March 08, 1788
My Fellow Citizens, Every day opens a new scene of the baseness of the conspirators, their intentions of screening themselves from rendering an account of the public money so fraudulently detained, will rank them among the meanest traitors, that ever dishonoured the human character. How must their consciences condemn them, when avarice and lust of dominion are suffered for a moment to subside, and reason and reflection take their place? Let these men but cooly consider the misery that must inevitably befal millions of their countrymen, in consequence of their treachery in framing this system of fraud and oppression; and remorse and deep anguish of soul must await them! Humanity brings a tear of sympathetic pity from the eye of their fellow men, whose ruin they had secretly projected. As our holy religion expressly enjoins it as a duty, not to return evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good; consequently our resentment against these ungrateful men should be moderated by christian charity: Yet as freemen and citizens, determined to hand down to posterity sacred liberty unimpaired, we are solemnly bound, at the hazard of our fortunes and lives, to oppose this base attempt of theirs to enslave our country.
If on the broad basis of equity and justice, crimes and punishments have their proper proportion: What punishment then, on the scale of moderation, could counterpoise, or atone, for a crime so aggravated as that charged to the majority of the members of the late federal convention? I assert roundly, that another assembly of men never met in this, or any other country, possessing so fully the confidence of so many freemen: and to their shame be it said, they abused this confidence; their own private interest, private emolument, and hopes of dominion, overcame every consideration of duty, honor, and gratitude.
The citizens of Pennsylvania have nobly shown their love for liberty, and attachment to the true interests of the union, by their generous exertions in favor of public credit. They have rigidly fulfilled their engagements in regard to the general debt; the requisitions of Congress have been strictly attended to, and fully answered. Add to this, that we have sunk a considerable part of the domestic debt, and in fact assumed a larger portion of it than in justice belonged to us. These spirited exertions, while they contributed to the general welfare of the union, and raised the reputation of the state, did not fail however to distress our farmers and every other class and description of citizens, very sensibly indeed.
But what is the result of their unshaken loyalty to the cause of liberty, and the honor of their country? What recompence will the honest and industrious Pennsylvanians receive for their patriotism, if the new government be established? Such a return as perhaps history does not afford a single instance similar to. So base a violation of public justice and plighted faith, is certainly a novelty in politics, and begins a new epoch in history.
Pennsylvania, instead of receiving credit for the immense sums she has paid into the general treasury, will be placed on a footing with the most delinquent state in the union; and which is highly probable she and all the
other states will be taxed hereafter in an exact ratio of the sums they have hitherto raised. Consequently our former acts of generosity, in support of public faith, is to terminate in a two-fold loss to our citizens. In the first place we have nearly ruined ourselves already, through our punctuality in paying our quota of the public debt; and secondly, to complete the scene, our future quotas of continental revenue will be apportioned to the exertions we have heretofore made: That is in plain terms, Pennsylvania will be much worse under this cruel system of tyranny in consequence of her fidelity and honor, than she would have been had she never attempted to pay a shilling of public debt; or if she be not worse, the uniformity of internal taxation through the union, which is expressly stipulated by the constitution, necessarily places her citizens on a parallel with those of that state which has not paid a shilling of public debt since the peace.
The people of the delinquent states might inconsiderately be induced to triumph in the new system of government; for they may conclude, now our public debts are paid as far forward as those of any other state, but attentive consideration will soon convince them of their mistake. Although the new constitution advances them as high in the public scale as if they had strictly and honorably made good the requisitions of the old Congress; yet the unbounded powers of the new Congress in respect to internal taxation, must eventually fleece them of their all; and from their inability heretofore to pay their just quotas as levied by Congress, we may rationally conclude, that, even the states of Pennsylvania and New-York, which are in advance at present, will still be above them, supposing the extra payments of these two states not to be carried to the credit of their account, which they certainly will not, on the principles of this constitution.
The truth of this matter is simply this; the taxes will hereafter be uniform in all the states, and as oppressive as tyranny can make them. In every state the face of the poor must be ground to dust; and where any appearance of prosperity or wealth is observed, an additional tax will be devised; for so complicated and uncontrouled a government, will find ways and means to apply all the revenue that America can raise; indeed the whole produce of the lands cultivated by three millions and an half of people, could not satiate the desires of such a government. If the lesser, or rather weaker states would moderate their precipitancy, in urging forward the constitution, by reason and the certainty of misery that stares them in the face, I imagine they would find their advantage in the measure. Lenity in the old Congress has in some degree screened them; and besides their fellow citizens in the other states befriend them; but the high hand of power, so completely vested in the new Congress, will exact the uttermost farthing, both from the states and individuals: No excuse will satisfy the demands of a cruel excise-man; we must instantly pay the federal tax, or have our property seized, and ourselves dragged to prison by a federal soldier.
That this government, should it be ratified by nine states, will not possess the confidence of the majority of the people, is a truth incontrovertible. I admit, that through fraud and surprise, many have inconsiderately joined themselves to its deceptive standard; but their number is diminishing rapidly; and I sincerely believe, that in a few months the office-hunters, the well born, and their sycophants, will be left alone: The farmer, the mechanic, and even the merchant, would be ruined if it took effect; their interest is to oppose it, and to endeavor to have another convention called immediately.
Who is so dimsighted as to suppose that a constitution so essentially differing from the principles of the revolution, and from freedom, and opposed by so respectable a body of freemen, could be established in America; or if it were possible by force or surprise to put it in motion, could it exist any space of time? Nay, the idea is futile, and common sense spurns at it. While it would exist, it must be by the power of a standing army alone; but its warmest advocates know, that all their credit, and influence could not support a standing army, equal to the business, six months.
It is admitted, that in Great Britain they are scarce ever without violent factions and parties, and yet no injury is apprehended to the country on that account, but generally much good: But let us attend to this matter seriously, and we must see clearly that factions and parties in America in respect to the present important object, would eventually ruin this country. The parties, factions, and cabals, so frequent in Britain, are not from a dislike to the fundamentals of their constitution, but on account of maladministration: All parties glory in the constitution, and disagree only, when it is infringed, or violated.
To infer then, from the example of Britain, that the opposition to the new government would not terminate in our ruin, if it were adopted by a majority in nine states, would be a dangerous mistake; for there is no analogy between the premises, the conclusions are therefore different. The opposition in America is against the fundamentals of the constitution itself; but this is not so in England. No constitution that is not popular can possibly be established in America; or if for a short time it were established, we would have nothing but anarchy and civil war, while it was in existence.
Let us not be deceived by delusive tales, that it shall be amended after the meeting of the first Congress; since it is admitted almost universally that it wants amendments; now is the time to have them done, while we are at peace abroad, and among ourselves. A fragment of liberty cannot remain, if we once set it in motion in its imperfect state. How can we suppose, that the president general, being once in full possession of his unlimited powers, would deliver them back again to the people; the supposition is preposterous; he must be more than man if he would; a more dangerous king is not in the world than he will be; liberty will be lost in
America the day on which he is proclaimed, and must be recovered by the sword, if ever we are to enjoy it again.