POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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

Post by thelivyjr » Sun Mar 21, 2021 1:40 p

Centinel III, continued ...

Centinel

November 8, 1787

Every exertion has been made to suppress discussion by shackling the press; but as this could not be effected in this state, the people are warned not to listen to the adversaries of the proposed plan, lest they should impose upon them, and thereby prevent the adoption of this blessed government.

What figure would a lawyer make in a court of justice, if he should desire the judges not to hear the counsel of the other side, lest they should perplex the cause and mislead the court?

Would not every bystander take it for granted, that he was conscious of the weakness of his client’s cause, and that it could no otherwise be defended, than by not being understood?

All who are friends to liberty are friends to reason, the champion of liberty, and none are foes to liberty but those who have truth and reason for their foes.

He who has dark purposes to serve, must use dark means: light would discover him, and reason expose him: he must endeavor to shut out both, and make them look frightful by giving them ill names.

Liberty only flourishes where reason and knowledge are encouraged; and wherever the latter are stifled, the former is extinguished.


In Turkey printing is forbid, enquiry in dangerous, and free speaking is capital; because they are all inconsistent with the nature of government.

Hence it is that the Turks are all stupidly ignorant and are all slaves.

I shall now proceed in the consideration of the construction of the proposed plan of government.

By section 4th of article 1st of the proposed government it is declared, “that 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.”

Will not this section put it in the power of the future Congress to abolish the suffrage by ballot, so indispensable in a free government.

Montesquieu in his spirit of laws vol. 1 page 12, says “that in a democracy there can be no exercise of sovereignty, but by the suffrages of the people, which are their will; now the sovereigns will is the sovereign himself."

"The laws therefore which establish the right of suffrage, are fundamental to this government."

"In fact it is as important to regulate in a republic, in what manner, by whom, and concerning what, suffrages are to be given, as it is in a monarchy to know who is the Prince and after what manner he ought to govern.”

This valuable privilege of voting by ballot, ought not to rest on the discretion of the government, but be irrevocably established in the constitution.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Tue Mar 23, 2021 1:40 p

Centinel III, continued ...

Centinel

November 8, 1787

Section 8th of article 1st, vests Congress with power “to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel evasions; to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”

This section will subject the citizens of these states to the most arbitrary military discipline, even death may be inflicted on the disobedient; in the character of militia, you may be dragged from your families and homes to any part of the continent and for any length of time, at the discretion of the future Congress; and as militia you may be made the unwilling instruments of oppression, under the direction of government; there is no exemption upon account of conscientious scruples of bearing arms; no equivalent to be received in lieu of personal services.

The militia of Pennsylvania may be marched to Georgia or New-Hampshire however incompatible with their interests or consciences; in short they may be made as meer machines as Prussian soldiers.

Section the 9th begins thus.

“The migration or importation of such persons, as any of the states, now existing, shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by Congress, prior to the year 1808, but a duty or tax may be imposed on such importation not exceeding ten dollars for each person.”

And by the fifth article this restraint is not to be removed by any future convention.

We are told that the objects of this article, are slaves, and that it is inserted to secure to the southern states, the right of introducing negroes for twenty-one years to come, against the declared sense of the other states to put an end to an odious traffic in the human species; which is especially scandalous and inconsistent in a people, who have asserted their own liberty by the sword, and which dangerously enfeebles the districts, wherein the laborers are bondmen.

The words dark and ambiguous; such as no plain man of common sense would have used, are evidently chosen to conceal from Europe, that in this enlightened country, the practice of slavery has its advocates among men in the highest stations.

When it is recollected that no poll among men in the highest stations.

When it is recollected that no poll tax can be imposed on five negroes, above what three whites shall be charged; when it is considered, that the impost on the consumption of Carolina field negroes, must be trifling, and the excise, nothing, it is plain that the proportion of contributions, which can be expected from the southern states under the new constitution, will be very unequal, and yet they are to be allowed to enfeeble themselves by the further importation of negroes till the year 1808.

Has not the concurrence of the five southern states (in the convention) to the new system, been purchased too dearly by the rest, who have undertaken to make good their deficiencies of revenue, occasioned by their willful incapacity, without an equivalent?

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Fri Mar 26, 2021 1:40 p

Centinel III, concluded ...

Centinel

November 8, 1787

The general acquiescence of one description of citizens in the proposed government, surprises me much; if so many of the Quakers have become indifferent to the sacred rights of conscience, so amply secured by the constitution of this commonwealth; if they are satisfied, to rest this inestimable privilege on the discretion of the future government; yet in a political light they are not acting wisely; in the state of Pennsylvania, they form so considerable a portion of the community, as must ensure them great weight in the government; but in the scale of general empire, they will be lost in the ballance.

I intended in this number to have shewn from the nature of things, from the opinions of the greatest writers and from the peculiar circumstances of the United States, the impracticability of establishing and maintaining one government on the principles of freedom in so extensive a territory; to have shewn, if practicable, the inadequacy of such government, to provide for its many and various concerns; and also to have shewn that a confederation of small republics, possessing all the powers of internal government, and united in the management of their general and foreign concerns, is the only system of government, by which so extensive a country can be governed consistent with freedom: but a writer under the signature of Brutus, in the New-York paper, which has been re-published by Messrs. Dunlap and Claypoole, has done this in so masterly a manner, that it would be superfluous in me to add any thing on this subject.

My fellow citizens, as a lover of my country, as the friend to mankind, whilst it is yet safe to write, and whilst it is yet in your power to avoid it, I warn you of the impending danger.

To this remote quarter of the world, has liberty fled.

Other countries now subject to slavery, were once as free as we yet; therefore for your own sakes, for the sake of your posterity, as well as for that of the oppressed of all nations, cherish this remaining asylum of liberty.


Philadelphia, November 5th, 1787.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:40 p

Brutus, Jr.

Brutus

November 8, 1787

MR. GREENLEAF, I have read with a degree of attention several publications which have lately appeared in favour of the new Constitution; and as far as I am able to discern – the arguments (if they can be so termed) of most weight, which are urged in its favour may be reduced to the two following:

1st. That the men who formed it, were wise and experienced; that they were an illustrious band of patriots, and had the happiness of their country at heart; that they were four months deliberating on the subject, and therefore, it must be a perfect system.

2d. That if the system be not received, this country will be without any government, and of consequence, will be reduced to a state of anarchy and confusion, and involved in bloodshed and carnage; and in the end, a government will be imposed upon us, not the result of reason and reflection, but of force and usurpation.


As I do not find that either Cato or the Centinel, Brutus, or the Old Whig, or any other writer against this constitution, have undertaken a particular refutation of this new species of reasoning, I take the liberty of offering to the public, through the channel of your paper, the few following animadversions on the subject; and the rather, because I have discovered, that some of my fellow citizens have been imposed upon by it.

With respect to the first, it will be readily perceived, that it precludes all investigation of the merits of the proposed constitution, and leads to an adoption of the plan, without enquiring whether it be good or bad.

For if we are to infer the perfection of this system from the characters and abilities of the men who formed it, we may as well determine to accept it without any enquiry as with.

A number of persons in this as well as the other states, have, upon this principle, determined to submit to it without even reading or knowing its contents.

But supposing the premisses from which this conclusion is drawn, to be just, it then becomes essential, in order to give validity to the argument, to enquire into the characters of those who composed this body, that we may determine whether we can be justified in placing such unbounded confidence in them.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Wed Mar 31, 2021 1:40 p

Brutus, Jr., continued ...

Brutus

November 8, 1787

It is an invidious task, to call in question the characters of individuals, especially of such as are placed in illustrious stations.

But when we are required implicitly to submit our opinions to those of others, from a consideration that they are so wise and good as not to be liable to err, and that too in an affair which involves in it the happiness of ourselves and our posterity; every honest man will justify a decent investigation of characters in plain language.


It is readily admitted, that many individuals who composed this body, were men of the first talents and integrity in the union.

It is at the same time, well known to every man, who is but moderately acquainted with the characters of the members, that many of them are possessed of high aristocratic ideas, and the most sovereign contempt of the common people; that not a few were strongly disposed in favour of monarchy; that there were some of no small talents and of great influence, of consummate cunning, and masters of intrigue, whom the war found poor, or in embarressed circumstances, and left with princely fortunes, acquired in public employment, who are at this day to account for many thousands of public money; that there were others who were young, ardent, and ambitious, who wished for a government corresponding with their feelings, while they were destitute of that experience which is the surest guide in political researches; that there were not a few who were gaping for posts of honour and emolument; these we find exulting in the idea of a change, which will divert places of honour, influence and emolument, into a different channel, where the confidence of the people, will not be necessary to their acquirement.

It is not to be wondered at, that an assembly thus composed should produce a system liable to well founded objections, and which will require very essential alterations.

We are told by one of themselves (Mr. Wilson of Philadelphia) the plan was matter of accommodation; and it is not unreasonable to suppose, that in this accommodation, principles might be introduced which would render the liberties of the people very insecure.

I confess I think it of no importance, what are the characters of the framers of this government, and therefore should not have called them in question, if they had not been so often urged in print, and in conversation, in its favour.

It ought to rest on its own intrinsic merit.

If it is good, it is capable of being vindicated; if it is bad, it ought not to be supported.

It is degrading to a freeman, and humiliating to a rational one, to pin his faith on the sleeve of any man, or body of men, in an affair of such momentous importance.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Fri Apr 02, 2021 1:40 p

Brutus, Jr., continued ...

Brutus

November 8, 1787

In answer to the second argument, I deny that we are in immediate danger of anarchy and commotions.

Nothing but the passions of wicked and ambitious men, will put us in the least danger on this head: those who are anxious to precipitate a measure, will always tell us that the present is the critical moment; now is the time, the crisis is arrived, and the present minute must be seized.

Tyrants have always made use of this plea; but nothing in our circumstances can justify it.


The country is in profound peace, and we are not threatened by invasion from any quarter: the governments of the respective states are in the full exercise of their powers; and the lives, the liberty, and property of individuals are protected: all present exigencies are answered by them.

It is true, the regulation of trade and a competent provision for the payment of the interest of the public debt is wanting; but no immediate commotion will arise from these; time may be taken for calm discussion and deliberate conclusions.

Individuals are just recovering from the losses and embarrassments sustained by the late war: industry and frugality are taking their station, and banishing from the community, idleness and prodigality.

Individuals are lessening their private debts, and several millions of the public debt is discharged by the sale of the western territory.

There is no reason, therefore, why we should precipitately and rashly adopt a system, which is imperfect or insecure; we may securely deliberate and propose amendments and alterations.

I know it is said we cannot change for the worse; but if we act the part of wise men, we shall take care that we change for the better: It will be labour lost, if after all our pains we are in no better circumstances than we were before.

If any tumults arise, they will be justly chargeable on those artful and ambitious men, who are determined to cram this government down the throats of the people, before they have time deliberately to examine it.

All the measures of the leaders of this faction have tended to this point.

In Congress they attempted to obtain a resolution to approve the constitution, without going into an examination of it.

In Pennsylvania, the chiefs of the party, who themselves were of the convention, that framed this system, within a few days after it dissolved, and before Congress had considered it, indecently brought forward a motion in their general assembly for recommending a convention; when a number of respectable men of that legislature, withdrew from the house, refusing to sanction with their presence, a measure so flagrantly improper, they procured a mob to carry a sufficient number of them by force to the house, to enable them to proceed on the business.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Sun Apr 04, 2021 1:40 p

Brutus, Jr., concluded ...

Brutus

November 8, 1787

In Boston, the printers have refused to print against this plan, and have been countenanced in it.

In Connecticut, papers have been handed about for the people to sign, to support it, and the names of those who decline signing if, have been taken down in what was called, a black list, to intimidate them into a compliance, and this before the people had time to read and understand the meaning of the constitution.


Many of the members of the convention, who were charged with other public business, have abandoned their duty, and hastened to their states to precipitate an adoption of the measure.

The most unwearied pains has been taken, to persuade the legislatures to recommend conventions to be elected to meet at early periods, before an opportunity could be had to examine the constitution proposed; every art has been used to exasperate the people against those, who made objections to the plan.

They have been told that the opposition is chiefly made by state officers, who expect to lose their places by the change, though the propagators of this falsehood, know, that very few of the state offices will be vacated by the new constitution, and are well apprized, that should it take place, it will give birth to a vast number of more lucrative and permanent appointments, which its principal advocates in every state are warmly in the pursuit of.

Is it not extraordinary, that those men who are predicting, that a rejection of this constitution will lead to every evil, which anarchy and confusion can produce, should at the same moment embrace and pursue with unabating industry, every measure in their power, to rouse the passions, and thereby preclude calm and dispassionate enquiry.

It would be wise in them, however, to reflect in season that should public commotion take place, they will not only be answerable for the consequences, and the blood that may be shed, but that on such an event, it is more than probable the people will discern the advocates for their liberties, from those who are aiming to enslave them, and that each will receive their just deserts.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Mon Apr 05, 2021 1:40 p

Cato IV

Cato

November 8, 1787

Introduction

Because the opponents of the Constitution did not agree in their objections, they were not as organized as its advocates.

However, most anti-Federalists focused their criticisms on the absence of a bill of rights and on Congress.

In particular, they argued that Congress’s powers were undefined, that Congress was too small, and that it would be composed of elites who would not represent ordinary people.

The vast majority of anti-Federalist writing did not focus on the presidency.

“Cato,” of New York, is an exception.


(Like many of those engaged in the debate over ratification, this author wrote under a pen name. While scholars have not conclusively determined who Cato was, a leading contender has long been George Clinton, the first and longest tenured governor of New York State.)

Cato warned that the elective nature of the presidency would enhance the president’s formal powers under the Constitution.

Because the president would be able to appoint ministers, he would be able to create a court of elites who would then dominate ordinary people.

Moreover, Cato worries that the length of the president’s term of office, combined with the absence of a term limit, would make the president even more powerful.

Notice also that Cato predicts the scenario that happened in 1824, when the selection of the president was thrown into the House — no candidate having won a majority in the Electoral College — and the House chose the person who did not win the most Electoral College votes.

Source: The New York Journal, January 3, 1788.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Fri Apr 09, 2021 1:40 p

Cato IV

Cato

November 8, 1787

I shall begin with observations on the executive branch of this new system; and though it is not the first in order, as arranged therein, yet being the chief, is perhaps entitled by the rules of rank to the first consideration.

The executive power as described in the 2d article, consists of a president and vice-president, who are to hold their offices during the term of four years; the same article has marked the manner and time of their election, and established the qualifications of the president; it also provides against the removal, death, or inability of the president and vice-president — regulates the salary of the president, delineates his duties and powers; and lastly, declares the causes for which the president and vice-president shall be removed from office.

Notwithstanding the great learning and abilities of the gentlemen who composed the convention, it may be here remarked with deference, that the construction of the first paragraph of the first section of the second article, is vague and inexplicit, and leaves the mind in doubt, as to the election of a president and vice-president, after the expiration of the election for the first term of four years — in every other case, the election of these great officers is expressly provided for; but there is no explicit provision for their election in case of the expiration of their offices, subsequent to the election which is to set this political machine in motion — no certain and express terms as in your state constitution, that statedly once in every four years, and as often as these offices shall become vacant, by expiration or otherwise, as is therein expressed, an election shall be held as follows, etc.—this inexplicitness perhaps may lead to an establishment for life….

​…​It is remarked by Montesquieu, in treating of republics, that in all magistracies, the greatness of the power must be compensated by the brevity of the duration; and that a longer time than a year, would be dangerous.

It is therefore obvious to the least intelligent mind, to account why, great power in the hands of a magistrate, and that power connected, with a considerable duration, may be dangerous to the liberties of a republic — the deposit of vast trusts in the hands of a single magistrate, enables him in their exercise, to create a numerous train of dependents — this tempts his ambition, which in a republican magistrate is also remarked, to be pernicious and the duration of his office for any considerable time favors his views, give him the means and time to perfect and execute his designs — he therefore fancies that he may be great and glorious by oppressing his fellow citizens, and raising himself to permanent grandeur on the ruins of his country.

And here it may be necessary to compare the vast and important powers of the president, together with his continuance in office with the foregoing doctrine — his eminent magisterial situation will attach many adherents to him, and he will be surrounded by expectants and courtiers — his power of nomination and influence on all appointments — the strong posts in each state comprised within his superintendence, and garrisoned by troops under his direction — his control over the army, militia, and navy — the unrestrained power of granting pardons for treason, which may be used to screen from punishment, those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the crime, and thereby prevent a discovery of his own guilt — his duration in office for four years: these, and various other principles evidently prove the truth of the position — that if the president is possessed of ambition, he has power and time sufficient to ruin his country.

Though the president, during the sitting of the legislature, is assisted by the senate, yet he is without a constitutional council in their recess — he will therefore be unsupported by proper information and advice, and will generally be directed by minions and favorites, or a council of state will grow out of the principal officers of the great departments, the most dangerous council in a free country.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Post by thelivyjr » Sat Apr 10, 2021 1:40 p

Cato IV, continued ...

Cato

November 8, 1787

The ten miles square, which is to become the seat of government, will of course be the place of residence for the president and the great officers of state — the same observation of a great man will apply to the court of a president possessing the powers of a monarch, that is observed of that of a monarch — ambition with idleness — baseness with pride — the thirst of riches without labour — aversion to truth — flattery — treason — perfidy — violation of engagements — contempt of civil duties — hope from the magistrate’s weakness; but above all, the perpetual ridicule of virtue — these, he remarks, are the characteristics by which the courts in all ages have been distinguished. [1]

The language and manners of this court will be what distinguishes them from the rest of the community, not what assimilates them to it, and in being remarked for a behavior that shews they are not meanly born, and in adulation to people of fortune and power.

The establishment of a vice-president is as unnecessary as it is dangerous.

This officer, for want of other employment, is made president of the senate, thereby blending the executive and legislative powers, besides always giving to some one state, from which he is to come, an unjust pre-eminence.

It is a maxim in republics, that the representative of the people should be of their immediate choice; but by the manner in which the president is chosen he arrives to this office at the fourth or fifth hand, nor does the highest vote, in the way he is elected, determine the choice — for it is only necessary that he should be taken from the highest of five, who may have a plurality of votes.
[2]

Compare your past opinions and sentiments with the present proposed establishment, and you will find, that if you adopt it, that it will lead you into a system which you heretofore reprobated as odious.

Every American whig, not long since, bore his emphatic testimony against a monarchical government, though limited, because of the dangerous inequality that it created among citizens as relative to their rights and property; and wherein does this president, invested with his powers and prerogatives, essentially differ from the king of Great-Britain​…​[?]

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