POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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

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Philadelphiensis VI

December 26, 1787

“Distress’d Columbia, must thou lie so low?
Must all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils
End in thine own disgrace?”

My Fellow Citizens, If America is to become a respectable nation, the people must retain their freedom in the fullest extent possible; this is the sine qua non (an essential condition; a thing that is absolutely necessary) of our respectability; on this alone must the strength, honor, and national character of this country depend.

Indeed, any other system defeats the intention of the revolution; freedom was the ultimate object of the war with Britain, and must, from the nature of things, be the object as long as America remains an independent country.


The Turkish empire was established by cruelty and dominion, by the swords of bigotted infidels, whose religion taught them to murder without remorse: probably then, that empire should have been extinct long ago, if the same system of despotism and cruelty had not been preserved; (although there are some authors who affirm that even in Turkey great and valuable privileges have always been enjoyed) but be that as it may, the case is widely different with us; nothing short of pure liberty is consistent with revolution principles; the temple of freedom that was raised in America, was intended by providence to be the asylum of the poor and the oppressed of every nation and every clime.

If then we prostitute this hallowed edifice, to purposes for which providence never designed it, our ruin is inevitable.

Our national independence will probably not survive the loss of our liberties a single day.

As darkness brings the night, so despotism will obliterate the very name of the American empire.

It is a principle almost universally confirmed by the joint evidences of reason and experience, that that nation which is most free, is always most victorious; people who enjoy their civil and religious liberty, according to the true sense and meaning of the phrase, are laborious and brave.

As the nature of a free government is to protect the lives, liberties, and property of the people, that each may enjoy what he hath by honest industry acquired; so it will be the temper and nature of that people, voluntarily to fight in defence of that government; for its interests and preservation is the same as their own.

Hence, under a free constitution which secures the rights and privileges of the people, we will find courage, fortitude, and an unshaken loyalty to that government: but on the contrary, where despotism and tyranny prevail, the people are indolent and pusillanimous, backward to toil and fight in support of a government which their interest must lead them rather to see annihilated than preserved.

If we take a view of ancient or modern history, we shall find that freedom and superiority have ever gone hand in hand.


TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Philadelphiensis VI, continued ...

December 26, 1787

The history of England affords us many striking instances to illustrate this truth; the party that fought for their country, in civil broils, has always been victorious over the faction that endeavored to enslave it.

But why need I advance examples to prove a point, that the bare mentioning of the American revolution seems to put beyond controversy.

If the history of the Turkish empire does not afford an exception to this principle, that freedom and victory are inseparable, there can be none found that I know of, without the conquest of the island of Corsica, by the French, be admitted as one; which certainly ought not, for it rather shows that freemen contending for their liberties are invincible.

Since it is obvious from what has been said, that the energy and national strength of America are concomitant with her freedom; it follows then that the adoption of the new constitution which necessarily destroys the latter, must of consequence destroy the former.

This constitution, in the first instance, will lop off one half of our sacred rights and privileges, for which we bled and conquered; and the remainder are generally left insecure, and therefore must eventually be lost too; for the cursed lust of dominion can never be satisfied until it is in possession of all power, yea, it even then will be discontent, for it is insatiable.


If America is to be great she must be free; freedom is her heart, her very lifeblood; and the liberty of the press, like the great aorta, the prime artery, must convey it to the remotest parts of the extremities.

That the adoption of this new constitution, in toto, will destroy the freedom of the press, and every other right and liberty that should adorn the freemen of America, has been proved in a clear and masterly manner by many patriotic writers, even before the dissent of the virtuous minority of the convention of Pennsylvania appeared; but this gives the matter a finishing stroke: he who denies the evidence of their positions is either a designing villain, or one who insults his own reason, and declares himself incapable of judging right from wrong, or freedom from slavery, and consequently unworthy of enjoying American liberty.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Philadelphiensis VI, continued ...

December 26, 1787

The political alchymist, Dr. Rush, in his fulsome speech, that he has so assiduously published, patched, and re—published in all our newspapers, says, that our adoption of the new constitution will “produce paleness and distress at the court of St. James’s.”

From such a fallacious assertion, one would imagine that the doctor must suppose the people of the United States are already as blind as he would wish to make them, if he thinks they will swallow this his bolus of deceit; such a declaration may probably work upon the prejudices of an American reader, but can never convince his reason.

The assertion is false, take it in what sense you will; whether the doctor meant that the adoption of this system of government will produce our misery or prosperity, he is equally wrong.

That our establishing a despotic government possessed of every necessary power and qualification for annihilating the freedom of the people, and reducing them to the lowest state of slavery and wretchedness, should excite paleness and distress at the court of London is truly paradoxical; the sentiments of that nation must have undergone a great change; a greater change certainly than any man of common sense can credit.

I know there are many good men of patriotic hearts and friends of American liberty in Britain, who will feel the most poignant grief when they hear of its adoption; but that these are of the court party, I can scarce believe: and I question much whether we should not doubt the sincerity of a positive and official declaration of that court, sympathizing with us in our sorrow.

So that, upon the whole, I think it is pretty obvious, that the court of St. James’s will not be much distressed at our misery.

And that the British government should be distressed on account of the prosperity that must result to this country from our adoption of this system of government is a sophistical falsehood, that a grain of reason is sufficient to detect: Britain will never be distressed by reason of our prosperity under this constitution; for the truth of the matter is, we cannot prosper under it, but on the contrary, we will sink into misery and contempt, and probably cease to be an independent nation.

This is a consequence that every politician will necessarily and quickly draw, and that the British, or any other government, must comprehend in an instant.

Neither energy, strength nor respectability can exist a moment in America after the adoption of this tyrannical government.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Philadelphiensis VI, concluded ...

December 26, 1787

There are several who have imagined that this government will for some time be a moderate aristocracy but end in a despotic monarchy; but this is a mistake; for it must commence in despotism, if ever it has a beginning.

A large standing army will be absolutely necessary to set it in motion; I say a large standing army, for a small military force would only excite opposition in its enemies, and encourage them to attempt its destruction, by an appeal to arms.

The impolitic conduct of Britain at the commencement of the American war, is a lesson for despotic governments in future; a decisive blow must be struck at once, otherwise liberty may triumph.

The advocates of the new constitution must be pretty well convinced by this time, that there are in every state a considerable number of people, perhaps one half of the whole, disaffected to it; now if nine states should really come into the measure, would it be prudent to compel the rest.

I think not; although it is already whispered about, that if Virginia, or any of the southern states should not adopt it, that force will certainly be applied; but this is Utopian altogether, nor can I conceive even if every state in the union should adopt it, how this faction can be crushed, and crushed it must be effectually, before this government is firmly established.

I even doubt, whether all the military that the well born and their parasites can raise, will complete this piece of business to their satisfaction.

Has not America already shown to the world that no power on earth can overcome a phalanx of freemen defending their sacred liberties?

Many patriotic writers wishing to compromise matters between the friends and enemies of the proposed government, have imagined that the difference might be amicably settled, if a declaration of rights were prefixed to the constitution, so as to become a part of it; and therefore have recommended this to the parties as a necessary measure to reconcile them again to each other.

But these good men did not consider that a declaration of rights would effectually and completely annihilate the constitution; of this however, its advocates were well aware, and consequently could not consent to the amendment.

No, no, the haughty lordlings and their sycophants must have no limits set to their power; they alone should rule; yes, and rule as they list too: why should any poor poltroon speak of rights; what are his rights?

Why, to work as a slave for his well born master.

Ah, my fellow citizens, this is a trying moment! an awful time indeed!

Is it possible that the freemen of America should lose their liberties so soon?

I hope not; and I trust, that the Lord, who is the friend of the poor and oppressed, will defeat the purposes, and confound the counsels of their haughty enemies; so that “They shall take them captives, whose captives they were, and they shall rule over their oppressors.”

Amen.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Centinel VII

by Centinel & Samuel Bryan

December 27, 1787

To the People of Pennsylvania.

Friends and Fellow-Citizens!

The admiring world lately beheld the sun of liberty risen to meridian splendour in this western hemisphere, whose chearing rays began to dispel the glooms of even trans-atlantic despotism: the patriotic mind, enraptured with the flowing scene, fondly anticipated an universal and eternal day to the orb of freedom; but the horison is already darkened and the glooms of slavery threaten to fix their empire.

How transitory are the blessings of this life!

Scarcely have four years elapsed since these United States, rescued from the domination of foreign despots by the unexampled heroism and perseverance of its citizens, at such great expence of blood and treasure, when they are about to fall a prey to the machinations of a profligate junto at home, who seizing the favorable moment, when the temporary and extraordinary difficulties of the people have thrown them off their guard, and lulled that jealousy of power so essential to the preservation of freedom, have been too successful in the sacrilegious attempt; however I am confident that this formidable conspiracy will end in the confusion and infamy of its authors; that if necessary, the avenging sword of an abused people will humble these aspiring despots to the dust, and that their fate, like that of Charles the First of England, will deter such attempts in future, and prove the confirmation of the liberties of America until time shall be no more.


One would imagine by the insolent conduct of these harpies of power, that they had already triumphed over the liberties of the people, that the chains were riveted and tyranny established.

They tell us all further opposition will be in vain, as this state has passed the rubicon.

Do they imagine the freemen of Pennsylvania will be thus trepaned out of their liberties; that they will submit without a struggle?

They must indeed be inebriated with the lust of dominion to indulge such chimerical ideas.

Will the act of one sixth of the people, and this too founded on deception and surprise, bind the community?

Is it thus that the altar of liberty, so recently crimsoned with the blood of our worthies, is to be prostrated and despotism reared on its ruins?


Certainly not.

The solemn mummery that has been acting in the name of the people of Pennsylvania will be treated with the deserved contempt; it has served indeed to expose the principles of the men concerned, and to draw a line of discrimination between the real and affected patriots.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Centinel VII, concluded ...

by Centinel & Samuel Bryan

December 27, 1787

Impressed with an high opinion of the understanding and spirit of my fellow citizens, I have in no stage of this business entertained a doubt of its eventual defeat; the momentary delusion, arising from an unreserved confidence placed in some of the characters whose names sanctioned this scheme of power, did not discourage me.

I foresaw that this blind admiration would soon be succeeded by rational investigation, which, stripping the monster of its gilded covering, would discover its native deformity.

Already the enlightened pen of patriotism, aided by an able public discussion, has dispelled the mist of deception, and the great body of the people are awakened to a due sense of their danger, and are determined to assert their liberty, if necessary by the sword, but this mean need not be recurred to, for who are their enemies?

A junto composed of the lordly and high minded gentry, of the profligate and the needy office-hunters; of men principally who in the late war skulked from the common danger.


Would such characters dare to face the majesty of a free people?

No.

All the conflict would be between the offended justice and generosity of the people, whether these sacrilegious invaders of their dearest rights should suffer the merited punishment, or escape with an infamous contempt?

However, as additional powers are necessary to Congress, the people will no doubt see the expediency of calling a convention for this purpose as soon as may be, by applying to their representatives in assembly, at their next session, to appoint a suitable day for the election of such Convention.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Brutus VI

by Brutus

December 27, 1787

It is an important question, whether the general government of the United States should be so framed, as to absorb and swallow up the state governments or whether, on the contrary, the former ought not to be confined to certain defined national objects, while the latter should retain all the powers which concern the internal police of the states?

I have, in my former papers, offered a variety of arguments to prove, that a simple free government could not be exercised over this whole continent, and that therefore we must either give up our liberties and submit to an arbitrary one, or frame a constitution on the plan of confederation.

Further reasons might be urged to prove this point but it seems unnecessary, because the principal advocates of the new constitution admit of the position.

The question therefore between us, this being admitted, is, whether or not this system is so formed as either directly to annihilate the state governments, or that in its operation it will certainly effect it.

If this is answered in the affirmative, then the system ought not to be adopted, without such amendments as will avoid this consequence.

If on the contrary it can be shewn, that the state governments are secured in their rights to manage the internal police of the respective states, we must confine ourselves in our enquiries to the organization of the government and the guards and provisions it contains to prevent a misuse or abuse of power.


To determine this question, it is requisite, that we fully investigate the nature, and the extent of the powers intended to be granted by this constitution to the rulers.

In my last number I called your attention to this subject, and proved, as I think, uncontrovertibly, that the powers given the legislature under the 8th section of the 1st article, had no other limitation than the discretion of the Congress.

It was shewn, that even if the most favorable construction was given to this paragraph, that the advocates for the new constitution could wish, it will convey a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, duties, and excises, according to the discretion of the legislature, and to make all laws which they shall judge proper and necessary to carry this power into execution.

This I shewed would totally destroy all the power of the state governments.

To confirm this, it is worthwhile to trace the operation of the government in some particular instances.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Brutus VI, continued ...

by Brutus

December 27, 1787

The general government is to be vested with authority to levy and collect taxes, duties, and excises; the separate states have also power to impose taxes, duties, and excises, except that they cannot lay duties on exports and imports without the consent of Congress.

Here then the two governments have concurrent jurisdiction; both may lay impositions of this kind.

But then the general government have supperadded to this power, authority to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying the foregoing power into execution.

Suppose then that both governments should lay taxes, duties, and excises, and it should fall so heavy on the people that they would be unable, or be so burdensome that they would refuse to pay them both - would it not be necessary that the general legislature should suspend the collection of the state tax?

It certainly would.

For, if the people could not, or would not pay both, they must be discharged from the tax to the state, or the tax to the general government could not be collected.

The conclusion therefore is inevitable, that the respective state governments will not have the power to raise one shilling in any way, but by the permission of the Congress.

I presume no one will pretend, that the states can exercise legislative authority, or administer justice among their citizens for any length of time, without being able to raise a sufficiency to pay those who administer their governments.

If this be true, and if the states can raise money only by permission of the general government, it follows that the state governments will be dependent on the will of the general government for their existence.

What will render this power in Congress effectual and sure in its operation is, that the government will have complete judicial and executive authority to carry all their laws into effect, which will be paramount to the judicial and executive authority of the individual states: in vain therefore will be all interference of the legislatures, courts, or magistrates of any of the states on the subject; for they will be subordinate to the general government, and engaged by oath to support it, and will be constitutionally bound to submit to their decisions.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Brutus VI, continued ...

by Brutus

December 27, 1787

The general legislature will be empowered to lay any tax they chuse, to annex any penalties they please to the breach of their revenue laws; and to appoint as many officers as they may think proper to collect the taxes.

They will have authority to farm the revenues and to vest the farmer general, with his subalterns, with plenary powers to collect them, in anyway which to them may appear eligible.

And the courts of law, which they will be authorized to institute, will have cognizance of every case arising under the revenue laws, the conduct of all the officers employed in collecting them; and the officers of these courts will execute their judgments.

There is no way, therefore, of avoiding the destruction of the state governments, whenever the Congress please to do it, unless the people rise up, and, with a strong hand, resist and prevent the execution of constitutional laws.

The fear of this, will, it is presumed, restrain the general government, for some time, within proper bounds; but it will not be many years before they will have a revenue, and force, at their command, which will place them above any apprehensions on that score.

How far the power to lay and collect duties and excises, may operate to dissolve the state governments, and oppress the people, it is impossible to say.

It would assist us much in forming just opinion on this head, to consider the various objects to which this kind of taxes extend, in European nations, and the infinity of laws they have passed respecting them.

Perhaps, if liesure will permit, this may be essayed in some future paper.

It was observed in my last number, that the power to lay and collect duties and excises, would invest the Congress with authority to impose a duty and excise on every necessary and convenience of life.

As the principal object of the government, in laying a duty or excise, will be, to raise money, it is obvious, that they will fix on such articles as are of the most general use and consumption; because, unless great quantities of the article, on which the duty is laid, is used, the revenue cannot be considerable.

We may therefore presume, that the articles which will be the object of this species of taxes will be either the real necessaries of life; or if not these, such as from custom and habit are esteemed so.

I will single out a few of the productions of our own country, which may, and probably will, be of the number.

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Brutus VI, continued ...

by Brutus

December 27, 1787

Cider is an article that most probably will be one of those on which an excise will be laid, because it is one, which this country produces in great abundance, which is in very general use, is consumed in great quantities, and which may be said too not to be a real necessary of life.

An excise on this would raise a large sum of money in the United States.

How would the power, to lay and collect an excise on cider, and to pass all laws proper and necessary to carry it into execution, operate in its exercise?

It might be necessary, in order to collect the excise on cider, to grant to one man, in each county, an exclusive right of building and keeping cider-mills, and oblige him to give bonds and security for payment of the excise; or, if this was not done, it might be necessary to license the mills, which are to make this liquor, and to take from them security, to account for the excise; or, otherwise, a great number of officers must be employed, to take account of the cider made, and to collect the duties on it.

Porter, ale, and all kinds of malt-liquors, are articles that would probably be subject also to an excise.

It would be necessary, in order to collect such an excise, to regulate the manufactory of these, that the quantity made might be ascertained, or otherwise security could not be had for the payment of the excise.

Every brewery must then be licensed, and officers appointed, to take account of its product, and to secure the payment of the duty, or excise, before it is sold.

Many other articles might be named, which would be objects of this species of taxation, but I refrain from enumerating them.

It will probably be said, by those who advocate this system, that the observations already made on this head, are calculated only to inflame the minds of the people, with the apprehension of dangers merely imaginary.

That there is not the least reason to apprehend, the general legislature will exercise their power in this manner.

To this I would only say, that these kinds of taxes exist in Great Britain, and are severely felt.

The excise on cider and perry, was imposed in that nation a few years ago, and it is in the memory of everyone, who read the history of the transaction, what great tumults occasioned.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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