This system, it is said, "unhinges and eradicates the state governments, and was systematically intended so to do"; to establish the intention, an argument is drawn from Article 1st, section 4th on the subject of elections. I have already had occasion to remark upon this, and shall therefore pass on to the next objection.6
hat the last clause of the 8th section of the 1st Article gives the power self-preservation to the general government, independent of the states. For in case of their abolition, it will be alleged in behalf of the general government, that self-preservation is the first law, and necessary to the exercise of all other powers. Now let us see what this objection amounts to. Who are to have this self-preserving power? The Congress. Who are Congress? It is a body that will consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. Who compose this Senate? Those who are elected by the legislatures of the different states. Who are the electors of the House of Representatives? Those who are qualified to vote for the most numerous branch of the legislature in the separate states. Suppose the state legislatures annihilated, where is the criterion to ascertain the qualification of electors? And unless this be ascertained, they cannot be admitted to vote; if a state legislature is not elected, there can be no Senate, because the Senators are to be chosen by the legislatures only.
This is a plain and simple deduction from the Constitution, and yet the objection is stated as conclusive upon an argument expressly drawn from the last clause of this section. It is repeated, with confidence, "that this is not a federal government, but a complete one, with legislative, executive and judicial powers. It is a consolidating government." I have already mentioned the misuse of the term; I wish the gentleman [William Findley] would indulge us with his definition of the word. If, when he says it is a consolidation, he means so far as relates to the general objects of the Union- so far it was intended to be a consolidation, and on such a consolidation, perhaps our very existence, as a nation, depends. If, on the other hand (as something which has been said seems to indicate) he (William Findley) means that it will absorb the governments of the individual states, so far is this position from being admitted, that it is unanswerably controverted. The existence of the state government is one of the most prominent features of this system. With regard to those purposes which are allowed to be for the general welfare of the Union, I think it no objection to this plan, that we are told it is a complete government. I think it no objection, that it is alleged the government will possess legislative, executive, and judicial powers. Should it have only legislative authority We have had examples enough of such a government to deter us from continuing it. Shall Congress any longer continue to make requisitions from the several states, to be treated sometimes with silent and sometimes with declared contempt? For what purpose give the power to make laws, unless they are to be executed? And if they are to be executed, the executive and judicial powers will necessarily be engaged in the business. Do we wish a return of those insurrections and tumults to which a sister state was lately exposed or a government of such insufficiency as the present is found to be?10
Let me, sir, mention one circumstance in the recollection of every honorable gentleman who hears me. To the determination of Congress are submitted all disputes between states concerning boundary, jurisdiction, or right of soil. In consequence of this power, after much altercation, expense of time, and considerable expense of money, this state was successful enough to obtain a decree in her favor, in a difference then subsisting between her and Connecticut but what was the consequence? The Congress had no power to carry the decree into execution. Hence the distraction andanimosity, which have ever since prevailed, and still continue in that part of the country. Ought the government then to remain any longer incomplete? I hope not; no person can be so insensible to the lessons of experience as to desire it. It is brought as an objection "that there will be a rivalship between the state governments and the general government; on each side endeavors will be made to increase power." Let us examine a little into this subject. The gentlemen tell you, sir, that they expect the states will not possess any power. But I think there is reason to draw a different conclusion. Under this system their respectability and power will increase with that of the general government. I believe their happiness and security will increase in a still greater proportion; let us attend a moment to the situation of this country; it is a maxim of every government, and it ought to be a maxim with us, that the increase of numbers increases the dignity, the security, and the respectability all governments; it is the first command given by the Deity to man, increase and multiply; this applies with peculiar force to this country, the smaller part of whose territory is yet inhabited. We are representatives, sir, not merely of the present age, but of future times; not merely of the territory along the seacoast, but of regions immensely extended westward. We should fill, as fast as possible, this extensive country, with men who shall live happy, free, and secure. To accomplish this great end ought to be the leadingview of all our patriots and statesmen. But how is it to be accomplished, but by establishing peace and harmony among ourselves, and dignity and respectability among foreign nations. By these means, we may draw numbers from the other side of the Atlantic, in addition to the natural sources of population. Can either of these objects be attained without a protecting head? When we examine history, we shall find an important fact, and almost the only fact, which will apply to all confederacies. They have all fallen to pieces, and have not absorbed the subordinate government. In order to keep republics together they must have a strong binding force, which must be either external or internal. The situation of this country shows, that no foreign force can press us together, the bonds of our Union ought therefore to be indissolubly strong. The powers of the states, I apprehend, will increase with the population and the happiness of their inhabitants. Unless we can establish a character abroad, we shall be unhappy from foreign restraints or internal violence. These reasons, I think, prove sufficiently the necessity of having a federal head. Under it the advantages enjoyed by the whole Union would be participated [in] by every state. I wish honorable gentlemen would think not only of themselves, not only of the present age, but of others and of future times. It has been said, "that the state governments will not be able to make head against the general government," but it might be said with more propriety, that the general government will not be able to maintain the powers given it against the encroachments and combined attacks of the state governments. They possess some particular advantages, from which the general government is restrained.
By this system, there is a provision made in the Constitution that no Senator or Representative shall be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during the time for which he was elected; and no person holding any office under the United States can be a member of either house; but there is no similar security against state influence, as a Representative may enjoy places and even sinecures under the state governments. On which side is the door most open to corruption? If a person in the legislature is to be influenced by an office, the general government can give him none unless he vacate his seat. When the influence of office comes from the state government, he can retain his seat and salary too. But, it is added, under this head "that state governments will lose the attachment of the people, by losing the power of conferring advantages, and that the people will not be at the expense of keeping them up." Perhaps the state governments have already become so expensive as to alarm the gentlemen on that head. I am told that the civil list of this state amounted to 40,000 in one year. Under the proposed government, I think it would be possible to obtain in Pennsylvania every advantage we now possess, with a civil list that shall not exceed one third of that sum. How differently the same thing is talked of, if it be a favorite or otherwise! When advantages to an officer are. to be derived from the general government, we hear them mentioned by the name of bribery, but when we are told of the states' governments losing the power of conferring advantages, by the disposal of offices, it is. said theywill lose the attachment of the people. What is in one instance corruption and bribery, is in another the power of conferring advantages.11
We are informed "that the state elections will be ill-attended, and that the state governments will become mere boards of electors." Those who have a due regard for their country will discharge their duty and attend; but those who are brought only from interest or persuasion had better stay away; the public will not suffer any disadvantage from their absence. But the honest citizens, who know the value of the privilege, will undoubtedly attend to secure the man of his choice. The power and business of the state legislatures relates to the great objects of life, liberty, and property; the same are also objects of the general government. Certainly the citizens of America will be as tenacious in the one instance as in the other. They will be interested, and I hope will exert themselves to secure their rights not only from being injured by the state governments, but also from being injured by the general government.
"The power over election, and of judging of elections, gives absolute sovereignty"; this power is given to every state legislature, yet I see no necessity, that the power of absolute sovereignty should accompany it. My general position is, that the absolute sovereignty never goes from the people. We are told, "that it will be in the power of the Senate to prevent any addition of Representatives to the lower house." I believe their power will be pretty well balanced, and though the Senate should have a desire to do this, yet the attempt will answer no purpose; for the House of Representatives will not let them have a farthing of public money, till they agree to it. And the latter influence will be as strong as the other.12
"Annual assemblies are necessary" it is said-and I answer in many instances they are very proper. In Rhode Island and Connecticut they are elected for six months. In larger states, that period would be found very inconvenient, but in a government as large as that of the United States, I presume that annual elections would be more disproportionate, than elections for six months would be in some of our largest states. "The British Parliament took to themselves the prolongation of their sitting to seven years. But even in the British Parliament the appropriations are annual." But, sir, how is the argument to apply here? How are the Congress to assume such a power? They cannot assume it under the Constitution, for that expressly provides "the members of the house of representatives shall be chosen every two years, by the people of the several states, and the senators for six years." So if they take it at all, they must take it by usurpation and force. "Appropriations may be made for two years, though in the British Parliament they are made but for one"; for some purposes, such appropriations may be made annually, but for every purpose they are not; even for a standing army, they may be made for seven, ten, or fourteen years-the civil list is established, during the life of a prince. Another objection is "that the members of the Senate may enrich themselves they may hold their office as long as they live, and there is not power to prevent them; the Senate will swallow up everything." I am not a blind admirer of this system. Some of the powers of the Senators are not with me the favorite parts of it, but as they stand connected with other parts, there is still security against the efforts of that body. It was with great difficulty that security was obtained, and I may risk the conjecture, that if it is not now accepted, it never will be obtained again from the same states. Though the Senate was not a favorite of mine, as to some of its powers, yet it was-a favorite with a majority in the Union, and we must submit to that majority, or we must breakup the Union.13
It is but fair to repeat those reasons, that weighed with the Convention. Perhaps, I shall not be able to do them justice, but yet I will attempt to show, why additional powers were given to the Senate, rather than to the House of Representatives. These additional powers, I believe, are, that of trying impeachments, that of concurring with the President in making treaties, and that of concurring in the appointment of officers. These are the powers that are stated as improper. It is fortunate, that in the exercise of every one of them, the Senate stands controlled. If it is that monster which it [is] said to be, it can only show its teeth; it is unable to bite or devour. With regard to impeachments, the Senate can try none but such as will be brought before them by the House of Representatives. The Senate can make no treaties; they can approve of none unless the President of the United States lay it before them. With regard to the appointment of officers, the President must nominate before they can vote. So that if the powers of either branch are perverted, it must be with the approbation of some one of the other branches of government. Thus checked on each side, they can do no one act of themselves.14
"The powers of Congress extend to taxation-to direct taxation- to internal taxation-to poll taxes-to excises-to other state and internal purposes." Those who possess the power to tax, possess all other sovereign power. That their powers are thus extensive is admitted; and would any thing short of this have 'been sufficient? Is it the wish of these gentlemen? If it is, let us hear their sentiments-that the general government should subsist on the bounty of the states. Shall it have the power to contract, and no power to fulfill the contract? Shall it have the power to borrow money, and no power to pay the principalor interest? Must we go on, in the track that we have hitherto pur-sued and must we again compel those in Europe, who lent us money in our distress, to advance the money to pay themselves interest on the certificates of the debts due to them? This was actually the case in Holland, the last year. Like those who have shot one arrow, and cannot regain it, they have been obliged to shoot another in the same direction, in order to recover the first. It was absolutely necessary, sir, that this government should possess these rights, and why should it not, as well as the state governments? Will this government be fonder of the exercise of this authority, than those of the states are? Will the states, who are equally represented in one branch of the legislature, be more opposed to the payment of what shall be required by the future, than what has been required by the present Congress? Will the people, who must indisputably pay the whole, have more objections to the payment of this tax, because it is laid by persons of their own immediate appointment, even if those taxes were to continue as oppressive as they now are? But under the general power of this system, that cannot be the case in Pennsylvania. Throughout the Union, direct taxation will be lessened, at least in proportion to the increase of the other objects of revenue. In this Constitution, a power is given to Congress to collect imposts, which is not given by the present Articles of Confederation. A very considerable part of the revenue of the United States will arise from that source; it is the easiest, most just, and most productive mode of raising revenue; and it is a safe one, because it is voluntary. No man is obliged to consume more than he pleases, and each buys in proportion only to his consumption. The price of the commodity is blended with the tax, and the person is often not sensible of the payment. But would it have been proper to have rested the matter there? Suppose this fund should not prove sufficient, ought the public debts to remain unpaid or the exigencies of government be left unprovided for? Should our tranquility be exposed to the assaults of foreign enemies, or violence among ourselves, because the objects of commerce may not furnish a sufficient revenue to secure them all? Certainly Congress should possess the power of raising revenue from their constituents, for the purpose mentioned in the eighth section of the first Article, that is "to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States." It has been common, with the gentlemen on this subject, to present us with frightful pictures. We are told of the hosts of tax gatherers that will swarm through the land; and whenever taxes are mentioned, military force seems to be an attending idea. I think I may venture to predict, that the taxes of the general government (if any shall be laid) will be more equitable, and much less expensive, than those imposed by the state government. I shall not go into an investigation of this subject; but it must be confessed, that scarcely any mode of laying and collecting taxes can be more burdensome than the present.15
Another objection is, "that Congress may borrow money, keep up standing armies, and command the militia." The present Congress possesses the power of borrowing money and of keeping upstanding armies. Whether it will be proper at all times to keep up a body of troops will be a question to be determined by Congress; but I hope the necessity will not subsist at all times; but if it should subsist, where is the gentleman that will say that they ought not to possess the necessary power of keeping them up?16
It is urged, as a general objection to this system, that "the powers of Congress are unlimited and undefined, and that they will be the judges, in all cases, of what is necessary and proper for them to do." To bring this subject to your view, I need do no more than point to the words in the Constitution, beginning at the 8th section, Article 1st. "The Congress," it says, "shall have power, etc." I need not read over the words, but I leave it to every gentleman to say whether the powers are not as accurately and minutely defined, as can be well done on the same subject, in the same language. The old constitution is as strongly marked on this subject; and even the concluding clause, with which so much fault has been found, gives no more, or other powers; nor does it in any degree go beyond the particular enumeration; for when it is said, that Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper, those words are limited, and defined by the following, "for carrying into execution the fore-going powers." It is saying no more than that the powers we have already particularly given shall be effectually carried into execution.17
I shall not detain the house, at this time, with any further observations on the liberty of the press, until it is shown that Congress have any power whatsoever to interfere with it, by licensing it, or declaring what shall be a libel.18
I proceed to another objection, which was not so fully stated as I believe it will be hereafter; I mean the objection against the judicial department. The gentleman from Westmoreland only mentioned it to illustrate his objection to the legislative department. He said "that the judicial powers were coextensive with the legislative powers, and extend even to capital cases." I believe they ought to be coextensive, otherwise laws would be framed, that could not be executed. Certainly, therefore, the executive and judicial departments ought to have power commensurate to the extent of the laws; for, as I have already asked, are we to give power to make laws, and no power to carry them into effect?19
I am happy to mention the punishment annexed to one crime. You will find the current running strong in favor of humanity. For this is the first instance in which it has not been left to the legislature, to extend the crime and punishment of treason so far as they thought proper. This punishment and the description of this crime are the great sources of danger and persecution, on the part of government against the citizen. Crimes against the state! and against the officers of the state!; history informs us, that more wrong may be done on this subject than on any other whatsoever. But under this Constitution, there can be no treason against the United States, except such as is defined in this Constitution. The manner of trial is clearly pointed out; the positive testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or a confession in open court is required to convict any person of treason. And after all, the consequences of the crime shall extend no further than the life of the criminal; for no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted.20
I come now to consider the last set of objections that are offered against this Constitution. It is urged, that this is not such a system as was within the powers of the Convention; they assumed the power of proposing. I believe they might have made proposals without going beyond their powers. I never heard before, that to make a proposal was an exercise of power. But if it is an exercise of power, they certainly did assume it; yet they did not act as that body who framed the present constitution of Pennsylvania acted; they did not by an ordinance attempt to rivet the constitution on the people, before they could vote for members of Assembly under it. Yet such was the effect of the ordinance that attended the constitution of this commonwealth. I think the late Convention have done nothing beyond their powers. The fact is, they have exercised no power at all. And in point of validity, this Constitution, proposed by them for the government of the United States, claims no more than a production of the same nature would claim, flowing from a private pen. It is laid before the citizens of the United States, unfettered by restraint; it is laid before them to be judged by the natural, civil, and political rights of men. By their FIAT, it will become of value and authority; without it, it will never receive the character authenticity and power. The business, we are told, which was entrusted to the late Convention was merely to amend the present Articles of Confederation. This observation has been frequently made, and has often brought to my mind a story that is related of Mr. [Alexander] Pope, who, it is well known, was not a little deformed. It was customary with him to use this phrase, "God mend me," when any little accident happened. One evening a linkboy was lighting him along, and coming to a gutter, the boy jumped nimbly over it. Mr. Pope called to him to turn, adding, "God mend me." The arch rogue turned to light him-looked him, and repeated "God mend you! He would sooner make half a dozen new ones." This would apply to the present Confederation; for it would be easier to make another than to mend this. The gentlemen urge, that this is such a government as was not expected by the people, the legislatures, nor by the honorable gentlemen who mentioned it. Perhaps it was not such as was expected, but it may be BETTER; and is that a reason why it should not be adopted? It is not worse, I trust, than the former. So that the argument of its being a system not ex-pected is an argument more strong in its favor than against it. The letter which accompanies this Constitution, must strike every person with the utmost force. "The friends of our country have long seen and desired the power of war, peace, and treaties, that of levying money and regulating commerce, and the corresponding executive and judicial authorities, should be fully and effectually vested in the general government of the union; but the impropriety of delegating such extensive trust to one body of men, is evident. Hence results the necessity of a different organization." I therefore do not think that it can be urged as an objection against this system, that it was not expected by the people. We are told, to add greater force to these objections, that they are not on local, but on general principles, and that they are uniform throughout the United States. I confess I am not altogether of that opinion; I think some of the objections are inconsistent with others, arising from a different quarter, and I think some are inconsistent, even with those derived from the same source. But, on this occasion, let us take the fact for granted, that they are all on general principles, and uniform throughout the United States. Then we can judge of their full amount; and what are they, BUT TRIFLES LIGHT AS AIR? We see the whole force of them; for according to the sentiments of opposition, they can no-where be stronger, or more fully stated than here. The conclusion, from all these objections, is reduced to a point, and the plan is declared to be inimical to our liberties. I have said nothing, and I mean to say nothing, concerning the dispositions or characters of those that framed the work now before you. I agree that it ought to be judged by its own intrinsic qualities. If it has not merit, weight of character ought not to carry it into effect. On the other hand, if it has merit, and is calculated to secure the blessings of liberty, and to promote the general welfare, then such objections as have hitherto been made ought not to influence us to reject it. I am now led to consider those qualities that this system of government possesses, which will entitle it to the attention of the United States. But as I have somewhat fatigued myself, as well as the patience of the honorable members of this house, I shall defer what I have to add on this subject until the afternoon.21
[Lloyd, Debates,59-77] [Lloyd's errata] (a) "read 'for it cannot be amended.' " (b) "but because." (c) "governments."