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In the exigencies of war, indeed, the history of its effects is but short; the final ratification having been delayed until the beginning of the year 1781. But however short, this period is distinguished by melancholy testimonies of its inability to maintain in harmony the social intercourse of the states, to defend Congress against encroachments on their rights, and to obtain, by requisitions, supplies to the federal treasury, or recruita to the federal armies. I shall not attempt an enumeration of the particu lar instances, but leave to your own remembrance, and the records of Congress, the support of the assertions.
In the season of peace, too, not niany years have elapsed; and yet each of them has produced fatal examples of delinquency, and sometimes of pointed opposition to federal duties. To the various remonstrances of Congress I appeal for a gloomy but unexaggerated narrative of the injuries which our faith, honor, and happiness, have sustained by the failure of the states.
But these evils are past; and some may be led by an honest zeal to conclude that they cannot be repeated. Yes, sir, they will be repeated as long as the Confederation exists, and will bring with them other mischiefs springing from the same source, which cannot yet be foreseen in their full array of terror.
If we examine the constitution and laws of the several states, it is immediately discovered that the law of nations is unprovided with sanctions in many cases which deeply affect public dignity and public justice. The letter, however, of the Confederation does not permit Congress to remedy these defects; and such an authority, although evidently deducible from its spirit, cannot without violation of the second article, be assumed. Is it not a political phenomenon, that the head of the confederacy should be doomed to be plunged into war, from its wretched impotency to check offences against this law, and sentenced to witness, in unavailing anguish, the infraction of their engagements to foreign sovereigns ? And
yet this is not the only grievous point of weakness. After a war shall be inevitable, the requisitions of Congress for quotas of men or money will agaio prove unproductive and fallacious. Two causes will always conspire to this baneful consequence.
1. No government can be stable which hangs on human inclination alone, unbiased by coercion; and, 2, from the very connection between states bound to proportionate contributions, jealousies and suspicions naturally arise, which at least chill the ardor, if they do not excite the murmurs, of the whole. I do not forget, indeed, that, by one sudden inipulse, our part of the American continent has been thrown into a military posture, and that, in the earlier annals of the war, our arinies marched to the field on the mere recommendations of Congress. But ought we to argue, from a contest thus signalized by the magnitude of its stake, that, as often as a flame shall be hereafter kindled, the same enthusiasm will fill our legions, or renew them, as they may be thinned by losses ?
If not, where shall we find protection?' Impressions like those which prevent a compliance with requisitions of regular forces, will deprive the American republic of the services of militia. But let us suppose that they are attainable, and acknowledge, as I always shall, that they are the natural support of a free government. When it is remembered, that in their absence agriculture must languish; that they are not habituated to military exposures, and the rigor of military discipline; and that the necessity of holding in readiness successive detachments carries the expense far
beyond that of enlistments, this resource ought to be adopted with caution.
As strongly, too, am I persuaded that the requisitions for money will not be more cordially received; for, besides the distrust which would prevail with respect to them also, besides the opinion entertained by each state of its own liberality and unsatisfied demands against the United States, there is another consideration, not less worthy of attention — the first rule for determining each quota by the value of all lands granted or surveyed, and of the buildings and improvements thereon. It is no longer doubted that an equitable, uniform mode of estimating that value is impracticable; and therefore twelve states have substituted the number of inhabitants, under certain limitations, as the standard according to which money is to be furnished. But under the subsisting articles of the Union, the assent of the thirteenth state is necessary, and has not yet been given. This does itself lessen the hope of procuring a revenue for federal uses; and the miscarriage of the impost almost rivets our despondency.
Amidst these disappointments, it would afford some consolation, if, when rebellion shall threaten any state, an ultimate asylum could be found under the wing of Congress. But it is at least equivocal whether they can intrude forces into a state rent asunder by civil discord, even with the purest solicitude for our federal welfare, and on the most urgent entreaties of the state itself. Nay, the very allowance of this power would be pageantry alone, from the want of money and of men.
To these defects of congressional power, the history of man has subjoined others, not less alarining. I earnestly pray that the recollection of common sufferings, which terminated in common glory, may check the sallies of violence, and perpetuate mutual friendship between the states. But I cannot presume that we are superior to those unsocial passions which, under like circunstances, have infested more ancient nations. I cannot presume that, through all time, in the daily mixture of American citizens with each other, in the conflicts for commercial advantages, in the discontents which the neighborhood of territory has been seen to engender in other quarters of the globe, and in the efforts of faction and intrigue, — thirteen distinct communities, under no effective superintending control, (as the United States confessedly now are, notwithstanding the bold terms of the Confederation,) will avoid a hatred to each other deep and deadly.
In the prosecution of this inquiry, we shall find the general prosperity to decline under a system thus unnerved. No sooner is the merchant prepared for foreign ports, with the treasures which this new world kindly offers to his acceptance, than it is announced to him that they are shut against American shipping, or opened under oppressive regulations. He urges Congress to a counter-policy, and is answered only by a condolence on the general misfortune. He is immediately struck with the conviction that, until exclusion shall be opposed to exclusion, and restriction to restriction, the American flag will be disgraced ; for who can conceive that thirteen legislatures, viewing commerce under different points of view, and fancving themselves discharged from every obligation to concede the smallest of their commercial advantages for the benefit of the whole, will be wrought into a concert of action, and defiance of every prejudice? Nor is this all. Let the great improvements be recounted which have enriched and illustrated Europe ; let it be noted how few those are which will be absolutely denied to the United States, comprehending within their bound.
aries the choicest blessings of climate, soil, and navigable waters; then let the most sanguine patriot banish, if he can, the mortifying belief, that all these must sleep until they shall be roused by the vigor of a nationa government.
I have not exemplified the preceding remarks by minute details, because they are evidently fortified by truth and the consciousness of the United States of America. I shall, therefore, no longer deplore the unfitness of the Confederation to secure our peace, but proceed, with a truly unaffected distrust of my own opinions, to examine what order of powers the government of the United States ought to enjoy ; how they ought to be defended against encroachments; whether they can be interwoven in the Confederation, without an alteration of its very essence, or must be lodged in new hands ; — showing, at the same time, the convulsions which seem to await us, from a dissolution of the Union, or partial confederacies.
To mark the kind and degree of authority which ought to be confided to the government of the United States, is no more than to reverse the description which I have already given of the defects of the Confederation.
From thence it will follow that the operations of peace and war will be clogged without regular advances of money, and that these will be slow indeed, if dependent on supplication alone; for what better name do requisitions deserve, which may be evaded or opposed without the fear of coercion ? But although coercion is an indispensable ingredient, it ought not to be directed against a state, as a state, it being impossible to attempt it except by blockading the trade of the delinquent, or carrying war into its bowels. Even if these violent schemes were eligible in other respects, both of them might perhaps be defeated by the scantiness of the public chest.; would be tardy in their complete effect, as the expense of the land and naval equipments must be first reimbursed; and might drive the proscribed state into the desperate resolve of inviting foreign alliances. Against each of thein lie separate, unconquerable objections. A blockade is not equally applicable to all the states, they being differently circumstanced in commerce and in ports; nay, an excommunication from the privilege of the Union would be vain, because every regulation or prohibition may be easily eluded under the rights of American citizenship, or of foreign nations But how shall we speak of the intrusion of troops ? Shall we arm citizens against citizens, and habituate them to shed kindred blood ? Shall we risk the inflicting of wounds which will generate a rancor never to be subdued ? Would there be no room to fear that an army, accustomed to fight for the establishment of authority, would salute an em peror of their own? Let us not bring these things into jeopardy. Let us rather substitute the same process by which individuals are compelled to contribute to the government of their own states. Instead of making requisitions to the legislatures, it would appear more proper that taxes should be imposed by the federal head, under due modification and guards; that the collectors should demand from the citizens their respective quotas, and be supported as in the collection of ordinary taxes.
It follows, too, that, as the general government will be responsible to foreign nations, it ought to be able to annul any offensive measure, or enforce any public right. Perhaps, among the topics on which they may be aggrieved or complain, the commercial intercourse, and the manner in which contracts are discharged, may constitute the principal articles of clamor.
It follows, too, that the general government ought to be the supreme
arbiter for adjusting every contention among the states.
In all their connections, therefore, with each other, and particularly in commerce, which will probably create the greatest discord, it ought to hold the reins.
It follows, too, that the general government ought to protect each state against domestic as well as external violence.
And, lastly, it follows that through the general government alone can we ever assume the rank to which we are entitled by our resources and situation.
Should the people of America surrender these powers, they can be parannount to the constitutions and ordinary acts of legislation only by being delegated by them. I do not pretend to affirm, but I venture to believe, that, if the Confederation had been solemnly questioned in oppo sition to our Constitution, or even to one of our laws pusterior to it, it must have given way; for never did it obtain a higher ratification than a resolution of Assembly in the daily form.
This will be one security against encroachment. But another, not less effectual, is, to exclude the individual states from any agency in the national government, as far as it may be safe, and their interposition may not be absolutely necessary.
But now, sir, permit me to declare that, in my humble judgment, the powers by which alone the blessings of a general government can be accomplished, cannot be interwoven in the Confederation without a change in its very essence; or, in other words, that the Confederation must be thrown aside. This is almost demonstrable, from the inefficacy of requisitions, and from the necessity of converting them into acts of authority. My suffrage, as a citizen, is also for additional powers. But to whom shall we commit these acts of authority - these additional powers? To Congress? When I formerly lamented the defects in the jurisdiction of Congress, I had no view to indicate any other opinion, than that the federal head ought not to be so circumscribed; for, free as I am at all times to profess my reverence for that body, and the individuals who compose it, I am yet equally free to make known my aversion to repose such a trust in a tribunal so constituted. My objections are not the visions of theory, but the result of my own observations in America, and of the experience of others abroad.
1. The legislative and executive are concentrated in the same persons This, where real power exists, must eventnate in tyranny.
2. The representation of the states bears no proportion to their importance. This is an unreasonable subjection of the will of the majority to that of the minority.
3. The mode of election, and the liability of being recalled, may too often render the delegates rather partisans of their own states than representatives of the Union.
4. Cabal and intrigue must consequently gain an ascendency in a course of years.
5. A single house of legislation will sometimes be precipitate, perhaps passionate.
6. As long as seven states are required for the smallest, and nine for the greatest votes, may not foreign influence, at some future day, insinuate itself, so as to interrupt every active exertion ?
7. To crown the whole, it is scarce within the verge of possibility that so numerous an assembly should acquire that secrecy, despatch, and vigor, which are the test of excellence in the executive department.
My inference from these facts and principles is, that the new powers must be deposited in a new body, growing out of a consolidation of the Union, as far as the circumstances of the states will allow. Perhaps however, some may meditate its dissolution, and others, partial confedera. cies.
The first is an idea awful indeed, and irreconcilable with a very early and hitherto uniform conviction, that without union we must be undone for, before the voice of war was heard, the pulse of the then colonies was tried, and found to beat in unison. The unremitted labor of our enemies was to divide, and the policy of every Congress to bind us together. But in no example was this truth more clearly displayed, than in the prudence with which independence was unfolded to the sight, and in the forbearance to declare it until America almost unanimously called for it. After we had thus launched into troubles never before explored, and in the hour of heavy distress, the remembrance of our social strength not only forbade despair, but drew from Congress the most illustrious repetition of their settled purpose to despise all terms short of independence.
Behold, then, how successful and glorious we have been, while we acted in fraternal concord. But let us discard the illusion, that, by this success and this glory, the crest of danger has irrecoverably fallen. Our governments are yet too youthful to have acquired stability by habit. Our very quiet depends upon the duration of the Union. Among the upright and intelligent, few can read without emotion the future fate of the states, if severed from each other. Then shall we learn the full weight of foreign intrigue. Then shall we hear of partitions of our country. If a prince, inflamed by the lust of conquest, should use one state as the instrument of enslaving others; if every state is to be wearied by perpetual alarıns, and compelled to maintain large military establishments; if all questions are to be decided by an appeal to arms, where a difference of opinion cannot be removed by negotiation; in a word, if all the direful misfortunes which haunt the peace of rival nations are to triumph over the land, for what have we to contend? Why have we exhausted our wealth? Why have we basely betrayed the heroic martyrs of the federal cause ?
But dreadful as the total dissolution of the Union is to my mind, I entertain no less horror at the thought of partial confederacies. I have not the least ground for supposing that an overture of this kind would be listened to by a single state; and the presumption is, that the politics of the greater part of the states Aow from the warmest attachment to a union of the whole. If, however, a lesser confederacy could be obtained by Virginia, let me conjure my countrymen well to weigh the probable consequences, before they attempt to form it.
On such an event, the strength of the Union would be divided in two, or perhaps three parts. Has it so increased, since the war, as to be divisible, and yet remain sufficient for our happiness ?
The utmost limit of any partial confederacy, which Virginia could expect to form, would comprehend the three Southern States, and her nearest northern neighbor. But they, like ourselves, are diminished in their real force, by the mixture of an unhappy species of population.
Again may I ask, whether the opulence of the United States has been augmented since the war? This is answered in the negative, by a load of debt, and the declension of trade.
At all times must a southern confederacy support ships of war and