Antifederalist No. 47
"BALANCE" OF DEPARTMENTS NOT ACHIEVED UNDER NEW CONSTITUTION

Still another rather common Antifederalist theme amounted to this; that a form of government should not only reflect the character of a people, but also must have an effect upon that character. Thus at times the Antifederalists belittled the Constitution for being a copy of the British system, inapplicable to American society; at times they lauded and in other instances disapproved of the British government; and at times they stated that the Constitution bore but a surface similarity to the British system.

In short, the Antifederalists sometimes condemned the founding fathers for not having divided powers equally among the three departments of government, and at times argued that such a division was humanly impossible to achieve. The following essay consists of excerpts from the letters of "CENTINEL," October 5 and 24, 1787, in the[ Philadelphia] Independent Gazetteer, reprinted in McMaster and Stone, pp. 567-70, 574-75, 585-87. Part of these letters were reprinted, anonymously, in The Freeman's Journal; Or, The North-American Intelligencer, December 12, 1787.

I am fearful that the principles of government inculcated in Mr. [John] Adams ' treatise [ Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America], and enforced in the numerous essays and paragraphs in the newspapers, have misled some well designing members of the late Convention. But it will appear in the sequel, that the construction of the proposed plan of government is infinitely more extravagant.

I have been anxiously expecting that some enlightened patriot would, ere this, have taken up the pen to expose the futility, and counteract the baneful tendency of such principles. Mr. Adams' sine qua non of a good government is three balancing powers; whose repelling qualities are to produce an equilibrium of interests, and thereby promote the happiness of the whole community. He asserts that the administrators of every government, will ever be actuated by views of private interest and ambition, to the prejudice of the public good; that therefore the only effectual method to secure the rights of the people and promote their welfare, is to create an opposition of interests between the members of two distinct bodies, in the exercise of the powers of government, and balanced by those of a third. This hypothesis supposes human wisdom competent to the task of instituting three co-equal orders in government, and a corresponding weight in the community to enable them respectively to exercise their several parts, and whose views and interests should be so distinct as to prevent a coalition of any two of them for the destruction of the third. Mr. Adams, although he has traced the constitution of every form of government that ever existed, as far as history affords materials, has not been able to adduce a single instance of such a government. He indeed says that the British constitution is such in theory, but this is rather a confirmation that his principles are chimerical and not to be reduced to practice. If such an organization of power were practicable, how long would it continue? Not a day--for there is so great a disparity in the

-133-

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