An anti-Federalist speaks against the Constitution (1786)


William Lancaster, an anti-Federalist who attended the North Carolina ratifying convention in 1786, made the following remarks against the new Constitution:

“It hath been asserted, by several worthy gentlemen, that it is the most excellent Constitution that ever was formed. I could wish to be of that opinion if it were so. The powers vested therein were very extensive. I am apprehensive that the power of taxation is unlimited. It expressly says that Congress shall have the power to lay taxes, etc. It is obvious to me that the power is unbounded, and I am apprehensive that they may lay taxes too heavily on our lands, in order to render them more productive. The amount of the taxes may be more than our lands will sell for.

The power of raising armies is also very exceptionable. I am not well acquainted with the government of other countries, but a man of any information knows that the king of Great Britain cannot raise and support armies. He may call for and raise men, but he has no money to support them. But Congress is to have power to raise and support armies. Forty thousand men from North Carolina could not be refused without violating the Constitution.

I wish amendments to these parts. I agree it is not our business to inquire whether the continent be invaded or not. The general legislature ought to superintend the care of this. Treaties are to be the supreme law of the land. This has been sufficiently discussed: it must be amended some way or other.”

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