Anti-Federalist 2: We Have Been told of Phantoms  

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It should make any reasonable American sick when politicians use scare tactics to get what they want. We have seen it over and over again. Blatant hoaxes and/or scare tactics have included (just to name a few):

* Global Warming
* AIDS Epidemic
* "taking food from the mouths of children"
* "grandma having to choose between food and medicine"
* "grandpa living on cat food and crackers"
* "black churches are going to burn"

You'd think this was something new, but it isn't. Some of these same types of scare tactics may have been used to sell our own beloved Constitution to the people. Don't forget what the Constitution represented to the people of Eighteenth-Century America - a MAJOR expansion of government. That's right. Before the Constitution, there was EVEN LESS government than under the Constitution, even at a time when its law was followed. So let's delve into the mind of pre-Constitution America, shall we?

Antifederalist No. 2

"We Have Been Told of Phantoms"
Phantoms. And we're not talking about the Philadelphia Flyers' farm team, either ...
The adoption of this government will not meliorate our own particular system. I beg leave to consider the circumstances of the Union antecedent to the meeting of the Convention at Philadelphia. We have been told of phantoms and ideal dangers to lead us into measures which will, in my opinion, be the ruin of our country. If the existence of those dangers cannot be proved, if there be no apprehension of wars, if there be no rumors of wars, it will place the subject in a different light, and plainly evince to the world that there cannot be any reason for adopting measures which we apprehend to be ruinous and destructive.
To meliorate is to improve or be an improvement over, for you victims of the public school system. So if we can't prove that these phantoms exist, then there's no need to do anything different. No government telling us which "environmentally safe" features our cars must have, no government telling us not to build an oil refinery, no government telling us we can't dig for oil where we want. Well, the government won back then, and it's winning now. It's going to take more than a Democrat in Republican's clothing to get THESE phantoms under wraps.
When this state [Virginia] proposed that the general government should be improved, Massachusetts was just recovered from a rebellion which had brought the republic to the brink of destruction from a rebellion which was crushed by that federal government which is now so much contemned and abhorred. A vote of that august body for fifteen hundred men, aided by the exertions of the state, silenced all opposition, and shortly restored the public tranquility. Massachusetts was satisfied that these internal commotions were so happily settled, and was unwilling to risk any similar distresses by theoretic experiments. Were the Eastern States willing to enter into this measure? Were they willing to accede to the proposal of Virginia? In what manner was it received? Connecticut revolted at the idea. The Eastern States, sir, were unwilling to recommend a meeting of a convention. They were well aware of the dangers of revolutions and changes. Why was every effort used, and such uncommon pains taken, to bring it about? This would have been unnecessary, had it been approved of by the people. Was Pennsylvania disposed for the reception of this project of reformation? No, sir. She was even unwilling to amend her revenue laws, so as to make the five per centum operative. She was satisfied with things as they were. There was no complaint, that ever I heard of, from any other part of the Union, except Virginia.
So it's the fault of the Virginians. It wouldn't be surprising in that time that Virginians would have wanted a little help. After all, they were basically paying the bill for the Revolutionary War. Of course, they would have been looked upon by those living in the other states as rich, wealthy, and perfectly capable of footing the bill. Also imagine Pennsylvania today refusing to raise taxes, even as high as five percent! Oh, how times have changed. Hey Mr. Candidate of Change, do ya think we can change back???
This being the case among ourselves, what dangers were there to be apprehended from foreign nations? It will be easily shown that dangers from that quarter were absolutely imaginary. Was not France friendly? Unequivocally so. She was devising new regulations of commerce for our advantage. Did she harass us with applications for her money? Is it likely that France will quarrel with us? Is it not reasonable to suppose that she will be more desirous than ever to cling, after losing the Dutch republic, to her best ally? How are the Dutch? We owe them money, it is true; and are they not willing that we should owe them more? Mr. [John] Adams applied to them for a new loan to the poor, despised Confederation. They readily granted it. The Dutch have a fellow-feeling for us. They were in the same situation with ourselves.
This is just silly. It stinks to high heaven of today's "the world hates us" crowd. Honestly, I couldn't give a good god damn what people in other countries think, as long as they're not gunning for us. This guy is even advocating increasing the Federation's debt by borrowing more money from Holland! The Anti-Federalists weren't right about everything, but neither were the Federalists. Had the Federalists been so right, we wouldn't be staring the male and female modern incarnations of Karl Marx right in the face as they vie for a shot at the White House.
I believe that the money which the Dutch borrowed of Henry IV is not yet paid. How did they pass Queen Elizabeth's loan? At a very considerable discount. They took advantage of the weakness and necessities of James I, and made their own terms with that contemptible monarch. Loans from nations are not like loans from private men. Nations lend money, and grant assistance, to one another, from views of national interest-France was willing to pluck the fairest feather out of the British crown. This was her object in aiding us. She will not quarrel with us on pecuniary considerations. Congress considered it in this point of view; for when a proposition was made to make it a debt of private persons, it was rejected without hesitation. That respectable body wisely considered, that, while we remained their debtors in so considerable a degree, they would not be inattentive to our interest.
Here we see the rationale. If we're in debt to a foreign nation, they will care more about our interests. This has played out to be completely untrue. So what do we do? We simply go deeper into debt with these hostile nations. Yeah, real smart, Republicrats.
With respect to Spain, she is friendly in a high degree. I wish to know by whose interposition was the treaty with Morocco made. Was it not by that of the king of Spain? Several predatory nations disturbed us, on going into the Mediterranean. The influence of Charles III at the Barbary court, and four thousand pounds, procured as good a treaty with Morocco as could be expected. But I acknowledge it is not of any consequence, since the Algerines and people of Tunis have not entered into similar measures. We have nothing to fear from Spain; and, were she hostile, she could never be formidable to this country. Her strength is so scattered, that she never can be dangerous to us either in peace or war. As to Portugal, we have a treaty with her, which may be very advantageous, though it be not yet ratified.
More bloviating about America's status with foreign nations.
The domestic debt is diminished by considerable sales of western lands to Cutler, Sergeant, and Company; to Simms; and to Royal, Flint, and Company. The board of treasury is authorized to sell in Europe, or any where else, the residue of those lands.
Yeah, ok. Sell off assets. Probably not a bad idea at the time, but we will never know.
An act of Congress has passed, to adjust the public debts between the individual states and the United States.
This statement is just to show that the adjustment of public debt (one of the Federalists' reasons for adopting the Constitution) was already being addressed by the Congress.
Was our trade in a despicable situation? I shall say nothing of what did not come under my own observation. When I was in Congress, sixteen vessels had had sea letters in the East India trade, and two hundred vessels entered and cleared out, in the French West India Islands, in one year.
Also asserting that trade (another of the Federalists' babies) was not in any sort of disarray.
I must confess that public credit has suffered, and that our public creditors have been ill used. This was owing to a fault at the head-quarters-to Congress themselves-in not selling the western lands at an earlier period. If requisitions have not been complied with, it must be owing to Congress, who might have put the unpopular debts on the back lands. Commutation is abhorrent to New England ideas. Speculation is abhorrent to the Eastern States. Those inconveniences have resulted from the bad policy of Congress.
Poor management of public funds. Where have we heard about THIS before??? Some things NEVER change, do they? This is why we need the federal government out of our financial affairs. They screwed things up then, they are doing it now, and they will continue to do so for as long as the people allow them to control the purse-strings.
There are certain modes of governing the people which will succeed. There are others which will not. The idea of consolidation is abhorrent to the people of this country. How were the sentiments of the people before the meeting of the Convention at Philadelphia? They had only one object in view. Their ideas reached no farther than to give the general government the five per centum impost, and the regulation of trade. When it was agitated in Congress, in a committee of the whole, this was all that was asked, or was deemed necessary. Since that period, their views have extended much farther. Horrors have been greatly magnified since the rising of the Convention.
This is mainly a continuation of the argument that was made in Anti-Federalist 1. The people were left out of the decision to set this up. The first three sentences say it all. Some things are going to work, others are not. Expanding government is not the answer. While the Constitution may have been a big expansion of government for the early Americans, it pales in comparison to that which we have experienced over the last hundred years. This piece is a warning - one which we should have heeded, and would be wise to begin heeding immediately. This writer saw the potential for the spread of government oppression in the Constitution, potential that has by now come to fruition.
We are now told by the honorable gentleman (Governor Randolph) that we shall have wars and rumors of wars, that every calamity is to attend us, and that we shall be ruined and disunited forever, unless we adopt this Constitution. Pennsylvania and Maryland are to fall upon us from the north, like the Goths and Vandals of old; the Algerines, whose flat-sided vessels never came farther than Madeira, are to fill the Chesapeake with mighty fleets, and to attack us on our front; the Indians are to invade us with numerous armies on our rear, in order to convert our cleared lands into hunting- grounds; and the Carolinians, from the south, (mounted on alligators, I presume,) are to come and destroy our cornfields, and eat up our little children! These, sir, are the mighty dangers which await us if we reject dangers which are merely imaginary, and ludicrous in the extreme! Are we to be destroyed by Maryland and Pennsylvania? What will democratic states make war for, and how long since have they imbibed a hostile spirit?

But the generality are to attack us. Will they attack us after violating their faith in the first Union? Will they not violate their faith if they do not take us into their confederacy? Have they not agreed, by the old Confederation, that the Union shall be perpetual, and that no alteration should take place without the consent of Congress, and the confirmation of the legislatures of every state? I cannot think that there is such depravity in mankind as that, after violating public faith so flagrantly, they should make war upon us, also, for not following their example.
Doesn't this sound a lot like the warnings of civil war in the Democratic Party that are supposed to be if Obama loses the nomination?
The large states have divided the back lands among themselves, and have given as much as they thought proper to the generality. For the fear of disunion, we are told that we ought to take measures which we otherwise should not. Disunion is impossible. The Eastern States hold the fisheries, which are their cornfields, by a hair. They have a dispute with the British government about their limits at this moment. Is not a general and strong government necessary for their interest? If ever nations had inducements to peace, the Eastern States now have. New York and Pennsylvania anxiously look forward for the fur trade. How can they obtain it but by union? Can the western posts be got or retained without union? How are the little states inclined? They are not likely to disunite. Their weakness will prevent them from quarrelling. Little men are seldom fond of quarrelling among giants. Is there not a strong inducement to union, while the British are on one side and the Spaniards on the other? Thank Heaven, we have a Carthage of our own . . .
Many reasons to not ratify. The Anti-Federalist's point here is that ratification will not bring about any appreciable change in the economy of the Federation.
But what would I do on the present occasion to remedy the existing defects of the present Confederation? There are two opinions prevailing in the world-the one, that mankind can only be governed by force; the other, that they are capable of freedom and a good government. Under a supposition that mankind can govern themselves, I would recommend that the present Confederation should be amended. Give Congress the regulation of commerce. Infuse new strength and spirit into the state governments; for, when the component parts are strong, it will give energy to the government, although it be otherwise weak....

Apportion the public debts in such a manner as to throw the unpopular ones on the back lands. Call only for requisitions for the foreign interest and aid them by loans. Keep on so till the American character be marked with some certain features. We are yet too young to know what we are fit for. The continual migration of people from Europe, and the settlement of new countries on our western frontiers, are strong arguments against making new experiments now in government. When these things are removed, we can with greater prospect of success, devise changes. We ought to consider, as Montesquieu says, whether the construction of the government be suitable to the genius and disposition of the people, as well as a variety of other circumstances.
These are the authors proposals. Some, such as regulation of interstate commerce by Congress and retiring first any unpopular debts , are really good ideas (though the method proposed is actually pretty shady). Imagine an America with little or no debt. After all, our multi-trillion dollar debt monkey is all but popular!

There were flaws in the piece, mainly that a debtor relationship with a creditor nation is good and healthy - especially on the basis that they would be looking out for our best interests just because we owed them money. In reality, what happens is that they get to dictate to us what our best interests are based upon their own best interests as defined by their own governing philosophy. Also, it doesn't really hold up that trade was just fine, but that Congress needed to start regulating commerce. If commerce is just fine, then why start regulating it? And why assert that such a change contained in the Constitution that you advocate will not appreciably change anything?

However, this piece made a few very strong cases that we as Federalists and as Americans need to make part of our mantra:

* That scare tactics not be used as a means of passing unpopular or illegal legislation.
* That taxation be kept to an absolute minimum.
* That expanding government should not be considered the solution to problems.
* That debt be retired in as expedious a fashion as possible.

We do have here some important Anti-Federalist warnings that have come to fruition, and we absolutely MUST convince America to heed them. Will you do your part?