FACTIONS AND THE CONSTITUTION
A constant theme of the political literature of 1787-88 concerned the motives of those who either attacked or defended the Constitution (see Antifederalist No. 40). Most naturally, a variety of charges and explanations were tendered, ranging from wild accusations to well-tempered analyses. Much of the recent historiography on the Constitution essentially reflects the same problem of motivation. In fact, some historians seem to debate the problem with the same confusions and passions typical of the periodw. (See Richard B. Morris , "The Confederation Period and the American Historian," The William and Mary Quarterly, April, 1956, XIII, no. 2).
In the following essay "THE FEDERAL FARMER," Richard Henry Lee, attempted to "examine the plan, but also its history, and the politics of its particular friends." It is taken from Ford, Pamphlets, pp. 280-85, 320-22.
. . . . To have a just idea of the government before us, and to show that a consolidated one is the object in view, it is necessary not only to examine the plan, but also its history, and the politics of its particular friends.
The confederation was formed when great confidence was placed in the voluntary exertions of individuals, and of the respective states; and the framers of it, to guard against usurpation, so limited, and checked the powers, that, in many respects, they are inadequate to the exigencies of the union. We find, therefore, members of congress urging alterations in the federal system almost as soon as it was adopted. It was early proposed to vest congress with powers to levy an impost, to regulate trade, etc., but such was known to be the caution of the states in parting with power, that the vestment even of these, was proposed to be under several checks and limitations. During the war, the general confusion, and the introduction of paper money, infused in the minds of the people vague ideas respecting government and credit. We expected too much from the return of peace, and of course we have been disappointed. Our governments have been new and unsettled; and several legislatures, by making tender, suspension, and paper money laws, have given just cause of uneasiness to creditors. By these and other causes, several orders of men in the community have been prepared, by degrees, for a change of government. And this very abuse of power in the legislatures, which in some cases has been charged upon the democratic part of the community, has furnished aristocratical men with those very weapons, and those very means, with which, in great measure, they are rapidly effecting their favorite object. And should an oppressive government be the consequence of the proposed change, posterity may reproach not only a few overbearing, unprincipled men, but those parties in the states which have misused their powers.
The conduct of several legislatures, touching paper money, and tender laws, has prepared many honest men for changes in government, which otherwise they would not have thought of--when by the evils, on the one hand, and by the secret instigations of artful men, on the other, the minds of men were become sufficiently uneasy, a bold step was taken, which is usually
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Publication information: Book title: The Antifederalist Papers. Contributors: Morton Borden - Editor. Publisher: Michigan State University Press. Place of publication: East Lansing, MI. Publication year: 1965. Page number: 98.