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NEW YORK, JANUARY 29, 1788.
THE SUBJECT OF THE LAST PAPER RESUMED; WITH AN EXAMI. NATION OF THE COMPARATIVE MEANS OF INFLUENCE OF THE FEDERAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS.
RESUMING the subject of the last paper, I proceed to inquire, whether the federal government or the state governments, will have the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the people.
Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States. I assume this position here as it respects the first, resorving the proofs for another place. Tho fodoral and state governmonts are in fact but different agents and trustees of the pooplo, insti. tuted with different powers, and designated for different pur. puses. The adversaries of the constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether, in their reasonings on this sub. ject; and to have viewed these different establishments, not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superiour, in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their
They must be told, that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the pooplo
alune; and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires, that the event, in every case, should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.
Many considerations, besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it beyond doubt, that the first and most natural attachment of the people will be to the governments of their respective statos. Into the administration of theso, a greater number of individuals will expect to riso. From tho gift of these, a greater number of offices and omoluments will flow. By the superintending care of these, all the more domestic and personal interests of the people will be regulated and provided for. With the affairs of these, the people will be more familiarly and minutely conversant: and with the members of these, will a greater proportion of the people have the ties of personal acquaintance and friendship, and of family and party attachments. On the side of these, therefore, the popular bias may well be expected most strongly to incline.
Experience speaks the same language in this caso. The federal administration, though hitherto very defoctive, in comparison with what may be hoped under a better system, had, during the war, and particularly whilst the independent fund of paper emissions was in credit, an activity and importance as great as it can well have, in any future circumstances whatever. It was engaged, too, in a course of measures which had for their object the protection of every thing that was dear, and the acquisition of every thing that could be desirable to the poople at large. It was, nevertheless, invariably found, after the tran. sient enthusiasm for the early congressos was over, that the attention and attachment of the peoplo wore turned anow to their own particular governments; that the federal council was at no time the idol of popular favour; and that opposition to proposed enlargements of its powers and importance, was tbo
side usually taken by the men, who wished to build their political consequence on the prepossessions of their fellow citizens.
If, therefore, as has been elsewhere remarked, the people should in future become more partial to the federal than to the state governments, the change can only result from such manifost and irresistible proofs of a better administration, as will overcome all their antecedent propensitios. And in that caso, the people ought not surely to be precluded from giving most of their confidence where they may discover it to be most due: but even in that case, the state governments could have little to apprehend, because it is only within a certain sphere, that the federal power can, in the nature of things, be advantageously administered.
The remaining points, on which I propose to compare the federal and state governments, are the disposition and faculty they may respectively possess, to resist and frustrate the measures of each other.
It has been already proved, that the members of the federal will be more dependent on the members of the state governments, than the latter will be on the former. It has appeared also, that the prepossessions of the people, on whom both will depend, will be more on the side of the state governments, than of the federal government. So far as the disposition of each, towards the other, may be influenced by these causes, the stato governments must clearly have the advantage. But in a distinct and very important point of view, the advantage will lie on the same side. The prepossessions, which the members themselves will carry into the federal government, will generally be favourable to the states; whilst it will rarely happen, that the members of the state governments will carry into the public councils a bias in favour of the general government. A local spirit will infallibly provail much more in tho members of the congress, than a national spirit will prevail in the legislaturos of the particular states. Every one knows, that a great proportion of the errours committed by the state legislatures, pro
ceeds froin the disposition of the members to sacrifice the comprehonsive and permanent interests of the state, to the particular and soparate views of the countios or districts in which they resido. And if they do not sufficiontly onlarge their policy, to embrace the collective welfare of their particular state, how can it be imagined, that they will make the aggregate prosperity of the union, and the dignity and respectability of its government, the objects of their affections and consultations? For the same reason, that the members of the state legislatures will be unlikely to attach themselves sufficiently to national objects, the members of the federal legislature will be likely to attach themselves too much to local objects. The states will be to the latter, what counties and towns are to the former. Measures will too often be decided according to their probable effect, not on the national prosperity and happiness, but on the projudices, interests, and pursuits of the governmonts and pooplo of the individual states. What is the spirit that has in general characterized the proceedings of congress? A perusal of their journals, as well as the candid acknowledgements of such as bave had a seat in that assembly, will inform us, that the members have but too frequently displayed the character, rather of partisans of their respective states, than of impartial guardians of a common interest; that where, on one occasion, improper sacrifices have been made of local considerations to the aggrandizement of the foderal government, the great interests of the nation have suffered on an hundred, from an undue attention to the local prejudices, interests, and views of the particular states. I mean not by these reflections to insinuate, that the new federal government will not embrace a more enlarged plan of policy, than tho existing government may havo pursuod; much loss, that its views will be as confined as those of the state legislatures : but only that it will partako sufficiently of the spirit of both, to be disinclined to invade the rights of the individual states, or the prerogatives of their governments. The motiver on the part of the state governments, to augment their prornga
tives by dofalcations from the foderal government, will be over. ruled by no reciprocal predispositions in the members.
Were it admitted, however, that the federal government may feel an equal disposition with the state governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a particular state, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that state, and sbould not too grossly violate the oaths of the state officers, it is executed immediately, and, of course, by means on the spot, and depend. ing on the state alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the state; and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty. On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular states, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance, and perhaps refusal, to cooperate with the officers of the union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the state; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any state, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large state, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining states happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would bardly be willing to encounter.
But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the state governments, would not excite the opposition of a single state, or of a fow states only. They would be signals of general alarm. Every government would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be opened. Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would animato and conduct the whole. The same combination, in short, would