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To the GOOD PEOPLE of Virginia, on the new
FEDERAL CONSTITUTION, by an old STATE
SOLDIER, in an answer to the objections.
It is now my intention to examine into that class of objection in which it is said our interests are concerned; and in doing that I shall have answered such of the objections to the new constitution as appear worthy of notice.
If a general union be necessary for the preservation of the continent at large, whatever tends to that object most, comes nearest the interest of every particular part. Whence it follows that the interest of any individual state cannot be endangered by that policy which promotes the general welfare or the whole; but on the contrary must be strengthened with that of the rest, or else it never can be the interest of the union which is promoted.
It would only seem necessary therefore to prove that this constitution will promote the interest of the whole continent to shew its salutary effects on every particular state—yet, before I claim the advantage which so just a position in itself would give, I shall (in disseminating the seeds of refutation in other points) endeavor to supplant all doubts on that head, by means also, more local and particular. And in order the more clearly to do that, I shall endeavor to examine into the objections themselves;—the first of which, is that, which relates to the expensiveness of the plan; —and the next, a dread of the superiority of the northern states over the southern in Congress: —which together, acting in such diametrical contradiction to each other, render it necessary, to consider the two as nearly together as possible, thereby to prove the futility of both. The last of which however, so far as it respects the present instant, may perhaps hold good—and has indeed been admitted in a former paper, and ought now to serve as a hint to shew the impropriety of attempting to amend the constitution at a time, when those states, whose influence we dread, wil have it in their power to shape it as they please. But when considered as an objection to a government which is to last for many ages over a country like this, must appear not only trifling, but even applicable to the very reverse of things. For let us but consider this objection as connected with our geographical knowledge of America, and we shall find its weight preponderating in favor of the southern scale in the end.
The northern states, in comparison, contracted in their limits and already replete with inhabitants, even at this time feel the extent of their future influence in the union—whilst those to the south, though rich and extensive yet thinly inhabited, look forward to a future population which presages a superiority unknown at present.
But considering this constitution even as unconnected with future events, how contradictory is this objection in itself! —”This government is to promote the interest of the northern states,” and at the same time hold out the destruction of the rest on whose approbation, as well as their own, its adoption and continuance depend. Whence alone we might infer that no such material objection could exist in reality should the constitution take place; —for as nothing less than the approbation of a large majority of the states can procure the adoption of this government, and nothing else than its being the interest of that majority could obtain such an approbation, so even the adoption of it, in itself, will imply its being the interest of more than seven of the northern states, since we know it will require more than the consent of that number to set it in motion. And thus too from the same mode of reasoning it may be reduced to a certainty that no such influence could be exerted even should it be found to exist; —for as the same causes which establishes must remain to support it, nothing need be apprehended from an influence, the very exercise of which would be a means of destroying the advantage itself, as nothing could induce so considerable a part of the continent to continue a connection which was to prove the destruction of themselves.
But let us now examine how this objection will square with that of the expensiveness of the plan. Between which, while we admit the propriety of the one, we shall destroy the force of the other. For if nothing but a separation of the states can cure the baneful influence of one part of the continent over the other, while that influence arises from a superiority of a number in that particular part, so nothing but a confederation of the whole can lessen the expence of the weakest part; and this I will prove from the two objections themselves, together with a short contrast on that head between a general confederation and two or more separate ones.
The advantages to be derived from one general government, are, that the necessary disbursements of state will be drawn from the whole continent and proportioned to the strength of each state—whereas under separate confederacies, though the expenditures of each would be nearly as great was the whole when united into one, they would be drawn from the few states within the separate union to which they belonged without regard to any inequality between them and the other states on the continent; which would make the expenses of government, even were they no greater to the whole under one form than another, heavier to some, and lighter to others, than under one general head. And the difference, according to one of the foregoing objections itself, would unavoidable operate against the southern states; —for as it is on account of the disproportion of strength which the southern states hold to the northern that this constitution is in one instance objected to, so it will necessarily follow that the states which form southern confederacies will have most to pay, as those confederacies will be weakest when formed; and being weakest, and yet having the same to pay for their own support, will leave those states which form them with more to contribute than others forming stronger unions; as the fewer there are to make up the same sum at any time, so much the more must be contributed by each.
And thus this objection to the expensiveness of the plan, and that to the superior influence of the northern states, at present, operate in pointed contradiction to each other, and when taken together only serve to prove the advantages of this constitution to the southern states in particular.
But having already denied that the present superiority of the northern states will remain a lasting objection to a general Union, I shall endeavor to prove the particular advantages which some of the southern states will receive form this plan, on the score of economy, from another consideration.
From the establishment of the present confederation until this day the whole of the continental expences have been defrayed by little more than seven states, of which Virginia is one. I say by seven states because four only having complied fully with the requisition of Congress, seven others having furnished about half their quotas, and the rest nothing at all, leaves still upwards of five proportions unpaid. So that we who have heretofore been making up the deficiencies of others, have little reason to complain of the expensiveness of a plan, the very first object of which was to force an equal compliance from all the states, as well to discharge our foreign as domestic debts; the first of which if left to be collected by coercion and distraint might fall equally severe on the punctual and delinquent.
Thus even in every local point of view this constitution is calculated to promote the interest of those very states which it has been supposed it would injure; and when examined into as distributing individual benefit by rendering general good, will be found equally interesting and desirable. And that being the general position laid down in the beginning of this paper, I shall now advance to support it, and at once attack the main body of the enemy in their last retreat and strong hold, —which is, in the objection that makes the northern states the monopolisers of the carrying business.
Were I an East-Indian, a Turk, or an Englishman, I should in all probability find the same fault with this constitution; but as a Virginian and a friend to my country, I cannot object to the loss of an advantage which we never possessed, merely because it may be taken out of the hands of foreigners and put into those of our friends and neighbors; to enrich whom would be to strengthen ourselves.
Though even were there sacrifices to be made on that head by one state to another, the advantages arising from them would, on another principle, be felt in common by them all. For from the efforts necessary to give motion to a confederated republic, the different states, like the several parts of a complicated machine, must necessarily play into each other. Their sacrifices and advantages must be mutual and just—for as there are certain proportions in mechanics necessary to form the powers of operation, so is there an equilibrium in government between the interests of its several parts necessary to give it force. That whilst a general operation remains, there must be felt a mutual assistance throughout the parts. And thus all those different advantages would revolve to each in turn, which under separate confederacies would centre where they first inclined.
But then, the carrying business is not one of the cases in which concessions are necessary to be made from one state to another; —for even were it to be entirely yielded into the hands of the northern states, there could be no great loss to the southern in consequence of the surrender, as would be proved by the very act of giving it up: for nothing but its being more the interest of the southern states to cultivate the commodities intended for exploration, than to carry them to market, could make them yield that business to the northern states, when they possessed every natural advantage in as great a degree as themselves for carrying it on. Blessed with a soil productive of every ingredient necessary for ship building; and environed, as well as interspersed with as advantageous bays and rivers as nature can bestow, Virginia might vie with any quarter of the globe in the profits of a maritime exertion—a competition in which, would not only redound to the dignity and safety, but also the interest of all America, as it would be the means of rearing a navy on the continent, as well as fixing all the profits arising from that business among ourselves, which now centre in foreign bottoms. And such a competition would naturally arise from what is not supposed will be the consequence of throwing such a business into the hands of the northern states. For as the only mischief that could arise from such a monopoly would be their having it in their power to raise the freightage, so the very evil itself would tend to produce the happiest of all effects. The different states compelled by their opposite interests, on such an occasion, would naturally struggle against each other, whereby they would render the most important of all public services to the continent at large, while they would be establishing a proper balance between the landed and mercantile interests of the different states.
Under a general and efficient government the powers of the different states, drawn to a single focus, would no longer be left to scatter their feeble rays in vain across the continent, but penetrating to the very bottom of the state authorities would bring forth that which would restore life to the decaying plant of PUBLIC FAITH; and with that would spring both private confidence and individual wealth: —for as it is by the extent of credit alone that the true value of property can be ascertained, so it is by honesty only that real wealth can exist. And to know that this government will promote honesty, it only remains to be told, that under it, no interference with private contracts in future can take place, as the states are “prohibited from passing any lay impairing the obligation of contracts;” nor can the value of any debt be lessened, as at present by an emission of any kind of money of less value than that in which it was contracted, since the states are “prohibited making any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts,” neither can our credit as a nation hereafter be injured in the eyes of the world by the interference of the individual states in any foreign treaty, as the sole right of declaring war or making peace, “unless when actually invaded,” will be in the continental head.
And thus the day begins to dawn in America when all those pernicious authorities, now exercised in the different states, shall be lost in the general lustre of the whole government, whence PUBLIC JUSTICE in its usual splendor, firmly fixed, shall mark the NEW FEDERAL CONSTITUTION as the
rising SUN of the western world.