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Furthering the Cause of Anti-Federalism

Archive for the month “August, 2013”

Col. George Mason: Confederation v. Consolidated Government

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George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention

Mr. Chairman–Whether the Constitution be good or bad, the present clause clearly discovers, that it is a National Government, and no longer a confederation. I mean that clause which gives the first hint of the General Government laying direct taxes. The assumption of this power of laying direct taxes, does of itself, entirely change the confederation of the States into one consolidated Government. This power being at discretion, unconfined, and without any kind of controul, must carry every thing before it. The very idea of converting what was formerly a confederation, to a consolidated Government, is totally subversive of every principle which has hitherto governed us. This power is calculated to annihilate totally the State Governments. Will the people of this great community submit to be individually taxed by two different and distinct powers? Will they suffer themselves to be doubly harrassed? These two concurrent powers cannot exist long together; the one will destroy the other: The General Government being paramount to, and in every respect more powerful than, the State governments, the latter must give way to the former. Is it to be supposed that one National Government will suit so extensive a country, embracing so many climates, and containing inhabitants so very different in manners, habits, and customs? It is ascertained by history, that there never was a Government, over a very extensive country, without destroying the liberties of the people: History also, supported by the opinions of the best writers, shew us, that monarchy may suit a large territory, and despotic Governments over so extensive a country; but that popular Governments can only exist in small territories. Is there a single example, on the face of the earth, to support a contrary opinion? Where is there one exception to this general rule? Was there ever an instance of a general National Government extending over so extensive a country, abounding in such a variety of climates, &c. where the people retained their liberty? I solemnly declare, that no man is a greater friend to a firm Union of the American States than I am: But, Sir, if this great end can be obtained without hazarding the rights of the people, why should we recur to such dangerous principles?

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Col. George Mason And Why He Refused To Sign The Constitution

George Mason was an Anti- Federalist. Conservatives would serve themselves well in getting to know him, his writings and speeches. He wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights prior to the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration is a precursor to the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights. All three of these documents draw their ideas from the Declaration of Rights.

Mason was a major player in the Constitutional Convention as he was the Leader of the Anti-Federalists. He spoke out on many occasions against a Central Government. The Convention was not suppose to write a new document but modify the Articles of Confederation. Mason warned of giving to much power to the new government would cause the States to lose power and eventually become irrelevant. Mason refused to sign the Constitution and spoke out on many occasions against the new Constitution in the Virginia Ratifying Convention.

Conservatives really need to become intimately familiar with Col. George Mason. It is his words and deeds that really built the foundations of the ideas and principles of conservatism.

George Mason

October 1787

OBJECTIONS OF THE HON. GEORGE MASON,
ONE OF THE DELEGATES FROM VIRGINIA IN THE LATE CONTINENTAL CONVENTION,
TO THE PROPOSED FEDERAL CONSTITUTION;
ASSIGNED AS HIS REASONS FOR NOT SIGNING THE SAME.

There is no declaration of rights; and, the laws of the general government being paramount to the laws and constitutions of the several states, the declarations of rights in the separate states are no security. Nor are the people secured even in the enjoyment of the benefit of the common law, which stands here upon no other foundation than its having been adopted by the respective acts forming the constitutions of the several states.

In the House of Representatives there is not the substance, but the shadow only, of representation, which can never produce proper information in the legislature, or inspire confidence in the people. The laws will, therefore, be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with, their effects and consequences.

The Senate have the power of altering all money bills, and of originating appropriations of money, and the salaries of the officers of their own appointment, in conjunction with the President of the United States, although they are not the representatives of the people, or amenable to them. These, with their other great powers, (viz., their powers in the appointment of ambassadors, and all public officers, in making treaties, and in trying all impeachments;) their influence upon, and connection with, the supreme executive from these causes; their duration of office; and their being a constant existing body, almost continually sitting, joined with their being one complete branch of the legislature, — will destroy any balance in the government, and enable them to accomplish what usurpations they please upon the rights and liberties of the people.

The judiciary of the United States is so constructed and extended as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several states; thereby rendering laws as tedious, intricate, and expensive, and justice as unattainable, by a great part of the community, as in England; and enabling the rich to oppress and ruin the poor.

The President of the United States has no constitutional council, (a thing unknown in any safe and regular government.) He will therefore be unsupported by proper information and advice, and will generally be directed by minions and favorites; or he will become a tool to the Senate; or a council of state will grow out of the principal officers of the great departments — the worst and most dangerous of all ingredients for such a council, in a free country; for they may be induced to join in any dangerous or oppressive measures, to shelter themselves, and prevent an inquiry into their own misconduct in office. Whereas, had a constitutional council been formed (as was proposed) of six members, viz., two from the Eastern, two from the Middle, and two from the Southern States, to be appointed by vote of the states in the House of Representatives, with the same duration and rotation of office as the Senate, the executive would always have had safe and proper information and advice: the president of such a council might have acted as Vice-President of the United States, pro tempore, upon any vacancy or disability of the chief magistrate; and long-continued sessions of the Senate would in a great measure have been prevented. From this fatal defect of a constitutional council has arisen the improper power of the Senate in the appointment of the public officers, and the alarming dependence and connection between that branch of the legislature and the supreme executive. Hence, also, sprang that unnecessary officer, the Vice-President, who, for want of other employment, is made president of the Senate; thereby dangerously blending the executive and legislative powers, besides always giving to some one of the states an unnecessary and unjust preminence over the others.

The President of the United States has the unrestrained power of granting pardon for treason; which may be sometimes exercised to screen from punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the crime, and thereby prevent a discovery of his own guilt. By declaring all treaties supreme laws of the land, the executive and the Senate have, in many cases, an exclusive power of legislation, which might have been avoided, by proper distinctions with respect to treaties, and requiring the assent of the House of Representatives, where it could be done with safety.

By requiring only a majority to make all commercial and navigation laws, the five Southern States (whose produce and circumstances are totally different from those of the eight Northern and Eastern States) will be ruined; for such rigid and premature regulations may be made, as will enable the merchants of the Northern and Eastern States not only to demand an exorbitant freight, but to monopolize the purchase of the commodities, at their own price, for many years, to the great injury of the landed interest, and the impoverishment of the people; and the danger is the greater, as the gain on one side will be in proportion to the loss on the other. Whereas, requiring two thirds of the members present in both houses, would have produced mutual moderation, promoted the general interest, and removed an insuperable objection to the adoption of the government.

Under their own construction of the general clause at the end of the enumerated powers, the Congress may grant monopolies in trade and commerce, constitute new crimes, inflict unusual and severe punishments, and extend their power as far as they shall think proper; so that the state legislatures have no security for the powers now presumed to remain to them, or the people for their rights. There is no declaration of any kind for preserving the liberty of the press, the trial by jury in civil cases, nor against the danger of standing armies in time of peace.

The state legislatures are restrained from laying export duties on their own produce; the general legislature is restrained from prohibiting the further importation of slaves for twenty-odd years, though such importations render the United States weaker, more vulnerable, and less capable of defence. Both the general legislature and the state legislatures are expressly prohibited making ex post facto laws, though there never was, nor can be, a legislature but must and will make such laws, when necessity and the public safety require them, which will hereafter be a breach of all the constitutions in the Union, and afford precedents for other innovations.

This government will commence in a moderate aristocracy: it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in its operation, produce a monarchy or a corrupt oppressive aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other.

GEO. MASON.

The Contentious Constitution: Part 1

In school, we were all taught the Constitution was ratified unanimously but this is not the case. Rhode Island opposed the Constitution out right and never sent a delegation to the Constitutional Convention. When the Constitutional Convention voted on September 15, 1787 to send the new Constitution to the states, all voted Aye as each state had but one vote.

However, among the delegates it was not unanimous. Rhode Island refused to send a delegation. Thirteen delegates walked out of the Convention and did not sign. The remaining three refused to sign: Edmund Randolph of Virginia, George Mason of Virginia, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. George Mason demanded a Bill of Rights. Of the 55 delegates, only 39 signed the Constitution.

Rhode Island was the last to ratify the Constitution. In May of 1790, Rhode Island finally voted and it was ratified by a very narrow margin of 34-32. They were not the only state in which the Constitution ratification was contentious.

To truly understand the objections to the new Constitution, it is important to read the Anti-Federalist papers. They were a series articles published in Colonial papers opposing the Constitution. The Anti-Federalists were fearful of Central Government.e  They fought for the Rights of States and the Individual.

Five states voted to ratify the new Constitution in the winter of 1787 – 1788. Delaware, New Jersey and Georgia voted unanimously while Pennsylvania passed 2 -1 and Connecticut passed 4 -1. The other states would not be so easy.

Massachusetts sat their convention in the beginning of 1788. The Ratification of the new Constitution failed on the first vote, 170 yay, 190 nay. At this point, events take a turn.

“One of the leading authorities on the Massachusetts Convention, John J. Fox, deems the entire experience to be undemocratic: “If the people of the commonwealth had been allowed to vote directly, they would have determined against ratification; so would a majority of delegates if they had been asked to cast their votes in the early days of the convention.” He sees the Federalists as “cunning.” Similarly, Jackson Turner Main notes that “The Federalists employed unethical means”.”

After nearly a month of debate, the leaders of the two parties, Federalists and Anti-Federalists, met to discuss the stalemate. Two noted Anti-Federalists, John Hancock and John Adams, worked to come up with the “Massachusetts Compromise”, ratify now with an expectation that in the First Congress amendments would be proposed to alter the Constitution.

The delegates took another vote on February 6, 1788. This time it passed 187 – 168. A record of the actual vote has been lost to history.

In the Spring of 1788, two states to ratify the new Constitution, Maryland 64 – 12 and South Carolina 149–73.

Only one more state was needed to adopt the new Constitution but the next three states conventions to meet in July 1788 would be the most difficult: Virginia, New York and New Hampshire.

The American Founding Documents
http://teachingamericanhistory.org/founding/

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