POWERS OF NATIONAL GOVERNMENT DANGEROUS TO STATE GOVERNMENTS; NEW YORK AS AN EXAMPLE
Robert Yates attended the federal convention in Philadelphia as one of the delegates from New York. He left the convention on July 10, 1787, and became active as an Antifederatist leader in his native state. Using the pen name "SYDNEY" (see the Headnote to Antifederalist No. 17 for further remarks), Yates contributed two lengthy letters to the New York Daily Patriotic Register, June 13 and 14, 1788, which contained a detailed comparison of the new constitution with the constitution of the state of New York. The following essay is excerpted from these letters, and is taken from Ford, Essays, pp. 297-300, 303-05, 308-10, 312-14.
Although a variety of objections to the proposed new constitution for the government of the United States have been laid before the public by men of the best abilities, I am led to believe that representing it in a point of view which has escaped their observation may be of use, that is, by comparing it with the constitution of the State of New York.
The following contrast is therefore submitted to the public, to show in what instances the powers of the state government will be either totally or partially absorbed, and enable us to determine whether the remaining powers will, from those kind of pillars, be capable of supporting the mutilated fabric of a government which even the advocates for the new constitution admit excels "the boasted models of Greece or Rome, and those of all other nations, in having precisely marked out the power of the government and the rights of the people."
It may be proper to premise that the pressure of necessity and distress (and not corruption) had a principal tendency to induce the adoption of the state constitutions and the existing confederation; that power was even then vested in the rulers with the greatest caution; and that, as from every circumstance we have reason to infer that the new constitution does not originate from a pure source, we ought deliberately to trace the extent and tendency of the trust we are about to repose, under the conviction that a reassumption of that trust will at least be difficult, if not impracticable. If we take a retrospective view of the measures of Congress. . . . we can scarcely entertain a doubt but that a plan has long since been framed to subvert the confederation; that that plan has been matured with the most persevering industry and unremitted attention; and that the objects expressed in the preamble to the constitution, that is "to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," were merely the ostensible, and not the real reasons of its framers. . . .
The state governments are considered in . . . [the new constitution] as mere dependencies, existing solely by its toleration, and possessing powers of which they may be deprived whenever the general government is disposed so to do. If then the powers of the state governments are to be totally absorbed, in which all agree, and only differ as to the mode--whether it will be effected