A Government of Force

Max. M Edling

in A Revolution in Favor of Government

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195148701
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835096 | DOI:
A Government of Force

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Chapter 7 and the corresponding Ch. 12 in Part Three of the book present the Antifederalist objections to a stronger national government in the “fiscal‐military” sphere, with this chapter looking closely at Antifederalist objections to the military clauses of the US Constitution. The opponents of the Constitution never accepted the Federalist claim that the independence, liberty, and prosperity of the American republic depended on the creation and maintenance of a peace establishment consisting of regular troops, and did not believe that the union faced as serious threats as the Federalists claimed, keeping to the view that standing armies in time of peace were a threat to liberty. Both ancient and modern history had taught that “almost all” nations in Europe and Asia had lost their liberty because of the establishment of a standing army, so it hardly made sense for Americans to imitate them. To Antifederalists, it seemed that if the military clauses of the Constitution were adopted and the Federalists realized their plan to raise a standing army, the people of America would soon find that the Constitution's supporters would make use of it on the domestic rather than the international scene. The Antifederalist criticism of the army clauses therefore said little about commercial treaties and the importance of military strength in international relations; instead, they approached the issue from the traditional British Country perspective, claiming that standing armies in time of peace posed a threat to liberty, that transfer of military power from the states to Congress threatened both the state militia and the state assemblies, and that a standing army would make it possible for the national government to deprive people of their property without their consent by levying and collecting arbitrary taxes – in other words, a standing army in a time of peace was to the Antifederalists an objection to the centralization of power at the expense of the people's ability to withhold consent through their control of strong local institutions.

Keywords: Antifederalism; centralization of power; Federalism; government by force; independence; liberty; local institutions; military powers; military strength; national government; standing army; state assemblies; state militia; US Constitution; US Congress; USA

Chapter.  7151 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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