Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Woman Too Smart For Her Time

I'm reading Mercy Otis Warren's Antifederalist attack on the Constitution from 1787 (for a long time, wrongly assumed to be by Elbridge Gerry).  There are so many things that she managed to predict--sometimes not entirely for the right reason, or in the right form, but the net effect is the same:

MANKIND may amuse themselves with theoretick systems of liberty, and trace its social and moral effects on sciences, virtue, industry and every improvement of which the human mind is capable; but we can only discern its true value by the practical and wretched effects of slavery; and thus dreadfully will they be realized, when the inhabitants of the Eastern States are dragging out a miserable existence, only on the gleanings of their fields; and the Southern, blessed with a softer and more fertile climate, are languishing in hopeless poverty; and when asked, what is become of the flower of their crop, and the rich produce of their farms—they may answer in the hapless stile of the Man of La Mancha,—" The " steward of my Lord has seized and sent it to Madrid." Or, in the more literal language of truth, The exigencies of government require that the collectors of the revenue should transmit it to the Federal City.

There are no well defined limits of the Judiciary Powers, they seem to be left as a boundless ocean,....
The inhabitants of the United States, are liable to be draged from the vicinity of their own country, or state, to answer the litigious or unjust suit of an adversary, on the most distant borders of the Continent...
 Well, I was not literally dragged to Las Vegas, but to fight this suit I would have pretty much had to do so.

One Representative to thirty thousand inhabitants is a very inadequate representation....

Not to worry!  It's more like one representative to 600,000 inhabitants now.

As the new Congress are empowered to determine their own salaries, the requisitions for this purpose may not be very moderate, and the drain for public moneys will probably rise past all calculation....

3 comments:

Hal Duston said...

It varies from 493,782 (Wyoming) to 902,195 (Montana), but can you imagine what the congress would be like with over 10,000 members in the house of representatives?

Epsilon Given said...

A favorite anti-Federalist of mine is Brutus. He made some pretty insightful observations himself, including predicting the abuse of the Interstate Commerce Clause.

Rich Rostrom said...

"As the new Congress are empowered to determine their own salaries, the requisitions for this purpose may not be very moderate, and the drain for public moneys will probably rise past all calculation...."

Whatever else may be said, that hasn't happened. Congressional salaries are comfortable, but hardly lavish, and the aggregate amount is a drop in the ocean of Federal spending.