The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to
the Preservation of the Union
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, December 18, 1787.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with the one
proposed, to the preservation of the Union, is the point at the
examination of which we are now arrived.

This inquiry will naturally divide itself into three branches -- the
objects to be provided for by the federal government, the quantity of
power necessary to the accomplishment of those objects, the persons upon
whom that power ought to operate. Its distribution and organization will
more properly claim our attention under the succeeding head.

The principal purposes to be answered by union are these -- the common
defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace as well
against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of
commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence
of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.

The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to raise
armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government
of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support. These
powers ought to exist without limitation, BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO
SATISFY THEM. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are
infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be
imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power
ought to be coextensive with all the possible combinations of such
circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils
which are appointed to preside over the common defense.

This is one of those truths which, to a correct and unprejudiced mind,
carries its own evidence along with it; and may be obscured, but cannot
be made plainer by argument or reasoning. It rests upon axioms as simple
as they are universal; the MEANS ought to be proportioned to the END;
the persons, from whose agency the attainment of any END is expected,
ought to possess the MEANS by which it is to be attained.

Whether there ought to be a federal government intrusted with the care
of the common defense, is a question in the first instance, open for
discussion; but the moment it is decided in the affirmative, it will
follow, that that government ought to be clothed with all the powers
requisite to complete execution of its trust. And unless it can be shown
that the circumstances which may affect the public safety are reducible
within certain determinate limits; unless the contrary of this position
can be fairly and rationally disputed, it must be admitted, as a
necessary consequence, that there can be no limitation of that authority
which is to provide for the defense and protection of the community, in
any matter essential to its efficacy that is, in any matter essential to

Defective as the present Confederation has been proved to be, this
principle appears to have been fully recognized by the framers of it;
though they have not made proper or adequate provision for its exercise.
Congress have an unlimited discretion to make requisitions of men and
money; to govern the army and navy; to direct their operations. As their
requisitions are made constitutionally binding upon the States, who are
in fact under the most solemn obligations to furnish the supplies
required of them, the intention evidently was that the United States
should command whatever resources were by them judged requisite to the
"common defense and general welfare." It was presumed that a sense of
their true interests, and a regard to the dictates of good faith, would
be found sufficient pledges for the punctual performance of the duty of
the members to the federal head.

The experiment has, however, demonstrated that this expectation was
ill-founded and illusory; and the observations, made under the last
head, will, I imagine, have sufficed to convince the impartial and
discerning, that there is an absolute necessity for an entire change in
the first principles of the system; that if we are in earnest about
giving the Union energy and duration, we must abandon the vain project
of legislating upon the States in their collective capacities; we must
extend the laws of the federal government to the individual citizens of
America; we must discard the fallacious scheme of quotas and
requisitions, as equally impracticable and unjust. The result from all
this is that the Union ought to be invested with full power to levy
troops; to build and equip fleets; and to raise the revenues which will
be required for the formation and support of an army and navy, in the
customary and ordinary modes practiced in other governments.

If the circumstances of our country are such as to demand a compound
instead of a simple, a confederate instead of a sole, government, the
essential point which will remain to be adjusted will be to discriminate
the OBJECTS, as far as it can be done, which shall appertain to the
different provinces or departments of power; allowing to each the most
ample authority for fulfilling the objects committed to its charge.
Shall the Union be constituted the guardian of the common safety? Are
fleets and armies and revenues necessary to this purpose? The government
of the Union must be empowered to pass all laws, and to make all
regulations which have relation to them. The same must be the case in
respect to commerce, and to every other matter to which its jurisdiction
is permitted to extend. Is the administration of justice between the
citizens of the same State the proper department of the local
governments? These must possess all the authorities which are connected
with this object, and with every other that may be allotted to their
particular cognizance and direction. Not to confer in each case a degree
of power commensurate to the end, would be to violate the most obvious
rules of prudence and propriety, and improvidently to trust the great
interests of the nation to hands which are disabled from managing them
with vigor and success.

Who is likely to make suitable provisions for the public defense, as
that body to which the guardianship of the public safety is confided;
which, as the centre of information, will best understand the extent and
urgency of the dangers that threaten; as the representative of the
WHOLE, will feel itself most deeply interested in the preservation of
every part; which, from the responsibility implied in the duty assigned
to it, will be most sensibly impressed with the necessity of proper
exertions; and which, by the extension of its authority throughout the
States, can alone establish uniformity and concert in the plans and
measures by which the common safety is to be secured? Is there not a
manifest inconsistency in devolving upon the federal government the care
of the general defense, and leaving in the State governments the
EFFECTIVE powers by which it is to be provided for? Is not a want of
co-operation the infallible consequence of such a system? And will not
weakness, disorder, an undue distribution of the burdens and calamities
of war, an unnecessary and intolerable increase of expense, be its
natural and inevitable concomitants? Have we not had unequivocal
experience of its effects in the course of the revolution which we have
just accomplished?

Every view we may take of the subject, as candid inquirers after truth,
will serve to convince us, that it is both unwise and dangerous to deny
the federal government an unconfined authority, as to all those objects
which are intrusted to its management. It will indeed deserve the most
vigilant and careful attention of the people, to see that it be modeled
in such a manner as to admit of its being safely vested with the
requisite powers. If any plan which has been, or may be, offered to our
consideration, should not, upon a dispassionate inspection, be found to
answer this description, it ought to be rejected. A government, the
constitution of which renders it unfit to be trusted with all the powers
which a free people ought to delegate to any government, would be an
unsafe and improper depositary of the NATIONAL INTERESTS. Wherever THESE can with propriety be confided, the coincident powers may safely accompany them. This is the true result of all just reasoning upon the subject. And the adversaries of the plan promulgated by the convention
ought to have confined themselves to showing, that the internal
structure of the proposed government was such as to render it unworthy
of the confidence of the people. They ought not to have wandered into
inflammatory declamations and unmeaning cavils about the extent of the
powers. The POWERS are not too extensive for the OBJECTS of federal
administration, or, in other words, for the management of our NATIONAL
INTERESTS; nor can any satisfactory argument be framed to show that they
are chargeable with such an excess. If it be true, as has been
insinuated by some of the writers on the other side, that the difficulty
arises from the nature of the thing, and that the extent of the country
will not permit us to form a government in which such ample powers can
safely be reposed, it would prove that we ought to contract our views,
and resort to the expedient of separate confederacies, which will move
within more practicable spheres. For the absurdity must continually
stare us in the face of confiding to a government the direction of the
most essential national interests, without daring to trust it to the
authorities which are indispensible to their proper and efficient
management. Let us not attempt to reconcile contradictions, but firmly
embrace a rational alternative.

I trust, however, that the impracticability of one general system cannot
be shown. I am greatly mistaken, if any thing of weight has yet been
advanced of this tendency; and I flatter myself, that the observations
which have been made in the course of these papers have served to place
the reverse of that position in as clear a light as any matter still in
the womb of time and experience can be susceptible of. This, at all
events, must be evident, that the very difficulty itself, drawn from the
extent of the country, is the strongest argument in favor of an
energetic government; for any other can certainly never preserve the
Union of so large an empire. If we embrace the tenets of those who
oppose the adoption of the proposed Constitution, as the standard of our
political creed, we cannot fail to verify the gloomy doctrines which
predict the impracticability of a national system pervading entire
limits of the present Confederacy.