Aguadilla Technological College Debating the Constitution Discussion


Purpose: The goal of this assignment is for you to use document analysis to better appreciate different historical perspectives of the Constitution and ratification debate. To succeed on this assignment, you will need to incorporate primary source analysis skills and to demonstrate your ability to write clearly and follow the guidelines of writing for the historical discipline.Directions: Each student will choose a primary document from the list in the Writing Assignment #1 Module on Canvas. Students will then write a three to four-paragraph response (at least 600 words) analyzing their document. Your short essay should have a thesis statement at the end of your first paragraph outlining your interpretation of the document in argument form. Your paper must also provide specific examples from the text, and incorporate at least TWO secondary sources ( you may use the supplemental secondary readings in this module and/or throughout this course). To support your thesis and analysis of the source, you should provide relevant context, explain the document’s perspective, analyze what the document is arguing, and discuss what the document reveals about the Constitution and Ratification. Or in other words, you should expand on the questions included in the course’s document worksheet in essay format. You are not pretending to be the document’s author – you are using the document’s point of view as a window into this controversial past event.Supplementary QuestionsDoes Brutus make a strong case for the momentousness of the choice facing Americans? For example, is the appeal to the wisdom of Montesquieu and the experience of history persuasive? With which powers of the new government is Brutus here especially concerned? Why does Brutus believe that a republic as large as the one proposed by the Constitution will lead to tyranny?1. What is the author’s general point about the people increasing the power of their governments?2. What does the author say about the “necessary and proper clause” and the “supremacy clause”? Why?3. How does Brutus refer to chosen language in the constitution like “general welfare” and “common defense”?4. What is the author’s concern about a legislature raising and supporting an army?5. What predictions does Brutus make regarding the new federal courts?

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Foundational Documents for the AP® United States Government and Politics Exam
Published October 18, 1787
Full Text Available:
HISTORICAL CONTEXT: Before the Constitutional Convention even adjourned, opponents of the ratificiation of a
new Constitution began to publish pamphlets. While some of these opponents – who would come to be known as
Antifederalists – signed their names, most did not, preferrring instead to use pseudonyms inspired by ancient
Romans. One influential writer from New York (whose identity is still not absolutely settled) began publishing letters
under the pseudonym, Brutus, about a month after the Constitutional Convention adjourned. Over the course of
six months, Brutus would publish sixteen essays that presented counter-arguments to The Federalist Papers. The
first of these essays, Brutus No. 1, seized the initiative, being published about two weeks before Alexander Hamilton
published Federalist No. 1 to defend the proposed Constitution under the pseudonym, Publius.
To the Citizens of the State of New-York.
When the public is called to investigate and decide upon a question in which not only the present
members of the community are deeply interested, but upon which the happiness and misery of
generations yet unborn is in great measure suspended, the benevolent mind cannot help feeling itself
peculiarly interested in the result….
Perhaps this country never saw so critical a period in their political concerns. We have felt the feebleness
of the ties by which these United-States are held together, and the want of sufficient energy in our present
confederation, to manage, in some instances, our general concerns. Various expedients have been
proposed to remedy these evils, but none have succeeded. At length a Convention of the states has been
assembled, they have formed a constitution which will now, probably, be submitted to the people to
ratify or reject… If the constitution, offered to [your acceptance], be a wise one, calculated to preserve
the invaluable blessings of liberty, to secure the inestimable rights of mankind, and promote human
happiness, then, if you accept it, you will lay a lasting foundation of happiness for millions yet unborn;
generations to come will rise up and call you blessed… But if, on the other hand, this form of
government contains principles that will lead to the subversion of liberty — if it tends to establish a
despotism, or, what is worse, a tyrannic aristocracy; then, if you adopt it, this only remaining assylum
for liberty will be [shut] up, and posterity will execrate your memory….
With these few introductory remarks I shall proceed to a consideration of this constitution:
The first question that presents itself on the subject is, whether a confederated government be the best
for the United States or not? Or in other words, whether the thirteen United States should be reduced
to one great republic, governed by one legislature, and under the direction of one executive and judicial;
or whether they should continue thirteen confederated republics, under the direction and controul of a
supreme federal head for certain defined national purposes only?
This enquiry is important, because, although the government reported by the convention does not go to
a perfect and entire consolidation, yet it approaches so near to it, that it must, if executed, certainly and
infallibly terminate in it.
This government is to possess absolute and uncontroulable power, legislative, executive and judicial,
with respect to every object to which it extends, for by the last clause of section 8th, article Ist, it is
declared “that the Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for
carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution, in the
government of the United States; or in any department or office thereof.”1 And by the 6th article, it is
declared “that this constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance
thereof, and the treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall
be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the
The Necessary and Proper Clause (also known as the Elastic Clause)
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Foundational Documents for the AP® United States Government and Politics Exam
constitution, or law of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”2 It appears from these articles that
there is no need of any intervention of the state governments, between the Congress and the people, to
execute any one power vested in the general government, and that the constitution and laws of every
state are nullified and declared void, so far as they are or shall be inconsistent with this constitution, or
the laws made in pursuance of it, or with treaties made under the authority of the United States. — The
government then, so far as it extends, is a complete one, and not a confederation… So far therefore as
its powers reach, all ideas of confederation are given up and lost. It is true this government is limited to
certain objects, or to speak more properly, some small degree of power is still left to the states, but a
little attention to the powers vested in the general government, will convince every candid man, that if
it is capable of being executed, all that is reserved for the individual states must very soon be annihilated,
except so far as they are barely necessary to the organization of the general government.
The powers of the general legislature extend to every case that is of the least importance — there is
nothing valuable to human nature, nothing dear to freemen, but what is within its power. It has authority
to make laws which will affect the lives, the liberty, and property of every man in the United States; nor
can the constitution or laws of any state, in any way prevent or impede the full and complete execution
of every power given. The legislative power is competent to lay taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; —
there is no limitation to this power, unless it be said that the clause which directs the use to which those
taxes, and duties shall be applied, may be said to be a limitation; but this is no restriction of the power
at all, for by this clause they are to be applied to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and
general welfare of the United States; but the legislature have authority to contract debts at their
discretion; they are the sole judges of what is necessary to provide for the common defence, and they
only are to determine what is for the general welfare: this power therefore is neither more nor less, than
a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, and excises, at their pleasure; not only the power to lay taxes
unlimited, as to the amount they may require, but it is perfect and absolute to raise them in any mode
they please. No state legislature, or any power in the state governments, have any more to do in carrying
this into effect, than the authority of one state has to do with that of another. In the business therefore
of laying and collecting taxes, the idea of confederation is totally lost, and that of one entire republic is
embraced. It is proper here to remark, that the authority to lay and collect taxes is the most important
of any power that can be granted; it connects with it almost all other powers, or at least will in process
of time draw all other after it; it is the great mean of protection, security, and defence, in a good
government, and the great engine of oppression and tyranny in a bad one. This cannot fail of being the
case, if we consider the contracted limits which are set by this constitution, to the state governments,
on this article of raising money. No state can emit paper money — lay any duties, or imposts, on imports,
or exports, but by consent of the Congress… The only mean therefore left, for any state to support its
government and discharge its debts, is by direct taxation; and the United States have also power to lay
and collect taxes, in any way they please….
The judicial power of the United States is to be vested in a supreme court, and in such inferior courts as
Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The powers of these courts are very extensive;
their jurisdiction comprehends all civil causes, except such as arise between citizens of the same state;
and it extends to all cases in law and equity arising under the constitution. One inferior court must be
established, I presume, in each state at least, with the necessary executive officers appendant thereto. It
is easy to see, that in the common course of things, these courts will eclipse the dignity, and take away
from the respectability, of the state courts. These courts will be, in themselves, totally independent of
the states, deriving their authority from the United States, and receiving from them fixed salaries; and
in the course of human events it is to be expected, that they will swallow up all the powers of the courts
in the respective states.
How far the clause in the 8th section of the Ist article may operate to do away all idea of confederated
states, and to effect an entire consolidation of the whole into one general government, it is impossible
to say. The powers given by this article are very general and comprehensive, and it may receive a
construction to justify the passing almost any law. A power to make all laws, which shall be necessary
and proper, for carrying into execution, all powers vested by the constitution in the government of the
The Supremacy Clause (See McCulloch v. Maryland for the Supreme Court’s application of this clause.)
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United States, or any department or officer thereof, is a power very comprehensive and definite, and
may, for ought I know, be exercised in a such manner as entirely to abolish the state legislatures. . . .
[Congress is] vested with the great and uncontroulable powers, of laying and collecting taxes, duties,
imposts, and excises; of regulating trade, raising and supporting armies, organizing, arming, and
disciplining the militia, instituting courts, and other general powers. And are by this clause invested with
the power of making all laws, proper and necessary, for carrying all these into execution; and they may
so exercise this power as entirely to annihilate all the state governments, and reduce this country to one
single government. And if they may do it, it is pretty certain they will; for it will be found that the power
retained by individual states, small as it is, will be a clog upon the wheels of the government of the United
States; the latter therefore will be naturally inclined to remove it out of the way. Besides, it is a truth
confirmed by the unerring experience of ages, that every man, and every body of men, invested with
power, are ever disposed to increase it, and to acquire a superiority over every thing that stands in their
way. This disposition, which is implanted in human nature, will operate in the federal legislature to
lessen and ultimately to subvert the state authority, and having such advantages, will most certainly
succeed, if the federal government succeeds at all. It must be very evident then, that what this
constitution [lacks in] being a complete consolidation of the several parts of the union into one complete
government, possessed of perfect legislative, judicial, and executive powers, to all intents and purposes,
it will necessarily acquire in its exercise and operation.
Let us now proceed to enquire, as I at first proposed, whether it be best the thirteen United States should
be reduced to one great republic, or not? It is here taken for granted, that all agree in this, that whatever
government we adopt, it ought to be a free one; that it should be so framed as to secure the liberty of
the citizens of America, and such an one as to admit of a full, fair, and equal representation of the people.
The question then will be, whether a government thus constituted, and founded on such principles, is
practicable, and can be exercised over the whole United States, reduced into one state?
If respect is to be paid to the opinion of the greatest and wisest men who have ever thought or wrote on
the science of government, we shall be constrained to conclude, that a free republic cannot succeed over
a country of such immense extent, containing such a number of inhabitants, and these encreasing in such
rapid progression as that of the whole United States. Among the many illustrious authorities which might
be produced to this point, I shall content myself with quoting only two. The one is the baron de
Montesquieu, spirit of laws, chap. xvi. vol. I [book VIII].
It is natural to a republic to have only a small territory, otherwise it cannot long subsist. In a large
republic there are men of large fortunes, and consequently of less moderation; there are trusts too
great to be placed in any single subject; he has interest of his own; he soon begins to think that he may
be happy, great and glorious, by oppressing his fellow citizens; and that he may raise himself to
grandeur on the ruins of his country. In a large republic, the public good is sacrificed to a thousand
views; it is subordinate to exceptions, and depends on accidents. In a small one, the interest of the
public is easier perceived, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses are
of less extent, and of course are less protected.
History furnishes no example of a free republic, any thing like the extent of the United States. The
Grecian republics were of small extent; so also was that of the Romans. Both of these, it is true, in
process of time, extended their conquests over large territories of country; and the consequence was,
that their governments were changed from that of free governments to those of the most tyrannical that
ever existed in the world.
Not only the opinion of the greatest men, and the experience of mankind, are against the idea of an
extensive republic, but a variety of reasons may be drawn from the reason and nature of things, against
it. . . In a pure democracy the people are the sovereign, and their will is declared by themselves; for this
purpose they must all come together to deliberate, and decide. This kind of government cannot be
exercised, therefore, over a country of any considerable extent; it must be confined to a single city, or
at least limited to such bounds as that the people can conveniently assemble, be able to debate,
understand the subject submitted to them, and declare their opinion concerning it.
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Foundational Documents for the AP® United States Government and Politics Exam
In a free republic, although all laws are derived from the consent of the people, yet the people do not
declare their consent by themselves in person, but by representatives, chosen by them, who are supposed
to know the minds of their constituents, and to be possessed of integrity to declare this mind….
Now, in a large extended country, it is impossible to have a representation, possessing the sentiments,
and of integrity, to declare the minds of the people, without having it so numerous and unwieldly, as to
be subject in great measure to the inconveniency of a democratic government.
The territory of the United States is of vast extent; it now contains near three millions of souls, and is
capable of containing much more than ten times that number. Is it practicable for a country, so large and
so numerous as they will soon become, to elect a representation, that will speak their sentiments,
without their becoming so numerous as to be incapable of transacting public business? It certainly is not.
In a republic, the manners, sentiments, and interests of the people should be similar. If this be not the
case, there will be a constant clashing of opinions; and the representatives of one part will be continually
striving against those of the other. This will [hinder] the operations of government, and prevent such
conclusions as will promote the public good.3 If we apply this remark to the condition of the United
States, we shall be convinced that it forbids that we should be one government. The United States
includes a variety of climates. The productions of the different parts of the union are very variant, and
their interests, of consequence, diverse. Their manners and habits differ as much as their climates and
productions; and their sentiments are by no means coincident. The laws and customs of the several states
are, in many respects, very diverse, and in some opposite; each would be in favor of its own interests
and customs, and, of consequence, a legislature, formed of representatives from the respective parts,
would not only be too numerous to act with any care or decision, but would be composed of such
heterogenous and discordant principles, as would constantly be contending with each other….
A free republic will never keep a standing army to execute its laws. It must depend upon the support of
its citizens. But when a government is to receive its support from the aid of the citizens, it must be so
constructed as to have the confidence, respect, and affection of the people… but the people will not be
likely to have such confidence in their rulers, in a republic so extensive as the United States, as necessary
for these purposes. The confidence which the people have in their rulers, in a free republic, arises from
their knowing them, from their being responsible to them for their conduct, and from the power they
have of displacing them when they misbehave: but in a republic of the extent of this continent, the people
in general would be acquainted with very few of their rulers: the people at large would know little of
their proceedings, and it would be extremely difficult to change them. The people in Georgia and NewHampshire would not know one another’s mind, and therefore could not act in concert to enable them
to effect a general change of representatives. The different parts of so extensive a country could not
possibly be made acquainted with the conduct of their representatives, nor be informed of the reasons
upon which measures were founded. The consequence will be, they will have no confidence in their
legislature,4 suspect them of ambitious views, be jealous of every measure they adopt, and will not
support the laws they pass. Hence the government will be nerveless and inefficient, and no way will be
left to render it otherwise, but by establishing an armed force to execute the laws at the point of the
bayonet — a government of all others the most to be dreaded….
In so extensive a republic, the great officers of government would soon become above the controul of
the people, and abuse their power to the purpose of aggrandizing themselves, and oppressing them…
They will use the power, when they have acquired it, to the purposes of gratifying their own interest
and ambition, and it is scarcely possible, in a very large republic, to call them to account for their
misconduct, or to prevent their abuse of power.
These are some of the reasons by which it appears, that a free republic cannot long subsist over a country
of the great extent of these states. If then this new constitution is calculated to consolidate the thirteen
states into one, as it evidently is, it ought not to be adopted.
Brutus’ argument here is in line with the hyperpluralist theory of democracy.
Between 2010 and 2020, public approval of Congress averaged around 20 percent, going as high as 31 percent and as low as
nine percent. See Congressional approval ratings at for a more in-depth look.
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