Federalist No. 84
Federalist No. 84 (Federalist Number 84), an essay titled "Certain General and Miscellaneous Objections to the Constitution Considered and Answered", is one of The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, published under the pseudonym Publius on July 16, July 26, and August 9, 1788.
Federalist No. 84 is notable for presenting the idea that a Bill of Rights was not a necessary component of the proposed United States Constitution. The Constitution, as originally written, did not specifically enumerate or protect the rights of the people. It is alleged that many Americans at the time opposed the inclusion of a bill of rights: if such a bill were created, they feared, this might later be interpreted as a list of the only rights that people had. Hamilton wrote:
- It has been several times truly remarked, that bills of rights are in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgments of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince. Such was Magna Carta, obtained by the Barons, sword in hand, from king John...It is evident, therefore, that according to their primitive signification, they have no application to constitutions professedly founded upon the power of the people, and executed by their immediate representatives and servants. Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing, and as they retain every thing, they have no need of particular reservations. "We the people of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America." Here is a better recognition of popular rights than volumes of those aphorisms which make the principal figure in several of our state bills of rights, and which would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than in a constitution of government....
- I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.
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