The founding generation had many reasons for wanting to form a ‘more perfect union.’
Having fought a long bloody war for freedom, many recognized the advantages the union offered in terms of mutual defense. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Along those same lines, many founders believed the states would fare better in international relations interacting with other world powers as a united entity. Even operating as a union, the Americans were at a significant power disadvantage when dealing with England, France, Spain and other European powers. Separately, they would have virtually no power.
Then there were the economic advantages of a union. In much the same way unity increased diplomatic power, it also increased the America’s economic power.
Alexander Hamilton even argued that a single general government would conserve American resources.
As CONNECTED with the subject of revenue, we may with propriety consider that of economy. The money saved from one object may be usefully applied to another, and there will be so much the less to be drawn from the pockets of the people. If the States are united under one government, there will be but one national civil list to support; if they are divided into several confederacies, there will be as many different national civil lists to be provided for–and each of them, as to the principal departments, coextensive with that which would be necessary for a government of the whole.
There were many reasons, for centralizing power and authority advanced by many parities. But during the Virginia ratifying convention, Patrick Henry cut through all of the rhetoric and focused on the most pressing question: will this new government threaten liberty?
During one fiery speech, Henry placed the entire constitutional debate in a nutshell.
You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.
Henry warned that the federal government would ultimately grow to exercise dangerous power. Supporters of the Constitution swore the new government was sufficiently constrained.
Henry’s warnings proved prophetic.
Some blame defects in the Constitution itself, but ultimately, the fault lies with we the people. The people of the states lacked the will to keep the federal government constrained within its enumerated powers. The states were intended to check federal power. As Madison put it, the states are duty bound “to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil.”
The Constitution is not a self-exercising document.
For the most part, the states have failed to do their duty because the people failed to make them. But the people of the states can rise up today, and insist that their state governments step up and resist unconstitutional exercises of federal authority.
This is our last hope to secure our liberty.
For more information on how your state legislatures and local governments can stand up against federal overreach, click HERE.
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