he hath so liberally endowed us with privileges, and so abundantly taught us to esteem them precious, it would be impossible while we retain our integrity, and advert to first principles, for any nation whatever to subdue us. We have succeeded in our opposition to the most powerful people upon the globe; and the wound that America received in the struggle, where is it? As speedily healed as the track in the ocean is buried by the succeeding wave. It has scarcely stopped her progress, and our private dissensions only, at this moment, tarnish the lustre of the most illustrious infant nation under heaven.
You cannot help suspecting this gentleman [ James Wilson], when he goes on to tell you "that standing armies in time of peace have always been a topic of popular declamation, but Europe hath found them necessary to maintain the appearance of strength in a season of the most profound tranquility." This shows you his opinion--and that he, as one of the Convention, was for unequivocally establishing them in time of peace; and to object to them, is a mere popular declamation. But I will not, my countrymen--I cannot believe you to be of the same sentiment. Where is the standing army in the world that, like the musket they make use of, hath been in time of peace brightened and burnished for the sake only of maintaining an appearance of strength, without being put to a different use--without having had a pernicious influence upon the morals, the habits, and the sentiments of society, and finally, taking a chief part in executing its laws? . . .
If tyranny is at all feared, the tyranny of the many is to be guarded against more than that of a single person. The Athenians found by sad experience, that 30 tyrants were thirty times worse than one. A bad aristocracy is thirty times worse than a bad monarchy, allowing each to have a standing army as unrestricted as in the proposed constitution.
If the people are not in general disposed to execute the powers of government, it is time to suspect there is something wrong in that government; and rather than employ a standing army, they had better have another. For, in my humble opinion, it is yet much too early to set it down for a fact, that mankind cannot be governed but by force.
JOHN DE WITT
OBJECTIONS TO NATIONAL CONTROL OF THE MILITIA
Antifederalists were not only adamantly opposed to standing armies in peacetime, but many (though not all) thought it dangerous to vest the federal government with controls over the state militia. The following essay is made up of two selections. The first excerpt is by "A DEMOCRATIC FEDERALIST," in the Pennsylvania Packet, October 23, 1787; the second is from THE ADDRESS AND REASONS OF DISSENT OF THE MINORITY OF THE CONVENTION OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS, December 12, 1787. Both are reprinted in McMaster and Stone, pp. 154-56, 480-81.