Federal Despotism of the Presidency

It was clearly understood by those who were called Anti-federalist that at some point in time when designing and immoral persons would take the seat of president that a ‘despotism’ would be ready to exercise via the modality of the 1787 Constitution.

What was predict here that rings to your ears and reality in this present day?  Hear the Federal Farmer from his 18th Article in the Poughkeepsie Country Journal.


January 25, 1788.

Dear sir,
I am persuaded, a federal head never was formed, that possessed half the powers which it could carry into full effect, altogether independently of the state or local governments, as the one, the convention has proposed, will possess. Should the state legislatures never meet, except merely for chusing federal senators and appointing electors, once in four and six years, the federal head may go on for ages to make all laws relative to the following subjects, and by its own courts, officers, and provisions, carry them into full effect, and to any extent it may deem for the general welfare; that is, for raising taxes, borrowing and coining monies, and for applying them — for forming and governing armies and navies, and for directing their operations — for regulating commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes — for regulating bankruptcies, weights and measures, post-offices and post-roads, and captures on land and water — for establishing a uniform rule of naturalization, and for promoting the progress of science and useful arts — for defining and punishing piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, the offences of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States, and offences against the law of nations, and for regulating all maritime concerns — for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia (the respective states training them, and appointing the officers) — for calling them forth when wanted, and for governing them when in the service of the union — for the sole and exclusive government of a federal city or town, not exceeding ten miles square, and of places ceded for forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings — for granting letters of marque and reprisal, and making war — for regulating the times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives — for making and concluding all treaties, and carrying them into execution — for judicially deciding all questions arising on the constitution, laws, and treaties of the union, in law and equity, and questions arising on state laws also, where ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, where the United States, individual states, or a state, where citizens of different states, and where foreign states, or a foreign subject, are parties or party — for impeaching and trying federal officers — for deciding on elections, and for expelling members, &c. All these enumerated powers we must examine and contemplate in all their extent and various branches, and then reflect, that the federal head will have full power to make all laws whatever respecting them; and for carrying into full effect all powers vested in the union, in any department, or officers of it, by the constitution, in order to see the full extent of the federal powers, which will be supreme, and exercised by that head at pleasure, conforming to the few limitations mentioned in the constitution. Indeed, I conceive, it is impossible to see them in their full extent at present: we see vast undefined powers lodged in a weak organization, but cannot, by the enquiries of months and years, clearly discern them in all their numerous branches. These powers in feeble hands, must be tempting objects for ambition and a love of power and fame.

Are we now, over the last six years, seeing this commentary by the Federal Farmer coming to fruition?  What was it that suppressed the arguments of those that could be noted as “seer’s”  – seeing what others could not see regarding the future despotism of the presidency?  Could it be that the expectation of morality by the so called ‘federalist’ was key to keeping the Liberties of the Citizenry safe?  Was the expectation that the those elected to hold offices in the new ‘national government’ would understand, even in a Hobbian Leviathan that their first order of accountability was to the God of the universe?  Or, much like the present, was it collusion between the proponents of the new constitution, the money interest and the newspapers – being the media of the day?

Attached here is the link to the full article by the Federal Farmer XVIII and then a True Federalist that will invite you to think this through more intently.  I will comment from Myself in a letter to A letter to Richard Henry Lee, December, 1787

The Session of our General Court which lasted six Weeks, and my Station there requiring my punctual & constant Attendance, prevented my considering the new Constitution as it is already called, so closely as was necessary for me before I should venture an Opinion. I confess, as I enter the Building I stumble at the Threshold. I meet with a National Government, instead of a Federal Union of Sovereign States. I am not able to conceive why the Wisdom of the Convention led them to give the Preference to the former before the latter. If the several States in the Union are to become one entire Nation, under one Legislature, the Powers of which shall extend to every Subject of Legislation, and its Laws be supreme & controul the whole, the Idea of Sovereignty in these States must be lost. Indeed I think, upon such a Supposition, those Sovereignties ought to be eradicated from the Mind; for they would be Imperia in Imperio (meaning One Dominion) justly deemed a Solecism (meaning an error) in Politicks, & they would be highly dangerous, and destructive of the Peace Union and Safety of the Nation. And can this National Legislature be competent to make Laws for the free internal Government of one People, living in Climates so remote and whose “Habits & particular Interests” are and probably always will be so different. Is it to be expected that General Laws can be adapted to the Feelings of the more Eastern and the more Southern Parts of so extensive a Nation? It appears to me difficult if practicable. Hence then may we not look for Discontent, Mistrust, Disaffection to Government and frequent Insurrections, which will require standing Armies to suppress them in one Place & another where they may happen to arise. Or if Laws could be made, adapted to the local Habits, Feelings, Views & Interests of those distant Parts, would they not cause Jealousies of Partiality in Government which would excite Envy and other malignant Passions productive of Wars and fighting. But should we continue distinct sovereign States, confederated for the Purposes of mutual Safety and Happiness, each contributing to the federal Head such a Part of its Sovereignty as would render the Government fully adequate to those Purposes and no more, the People would govern themselves more easily, the Laws of each State being well adapted to its own Genius & Circumstances, and the Liberties of the United States would be more secure than they can be, as I humbly conceive, under the proposed new Constitution. You are sensible, Sir, that the Seeds of Aristocracy began to spring even before the Conclusion of our Struggle for the natural Rights of Men, Seeds which like a Canker Worm lie at the Root of free Governments. So great is the Wickedness of some Men, & the stupid Servility of others, that one would be almost inclined to conclude that Communities cannot be free. The few haughty Families, think They must govern. The Body of the People tamely consent & submit to be their Slaves. This unravels the Mystery of Millions being enslaved by the few! But I must desist—My weak hand prevents my proceeding further at present. I will send you my poor Opinion of the political Structure at another Time.”


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