure we have given enough forordinary exigencies, to be extremely careful how we delegate powers, which, incommon cases, must necessarily be useless or abused, and of very uncertaineffect in uncommon ones. By giving the union power to regulate commerce, and tolevy and collect taxes by imposts, we give it an extensive authority, andpermanent productive funds, I believe quite as adequate to present demands ofthe union, as excises and direct taxes can be made to the present demands of theseparate states. The state governments are now about four times as expensive asthat of the union; and their several state debts added together, are nearly aslarge as that of the union. Our impost duties since the peace have been almostas productive as the other sources of taxation, and when under one generalsystem of regulations, the probability is that those duties will be veryconsiderably increased. Indeed the representation proposed will hardly justifygiving to congress unlimited powers to raise taxes by imposts, in addition tothe other powers the union must necessarily have. It is said, that if congresspossess only authority to raise taxes by imposts, trade probably will beoverburdened with taxes, and the taxes of the union be found inadequate to anyuncommon exigencies. To this we may observe, that trade generally finds its ownlevel, and will naturally and necessarily heave off any undue burdens laid uponit. Further, if congress alone possess the impost, and also unlimited power toraise monies by excises and direct taxes, there must be much more danger thattwo taxing powers, the union and states, will carry excises and direct taxes toan unreasonable extent, especially as these have not the natural boundariestaxes on trade have. However, it is not my object to propose to exclude congressfrom raising monies by internal taxes, except in strict conformity to thefederal 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 quotaof a requisition; and never where so many of the state legislatures as representa majority of the people, shall formally determine an excise law or requisitionis improper, in their next session after the same be laid before them. We oughtalways to recollect that the evil to be guarded against is found by our ownexperience, and the experience of others, to be mere neglect in the statesto pay their quotas; and power in the union to levy and collect the neglectingstates' quotas with interest, is fully adequate to the evil. By this federalplan, with this exception mentioned, we secure the means of collecting the taxesby the usual process of law, and avoid the evil of attempting to compel orcoerce a state; and we avoid also a circumstance, which never yet could be, andI am fully confident never can be, admitted in a free federal republic - I mean apermanent and continued system of tax laws of the union, executed in the bowelsof the states by many thousand officers, dependent as to the assessing andcollecting federal taxes solely upon the union. On every principle, then, weought to provide that the union render an exact account of all monies raised byimposts and other taxes whenever monies shall be wanted for the purposes of theunion beyond the proceeds of the impost duties; requisitions shall be made onthe states for the monies so wanted; and that the power of laying and collectingshall never be exercised, except in cases where a state shall neglect, a giventime, to pay its quota. This mode seems to be strongly pointed out by thereason of the case, and spirit of the government; and I believe, there is noinstance to be found in a federal republic, where the congressional powers everextended generally to collecting monies by direct taxes or excises. Creating allthese restrictions, still the powers of the union in matters of taxation will betoo unlimited; further checks, in my mind, are indispensably necessary. Nor doI conceive, that as full a representation as is practicable in the federalgovernment, will afford sufficient security. The strength of the government,and the confidence of the people, must be collected principally in the localassemblies. . . . A government possessed of more power than its constituentparts will justify, will not only probably abuse it, but be unequal to bear itsown burden; it may as soon be destroyed by the pressure of power, as languishand perish for want of it.
It is said, that as the federal head must make peace and war, and providefor the common defense, it ought to possess all powers necessary to that end. That powers unlimited, as to the purse and sword, to raise men and monies andform the militia, are necessary to that end; and therefore, the federal headought to possess them. This reasoning is far more specious than solid. It isnecessary that these powers so exist in the body politic, as to be called intoexercise whenever necessary for the public safety. But it is by no means truethat the man, or congress of men, whose duty it more immediately is to providefor the common defense, ought to possess them without limitation. But clear itis, that if such men, or congress, be not in a situation to hold them withoutdanger to liberty, he or they ought not to possess them. It has long beenthought to be a well founded position, that the purse and sword ought not to beplaced in the same hands in a free government. Our wise ancestors havecarefully separated them - placed the sword in the hands of their king, even underconsiderable limitations, and the purse in the hands of the commons alone. Yetthe king makes peace and war, and it is his duty to provide for the commondefense of the nation. This authority at least goeth thus far - that a nation,well versed in the science of government, does not conceive it to be necessaryor expedient for the man entrusted with the common defense and generaltranquility, to possess unlimitedly the power in question, or even in anyconsiderable degree. Could he, whose duty it is t defend the public, possess inhimself independently, all the means of doing it consistent with the publicgood, it might be convenient. But the people o England know that theirliberties and happiness would be in infinitely great danger from the king'sunlimited possession of these powers, than from al external enemies and internalcommotions to which they might be exposed Therefore, though they have made ithis duty to guard the empire, yet the have wisely placed in other hands, thehands of their representatives, the power to deal out and control the means. InHolland their high mightiness must provide for the common defense, but for themeans they depend in considerable degree upon requisitions made on the state orlocal assemblies Reason and facts evince, that however convenient it might befor an executive magistrate, or federal head, more immediately charged with thenational defense and safety, solely, directly, and independently to possess allthe means, yet such magistrate or head never ought to possess them if therebythe public liberties shall be endangered. The powers in question never havebeen, by nations wise and free, deposited, nor can they ever be, with safety, any where out of the principal members of the national system. Where these formone entire government, as in Great Britain, they are separated and lodged in theprincipal members of it. But in a federal republic, there is quite a differentorganization; the people form this kind of government, generally, because theirterritories are too extensive to admit of their assembling in one legislature,or of executing the laws on free principles under one entire government. TheyConvene in their local assemblies, for local purposes, and for managing theirinternal concerns, and unite their states under a federal head for generalpurposes. It is the essential characteristic of a confederated republic, thatthis head be dependent on, and kept within limited bounds by the localgovernments; and it is because, in these alone, in fact, the people can besubstantially assembled or represented. It is, therefore, we very universallysee, in this kind of government, the congressional powers placed in a few hands,and accordingly limited, and specifically enumerated; and the local assembliesstrong and well guarded, and composed of numerous members. Wise men will alwaysplace the controlling power where the people are substantially collected bytheir 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 ithas been fully shown, the people will have but the shadow of representation, andbut the shadow of security for their rights and liberties. In a confederatedrepublic, the division of representation, etc. , in its nature, requires acorrespondent division and deposit of powers, relative to taxes and militaryconcerns. And I think the plan offered stands quite alone, in confounding theprinciples of governments in themselves totally distinct. I wish not toexculpate the states for their improper neglects in not paying their quotas ofrequisitions. But, in applying the remedy, we must be governed by reason andfacts. It will not be denied that the people have a right to change thegovernment when the majority choose it, if not restrained by some existingcompact; that they have a right to displace their rulers, and consequently todetermine 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, andmany other well founded considerations, I need not mention, a question arises,what powers shall there be delegated to the federal head, to insure safety, aswell as energy, in the government? I think there is a safe and proper mediumpointed out by experience, by reason, and facts. When we have organized thegovernment, we ought to give power to the union, so far only as experience andpresent circumstances shall direct, with a reasonable regard to time to come.