Here is a collection of eight letters published under the pseudonym “Constantius,” between March and April 1795. The pseudonym *Constantius assumed to be taken from: *Constantius I, original name Flavius Valerius Constantius or Flavius Julius Constantius, by name Chlorus, (born c. 250, Dacia Ripensis—died July 25, 306, Eboracum, Britain. *Source here
This collection of letters by Constantius, was written to the People of New York, and is the author’s historical argument that American political party’s are repugnant to American constitutional republicanism. Arguing political ‘party spirit’/parties ultimately becomes fatal to American founding principles, terminating into tyrannical and fatal organs of the Republic.
How clear in 1795, did Constantius see into the future, to what the Republican Party or the Democrat Party would become today. Human nature that which is old, becomes new again, perhaps. Even more so the rise of individual politicians like Woodrow Wilson or Donald Trump.
With our country severely divided along political party ‘lines’ in 2021 as envisioned by Contantius, and after the events on Jan. 6th, 2021, I thought it important to transcribe and republish for the internet, this collection from our early American history.
Perhaps these letters will make us all reflect for a moment.
Gunston Nutbush Hall, Founder, Editor in Chief, Publisher of Watchmen Gazette. February 5, 2021
FIRST LETTER ON PARTIES
From the Albany Gazette. March 10, 1795 To the People of the State of N. York. ON PARTIES
IT has been supposed by certain political writers, that parties are necessary and useful in government–that they are favorable to the cause of liberty, and salutary to the health of the body politic.–This question, always of high importance, is particularly so in this country, and at the present juncture. I propose a short examination of the hypothesis.
The conclusion in favor of parties has arisen from a view–first, that they prevailed principally in free governments, and that by means of the principle of opposition and resistance which they have established, the freedom of the people has acquired continual accessions, and gained successive advantages over usurped power–secondly, that there is a necessary tendency in men to corruption and abuse of power, and that this tendency is obstructed and resisted by the agitations of party.
It is a common error in reasoning to mistake that which merely accompanies a certain state of things, for either the cause or the consequence of that state of things.–It may be granted that in free governments, that is, in governments in some measure, free parties more naturally prevail; yet it will not follow that liberty is the cause or the effect of parties.–The better conclusion is, that parties are the effect of tyranny. What just historical example have we of genuine political liberty? there is scarcely one. As to what operation, therefore, the existence of parties may finally have in a government in which liberty is the great fundamental principle, we have no lights from history. The fact is, that all governments, both ancient and modern have been founded not on principle, but on accidents, or deceit, or force, or on a concurrence of all the three. Power was established before liberty. Power builds a structure at a single stroke; liberty erects its edifice by patient labor and by successive persevering exertions. The small portion of liberty contained in all old establishments is derivative, not original: It has been gained by the people, not settled upon them–parties and factions have generally marked these exertions of the people in acquiring political freedom—they have marked the state of things which may be called the militant state of liberty–they have been the occasional conflicts between those who rule and those who those who are oppressed.–No wonder then that they have prevailed most in governments which have been called free–that is in governments which contain in their organical structure a capacity of acquiring to the people new rights and of securing old ones.
In the Roman republic, as in the mixed government of Great Britain, liberty was continually engaged in an offensive war, a war always just, generally successful and always glorious.
In despotic governments, liberty is not oppressed–it is expelled–it is annihilated. There is no organ of the constitution through which it can speak or act–there is no principle, no habit, no spirit which can awaken and stimulate to exertion. Contests and rivalries among the people can hardly exist where there is nothing to contend about; and opposition and resistance can rarely arise, where immediate and inevitable destruction must await the resisting party. Thus parties are uncommon in despotic governments and terror produces a miserable and melancholy tranquility.
The examples therefore go only to prove, that parties are favorable to liberty while in a progressive state, that is in a state of hostility and suffering, which is the state in which we have been accustomed to view it. Thus far the inference may be fair, but very different should be the conclusion in a state where liberty is triumphant, where it is primarily established, when it is the vital principle and main spring of political operations–It is not true that parties are necessary to liberty, in the abstract–they are only necessary to partial liberty such as I have described and history exhibited.
Such being the tenor of historical examples it will be obvious on short reflection, that their application to the state of things in this country must altogether fall.
In the American government, liberty is the fundamental principle and predominant quality–the invariable policy of the constitution is, that the people shall enjoy the greatest possible good, and shall determine in what that good consists, and the means by which it may be obtained—All our political regulations are derived from the people, not imposed upon them.–Liberty is not an acquisition, a blessing provided for and dealt out to them–It is inherent in them–it accompanies all their steps–it is the subject of habitual and daily exercise–it is not that the system is more perfect here, more extensive more pure than in other countries, and in ancient times; the truth is, it rests on a different foundation, and is of a different species; in other governments opposition supports liberty, because the object of opposition is tryanny–in this, opposition would injure liberty itself, because there is no tyranny to oppose, and because a state of violence however it may be favorable to the attainment of a foreign and remote good, must surely impair the good which we already enjoy.–To illustrate this matter the great and most important foundation of parties, is a permanent difference of personal interest in the community–such as that which subsists between the nobility and the people; between classes who posses certain privileged rights and those who have none.–But what standing diversity of interest can there be, where privileges are unknown, and perfect equality prevails?–Another distinction has often been suggested between the rulers and the ruled; a natural distinction where the rulers hold a permanent authority, but a nominal and frivolous one, where the rulers derive all their power by short and precarious delegations, and are themselves ruled by their own laws.
In England, the most natural, universal and permanent distinction of parties has been between the court and the country interest. It has subsisted between those who were in possession of great, immemorial and oppressive, power, and privelege, and those who had just liberty enough to stimulate their ambition, and strength enough to ensure a flow conquest–The fame division has infected the house of commons, which, as being the guardians of liberty, should have been uniform in one interest; but it is not surprizing that a body of so motley a character and illegitimate origin should have drawn into the vortex, and exhibited upon its republican features the same division of party which was distracting the nation at large.–But in certain great emergencies, the house of Commons have stepped forth the true representative of the national will, assumed its proper station in the balance of the constitution and dictated humiliating conditions to the monarchy. These were seasons in which liberty made her bold approaches, and won advantages from power, which she has since surrendered to corruption.
In determining the policy of the American government, general reasonings drawn from historical examples should be admitted with caution; inferences from example fail where comparative circumstances fail. The American political revolution which begun in the year 1774, and terminated in the year 1789, and formed a new aera in the affairs of the world more important than any that has ever preceded it; because it was the only one that had ever afforded an opportunity to apply proposed institutions to the touchstone of improved reason..–In other countries, new institutions of policy have been little more than scions grafted on the old sturdy stock of prejudice, bigotry and error; But in America, they have sprung from principles, original not artificial, with all the aids of experience but free from the setters of false example.
If I have been successful in shewing, that the common argument derived from historical example, is false and inapplicable to the present state of things in this country. I shall pursue the enquiry in a subsequent letter and hazard a few remarks on the other argument above alluded to, drawn from a supposed tendency in the government to corruption and abuse of power–and shall finally, as a matter of pressing importance in this country, point out some of the political evils, political and morals which must attend the establishment and operation of party spirit. CONSTANTIUS.
© Gunston Nutbush Hall 2021, Reprinted and Republished for the internet by Gunston Nutbush Hall, Editor & Publisher, Watchmen Gazette