OBJECTIONS TO A STANDING ARMY (PART II)
The Revolutionary War had convinced many of the inadequacy of the militia. Yet, the fear of standing armies in time of peace was rooted deep in the colonial experience of Americans.
Antifederalists insisted that the militia was sufficient, but even if not, that a constitutional limitation be placed upon the number of troops in peacetime. ( Elbridge Gerry had suggested this check in the Philadelphia convention, but his proposal was defeated. See Charles Warren, The Making of the Constitution, Boston, 1937, pp. 482-83). The essay which follows is from the tenth letter of "BRUTUS" in The New-York Journal, January 24, 1788.
The liberties of a people are in danger from a large standing army, not only because the rulers may employ them for the purposes of supporting themselves in any usurpations of power, which they may see proper to exercise; but there is great hazard, that an army will subvert the forms of the government, under whose authority they are raised, and establish one [rule] according to the pleasure of their leaders.
We are informed, in the faithful pages of history, of such events frequently happening. Two instances have been mentioned in a former paper. They are so remarkable, that they are worthy of the most careful attention of every lover of freedom. They are taken from the history of the two most powerful nations that have ever existed in the world; and who are the most renowned, for the freedom they enjoyed, and the excellency of their constitutions--I mean Rome and Britain.
In the first, the liberties of the commonwealth were destroyed, and the constitution overturned, by an army, led by Julius Caesar, who was appointed to the command by the constitutional authority of that commonwealth. He changed it from a free republic, whose fame . . . is still celebrated by all the world, into that of the most absolute despotism. A standing army effected this change, and a standing army supported it through a succession of ages, which are marked in the annals of history with the most horrid cruelties, bloodshed, and carnage--the most devilish, beastly, and unnatural vices, that ever punished or disgraced human nature.
The same army, that in Britain, vindicated the liberties of that people from the encroachments and despotism of a tyrant king, assisted Cromwell, their General, in wresting from the people that liberty they had so dearly earned.
You may be told, these instances will not apply to our case. But those who would persuade you to believe this, either mean to deceive you, or have not themselves considered the subject.
I firmly believe, no country in the world had ever a more patriotic army, than the one which so ably served this country in the late war. But had the General who commanded them been possessed of the spirit of a Julius Caesar or a Cromwell, the liberties of this country . . . [might have] in all probability terminated with the war. Or had they been maintained, [they] might have cost more blood and treasure than was expended in the conflict