The back-and-forth between the supporters and opponents of the Constitution during the state debates reveals many assumptions, expectations, and fears amongst the populace toward the Constitution.
This post is interesting based on the views expressed by Mr. Sedgwick concerning the oneness of the people and their representatives, and the role an armed populace plays in maintaining their freedom.
August Glen-James, editor
They certainly, said he, will know to what object it is to themselves and their brethren? or, if raised, whether they could subdue a nation of freemen, who know how to prize liberty, and who have arms in their hands?
The Hon. Mr. Sedgwick—went into a general answer to the objections which had been started against the powers to be granted to Congress by this section. H showed the absolute necessity there was that the body which had the security of the whole for their object, should have the necessary means allowed them to effect it; and in order to secure the people against the abuse of this power, the representatives and people, he said, are equally subject to the laws, and can, therefore, have but one and the same interest; that they would never lay unnecessary burdens, when they themselves must bear a part of them; and from the extent of their objects, their power ought necessarily to be illimitable. Men, said he, rarely do mischief for the sake of being mischievous.
With respect to the power, in this section, to raise armies, the honorable gentleman said, although gentlemen had thought it a dangerous power, and would be used for the purpose of tyranny, yet they did not object to the Confederation in this particular; and by this, Congress could have kept the whole of the late army in the field, had they seen fit. He asked, if gentlemen could think it possible that the legislature of the United States should raise an army unnecessarily, which, in a short time, would be under the control of other persons; for, if it was not to be under their control, what object could they have in raising it?
It was, he said, a chimerical idea to suppose that a country like this could ever be enslaved. How is an army for that purpose to be obtained from the freemen of the United States? They certainly, said he, will know to what object it is to themselves and their brethren? or, if raised, whether they could subdue a nation of freemen, who know how to prize liberty, and who have arms in their hands? He said, it was a deception to gentlemen to say that this power could be thus used. The honorable gentleman said, that in the Constitution every possible provision against an abuse of power was made; and if gentlemen would candidly investigate for themselves, they would find that the evils they lament cannot ensue therefrom.
Source: Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution. Vol. 2, page 50.