Antifederalist Excerpts

by Jeffry R. Fisher

From #:
  1. "I had rather be a free citizen of the small republic of Massachusetts, than an oppressed subject of the great American empire."

    On Lawyers: "The numerous tribunals to be erected by the new plan of consolidated empire, will find employment for ten times their present numbers"
    [ That shrill antifederalist turned out to be too conservative. ]
  2. "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 present Confederation should be amended."

  3. "...the silence of historians is the surest record of the happiness of a people."

    "In proportion as the people lose their freedom, every gradation of distinction, between the Governors and governed obtains, until the former become masters, and the latter become slaves."

    "If the body of the people will not govern themselves, and govern themselves well too, the consequence is unavoidable-a FEW will, and must govern them."

    "The facility of corruption is increased in proportion as power tends by representation or delegation, to a concentration in the hands of a few..."

  4. .

  5. "I am confident it must be, and that it is, the sincere wish of every true friend to the United States, that there should be a confederated national government, but that it should be one which would have a control over national and external matters only, and not interfere with the internal regulations and police of the different states in the union."

  6. "A state of anarchy from its very nature can never be of long continuance; the greater its violence the shorter the duration. Order and security are immediately sought by the distracted people beneath the shelter of equal laws and the salutary restraints of regular government; and if this be not attainable, absolute power is assumed by the one, or a few, who shall be the most enterprising and successful."

    Quoting Lord Kaims: "...a continual civil war, which is the most destructive and horrible scene of human discord, is preferable to the uniformity of wretchedness and misery attendant upon despotism."
    [ Remember that the next time somebody proposes converting the UN into a whole-world government. ]

    [ Historical Note: Top judges in olde Scotland were called "Lord" even if they didn't have noble land-holding titles. Thus, Henry Home became "Lord Kaims" (spelled "Kames", which was the town or estate he was from) when appointed tothe Scottish Court of Session in 1752. Kames is a rich source of enlightenment writing. ]
  7. .

  8. "if a Continental collector, in the execution of his office, should invade your freedom (according to this new government, which has expressly declared itself paramount to all state laws and constitutions) the state of which you are a citizen will have no authority to afford you relief."

    "...the power vested in congress of sending troops for suppressing insurrections will always enable them to stifle the first struggles of freedom."

  9. "...little else is wanting to aristocratize the most democratical representative than to make him somewhat independent of his political creators."

    "what can a provincial legislature do when we possess the exclusive regulation of external and internal commerce...?"

  10. .

  11. "...when business is unshackled, it will find out that channel which is most friendly to its course."

    "Every day produces fresh proofs, that people, under the immediate pressure of difficulties, do not, at first glance, discover the proper relief."

  12. .

  13. "Consider, my friends, you are the persons who must live and die by this Constitution. A merchant or mechanic may dispose of his goods, or pack them up in trunks and remove to another clime in the course of a few months. But you cannot shoulder your lands, or dispose of them when you please. It therefore behooves you to rouse up, and turn your most serious and critical attention to this Constitution. . ."

  14. .

  15. "This new government would have been supported at a vast expense, by which our taxes... would be doubled or trebled."
    [ Imagine what this writer would have thought of the FDR administration! ]
    "...the various states of the union will be merely corporations"

    " it is very easy to change a free government into an arbitrary one, but that it is very difficult to convert tyranny into freedom."

  16. "If the states had in any tolerable degree been able to answer the requisitions of Congress... we should have heard little, very little about a new system of government.
    ...cannot we regulate our finances and lay the foundations for a permanent and certain revenue, without undoing all that we have done, without making an entire new government?"

  17. "...the legislature have authority to contract debts at their discretion; they are the sole judges of what is necessary to provide for the common defense, and they only are to determine what is for the general welfare. This power, therefore, is neither more nor less than a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, and excises, at their pleasure"

    "...the authority to lay and collect taxes is the most important of any power that can be granted; it connects with it almost all other powers, or at least will in process of time draw all others after it"

    [ Like many Anti-Federalists, amazingly prophetic! They sound as if they had read 20th century history. ]

    "...every body of men, invested with power, are ever disposed to increase it."

  18. "It is beyond a doubt that the new federal constitution, if adopted, will in a great measure destroy, if it does not totally annihilate, the separate governments of the several states."

    "...we may yet form a federal constitution much superior to any form of government which has ever existed in the world. But whenever this important work shall be accomplished, I venture to pronounce that it will not be done without a careful attention to the Framing of a bill of rights."

  19. .

  20. .

  21. "...of what avail would be a prosperous state of commerce, when the produce of it would be at the absolute disposal of an arbitrary unchecked general government?"

  22. "...though this country is now blessed with a Washington, Franklin, Hancock and Adams, yet posterity may have reason to rue the day when their political welfare depends on the decision of men who may fill the places of these worthies."

    "The advocates for the Constitution, have always assumed an advantage by saying, that their opposers have never offered any plan as a substitute; the following outlines are therefore submitted, not as originating from an individual, but as copied from former resolutions of Congress..."

  23. "The idea that the powers of congress in respect to revenue ought to be unlimited, because 'the circumstances which may affect the public safety are not reducible to certain determinate limits' is novel, as it relates to the government of the United States"

    "Congress may mortgage any or all the revenues of the union, as a fund to loan money upon; and it is probable, in this way, they may borrow of foreign nations, a principal sum, the interest of which will be equal to the annual revenues of the country. By this means, they may create a national debt, so large, as to exceed the ability of the country ever to sink."

Copyright 2003-2008 by Jeffry R. Fisher: Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole, but only in combination with attribution, the original title, the original URL, and this copyright notice.
Jeffry R. Fisher is the founder and president of Propagate Ltd, which is liberating digital content as