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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Brutus XV, continued ...

by Brutus

March 20, 1788

From the preceding remarks, which have been made on the judicial powers proposed in this system, the policy of it may be fully developed.

I have, in the course of my observation on this Constitution, affirmed and endeavored to show that it was calculated to abolish entirely the state governments, and to melt down the states into one entire government, for every purpose as well internal and local, as external and national.

In this opinion the opposers of the system have generally agreed, and this has been uniformly denied by its advocates in public.

Some individuals, indeed, among them, will confess that it has this tendency, and scruple not to say, it is what they wish; and I will venture to predict, without the spirit of prophecy, that if it is adopted without amendments, or some such precautions as will ensure amendments immediately after its adoption, that the same gentlemen who have employed their talents and abilities with such success to influence the public mind to adopt this plan, will employ the same to persuade the people that it will be for their good to abolish the state governments as useless and burdensome.

Perhaps nothing could have been better conceived to facilitate the abolition of the state governments than the constitution of the judicial.

They will be able to extend the limits of the general government gradually, and by insensible degrees, and to accommodate themselves to the temper of the people.

Their decisions on the meaning of the Constitution will commonly take place in cases which arise between individuals, with which the public will not be generally acquainted; one adjudication will form a precedent to the next, and this to a following one.

These cases will immediately affect individuals only; so that a series of determinations will probably take place before even the people will be informed of them.

In the meantime all the art and address of those who wish for the change will be employed to make converts to their opinion.

The people will be told that their state officers and state legislatures are a burden and expense without affording any solid advantage, for that all the laws passed by them might be equally well made by the general legislature.

If to those who will be interested in the change be added those who will be under their influence, and such who will submit to almost any change of government, which they can be persuaded to believe will ease them of taxes, it is easy to see, the party who will favor the abolition of the state governments would be far from being inconsiderable.

In this situation, the general legislature might pass one law after another, extending the general and abridging the state jurisdictions, and to sanction their proceedings would have a course of decisions of the judicial to whom the Constitution has committed the power of explaining the Constitution.

If the states remonstrated, the constitutional mode of deciding upon the validity of the law is with the supreme court, and neither people, nor state legislatures, nor the general legislature can remove them or reverse their decrees.

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

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Brutus XV, concluded ...

by Brutus

March 20, 1788

Had the construction of the Constitution been left with the legislature, they would have explained it at their peril; if they exceed their powers, or sought to find, in the spirit of the Constitution, more than was expressed in the letter, the people from whom they derived their power could remove them, and do themselves right; and indeed I can see no other remedy that the people can have against their rulers for encroachments of this nature.

A constitution is a compact of a people with their rulers; if the rulers break the compact, the people have a right and ought to remove them and do themselves justice; but in order to enable them to do this with the greater facility, those whom the people choose at stated periods should have the power in the last resort to determine the sense of the compact; if they determine contrary to the understanding of the people, an appeal will lie to the people at the period when the rulers are to be elected, and they will have it in their power to remedy the evil; but when this power is lodged in the hands of men independent of the people, and of their representatives, and who are not, constitutionally, accountable for their opinions, no way is left to control them but with a high hand and an outstretched arm.

FOOTNOTES

1. Brutus provided a lengthier explanation of this issue in his eleventh essay. The Supreme Court has the power under Article III to hear “all cases, in law and equity” arising under the Constitution. In England courts of equity were separate from common law courts and were empowered to set aside the rulings of common law courts if the strict application of the law led to an unjust result. Courts of equity were then given greater flexibility since they were authorized to set aside the law. Brutus was predicting that justices would apply principles of equity to constitutional cases, which are by definition legal cases. In short, justices would interpret the Constitution based on what they regarded as fair or just rather than what the text actually said.

2. An appeal of a verdict can be made only on the basis of a claim that a legal error occurred in a trial.
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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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A Landholder XIII

by Oliver Ellsworth

March 24, 1788

The attempt to amend our federal Constitution, which for some time past hath engrossed the public regard, is doubtless become an old and unwelcome topic to many readers whose opinions are fixed, or who are concerned for the event.

There are other subjects which claim a share of attention, both from the public and from private citizens.

It is good government which secures the fruits of industry and virtue; but the best system of government cannot produce general happiness unless the people are virtuous, industrious and economical.

The love of wealth is a passion common to men, and when justly regulated it is conducive to human happiness.


Industry may be encouraged by good laws; wealth may be protected by civil regulations; but we are not to depend on these to create it for us, while we are indolent and luxurious.

Industry is most favourable to the moral virtue of the world; it is therefore wisely ordered by the Author of Nature, that the blessings of this world should be acquired by our own application in some business useful to society; so that we have no reason to expect any climate or soil will be found, or any age take place, in which plenty and wealth will be spontaneously produced.

The industry and labour of a people furnish a general rule to measure their wealth, and if we use the means we may promise ourselves the reward.

The present state of America will limit the greatest part of its inhabitants to agriculture; for as the art of tilling the earth is easily acquired, the price of land low, and the produce immediately necessary for life, greater encouragement to this is offered here than in any country on earth.

But still suffer me to enquire whether we are not happily circumstanced and actually able to manage some principal manufactories with success, and increase our wealth by increasing the labour of the people, and saving the surplus of our earnings for a better purpose than to purchase the labour of the European nations.

It is a remark often made, and generally believed, that in a country so new as this, where the price of land is low and the price of labour high, manufactories cannot be conducted with profit.

This may be true of some manufactures, but of others it is grossly false.

It is now in the power of New England to make itself more formidable to Great Britain by rivaling some of her principal manufactures, than ever it was by separating from her government.

Woolen cloaths, the principal English manufacture, may more easily be rivaled than any other.

Purchasing all the materials and labour at the common price of the country, cloths of three-quarters width, may be fabricated for six shillings per yard, of fineness and beauty equal to English cloths of six quarters width, which fell at twenty shillings.

The cost of our own manufacture is little more than half of the imported, and for service it is allowed to be much preferable.

It is found that our wool is of equal quality with the English, and that what we once supposed the defect in our wool, is only a deficiency in cleaning, sorting and dressing it.

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

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A Landholder XIII, concluded ...

by Oliver Ellsworth

March 24, 1788

It gives me pleasure to hear that a number of gentlemen in Hartford and the neighboring towns are forming a fund for the establishment of a great Woolen Manufactory.

The plan will doubtless succeed; and be more profitable to the stockholders than money deposited in trade.

As the manufacture of cloths is introduced, the raising of wool and flax, the raw materials, will become an object of the farmer’s attention.

Sheep are the most profitable part of our stock, and the breed is much sooner multiplied than horses or cattle.

Why do not our opulent farmers avail themselves of the profit?

An experience would soon convince them there is no better method of advancing property, and their country would thank them for the trial.

Sheep are found to thrive and the wool to be of good quality in every part of New England, but as this animal delights in grazing, and is made healthy by coming often to the earth, our sea coasts with the adjacent country, where snow is of short continuance, are particularly favourable to their propagation.

Our hilly coasts were designed by nature for this, and every part of the country that abounds in hills ought to make an experiment by which they will be enriched.

In Connecticut, the eastern and southern counties, with the highlands on Connecticut river towards the sea, ought to produce more wool than would cloath the inhabitants of the state.

At present the quantity falls short of what is needed by our own consumption; if a surplusage could be produced, it would find a ready market and the best pay.

The culture of flax, another principal material for manufacturing, affords great profit to the farmer.

The seed of this crop when it succeeds will pay the husbandman for his labour, and return a better ground-rent than many other crops which are cultivated.

The seed is one of our best articles for remittance and exportation abroad.

Dressing and preparing the flax for use is done in the most leisure part of the year, when labour is cheap, and we had better work for sixpence a day and become wealthy, than to be idle and poor.

It is not probable the market can be overstocked, or if it should chance for a single season to be the case, no article is more meliorated by time, or will better pay for keeping by an increase of quality.

A large flax crop is one most certain sign of a thrifty husbandman.

The present method of agriculture in a course of different crops is well calculated to give the husbandman a sufficiency of flax ground, as it is well known that this vegetable will not thrive when sown successively in the same place.

The nail manufacture might be another source of wealth to the northern states.

Why should we twice transport our own iron, and pay other nations for labour which our boys might perform as well.

The art of nail-making is easily acquired.

Remittances have actually been made from some parts of the state in this article; the example is laudable, and ought to be imitated.

The sources of wealth are open to us, and there needs but industry to become as rich as we are free.

A Landholder.
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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Maryland Farmer Essay VII

May 04, 1788

Thus it is that barbarity, cruelty and blood which stain the history of religion, spring from the corruption of civil government, and from that never—dying hope and fondness for a state of equality, which constitutes an essential part of the soul of man.

A chaos of darkness obscures the downfall of empire, intermixed with gleams of light, which serve only to disclose scenes of desolation and horror.

From the last confusion springs order.

The bold spirits who pull down the ancient fabric — erect a new one, founded on the natural liberties of mankind, and where civil government is preserved free, there can be no religious tyranny — the sparks of bigotry and enthusiasm may and will crackle, but can never light into a blaze.

The truth of these remarks appear from the histories of those two great revolutions of European government, which seem to have convulsed this earth to the centre of its orb, and of which we have compleat record — the Roman and the Gothic, or as it is more commonly called the feudal constitution.

In the infancy of the Roman republic, when enterprizing and free, their conquests were rapid, because beneficial to the conquered (who were admitted to a participation of their liberty) their religion, although devoid, was not only unstained by persecution, but censurably liberal — they received without discrimination the Gods of the countries they subdued, into the list of their deities, until Olympus was covered with an army of demigods as numerous as the legions of Popish Saints; and we find the Grecian divinities adored with more sincere piety at Rome, than at Athens.

Rome was then in the zenith of her glory — in the days of her wretched decline — in the miserable reigns of Caracalla, Eliagabalus and Commodus.

Ammianus and others inform us that the Christians were butchered like sheep, for reviving the old exploded doctrine of a future state, in which Emperors and Senators were to be placed on a level with the poorest and most abject of mankind.

And in the succeeding despotisms when christianity became the established religion, it grew immediately as corrupt in its infancy, as ever it has proved at any period since — the most subtle disquisitions of a metaphysical nature became the universal rage — the more incomprehensible — the more obstinately were they maintained, and in fine, the canonized Austin or Ambrose, (I forget which) closed his laborious enquiries, with this holy position — that he believed, because it was impossible.

At length the great question, whether the three persons of the divinity, were three or one, became publickly agitated, and threw all mankind into a flame.

Councils after councils, composed of all the wisdom of the divines, were assembled, and at length the doctrine that three were one prevailed, and such would have been the determination had it been proposed that three were sixteen — because misery is the foundation, upon which error erects her tyranny over the vulgar mind.

After this determination the arm of the Magistrate was called in, and those poor misled Arians who were still so wicked as to imagine that three must be three, were not only declared guilty of a most abominable and damnable heresy, but were thenceforth exterminated by fire and sword.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Maryland Farmer Essay VII, continued ...

May 04, 1788

In the first age of the Gothic government, those free and hardy adventurers, deserted their Idols and embraced the doctrines of Christianity with ardent sincerity.

The King and a large majority of a nation, would be converted and baptized with as much celerity as the ceremony could be performed — but still liberty in the temporal, secured freedom in the spiritual administration.

Christians and Pagan citizens lived together in the utmost harmony.

Those bold and hardy conquerors would never listen to Bishops who advised persecution, and held in sovereign contempt all those metaphysical distinctions with which a pure religion has been disgraced, in order to cloak villainous designs and support artful usurpations of civil powers in feeble and turbulent governments.

The Gothic institutions were however much sooner corrupted from internal vices than the Roman, and the undeniable reason was, that in the former, government by representation was admitted almost coeval with their first inundations; whereas with the Romans, the democratic branch of power, exercised by the people personally, rendered them invinsible both in war and peace — the virtue of this internal institution could only be subdued by the greatness of its external acquisition — extensive empire ruined this mighty fabric — a superstructure, which overshadowed the then known world, was too mighty for the foundation confined within the walls of a city — the wealth imported by the Scipios from Spain and Afric, and by Flaminius, Lucullus, Sylla and Pompey, from the East, enabled the few to corrupt the many — a case that can never exist but where the legislative power resides exclusively in the citizens of the town.

The Roman republic then became diseased at the heart, but as it was ages in forming, so it required ages of corruption to destroy a robust constitution where every atom was a nerve.

It was not so with the Gothic constitution, mortal disease soon made its appearance there.

Civil liberty was early destroyed by the insolence and oppressions of the great.

The temporal power availed itself of that spiritual influence which nature has given religion over the hearts of men.

A religion, the divinity of which is demonstrable by reason alone, unassisted by revelation became the corrupt instrument of usurpation.

Those who were the authors of the disorders which disgraced civil government, cut the reins of ecclesiastical persecution.

And an universal and tyrannic confusion was mingled with absurdities that excite both ridicule and horror.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Maryland Farmer Essay VII, concluded ...

May 04, 1788

We see a Duke of Gandia (who was betrayed and assassinated by that monster of perfidy Caesar Borgia, the bastard of the infamous Pope Alexander the VIth) in the last moments of his existence, begging the cut throat son, that he would intercede with his father, the Pope, in favour of his poor soul, that it might not be kept long in purgatory, but dispatched as soon as possible to Heaven, to dispute the infallibility of those vice—gerents of God, who generally patterned after the devil, was considered as an heresy more damnable than blaspheming the most high.

Religious tyranny continued in this state, during those convulsions which broke the aristocracies of Europe, and settled their governments into mixed monarchies.

A ray of light then beamed — but only for a moment — the turbulent state and quick corruption of mixed monarchy, opened a new scene of religious horror.

Pardons for all crimes committed and to be committed, were regulated by ecclesiastical law, with a mercantile exactitude, and a Christian knew what he must pay for murdering another better than he now does the price of a pair of boots.

At length some bold spirits began to doubt whether wheat flour, made into paste, could be actually human flesh, or whether the wine made in the last vintage could be the real blood of Christ, who had been crucified upwards of 1400 years.

Such was the origin of the Protestant reformation — at the bare mention of such heretical and dangerous doctrine, striking (as they said) at the root of all religion, the sword of power leaped from its scabbard, the smoke that arose from the flames, to which the most virtuous of mankind, were without mercy committed, darkened all Europe for ages; tribunals, armed with frightful tortures, were every where erected, to make men confess opinions, and then they were solemnly burned for confessing, whilst priest and people sang hymns around them; and the fires of persecution are scarcely yet extinguished.

Civil and religious liberty are inseparably interwoven — whilst government is pure and equal — religion will be uncontaminated.

The moment government becomes disordered, bigotry and fanaticism take root and grow — they are soon converted to serve the purpose of usurpation, and finally, religious persecution reciprocally supports and is supported by the tyranny of the temporal powers.
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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

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Brutus XVI

by Brutus

May 10, 1788

When great and extraordinary powers are vested in any man, or body of men, which in their exercise, may operate to the oppression of the people, it is of high importance that powerful checks should be formed to prevent the abuse of it.

Perhaps no restraints are more forcible, than such as arise from responsibility to some superior power.

Hence it is that the true policy of a republican government is, to frame it in such manner, that all persons who are concerned in the government, are made accountable to some superior for their conduct in office.


This responsibility should ultimately rest with the People.

To have a government well administered in all its parts, it is requisite the different departments of it should be separated and lodged as much as may be in different hands.

The legislative power should be in one body, the executive in another, and the judicial in one different from either.

But still each of these bodies should be accountable for their conduct.

Hence it is impracticable, perhaps, to maintain a perfect distinction between these several departments.

For it is difficult, if not impossible, to call to account the several officers in government, without in some degree mixing the legislative and judicial.

The legislature in a free republic are chosen by the people at stated periods, and their responsibility consists, in their being amenable to the people.

When the term, for which they are chosen, shall expire, who will then have opportunity to displace them if they disapprove of their conduct — but it would be improper that the judicial should be elective, because their business requires that they should possess a degree of law knowledge, which is acquired only by a regular education, and besides it is fit that they should be placed, in a certain degree in an independent situation, that they may maintain firmness and steadiness in their decisions.

As the people therefore ought not to elect the judges, they cannot be amenable to them immediately, some other mode of amenability must therefore be devised for these, as well as for all other officers which do not spring from the immediate choice of the people: this is to be effected by making one court subordinate to another, and by giving them cognizance of the behaviour of all officers; but on this plan we at last arrive at some supreme, over whom there is no power to controul but the people themselves.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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Brutus XVI, continued ...

by Brutus

May 10, 1788

This supreme controling power should be in the choice of the people, or else you establish an authority independent, and not amenable at all, which is repugnant to the principles of a free government.

Agreeable to these principles I suppose the supreme judicial ought to be liable to be called to account, for any misconduct, by some body of men, who depend upon the people for their places; and so also should all other great officers in the State, who are not made amenable to some superior officers.

This policy seems in some measure to have been in view of the framers of the new system, and to have given rise to the institution of a court of impeachments.

How far this Court will be properly qualified to execute the trust which will be reposed in them, will be the business of a future paper to investigate.

To prepare the way to do this, it shall be the business of this, to make some remarks upon the constitution and powers of the Senate, with whom the power of trying impeachments is lodged.

The following things may be observed with respect to the constitution of the Senate.

1st. They are to be elected by the legislatures of the States and not by the people, and each State is to be represented by an equal number.

2d. They are to serve for six years, except that one third of those first chosen are to go out of office at the expiration of two years, one third at the expiration of four years, and one third at the expiration of six years, after which this rotation is to be preserved, but still every member will serve for the term of six years.

3d. If vacancies happen by resignation or otherwise, during the recess of the legislature of any State, the executive is authorised to make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the legislature.

4. No person can be a senator who has not arrived to the age of thirty years, been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who is not at the time he is elected an inhabitant of the State for which he is elected.

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

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Brutus XVI, continued ...

by Brutus

May 10, 1788

The apportionment of members of Senate among the States is not according to numbers, or the importance of the States; but is equal.

This, on the plan of a consolidated government, is unequal and improper; but is proper on the system of confederation — on this principle I approve of it.

It is indeed the only feature of any importance in the constitution of a confederated government.

It was obtained after a vigorous struggle of that part of the Convention who were in favor of preserving the state governments.

It is to be regretted, that they were not able to have infused other principles into the plan, to have secured the government of the respective states, and to have marked with sufficient precision the line between them and the general government.

The term for which the senate are to be chosen, is in my judgment too long, and no provision being made for a rotation will, I conceive, be of dangerous consequence.

It is difficult to fix the precise period for which the senate should be chosen.

It is a matter of opinion, and our sentiments on the matter must be formed, by attending to certain principles.

Some of the duties which are to be performed by the senate, seem evidently to point out the propriety of their term of service being extended beyond the period of that of the assembly.

Besides as they are designed to represent the aristocracy of the country, it seems fit they should possess more stability, and so continue a longer period than that branch who represent the democracy.

The business of making treaties and some other which it will be proper to commit to the senate, requires that they should have experience, and therefore that they should remain some time in office to acquire it.

But still it is of equal importance that they should not be so long in office as to be likely to forget the hand that formed them, or be insensible of their interests.

Men long in office are very apt to feel themselves independent [and] to form and pursue interests separate from those who appointed them.

And this is more likely to be the case with the senate, as they will for the most part of the time be absent from the state they represent, and associate with such company as will possess very little of the feelings of the middling class of people.

For it is to be remembered that there is to be a federal city, and the inhabitants of it will be the great and the mighty of the earth.


For these reasons I would shorten the term of their service to four years.

Six years is a long period for a man to be absent from his home, it would have a tendency to wean him from his constituents.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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