On this day in 1787, an author writing under the pseudonym “Federal Farmer” writes his third contribution to the anti-Federalist Papers. These papers argued against the new Constitution, then being considered for ratification by the states.
This paper is quite lengthy! I’ll do my best to hit a few important highlights.
The Federal Farmer continues to be worried about the small size of the House of Representatives, especially when the issue of taxation is taken into consideration. The House was to start with only 65 members. “I have no idea,” the Federal Farmer wrote, “that the interests, feelings, and opinions of three or four millions of people, especially touching internal taxation, can be collected in such a house.”
Wow. How would he feel about 435 House members representing a nation of 319 million people?!
The Federal Farmer worries about the process that resulted in a Senate based on “one state, one vote” representation. He also dislikes the blending of presidential and senatorial responsibilities in some areas (e.g. the appointment of officers). Won’t this create a “strong tendency to aristocracy or the government of the few”?
The Federal Farmer is worried about some of the powers vested in the federal government—especially the taxing power. External taxes, such as taxes on imposts, would not be so bad, but internal taxes “may fix themselves on every person and species of property in the community; they may be carried to any lengths, and in proportion as they are extended, numerous officers must be employed to assess them, and to enforce the collection of them.” These extensive taxing powers will “soon defeat the operations of the state laws and governments.”
Hmmm. What would he think of Obamacare in this regard, so recently deemed a permissible “tax” by our Supreme Court?
The Federal Farmer remains puzzled. “When I recollect how lately congress, conventions, legislatures, and people contended in the cause of liberty,” he concludes, “and carefully weighed the importance of taxation, I can scarcely believe we are serious in proposing to vest the powers of laying and collecting internal taxes in a government so imperfectly organized for such purposes.”
By the end of October, 1787, the two side in the debate had been clearly delineated. There were those who were opposed to the Constitution, and there were those who favored it.
Those opposed, the Anti-Federalists, as they would become known, had been first to publish their ideas with the first two DeWitt letters. But even as the second hit the papers, the first pro constitution article appeared. It was addressed to the People of the State of New York, and signed by the penname Publius, one of four men who overthrew the monarchy and established the Roman Republic in 509 b.c.e.
Over the coming months, many more pro constitution, or “Federalist Papers” would be written. Their purpose was clear – to convince the people of the State of New York, and by extension, the entire country, to favor ratification of the Constitution.
Original Air Date: September 13, 2013
Not everybody agreed that the proposed Constitution was the best way to protect liberty. The Anti-Federalists argued against the ratification, and ultimately gained the Bill of Rights by expressing their concerns.