December 27, 1787
The Antifederalist Centinel, writing shortly after the passage of the Constitution by the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention, refuses to validity of the outcome. “Will the act of one sixth of the people, and this too founded on deception and surprise, bind the community? Is it thus that the altar of liberty, so recently crimsoned with the blood of our worthies, is to be prostrated and despotism reared on its ruins? Certainly not.” He urges the people to require their representatives to call a convention for the purpose of overturning the proposed plan created by “a junto composed of the lordly and high minded gentry, of the profligate and the needy office hunters, of men principally who in the late war skulked from the common danger.”
Friends and Fellow-Citizens! The admiring world lately beheld the sun of liberty risen to meridian splendour in this western hemisphere, whose chearing rays began to dispel the glooms of even trans-atlantic despotism: the patriotic mind, enraptured with the flowing scene, fondly anticipated an universal and eternal day to the orb of freedom; but the horison is already darkened and the glooms of slavery threaten to fix their empire. How transitory are the blessings of this life! Scarcely have four years elapsed since these United States, rescued from the domination of foreign despots by the unexampled heroism and perseverance of its citizens, at such great expence of blood and treasure, when they are about to fall a prey to the machinations of a profligate junto at home, who seizing the favorable moment, when the temporary and extraordinary difficulties of the people have thrown them off their guard, and lulled that jealousy of power so essential to the preservation of freedom, have been too successful in the sacrilegious attempt; however I am confident that this formidable conspiracy will end in the confusion and infamy of its authors; that if necessary, the avenging sword of an abused people will humble these aspiring despots to the dust, and that their fate, like that of Charles the First of England, will deter such attempts in future, and prove the confirmation of the liberties of America until time shall be no more.
One would imagine by the insolent conduct of these harpies of power, that they had already triumphed over the liberties of the people, that the chains were riveted and tyranny established. They tell us all further opposition will be in vain, as this state has passed the rubicon. Do they imagine the freemen of Pennsylvania will be thus trepaned out of their liberties; that they will submit without a struggle? They must indeed be inebriated with the lust of dominion to indulge such chimerical ideas. Will the act of one sixth of the people, and this too founded on deception and surprise, bind the community? Is it thus that the altar of liberty, so recently crimsoned with the blood of our worthies, is to be prostrated and despotism reared on its ruins? Certainly not. The solemn mummery that has been acting in the name of the people of Pennsylvania will be treated with the deserved contempt; it has served indeed to expose the principles of the men concerned, and to draw a line of discrimination between the real and affected patriots.
Impressed with an high opinion of the understanding and spirit of my fellow citizens, I have in no stage of this business entertained a doubt of its eventual defeat; the momentary delusion, arising from an unreserved confidence placed in some of the characters whose names sanctioned this scheme of power, did not discourage me: I foresaw that this blind admiration would soon be succeeded by rational investigation, which, stripping the monster of its gilded covering, would discover its native deformity.
Already the enlightened pen of patriotism, aided by an able public discussion, has dispelled the mist of deception, and the great body of the people are awakened to a due sense of their danger, and are determined to assert their liberty, if necessary by the sword, but this mean need not be recurred to, for who are their enemies? A junto composed of the lordly and high minded gentry, of the profligate and the needy office-hunters; of men principally who in the late war skulked from the common danger. Would such characters dare to face the majesty of a free people? No.–All the conflict would be between the offended justice and generosity of the people, whether these sacrilegious invaders of their dearest rights should suffer the merited punishment, or escape with an infamous contempt?
However, as additional powers are necessary to Congress, the people will no doubt see the expediency of calling a convention for this purpose as soon as may be, by applying to their representatives in assembly, at their next session, to appoint a suitable day for the election of such Convention.