POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

What we are not talking about already elsewhere
thelivyjr
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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Wed Oct 09, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

It is brought as an objection “that there will be a rival-ship 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 and security, and the respectability, of 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 sea-coast, 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 leading view 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 members 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?

TO BE CONTINUED ...

thelivyjr
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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Thu Oct 10, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

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 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 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.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

thelivyjr
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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

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, 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 state governments’ losing the power of conferring advantages, by the disposal of offices, it is said they will lose the attachment of the people.

What is in one instance corruption and bribery, is in another the power of conferring advantages.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Sat Oct 12, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

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 citizen, who knows the value of the privilege, will undoubtedly attend, to secure the man of his choice.


The power and business of the state legislatures relate 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 elections, 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.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

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.

“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.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

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 no power to prevent them; the Senate will swallow up every thing.”

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 break up the Union.

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 extent 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.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

thelivyjr
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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Wed Oct 16, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

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 lays 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.

“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 fulfil the contract?

Shall it have the power to borrow money, and no power to pay the principal or interest?

Must we go on in the track that we have hitherto pursued?

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?

Wilt 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.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Fri Oct 18, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

In this Constitution, a power is given to Congress to collect imposts, which is not given by the present Articles of the 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 rest 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 tranquillity 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 8th section of the 1st 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 state governments.

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.

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 up standing 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?

TO BE CONTINUED ...

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Sat Oct 19, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

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 sect. art. 1st.

“The Congress (it says) shall have power,” &c.

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 denned by the following, “for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.”

It is saying no more than that the powers we have already particularly given, shall be effectually carried into execution.

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 to declare what shall be a libel.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Sun Oct 20, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Conventions, morning, continued ...

James Wilson

December 04, 1787

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?

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.


TO BE CONTINUED ...

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