04 May 2015

Fear of Aristocracy

The Anti-Federalists by Jackson Main, 1961, Edited Excerpts

The Antifederalists were well aware that there were many men that were skeptical of the common man’s judgment to have any faith in a democratic system. They preferred an aristocracy – that is, government by the better sort of people, meaning themselves. If the new government favored the well-to-do, as some Antifederalists maintained, this was hardly an objection to those who were of the “better sort” themselves. The well-to-do might dislike an aristocracy in theory, but in practice, rule by the educated, well-bred, wellborn few was appealing.

Antifederalists viewed a strong national government as a threat to liberty. The attempt to strengthen the central government was identical with the attempt to solidify upper class rule, and this they opposed. From this standpoint a vital part of the proposed structure of power to be erected by the Constitution was section eight of the first Article, which endowed Congress with the powers once held by the state. This section was studded with such ominous words as “taxes,” “general welfare,” “commerce,” “Armies,” “necessary and proper.” Of them all, it was the first which attracted the most attention.

French Minister to the United States, Louis Otto, observed that the people were aware that an increase of power in the central government would mean a “regular collection of taxes, a strict administration of justice, extraordinary duties on imports, and rigorous executions against debtors – in short, a marked preponderance of rich men and of large proprietors.”

No comments: