<Debate and Ratification

Agrippa IX

December 28, 1787

To the People.

We come now to the second and last article of complaint against the present confederation, which is, that Congress has not the sole power to regulate the intercourse between us and foreigners. Such a power extends not only to war and peace, but to trade and naturalization. This last article ought never to be given them; for though most of the states may be willing for certain reasons to receive foreigners as citizens, yet reasons of equal weight may induce other states, differently circumstanced, to keep their blood pure. Pennsylvania has chosen to receive all that would come there. Let any indifferent person judge whether that state in point of morals, education, energy is equal to any of the eastern states; the small state of Rhode-Island only excepted. Pennsylvania in the course of a century has acquired her present extent and population at the expense of religion and good morals. The eastern states have, by keeping separate from the foreign mixtures, acquired, their present greatness in the course of a century and an half, and have preserved their religion and morals. They have also preserved that manly virtue which is equally fitted for rendering them respectable in war, and industrious in peace.

The remaining power for peace and trade might perhaps be safely enough lodged with Congress under some limitations. Three restrictions appear to me to be essentially necessary to preserve the equality of rights to the states, which it is the object of the state governments to secure to each citizen, ist. It ought not to be in the power of Congress either by treaty or otherwise to alienate part of any state without the consent of the legislature. 2d. They ought not to be able by treaty or other law to give any legal preference to one part above another. 3d. They ought to be restrained from creating any monopolies. Perhaps others may propose different regulations and restrictions. One of these is to be found in the old confederation, and another in the newly proposed plan. The third seems to be equally necessary.

After all that has been said and written on this subject, and on the difficulty of amending our old constitution so as to render it adequate to national purposes, it does not appear that any thing more was necessary to be done, than framing two new articles. By one a limited revenue would be given to Congress with a right to collect it, and by the other a limited right to regulate our intercourse with foreign nations. By such an addition we should have preserved to each state its power to defend the rights of the citizens, and the whole empire would be capable of expanding, and receiving additions without altering its former constitution. Congress, at the same time, by the extent of their jurisdiction, and the number of their officers, would have acquired more respectability at home, and a sufficient influence abroad. If any state was in such a case to invade the rights of the Union, the other states would join in defence of those rights, and it would be in the power of Congress to direct the national force to that object. But it is certain that the powers of Congress over the citizens should be small in proportion as the empire is extended; that, in order to preserve the balance, each state may supply by energy what is wanting in numbers. Congress would be able by such a system as we have proposed to regulate trade with foreigners by such duties as should effectually give the preference to the produce and manufactures of our own country. We should then have a friendly intercourse established between the states, upon the principles of mutual interest. A moderate duty upon foreign vessels would give an advantage to our own people, while it would avoid all the [dis]advantages arising from a prohibition, and the consequent deficiency of vessels to transport the produce of the southern states.

Our country is at present upon an average a thousand miles long from north to south, and eight hundred broad from the Missisippi to the Ocean. We have at least six millions of white inhabitants, and the annual increase is about two hundred and fifty thousand souls, exclusive of emigrants from Europe. The greater part of our increase is employed in settling the new lands, while the older settlements are entering largely into manufactures of various kinds. It is probable, that the extraordinary exertions of this state in the way of industry for the present year only, exceed in value five hundred thousand pounds. The new settlements, if all made in the same tract of country, would form a large state annually; and the time seems to be literally accomplished when a nation shall be born in a day. Such an immense country is not only capable of yielding all the produce of Europe, but actually does produce by far the greater part of the raw materials. The restrictions on our trade in Europe, necessarily oblige us to make use of those materials, and the high price of labour operates as an encouragement to mechanical improvements. In this way we daily make rapid advancements towards independence in resources as well as in empire. If we adopt the new system of government we shall by one rash vote lose the fruit of the toil and expense of thirteen years, at the time when the benefits of that toil and expense are rapidly increasing. Though the imposts of Congress on foreign trade may tend to encourage manufactures, the excise and dry tax will destroy all the beneficial effects of the impost, at the same time that they diminish our capital. Be careful then to give only a limited revenue, and the limited power of managing foreign concerns. Once surrender the rights of internal legislation and taxation, and instead of being respected abroad, foreigners will laugh at us, and posterity will lament our folly.