January 27, 2023

CONSTRUED: Interpret in a Particular Way




Anti-Federalist Paper, Brutus VIII, January 10, 1788 – Our Financial Fortune Was Told

*Editor’s Note* I’ve been reading the Anti-Federalists’ Papers and am amazed at how accurate the predictions and warnings issued by such anti-federalists like Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, George Mason, Robert Yates, James Monroe and others. While reading “Brutus VIII” dated January 10, 1788, (some believe Brutus to be Robert Yates), I discovered that “Brutus” believed that the new constitution wrongfully gave the Legislature untethered authority to borrow money and amass debt and, “create a national debt, so large, as to exceed the ability of the country ever to sink.”

It was my thought that this article written some 224 years ago predicted what we are faced with today in debt so large that…….. Today, when anyone be so bold as to express what “Brutus” did 224 years ago, are immediately demonized and labeled an extremist, among other things.

Brutus VIII, January 10, 1788

The next powers vested by this constitution in the general government, which we shall consider, are those, which authorise them to “borrow money on the credit of the United States, and to raise and support armies.” I take these two together and connect them with the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, because their extent, and the danger that will arise from the exercise of these powers, cannot be fully understood, unless they are viewed in relation to each other.

The power to borrow money is general and unlimited, and the clause so often before referred to, authorises the passing any laws proper and necessary to carry this into execution. Under this authority, the Congress may mortgage any or all the revenues of the union, as a fund to loan money upon, and it is probably, in this way, they may borrow of foreign nations, a principal sum, the interest of which will be equal to the annual revenues of the country. — By this means, they may create a national debt, so large, as to exceed the ability of the country ever to sink. I can scarcely contemplate a greater calamity that could befal this country, than to be loaded with a debt exceeding their ability ever to discharge. If this be a just remark, it is unwise and improvident to vest in the general government a power to borrow at discretion, without any limitation or restriction.

It may possibly happen that the safety and welfare of the country may require, that money be borrowed, and it is proper when such a necessity arises that the power should be exercised by the general government. — But it certainly ought never to be exercised, but on the most urgent occasions, and then we should not borrow of foreigners if we could possibly avoid it.

The constitution should therefore have so restricted, the exercise of this power as to have rendered it very difficult for the government to practise it. The present confederation requires the assent of nine states to exercise this, and a number of the other important powers of the confederacy — and it would certainly have been a wise provision in this constitution, to have made it necessary that two thirds of the members should assent to borrowing money — when the necessity was indispensable, this assent would always be given, and in no other cause ought it to be.