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40 JAMES MADISON
one great body, but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties. Were it, as the gentleman asserts, a consolidated government, the assent of a majority of the people would be sufficient for its establishment, and as a majority have adoped it already, the remaining States would be bound by the act of the majority, even if they unanimously reprobated it. Were it such a government as is suggested, it would be now binding on the people of this State, without having had the privilege of deliberating upon it; but, sir, no State is bound by it, as it is, without its own consent. Should all the States adopt it, it will be then a government established by the thirteen States of America, not through the intervention of the legislatures, but by the people at large. . . But it is urged that its consolidated nature, joined to the power of direct taxation, will give it a tendency to destroy all subordinate authority; that its increasing influence will speedily enable it to absorb the State governments. I cannot bring myself to think that this will be the case. If the general government were wholly independent of the governments of the particular States, then, indeed, usurpation might be expected to the fullest extent; but, sir, on whom does this general government depend ? It derives its authority from these governments, and from the same sources from which their authority is derived. The members of the federal government are taken from the same men from whom those of the State legislatures are taken. If we consider the mode in which the federal representatives will be chosen, we shall be convinced that the general never will destroy the individual governments; and this conviction must be strengthened by an attention to the construction of the Senate. The representatives will be chosen, probably under the influence of the members of the State legislatures; but there is not the least probability that the election of the latter will be influenced by the former. One hundred and sixty members representing this commonwealth in one branch of the legislature, are drawn from the people at large, and must ever possess more influence than the few men who will be elected to the general legis!ature. Those who wish to become federal representatives must depend on their credit with that class of men who will be the most popular in their counties, who generally represent the people in the State governments; they can, therefore, never succeed in any measure contrary to the wishes of those on whom they depend. So that, on the whole, it is almost certain that the deliberations of the members of the Federal House of Representives will be directed to the interests of the people of America. As to the other branch, the senators will be appointed by the legislatures, and, though elected for six years, I do not conceive they will so soon forget the source from whence they derive their political existence. This
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election of one branch of the Federal by the State legislatures, secures an absolute dependence of the former on the latter. The biennial exclusion of one-third will lessen the facility of a combination, and preclude all likelihood of intrigues. I appeal to our past experience, whether they will attend to the interests of their constituent States. Have not those gentlemen who have been honored with seats in Congress often signalized themselves by their attachment to their States ? Sir, I pledge myself that this government will answer the expectations of its friends, and foil the apprehensions of its enemies. I am persuaded that the patriotism of the people will continue, and be a sufficient guard to their liberties, and that the tendency of the constitution will be, that the State governments will counteract the general interest, and ultimately prevail. . If we recur to history, and review the annals of mankind, I undertake to say that no instance can be produced by the most learned man, of any confederate government that will justify a continuation of the present system ; or that will not, on the contrary, demonstrate the necessity of this change, and of substituting to the present pernicious and fatal plan the system now under consideration, or one equally energetic. The uniform conclusion drawn from a review of ancient and modern confederacies is, that instead of promoting the public happiness, or securing public tranquillity, they have, in every instance, been productive of anarchy and confusion—ineffectual for the preservation of harmony and a prey to their own dissensions and foreign invasions. The Amphictyonic league * resembled our confederation in its nominal powers; it was possessed of rather more efficiency. The component States retained their sovereignty, and enjoyed an equality of suffrage in the federal council. But though its powers were more considerable in many respects than those of our present system, yet it had the same radical defect. Its powers were exercised over its individual members in their political capacities. To this capital defect it owed its disorders and final destruction. It was compelled to recur to the sanguinary coercion of war to enforce its decrees. The struggles consequent on a refusal to obey a decree, and an attempt to enforce it, produced the necessity of applying to foreign assistance; by complying with that application and employing his wiles and intrigues, Philip of Macedon acquired sufficient influence to become a member of the league; and that artful and insidious prince soon after became master of their liberties. The Achaean league f, though better constructed than the Amphictyonic in material respects, was continually agitated with domestic dissensions, and driven to the necessity of calling in foreign aid ; this also
*An early form of Grecian confederacy. f A league formed in later Grecian days.
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eventuated in the demolition of their confederacy. Had they been more closely united, their people would have been happier; and their united wisdom and strength would not only have rendered unnecessary all foreign interpositions in their affairs, but would have enabled them to repel the attack of any enemy. If we descend to more modern examples, we shall find the same evils resulting from the same sources.
The Germanic system * is neither adequate to the external defence or internal felicity of the people; the doctrine of quotas and requisitions flourishes here. Without energy, without stability, the empire is a nerveless body. The most furious conflicts, and the most implacable animosities between its members, strikingly distinguish its history. Concert and cooperation are incompatible with such an injudiciously constructed system.
The Republic of the Swiss is sometimes instanced for its stability; but even there dissensions and wars of a bloody nature have been frequently seen between the cantons. A peculiar coincidence of circumstances contributes to the continuance of their political connection. Their feeble association owes its existence to their singular situation. There is a schism in their confederacy, which, without the necessity of uniting for their external defence, would immediately produce its dissolution. The confederate government of Holland is a further confirmation of the characteristic imbecility of such governments. From the history of this government, we might derive lessons of the most important utility. .
These radical defects in their confederacy must have dissolved their association long ago, were it not for their peculiar position—circumscribed in a narrow territory; surrounded by the most powerful nations in the world; possessing peculiar advantages from their situation; an extensive navigation and a powerful navy—advantages which it was clearly the interest of those nations to diminish or deprive them of. The late unhappy dissensions were manifestly produced by the vices of their system. We may derive much benefit from the experience of that unhappy country. Governments, destitute of energy, will always produce anarchy. These facts are worthy the most serious consideration of every gentleman here. Does not the history of these confederacies coincide with the lessons drawn from our own experience? I most earnestly pray that America may have sufficient wisdom to avail herself of the instructive information she may derive from a contemplation of the sources of their misfortunes, and that she may escape a similar fate, by avoiding the causes from which their infelicity sprung.
* The league, then existing, of independent German States
FISHER AMES (1758-1808)
RHETORICIAN AND ORATOR
the era of the Constitution, was, in the words of Dr. Charles Caldwell, “Decidedly one of the most splendid rhetoricians of the age. Two of his speeches, that on Jay's treaty and that usually called his Tomahawk' speech (because it included some resplendent speeches on Indian massacres) are the most brilliant and fascinating specimens of eloquence I have ever heard, yet I have listened to some of the most celebrated speakers in the British Parliament.” Dr. Priestly also said that “The speech of Ames, on the British Treaty, was the most bewitching piece of parliamentary oratory I have ever listened to.” The orator thus highly eulogized was of Massachusetts birth and training, Harvard College being his alma mater. He became widely familiar with the best literature, studied law, and wrote ably on the poiitical problem of 1784 and later, in papers signed Brutus and Camillus. These gave him wide renown, and won him election to the first Congress in 1789. He continued a member of the House until 1797, when failing health obliged him to withdraw from political labors. In 1804 he was chosen President of Harvard College, but declined on the plea of wasting strength. Four years afterward, in 1808, he died, shortly after the completion of his fiftieth year.
F ISHER AMES, not the least among the distinguished orators of .
THE OBLIGATION OF TREATIES
[The treaty with Great Britain in 1783, which was the final event in the American Revolution, was, unfortunately, not fully carried out in the States. Trouble arose about the harsh treatment of the Tories, who were forced by thousands to leave the country. Also the old debts due British merchants were not paid. England looked on this as bad faith, and refused to give up Detroit and other posts on the lakes. And as a result of its war with France, it began to seize Aincrican ships trading with that country, and to take seamen from American vessels on the pretense that they were
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British subjects. An effort to adjust these difficulties led in 1795 to a new treaty, negotiated by John Jay, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. This treaty settled all the questions in dispute except that of the seizure of American sailors. But some of its features, this one in particular gave rise to intense excitement and determined opposition. Jay was burned in effigy, the British minister was insulted, and Hamilton, who spoke in favor of the treaty, was stoned. But Washington also favored it and it was carried through Congress against all opposition. With all its defects, no better could be had at the time, and it averted a possible war. Ames spoke earnestly in favor of the appropriation for the treaty, his address being full of such pathos and eloquence, that at its close one member moved to adjourn, on the ground that the House was in too great a state of excitement to consider the question impartially. We quote some telling passages from this celebrated speech.]
- The treaty is bad, fatally bad, is the cry. It sacrifices the interest, the honor, the independence of the United States, and the faith of our engagements to France. If we listen to the clamor of party intemperance, the evils are of a number not to be counted, and of a nature not to be borne, even in idea. The language of passion and exaggeration may silence that of sober reason in other places, it has not done it here. The question here is, whether the treaty be really so very fatal as to oblige the nation to break its faith. I admit that such a treaty ought not to be executed. I admit that self-preservation is the first law of society, as well as of individuals. It would, perhaps, be deemed an abuse of terms to call that a treaty which violates such a principle. . The undecided point is, shall we break our faith? And while our country and enlightened Europe await the issue with more than curiosity, we are employed to gather piecemeal, and article by article, from the instrument a justification for the deed by trivial calculations of commercial profit and loss. This is little worthy of the subject, of this body or of the nation. If the treaty is bad, it will appear to be so in its mass. Evil to a fatal extreme, if that be its tendency, requires no proof; it brings it. Extremes speak for themselves and make their own law. What if the direct voyage of American ships to Jamaica with horses or lumber might net one or two per centum more than the present trade to Surinam ; would the proof of the fact avail anything in so grave a question as the violation of the public engagements 2 It is in vain to allege that our faith, plighted to France, is violated by this new treaty. Our prior treaties are expressly saved from the operation of the British treaty. And what do those mean who say, that our honor was forfeited by treating at all, and especially by such a treaty 2 Justice, the laws and practice of nations, a just regard for peace as a duty to mankind, and the known wish of our citizens, as well as that selfrespect which required it of the nation to act with dignity and moderation,