Daily Advertiser, New York
October 30, 1787
In the first number of the Federalist, which appeared in the INDEPENDENT JOURNAL of Saturday, the interest of certain Officers, under the State establishments, to oppose an increase of Federal authority, is mentioned as a principal source of the opposition to be expected to the New Constitution. The same idea has appeared in other publications, but has not hitherto been sufficiently explained. To ascertain its justness and extent, would, no doubt, be satisfactory to the public; and might serve to obviate misapprehensions.
A very natural enquiry presents itself on the subject:–How happens it, that the interest of the Officers of a State should be different from that of its Citizens? I shall attempt an answer to this question.
The powers requisite to constitute Sovereignty, must be delegated by every people for their own protection and security. The people of each State have already delegated these powers; which are now lodged; partly in the PARTICULAR Government, and partly in the GENERAL Government. It is not necessary that they should grant greater or new ones. The only question with them is, in what manner the powers already granted shall be distributed; into what receptacles; and in what proportions. If they are represented in both, it will be immaterial to them, so far as concerns their individual authority, independence, or liberty, whether the principal share be deposited in the whole body, or in the distinct members. The repartition, or division, is a mere question of expediency; for, by whatever scale it be made, their personal rights will remain the same. If it be their interest to be united, it will be their interest to bestow as large a portion upon the Union, as may be required to render it solid and effectual; and if experience has shewn, that the portion heretofore conferred is inadequate to the object, it will be their interest to take away a part of that which has been left in the State reservoirs, to add it to the common stock.
But such a transfer of power, from the individual members to the Union, however it may promote the advantage of the citizens at large, may subtract not a little from the importance, and, what is with most men less easily submitted to, from the emolument of those, who hold a certain description of offices under the State establishments. These have one interest as Citizens, and another as OFFICERS. In the latter capacity, they are interested in the POWER and PROFIT of their offices, and will naturally be unwilling to put either in jeopardy. That men love power is no new discovery; that they are commonly attached to good salaries does not need elaborate proof; that they should be afraid of what threatens them with a loss of either, is but a plain inference from plain facts. A diminution of State authority is, of course, a diminution of the POWER of those who are invested with the administration of that authority; and, in all probability, will in many instances produce an eventual decrease of salary. In some cases it may annihilate the offices themselves. But, while these persons may have to repine at the loss of official importance or pecuniary emolument, the private citizen may feel himself exalted to a more elevated rank. He may pride himself in the character of a citizen of America, as more dignified than that of a citizen of any single State. He may greet himself with the appellation of an American as more honorable than that of a New-Yorker, a Pennsylvanian, or a Virginian.
From the preceding remarks, the distinction alluded to, between the private citizen and the citizen in office, will, I presume, be sufficiently apparent. But it will be proper to observe, that its influence does not reach near so far as might at first sight be imagined. The offices that would be affected by the proposed change, though of considerable importance, are not numerous. Most of the departments of the State Governments will remain, untouched, to flow in their accustomed channels. This observation was necessary, to prevent invidious suspicions from lighting where they would not be applicable.
Earn graduate credits toward a Master’s
degree for each Live Online Graduate
Course in American History &
Government from Ashbrook Center at
Ashland University. Learn More