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of weight has yet been advanced of this tendency; and I flatter myself, that the observations, which have been made in the course of these papers, have served to place the reverse of that position in as clear a light as any matter, still in the womb of time and experience, is susceptible of. This, at all events, must be evident, that the very difficulty itself, drawn from the extent of the country, is the strongest argument in favour of an energetic government; for any other can certainly never preserve the union of so large an empire. If we embrace, as the standard of our political creed, the tenets of those, who oppose the adoption of the proposed constitution, we cannot fail to verify the gloomy doctrines, which predict the impracticability of a national system, pervading the entire limits of the present con. federacy
NEW YORK, DECEMBER 19, 1787.
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED, WITH AN ANSWER TO AN OBJECTION
CONCERNING STANDING ARMIES.
To the powers proposed to be conferred upon the federal government, in respect to the creation and direction of the national forces, I have met with but one specific objection; which is, that proper provision has not been made against the existence of standing armies in time of peace: An objection which I shall now endeavour to show, rests on weak and unsubstantial foundations.
It bas indeed been brought forward in the most vague and general form, supported only by bold assertions, without the appearance of argument; without even the sanction of thoo. retical opinions, in contradiction to the practice of other free nations, and to the general sense of America, as expressed in most of the existing constitutions. The propriety of this remark will appear, the moment it is recollected that the objection under consideration turns upon a supposed necessity of restraining the LEGISLATIVE authority of the nation, in the article of military establishments; a principle unheard of, except in one or two of our state constitutions, and rejected in all the rest.
A stranger to our politics, who was to read our nowspapers at the present juncture, without having previously inspected the
plan reported by the convention, would be naturally led to one of two conclusions: either that it contained a positive injunction, that standing armies should be kept up in time of peace; or, that it vested in the EXECUTIVE the whole power of lovying troops, without subjecting his discretion in any shape to the control of the legislature.
If he came afterwards to peruse the plan itself, he would be surprised to discover, that neither the one nor the other was the case; that the whole power of raising armies was lodged in the legislature, not in the executive; that this logislaturo was to bo a popular body, consisting of the representatives of the people periodically elected; and that instead of the provision ho bad supposed in favour of standing armies, thoro was to be found in respect to this object, an important qualification even of the legislative discretion, in that clause which forbids the appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer period than two years: A precaution which, upon a nearer view of it, will appear to be a great and real security against military establishments without evident necessity.
Disappointed in his first surmise, the person I have supposed would be apt to pursue his conjectures a littlo further. llo would naturally say to himself, it is impossible that all this vehement and pathetic declamation can be without some colourable pretext. It must needs be that this people, so jealous of their liberties, have, in all the preceding models of the constitutions which they have established, inserted the most precise and rigid precautions on this point, the omission of which in tho new plan, has given birth to all this apprehension and clamour.
If, under this impression, he proceeded to pass in review the several state constitutions, how great would be his disappointment to find that two only of them* contained an interdiction
* This statement of the matter is taken from the printed collections of state constitutions. Pennsylvania and North-Carolina, are the two which contain the interdiction in these words: “As standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ougut not to be kept up.” This is, in truth, rather a caution than a PROHIBITION. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware,
of standing armies in time of peace; that the other eleven had either observed a profound silence on the subject, or had in express terms admitted the right of the legislature to authorize their existence.
Still, however, he would be persuaded that there must be some plausible foundation, for the cry raised on this head. He would never be able to imagine, while any source of information remained unexplored, that it was nothing more than an experi.. ment upon the public credulity, dictated either by a deliberate intention to deceive, or by the overflowings of a zeal too intemperate to be ingenuous. It would probably occur to him, that he would be likely to find the precautions he was in search of, in the primitivo compact between the states. Here, at length, he would expect to meet with a solution of the enigma. No doubt, he would observe to himself, the existing confederation must contain the most explicit provisions against military establishments in time of peace; and a departure from this model in a favourite point, has occasioned the discontent, which appears to influence these political champions.
If he should now apply himself to a careful and critical survey of the articles of confederation, his astonishment would not only be increased, but would acquire a mixture of indignation, at the unexpected discovery, that these articles, instead of containing the prohibition he looked for, and though they had, with jealous circumspection, restricted the authority of the stato legislaturos in this particular, had not imposed a singlo restraint on that of the United States. If ho happened to be a man of quick sensibility, or ardent temper, he could now no longer refrain from pronouncing these clamours to be, tho and Maryland, have in each of their bills of rights a clause to this effect : “Standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be raised or kepe up withOUT THE CONSENT OF THE LEGISLATURE;" which is a formal admission of the authority of the legislature. New-York has no bill of rights, and her constitution says not a word about the matter. No bills of rights appear annexed to the constitutions of the other states, and their constitutions are equally silent. I am told, however, that one or two states have bills of rights, wbich do not appear in this collection; but that those also recognize the right of the legislative authority in this respect.
dishonest artifices of a sinister and unprincipled opposition, to a plan which ought at least to receive a fair and candid examination from all sincere lovers of their country! How else, he would say, could the authors of them have boon tompted to vont such loud censures upon that plan, about a point, in which it seems to have conformod itself to the gonoral sonso of America as declared in its different forms of government, and in which it has even superadded a new and powerful guard unknown to any of them? If, on the contrary, he happened to be a man of calm and dispassionate feelings, he would indulge a sigh for the frailty of human nature, and would lament, that in a matter so interesting to the happiness of millions, the true merits of the question should be perplexed, and obscured by expedients so unfriendly to an impartial and right determination. Even such a man could hardly forbear remarking, that a conduct of this kind, has too much the appearance, of an intontion to mislead the people by alarming their passions, rather than to convince them by arguments addressed to their understandings.
But however little this objection may be countenanced, even by precedents among ourselves, it may be satisfactory to take a nearer view of its intrinsic merits. From a close examination, it will appear, that restraints upon the discretion of the legislature, in respect to military establishments, would be improper to be imposed; and if imposed, from the necessities of society, would be unlikely to be observed.
Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of confidence or security. On one side of us, stretching far into our rear, are growing settlements subject to the dominion of Britain. On the other side, and extending to meet the British settlements, are colonies and establishments subject to the dominion of Spain. This situation, and the vicinity of the West-India islands, belonging to these two powers, create between them, in respect to their American possessions, and in relation to us, a common interest. The savage tribes on our western frontier, ought to be regarded as our natural enemies;