Antifederalist No. 60
WILL THE CONSTITUTION PROMOTE THE INTERESTS OF FAVORITE CLASSES?

John F. Mercer of Maryland, author of the following selection, personified a rather common Antifederalist political philosophy which consisted of: (1) a distrust of representative government, (2) a distrust of aristocratic government, (3) a distrust of a highly centralized government, (4) a great admiration for the British government, (5) a belief that the form of the British government was unworkable in the United States. (See Crowl, Maryland, p. 143, for some provocative comments on Mercer and other Maryland Antifederalists).

In short, then, Antifederatist political philosophy was essentially negative. In opposing the Constitution they proposed piecemeal amendments, but not an alternative solution, to the American people. The essay is from a document, John F. Mercer to members of the ratifying conventions of New York and Virginia, 1788, in the Etting Collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

We have not that permanent and fixed distinction of ranks or orders of men among us, which unalterably separating the interests and views, produces that division in pursuits which is the great security of the mixed Government we separated from and which we now seem so anxiously to copy. If the new Senate of the United States will be really opposite in their pursuits and views from the Representatives, have they not a most dangerous power of interesting foreign nations by Treaty [to] support their views?--for instance, the relinquishment of the navigation of [the] Mississippi--and yet where Treaties are expressly declared paramount to the Constitutions of the several States, and being the supreme law, [the Senate] must of course control the national legislature, if not supersede the Constitution of the United States itself. The check of the President over a Body, with which he must act in concert--or his influence and power be almost annihilated--can prove no great constitutional security. And even the Representative body itself . . . are not sufficiently numerous to secure them from corruption. For all governments tend to corruption, in proportion as power concentrating in the hands of the few, tenders them objects of corruption to Foreign Nations and among themselves.

For these and many other reasons we are for preserving the rights of the State governments, where they must not be necessarily relinquished for the welfare of the Union. And, where so relinquished, the line should be definitely drawn. If under the proposed Constitution the States exercise any power, it would seem to be at the mercy of the General Government. For it is remarkable that the clause securing to them those rights not expressly relinquished in the old Confederation, is left out in the new Constitution. And we conceive that there is no power which Congress may think necessary to exercise for the general welfare, which they may not assume under this Constitution. And this Constitution, and the laws made under it, are declared

-175-

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