Confederalist Paper #2 – One United Confederacy


Confederalist Paper #2

Making a Case for a New American Confederacy under the New Articles of Confederation (NAC)

One United Confederacy

To the People of all the States of Union:

WHEN the people of America reflect that they are now called upon to decide a question, which, in its consequences, must prove one of the most important that ever engaged their attention, the propriety of their taking a very comprehensive, as well as a very serious, view of it, will be evident.

Nothing is more sorrowful than the necessity of government, and it is equally sad, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must, unfortunately, cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers. It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one consolidated nation, under one centralized government, as presently constituted under the United States Constitution, or that they should be one consolidated confederacy under the proposed New Articles of Confederation, and give back to each State the same kind of powers which they have placed in the current national government.

It has until lately been a received and uncontradicted opinion that the prosperity of the people of America depended on their continuing firmly united, and the wishes, prayers, and efforts of our best and wisest citizens have been constantly directed to that object. But politicians now appear, who insist that this opinion is erroneous, and that instead of looking for safety and happiness in union, we ought to seek it in a division of the States into multiple and distinct confederacies or sovereignties, through secession. However extraordinary this new doctrine may appear, it nevertheless has its advocates; and certain characters who were much opposed to it formerly, are at present of the number. Whatever may be the arguments or inducements which have wrought this change in the sentiments and declarations of these gentlemen, it certainly would not be wise in the people at large to adopt these new political tenets without being fully convinced that they are founded in truth and sound policy.

It has often given me pleasure to observe that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but that one connected, fertile, widespreading country was the portion of our western sons of liberty. Providence has in a particular manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and accommodation of its inhabitants. A succession of navigable waters forms a kind of chain round its borders, as if to bind it together; while the most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient distances, present them with highways for the easy communication of friendly aids, and the mutual transportation and exchange of their various commodities.

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody Revolutionary war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.

Similar sentiments have hitherto prevailed among all orders and denominations of men among us. To all general purposes we have uniformly been one people each individual citizen everywhere enjoying the same rights, privileges, and protection. As a nation we have made peace and war; as a nation we have vanquished our common enemies; as a nation we have formed alliances, and made treaties, and entered into various compacts and conventions with foreign states.

A strong sense of the value and blessings of union induced the people, at a very early period, to institute a Confederacy under the Articles of Confederation to preserve and perpetuate it. They formed it almost as soon as they had a political existence; nay, at a time when their habitations were in flames, when many of their citizens were bleeding, and when the progress of hostility and desolation left little room for those calm and mature inquiries and reflections which must ever precede the formation of a wise and well-balanced government for a free people. It is not to be wondered at, that a government instituted in times so inauspicious, should on experiment be found greatly deficient and inadequate to the purpose it was intended to answer.

This intelligent people perceived and regretted these defects. Still continuing no less attached to union than enamored of liberty, they observed the danger which immediately threatened the former and more remotely the latter; and being pursuaded that ample security for both could only be found in a better formed Confederacy more wisely framed, they as with one voice, convened the convention at Philadelphia, to take that important subject under consideration.

This convention, composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by their patriotism, virtue and wisdom, in times which tried the minds and hearts of men, undertook the arduous task, but failed to accomplish it. Instead, in the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation and worked on the creation of a national government; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the people the well-intentioned, but misguided United States Constitution produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.

Admit, for so is the fact, that the United States Constitution, which was at first only recommended, but then adopted by ratification, was later imposed by force during our Civil War, and also let it be admitted that the New Articles of Confederation, which would establish a completely voluntary and free Confederacy and correct the deficiency of the former Confederacy under the first set of Articles, are neither recommended to blind approbation, nor to blind reprobation; but to that sedate and candid consideration which the magnitude and importance of the subject demand, and which it certainly ought to receive. But this (as was remarked in the foregoing number of this paper) is more to be wished than expected, that it may be so considered and examined. Experience on a former occasion teaches us not to be too sanguine in such hopes. It is not yet forgotten that well-grounded apprehensions of imminent danger induced the people of America to form the memorable Congress of 1774. That body recommended certain measures to their constituents, and the event proved their wisdom; yet it is fresh in our memories how soon the press began to teem with pamphlets and weekly papers against those very measures. Not only many of the officers of government, who obeyed the dictates of personal interest, but others, from a mistaken estimate of consequences, or the undue influence of former attachments, or whose ambition aimed at objects which did not correspond with the public good, were indefatigable in their efforts to pursuade the people to reject the advice of that patriotic Congress. Many, indeed, were deceived and deluded, but the great majority of the people reasoned and decided judiciously; and happy they are in reflecting that they did so.

They considered that the Congress was composed of many wise and experienced men. That, being convened from different parts of the country, they brought with them and communicated to each other a variety of useful information. That, in the course of the time they passed together in inquiring into and discussing the true interests of their country, they must have acquired very accurate knowledge on that head. That they were individually interested in the public liberty and prosperity, and therefore that it was not less their inclination than their duty to recommend only such measures as, after the most mature deliberation, they really thought prudent and advisable.

These and similar considerations then induced the people to rely greatly on the judgment and integrity of that Congress; and they took their advice, notwithstanding the various arts and endeavors used to deter them from it. But if the people at large had reason to confide in the men of that Congress, few of whom had been fully tried or generally known, one might think that they have now greater reason to respect the judgment and advice of the present Congress of 2015, but alas!, such is not the case, for it is well known that some of the most distinguished members of this current Congress, are as corrupt a group of power-seeking men as can be found anywhere in the world, claiming to have patriotism and our best interests in mind, while growing old and fat on the stolen rights of our people, all the while using the acquired political information and accumulated knowledge and experience they gain in the national government to fatten their wallets and increase their own special interests.

It is worthy of remark that not only the first, but every succeeding Congress, have invariably joined with the people in thinking that the prosperity of America depended on its Union. To preserve and perpetuate it was the great object of the people in forming both the convention that produced the decentralized and free Articles of Confederation and the convention that produced that grotesquely centralized national government document known as the United States Constitution, and it is also the great object of the new plan, the New Articles of Confederation, which all men of wisdom are advising the people of the several States to adopt. With what propriety, therefore, or for what good purposes, are attempts at this particular period made by some men to depreciate the importance of the Union? Or why is it suggested that three or four confederacies would be better than one? I am persuaded in my own mind that the people have always thought right on this subject, and that their universal and uniform attachment to the cause of the Union rests on great and weighty reasons, which I shall endeavor to develop and explain in some ensuing papers. On the one hand, they who promote the Union through the continuance of the national government are striving to force the people to give up what is left of their remaining freedoms, liberties and rights, and do so to keep themselves glutting on the labors of the people.  They make the claim that we should be a Union under the Constitution simply for the sake of Union, as if Union alone was the object.  But do we want to be a Union of slaves or a Union of freemen?  So, Union for the sake of Union is not the end goal.  It must be a free, unforced, voluntary Union, such as is had under the NAC plan.  On the other hand, they who promote the idea of substituting a number of distinct confederacies in the room of the NAC plan of one free Confederacy, seem to know that there efforts are not as popular as the NAC plan and will only end up diluting the promotion of both the NAC plan and any other Confederacy plan, and thus they seem clearly to foresee that the rejection of the NAC would secure forever the continuance of the slave Union under the Constitution.  In other words, both parties are apparently working from opposite ends and ideologies, yet secretly have the same end goal in mind: the elimination of any chance at a free Union under the NAC and the perpetual establishment of an American Union under a totalitarian state.  That certainly would be the case if the NAC plan does not pass, and I sincerely wish that it may be as clearly foreseen by every good citizen, that if ever the time arrives that the voice of the people buries the efforts to promote and install the NAC, America will have reason to exclaim, in the words of the poet: “FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL TO ALL MY POTENTIAL GREATNESS.”

A CONFEDERALIST

P.S.  My illustrious compatriot desires to dictate an appendage, to which I have consented:

The continuance of this United States government under the Constitution will not meliorate our own particular system. I beg leave to consider the circumstances of the Union antecedent to the meeting of the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. We were told of phantoms and ideal dangers to lead us into Constitutional measures which have been, in my opinion, the ruin of our country. If the existence of those dangers has not been historically proved, if there has been no apprehension of wars, if there has been no rumors of wars, it will place the subject in a different light, and plainly evince to the world that there really was no reason for adopting the Constitutional measures which we apprehended to be ruinous and destructive. When this state [Virginia] proposed that the general (confederal) government should be improved, Massachusetts was just recovered from a rebellion which had brought the republic to the brink of destruction, from a rebellion which was crushed by that federal government which was then so much contemned and abhorred.

A vote of that August body for fifteen hundred men, aided by the exertions of the state, silenced all opposition, and shortly restored the public tranquility. Massachusetts was satisfied that these internal commotions were so happily settled, and was unwilling to risk any similar distresses by theoretic experiments. Were the Eastern States willing to enter into the Constitutional measure? Were they willing to accede to the proposal of Virginia? In what manner was it received? Connecticut revolted at the idea. The Eastern States, sir, were unwilling to recommend a meeting of a Constitutional convention. They were well aware of the dangers of revolutions and changes. Why was every effort used, and such uncommon pains taken, to bring it about? This would have been unnecessary, had it been approved of by the people. Was Pennsylvania disposed for the reception of that Constitutional project of reformation?

No, sir. She was even unwilling to amend her revenue laws, so as to make the five per centum operative. She was satisfied with things as they were, in their Confederacy state under the Articles of Confederation. There was no complaint, that ever I heard of, from any other part of the Union, except Virginia. This being the case among ourselves, what dangers were there to be apprehended from foreign nations? It will be easily shown that dangers from that quarter were absolutely imaginary. Was not France friendly? Unequivocally so. She was devising new regulations of commerce for our advantage. Did she harass us with applications for her money? Was it likely that France would quarrel with us? Was it not reasonable to suppose that she would be more desirous than ever to cling, after losing the Dutch republic, to her best ally? How were the Dutch? We owed them money, it is true; and were they not willing that we should owe them more? Mr. [John] Adams applied to them for a new loan to the poor, despised Confederation. They readily granted it. The Dutch have a fellow-feeling for us. They were in the same situation with ourselves.

I believe that the money which the Dutch borrowed of Henry IV was not ever paid. How did they pass Queen Elizabeth’s loan? At a very considerable discount. They took advantage of the weakness and necessities of James I, and made their own terms with that contemptible monarch. Loans from nations are not like loans from private men. Nations lend money, and grant assistance, to one another, from views of national interest — France was willing to pluck the fairest feather out of the British crown. This was her object in aiding us. She would not quarrel with us on pecuniary considerations. Congress considered it in this point of view; for when a proposition was made to make it a debt of private persons, it was rejected without hesitation. That respectable body wisely considered, that, while we remained their debtors in so considerable a degree, they would not be inattentive to our interest.

With respect to Spain, she was friendly in a high degree. I wish to know by whose interposition was the treaty with Morocco made. Was it not by that of the king of Spain? Several predatory nations disturbed us, on going into the Mediterranean. The influence of Charles III at the Barbary court, and four thousand pounds, procured as good a treaty with Morocco as could be expected. But I acknowledge it was not of any consequence, since the Algerines and people of Tunis did not enter into similar measures. We had nothing to fear from Spain; and, were she ever hostile, she could never be formidable to this country. Her strength was so scattered, that she never could be dangerous to us either in peace or war. As to Portugal, we had a treaty with her, which might have been very advantageous, though it had not yet been ratified.

The domestic debt was diminished by considerable sales of western lands to Cutler, Sergeant, and Company; to Simms; and to Royal, Flint, and Company. The board of treasury was authorized to sell in Europe, or any where else, the residue of those lands.

An act of Congress was passed, to adjust the public debts between the individual states and the United States.

Was our trade in a despicable situation? I shall say nothing of what did not come under my own historical observation. In that Congress, sixteen vessels had had sea letters in the East India trade, and two hundred vessels entered and cleared out, in the French West India Islands, in one year.

I must confess that public credit had suffered, and that our public creditors had been ill used. This was owing to a fault at the head-quarters — to Congress themselves — in not selling the western lands at an earlier period. If requisitions had not been complied with, it must have been owing to Congress, who might have put the unpopular debts on the back lands. Commutation was abhorrent to New England ideas. Speculation was abhorrent to the Eastern States. Those inconveniences had resulted from the bad policy of Congress.

I list all of this historical data which we had under the original Articles of Confederation to show that we were not as bad off under that document as was made to be seen and it surely was much better than under the United States Constitution.  But the New Articles of Confederation (NAC) is orders of magnitude better than both and should be enacted right away.

There are certain modes of governing the people which will succeed. There are others which will not. The idea of consolidation was, and still should be, abhorrent to the people of this country. How were the sentiments of the people before the meeting of the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia? They had only one object in view. Their ideas reached no farther than to give the general (confederal) government the five per centum impost, and the regulation of trade. When it was agitated in Congress, in a committee of the whole, this was all that was asked, or was deemed necessary. Since that period, their views have extended much farther. Horrors have been greatly magnified since the rising of the Constitutional Convention.

We were told by the honorable gentleman (Governor Randolph) that we should have wars and rumors of wars, that every calamity was to attend us, and that we should be ruined and disunited forever, unless we adopted the United States Constitution. Pennsylvania and Maryland were to fall upon us from the north, like the Goths and Vandals of old; the Algerines, whose flat-sided vessels never came farther than Madeira, were to fill the Chesapeake with mighty fleets, and to attack us on our front; the Indians were to invade us with numerous armies on our rear, in order to convert our cleared lands into hunting- grounds; and the Carolinians, from the south, (mounted on alligators, I presume,) were to come and destroy our cornfields, and eat up our little children! These, sir, were the mighty dangers which awaited us if we rejected dangers which were merely imaginary, and ludicrous in the extreme! Were we to be destroyed by Maryland and Pennsylvania? What would democratic states make war for, and how long since have they imbibed a hostile spirit?

But the generality were to attack us. Would they attack us after violating their faith in the first Union? Would they not violate their faith if they did not take us into their confederacy? Had they not agreed, by the old Confederation, that the Union should be perpetual, and that no alteration should take place without the consent of Congress, and the confirmation of the legislatures of every state? I cannot think that there is such depravity in mankind as that, after violating public faith so flagrantly, they should make war upon us, also, for not following their example.

The large states had divided the back lands among themselves, and had given as much as they thought proper to the generality. For the fear of disunion, we were told that we ought to take measures which we otherwise should not. Disunion was impossible. The Eastern States held the fisheries, which were their cornfields, by a hair. They had a dispute with the British government about their limits that lasted a long time. Was not a general and strong government necessary for their interest? If ever nations had inducements to peace, the Eastern States certainly had. New York and Pennsylvania anxiously looked forward for the fur trade. How could they obtain it but by union? Could the western posts be got or retained without union? How were the little states inclined? They were not likely to disunite. Their weakness would prevent them from quarreling. Little men were seldom fond of quarreling among giants. was there not a strong inducement to union, while the British were on one side and the Spaniards on the other? Thank Heaven, we had a Carthage of our own I . . .

But what would I do on the present occasion to remedy the existing defects of the former Confederation and the current Constitution? There are two opinions prevailing in the world — the one, that mankind can only be governed by force; the other, that they are capable of freedom and a good government. Under a supposition that mankind can govern themselves, I would recommend that the proposed New Articles of Confederation be adopted.  Remove from Congress the regulation of commerce. Infuse new strength and spirit into the state governments; for, when the component parts are strong, it will give energy to the government, although it be otherwise weak….

Get rid of all the public debts and start clean slated.  Aid the foreign interest by loans.  Keep on so till the American character be marked with some certain, NAC-peculiar features. The settlement of new countries on our western frontiers has already occurred and we have become able to deal with the continual migration of people from Europe and from everywhere else.  Now that these obstacles have been removed, we can with greater prospect of success, devise changes, in the form of the NAC plan. We are not too young to know what we are fit for.  Now is the exact and proper time to make new experiments in government, by returning to a Confederacy under the NAC.  We ought to consider, as Montesquieu says, whether the construction of the government be suitable to the genius and disposition of the people, as well as a variety of other circumstances.

ANOTHER CONFEDERALIST

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