It is sometimes said that "the more things change, the more they stay the same." That is apropos for this post. If one were to watch the debates and bickering in any congress or parliament around the world, they might be able to write the same type of letter as Fisher Ames wrote to George Richards Minot.
The interest in this excerpted communication is Ames's observation about the workings of the Federal Congress. In it, you can see the hangover from the Federalist/Anti-Federalist arguments, the current party alignments and tactics, and comprehend how this short observation presages conflicts to come.
August Glen-James, editor
We hear, incessantly, from the old foes of the Constitution, “this is unconstitutional, and that is”; and indeed, what is not? I scarce know a point which has not produced this cry, not excepting a motion for adjourning.
8 March 1792
My Dear Friend,--Congress moves slowly, too slowly. The spirit of debate is a vice that grows by indulgence. It is a sort of captiousness that delights in nothing but contradiction. Add to this, we have near twenty antis, dragons watching the tree of liberty, and who consider every strong measure, and almost every ordinary one, as an attempt to rob the tree of its fair fruit. We hear, incessantly, from the old foes of the Constitution, “this is unconstitutional, and that is”; and indeed, what is not? I scarce know a point which has not produced this cry, not excepting a motion for adjourning. If the Constitution is what they affect to think it, their former opposition to such a nonentity was improper. I wish they would administer it a little more in conformity to their first creed. The men who would hinder all that is done, and almost all that ought to be done, hang heavy on the debates. The fishery bill was unconstitutional; it is unconstitutional to receive plans of finance from the Secretary; to give bounties; to make the militia worth having; order is unconstitutional; credit is tenfold worse. . . .
3 May 1792
I am tired of the session. Attending Congress is very like going to school. Every day renews the round yesterday; and if I stay a day or two after the adjournment, I shall be apt to go to Congress from habit, as some old horses are said to go to the meeting-house on Sunday without a rider, by force of their long habit of going on that day. . . .
Causes which I have in a former letter explained to you have generated a regular, well-disciplined opposition party, whose leaders cry “liberty,” but mean, as all party leaders do, “power,” who will write and talk and caress weak and vain men till they displace their rivals. The poor Vice will be baited before the election. All the arts of intrigue will be practiced—but more of this when we meet. . . .