Centinel IX

Centinel

January 08, 1788

To THE PEOPLE OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Fellow Citizens, You have the peculiar felicity of living under the most perfect system of local government in the world; prize then this invaluable blessing as it deserves: Suffer it not to be wrested from you, and the scourge of despotic power substituted in its place, under the specious pretence of vesting the general government of the United States with necessary power; that this would be the inevitable con—sequence of the establishment of the new constitution, the least consideration of its nature and tendency is sufficient to convince every unprejudiced mind. If you were sufficiently impressed with your present favored situation, I should have no doubt of a proper dicision of the question in discussion.

The highest illustration of the excellence of the constitution of this commonwealth, is, that from its first establishment, the ambitious and profligate have been united in a constant conspiracy to destroy it; so sensible are they that it is their great enemy, that it is the great palladium of equal liberty, and the property of the people from the rapacious hand of power: The annals of mankind do not furnish a more glorious instance of the triumph of patriotism over the lust of ambition aided by most of the wealth of the state. The few generally prevail over the many by uniformity of council, unremitted and persevering exertion, and superior information and address; but in Pennsylvania the reverse has happened; here the well—born have been baffled in all their efforts to prostrate the altar of liberty for the purpose of substituting their own insolent sway that would degrade the freemen of this state into servile dependence upon the lordly and great: However, it is not the nature of ambition to be discouraged; it is ever ready to improve the first opportunity to rear its baneful head and with irritated fury to wreak its vengeance on the votaries of liberty. The present conspiracy is a continental exertion of the well born of America to obtain that darling domination, which they have not been able to accomplish in their respective states. Of what complexion were the deputies of this state in the general convention? Six out of eight were the inveterate enemies of our inestimable constitution, and the principals of that faction that for ten years past have kept the people in continual alarm for their liberties.’ Who are the advocates of the new constitution in this state? They consist of the same faction, with the addition of a few deluded well—meaning men, but whose number is daily lessening.

These conspirators have come forward at a most favorable conjuncture, when the state of public affairs has lulled all jealousy of power: Emboldened by the sanction of the august name of a Washington, that they have prostituted to their purpose, they have presumed to overleap the usual gradations to absolute power, and have attempted to seize at once upon the supremacy of dominion. The new instrument of government does indeed make a fallacious parade of some remaining privileges, and insults the understandings of the people with the semblance of liberty in some of its artful and deceptive clauses: which form but a flimsy veil over the reality of tyranny, so weakly endeavored to be concealed from the eye of freedom. For, of what avail are the few inadequate stipulations in favor of the rights of the people, when they may be effectually counteracted and destroyed by virtue of other clauses; when these enable the rulers to renounce all dependence on their constituents, and render the latter tenants at will of every concern? The new constitution is in fact a carte blanche, a surrender at discretion to the will and pleasure of our rulers: as this has been demonstrated to be the case, by the investigation and discussion that have taken place, I trust the same good sense and spirit which have hitherto enabled the people to triumph over the wiles of ambition, will be again exerted for their salvation. The accounts from various parts of the country correspond with my warmest hopes, and justify my early predictions of the eventual defeat of this scheme of power and office making.

The genius of liberty has sounded the alarm, and the dormant spirit of her votaries is reviving with enthusiastic ardor; the like unanimity which formerly distinguished them in their conflict with foreign despots, promises to crown their virtuous opposition on the present occasion, with signal success. The structure of despotism that has been reared in this state, upon deception and surprise, will vanish like the baseless fabric of a dream and leave not a trace behind.

The parasites and tools of power in Northampton county ought to take warning from the fate of the Carlisle junto, lest like them, they experience the resentment of an injured people. I would advise them not to repeat the imposition of a set of fallacious resolutions as the sense of that county, when in fact, it was the act of a despicable few, with Alexander Paterson3 at their head, whose atchievements at Wyoming, as the meaner instrument of unfeeling avarice, have rendered infamously notorious; but yet, like the election of a Mr. Sedgwick for the little town of Stockbridge,’ which has been adduced as evidence of the unanimity of the western counties of Massachusetts state in favor of the new constitution, when the fact is far otherwise, this act of a few individuals will be sounded forth over the continent as a testimony of the zealous attachment of the county of Northampton to the new constitution. By such wretched and momentary deceptions do these harpies of power endeavor to give the complexion of strength to their cause. To prevent the detection of such impositions, to prevent the reflection of the rays of light from state to state, which, producing general illumination, would dissipate the mist of deception, and thereby prove fatal to the new constitution, all intercourse between the patriots of America is as far as possible cut off; whilst on the other hand, the conspirators have the most exact information, a common concert is every where evident, they move in unison. There is so much mystery in the conduct of these men, such systematic deception, and fraud characterises all their measures, such extraordinary solicitude shewn by them to precipitate and surprise the people into a blind and implicit adoption of this government, that it ought to excite the most alarming apprehensions in the minds of all those who think their privileges, property and welfare worth securing.

It is a fact that can be established, that during almost the whole of the time that the late convention of this state were assembled, the newspapers published in New—York, by Mr. Greenleaf, which contains the essays written there against the new government, such as the patriotic ones of Brutus, Cincinnatus, Cato, &c. sent as usual by the printer of that place, to the printers of this city, miscarried in their conveyance, which prevented the republication in this state of many of these pieces, and since that period great irregularity prevails; and I stand informed that the printers in New—York complain that the free and independent newspapers of this city do not come to hand; whilst on the contrary, we find the devoted vehicles of despotism pass uninterrupted. I would ask what is the meaning of the new arrangement at the Post—Office, which abridges the circulation of newspapers at this momentous crisis, when our every concern is dependant upon a proper decision of the subject in discussion—No trivial excuse will he admitted; the Centinel will, as from the first approach of despotism, warn his countrymen of the insidious and base stratagems that are practising to hoodwink them out of their liberties.

The more I consider the manoevres that are practising, the more am I alarmed—foreseeing that the juggle cannot long be concealed, and that the spirit of the people will not brook the imposition, they have guarded as they suppose against any danger arising from the opposition of the people, and rendered their struggles for liberty impotent and ridiculous. What otherwise is the meaning of disarming the militia, for the purpose as it is said, of repairing their musquets at such a particular period?’ Does not the timing of the measure determine the intention? I was ever jealous of the select militia, consisting of infantry and troops of horse, instituted in this city and in some of the counties, without the sanction of law, and officered principally by the devoted instruments of the well born, although the illustrious patriotism of one of them, has not corresponded with the intention of appointing him. Are not these corps provided to suppress the first efforts of freedom, and to check the spirit of the people until a regular and sufficiently powerful military force shall be embodied to rivet the chains of slavery on a deluded nation. What confirms these apprehensions is the declaration of a certain Major, an active instrument in this business, and the echo of the principal conspirators, who has said, he should deem the cutting off of five thousand men, as a small sacrifice, a cheap purchase for the establishment of the new constitution.

Philadelphia, January 5, 1788.

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