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FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution, Centinel #1
A Publius/Billthedrill Essay | 1 February 2010 | Publius & Billthedrill

Posted on 02/01/2010 7:56:26 AM PST by Publius

The States’ Men Speak First: The Battle is Joined

The proceedings of the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787 were conducted in secret, thus masking to the public the divisions between Nationalists and States’ Men, small states and large states, North and South. The mandate from Congress had been to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation, but the Convention quickly decided to start afresh, something that upset the States’ Men.

The lines between the two factions were based on a combination of social class and activity during the Revolution. Nationalists, for the most part, had served as officers in the Continental Army or state militias. They tended to be businessmen and among the moneyed class. States’ Men had served as enlisted men or not at all, and tended to be among the smallholding farming class.

The financial chaos that gripped the young nation after the Treaty of Paris in 1783 had affected each class differently. The lack of a genuine coin of the realm had crippled the financial and commercial classes, while little affecting the agricultural classes – until they had to pay their property taxes or engage in interstate commerce.

The proposed Constitution marked a break with the past and the strong anti-government currents in American life and politics. The new document proposed a government on the British model, but far more efficient, which greatly disturbed the States’ Men.

The Convention had exceeded the limited mandate granted by the Confederation Congress, but there was a safety valve – a provision in Article XIII that required Congress to approve the product of the Convention before passing it on to the states for ratification. Congress could have thanked General Washington for his work and thrown the Constitution out, but Washington’s status with the citizenry and the sense of crisis prompted Congress to swallow its doubts and approve the Constitution for ratification.

Samuel Bryan was the son of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge who wrote a series of papers under the pseudonym “Centinel”, in which he opposed the adoption of the proposed Constitution. It was Bryan who spoke first, but not so well as those who followed.

Centinel #1

Samuel Bryan, 5 October 1787

1 To the Freemen of Pennsylvania.

2 Friends, Countrymen and Fellow Citizens,

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3 Permit one of yourselves to put you in mind of certain liberties and privileges secured to you by the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and to beg your serious attention to his uninterested opinion upon the plan of federal government submitted to your consideration, before you surrender these great and valuable privileges up forever.

4 Your present frame of government secures to you a right to hold yourselves, houses, papers and possessions free from search and seizure, and therefore warrants granted without oaths or affirmations first made, affording sufficient foundation for them, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded or required to search your houses or seize your persons or property, not particularly described in such warrant, shall not be granted.

5 Your Constitution further provides “that in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the parties have a right to trial by jury, which ought to be held sacred.”

6 It also provides and declares, “that the people have a right of freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments, therefore the freedom of the press ought not to be restrained.”

7 The Constitution of Pennsylvania is yet in existence, as yet you have the right to freedom of speech and of publishing your sentiments.

8 How long those rights will appertain to you, you yourselves are called upon to say; whether your houses shall continue to be your castles; whether your papers, your persons and your property are to be held sacred and free from general warrants, you are now to determine.

9 Whether the trial by jury is to continue as your birthright, the freemen of Pennsylvania, nay, of all America, are now called upon to declare.

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10 Without presuming upon my own judgment, I cannot think it an unwarrantable presumption to offer my private opinion and call upon others for theirs, and if I use my pen with the boldness of a freeman, it is because I know that the liberty of the press yet remains unviolated, and juries yet are judges.

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11 The late Convention have submitted to your consideration a plan of a new federal government – the subject is highly interesting to your future welfare.

12 Whether it be calculated to promote the great ends of civil society, namely the happiness and prosperity of the community, it behooves you well to consider, uninfluenced by the authority of names.

13 Instead of that frenzy of enthusiasm that has actuated the citizens of Philadelphia in their approbation of the proposed plan, before it was possible that it could be the result of a rational investigation into its principles, it ought to be dispassionately and deliberately examined and its own intrinsic merit the only criterion of your patronage.

14 If ever free and unbiased discussion was proper or necessary, it is on such an occasion.

15 All the blessings of liberty and the dearest privileges of freemen are now at stake and dependent on your present conduct.

16 Those who are competent to the task of developing the principles of government ought to be encouraged to come forward and thereby the better enable the people to make a proper judgment; for the science of government is so abstruse that few are able to judge for themselves; without such assistance the people are too apt to yield an implicit assent to the opinions of those characters whose abilities are held in the highest esteem and to those in whose integrity and patriotism they can confide; not considering that the love of domination is generally in proportion to talents, abilities and superior acquirements; and that the men of the greatest purity of intention may be made instruments of despotism in the hands of the artful and designing.

17 If it were not for the stability and attachment which time and habit gives to forms of government, it would be in the power of the enlightened and aspiring few, if they should combine, at any time to destroy the best establishments and even make the people the instruments of their own subjugation.

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18 The late Revolution having effaced in a great measure all former habits, and the present institutions are so recent that there exists not that great reluctance to innovation, so remarkable in old communities, and which accords with reason, for the most comprehensive mind cannot foresee the full operation of material changes on civil polity; it is the genius of the common law to resist innovation.

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19 The wealthy and ambitious, who in every community think they have a right to lord it over their fellow creatures, have availed themselves very successfully of this favorable disposition, for the people thus unsettled in their sentiments have been prepared to accede to any extreme of government; all the distresses and difficulties they experience, proceeding from various causes, have been ascribed to the impotency of the present Confederation, and thence they have been led to expect full relief from the adoption of the proposed system of government, and in the other event, immediately ruin and annihilation as a nation.

20 These characters flatter themselves that they have lulled all distrust and jealousy of their new plan by gaining the concurrence of the two men in whom America has the highest confidence and now triumphantly exult in the completion of their long meditated schemes of power and aggrandizement.

21 I would be very far from insinuating that the two illustrious personages alluded to have not the welfare of their country at heart, but that the unsuspecting goodness and zeal of the one, has been imposed on, in a subject of which he must be necessarily inexperienced, from his other arduous engagements, and that the weakness and indecision attendant on old age, has been practiced on in the other.

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22 I am fearful that the principles of government inculcated in Mr. Adams' treatise, and enforced in the numerous essays and paragraphs in the newspapers, have misled some well designing members of the late Convention.

23 But it will appear in the sequel that the construction of the proposed plan of government is infinitely more extravagant.

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24 I have been anxiously expecting that some enlightened patriot would, ere this, have taken up the pen to expose the futility and counteract the baneful tendency of such principles.

25 Mr. Adams' sine qua non of a good government is three balancing powers whose repelling qualities are to produce an equilibrium of interests and thereby promote the happiness of the whole community.

26 He asserts that the administrators of every government will ever be actuated by views of private interest and ambition to the prejudice of the public good; that therefore the only effectual method to secure the rights of the people and promote their welfare is to create an opposition of interests between the members of two distinct bodies in the exercise of the powers of government and balanced by those of a third.

27 This hypothesis supposes human wisdom competent to the task of instituting three coequal orders in government and a corresponding weight in the community to enable them respectively to exercise their several parts, and whose views and interests should be so distinct as to prevent a coalition of any two of them for the destruction of the third.

28 Mr. Adams, although he has traced the constitution of every form of government that ever existed, as far as history affords materials, has not been able to adduce a single instance of such a government; he indeed says that the British Constitution is such in theory, but this is rather a confirmation that his principles are chimerical and not to be reduced to practice.

29 If such an organization of power were practicable, how long would it continue?

30 Not a day, for there is so great a disparity in the talents, wisdom and industry of mankind that the scale would presently preponderate to one or the other body, and with every accession of power the means of further increase would be greatly extended.

31 The state of society in England is much more favorable to such a scheme of government than that of America.

32 There they have a powerful hereditary nobility and real distinctions of rank and interests, but even there, for want of that perfect equality of power and distinction of interests, in the three orders of government, they exist but in name; the only operative and efficient check upon the conduct of administration is the sense of the people at large.

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33 Suppose a government could be formed and supported on such principles, would it answer the great purposes of civil society; if the administrators of every government are actuated by views of private interest and ambition, how is the welfare and happiness of the community to be the result of such jarring adverse interests?

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34 Therefore, as different orders in government will not produce the good of the whole, we must recur to other principles.

35 I believe it will be found that the form of government which holds those entrusted with power in the greatest responsibility to their constituents, the best calculated for freemen.

36 A republican, or free government, can only exist where the body of the people are virtuous, and where property is pretty equally divided; in such a government the people are the sovereign, and their sense or opinion is the criterion of every public measure; for when this ceases to be the case the nature of the government is changed, and an aristocracy, monarchy or despotism will rise on its ruin.

37 The highest responsibility is to be attained in a simple structure of government, for the great body of the people never steadily attend to the operations of government and for want of due information are liable to be imposed on.

38 If you complicate the plan by various orders, the people will be perplexed and divided in their sentiments about the source of abuses or misconduct; some will impute it to the Senate, others to the House of Representatives, and so on, that the interposition of the people may be rendered imperfect or perhaps wholly abortive.

39 But if, imitating the Constitution of Pennsylvania, you vest all the legislative power in one body of men – separating the executive and judicial – elected for a short period, and necessarily excluded by rotation from permanency, and guarded from precipitancy and surprise by delays imposed on its proceedings, you will create the most perfect responsibility, for then whenever the people feel a grievance, they cannot mistake the authors and will apply the remedy with certainty and effect, discarding them at the next election.

40 This tie of responsibility will obviate all the dangers apprehended from a single legislature and will the best secure the rights of the people.

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41 Having premised this much, I shall now proceed to the examination of the proposed plan of government, and I trust, shall make it appear to the meanest capacity that it has none of the essential requisites of a free government; that it is neither founded on those balancing restraining powers recommended by Mr. Adams and attempted in the British Constitution, or possessed of that responsibility to its constituents which in my opinion is the only effectual security for the liberties and happiness of the people; but on the contrary that it is a most daring attempt to establish a despotic aristocracy among freemen that the world has ever witnessed.

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42 I shall previously consider the extent of the powers intended to be vested in Congress before I examine the construction of the general government.

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43 It will not be controverted that the legislative is the highest delegated power in government and that all others are subordinate to it.

44 The celebrated Montesquieu establishes it as a maxim that legislation necessarily follows the power of taxation.

45 By Section 8 of the first article of the proposed plan of government, “the Congress are to have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, but all duties, imposts and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States.”

46 Now what can be more comprehensive than these words; not content by other sections of this plan to grant all the great executive powers of a confederation and a standing army in time of peace, that grand engine of oppression, and moreover the absolute control over the commerce of the United States and all external objects of revenue, such as unlimited imposts upon imports, etc., they are to be vested with every species of internal taxation; whatever taxes, duties and excises that they may deem requisite for the general welfare may be imposed on the citizens of these states, levied by the officers of Congress, distributed through every district in America; and the collection would be enforced by the standing army, however grievous or improper they may be.

47 The Congress may construe every purpose for which the state legislatures now lay taxes to be for the general welfare and thereby seize upon every object of revenue.

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48 The judicial power by 1st section of Article 3 “shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made or which shall be made under their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, to controversies to which the United States shall be a party, to controversies between two or more states, between a state and citizens of another state, between citizens of different states, between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.”

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49 The judicial power to be vested in one Supreme Court and in such Inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

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50 The objects of jurisdiction recited above are so numerous, and the shades of distinction between civil causes are oftentimes so slight, that it is more than probable that the state judicatories would be wholly superseded; for in contests about jurisdiction, the federal court, as the most powerful, would ever prevail.

51 Every person acquainted with the history of the courts in England knows by what ingenious sophisms they have at different periods extended the sphere of their jurisdiction over objects out of the line of their institution and contrary to their very nature, courts of a criminal jurisdiction obtaining cognizance in civil causes.

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52 To put the [omnipotence] of Congress over the state government and judicatories out of all doubt, the 6th Article ordains that “this constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

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53 By these sections, the all-prevailing power of taxation, and such extensive legislative and judicial powers are vested in the general government, as must in their operation, necessarily absorb the state legislatures and judicatories; and that such was in the contemplation of the framers of it will appear from the provision made for such event in another part of it – but that fearful of alarming the people by so great an innovation, they have suffered the forms of the separate governments to remain as a blind.

54 By section 4th of the 1st Article, “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the place of chusing senators."

55 The plain construction of which is that when the state legislatures drop out of sight from the necessary operation this government, then Congress are to provide for the election and appointment of representatives and senators.

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56 If the foregoing be a just comment, if the United States are to be melted down into one empire, it becomes you to consider whether such a government, however constructed, would be eligible in so extended a territory, and whether it would be practicable, consistent with freedom?

57 It is the opinion of the greatest writers that a very extensive country cannot be governed on [democratic] principles, on any other plan than a confederation of a number of small republics, possessing all the powers of internal government but united in the management of their foreign and general concerns.

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58 It would not be difficult to prove that any thing short of despotism could not bind so great a country under one government, and that whatever plan you might at the first setting out establish, it would issue in a despotism.

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59 If one general government could be instituted and maintained on principles of freedom, it would not be so competent to attend to the various local concerns and wants of every particular district as well as the peculiar governments who are nearer the scene and possessed of superior means of information; besides, if the business of the whole Union is to be managed by one government, there would not be time.

60 Do we not already see that the inhabitants in a number of larger states who are remote from the seat of government are loudly complaining of the inconveniences and disadvantages they are subjected to on this account, and that to enjoy the comforts of local government they are separating into smaller divisions?

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61 Having taken a review of the powers, I shall now examine the construction of the proposed general government.

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62 Article 1, Section 1: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a senate and house of representatives.” By another section? The President, the principal executive officer, has a conditional control over their proceedings.

63 Section 2: “The house of representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year, by the people of the several states. The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000 inhabitants."

64 The Senate, the other constituent branch of the legislature, is formed by the legislature of each state appointing two senators for the term of six years.

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65 The executive power by Article 2, Section 1 is to be vested in a President of the United States of America elected for four years: Section 2 gives him “power, by and with the consent of the senate to make treaties, provided two thirds of the senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law,” etc.

66 And by another section he has the absolute power of granting reprieves and pardons for treason and all other high crimes and misdemeanors except in case of impeachment.

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67 The foregoing are the outlines of the plan.

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68 Thus we see, the House of Representatives are on the part of the people to balance the Senate, who I suppose will be composed of the better sort, the well born, etc.

69 The number of the representatives, being only one for every 30,000 inhabitants, appears to be too few, either to communicate the requisite information of the wants, local circumstances and sentiments of so extensive an empire, or to prevent corruption and undue influence in the exercise of such great powers; the term for which they are to be chosen, too long to preserve a due dependence and accountability to their constituents, and the mode and places of their election not sufficiently ascertained, for as Congress have the control over both, they may govern the choice by ordering the representatives of a whole state to be elected in one place, and that too may be the most inconvenient.

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70 The Senate, the great efficient body in this plan of government, is constituted on the most unequal principles.

71 The smallest state in the Union has equal weight with the great states of Virginia, Massachusetts or Pennsylvania.

72 The Senate, besides its legislative functions, has a very considerable share in the Executive; none of the principal appointments to office can be made without its advice and consent.

73 The term and mode of its appointment will lead to permanency; the members are chosen for six years, the mode is under the control of Congress, and as there is no exclusion by rotation, they may be continued for life, which, from their extensive means of influence, would follow of course.

74 The President, who would be a mere pageant of state unless he coincides with the views of the Senate, would either become the head of the aristocratic junto in that body or its minion; besides, their influence being the most predominant, could the best secure his re-election to office.

75 And from his power of granting pardons, he might screen from punishment the most treasonable attempts on liberties of the people when instigated by the Senate.

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76 From this investigation into the organization of this government, it appears that it is devoid of all responsibility or accountability to the great body of the people, and that so far from being a regular balanced government, it would be in practice a permanent aristocracy.

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77 The framers of it, actuated by the true spirit of such a government which ever abominates and suppresses all free enquiry and discussion, have made no provision for the liberty of the press, that grand palladium of freedom and scourge of tyrants, but observed a total silence on that head.

78 It is the opinion of some great writers that if the liberty of the press, by an institution of religion or otherwise, could be rendered sacred, even in Turkey, that despotism would fly before it.

79 And it is worthy of remark that there is no declaration of personal rights, premised in most free constitutions; and that trial by jury in civil cases is taken away; for what other construction can be put on the following, namely Article m., Section 2d: “In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases above mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact?”

80 It would be a novelty in jurisprudence, as well as evidently improper, to allow an appeal from the verdict of a jury on the matter of fact; therefore, it implies and allows of a [dismissal] of the jury in civil cases, and especially when it is considered that jury trial in criminal cases is expressly stipulated for, but not in civil cases.

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81 But our situation is represented to be so critically dreadful that, however reprehensible and exceptionable the proposed plan of government may be, there is no alternative between the adoption of it and absolute ruin.

82 My fellow citizens, things are not at that crisis; it is the argument of tyrants; the present distracted state of Europe secures us from injury on that quarter, and as to domestic dissensions, we have not so much to fear from them as to precipitate us into this form of government, without it is a safe and a proper one.

83 For remember, of all possible evils, that of despotism is the worst and the most to be dreaded.

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84 Besides, it cannot be supposed that the first essay on so difficult a subject is so well digested as it ought to be,

85 If [the] proposed plan, after a mature deliberation, should meet the approbation of the respective states, the matter will end, but if it should be found to be fraught with dangers and inconveniences, a future general convention, being in possession of the objections, will be the better enabled to plan a suitable government.

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86 Who's here so base, that would a bondsman be?
If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who's here so vile, that will not love his country?
If any, speak; for him have I offended.
[Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2 ]

Bryan’s Critique

To properly appreciate the work of these 18th Century men, one must visualize them with hemp paper on a table, quill pen in hand, and a pot of ink into which that pen had to be dipped every few words. This forced a certain economy of expression, the entire composition being formed of units constrained by the ability of a split feather to hold ink. To the modern eye this appears to be an uncomfortable concentration of expression, but here concision is immortality.

In military terms, the author has fired an artillery barrage.

Samuel Bryan’s topic is the proposed federal Constitution itself and not the Bill of Rights. To contemporary Americans this is a distinction less apparent than it was to the debaters. The necessity or desirability of a bill of rights can be tabled for the moment, but already it begins to take shape in Bryan’s first paragraphs. Bryan references the guarantees and protections of the Pennsylvania Constitution of the time in comparison to the proposed federal Constitution.

In Verse 4, one sees the beginnings of the 4th Amendment, and the freedom of houses, papers and possessions from search and seizure, such seizure to be accomplished by warrants taken under oath.

In Verse 5, there is the germ of the 6th Amendment and trial by jury.

In Verses 6 and 7, there is a hint of the 1st Amendment with freedom of speech and of the press.

There will be more as the debate begins to take shape.

There is, as well, a pre-Marx recognition of the importance of class interest in both the formation and the function of government, stated with the distinct whiff of class warfare.

At the Convention, Gouveneur Morris had gone so far as to propose institutionalizing differences of class and financial status in the makeup of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Without realizing it, Morris was proposing enshrinement of the class struggle in the design of the Legislative branch. Fortunately for all, the Convention rejected his proposal.

In Verse 31, it is clear that Bryan believes that Great Britain's government is the better for such class distinctions. There, such institutions as aristocracy are formally built into government. Parliament was bicameral, and it is not entirely apparent that Bryan’s objections are altogether germane if the nascent government were to attempt to accommodate this sort of class warfare instead of acting against it. Nevertheless, we see in this a hint of the argument that Edmund Burke was to make in his Reflections on the Revolution in France roughly three years later that such things occasionally serve a purpose that is not in their original design.

Bryan believes that while splitting the Legislative branch into Senate and House mirrors the British practice of Lords and Commons and accurately reflects the British society of the time, it poorly mirrors that of the United States. He prefers the unicameral Pennsylvania practice.

He points out the vagueness of the term “general welfare” and its susceptibility to over-interpretation with regard to expansion of the powers of Congress. He is particularly suspicious that this will lead Congress to supplant the state legislative bodies by taking over “every object of revenue.”

A similar objection leads him to warn against a tendency of the Supreme Court to supplant the responsibilities of the sundry state courts.

He warns that the President must, under the terms of Article 2, be at risk of becoming a tool of the class-based Senate.

He further objects that the Senate as constituted under the plan would confer a power to the various states disproportionate to their population and economic clout. Clearly the fact that this would be offset by the population-based representation of the House is an argument yet to coalesce. He does not recognize the bicameral nature of Congress as a means to address this issue.

Ironically it is a side note – a rather amusing one – that Bryan does not think that one representative per 30,000 inhabitants is sufficient, but his reasons are sound, being based on the capacity of communications in those days. One would love to see the look on his face were he told that a similar policy in the current United States would imply a House of some 10,000 members.

He closes with a warning against the tendency of a government so formed to devolve toward despotism. He particularly considers the power of presidential pardon a temptation to the exemption of the Senate from the rule of the law.

Verse 84 is a plea for modesty:

84 Besides, it cannot be supposed that the first essay on so difficult a subject is so well digested as it ought to be.

That may be true, but it is an excellent beginning. Bryan makes a strong start at defining the criteria against which any constitution must be considered. The battle is, indeed, joined.

Harbingers of the French Revolution

The French Revolution was in its very early stages at the writing of this essay, the Estates-General still two years in the future. It was clear to more than just Edmund Burke that the whole affair was likely to turn sour. The questions were: why, how to avoid it, and if class warfare were a signal characteristic of late Enlightenment government, how could one deal with it in such a way that it did not tear that government apart? The reader receives hints of that concern in this essay. Bryan is clearly apprehensive that class distinctions would be codified in the new government to its detriment, specifically with respect to the Senate (Verse 68). Thus, the question is, can they be controlled?

How can one structure a government so that it does not embody the seeds of a new aristocracy, invalidating the struggle of the War of Independence? Here one must consider the body of thought available at the time. Samuel Bryan cites the great French political scientist Montesquieu, by name in Verse 44 and by allusion in Verse 57, to the effect that democracy is out of the question for a country the size of which was already being anticipated by the Founders; that a confederation of small republics (Verse 57) or an outright despotism (Verse 58) was the only effective way to govern such a large enterprise. This was in part a recognition of the limitations of communication, but Montesquieu's was not the only opinion in the matter. Gibbon had barely finished his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire at the time, but Machiavelli, in his Discourses, had already laid out the case that a republic was perfectly capable of such an act of governance and that it was other factors, notably corruption, that led away from it toward despotism. Between Machiavelli and Washington were Cromwell and the English experience in forming a government that guarded against the abuses of untrammeled monarchical power. To a great degree the revolutions in both France and America were the bookends of that debate.

That is a little more apparent in retrospect than it was for Bryan, who appreciated the issues involved and would no doubt have been astounded at the fact that all of them are still in play some two centuries later. Americans are still debating the proper balance between the ability of local government to apprehend local issues in detail and the economies of scale of a national government. It may be that the true function of the Constitution is not to provide any comprehensive answer but to delineate the boundaries within which that long-standing debate may take place.

The Use of the Word “Democratic”

In the original text, Bryan uses the word “democratical”, which is an archaism. We have used the word “democratic” enclosed within brackets instead to convey the idea. In 1787, words such as “democracy”, “democrat” and “democratical” carried a certain amount of ideological weight. The Framers had no intention of creating a democracy, and Franklin’s opinion of democracy was scathing, going far beyond Madison’s gentle and scholarly criticism.

Yet by 1800, the political landscape had altered drastically. In that year, a man who lost his temper and accused another of being a “democrat” or engaging in “democratical” principles would have been quickly challenged to an “interview” under the code duello, concluding with the words, “My seconds shall call upon you on the morrow.” Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Party in that year labeled Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party as the Democratic-Republican Party, linking Jefferson’s own name for his party to an epithet. What had changed?

The French Revolution had shocked the American psyche. There was a great deal of good will for King Louis XVI, who had sent the French navy to intervene in America’s war with England, facilitating an American victory at Yorktown and prompting the British to rethink their approach. Louis had been deposed, decapitated and replaced by the Republic, the Terror, the Directory and finally a military coup. Napoleon had yet to send his armies to spread the poison of the French Revolution to all Europe, but America under John Adams had already fought a naval cold war with the French revolutionary government.

Despite Jefferson’s occasionally bloodthirsty prose in favor of the French Revolution, most Americans regarded the events in France as a psychotic episode tied to the idea of democracy-in-excess. While America no longer honored the concept of kings and hereditary nobility, regicide was something that shocked, especially as a progressive monarch and friend of America had been the victim. In the 1790's, democracy had begun to acquire a bad name, a situation that did not change until 1828 when Andrew Jackson ran for president the second time.

In 1787, Bryan was referring to the rough democracy seen at the most basic unit of governance in America, the county. It was the county that built the roads, maintained the poorhouse for indigents and collected the property tax. A concept that could be called “stakeholder franchise” was observed throughout the young United States. When a voter cast his ballot, he walked or rode to the county courthouse where he showed his latest property tax receipt to the county clerk in order to be allowed to vote. Upon validation of the receipt, the clerk would then ask for the citizen’s vote. There being no secret ballot, the voter would inform the clerk for whom he was voting, and representatives of the person who had won the citizen’s vote would then give him a glass of beer, cider or “punch”, a concoction of alcoholic spirits and sugar that today would be classified as a “girl drink”, but which packed a wallop. Even Jefferson, who worshiped the People in the abstract, strongly favored the retention of property qualifications, lest an un-propertied urban proletariat control the levers of power.

Bryan’s idea of “democratical” principles were rough-hewn, a part of the political mainstream, and very American.

Discussion Topics

A word of warning to FReepers. Threads such as these tend to attract one line comments bewailing the fact that modern America has broken faith with the Founders. Occasionally one will cast blame, usually at progressives, liberals, lie-berals, Democrats, DemonCrats, DemonRats, Democraps and others. Let’s avoid this. We’ll stipulate that much of America today was not what the Framers intended. But precisely where and how did we go wrong? And, more importantly, how did the men of the 18th Century err, and how did some of those men anticipate the errors?

If the reader has ever tackled the crossword puzzles of The Times of London, he knows that the clues are not direct, but are allusions that require thinking two or three levels more deeply. Our goal is to stimulate thought, forcing the reader to go several layers beneath the surface. We want to avoid the facile in favor of the comprehensive. If your head begins to ache contemplating these questions, the authors have done their job.

Coming Thursday, 4 February

The First Nationalist Speaks
James Wilson’s Speech at the State House


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Free Republic
KEYWORDS: federalistpapers; freeperbookclub
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1 posted on 02/01/2010 7:56:27 AM PST by Publius
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To: Aggie Mama; alfa6; Albertafriend; antisocial; Arizona Carolyn; awin; A Strict Constructionist; ...
FReeper Book Club

The Debate over the Constitution

The States’ Men Speak First: The Battle is Joined

Centinel #1

Ping! The thread has been posted.

Earlier threads:

FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution

2 posted on 02/01/2010 7:57:57 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius

List please?


3 posted on 02/01/2010 8:04:30 AM PST by w4women ("All great change begins at the dinner table". Ronald Reagan)
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To: Publius

BFL


4 posted on 02/01/2010 8:12:32 AM PST by zeugma (Proofread a page a day: http://www.pgdp.net/)
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To: Publius

Yee-haw! It’s finally here. Let’s get started.

Tex


5 posted on 02/01/2010 8:16:07 AM PST by BuckeyeTexan (Integrity, Honesty, Character, & Loyalty still matter)
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To: BuckeyeTexan

Ping for later.


6 posted on 02/01/2010 8:28:06 AM PST by super7man
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To: Vision; definitelynotaliberal; Mother Mary; FoxInSocks; 300magnum; NonValueAdded; sauropod; ...

PING!


7 posted on 02/01/2010 8:28:51 AM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius
Interesting that this excellent post appears on the same day in which, on another thread, my post appears of parts of John Quincy Adams' "Jubilee" Address--those parts addressing the Constitution's incorporation of the ideas of both "democracy" and "republic"--are treated by him.

Perhaps his tracing of American history through the first 50 years under the Constitution--done by invitation of the New York Historical Society--may be a subject for the future here.

Thanks for this!

8 posted on 02/01/2010 8:38:56 AM PST by loveliberty2
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To: Publius

Bookmark


9 posted on 02/01/2010 8:42:02 AM PST by JDoutrider
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To: Publius

I had to look up “abstruse.”

Love your warning at the end. Chapter Ten explains my belief of where we went wrong.


10 posted on 02/01/2010 8:45:12 AM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius
This is going to be a wonderful opportunity to learn the reasoning behind our Constitution.

Let me begin by supplying a link to the Pennsylvania Constitution that is being referred to in Verse 3.

Thanks for beginning this project.

11 posted on 02/01/2010 8:49:24 AM PST by whodathunkit (Obama is the caboose of the long train of usurpations)
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To: whodathunkit

Excellent! Thank you. It will be a valuable reference tool.


12 posted on 02/01/2010 8:50:53 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
One other thought: you refer to Bryan's observations about the necessity of "virtue" in a Republic. JQA's "Jubilee" contains a fairly lengthy discussion of that idea also, which those who are reading Bryan might want to peruse.

In your commentary on that, you include this comment: "Harry Truman, in his homey Missouri way, once made the point that a man who would cheat on his wife would cheat on his country."

Samuel Adams commented on both the idea of "virtue among the people" and the relationship between private and public "virtue" in this manner:

"Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." - Essay in the Public Advertiser, 1749

"He who is void of virtuous Attachments in private Life, is, or very soon will be void of all Regard for his Country. There is seldom an Instance of a Man guilty of betraying his Country, who had not before lost the Feeling of moral Obligations in his private Connections." - Letter to James Warren, November 4, 1775

13 posted on 02/01/2010 9:03:27 AM PST by loveliberty2
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To: Loud Mime

Thanks for the ping. I’m getting Pub’s ping as well, so you can drop me from your list.


14 posted on 02/01/2010 9:05:13 AM PST by r-q-tek86 (It isn't settled because it isn't science)
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To: Publius
It's necessary to remember that the western half of Pennsylvania at that time was a barter economy. Land in the Pittsburg countryside (as the city was spelled then) was being sold and settled by 1772, and yeoman farmers were developing large tracts of land. Whiskey was the standard form of barter. These hard-working pioneers feared the power of a centralized government, and those fears came to pass when Alexander Hamilton's government established a tax on whiskey and rebellion broke out in the early 1790's.

The national legislature voted to impose this tax on western PA. The western PA legislators of course opposed it, but their comrades in legislation said, the hell with you. This is one early case of groupthink punishing hardworking entrepreneurs to support the entire national body.

The result: taxation forced many whiskey makers to flee to less developed territories like Kentucky, and bless those new lands with their expertise in making whiskey. Which is why people speak of 'Kentucky whiskey' with respect, and not "Pennsylvania whiskey'.

15 posted on 02/01/2010 9:15:43 AM PST by Ciexyz
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To: Publius

Fascinating. The verses I noted (for myself for my further review as I was reading them) are different from the ones you have cited...yet the questions you have raised from the verses you cited are very legitimate.

My 1st thought (not being knowledgeable about Bryan) is that I like this thinker.

Kudos for your tremendous effort, Publius. (/to work)

BUMP-TO-THE-TOP!


16 posted on 02/01/2010 9:21:12 AM PST by PGalt
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To: loveliberty2

I finally finished reading your recommended “Rise of The Republic.” Thanks!

It clearly described the evolution of self government among the colonies.

After over 150 years of tradition and experience, adoption of our federal Constitution was no accident; it was a logical conclusion.


17 posted on 02/01/2010 9:28:42 AM PST by Jacquerie (Support and Defend our Beloved Constitution.)
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To: Ciexyz

Excellent point. When we get to Federal Farmer #1 next Monday, we have a long essay on the money situation and the Alcohol Standard observed on the frontier.


18 posted on 02/01/2010 9:58:45 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Is there room for elites in American governance, and why or why not? Is there truly a certain native wisdom resident in the People, and why or why not?

My problem with (self-appointed) elites in government is that they often seem to have a theoretical understanding of the needs of the "little people". I heard the point made, I believe by John Stossel, that it is impossible for anyone to know what the needs of all the citizens are because there are simply too many perspectives. This was an argument for maintaining a limited government as a means to protect the "native wisdom" of the population. While it may start a larger argument, this notion goes to the concept of "legislating morality" that our side often falls into.

I believe this also goes to the point of the government closest to the people being the most representative and the government furthest away being the least. "the country", "the State" and "Washington" being the author's definitions.

On a side note... and you may have covered this already... are the italicized portions of the text YOUR italics or the author's?

19 posted on 02/01/2010 9:59:59 AM PST by r-q-tek86 (It isn't settled because it isn't science)
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To: Jacquerie
I keep it nearby for reference on so many points of our history. Amazing how well-read and informed these 18th and 19th Century Americans were, isn't it?

Frothingham's delving into the ideas which inspired and motivated the Founders makes "The Rise of the Republic . . . " a unique work for today and, when read alongside JQA's "Jubilee" Address, Justice Story's "Commentaries . . . ," "THE FEDERALIST," Madison's "Notes," Burke's "Speech on Conciliation," and Tocqueville's 1830's observations, these can provide a more comprehensive background for appreciation of the truly unique "miracle" which happened in America.

Too bad the 20th Century "censors" revised and rewrote the nation's marvelous history and, until technology overtook them in the 21st Century, the real history of America almost was obscured. Not any more!

Today, one doesn't have to travel to libraries in distant places, handwrite notes in dusty stacks, and type them into papers. Instead, the Founders' complete writings, as well as these other early histories, can be read with the click of a mouse.

Divine Providence must still be about His work of preserving America as a place of liberty!

20 posted on 02/01/2010 10:02:54 AM PST by loveliberty2
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To: r-q-tek86

The author’s. I have maintained his italicization, and in cases where the author preferred all capitals — no doubt thanks to the printing exigencies of the time — I have rendered them in italics, which would be the modern usage.


21 posted on 02/01/2010 10:03:16 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Then his identification of the problem with the "general welfare" section mentioned in Verse 47 is particularly prescient.
22 posted on 02/01/2010 10:13:15 AM PST by r-q-tek86 (It isn't settled because it isn't science)
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To: Publius
He writes of "exclusion by rotation". Is this term limits, or possibly my preference for disallowing consecutive terms?

His answer is a group of small republics united in the sphere of foreign relations. To what extent was he right? Is he right today, with a much larger country?

I think he was dead on. I much prefer government to be localized because I like the competition aspect, and IMO there is more liberty. But it seems to me Bryan was not looking at what he would prefer, but what would not dissolve into despotism. Many may argue that the limiting factor was speed of communication, and therefore the situation is much different today, but I believe the inherent problem with large government is that it separates the legislators from the citizens to a great extent. Chances are very good that my senators will NEVER even meet me. I'm not saying we need to shoot pool every Friday night, but there should at least be a chance that we might encounter each other.

Is despotism inevitable, and why or why not?

No, but darn close. There are those that will struggle endlessly for it. I happen to be of the opinion that it will take something big (near revolution or major economic depression) to bring about a return to the love of liberty. Unfortunately, in the two biggest examples we have seen so far we have moved in exactly the wrong direction.

23 posted on 02/01/2010 10:35:11 AM PST by Darth Reardon (Im running for the US Senate for a simple reason, I want to win a Nobel Peace Prize - Rubio)
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To: r-q-tek86; Loud Mime
The justification I hear from my friends on the Left is, "But it's for a good cause!" That is because the initial point for my friend is government-as-provider, not the Constitution.

Mr. Bryan's artillery barrage hit a target there.

24 posted on 02/01/2010 10:36:37 AM PST by Publius
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To: Darth Reardon
From the 1776 constitution of Pennsylvania:

No man shall sit in congress longer than two years successively, nor be capable of reelection for three Years afterwards: and no person who holds any office in the gift of the congress shall hereafter be elected to represent this commonwealth in congress.

Pennsylvania enacted term limits for its congressmen in its constitution. That is what Bryan is referring to.

...but I believe the inherent problem with large government is that it separates the legislators from the citizens to a great extent.

This is a critical point. Were we to adhere to the rule of 30,000, then we would have 10,000 congressmen in the House today. This is why I've begun to think that we should maintain the House of Repesentatives on the Internet and actually have those 10,000 congresscrittters. They would never leave home, would be available to their constituents 24/7, and would work via secure server. Bribing that many congressmen would be much more difficult than bribing 435.

Technically, your senator should be reporting to your state legislature, and you shouldn't need to see him.

I happen to be of the opinion that it will take something big (near revolution or major economic depression) to bring about a return to the love of liberty.

A collapse of the economy and the currency might suffice, with the forced return to a hard currency of some kind, perhaps gold, silver, oil, or a basket of commodities. Whatever it is would require that people no longer look to goverment to provide their daily bread.

The citizens of the Soviet Union faced that challenge when their nation collapsed. An entire generation had been brought up under Brezhnev, relying on the government to provide everything. Once the system disappeared, they had to survive by learning new skills. Today there is more economic freedom in Russia than the US, but the Russians still don't have the rule of law.

25 posted on 02/01/2010 10:52:43 AM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
My list of verses largely comports with yours and I look forward to further discussion of these.

My impression of Mr. Bryan is that he, very strongly, embodies what was communicated by the quote below.

“It is necessary for every American, with becoming energy to endeavor to stop the dissemination of principles evidently destructive of the cause for which they have bled. It must be the combined virtue of the rulers and of the people to do this, and to rescue and save their civil and religious rights from the outstretched arm of tyranny, which may appear under any mode or form of government.”

Mercy Warren, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, 1805

26 posted on 02/01/2010 11:05:59 AM PST by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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To: Publius

Thanks. I really found this to be interesting. I am especially struck by the notations with respect to general welfare, and the necessity of virtue needed for a Republican form of Government.


27 posted on 02/01/2010 11:21:55 AM PST by greeneyes (Moderation in defense of your country is NO virtue. Let Freedom Ring.)
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To: Darth Reardon
Chances are very good that my senators will NEVER even meet me.

With all due respect, that would be your fault... and you have your subject backward... it should be YOU that meets your senator.

Gaining an audience with my representative, the representative that covers the district where my office is located, my state representatives and state senator has been suprizingly easy. Getting an audience with one of the U.S. Senators has been more difficult, but not impossible. Knowing their staff is perhaps more important and much easier to accomplish.

BTW, I do like that I run into my representative (Joe Barton) at the Kroger or elsewhere in the neighborhood about once a quarter. I always make a point of saying hello and reminding him where he has met me in the past. I realize he probably doesn't care, but I like to think that when I do meet him in his office that at least my face is familier...(sans bag, of course)

28 posted on 02/01/2010 11:28:51 AM PST by r-q-tek86 (It isn't settled because it isn't science)
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To: Publius
Wow! That's quite an opening salvo! A good choice of essay with which to begin the study.

But Bryan grates on the modern ear with his statement that a successful republic would also require that property be fairly equally distributed. How would Bryan see today’s America with its disparities of wealth, some created by merit and others by government?

I read Bryan as saying, not that property ought to be RE-distributed, but merely that a fairly equal distribution of property is a necessary precondition for free government to flourish. In other words, upon seeing vast disparities of property in a nation, he would not be optimistic that a republic could thrive there.

Does this justify the abridgment of property rights? Well, "yes" in certain circumstance; but "no" in most. In ours, I think not, since the acquisition of property is a freedom open to all citizens. (The moneyed powers in America certainly seem to have influenced the laws in their favor, however; so that "no" may in time be changed to a "yes".)

Property equates to a stake in the community. In this regard, the more widespread its possession, the better. (I'm reminded of the Chesterton-Belloc idea of "distributism", based philosophically on the Israelitish distribution of land in Canaan.) Unfortunately, our recent experiment with property gifts (i.e. unwarranted mortgages) was an abysmal failure, and reminds us that some people are rather limited in what they can contribute to our nation, and as such ought to be excluded from our political affairs. As has been well-noted, there are, after all, limits to democracy.

If virtue and a wide distribution of property are conditions essential to a free republic, then free republics depend entirely on the people, since virtue cannot be coerced, and confiscation of property in the name of "freedom" is an oxymoron. A form of government can aid or hinder us, of course; but our freedom depends ultimately upon us.
29 posted on 02/01/2010 11:37:29 AM PST by LearsFool ("Thou shouldst not have been old, till thou hadst been wise.")
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To: LearsFool
The America that existed in 1787 had not yet seen much in the way of industrialization. Of all the Framers, only Hamilton saw what was coming, and he eagerly embraced that future in the "Report on Manufactures" he sent to President Washington when he served at Treasury. That future led to disparities in wealh of such degree that President Jackson warned in 1836 that corporations were a threat to the Republic and needed strict regulation by the states.

At Bryan's time, wealth came from the land. The large landowners of New York probably constituted his idea of a great disparity of wealth. The patroon families of that state held a huge amount of the land and had armies of tenant farmers to run them. Lacking land of their own, these tenant farmers were not permitted to vote. There were few smallholdings in the Hudson Valley.

I suspect this is what Bryan had in mind when he wrote that sentence.

30 posted on 02/01/2010 12:03:08 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius

“25 Mr. Adams’ sine qua non of a good government is three balancing powers whose repelling qualities are to produce an equilibrium of interests and thereby promote the happiness of the whole community.

26 He asserts that the administrators of every government will ever be actuated by views of private interest and ambition to the prejudice of the public good; that therefore the only effectual method to secure the rights of the people and promote their welfare is to create an opposition of interests between the members of two distinct bodies in the exercise of the powers of government and balanced by those of a third.

27 This hypothesis supposes human wisdom competent to the task of instituting three coequal orders in government and a corresponding weight in the community to enable them respectively to exercise their several parts, and whose views and interests should be so distinct as to prevent a coalition of any two of them for the destruction of the third.

28 Mr. Adams, although he has traced the constitution of every form of government that ever existed, as far as history affords materials, has not been able to adduce a single instance of such a government; he indeed says that the British Constitution is such in theory, but this is rather a confirmation that his principles are chimerical and not to be reduced to practice.

29 If such an organization of power were practicable, how long would it continue?

30 Not a day, for there is so great a disparity in the talents, wisdom and industry of mankind that the scale would presently preponderate to one or the other body, and with every accession of power the means of further increase would be greatly extended.”

That is a very insightful statement on the part of Mr. Bryan and one which has been proven true as a practical matter.


31 posted on 02/01/2010 12:08:50 PM PST by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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To: r-q-tek86

Yeah, I wasn’t trying to say that I can’t meet with them if I try. I was trying to show how disconnected we are. I probably should have said something like ‘a legislator who sees most of his constituency in church every Sunday is going to be a lot more “fearful”...’


32 posted on 02/01/2010 12:18:41 PM PST by Darth Reardon (Im running for the US Senate for a simple reason, I want to win a Nobel Peace Prize - Rubio)
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To: r-q-tek86
Madison's speech on the Cod Fisheries Bounties brought up similar points. I've posted this snip before, but find it valuable.

"If Congress can apply money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may establish teachers in every State, county, and parish, and pay them out of the public Treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads, other than post roads. In short, everything, from the highest object of State legislation, down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit the application of money, and might be called if Congress pleased provisions for the general welfare."

33 posted on 02/01/2010 12:51:53 PM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Loud Mime
In a tyrannical ruling, Scotus overturned almost 300 years of common, American interpretation of the "provide for the common defense and general welfare" clause. The case was Helvering v. Davis (1937) which rationalized Social Security and turned the notions of enumerated powers and the 10th Amendment on their heads. Congress itself was to monitor what passed for enumerated powers.

I am not aware of a single law since that was overturned because it exceeded enumerated powers. It will be something of a miracle if any of Hussein's assaults on our Supreme Law are found unconstitutional.

34 posted on 02/01/2010 1:36:12 PM PST by Jacquerie (Support and Defend our Beloved Constitution.)
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To: Publius
Ironically it is a side note – a rather amusing one – that Bryan does not think that one representative per 30,000 inhabitants is sufficient, but his reasons are sound, being based on the capacity of communications in those days. One would love to see the look on his face were he told that a similar policy in the current United States would imply a House of some 10,000 members.

Perhaps his objection is not so much based in the limitations of communication of his day, as on a fundamental problem inherent in centralized government: If freedom is best preserved by self-government, then any process which leads to "more being governed by fewer" has the undesirable effect of eroding freedom.

Americans are still debating the proper balance between the ability of local government to apprehend local issues in detail and the economies of scale of a national government.

And doesn't this get to the very heart of self-government? Don't these "economies of scale of national government" merely remove from us the ability to govern ourselves? And doesn't the removal of that ability erode our freedom?

If each congressman speaks for 30,000 (and more!) constituents, how well will he speak for them? For which ones will he speak loudest? What will his speech be aimed at accomplishing? (cf. 56-60)

A single representative per every 500 people is possible - it's just not possible on a national scale. But then again, how much needs to be decided on a national scale anyway? Local public school policies? National security? Local seatbelt requirements? The coining of a national currency? Local highway speed limits? National foreign policy?

Were local concerns left in local hands, freedom would flourish - or at least flourish where it is prized, and fall into decay where it is not. That, again, is the purview of self-government.

A handful of "representatives" making rules for a vast nation of people is destructive to self-government and erosive to freedom. As Bryan says in 58:

"It would not be difficult to prove that any thing short of despotism could not bind so great a country under one government, and that whatever plan you might at the first setting out establish, it would issue in a despotism."

Prophetic, eh?
35 posted on 02/01/2010 1:37:12 PM PST by LearsFool ("Thou shouldst not have been old, till thou hadst been wise.")
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To: Publius
•In Verses 16 and 17, Bryan doesn’t believe that a man’s opinion should be trusted just because of his abilities. / Hamilton was no doubt horrified by Bryan’s statement, but even Jefferson would have had his doubts. Is there room for elites in American governance, and why or why not?

The word junto is used (Verse 74 "would either become the head of the aristocratic junto in that body or its minion") and refers to an exclusive club started by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia around 1727.All members lived in Philadelphia and came from diverse areas of interest and business.

Given that the Authors Father was a political figure who enjoyed support from the rural areas of Pennsylvania and more of a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin than the Author himself, the seemingly casual insertion of the word may indicate a negative view of the original Pennsylvania Good Old Boys Club?

A good source of information about the Father of the Author of discussion may be found here . There was speculation that the Father was Centinel but was later found not to be. I'm sure that the influence and reputation of his Father was great and gave great weight to his arguments.

There had been much contention between the rural/frontier areas of Pennsylvania and the urban/Philadelphia powers. Unlike today, those in power had a real fear that an angry mounted mob would take time out of their pioneering endeavors to 'run the rascals out' and in fact it had happened previously. Samuel Bryan must have been aware of the disdain the phrase 'aristocratic junto' would evoke in those outside of Philadelphia.

As to the question 'Is there room for elites in American governance' I contend that, yes, there is room for elites. Any other response would point to an elitism itself.

36 posted on 02/01/2010 3:41:01 PM PST by whodathunkit (Obama will be remembered as our most whimsical President)
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To: greeneyes
I was not so surprised at seeing the reference to ‘virtue’ in government. I had read similar expressions from reading the 5,000 Year Leap in that the founders placed great value on not just virtuous leaders for government, but in the people themselves. This is indeed one area that we have strayed very, very far from. The vacuum left has created the “in” for all sorts of mischief by the government.
37 posted on 02/01/2010 4:26:17 PM PST by EBH (The warning bell of Freedom is ringing, can you not hear it?)
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To: EBH
The vacuum left has created the "in" for all sorts of mischief by the government.

Not least of which is that, when social problems arise from our lack of virtue, we cry out to government to fix them for us - which government is more than happy to do, in exchange for more power.

(Not to hijack this discussion, but Hillsdale College's "Constitution Town Hall" last Saturday was quite enlightening on this very subject - particularly when one fellow, during the Q&A, advocated legalization of narcotics. Here's the archive, for anyone interested.)
38 posted on 02/01/2010 4:35:39 PM PST by LearsFool ("Thou shouldst not have been old, till thou hadst been wise.")
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To: LearsFool

Ok....you are guilty of redirecting me to Mark Steyn, Live Free or Die lecture. LOL.


39 posted on 02/01/2010 5:33:49 PM PST by EBH (The warning bell of Freedom is ringing, can you not hear it?)
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To: Jacquerie
In a tyrannical ruling, Scotus overturned almost 300 years of common, American interpretation of the "provide for the common defense and general welfare" clause.

In 1995, a book was published that explained why FDR was able to get his way with the Court even before he managed to put his own people on it, and the key was the Gold Clauses case.

In 1937, Roosevelt had heard through the grapevine that the Court was going to clobber him in a 5-4 vote over the Gold Clauses, and a defeat there would have undone the 1933 gold confiscation and probably the New Deal itself. FDR quietly passed word to the Federal Marshals Service that soon he might give an order to not enforce an edict of the Court. He made sure that Chief Justice Hughes got word of what was about to happen to him and the Court.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been an impeachable offense. But Roosevelt had just won re-election in a landslide, and his party was in absolute control of Congress. No one was going to impeach FDR over refusing to enforce an order of the Supreme Court.

Like Roosevelt, Hughes had once been the governor of New York, and he was an intelligent political animal. He knew that if push came to shove, Roosevelt would revive his previously defeated court-packing plan, and this time he would win. FDR had within his grasp the means to destroy the Supreme Court as an institution, and he knew that Congress would be on his side, perhaps even the people.

Hughes switched his vote, and Roosevelt won the Gold Clauses case by 5-4. During the remainder of 1937, and before he got enough of his people on the Court, Roosevelt bullied the Court, getting the decisions he needed to create his new paradigm of the federal government in every aspect of life, the foundation of the New Deal. And he did it with a secret threat.

40 posted on 02/01/2010 5:52:33 PM PST by Publius
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To: whodathunkit
There had been much contention between the rural/frontier areas of Pennsylvania and the urban/Philadelphia powers. Unlike today, those in power had a real fear that an angry mounted mob would take time out of their pioneering endeavors to 'run the rascals out' and in fact it had happened previously.

And when it happened, they chased the Confederation Congress north to Princeton. Hamilton wrote an incendiary letter to Washington asking him to leave Mount Vernon, take control of the army and re-take Philadelphia. The crisis petered out before anyone could jump on his horse.

That information you dug up about Bryan's father and the Junto is important. I suspect Franklin founded the Junto because Philadelphia did not have a Masonic Lodge in 1727. Usually, the local lodge took on the functions of social interaction and network building.

Before his death in 1984, I had an uncle who was the past grand master of a Masonic lodge in Philadelphia, and I'm sure he could have given me a detailed history of Freemasonry in the city.

41 posted on 02/01/2010 6:20:05 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
A BTT for the evening crowd. As this proceeds we are going to try to trace some of the origins of the ideas that informed these debaters. It didn't happen in a vacuum - Bryan mentions, for example, Montesquieu, and we have to consider Locke as well as such contemporaries as Rousseau, Voltaire, Hume, and Burke. We will, as well, attempt to link events chronologically with those of the French Revolution and contrast the two histories. One of these conflicts ended up in an enduring Republic, the other in a new despotism under Napoleon. Many of the reasons for this reside in the debates we are about to examine.

Others reside in where the two upheavals started. We have already seen a hint of the class struggles that were about to send Paris into flames, whose seeds many of the Founders recognized in the New World. Did they avoid them, reconcile them, or merely delay a reckoning?

Well, all right then, the battle is joined.

42 posted on 02/01/2010 7:34:39 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Publius
In Verse 47, Bryan says, “The Congress may construe every purpose for which the state legislatures now lay taxes to be for the general welfare and thereby seize upon every object of revenue.” This line has echoed through American history for two centuries. To what extent was he anticipating the direct taxation that even then was forbidden by the Constitution? Was he anticipating that power would accrete to the center over time, and why or why not?

This verse really resonated with me. I can't tell you how many people I have talked to who seize upon the "general welfare" phrase to open up the floodgates to federal power and taxation. I believe that he was fearful of a government of elites gradually taking over and using such loose phrases as this as the justification for doing so. And he appears to have been correct.

43 posted on 02/01/2010 7:59:32 PM PST by tstarr
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To: tstarr; Loud Mime
"But it's for a good cause."

I hear it all the time, and it really infuriates me. I would recommend Steven Maikoski's Initial Points in Politics for an excellent diagnosis of this problem.

44 posted on 02/01/2010 8:02:52 PM PST by Publius
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To: LearsFool
Ironically it is a side note – a rather amusing one – that Bryan does not think that one representative per 30,000 inhabitants is sufficient, but his reasons are sound, being based on the capacity of communications in those days. One would love to see the look on his face were he told that a similar policy in the current United States would imply a House of some 10,000 members.

I think the crux of the issue is less the total number of representatives, but what should be done at the federal level. If Congress was only concerned with "big picture" items like should we go to war, etc., 10,000 members could vote remotely now and it would be fine. But we have gradually allowed the federal to overtake the state (as warned of by Bryan), which would turn to complete anarchy with a large number of representatives. Of course, the answer to this is to reduce the size of the federal government to what was intended at the time.

45 posted on 02/01/2010 8:10:39 PM PST by tstarr
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To: Publius
In Verses 57 and 58, Bryan argues that America may be too large for the kind of government envisioned in the Constitution. His answer is a group of small republics united in the sphere of foreign relations. To what extent was he right? Is he right today, with a much larger country? Is despotism inevitable, and why or why not?

I believe that America is NOT too large for the kind of government envisioned in the Constitution, but we don't really have that today, do we? I wonder if we wouldn't be better served today by a group of 5-6 individual republics united by a common currency and foreign relations, but charting their own way in other areas. My first choice would be a return to the original constitution and away from "case law" as the basis for our judicial decisions. However, there are some advantages to this idea, not least of which is greater local control of all issues. Do you think something better would have been done about illegal immigration if it was dealt with by a government closer to the people of the Southwest as a separate republic?

46 posted on 02/01/2010 8:19:23 PM PST by tstarr
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To: tstarr
Do you think something better would have been done about illegal immigration if it was dealt with by a government closer to the people of the Southwest as a separate republic?

That depends on who was running that republic. First a little history for perspective.

To a very great degree organized labor was responsible in the Fifties for creating the American middle class as we know it, and it did so by insisting that unskilled labor be paid the same wages as skilled labor. Following the war, America had the only industrial framework in the world that hadn’t been destroyed by bombardment. American unions could demand higher wages, and the rest of the world had no choice but to pay whatever price was demanded for American goods while the devastated countries were rebuilt. That was balanced by the fact that much of the reconstruction was funded out of the pockets of those same American workers. But it was a good time to be one of the latter. An American male could drop out of school, get his union card, sign up at the local plant, marry, have 2.3 children, own a car, house and vacation home, and at age 65 retire with a full pension and go fishing. Good times while they lasted.

In the Sixties, the Third World came on line as a source of cheap labor; in the Seventies, high labor costs caused American goods to be priced out of world markets. The unions had at last lost their pricing power. The only way to compete, other than moving the company overseas, was to reduce American wages to Third World levels, and what better way to do that than to open up the floodgates of immigration, legal or otherwise? This is why the Wall Street Journal has long pushed for a constitutional amendment stating, "There shall be open borders."

But the interests of Big Business are not necessarily in the best interests of all Americans. A Southwest republic might guard the border and shoot all invaders, but if business interests held the reins of power, I wouldn't bet on that.

47 posted on 02/01/2010 8:31:06 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius; Jacquerie
"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

James Madison Federalist 47

This is a GREAT thread!!

48 posted on 02/01/2010 9:21:58 PM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius

Thanks. That filled a gap in my knowledge. What is the name of the book?


49 posted on 02/02/2010 3:24:28 AM PST by Jacquerie (Support and Defend our Beloved Constitution.)
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To: Publius
In Verses 16 and 17, Bryan doesn’t believe that a man’s opinion should be trusted just because of his abilities. One would imagine his horror at the opinions of actors being taken seriously! His stance is reminiscent of William Buckley’s famous statement that he would rather be governed by the first one hundred people in the New York telephone directory than by the entire faculty of Harvard. Hamilton was no doubt horrified by Bryan’s statement, but even Jefferson would have had his doubts. Is there room for elites in American governance, and why or why not? Is there truly a certain native wisdom resident in the People, and why or why not?

Is there room for elites in American governance, and why or why not? I suspect that the elites of their time were well educated in history and well tempered by their own religion. These men holding this debate were of all walks of life, some even were "elites" at their time. I think the difference between then and now is a matter of what set their understanding of the Natural Law and the principals that guided them.

The elites of today are schooled, coached in perverted histories and discouraged from embracing any form of religious upbringing or beliefs. They are taught, learn well how to circumvent the law, misinterpret the Constitution with the magic of empty rhetoric. They do this without the least glimmer of a conscience.

It is this observation, of the elite ruling culture of modern times, that causes me to often doubt our current endeavors to restore our Constitution.

50 posted on 02/02/2010 3:55:34 AM PST by EBH (The warning bell of Freedom is ringing, can you not hear it?)
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