10, James Madison stresses that “measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” Madison philosophized that a large republic, composed of numerous factions capable of competing with each other and the majority must exist in order to avoid tyranny of majority rule.# When Federalist No.
Not only many of the officers of government, who obeyed the dictates of personal interest, but others, from a mistaken estimate of consequences, or the undue influence of former attachments, or whose ambition aimed at objects which did not correspond with the public good, were indefatigable in their efforts to pursuade the people to reject the advice of that patriotic Congress.
. . . . By the proposed constitution, every law, before it passes, is toundergo repeated revisions; and the constitution of every state in the unionprovide for the revision of the most trifling laws, either by their passingthrough different houses of assembly and senate, or by requiring them to bepublished for the consideration of the people. Why then is a constitution whichaffects all the inhabitants of the United States - which is to be the foundationof all laws and the source of misery or happiness to one-quarter of theglobe - why is this to be so hastily adopted or rejected, that it cannot admit ofa revision? If a law to regulate highways requires to be leisurely consideredand undergo the examination of different bodies of men, one after another,before it be passed, why is it that the framing of a constitution for thegovernment of a great people - a work which has been justly considered as thegreatest effort of human genius, and which from the beginning of the world hasso often baffled the skill of the wisest men in every age - shall be considered asa thing to be thrown out, in the first shape which it may happen to assume?
Where is the impracticability of a revision? Cannot the same power which calledthe late convention call another? Are not the people still their own masters? If, when the several state conventions come to consider this constitution, theyshould not approve of it, in its present form, they may easily apply to congressand state their objections. Congress may as easily direct the calling anotherconvention, as they did the calling the last. The plan may then bereconsidered, deliberately received and corrected, so as to meet the approbationof every friend to his country. A few months only will be necessary for thispurpose; and if we consider the magnitude of the object, we shall deem it wellworth a little time and attention. It is Much better to pause and reflectbefore hand, than to repent when it is too late; when no peaceable remedy willbe left us, and unanimity will be forever banished. The struggles of the peopleagainst a bad government, when it is once fixed, afford but a gloomy picture inthe annals of mankind, They are often unfortunate; they are always destructiveof private and public happiness; but the peaceable consent of a people toestablish a free and effective government is one of the most glorious objectsthat is ever exhibited on the theater of human affairs. Some, I know, haveobjected that another convention will not be likely to agree upon anything - I amfar however from being of that opinion. The public voice calls so loudly for anew constitution that I have no doubt we shall have one of some sort. My onlyfear is that the impatience of the people will lead them to accept the firstthat is offered them without examining whether it is right or wrong. And afterall, if a new convention cannot agree upon any amendments in the constitution,which is at present proposed, we can still adopt this in its present form; andall further opposition being vain, it is to be hoped we shall be unanimous inendeavouring to make the best of it. The experiment is at least worth trying,and I shall be much astonished, if a new convention called together for thepurpose of revising the proposed constitution, do not greatly reform it . . .
It is not meant, by stating this case, to insinuate that the Constitutionwould warrant a law of this kind! Or unnecessarily to alarm the fears of thepeople, by suggesting that the Federal legislature would be more likely to passthe limits assigned them by the Constitution, than that of an individual State,further than they are less responsible to the people. But what is meant is,that the legislature of the United States are vested with the great anduncontrollable powers of laying and collecting taxes, duties, imposts, andexcises; of regulating trade, raising and supporting armies, organizing, arming,and disciplining the militia, instituting courts, and other general powers; andare by this clause invested with the power of making all laws, proper andnecessary, for carrying all these into execution; and they may so exercise thispower as entirely to annihilate all the State governments, and reduce thiscountry to one single government. And if they may do it, it is pretty certainthey will; for it will be found that the power retained by individual States,small as it is, will be a clog upon the wheels of the government of the UnitedStates; the latter, therefore, will be naturally inclined to remove it out ofthe way. Besides, it is a truth confirmed by the unerring experience of ages,that every man, and every body of men, invested with power, are ever disposed toincrease it, and to acquire a superiority over everything that stands in theirway. This disposition, which is implanted in human nature, will operate in theFederal legislature to lessen and ultimately to subvert the State authority, andhaving such advantages, will most certainly succeed, if the Federal governmentsucceeds at all. It must be very evident, then, that what this Constitutionwants of being a complete consolidation of the several parts of the union intoone complete government, possessed of perfect legislative, judicial, andexecutive powers, to all intents and purposes, it will necessarily acquire inits exercise in operation.
It is readily admitted that many individuals who composed this body were menof the first talents and integrity in the union. It is at the same time, wellknown to every man, who is but moderately acquainted with the characters of themembers, that many of them are possessed of high aristocratic ideas, and themost sovereign contempt of the common people; that not a few were stronglydisposed in favor of monarchy; that there were some of no small talents and ofgreat influence, of consummate cunning and masters of intrigue, whom the warfound poor or in embarrassed circumstances, and left with princely fortunesacquired in public employment. . . . that there were others who were young,ardent, and ambitious, who wished for a government corresponding with theirfeelings, while they were destitute of experience . . . in political researches;that there were not a few who were gaping for posts of honor and emolument - thesewe find exulting in the idea of a change which will divert places of honor,influence and emolument, into a different channel, where the confidence of thepeople 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 foundedobjections, and which will require very essential alterations. We are told byone of themselves (Mr. [James] Wilson of Philadelphia) the plan was [a] matterof accommodation, and it is not unreasonable to suppose, that in thisaccommodation, principles might be introduced which would render the libertiesof the people very insecure.
As I do not find that either Cato or the Centinel, Brutus, or the OldWhig, or any other writer against this constitution, have undertaken aparticular refutation of this new species of reasoning, I take the liberty ofoffering to the public, through the channel of your paper, the few followinganimadversions on the subject; and, the rather, because I have discovered, thatsome of my fellow citizens have been imposed upon by it.
The country is in profound peace, and we are not threatened by invasionsfrom any quarter. The governments of the respective states are in the fullexercise of their powers; and the lives, the liberty, and property ofindividuals are protected. All present exigencies are answered by them. It istrue, the regulation of trade and a competent provision for the payment of theinterest of the public debt is wanting; but no immediate commotion will arisefrom these; time may be taken for calm discussion and deliberate conclusions. Individuals are just recovering from the losses and embarrassment sustained bythe late war. Industry and frugality are taking their station, and banishingfrom the community, idleness and prodigality. Individuals are lessening theirprivate debts, and several millions of the public debt is discharged by the saleof the western territory. There is no reason, therefore, why we shouldprecipitately and rashly adopt a system, which is imperfect or insecure. We maysecurely deliberate and propose amendments and alterations. I know it is saidwe cannot change for the worse; but if we act the part of wise men, we shalltake care that we change for the better. It will be labor lost, if after allour pains we are in no better circumstances than we were before.
I have read with a degree of attention several publications which havelately appeared in favor of the new Constitution; and as far as I am able todiscern, the arguments (if they can be so termed) of most weight, which areurged in its favor, may be reduced to the two following:
The fact is, these aristocrats support and hasten the adoption of the proposedconstitution, merely because they think it is a stepping stone to their favoriteobject. I think I am well founded in this idea. I think the general politicsof these men support it, as well as the common observation among them: That theproffered plan is the best that can be got at present, it will do for a fewyears, and lead to something better. The sensible and judicious part of thecommunity will carefully weigh all these circumstances; they will view the lateconvention as a respectable body of men - America probably never will see anassembly of men, of a like number, more respectable. But the members of theconvention met without knowing the sentiments of one man in ten thousand inthese states respecting the new ground taken. Their doings are but the firstattempts in the most important scene ever opened. Though each individual in thestate conventions will not, probably, be so respectable as each individual inthe federal convention, yet as the state conventions will probably consist offifteen hundred or two thousand men of abilities, and versed in the science ofgovernment, collected from all parts of the community and from all orders ofmen, it must be acknowledged that the weight of respectability will be in them. In them will be collected the solid sense and the real political character ofthe country. Being revisers of the subject, they will possess peculiaradvantages. To say that these conventions ought not to attempt, coolly anddeliberately, the revision of the system, or that they cannot amend it, is veryfoolish or very assuming. . . .
I have seen enough to convince me very fully, that the new constitutionis a very bad one, and a hundred-fold worse than our present government. And Ido not perceive that any of the writers in favor of it (although some of themuse a vast many fine words, and show a great deal of learning) are able toremove any of the objections which are made against it. Mr. [James] Wilson,indeed, speaks very highly of it, but we have only his word for its goodness;and nothing is more natural than for a mother to speak well of her own bantling,however ordinary it may be. He seems, however, to be pretty honest in onething - where he says, "It is the nature of man to pursue his own interest,in preference to the public good" for they tell me he is a lawyer, and hisinterest then makes him for the new government, for it will be a noble thing forlawyers. Besides, he appears to have an eye to some high place under it, sincehe speaks with great pleasure of the places of honor and emolument beingdiverted to a new channel by this change of system. As to Mr. Publius [TheFederalist], I have read a great many of his papers, and I really cannot findout what he would be at. He seems to me as if he was going to write a history,so I have concluded to wait and buy one of his books, when they come out. Theonly thing I can understand from him, as far as I have read, is that it isbetter to be united than divided - that a great many people are stronger than afew - and that Scotland is better off since the union with England than before.