At long last, the Virginia Delegates to the States Ratification Convention arrive in Richmond. Unlike other States, the Virginia Convention will be open to the public. It will be raucous and passionate and it will feature some of the biggest names in American history.
The Federalists initially outnumber the Anti-federalists by a slim margin with at least four delegates undecided. Everybody already knows what everybody’s position is on the matter of Ratification. But the debates must go on, and those who oppose ratification, led by the greatest orator in America, Patrick Henry, will state their position with clarity and firmness.
And when it is all over and done, Virginia will become the 10th State to ratify the Constitution. It’s what happens after that which makes Jay Leno’s lament all the more poignant…
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.”
As the debates rolled on, the nation considered many elements of the proposed Constitution. In Rhode Island, there was grave concern over the idea that the State would not be able to print its own paper currency. In Virginia, the Kentucky Counties worried about the navigational rights on the Mississippi River. But nearly everyone agreed on one issue – the idea that if the nation went to war, it would be stronger united than not.
On April 6, 1917, Congress gathered to vote on whether or not the United States should declare war on Imperial Germany. Four days earlier President Woodrow Wilson had made it clear that the United States was needed and ready for the fight against an evil and depraved monarchy that chose war over peace and threatened the entire world. But, he made he clear, that it would not be, it could not be, his decision alone to send the US into World War I.
Despite the changes in the world since 1787, one thing remained the same. It was that one thing that the Framers had in their prescience foreseen: that no one person should ever be allowed to take the US to war.