On this day in 1787, an author writing under the pseudonym “Federal Farmer” writes his second contribution to the anti-Federalist Papers. These papers argued against the new Constitution, then being considered for ratification by the states.
The Federal Farmer was worried about the size of the Congress. In a free government, there should be a “full and equal representation of the people in the legislature.” He thinks the Congress that has been proposed is too small. He is, of course, assuming that the national Congress will usurp power from the state legislatures. He does not think enough restrictions have been placed on the new U.S. government. Instead, under the proposed Constitution, he thinks that “the state governments must be annihilated, or continue to exist for no purpose.”
Please note that the authors of the Federalist Papers would later dispute that their Constitution gives such great power to the national government.
Is it possible to consolidate the states into one government while maintaining freedom? Even if so, the Federal Farmer still thinks it is a bad idea. “[I]t is evident that the middle states, the parts of the union, about the seat of government, would enjoy great advantages,” he concludes, “while the remote states would experience the many inconveniences of remote provinces. Wealth, offices, and the benefits of government would collect in the centre: and the extreme states and their principal towns, become much less important.” Moreover, he thinks that a consolidated government will have trouble because it will not have the confidence of the people. Thus, “fear and force” could be required to enforce the laws.
How can such a diverse country as America hope to remain free with one-size-fits-all laws in place? In the words of the Federal Farmer: “[I]f a people be so situated, or have such different opinions that they cannot agree in ascertaining and fixing them, it is a very strong argument against their attempting to form one entire society, to live under one system of laws only.”
Aren’t we there now? We have such strong opinions on a whole host of issues! Nor can we seem to “agree in ascertaining and fixing them.” Wouldn’t it be better not to attempt to “live under one system of laws only,” as so many seem intent on making us do?