Anti-Federalist Centinel IV
Posted by Orrin Woodward on February 18, 2014
I have been reading the works of the Ant-Federalist and comparing them to the works of the Federalists. What an interesting dialogue between the American Founders. One of the more interesting Anti-Federalist works is from an author who called himself Centinel, rumored to be from Pennsylvania judge George Bryan and his Samuel. At any rate, Centinel is from a top thinker who saw the Constitution had propelled the Power Pendulum’s momentum out of chaos, through concord, and unfortunately into increasing coercion. Centinel even predicted a conflict between the states and Federal government to settle the questioned governmental sovereignty.
The prescience of the anti-federalist is rarely recognized in our Statist-loving culture today. Nonetheless, had the Federalist listened and applied some of the lessons offered, I believe the Articles of Confederation could have accomplished the goals of both sides and permitted America to enjoy concord for many generations. Instead, the growing political conflicts caused America’s Civil War, where after millions dead on both sides, the Federal government claimed ultimate sovereignty. Since that time, America has drifted into increasing coercion and the Founders would not even recognize the nation their ideas helped to birth.
LIFE Leadership is about learning lessons from the past to help us make better choices in the future. Here is a portion of the Centinel for your reading pleasure.
It is a maxim that a government ought to be cautious not to govern overmuch, for, when the cord of power is drawn too tight, it generally proves its destruction. The impracticability of complying with the requisitions of Congress has lessened the sense of obligation and duty in the people and thus weakened the ties of the Union; the opinion of power in a free government is much more efficacious than the exercise of it; it requires the maturity of time and repeated practice to give due energy and certainty to the operations of government. …
I am persuaded that a due consideration will evince that the present inefficacy of the requisitions of Congress is not owing to a defect in the Confederation but the peculiar circumstances of the times.
The wheels of the general government having been thus clogged, and the arrearages of taxes still accumulating, it may be asked: What prospect is there of the government resuming its proper tone unless more compulsory powers are granted? To this it may be answered that the produce of imposts on commerce, which all agree to vest in Congress, together with the immense tracts of land at their disposal, will rapidly lessen and eventually discharge the present encumbrances. When this takes place, the mode by requisition will be found perfectly adequate to the extraordinary exigencies of the Union. Congress have lately sold land to the amount of eight millions of dollars, which is a considerable portion of the whole debt.
It is to be lamented that the interested and designing have availed themselves so successfully of the present crisis, and under the specious pretense of having discovered a panacea for all the ills of the people, they are about establishing a system of government that will prove more destructive to them than the wooden horse filled with soldiers did in ancient times to the city of Troy. This horse was introduced by their hostile enemy the Grecians by a prostitution of the sacred rites of their religion; in like manner, my fellow citizens, are aspiring despots among yourselves prostituting the name of a Washington to cloak their designs upon your liberties.
I would ask: How was the proposed Constitution to have showered down those treasures upon every class of citizens, as has been so industriously inculcated and so fondly believed by some? Would it have been by the addition of numerous and expensive establishments? By doubling our judiciaries, instituting federal courts in every county of every state? By a superb presidential court? By a large standing army? In short, by putting it in the power of the future government to levy money at pleasure, and placing this government so independent of the people as to enable the administration to gratify every corrupt passion of the mind, to riot on your spoils, without check or control?
A transfer to Congress of the power of imposing imposts on commerce, the unlimited regulation of trade, and to make treaties—I believe is all that is wanting to render America as prosperous as it is in the power of any form of government to render her; this properly understood would meet the views of all the honest and well-meaning.