Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution 1787-1788: Chapter II
Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787-1788
Edited by John Bach McMaster and Frederick D. Stone
CHAPTER II. THE CONVENTION CALLED
On Friday, September 28th, after the House of Assembly had attended to some minor business, Mr. George Clymer rose and said: 1 The House cannot, Sir, have forgotten a business of the highest magnitude, which was recommended to their attention by the federal convention, and I am persuaded they will readily concur in taking the necessary measures for calling a convention of the citizens of Pennsylvania, to deliberate upon that plan of government which has been presented to this house; for which reason I shall submit the following resolutions: 2
WHEREAS the convention of deputies from the several States composing the Union lately held in this city, have published a constitution for the future government of the United States, to be submitted to conventions of deputies chosen in each State by the people thereof, under recommendation of its Legislature, for their assent and ratification.
And whereas it is the sense of great numbers of the good people of this State, already signified in petitions and declarations to this House, that the earliest step should be taken to assemble a convention within the State, for the purpose of deliberating and determining on the said constitution.
Resolved, That it be recommended to such inhabitants of the State as are entitled to vote for representatives to the General Assembly, that they choose suitable persons to serve as Deputies in a State convention, for the purpose herein before mentioned; that is, for the city of Philadelphia and the counties respectively, the same number of Deputies that each is entitled to of representatives in the General Assembly. That the election for Deputies as aforesaid be held at the several places in the said city and counties, as are fixed by law for holding the elections of representatives to the General Assembly, and that they he conducted under the same officers, and according to the regulations prescribed by law for holding the elections for said Representatives, and at the times herein mentioned, viz. For the city of Philadelphia, the counties of Philadelphia, Chester, Burks, Lancaster, Perks, Montgomery, Northampton, Northumberland, Dauphin, Luzerne, York, Cumberland and Franklin on the day of the general election of Representatives to the General Assembly. For the counties of Bedford, Huntingdon, Westmoreland, Fayette and Washington, on the day of October. That the persons so elected to serve in Convention shall assemble on the last day of November,. at the State House in the city of Philadelphia. That the proposition submitted to this House by the Deputies of Pennsylvania in the General Convention of the States, of ceding to the United States a district of country within this State, for the seat of the General Government, and for the exclusive legislation of Congress, be particularly recommended to the consideration of the Convention.
That it be recommended to the succeeding House of Assembly, to provide for the payment of any extraordinary expenses which may be incurred by holding the said election of Deputies.
These resolutions being seconded by Mr. Wynkoop, they were by agreement stated as distinct propositions, and on the question will the House agree to the following:
Resolved, That it be recommended to such of the inhabitants of the State as are entitled to vote for representatives to the General Assembly, that they choose suitable persons to serve as deputies in a State Convention, for the purpose hereinbefore mentioned; that is, for the city of Philadelphia and the counties respectively, the same number of deputies that each state is entitled to of representatives in the General Assembly.
Resolved, That the elections for Deputies as aforesaid be held at the several places in the said city and counties, as are fixed by law for holding the elections of representatives to the General Assembly, and that the same be conducted by the officers who conduct the said elections of representatives, and agreeably to the rules and regulations thereof.
Mr. Whitehill answered No. He then rose and said: The House, Sir, ought to have time to consider on this subject before they determine; for which reason I move to postpone the consideration until we meet again, and that may be this afternoon, as the session is drawing so near to a close.
Mr. Fitzsimons. I will submit it to the House whether it is proper to delay this business for the reason assigned by the member from Cumberland. 3 If the gentlemen are not prepared to say what time the election for delegates shall be held, at least the general principle, or that such convention is proper, must be well enough understood to warrant an immediate determination. It will be observed that the ordinary business of the state is pretty well gone through, and the House likely to dissolve tomorrow. But the subject brought forward by my worthy colleague is a business of the highest consequence, and the House must see how eligible it will be to give it the sanction of the Legislature. The only object of consideration is, whether the election shall be held with that propriety which may perhaps be best effected by the representatives pointing out the mode for the conduct of the people. We are not, I conceive, to consider whether calling a convention is proper or improper, because that I look upon as a measure inevitable, even should not the Assembly consentbut it will be well for us to appoint the mode by which such choice shall be conducted. These are distinct propositions, and on the first every gentleman must have determined, but on the other every member will have an opportunity of offering his reasons, when it comes before us in the next resolution. Perhaps, Sir, it may be necessary to alter the times, from what is there mentioned, to more distant periods; of this the gentlemen from the several counties will be better able to judge than I can pretend to, and I am sure I shall give no opposition to every reasonable extension of the time. I hope it will not be thought necessary that anything should be said in commendation of the new constitution prepared for the government of the United States. This, Sir, is not the object of our discussion or deliberation, and was it, I think, Sir, my abilities could not enable me to do justice to the subject; but the feelings of every member will more forcibly convince his judgment than all the argument which could be offered. From the number of petitions on your table, it may be clearly inferred that it is the wish and expectation of the people that this House should adopt speedy measures for calling a con-vention: I do not, therefore, see a necessity for saying much on a subject so well felt and understood within and without, but cheerfully submit it to the members to say whether they will proceed now or in the afternoon.
Mr. D. Clymer. The worthy gentleman 4 from the city has submitted the subject to the feelings of the House, and I agree with him argument will not more clearly show the advantage that must result from the adoption of the federal constitution, than what suggests to the mind of every person within these walls; nor have I a doubt, Sir, but every member will do justice to those feelings, and cheerfully assent to calling a convention for their own as well as for the future happiness and welfare of the citizens of Pennsylvania. The gentleman observes it is the general wish of the people that we should go forward in the measure. Here, Sir, I firmly believe him, for I think it has but few opposers, very few indeed. I have heard, Sir, that only four or five leading party-men in this city are against it, whose names I should be glad to know, that their characters might be examined; for I am confident they will be hereafter ashamed to show their faces among the good people whose future prosperity they wish to blast in the bud. The reason of their opposition, though not positively known, can be well conjectured; and let them be careful, lest they draw upon themselves the odium of that people who have long indulged their rioting upon public favor. But, Sir, the adoption of this measure is a matter of so much consequence to America that I am satisfied it will meet the hearty concurrence of this House.
Mr. Findley. Whatever gentlemen say with respect to the importance of this subject, is argument to prove that we should go into it with deliberation. And if it is of so much importance, and so well understood out of doors, the House then certainly ought not to be surprised into it. The gentleman from Berks has spoken warmly against opposing the present measure in a manner as if intended to prevent men from speaking their minds. He has charged some leading characters in this city with giving opposition; if he means me as one of them (Mr. D. Clymer interrupted him, addressing the Speaker with No, Sir, upon my honor, I did not mean him.) Well then, I don’t consider that part of his speech as not addressed to the House, but merely to the gallery. But, Sir, I consider what has been said of the wishes of the people as applying to the plan of government, and not to the present question. If I understand it right, we are not at present to judge of the merits of the plan, but on the proper and adequate measure of conducting the people into it. Of the plan I believe there can be no doubt of its being wisely calculated for the purposes intended; but nothing is perfect, and this may be as well as could be expected, and I consider it as very deserving the commendation it received. But this can be no reason for hurrying on the measure with such precipitancy; if it is of the importance it is said to be, surely the House will not refuse to postpone for the present, in order that there may be time to make it as agreeable as possible.
Mr. D. Clymer. I said, Sir, the matter was well understood, if we might judge from the sentiments of the people, and there was but little opposition, and that from a few men, who will be ashamed hereafter to come forward and avow their secret machinations; so, Sir, I say stillnor can any gentleman aver to the contrary. With respect to the postponement of the business till the afternoon, I will ask where is the necessity? Every member must be confident, that with or without his consent, the measure will be adopted; for it is too generally agreeable, and too highly recommended, to be assassinated by the hand of intrigue and cabal. And if it must be adopted, why can it not be done as well this morning as in the afternoon? Or do some gentlemen want an opportunity of consulting with their associates, bow far it is agreeable? If there are objections to the time of holding elections, it may be altered. I think sufficient time is not allowed to the county which I am honored by representing; many others may be in the same predicament, but this can be accommodatedyet the general principle is so clear that nothing is left for consideration or discussion.
Mr. Wynkoop. I suppose, Sir, there is not a member in this House but what has pretty fully considered the present business. This I am led to believe from its importance, and the length of time which has elapsed since it was communicated to the House. Now if every member has made up his mind, what reason can there be for further consideration? And if the members do not declare they have not yet made up their minds on the propriety of calling a convention, I shall vote for going on with the business.
Mr. Whitehill. It is very well known, that this business is a matter of great importance, and deserves the serious attention of the HouseBut however well the people may be said to be acquainted with the design and intention, yet I don’t know how far that may be the case. This, Sir, is a very large and extensive State, and I may venture to say, that so far from being the general voice of the people, that not one in twenty know any thing about it. I believe a great many people in and about the city, have signed petitions in favor of itbut that is but a small part of the whole State.
But to waive the question on the propriety of the measure, it will appear clear, Sir, when we come to consider whether it should be held in so many distant counties on the day of the general election, that it cannot be done; and the members ought to have an opportunity of asking or consulting themselves on that, which would be more proper.
The gentlemen that have brought forward this motion, must have some design, as they cannot digest the postponement, or why not leave the members at liberty to consult, or acquire further information? If this is a concerted plan, and it must go through as it stands, we cannot help it; but if it is to be made agreeable to what may be right, on due consideration, why not allow time to consider of it? I believe if time is allowed, we shall be able to show that this is not the proper time for calling a convention; and I don’t know any reason there can be for driving it down our throats, without an hour’s preparation. It appears to me to be a plan not fit for discussion, or why refuse to allow it to be postponed? I hope, when the House comes to consider how it has been introduced, they will allow us the time we desire.
Mr. D. Clymer. The gentleman has misunderstood me, for I did not speak of the State at large, when I said the people understood it, and were in favor of it; though I have not the smallest doubt but it will receive their warmest approbation, when they hear of it.
Mr. Fitzsimons. I did wish, and still hope, the House will pretty unanimously agree to the resolutions which are before us. When we took the business up, I flattered myself the decision would not be delayed, because every member had time enough to consider this subject, since it was first introduced to our attention; but if it is the opinion of any considerable number of gentlemen, that it should lay over till the afternoon, I will not press it; I am sure the arguments made use of by the member from Cumberland,5 offer no sufficient inducement for a delay. The plan of the new confederation has laid upon your table near a fortnight, and it can be nothing more or less than a confession of inattention, not to say neglect of duty, for gentlemen to plead they have not considered it; for surely the subject was so important, that they must have turned it in their minds, and know what is proper to decide on this occasion. The House is also so near its dissolution, that if the measure is to be effected, very little time remains for it; though as I observed before, I do not think it lies with the House to determine, whether a convention shall be called or no. This I think, Sir, forms no part of our deliberations. But it is my wish, that the legislature should take the lead, and guide the people into a decent exercise of their prerogative; and surely, Sir, it cannot be a matter of such high consideration, as to require much time in determining the day, on which elections should be held for nominating persons to form a State convention-And, I conceive, this is the single point which we have to consider; for I repeat again, that I do not think it is in our power, nay, I am sure it is not in our power, to prevent the people from adopting what may be a lasting benefit to themselves, and a certain treasure to posterity. But I think that taking the lead in this business, will be an honor not only to this legislature, but to the State also. It is not only honorable but convenient and advantageous; and I submit it to the majority of this House to conclude, whether we shall, by proceeding, obtain for ourselves and constituents these advantages, which even our neglect cannot prevent.
Mr. G. Clymer. The resolutions, Mr. Speaker, which I presented to you, contain separate and distinct propositions. Directing the elections to be held at a short day, goes upon the supposition that there is time to communicate the necessary informationif this is not well founded, of consequence it must be altered; but I hope no kind of hesitation can be made, as to the propriety of adopting the first, which goes on the principle, that such a convention is necessary for the better union and happiness of the several States of America. To hesitate upon this proposition will give a very unfavorable aspect to a measure, on which our future happiness, nay, I may almost say, our future existence, as a nation, depends. If the time, Sir, is not agreeable for holding elections, as mentioned in the second resolution, it cannot operate to pre-vent our entering upon the first: I therefore hope, gentlemen will withdraw their opposition, and let a degree of unanimity prevail, which may be an inducement to others steadily to co-operate in perfecting a work, that bids fair to relieve our embarassments, and carry us to a height of prosperity we have hitherto been strangers to.
Mr. Brackenridge. Before the division of the propositions, 1 had made up my mind to be in favor of the postponement; but it now appears clear to me, that we may decide upon the general principle, to wit, shall a convention of the people be called? With respect to this point, every member must have made up his mind fully, because it is a measure, that from the first was apparent, and must have occupied the attention of every individual who had but seen the plan. This, as was remarked before, has been on your table many days, and from its magnitude and importance must have been a subject of reflection to the members, who wished to perform the duty they owed to their God, their conscience, and fellow-citizens so that voting now on a subject already understood, cannot be difficult, and in my opinion, we are as well prepared to determine upon the principle, as we shall be after dinner.
Mr. Whitehill. The gentleman from Westmoreland,6 as well as the others who have spoken in favor of the resolutions, seemed generally of opinion, that they ought to be adopted without farther consideration, concluding that every member is prepared to determine on the propriety thereof. But this, Sir, is not the case; for I own, that I have not prepared myself to take up this business, because I did not expect any notice would be taken of it; for Congress ought to send forward the plan, before we do anything at all in this matter. For of what use was sending it forward to them, unless we meant to wait their determinationNow as these measures are not recommended by Congress, why should we take them up? Why should we take up a thing, which does not exist? For this does not exist, that is before usnor can it until it is ratified by Congress. I have no doubt for my part, but Congress will adopt it; but if they should make alterations, and amendments in it, is there any one can say then, what sort of a plan it will be? And as this may happen, I hope the House, when they come to consider seriously, will see the impropriety of going on at present. It will appear, that it is necessary to give time for Congress to deliberate, before they recommend. It does appear that Congress have not recommended it; and the recommendation of Congress ought to be waited for in a matter that concerns the liberties and rights of the people of the United States. I say this recommendation is not come forward to the House, nor we don’t know when (if ever,) it will. We do not know that Congress may be able to go thro’ with it this long time yet, and why are we to determine on it, before we know whether they will allow of such change of the confederation? We do not know that Congress are even sitting, or whether they will be in session. And before we proceed to measures of this importance, do let us know what we are going on, and let us not sport away the rights and liberties of the people altogether. I say, is it not better to go safely on the business, and let it lie over till the next House; when we have adjourned, let our constituents think of it, and instruct their representatives to consider of the plan proper to be pursued. Will not the next House be as able to determine as we are? And I would wish the members to consider, that it never was supposed at our election, that we had the power to determine on such a measure. When we come to consider, it does appear to me better to leave it over to the next House, and they will be better able, and better instructed, what to do in this case. And what is the consequence the gentlemen propose by this hurry? That the State of Pennsylvania shall have the honor of taking the lead. This may be preserved, Sir, as well by letting it lie over; for, can the other states go into it before us? Can the State of Georgia receive it as soon, and send it forward for ratification, as we can? No, to he sure they cannottherefore this hurry does appear too great in my opinion; because, if it is delayed, our determination can still be brought forward sooner than that of any other state. If there are any objections of moment against calling the convention at present, let us be prepared to make them; we may do that better, perhaps, by deferring only till the afternoonfor tho’ gentlemen say they have had time, and have made up their minds, yet that has not been my case, and I don’t see why the business should be hurried upon us at this rate. I hope when gentlemen consider, they will agree to postpone for the present.
Mr. Brackenridge. I conceive, Sir, that the member has wandered from the point, whenever he went into remarks upon the new constitution; but I did not interrupt, nor do I mean now to reply to those observations, because I would not follow him in a subject which is not before the Housebut if it should be necessary to speak on the general principles, I trust that he would be fully answered. At present, Sir, I understand the question to be, whether sufficient time has not elapsed to give every member, who respects his duty, sufficient opportunity to have made up his mind on the propriety of calling a convention of the people; if this is the case, the House will not surely postpone.
Mr. D. Clymer. The member from Cumberland 7 seems to think it highly improper, that we should proceed in this business until Congress shall recommend it to our attention, and have given it the stamp of their approbation, but this, Sir, is extremely fallacious. For if Congress are to determine the point, where was the necessity for the federal convention to recommend calling state conventions? Or pray, Sir, were the delegates to that important undertaking ordered even to report to Congress? No, Sir, they were notbut I take it that their reason for having done so, was, that as they meant to report to the people of the United States at large, they thought Congress would be a proper channel to convey it to every part, from New Hampshire to Georgia, and I think the mode of conveyance very proper; but I never entertained an idea that it was submitted to their cognizance, as the gentleman says, for alteration or amendment. He supposes, too, that the convention of the state may adopt some part of the frame of government, and refuse the other. But not so, Sir: they trust adopt in toto, or refuse altogether: for it must be a plan that is formed by the United States; which can be agreeable to all, and not one formed upon the narrow policy and convenience of any one particular state. Such, Sir, is the constitution lately presented to you, framed by the collective wisdom of a continent, centered in a venerable band of patriots, worthies, heroes, legislators and philosophersthe admiration of a world. This, Sir, is a subject the member from the city did well to submit to your feelings. Vain is every attempt to do justice to its merits. No longer shall thirty thousand people engage all our attentionall our efforts to procure happiness. No!the extended embrace of fraternal love shall enclose three millions, and ere fifty years are elapsed thirty millions, as a band of brothers! And will the State of Pennsylvaniawill a few of her inhabitants, I should sayattempt to defeat this long-expected and wished for moment, by entering into a discussion of the minutiae-how her interest is preserved? Why, Sir, to form a happy union, the weakest eye must perceive the necessity of mutual concessionsmutual sacrifices. Had the late convention not been composed of gentlemen of liberal sentiments, patriotism, and integrity, it might never have been perfected. Had each been studious of accommodating the constitution to the circumstances and wishes of the state they represented, nothing could have been effected. Do we not hear, that disposed as they were to make a sacrifice of the local interests to the general welfare, that five weeks elapsed before they could determine the proportion of representation? If these gentlemen met with such difficulties, who possessed the information and knowledge of the continent, can it be supposed the United States would submit to the amendments and alterations to be made by a few inhabitants of Pennsylvania? Could it be expected that Virginia (the Dominion of Virginia, as some people in derision call itthough I say it is a land of liberty, a land of patriots, and the nurse of science)I say will you expect, Sir, that Virginia and the southern states shall coincide with alterations made only for the benefit of Pennsylvania? No!away with such ideas, and let that unanimity prevail at its adoption that it did at its formation. It is improper for gentlemen to say, we ought not to enter on this business until it is ratified by Congress. This, Sir, is not the caseand let me, as setting my argument on a foundation of solidity, call your attention to the recommendation made by the united sense and wisdom of our continent to this legislature. Remember how strong the language of the venerable Franklin, when lie addressed you to enforce this recommendation. Remember the advantage and prosperity held out to Pennsylvania, for her early and cheerful concurrence in a measure, whose perfections are so clearly seen as to make hesitation criminal. Will all the art of sophistry prove an inferiority to the present confederation, which, upon trial, is found to be loose and ineffectual? Shall we, by chicane and artful procrastination, defeat the measure so loudly demanded by every circumstance of happiness or preservation? Better would it be, Mr. Speaker, to join in the glorious sentiment of that gallant officer, who having quitted his station, and gained a signal victory over his enemy, and when called to account for his breach of orders, answered, “That man holds his life too dear, who would not sacrifice it for his country’s safety.”
If it is the interest of a few individuals to keep up the weak and shattered government, which brings on us the contempt of every surrounding tribe, and the reproach and obloquy of every nation, let them exert their opposition; but it will be all in vain, for should even this House refuse, I think it the duty of the people, as they value their present and future welfare, to come forward, and do that justice to themselves, which others would deny them.
As this subject is now before us, let us not hesitate, but eagerly embrace the glorious opportunity of being foremost in its adoption. Let us not hesitate, because it is damping the ardor with which it should be pursued. Sir, it is throwing cold water on the flame that warms the breast of every friend of liberty, and every patriot who wishes this country to acquire that respect to which she is justly entitled.
As we have taken up this matter, let us go through; for our determination may have weight with our sister states, and they will follow, where we take the lead, the honor of agreeing first to a measure, that must entitle to posterity security for their propertyno longer subject to the fluctuation of faithless paper money and party laws-security to their liberty, and security to their personal safety. These are blessings which will engage the gratitude of posterity to venerate your ashes. Excuse me, Sir, for being warm; it is a matter I have much at heart, and a subject which I almost adore; and let the consequences to me be what they may, I must give it my support; for it has my most hearty concurrence, and to every part and particle I do pronounce a willing and a grateful Amen.
I am against the postponement of the question as to the principle; but as to that part of the resolution relating to the time, I shall move for an alteration, as my colleagues and myself think the period too short.
Mr. Fitzsimons. I was inclined to delay the business until the afternoon; but from all that has been said, I believe it must be the opinion of the House that it will be proper to decide upon the first resolution before we adjourn. As to the constitution itself, I believe the proper place for discussing that will be in the convention, so that nothing need be added on that head. If the time mentioned for the elections is supposed improper, that may be accommodated to the gentleman’s wishes by amendments.
The question, Will the House agree to the postponement? was put, and only nine rose in favor of it. So it was deter-mined in the negative.
Mr. Brackenridge. You will please to recollect, Sir, that when I was up last I observed that one of the arguments of the member from Cumberland might easily be obviated. As that was an improper time to reply to him, I declined doing it; but I mean now to enter on this subject, as I consider it fully before us.
Mr. Whitehill interrupted him with saying he had said nothing against the principles of the proposed plan, but that we were not ready to take it up.
Mr. Brackenridge. The gentleman must suppose me a fool to think I was going into a defence of the principles of the new form of government. No, Sir, that I take to be seated above either the reach of his arguments or information.
It is wholly upon another point I mean to remark. He has said, if I could select what he said, that we ought not to take up the present question nor adopt the resolution until we heard from Congress; and his argument was that this should be left to a future House to complete. Now this I mean to answer, and hope to show perfectly that neither premise or conclusion is well founded. There is also another question which seems to lie at the bottom of his argument, namely, that it is necessary at the same time for the state to wait until an improvement of the congressional government is recommended by Congress. This, Sir, I conceive would be a question lying at the bottom of the subject, which occupies our present consideration. But I have not been able to discover any principle on which an idea of this nature can be founded. What particular right have Congress to recommend an improvement of the federal government? They may recommend, but I should suppose it comes under no part of the authority delegated to them; and therefore that it was going wholly out of the province assigned to them. I should suppose it indelicate for the superior power to solicit more. We know they are invested with the power of recommending by the confederation; but who would recommend from that body, that it should be gratified with more extensive power? I should, I say, presume it must come from them, not with the highest degree of delicacy. In the next place, taking it for granted that it should come entirely from them, what is the foundation or what must he the foundation of a recommendation of that nature? Is it because they have become sensible, that the present powers are not sufficient to conduct the affairs of the United States, and that a more vigorous and energetic government became necessary? Who ought to be the best judges of this necessity?men in Congress reflecting abstractedly, or the body of the people on this continent, feeling and knowing this necessity? I therefore think it would be advisable to be guided in an alteration rather by this maxim than by the other. If a thing, Sir, ought to be done, it is little matter whether it be from the reflection of Congress or the feeling and sensibility of the people; and I own that I always feel a contempt for those languid and trammeled sentiments which move but like a piece of mechanism. And what are the consequences of taking tip the subject without waiting the result of Congressional deliberation? We lead the way, and do great honor to ourselves in marking the road to obtain the sense of the people on a subject that is of the greatest moment to them and to their posterity. How did this business first originate? Did Virginia wait the recommendation of Congress? Did Pennsylvania, who followed her in the appointment of delegates, wait the recommendation of Congress? The assembly of New York, when they found they had not the honor of being foremost in the measure, revived the idea of its being necessary to have it recommended by Congress, as an excuse for their tardiness (being the seat of the federal government)and Congress to humor them complied with their suggestions. How it happened to take effect in the other states I do not positively say; but I am rather inclined to believe it was adopted from the influence of example, rather than from the recommendation of Congress which happened to take place in the interval between the sittings of the legislatures.
But we never heard that it was supposed necessary to wait their recommendations. No such argument was made use of on this floor when the law was passed. The delegates to the convention were appointed without the recommendation of Congress, and they reported the result of their deliberations to this House. What reason then is there for waiting any longer to determine whether it is proper to call a convention to consider of it or not? I don’t see for my part what Congress have to do with it; though doubtless I should not object to waiting a few days to hear their opinion. This has been done even until now, which is so near the close of our session as to make a longer delay improper, therefore waiting their recommendation is no argument for prolonging the consideration of the subject before us. But there are certainly strong reasons why we should call up and determine the question, whether a convention should be called or not? The advantages to the state are that it will be to her honor to take the lead in adopting so wise a plan, and it will be an inducement for other states to follow. We no doubt remember the influence the example of Virginia and Pennsylvania had in getting a general delegation appointed, and that example will no doubt as generally be followed in adopting the result, for it is everywhere fully and sensibly felt that an alteration in the federal government is requisite; and I think there can be little hesitation in agreeing to the resolution for calling a convention. As for the day of election, that is but a secondary consideration, and may be determined when it comes before us. We surely shall unanimously agree to the first resolution at this time, for delay would argue a lukewarmness that must be injurious to the cause. Every person who should hear we had the subject ten days before us, and notwithstanding avoided entering upon it, must conclude we are unfriendly to it; and it will be cause of triumph to our enemies, who wait only to see us refuse that government which alone can save us from their machinations.
As it is fully in our power to appoint the mode and manner of calling the convention, I hope gentlemen will turn their thoughts, and say what is the proper time; for if it is delayed until the next House, it will be some time far advanced into another year, before a convention can sit to ratify the plan of our future government; by which means the force of example would be for delay, and a measure so extremely necessary would be left exposed or perhaps neglected, unless the ardor of our citizens should induce them to do what our timidity would decline. The influence which this state may acquire by decision will be lost, and many of the advantages lessened by an unnecessary delay.
Mr. Findley. I do not intend to reply to the arguments used in favor of the present measure, but only examine the ground on which we stand. When the question was on postponement, I did not think it right that gentlemen should have introduced the observations which they did, nor that the manner of speaking which some used was proper. It was only addressed to the passions, and in my reply I do not mean to justify such language by using what may be similar. No, Sir, I intend to address the judgment, and not the passions of any man. I have no doubt but a convention might be called, and will be called. That it ought to be called, and will be called, is seen so clearly, that I shall add nothing to enforce it; therefore I take it that the propriety of calling a convention is not the question before us. After declaring my sentiments so far, I shall proceed, Sir, now to examine the ground on which we stand: I believe we stand on federal ground; therefore we are not in a state of nature. If we were in a state of nature, all the arguments produced for hastening this business would apply; but as we are not, I would observe that the most deliberate manner of proceeding is the best manner. But the manner in which this subject has been introduced is an indeliberate manner, and seems to argue that we are not on federal ground. The design of carrying this through, I say, Sir, is a presumption that we are in a state of nature. If that is the case, then it can only be proper to use this expedition. What I mean, Sir, by a state of nature is with respect to the confederation or union of the states, and not any wise alluding to our particular state government. Now my opinion is, Sir, that we are on federal ground: that the federal convention was a federal convention; that it had the powers of a federal convention, and that they were limited to act federally; that they have acted agreeably to the limitation, and have acted federally. I know by some of the arguments which have been used that some gentlemen suppose otherwise. Well then, Sir, we will have recourse to the confederation itself, and then to the law which appointed delegates to the convention, and let them decide whether we are on federal ground or not.
The sixth article of the confederation says: “No two or more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation, or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.” It may be said this don’t apply. Well, let us examine what it says further in the thirteenth article: “The articles of confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every state.” Now, did we act in conformity with these articles by passing the law appointing delegates to the convention, or did we not? I say we did. I know the contrary has been said, but let us have recourse to our own act. I don’t mean, as I said before, to reply particularly to any arguments, but to establish the point that we have all along acted upon federal principles, and that we ought to continue federal, and I have no doubt but we shall. But what says the preamble of the law? Hear our own words, Sir: “Whereas, the general assembly of this commonwealth, taking into their serious consideration the representations heretofore made to the legislatures of the several states in the union, by the United States in Congress assembled,” etc. It has been mentioned that we took it up in consequence of Virginia’s having engaged in the measure; and as the reasons are only mentioned in the preamble, they may not deserve much attention, but the second section of the law decides this point. The words are, after enumerating the persons, that they are hereby constituted and appointed deputies from this state, with powers to meet such deputies as may be appointed and authorized by the other states to assemble in the said convention at the city aforesaid, and to join with them in devising, deliberating on, and discussing all such alterations and further provisions as may be necessary to render the federal constitution fully adequate to the exigencies of the Union; and in reporting such act or acts for that purpose to the United States in Congress assembled, as, when agreed to by them and duly confirmed by the several states, will effectually provide for the same.
Now I consider it as a question of importance, whether we are to take up the new constitution, as being in a state of nature, or, acting on federal ground, whether we stand uncon-nected or subordinate to the present confederation; if we are bound by that, it obliges us to continue on federal ground. I should conceive that we are still bound by the confederation, and that the conduct of the House has hitherto been federal; that the convention was federal, as appears by their appointment and their report to Congress. Did they, Sir, address their report to this House? No, Sir, they did not. It is true, Sir, we were honored with a report from our own delegates. No, Sir, I retract the word-the delegates were honored; they did themselves the honor of communicating the result of their deliberations. But did the convention address this House? No, Sir, they did not. They addressed Congress, as they were ordered to do. Hitherto the business has been in a federal channel, and this, Sir, is the first step that places us upon unfederal ground. The report is before Congress, and it is to be presumed Congress will agree to it; but has such a length of time elapsed, as to induce us to suspect they will not concur, or to justify our going into it without their recommendation? We may act, Sir, without due deliberation, and hurry on without consideration, but Congress will not. I know the propriety of waiting to hear from them must have weight with every member, and I ask every gentleman in this House, will they take upon themselves to doubt of the acquiescence of Congress, in order to furnish an argument for dispatch ? If any will, let him say so, and take the consequences upon his character. No doubt can be entertained, but Congress will recommend, as the acquisition of power is a desirable object with them. Their disposition must be to promote the present plan, but they must wish to preserve the appearance of decency on such a subject. I ask, can any gentleman suppose but what Congress will come readily into it? They who have been many years recommending and requiring, nay, I may say, begging for such powers as are now proposed to be given them, cannot change their disposition, and decline receiving an increase. Well, what does all this tend to prove? have we not all along been a federal State, remarkably so? And shall we be the first to step out of our way wantonly, and without any reason? Certainly we will not.
However, I suppose some gentleman will say, it is necessary for Pennsylvania to show a ready compliance on the present occasionthat it is absolutely necessary to supersede the existing confederation. Why, Sir, we know that nothing, no argument, no opposition, can withstand the plea of necessity. Well, but the absolute necessity must arise from the dangers we are in. Now where are any dangers to be avoided, while Congress are going only through their usual forms to recommend this measure? They must have time to read and consider the plan; it must go through the usual course of business. Circular letters must be prepared and sent with authenticated copies of the new form of government. I am of opinion all this will be done with proper speed, and the communications will be made as soon as possible. Why send the plan to Congress at all, if we must act upon it without their approbation? If the present confederation is not adequate to the great national purposes, it is fair to put it in competition with the proposed one. We know it was framed by good and wise men, and so was this. Wise and great men were employed in framing both. Nay, some of the same men prepared thembut as time and experience have shown a revision to be necessary, has it not been entered into on federal ground? And will the State of Pennsylvania quit this to answer the concealed purposes of those who urge on the present measure? No, I hope not,but they will agree to leave it to another House, by which time the usual formalities may be given it by the United States. Surely Pennsylvania can take it up early enough to prevent any damage that is feared. In doing so we act federally. What are held out as inducements to act with such precipitation ? As some members say the honor of being foremost; but I would rather say the dishonor of acting unfederally; and will any federal purposes be answered by a breach of the confederation, which can counterbalance the disgrace of being the first to dissolve the union? And, Sir, it is not convenient that one State should enter into this measure any length of time before the others. This is one reason of waiting the recommendation of Congressfor then the new constitution comes officially and all are prepared to go hand in hand in perfecting the workbut will a name justify us for a breach of faith tinnecessarily? and no necessity is alleged to justify the measure. Sir, in acting the part I do in supporting federal measures, I am justified by every citizen who will think with deliberation on a subject of this importance. I have supposed the gentlemen who support the resolutions before you, have some object in view which is not understood. I have a right for such suspicion, or why was it delayed to the last but one day of the sessions? We do not treat this subject which is allowed to be of importance with any respect; we treat it rather as a matter of no importance when we hurry it on in this manner. Why, Sir, even the trifling business of appointing a prothonotary, or register, is made the order of the day. Certainly then we treat this with indignity.
There must be some reasons for this, but though I cannot see it, I may suppose it, and I would ask the gentlemen whether it is that they may have the merit of promoting a business which appears to be very popular; but will this consist with our federal engagements? I would go further and assign another reason against it, but I may be supposed to touch it with indelicacy. It may be asked, was this House elected with a view of entering into matters of this importance? I say this may be indelicate, as the House have elected delegates to conventionbut then, Sir, I have showed they had that right by the articles of confederation, so that the House so far did their duty. It is true they happened, in their choice of delegates, to choose a number of their own members, but in this they were also justified for one reason: perhaps they thought them better judges of what would be for the benefit of a State they regulated by their legislation. I believe nothing was improper in this; but, I remember, it was lamented that some persons were not chosen better to represent the country interest. And it is these very men who now come forward with the resolutions. They, no doubt, are able to decide; but I think they should indulge others with time for a like considerationtherefore, I hope they will agree to let it lie over to the next House. I don’t think that it will be then too late, and few or none of the other States can be forwarder than ourselves in calling a convention.
Mr. G. Clymer. We now, Mr. Speaker, have heard all the commonplace arguments against adopting the federal constitution; and among this mass of matter, what has the gentleman attempted to establish? I think, Sir, it may be reduced to these two points: first, that the legislature of Pennsylvania is not adequate to calling a convention, though generally desired; and the other is, that the measure of calling a convention, if gone into, is anti-federal, and shows an impropriety in the conduct of the House, in not waiting the result of the deliberations of Congress. Sir, I have as great respect for federal measures, and for Congress, as that gentleman can pretend to. But waiting their report, Sir, I believe will be to attend to forms, and lose the substance. A little calculation will serve to demonstrate this, and show the impropriety of waiting the report of that body. At the same time a due regard to decency has been had by postponing this business to so late an hour. If this House order a convention, it may be deliberated and decided some time in November, and the constitution may be acted under by December. But if it is left over to the next House, it will inevitably be procrastinated until December, 1788. No man, I presume, would he willing that our union and existence should remain so long in jeopardy, or run the risk of a final ruin.
If this business is neglected by the present House, and suffered to pass over to the next, it will undoubtedly have the appearance of our. being unfriendly to the new constitution, or will be owning to the world that we are not willing to decide in its favor. The gentleman supposes wrong, when he says, that the reason for bringing it forward now is, that Congress are not favorable to the measure. It originated on no such apprehension; on the contrary, we know that Congress are favorable, and I have been informed by a gentleman of information, lately from York, that the members of Congress were unanimous in approving it; but that the formality which accompanies their decisions is of such a nature as to require a longer time for making official communications.
The other argument, that it is unfederal to call a convention without the approbation of Congress, is not supported; for he agrees, that should Congress disapprove, there is still a way left of laying it before the people, which amounts to a full proof that Congress is considered only as a vehicle to communicate the information generally to the United States. In this light the gentleman will find the convention addressed them; if he turns over to the resolutions accompanying the constitution, it is there declared as their opinion, that it should be addressed to a convention of delegates, chosen in each State by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature; and when agreed to in such manner by nine States, it shall then be in force. Thus we see there is no power vested in Congress, to prevent the States going into it separately and independently. The idea which he has taken up, may be traced undoubtedly in the original confederation, but he will not find it at all attended to by the convention. Waiting to receive a recommendation of the measure from Congress, must even by that gentleman be esteemed merely as a compliment, which I think, by the delay already made, has been fully complied with; so that I think little remains but that the House patronize the calling a convention by agreeing to the first resolution, and no man, I apprehend, in favor of federal measures, will oppose this; and when the second comes before us, we may determine the time for holding the election.
Mr. Robinson. The argument of the gentleman, who objects to the present measure, is not against the propriety of calling a convention, but only that this is an improper time; and it appears that he supposes farther, that we are not acting consistent with our federal engagements in deciding on this subject before it is recommended by Congress: because, as he says, we quit the federal ground on which we have hitherto trodden, and act as if we were in a state of nature with respect to the confederation existing between the thirteen States. Now, Sir, I must oppose these arguments by asserting, in the first place, that we have not acted hitherto on federal ground; that the appointment made by this House of delegates to convention, was not federal, nor any one step taken by us has been in conformity with the articles of con-federation. And all this I think, Sir, I shall be able to prove to your satisfaction, and to a full refutation of every pretext which the gentleman from Westmoreland has set up to defeat the proposed measure at the present. The gentleman has introduced to your attention the thirteenth article of the confederation, and concludes from it that we are acting unfederally, if we do not wait their decision. Now I mean to prove by this article, that we have not acted hitherto in conformity with it-but that at the very first onset, we entered new ground, and the articles of this confederation (it says) shall be inviolably observed, and the union shall be perpetual, nor shall any alteration, at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States and be afterwards confirmed by the LEGISLATURE OF EVERY STATE.
From this is plainly inferred, that alterations ought to have originated with Congress, and by them been recommended to the several LEGISLATURES. Here is no provision for leaving it to another body of men, to recommend alterations to State Conventionshere is no provision for making an engagement binding, as soon, as entered into by nine States assembled in conventions. No, sir, the constitution proposed is no alteration of any particular article of the confederation, which is the only thing provided for. The federal convention did not think of amending and altering the present confederation, for they saw the impropriety of vesting one body of men with the necessary powers. Hence resulted the necessity of a different organization. America has been taught by dear-bought experience, that she could never hope for security or prosperity under articles of union that were no longer binding than suited the convenience of each particular state, and were slighted or contemned as petulance or caprice dictated. America has seen the confederation totally inadequate to the purposes of an equal general government, incapable of affording security either within or without. Attempts in vain have been made to obtain the assent of all the States, to measures which have at one time or another been agreed by them severally, yet retracted by some when a prospect of success appeared. Hence resulted the necessity of taking up this business on original ground. Hence resulted the necessity of having again recourse to the AUTHORITY OF’ THE PEOPLE. Under this impression, Sir, the CONVENTION originated. Virginia passed a law appointing delegates to join with the delegates of such other States as, influenced by her example, and convinced of the necessity of having a more effective federal government, should concur therein. Virginia, Sir, was not authorized by Congress to make such appointment, nor did Pennsylvania wait for that authority; but this reason, which is inserted in the preamble of the bill, was thought sufficient to justify our conduct, and was the real inducement for passing the law: ” And whereas the legislature of the State of Virginia have already passed an act of that commonwealth, empowering certain commissioners to meet at the city of Philadelphia, in May next, a convention of commissioners, or deputies, from the different States; and the legislature of this State are fully sensible of the important advantages which may be derived to the United States, and every of them, from co-operating with the commonwealth of Virginia, and the other States of the confederation, in the said design.”
Finally, Sir, the recommendation of Congress was obtained for calling the convention; but this was a power not vested in them by any article of the confederation, under which they ought to act. In this, Sir, they departed from that federal conduct, which the member from Westmoreland, by mistake, asserts has hitherto been pursued. Having, Sir, not hither-to proceeded one step on federal ground, is it to be expected that federal ground should now be resumed? But, Sir, if we were to proceed under the most earnest recommendation of Congress, to call a state convention, we proceed contrary to the principle laid down in the 13th article, which declares the alteration must be CONFIRMED BY THE LEGISLATURE: so whether Congress recommend, or do not recommendif a convention is called, (which every gentleman agrees is proper) we act inconsistent with the articles of confederation. For is it any where said, that conventions of the people shall be called to determine such alterations as are submitted by Congress? No, Sir, THE LEGISLATURES are to decide, and moreover, it must be confirmed by all of them before it can have effect. Now is this a circumstance that can be reasonably expected after the disunion and obstinacy which has heretofore taken place? The new constitution declares, when nine States concur, it shall be binding on them; so that whatever way we proceed in, it must be clear we proceed without regard to the confederation.
With respect to the recommendation of Congress, I think it is generally believed they will recommend, but it is only mere formality that could require us to wait iteven was it federal-which it is not. Let us suppose that Congress were to refuse recommending, would it drop to the ground? And suppose we decline calling a convention, will not the people call one themselves? They surely will, and have an undoubted right so to do. And the only question before us is, what advantage will arise from calling that convention now? The people who reside near the seat of government have generally applied to you to direct this affairnow should we treat their application with a silent neglect, it will argue that the general assembly are unfriendly to a more federal and effective government. If it should not carry that idea to the people about us, who may have fuller information, it certainly will to the extremes of the State, and other distant places. It will tend to damp that ardor, which the proposed plan has universally inspired. The State of Pennsylvania is of great weight, her influence would be extended, nor has she ever relaxed her federal exertions; she would become still of greater importance in the union, and her example on the present question may fix the liberty, prosperity and happiness of united America, while sun and moon endureth.
A tardiness will lose us these advantages, and by referring to another House, we may not see it effected until many other States that have formed a better judgment of its importance, shall have acceded and eclipsed our fame.
Mr. Fitzsimons. I think too highly of the good sense of this House, to suppose it necessary to say anything to prove to them, that their agreement to calling a convention is not unfederal, as every member must have fully considered the point before this time; nor I do not think a single gentleman supposes, that it would be unfederalthough the member from Westmoreland has taken some pains to persuade us, that Pennsylvania has been hitherto a federal State, and that we are about to depart from that conduct, and to run before even prosperity itself. I think it greatly to the honor of Pennsylvania, that she deserves the gentleman’s commendation, by having always stood foremost in support of federal measures; and I think it will redound still more to her honor, to enter foremost into this new system of confederation, seeing the old is so dissolved or rotten as to be incapable or answering any good purpose whatsoever. Has the gentleman ever looked at the new constitution? If he has, he will see, it is not an alteration of an article in the old, but that it departs in every principle from the other. It presupposes, Sir, that no confederation exists; or if it does exist, it exists to no purpose: as it can answer no useful purpose, it cannot provide for the common defence, nor promote the general welfare. Therefore, arguments that are intended to reconcile one with the other, or make the latter an appendage to the former, are but a mere waste of words. Does the gentleman suppose that the convention thought themselves acting under any provision made in the confederation for altering its articles? No, Sir, they had no such idea. They were obliged, in the first instance, to begin with the destruction of its greatest principle, equal representation. They found the confederation without vigor, and so decayed that it was impossible to graft a useful article upon it; nor was the mode, Sir, as prescribed by that confederation, which requires alterations to originate with Congress. They found at an early period, that no good purpose could be effected by making such alterations as were provided by the first articles of union. They also saw, that what alterations were necessery could not be ratified by the legislatures, as they were incompetent to ordaining a form of government. They knew this belonged to the people only, and that the people only would be adequate to carry it into effect. What have Congress and the legislatures to do with the proposed constitution? Nothing, Sir,they are but the mere vehicles to convey the information to the people. The convention, Sir, never supposed it was necessary to report to Congress, much less to abide their determination: they thought it decent to make the compliment to them of sending the result of their deliberations-concluding the knowledge of that would be more extensively spread through their means. Not that I would infer there is the least doubt of the most hearty concurrence of that body; but, should they decline, and the State of Pennsylvania neglect calling a convention, as I said before, the authority is with the people, and they will do it themselves; but there is a propriety in the legislatures providing the mode by which it may he conducted in a decent and orderly manner.
The member from Westmoreland agrees, that a convention ought to take place. He goes further and declares, that it must and will take place, but assigns no reason why it should not early take place. He must know that any time after the election will be proper, because at that time, the people being collected together, have full opportunity to learn each other’s sentiments on this subject. Taking measures for calling a convention in a very different thing from deciding on the plan of government. The sentiments of the people, so far as they have been collected, have been unanimously favorable to its adoption, and its early adoption, if their representatives think it a good one. If we set the example now, there is a great prospect of its being generally come into; but if we delay, many ill consequences may arise. And I should suppose, if no better arguments are offered for the delay that what has been advanced by the gentleman on the other side of the House, that we will not agree to it. As to the time of election, that has been all along conceded, and gentlemen will propose such time as they think proper.
Mr. Findley. I wish to make a few observations, Sir, on what has been said by the several gentlemen who support the motion, and to offer some further reasons in favor of delay. One gentleman says, it will be procrastinated, if laid over to the next House, into another yearin that, Sir, l will agree with him, if he means the beginning, but not if the middle or latter end. The same gentleman says, that no one, in favor of federal measures, would oppose it. Now, Sir, I profess myself in favor of federal measures, and I believe the members of the House are generally so; and it is for that very reason that I wish to defer it, in order that we may accomplish in a federal manner. The gentleman further says, that if Congress disapprove of it, there is still a way left of having it adopted: but if Congress should disapprovewill it be contended, that we have acted properly, in agreeing to a measure without consideration. Congress certainly take no more time than is necessary, and they must know how the legislature of Pennsylvania is circumstanced: they know we are near our dissolution, and never can imagine that even if they were to determine on recommending, that we have time to decide on that recommendation.
As to what the gentleman front the county (Mr. Robinson) says of the federal convention’s not being a federal convention, I have but little to reply. I stated some facts to prove they were a federal convention, acting under the confederation both by its injunctions and by the law. He charges Congress also with not having acted agreeable to the confederation; but he has not shown us why that body should wantonly step out of the way, when, by the 13th section, they were able to effect every alteration which was required. But for my part, I think their conduct was federal, and their resolution conformable to the confederation. Neglecting to adopt the measure of calling a convention is said by him to carry the idea of this state’s being unfriendly to the proposed constitution. But why should it have this effect? Is it not known that the usual method of determining any matter of a public nature is by a due consideration and repeated deliberation conformable with our constitution? Can a hasty decision be expected? No; it is expressly prohibited. Why, then, must it be inferred from delay that we are unfriendly?
The member from the city (Mr. Fitzsimons) says that every member must have considered this subject. I will say that every member has not considered it; for my part I have read it over not with a view of considering it in this house, and as for the object before usI never thought of it at all, taking it for granted that the session was so far expired that time was not left to receive it from Congress or deliberate upon it. I know that it is the province of the convention to consider of the merits of the plan, and I suppose that they will have good reasons assigned for their determination, whether it be to reject or adopt it, so that I shall add nothing on this head. The gentleman goes further, and informs us that the federal convention did not act under the confederation, which he says is dissolved and rotten, and they paid no respect to it in their deliberations. I know this matter does not come properly before the House, but, Sir, I cannot forbear remarking upon these words. I should think it unwise to throw out the dirty water, Sir, before we get clean. If the confederation is dissolved, there is no bond to keep us together even while we deliberate on the new. But, Sir, our confederation is not dissolved, though it may be defective. We remember it was framed in time of war, and every requisite for the time of peace may not have been adverted to; and we should remember it served, and served us faithfully, through a difficult and protracted war. Let us, therefore, not censure it too highly, as we have been advantaged by it, nor despise it, and say it is dissolved and rotten: for, Sir, when I go into my new house, I wait till it is finished and furnished, before I quit the humble cabin that has served me many a cold and weary day; and when I bid it an adieu, it is becoming to speak respectfully of it, because it was true and faithful to the last.
Now with respect to the propriety of waiting the recommendations of Congress, and whether we are acting federally or not, are questions, in my opinion, of high importance. The gentlemen say also that the subject is importantbut how do they treat it? They treat it, Sir, as a trifle, whilst we, by desiring due deliberation, treat it as important. Ask the gentlemen, Sir, what they are about to do? They mean to summon an election of delegates at so short a clay, that people have not the least time to consult together even on a proper representation. Perhaps the city and county of Philadelphia may have time sufficient, but no other can. If a majority of the people of Pennsylvania are favorable to the new constitution, how can they find out the sentiments of those whom they wish to represent them? Perhaps they may elect persons who will give it every opposition; and it may be, Sir, that the very persons who are pressing this business forward, do it to inspire a confidence that they are its sup-porters, when they mean, if opportunity shall offer, to destroy it. I ask the members of this House, Is it reasonable to suppose proper time is allowed? Let every member ask himself if the people can choose delegates with any kind of judgment? The people generally are disposed to have a government of more energy. How far the proposed one may answer their idea, I think we ought to let them consider. They have a right to think and choose for themselves. Shall we then deprive them of their right? Surely not. Let them then have time, and they no doubt will act right, and refuse or adopt the plan of government held out to them.
Mr. Brackenridge. With respect to the expediency of immediate decision on this question, it has been sufficiently observed, that the example of Pennsylvania would be a great inducement to the other States to come speedily into its adoption-on the contrary, a delay with us will occasion a delay in the other legislatures. The gentleman allows we labor under inconveniences by the present mode of government; let his object then be to remove the difficulties and hasten their termination, by a speedy application of the only remedy the case admits of. I cannot see, Mr. Speaker, whence the gentlemen (Messrs. Whitehill and Findley) are so averse to a measure that the one owns is necessary and the other cannot state a single objection against.
All efforts to restore energy to the federal government have proved ineffectual, when exerted in the mode directed by the 13th article of the confederation, and it is in consequence of this that recourse is once more had to the authority of the people. The first step toward obtaining this was anti-federal; the acquiescence of Congress was anti-federal; the whole process has been anti-federal so far as it was not conducted in the manner prescribed by the articles of union. But the first and every step was federal, inasmuch as it was sanctioned by the PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES. The member from Westmoreland pleases his fancy with being on federal ground, pursuing federal measures, and being a very federal sort of person; he concludes we are not in a state of nature, because we are on federal ground. But, Sir, we are not on federal ground, but on the wild and extended field of nature, unrestrained by any former compact, bound by no peculiar tie; at least so far are we disengaged, as to be capable of forming a constitution which shall be the wonder of the universe. It is on the principle of self-conservation that we act. The former articles of confederation have received sentence of death, and though they may be on earth, yet are inactive, and have no efficacy. But the gentleman would still have us to be bound by them, and tells you your acts must correspond with their doctrine. This he proves, Sir, from the 13th article: but in this he is like some over-studious divines, who in commenting on their text, turn it to different shapes, and force it to prove what it never meant, or in the words of the poet,
As critics, learned critics view,
In Homer, more than Homer knew.
He will not suffer the old to be dissolved until the new is adopted; he will not quit his old cabin, till the new house is furnished, not if it crumbles about his ears. But, Sir, we are not now forsaking our tenement, it has already been forsaken: and I conceive we have the power to proceed independent of Congress or Confederation. But as to the second object, whether the time is proper as stated in the resolution, I do not say that it is, because I conceive it too short for several counties distant from this city; but this subject will come forward with propriety after the present question is agreed to.
Mr. Findley. The proposed plan is not now before us; therefore we have nothing to say on that subject. But, Sir, I would still suppose the old confederation is in existencethe new says that when nine States agree, it shall be binding on them;that is to say, we shall not go out of the old, until the new is so far completed. Then, Sir, for my part I would retire from under the old, but not till then, when I would bid it an honorable and friendly adieu for its meritorious services; then I would cheerfully pay that attention to the new, which a more perfect edifice deserves; I would then support or act under it, as occasion might require.
Mr. Whitehill. I shall make but a very few observations on this business as enough has already been said, I apprehend, to convince the house of the propriety of delay, if any consideration can effect it. I believe, Sir, we are under the confederation, and when we come to consider the articles of that confederation, as well as the law passed appointing delegates to Congress, we shall have reason to conclude that we are on federal ground, and not in a state of nature. In the sixth article it is expressly declared that no State shall enter into any confederation without the consent of Congress; this is sufficient to satisfy the house that they ought not to proceed without the approbation of Congress. I say, when we come to consider, that the States appointed delegates in consequence of the recommendation of Congress, and that they reported to Congress agreeably to their orders, every member must be convinced that it is a federal measure, and this way of going out of it must be contrary to all right and propriety. We have articles of confederation, Sir, and we are bound by them. We are acting, Sir, a very wrong part to deny thisthey are our government. They have the necessary powers by the confederation, and I say their recommendation is necessary; and unless we have it, nothing can be clone toward establishing the new constitution.
Mr. D. Clymer said the new constitution had nothing to do with the present question which was simply, Will the house take the proper means to have a convention of the people called to deliberate on the propriety of receiving or refusing the new plan of confederation?
The question was now put, Will the house agree to the resolution? And the yeas and nays being called by Messrs. D. Clymer and Fitzsimons, are as follows:
YEAS.Will, Fitzsimons, Clymer, Hiltzeimer, Gray, Robinson, Salter, Logan, Foulke, Wynkoop, Chapman, Upp, Moore, Willing, Ralston, Evans, Thomas, Wheelen, Lowry, Hubley, Carpenter, Work, Ross, Clemson, M’Conaghy, Schmyser, M’Clellan, Lilley, G. Hiester, Kreemer, J. Hiester, Davis, D. Clymer, Trexler, Burkhalter, Cannon, Antis, Brackenridge, Moore, Wheeler, Hockley, Risse, Carson43.
NAYS.Whitehill, Kennedy, Mitchell, Brown, Piper, Powell, Dale, Findley, Barr, Wright, M’Dowel, Flenniken, Allison, Phillips, Gilchrist, Smith, M’Calmont, Clarke, Miley19.
After which the house adjourned till 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
Eodem die, p. m.
Mr. Speaker took the chair, when it appeared there were but 44 members met, which, not being a quorum,
Mr. Wynkoop observed that the house had under their conideration a business of the highest importance, and as he remarked the absent members were mostly those who had given it opposition in the forenoon, he suspected they had withdrawn themselves by design, he would therefore move that the Sergeant of Arms be sent for them. This being fit unanimously agreed to, the Sergeant was dispatched in search of the following members of the general Assembly of Pennsylvania, namely:
From CumberlandRobert Whitehill, Thomas Kennedy, David Mitchell
From BedfordJohn Piper, Joseph Powell.
From NorthumberlandFrederick Antis, (who voted in favor of calling the convention), Samuel Dale.
From WestmorelandWilliam Findley, James Bar.
From WashingtonAlexander Wright, John M’Dowel, John Flenniken, James Allison.
From FayetteTheophilus Phillips, John Gilchrist.
From FranklinAbraham Smith, James M’Calmont.
From DauphinRobert Clarke and Jacob Miley.
The Speaker left the chair until the return of the Sergeant at Arms, who was immediately examined at the bar of the house.
Mr. Speaker. Well, Sergeant, have you seen the absent members? Sergeant. Yes, Sir, I saw R. Whitehill, Kennedy, Mitchell, Piper, Powell, Dale, Findley, Bar, Wright, M’DoweI, Flenniken, Allison, Gilchrist, M’Calmont, R. Clarke, Antis and Miley.
Mr. Speaker. What did you say to them? Sergeant. I told the gentlemen that the Speaker and the house had sent for them, and says they, There is no house.
Mr. Speaker. Did you let them, know they were desired to attend? Sergeant. Yes, Sir, but they told me they could not attend this afternoon, for they had not made up their minds yet.
Mr. D. Clymer. How is that? Sergeant. They had not made up their minds this afternoon to wait on you.
Mr. Speaker. Who told you this? Sergeant. Mr. Whitehill told me the first.
Mr. Speaker. Where did you see them? Sergeant. At a house in Sixth street; Major Boyd’s, I think.
D. Clymer. You say Mr. Whitehill told you first there was no house; who told you afterward? Sergeant. Mr. Clarke said they must go electioneering now. D. Clymer. I would be glad to know what conversation there was among them, and who was there? Sergeant. There was a member of council with them, Mr. M’Laine, and he asked me, Who sent you?
Mr. Speaker. Was no other person in the room? Sergeant. Yes, I saw Mr. Smiley there.
D. Clymer. Was there no private citizens? Sergeant. No, Sir.
D. Clymer. There was none then but MEN IN PUBLIC OFFICES? Sergeant. No.
D. Clymer. Well; and pray what did the honorable Mr. Smiley say? Sergeant. He said nothing.
D. Clymer. Could all the persons in the room hear Mr. M’Laine’s question. Sergeant. Yes, Sir.
D, Clymer. And did they seem pretty unanimous in their determination not to come? that is, did it appear so to you? Sergeant. Yes, Sir, as I understood it, nearly.
D. Clymer. Did you hear of any one willing to come? Sergeant. No, Sir.
Sergeant, you may retire.
The Speaker now recapitulated the unfinished business, and wished to know what the members would choose to do.
Mr. Wynkoop would be glad to know, if there was no way to compel men, who deserted from the duty they owed their country, to a performance of it, when they were within the reach of the House. If there is not, then God be merciful to us!!!
Mr. Lowry believed there was a law to compel the absent members to serve, which was passed in the year 1777; but upon investigation, this law was found wholly inadequate, and upon search it appeared, that the only penalty to which such men were liable, was a forfeiture of one third of one day’s pay, being the sum of five shillings Pennsylvania currency; and this is inflicted under one of the rules for the regulation of the members’ conduct.
Mr. Robinson. I believe, Sir, that punishment is not in our power, nor can we compel their presence, so that we have nothing left but to adjourn; but before this I would wish to make a few observations. This House, Sir, have this afternoon agreed to call a convention of the people of this State, in order to deliberate upon a new form of confederation. I would remark, that this business is not of such a nature as to require a law to carry it into effect, it being merely to lay down the mode by which the citizens may proceed in their choice in a manner best suited to their convenience. This business, Sir, is of that important nature to all the citizens of the United States, that it must not be suffered to fail by the secession of nineteen of your membersthough sorry I am that our journals are again to be stained by recording the conduct of an unmanly minority. But passing this over, I think there will be a propriety of meeting again, and under our respective signatures recommend this measure to our constituents. Fully impressed with the idea of its importance and necessity, I cannot but strongly recommend its adoption, and leave these men to suffer the stings of conscience, and that contempt and displeasure of their constituents, which they have drawn upon themselves.
Adjourned until to-morrow half past nine.
Saturday, September 29, A.M.
Mr. Speaker took the chair, and on calling over the roll, it appeared there were but forty-four members present; namely, all those who appeared yesterday, but Mr. ROBERT BROWN FROM NORTHAMPTON, who has now withdrawn himself. And by order, the Sergeant of Arms, accompanied by the assistant clerk, was dispatched in pursuit of the seceding members. But first Mr. G. Clymer presented to the chair the unanimous resolution of Congress, which he said had been agreed to yesterday, and was forwarded by Mr. Bingham to him express, having chosen this mode in preference to the ordinary conveyance by post Whereupon,
The following resolution was read, and sent by the assistant clerk to the seceding members, (as was observed by the Speaker,) in order to remove that objection, which they had taken yesterday against the measure.
THE UNITED STATES IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED.
Friday, September 28, 1787.
PresentNew Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and from Maryland, Mr. Ross.
CONGRESS having received the report of the CONVENTION lately assembled in Philadelphia,
Resolved unanimonsly, That the said report, with the resolution and letter accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several legislatures, in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each State, by the thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the convention, made and provided in that case.
CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary.
The Speaker left the chair, and in a few minutes Mr. James M’Cahnont and Mr. Jacob Miley entered the house. The Speaker resumed the chair, and the roll was called, when the following gentlemen answered to their names:
From the City of PhiladelphiaMessrs. Will, Morris, Fitzsimons, G. Clymer, and Hiltzeimer.
From the county of PhiladelphiaMessrs. Gray, Robinson, Salter and Logan.
From BucksMessrs. Foulke, Wynkoop, Chapman and Upp.
From ChesterMessrs. J. Moore, Willing, Thomas, Ralston, Evans, and Wheelen.
From LancasterMessrs. Lowly, Hubley, Carpenter, Work, Ross,and Clemson.
From YorkMessrs. M’Conaghy, Schmyser, M’Clellan, and Lilley.
From BerksMessrs. J. Hiester, Davis, and D. Clymer.
From NorthamptonMessrs. Trexler, and Burkhalter.
From BedfordMr. Cannon.
From WestmorelandMr. Brackenridge.
From FranklinMr. M’Calmant.
From MontgomeryMessrs. J. Wheeler, C. Moore, Hockley, and Risse.
From DauphinMessrs. F. Miley, and Carson.
Being 45, and with the Speaker 46, the number which constitutes a quorum.
After reading over the minutes of yesterday.
Mr. Hockley presented a petition and memorial from forty-three inhabitants of the county of Montgomery, desiring the house would take the necessary measures to have a convention of the people assembled as speedily as possible.
Which was read, and ordered to lie on the table.
The Committee appointed to select such business from the files of the House, as would be proper to recommend to the attention of the succeeding General Assembly, made report, which was also read, and ordered to lie on the table.
Mr. M’Calmont informed the house, that he had been forcibly brought into the assembly room, contrary to his wishes, this morning by a number of the citizens, whom he did not know, and that therefore, he begged he might be dismissed the house.
Mr. Lowry. I hope, as the gentleman says, he was forcibly brought, he will give some reason why force was necessary to make him do his duty; and what reason can he give now he is here, that should induce us to part with him again? Surely his being brought by force and against his wishes, is not a reason that he should be suffered to go off again.
Mr. Fitzsimons would be glad to know, if any member of the house was guilty of forcing the gentleman from the determination of absenting himself; if there was, he thought it necessary that the house mark such conduct with their disapprobation. But we are to consider, Sir, that the member is now here, and that the business of the State cannot be accomplished, if any one is suffered to withdraw: from which consideration I conclude, it will be extremely improper for any member to leave this house, until the laws and other unfinished business, is completed.
Mr. Robinson. I believe my sentiments, Sir, are well known on the subject of the new federal constitution, and I yesterday declared my strong disapprobation of the conduct of those members, who, by leaving the house, have forsaken that obligation they owe their God, their country, and their conscience. But at the same time, that I decidedly condemn their conduct, I would not wish to act by any means unfair, in completing that business which they have neglected. No, Sir, I consider that there are but forty-five members here, if the gentleman is retained by compulsion. He cannot, Sir, be detained against his will; and if the member is so callous as to refuse the calls of his country to do her service, and forsakes his duty, when much is required, he must stand responsible to his constituents, and to his God, and must suffer the general odium and reproach of every friend to decency or order. But, Sir, we have no authority to confine him within these walls; if any gentlemen suppose so, they will find upon a due consideration, that their opinion is not well founded. If any improper method has been used to bring him here, and he is detained against his will, I do conceive we are not a house.
Mr. Brackenridge. It may be a proper question for the house to discuss, whether their officers by force have brought this member here, or whether other members have by violence compelled him. I suppose in either of these cases, the house might have cognizance. But if the member has been conducted by the citizens of Philadelphia to his seat in the legislature, and they have not treated him with the respect and veneration he deserves, it must lie with him to obtain satisfaction, but not with us. The gentleman by answering to his name, when the roll was called, acknowledged himself present, and forms a part of the house. Well, Sir, I conceive the question is, what is to be done now he is herefor how he came here, can form no part of our enquiry. Whether his friends brought him (and I should think they could not be his enemies, who would compel him to do his duty, and avoid wrong) I say, Sir, whether his friends brought him, or by the influence of good advice persuaded him to come, and he did come; or whether to ease his difficulty in walking to this room, they brought him in a sedan chair, or by whatever ways or means he introduced himself among us, all we are to know, is, that he is here, and it only remains for us to decide whether he shall have leave of absence. Now, if the gentleman can show, that his life will be endangered by staying with us (for I should think the loss of health, on the present occasion, an insufficient reason) we may grant him the indulgence he asks for, waiving the whole story of his coming, I presume the house can immediately decide whether he may retire or not.
Mr. M’Calmont. I desire that the rules may be read, and I will agree to stand by the decision of the house.
The rules were read accordingly, and it appeared, that every member who did not answer on calling the roll, should pay two shillings and six pence, or, if there was not a quorum without him, five shillings.
Mr. M’Calmont then rose from his place, and putting his hand in his pocket took out some loose silver, and said, Well, Sir, here is your five shillings to let me go.
This ludicrous circumstance occasioned a loud laugh in the gallery. And the speaker told him, that the person who had been appointed to receive the fines, was not in his place; but if he was, the member ought not to pay it, as he had not broke the rule, which declared those persons only finable, who did not appear and answer to their names; he had done both, and therefore might retain his money.
Mr. Fitzsimons hoped the member would not be dismissed; for he thought no one man ought to be allowed to break up the assembly of Pennsylvania, which could be done agreeable to constitution only by the time expiring for which it was chosen.
The Sergeant at Arms and assistant clerk had, by this time, returned from hunting up the seceeding members, and appearing in the house, the clerk was examined at the bar, and related as follows:
I went, Sir, in the pursuance of your order, with the Sergeant at Arms, in search of the absent members. First, Sir, I went to Major Boyd’s, and there saw Mr. Miley and Mr. M’Calmont. I informed them that the Speaker and members present had sent me for them, and showed them the resolution of Congress. They told me in answer that they would not attend. Before I got from that door I saw Col. Piper and some other member, who I do not recollect, at a great distance. I went after them to the corner of Arch and Sixth streets. I saw Mr. Barr and Mr. Findley, Col. Piper and some other member, going toward Market street. Mr. Findley looked round and saw me, as I supposed, for he mended his pace. I followed Mr. Piper and Mr. Barr, who kept on to Market street, and soon turned the cornerbefore I got there. I lost sight of Mr. Findley, who I supposed had got into some house. I went forward after Piper and Barr and came up with them, and told them of the unanimous resolution of Congress, but they answered me in the same manner, that they would not attend. From them I went to Mr. Whitehill’s lodging, and saw a woman that I supposed to be the maid of the house. She informed me that Mr. Whitehill was upstairs; she went up, and staid some time, when she returned and told me he was not at home. I saw also Mr. Clark and Mr. M’Dowell in the street, and Mr. M’Dowell told me he would consider of the matter, and he would do what he thought just. I saw Mr. Mitchell at Mr. Whitehill’s lodging, and he said he would not attend. Mr. Dale and Mr. Antis I found at their lodgings, and Mr. Dale told me he would not attend. Mr. Antis said this resolution of Congress had not come officially, and therefore he would not attend.
D. Clymer asked if Mr. M’ Calmont had offered any excuse when he was desired to attend?
Clerk. No, he said he had heard of the resolution of Congress, but he would not attend.
Thus ended the report of the clerk.
Mr. Logan entered into a long detail of the benefits and advantages which would result from the adoption of the proposed confederation, when several of the members desired he would confine himself to the question. He went on to remark that the member was a part of the house, he had answered to his name, and after this it lay entirely with the house whether they would dismiss him or no.
Mr. Robinson. I do not conceive the question to be, whether he shall be dismissed or not; but as the doors are open he may go out, and if he does he is only responsible to his constituents for his conduct. I conceive he cannot be detained as in prison, and it rests with the gentleman whether he will stay or not.
Mr. Wynkoop expressed some amaze at the argument of the gentleman. The member, Mr. M’Calmont, had sworn to do the duties he was delegated to; there had been nothing of force in that, and he should not for his part think himself at liberty to withdraw until the business was completed, nor could he think any member ought. He would call on the gentleman to assign his reasons for absconding from his duty at the bar of the house, where he might be heard as to his complaint; but the house could not be formed without him.
Mr. M’Calmont replied he was not to be called to the bar of this house, he had to answer for his conduct at another bar.
Mr. D. Clymer was of opinion the member was within the power of the house by being present, and instanced the case of General Ganfell, who was arrested by the sheriff’s officers in a protected place. The determination of the judges was that as he was taken, he should be confined until the debt was paid, though he had his action for damages against the officers who had broken the law of the realm in arresting him. So he was for punishing every person who had ill-treated the gentleman; however faulty his conduct was, it belonged not to individuals to punish, that was to be left to the judges, who, no doubt, will see the law properly executed.
Mr. Fitzsimons was a friend to good order and decorum, but he believed the gentleman’s complaint was not to be redressed by the house. The member himself had trespassed, may be inadvertedly, since he had taken his seat. He had perhaps offered the greatest indignity to the legislature of Pennsylvania, which could be offered. He has, Sir, tendered you a fine of five shillings in order to be permitted to destroy the business, if not the good government of the State. On this, Sir, I will make no reflection; the member is now here, and we may determine that he shall stay, not only on constitutional ground, but from the law of nature, that will not suffer any body to destroy its own existence prematurely.
Mr. Robinson. The question, Sir, is whether the member shall have leave of absence. Now suppose the house deter mine that he shall not, and yet he should attempt to withdraw. Certainly you will not lock your doors. (Mr. Fitzsimons interrupted with, Yes, Sir, if no other method could retain him.)
This can’t be proper, Sir, for it appears to me inconsistent with the rules of every house to return a person as a member by compulsion. With respect to calling a convention, I apprehend the recommendation of forty-four members will have as good effect as if the consent of that gentleman was obtained; for the citizens of Pennsylvania will not lose their rights or liberty because nineteen members absconded this house. But, Sir, I can’t admit the idea that there is a house while the member declares he is retained by compulsion, but as long as he answers to his name and keeps his seat there surely is a house.
D. Clymer would ask if the power to refuse leave of absence did not imply a power to detain the person, and whether in that case, if it was necessary to lock the doors, the house would not be justifiable? An anecdote had occurred to him which he would wish to communicate, though somewhat foreign. It was remarkable that three years back from yesterday, a similar session had taken place; the same number of members, namely nineteen, had then absconded, and there was the same number of laws ready to be compared at the table.
Mr. G. Clymer was decidedly of opinion, even had not the gentleman submitted himself to the decision of the house, that they were competent to use measures to compel his stay.
The Speaker now stated the question.
Mr. Robinson had all along agreed that the member was in the power of the house, after answering to his namebut he had supposed him to be held by compulsion, and if so, then they were not a house.
Mr. M’Calmont now rose and made towards the door. Mr. Fitzsimons addressed him, but so as not to be heard; and the gallery called out stop him, there being a number of citizens at the door he went toward. The commotion subsided in a few seconds, and Mr. M’Calmont returned to his seat to wait the decision of the house.
Mr. Fitzsimons informed the Speaker that Mr. M’Calmont had told him he had occasion to go out, and was willing to go in company with the Sergeant at Arms; he thereupon hoped the gentleman’s wish might be complied with.
The Speaker put the question, Shall Mr. M’Calmont have leave of absence? which was determined almost, if not quite, unanimously in the negative.
The house now proceeded to compare and enact a number of bills which were lying engrossed on the table.
On motion the house resumed the consideration of the unfinished resolutions which were presented yesterday by Mr. G. Clymer, when the one fixing the day for holding the elec-tion of delegates to convention was read.
Mr. Brackenridge moved to insert the first Tuesday in November to be the day throughout the State.
Mr. Wynkoop thought the last Tuesday in October would allow sufficient time, but Mr. D. Clymer approved of the most distant day. None of the gentlemen were anxious about the week, and therefore agreed the question should be on the first Tuesday in November.
Mr. M’Calmont thought this much too early, and moved successively for the last Tuesday, the third Tuesday, and second Tuesday in December, without being seconded.
The question was therefore taken on the first Tuesday in November, which was agreed to.
On appointing the place where the convention should sit, it was proposed by Mr. M’Calmont to alter it from the city of Philadelphia to Carlisle; but in this he was not seconded. He then moved for Lancaster, and after some time was seconded by Mr. Lowry. The yeas and nays were called by him on this question, and are:
YEAS. Lowry, Hubley, Carpenter, Work, Ross, Clemson, M’Conaghy, Schmyser, M’Clellan, J. Hiester, G. Hiester, Cannon, M’Calmont, Miley, Carson15.
NAYS. Will, Morris, Fitzsimons, Clymer, Hiltzeimer, Gray, Robinson, Salter, Logan, Foulke, Wynkoop, Chapman, Upp, Moore, Willing, Ralston, Evans, Thomas, Wheelen, Lilley, Kreemer, Davis, D. Clymer, Trexler, Burkhalter, Brackenridge, Moore, Wheeler, Hockley and Risse30.
So it was determined in the negative, and afterward the resolution was agreed to as it stood.
Mr. G. Clymer now moved to insert these words in the preamble: “And whereas Congress on Friday, the twenty-eighth instant, did unanimously resolve that the said constitution be transmitted to the several legislatures of the States to the intent aforesaid.” Which was accordingly done.
The resolutions were finally passed in the following form:
WHEREAS, the Convention of Deputies from the several States composing the union, lately held in this city, have published a constitution for the future government of the United States, to be submitted to conventions of deputies chosen in each State by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification; and,
WHEREAS, Congress, on Friday, the 28th inst., did unanimously resolve that the said constitution be transmitted to the several legislatures of the States to the intent aforesaid; and,
WHEREAS, it is the sense of great numbers of the good people of this State, already signified in petitions and declarations to this house, that the earliest steps should be taken to assemble a convention within the State, for the purpose of deliberating and determining on the said constitution,
Resolved, That it be recommended to such of the inhabitants of the State as are entitled to vote for representatives to the general assembly, that they choose suitable persons to serve as deputies in a State convention, for the purpose hereinbefore mentioned, that is, for the city of Philadelphia and the counties respectively, the same number of deputies that each is entitled to of representatives in the general assembly.
Resolved, That the elections for deputies as aforesaid, be held at the several places in the said city and counties as are fixed by law for holding the elections of representatives to the general assembly, and that the same be conducted by the officers who conduct the said elections of representatives, and agreeably to the rules and regulations thereof; and that the election of deputies as aforesaid, shall be held for the city of Philadelphia, and the several counties of this State, on the first Tuesday of November next.
Resolved, That the persons so elected to serve in convention shall assemble on the third Tuesday of November, at the State House in the city of Philadelphia.
Resolved, That the proposition submitted to this house by the deputies of Pennsylvania in the general convention of the States, of ceding to the United States a district of country within this State for the seat of the general government, and for the exclusive legislation of Congress, be particularly re-commended to the consideration of the convention.
Resolved, That it be recommended to the succeeding house of assembly to make the same allowance to the attending members of the convention as is made to the members of the general assembly, and also to provide for the extraordinary expenses which may be incurred by holding the said elections. 8
The sixteen seceding members attempted to justify their conduct, and issued the following address to their constituents:
AN ADDRESS OF THE SUBSCRIBERS, MEMBERS OF THE LATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS. 9
GENTLEMEN: When in consequence of your suffrages at the late election we were chosen to represent you in the general assembly of this commonwealth, we accepted of the important trust with a determination to execute it in the best manner we were able; and we flatter ourselves we have acted in such a manner as to convince you, that your interest, with that of the good of the State, has been the object of our measures.
During the fall and spring sessions of the legislature on the recommendation of the Congress of the United States your representatives proceeded to the appointment of delegates to attend a convention to be held in the city of Philadelphia, for the purposes of revising and amending the present articles of confederation, and to report their proceedings to Congress, and when adopted by them, and ratified by the several States, to become binding on them as part of the confederation of the United States. We lamented at the time, that a majority of our legislature appointed men to represent this State who were all citizens of Philadelphia, none of them calculated to represent the landed interest of Pennsylvania, and almost all of them of one political party, men who have been uniformly opposed to that constitution for which you have on every occasion manifested your attachment. We were apprehensive at the time of the ill-consequences of so partial a representation, but all opposition was in vain. When the convention met, members from twelve States attended, and after deliberating upwards of four months on the subject, agreed on a plan of government which was sent forward by them to Congress, and which was reported to the house by the delegates of Pennsylvania as mere matter of information, and printed in the newspapers of the city of Philadelphia; but the house had not received it officially from Congress, nor had we the least idea that, as the annual election was so near, we should be called upon to deliberate, much less to act on so momentous a business; a business of the utmost importance to you and your posterity. We conceived it required the most minute examination and mature consideration, and that it ought to be taken up by the next house. Judge then of our surprise on finding the last day but one in the sessions, a member of the house who had been a delegate in the convention, without any previous notice or any intimation of his intentions to the house, offer a resolution recommending the calling a convention to consider of the proposed constitution and to direct the electing members for the same, at so early a period as the day of your annual election, thus attempting to surprise you into a choice of membersto approve or disapprove of a constitution, which is to entail happiness or misery forever, without giving time to the greatest part of the State even to see, much less to examine, the plan of government.
Our duty to ourselves and our regard for your dearest interests induced us to oppose the measure by every possible argument that we could suggest at the time; but all our efforts were insufficient even to produce a postponement until the afternoon. We urged and urged in vain the constant practice of the house when any important business was to be brought on, of giving previous notice and making it the order of the day sometime beforehand; that no bill, however trifling, was passed without three readings, and without this formality which gave the members time and opportunity to think on the subject; that the rules were adhered to so strictly, that even the building of a bridge, or the laying out a road, could not be determined on without this form; but this, the most important of all matters, was to be done by surprise, and as we conceived with design to preclude you from having it in your power to deliberate on the subject. Our anxiety for your interests was great, but notwithstanding the firmest and most determined opposition, no respite could be obtained, and the first resolution was adopted by a majority of the house, when they adjourned till the afternoon to complete the business. In these circumstances we had no alter-native; we were under a necessity of either returning to the house, and by our presence enabling them to call a convention before our constituents could have the means of information, or time to deliberate on the subject, or by absenting ourselves from the house, prevent the measure taking place. Our regard for you induced us to prefer the latter, and we determined not to attend in the afternoon. We conceived that at the time we were chosen you had no view to this business, and we could see no inconvenience nor loss of time from deferring a matter of such importance, and which would in its consequences affect or perhaps annihilate our own constitution, as well as that of every constitution in the union, to a house chosen after the people had some knowledge of the plan, especially as the next house will meet at so early a period, and a convention could be called by them time enough to meet in a few months, which would be as early as any State in the union, and would be allowing you time to make up your minds on a matter which appeared to us to require so much deliberation. Thus circumstanced and thus influenced, we determined the next morning again to absent ourselves from the house, when James M’ Calmont, esq., a member from Franklin, and Jacob Miley, esq., a member from Dauphin, were seized by a number of citizens of Philadelphia, who had collected together for that purpose, their lodgings were violently broken open, their clothes torn, and after much abuse and insult they were forcibly dragged through the streets of Philadelphia to the State house, and there detained by force, and in the presence of the majority, who had the day before voted for the first of the proposed resolutions, treated with the most insulting language; while the house so formed proceeded to finish their resolutions, which they mean to offer to you as the doings of the legislature of Pennsylvania. On this outrageous proceeding we make no comment. The inhabitants of Franklin and Dauphin have been grossly insulted by the treatment of their members. We know the feelings of the people of these counties are sufficiently keen; it becomes us not to add to them by dwelling longer on the subject; but as our conduct may, and we have no doubt will, be misrepresented, we thought it our duty to lay before our constituents, to whom alone we are accountable, a real state of facts, that they may judge for themselves. We need not tell you that we could have no interested motive to influence our conduct. A sense of that duty which we owed to you and to ourselves could have alone induced us to submit to the variety of abuse and insults which many of us have experienced for not consenting to a measure that might probably have surprised you into a surrender of your dearest rights. Our conduct has at least had the good effect to lengthen out the time of election, and induced them to post-pone the election for members to the convention until the first Tuesday in November next; whereas, the resolution first proposed directed it to be holden for all the counties east of Bedford on the day of the annual election, nine days from the time of proposing the measure.
We cannot conclude without requesting you to turn your serious attention to the government now offered to your consideration: “We are persuaded that a free and candid discussion of any subject tends greatly to the improvement of knowledge, and that a matter in which the public are so deeply interested cannot be too well understood. A good constitution and government is a blessing from heaven, and the right of posterity and mankind; suffer then we intreat you no interested motive, sinister view, or improper influence to direct your determinations or bias your judgments.” Provide yourselves with the new constitution offered to you by the convention, look it over with attention, that you be enabled to think for yourselves. We confess when the legislature appointed delegates to attend the convention, our ideas extended no farther than a revision or amendment of the present confederation, nor were our delegates, by the acts of assembly appointing them, authorized to do more, as will appear by referring to the said act, the second section of which describes their powers in the following words, viz.
“2. Be it enacted, and it is hereby enacted by the representatives of the freemen of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general assembly met, and by the authority of the same. That Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Fitzsimons, James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris, Esquires, are hereby appointed deputies from this State to meet in the convention of the deputies of the respective States of North America, to be held at the city of Philadelphia, on the second day of the month of May next. And the said Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Fitzsimons, James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris, Esquires, or any four of them, are hereby constituted and appointed deputies from this State, with powers to meet such deputies as may be appointed and authorized by the other States to assemble in the said convention at the city aforesaid, and to join with them in devising, deliberating on and discussing all such alterations and further provisions as may be necessary to render the federal constitution fully adequate to the exigencies of the union; and in reporting such act or acts for that purpose, to the United States in Congress assembled, as when agreed to by them, and duty confirmed by the several States, will effectually provide for the same.”
You will therefore perceive that they had no authority whatever from the legislature, to annihilate the present confederation and form a constitution entirely new, and in doing which they have acted as mere individuals, not as the official deputies of this commonwealth. If, however, after mature deliberation, you are of opinion that the plan of government which they have offered for your consideration is best calculated to promote your political happiness and preserve those invaluable privileges you at present enjoy, you will no doubt choose men to represent you in convention who will adopt it; if you think otherwise, you will, with your usual firmness, determine accordingly.
You have a right, and we have no doubt you will consider whether or not you are in a situation to support the expense of such a government as is now offered to you, as well as the expense of your State government? or whether a legislature consisting of three branches, neither of them chosen annually, and that the senate, the most powerful, the members of which are for six years, are likely to lessen your burthens or increase your taxes? or whether in case your State government should be annihilated, which will probably be the case, or dwindle into a mere corporation, the continental government will be competent to attend to your local concerns? You can also best determine whether the power of levying and imposing internal taxes at pleasure, will be of real use to you or not? or whether a continental collector assisted by a few faithful soldiers will be more eligible than your present collectors of taxes? You will also in your deliberations on this important business judge, whether the liberty of the press may be considered as a blessing or a curse in a free government, and whether a declaration for the preservation of it is necessary? or whether in a plan of government any declaration of rights should be prefixed or inserted? You will be able, likewise, to determine whether in a free government there ought or ought not to be any provision against a standing army in time of peace? or whether the trial by jury in civil causes is becoming dangerous and ought to be abolished? and whether the judiciary of the United States is not so constructed as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several States? You will also be able to judge whether such inconveniencies have been experienced by the present mode of trial between citizen and citizen of different States as to render a continental court necessary for that purpose? or whether there can be any real use in the appellate jurisdiction with respect to fact as well as law? We shall not dwell longer on the subject; one thing however, it is proper you should be informed of: the convention were not unanimous with respect to men, though they were as States; several of those who have signed did not fully approve of the plan of government, and three of the members, viz.: Governor Randolph and Colonel George Mason, of Virginia, and Eldridge Gerry, Esq., of Massachusetts, whose characters are very respectable, had such strong objections as to refuse signing. The confederation, no doubt, is defective, and requires amendment and revision, and had the convention extended their plan to the enabling the United States to regulate commerce, equalize the impost, collect it throughout the United States, and have the entire juristiction over maritime affairs, leaving the exercise of internal taxation to the separate States, we apprehend there would have been no objection to the plan of government.
The matter will be before you, and you will be able to judge for yourselves. "Show that you seek not yourselves, but the good of your country, and may He who alone has dominion over the passions and understandings of men enlighten and direct you aright, that posterity may bless God for the wisdom of their ancestors.”
John M’ Dowell,
Saturday, Sept. 29, 1787.
To this address a dozen replies came forth immediately. One was signed by six members of the Assembly, and appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet for October 8.
MESSRS. DUNLAP AND CLAYPOOLE.
Mr. Findley, Mr. Whitehill, and others, members of the late General Assembly, making a disorderly secession from the house, with intention to put an end to its deliberations upon the subject of calling a State Convention, for the purpose of considering the system offered for the general government of the United States, they have, in a public address, rested their justification on these two points:
1st. The irregularity of taking up the constitution framed by the convention without the special permission of Congressthe assembly having in the appointment of deputies to the convention, proceeded but upon the recommendation of Congress.
3d. The unfitness of the deputies appointedthe addressers lamenting at the time when the choice was made, that they were all citizens of Philadelphia, and none of them calculated to represent the landed interest of the State.
Having been also members of the house, and competent to judge with respect to these points of justification, we beg leave to state all the necessary facts concerning them for the information of the public.
As to the firston a communication of the proposition of Virginia, for holding a general convention, a bill for the appointment of the deputies was reported by a committee, of which Mr. Findley and Mr. Whitehill were members, and passed into a law on the 3oth of December last. The law, as set forth in the preamble, stood upon ” Representations of Congress heretofore made,” and on the proposition of Virginia; but the special recommendation of Congress, to send the deputies to the proposed convention, made no part of the preamblethis recommendation not having passed Congress until the 21st day of February following, when that body, for the first time, recognized the convention. In the next session, on the 28th of March, a supplementary law passed the house; but its only object was to add another deputy to the number already chosen, and its only reference was to the original act.
As the representations of Congress spoken of in the preamble to the law, of the first session, were only such as had been frequently made of the weakness of the general government, and of the necessity that arose of endowing it with greater powers, but gave no special license to the States to send deputies to the convention proposed by the State of Virginia, it follows that in the appointment of the deputies, the assembly acted independently of Congress or of its recommendation. It is in vain, for the reasons before mentioned, that the addressers attempt, by a general reference to the transactions of both sessions, to cover their assertion upon this headit is an artifice more unworthy than the most naked falsehood.
As little can be said in support of the second, their disapprobation of the deputies, which a state of nominations and votes will evince. The original intention of the house was to send seven deputies, though afterwards that number was, by the supplementary law, increased to eight. To supply the seven places, twelve persons stood in nomination: they, with the votes for each, were as follows:
*Jared Ingersoll, 61; Charles Pettit, 25; *Robert Morris, 63; *George Clymer, 63; *Thomas Mifflin, 63; Thomas M’Kean, 26; John Bayard, 25; *Thomas Fitzsimons, 37; *James Wilson, 35; *Governeur Morris, 33; Benjamin Franklin, To; William Findley, 2.
Of whom those marked with an * were elected.
As to four of these persons, there appears from the votes to have been a general agreement, 63 being the number composing the house; so that no real controversy took place but as to the remaining three. Between these opposite three then must have have lain the question with the house, with respect to the fitness to represent the landed interest; and for this they might all have been fit, except in the circumstance of city residence, the candidates generally holding considerable landed property within the State, the whole body of candidates, Mr. Findley excepted, being inhabitants of Philadelphia; and as to that gentleman, the solitary nominee from the country, he seems then, from the state of the votes, to have been out of the question, which is the more extraordinary, if, as the addressers must be understood, a country residence was indispensable to represent the landed interest of the State.
But the truth is, that at the time of election no such lamentation was made by the sixteen or any others that the candidates were citizens of Philadelphia, or otherwise unqualified to represent the landed interest; for it is well known, that both Mr. Findley and Mr. Whitehill were of opinion that the choice should be confined to the city of Philadelphia and its neighborhood, as it would not be convenient for persons living at a distance to attend a convention; the former declaring a seat there would not suit him, which, perhaps, may account for the fewness of his votes.
This being the state of facts relating to these points, can we suppose a depravation of mind equal to such impositions and deceptions, or ought we not rather to suppose, in these instances, that the addressers were not at the pains to read what was prepared to their hands?
It is urged, in argument against the house, that the deputies having exceeded the terms of their powers, the system they agreed to ought not to be taken up. It is not easy to determine to what the powers of the deputation from Pennsylvania, and from the other States (for they are in the same predicament), did really extend; but any argument brought from an excess in the exercise of the powers against the object of them cannot be that of good sense or integrity. A man of understanding, or a good patriot, will examine only whether or not the system actually offered is calculated to better the condition of our country. Indeed one would think, the system being no more than a proposition, which none are bound to yield to, though all ought to consider, that the convention have not really transgressed their powers: they certainly might make whatever propositions they pleased.
The addressers resent the harsh treatment of the house to the two of their body who were forced back to their seats, by some of the citizens from without. They suffered no such treatment; on the contrary, the house showed a wonderful good temper on so provoking an occasion. When a misdemeanor had been committed of a kind which, though it has hitherto escaped even the slightest punishment, is deserving of the highest. When the addressers had by their conduct violated the first condition of all political society, which obliges the few to give way to the many. When they had offended in the double capacity of citizens of the United States and of Pennsylvania, in setting a dangerous example of riot and turbulence to the continent; and, as much as lay in their feeble means, attempting to dissolve the government tinder which they live.
William Robinson, Junr.
Dr. Franklin’s not having been chosen at the first election, was owing to a misunderstanding among the members with respect to his willingness to serve; but on better information, in the next session, it was the unanimous desire of the house that he should be added, which gave occasion to the supplementary law.
Philadelphia, October 6, 1787.
Another was a mock protest entitled:
THE PROTEST OF THE MINORITY, WHO OBJECTED TO CALLING A CONVENTION FOR THE PURPOSE OF ADOPTING THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION. 10
- Because, by the diminution of the power of the State of Pennsylvania, we shall have fewer officers and smaller salaries to bestow upon our friends.
- Because, like the declaration of independence, the measure, if a right one, is premature.
- Because the new federal constitution puts an end to all future emissions of paper money, and to tender laws, to both of which many of us owe our fortunes, and all of us our prospects of extrication from debt and exemption from gaol, or the benefit of the bankrupt law.
- Because, by the new constitution of the United States, we shall be compelled to pay our taxes whereas we now pay nothing towards the support of the government, and yet are handsomely supported out of the State treasury.
- Because, the new constitution was not submitted to the consideration of the anti-federal junto in Philadelphia, before it was sent to Congress, to each individual whereof America is under greater obligations than to General Washington.
- Because, by the 6th section of the 1st article of the Constitution of the United States, it is made impossible for persons in power to create offices for themselves, or to appoint themselves to office. This we conceive to be an evident departure from the free and excellent constitution of Pennsylvania, by which it is lawful for assemblymen and councilors to appoint themselves or their sons to all, or to any of the offices of the State.
- Because a disaffected member of the federal convention from Virginia, in a closet conversation with R. Whitehill, disapproved of the federal government, and we hold it to be our duty rather to follow his advice, than the inclinations of our constituents.
- Because, from the power claimed by the new constitution, Congress will have a right to suppress all “domestic insurrections” in particular States, by which means we shall be deprived of the only means of opposing the laws of this State, especially laws for collecting taxes.
Fy, Wll & Co., Major Bd’s cellar, Sept. 29, 1787.
A local poet furnished the following:
Sung by Whll and Fdly, accompanied by Ge Bn with a Violincelo. Tune Darby, in the Poor Soldier.
Though rascals and rogues they may call,
Right toll loll, etc.
Yet now we may laugh at them all ;
‘ Twas well we escaped with whole bones,
For we merited horsewhips and stones,
In troth we have cut no great dash,
Run away and not compass the cash,
I am sure ’twas a damnable shame,
But on fear we may lay all the blame,
They may call us the glorious sixteen,
Such glory I wish I’d not seen;
For of all rogues the greatest we are
That ever smelt feathers and tar,
Then quietly let us jog on,
Drink in comfort our whisky grog strong,
Rejoice that we ‘scaped without evil,
And go as we ought to the devil.
But more serious addresses were called forth, of which the following were the most important:
Fellow Citizens: 12
Upon perusing the address of sixteen of the seceding members of the late General Assembly to their constituents, I was much surprised to find, that they had so far lost all sense of their own dignity, as representatives of a free people, as basely to assert what I am informed are absolute falsehoods with respect to the conduct of those citizens, who did them the honor to conduct them to that house. The manner in which they endeavored to interest the feelings of their constituents in the supposed insults offered, and fancied wrongs done them, must convince every impartial mind, that they were aware of the impropriety of their own conduct, and fearful lest the good sense of their constituents should doom them to future neglect if a true state of facts should reach them. They knew full well that first impressions are, generally, the strongest, and that injuries or insults offered the representatives of any part of the community, could not but deeply interest that part in their favorthey knew these things, and they wisely determined to be beforehand with their opponents.
But let us candidly examine into the conduct of both parties in this affair, and let us not fear to censure where blame is due. What were the reasons which induced the seceding members to swerve from that duty which they owed their constituentsfrom that duty which they owed themselves.
The first grievance which they complain of is, that there were no country members in the delegation of this State to the late convention. What occasioned this circumstance I presume not to say, although I have no doubt that the house by which they were appointed had ample reason for this part of their conduct, and such reason as would be perfectly satisfactory to the State at large. Their next complaint appears to be, that the House of Assembly did not wait for Congress officially to recommend to them the calling of a convention upon this great and truly interesting occasion; but they are not candid enough to mention, that an express arrived to them from that body (whilst that very business was yet before them) earnestly recommending the very mode of conducting this important affair which the assembly had had in contemplation, and which they have since adopted. From this statement of the case, our representatives in the General Assembly do not appear to have acted improperly, and the progress they had made in the business before they were officially called upon, is rather deserving of praise than censure; for it shows that they attended to the call of duty, without reflecting whether it might turn to their private emolument or not.
What good could have resulted from delay, or why should a calling of a convention require so much deliberation? No good I am bold to say could have been derived from the postponement, but much evil might have resulted from such a measureand certainly no one will hesitate to say that the representatives of a people convened for the express purpose of examining a constitution proposed for the acceptance or refusal of the citizens of the United States, will be fully competent to the task assigned them, and be as much possessed of the confidence of their constituents as any assembly, which they might choose at any future day. But is it not probable that the seceding members might have had something else in view which they wished to give the appearance of public good? As an individual I must acknowledge that I think they had, and I fully believe that every candid man, and every impartial observer of public transactions and party cabals, will join me in this acknowledgment. For it is too evident from the meeting of the junto at a certain clergyman’s house in the neighborhood of the university, as well as from the frequent passings of one of the judges of the supreme court from that house to the lodgings of Mr. W not long since, when Sunday’s dinner was given by that clergyman to a chosen few, that private interest was deeply concerned in the decision, and that a scheme was laid to impose upon our fellow citizens in the back as well as neighboring counties, that by sowing dissensions amongst us, they may save from deserved censure and disgrace, those poor tools who had shown themselves ready to encounter the displeasure of all good men, to forward the sinister views and wicked designs of a wretched faction.
After much pretended regard for your interests (which by the bye is a convenient cloak for their ruinous, and I may add, detestable schemes) they wish to excuse their conduct in attempting to break up the house, at this important crisis, by asserting that they had no alternative left, that they must either abandon your interests or break up the house. But how would they sacrifice your interests by calling of a convention? It is true, that they are conceited enough to imagine, that you are not able to form a judgment without their assistance; and they treat you like children who must be closely watched, to prevent them from injuring themselves; at the same time, they do not neglect this opportunity of filling your ears with complaints against the citizens of Philadelphia, for injuries and insults offered you, as they pretend, through them your representatives. But the fact appears very different from what they have stated it to every impartial mind, and I have not the least doubt but that you will judge, upon calmly considering the action which bath excited their spleen, that the persons complained against by them, were induced by motives of necessity, and public good to exert themselves in bringing your servants as well as theirs, to that duty from which they had disgracefully absconded. They wish to prejudice you also against the house of assembly, by representing their conduct as illegal, and of course insinuating, that you ought not to consider yourselves bound by their resolves for calling a convention. They must certainly have thought differently upon this subject, or at least those two who were conducted to that house, and who have joined in the address to you; for they made motions and proposed alterations in the same manner as they would have done, if they had considered that house, as it most certainly was, legally and constitutionally formed.
Shortly after they discover a little more of their true sentiments, and throwing off the mask, which they have worn too long for your good, discover themselves to be much opposed, nay utterly averse, to the constitution proposed by the convention. And in declaring the delegates from this state no ways authorized to accede to the constitution proposed, by the act of assembly in which they were appointed, they injudiciously point out what they would wish to conceal and discover as the author of their piece and as their prime mover and adviser upon all occasions, an hackneyed attorney, and an unnecessary judge.
Little do their constituents imagine that they are paying men to answer private purposes, and that the alarm which is sounded arises to seceding members from their fears that the offices under this commonwealth will be made less lucrative, and, instead of being confined to one party, will be more regularly diffused through the community. They fear lest their particular friends in this city, by being found unworthy of the posts they fill, should no longer eat the bread of idleness or riot in the spoils of their fellow-citizens; and that the Trenton hero, who mistook the march of his battalion, and claimed the place of vendue-master of this city, in a long parade of imaginary services rendered the state, should no longer fill offices for which he is totally unqualified.
They also fear for the descendants of their masters, and they lament that the great man in embryo, whose strut has long since announced his self-importance, will no longer have an opportunity of occasioning to disappear from the files of the house, such papers, as like the petition or rather demand of the Trenton hero, show their authors in their proper colors as vain, as useless, and as ignorant tools.
They declare themselves apprehensive that the constitution of this State should dwindle into a corporation, and that the Congress of the United States should levy contributions by an armed force, instead of collecting taxes by municipal officers. What part of the constitution offered to you gives them such a power? I am bold to say that there is no part, and that they have not the slightest apprehension of the kind. The fear that paper money, that engine of oppression, should be banished the land, and that honest industry should rise superior to fraud and deceit, makes them anxious of reserving the power within their own hands of defrauding the widow and the orphan, and of keeping persons better principled than themselves, within the humble limits in which they had rather move than rise to power and to wealth by disreputable means. The concluding prayer, I will venture to assume, as I am sure that if that is attended to, they will forever be neglected. “Show that you seek not your-selves, but the good of your country, and may He alone, who has dominion over the passions and understandings of men, enlighten and direct you aright, that posterity may bless God for the wisdom of their ancestors.”
AN INDEPENDENT CITIZEN.
The Independent Citizen, following the custom then in vogue, never made known his name. But another citizen, quite as independent, who replied to the address of the discontented sixteen, thought his work good enough to own and republish after the constitution had been adopted, and the “new roof” firmly set up. He was Pelatiah Webster, well known for his essays on Free Trade and Finance, and his pamphlet he called : REMARKS 13 ON THE ADDRESS OF SIXTEEN MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS, DATED SEPTEMBER 29, 1787. WITH SOME STRICTURES ON THEIR OBJECTIONS TO THE CONSTITUTION RECOMMENDED BY THE LATE FEDERAL CONVENTION.
1. The sixteen members, as appears by their own showing, are a minority of the assembly, belonging to a party which is strongly overruled by a great majorty of the house, and very much out of humor.
2. They were duly appointed members of the assembly, had accepted the trust, and were solemnly sworn to discharge the duties of it faithfully and to the best of their abilities.
3. That at a crisis of great importance in the assembly, they deserted their station, abdicated their duty, and refused their attendance in the house, with the most explicit and avowed intention to put an absolute stop to any business of the house, which was a contrivance not only mean and infamous, a trick below the dignity of members of that house, but ruinous to the public councils, and might in effect annihilate the assembly itself; for our constitution requires two-thirds of the members elected to make a quorum of the house, and of course if every member elected was in the house (which very rarely happens), a minority of one more than a third, or (as very frequently happens, where a bare quorum, or perhaps two or three more, attend in the house) one single member, or at most three or four, by deserting the house, might leave less than a quorum behind, and of course render them incapable of doing business; this might be continued through the year, which would in effect annihilate the house, and of course the whole State would be deprived of all benefits from their assembly.
Had our sixteen members attended their duty in the house, they might by their arguments have convinced their opponents, or might by the reasoning of their opponents have been themselves convinced, or might at least have obtained some valuable amendment; which is a benefit they claim the honor of, though only two of them attended the house, when the amendment was made.
4. It further appears by their own showing that two of their number were forcibly dragged to the assembly, and there detained by force, i.e. they were compelled by force to attend their place and duty in the assembly, and were not suffered to run away again, till their duty was done. That they received any other force, insult or dragging, than a simple compulsion to attend their duty, I suppose is not true; but this I allow to be a considerable dishonor, and a very trying mortification; for it is certainly very dishonorable and insulting to a dignified character to be publicly forced along the streets, and compelled to attend on that duty, which honor and character ought to induce him to do voluntarily without any force at all.
However, I conceive the dishonor in this case does not consist in the force and insult offered by the citizens to the deserting members, so much as in the demonstration which the circumstance affords, that their own internal honor and sense of character was not sufficient to induce them to do their duty without the assistance of some external compulsion.
Whether compelling people to do their duty is a breach of peace and violation of law, must be left to the proper court to determine; but I conceive that it can never be deemed a damage to any man to be compelled to do his duty, and of consequence no damages can be given in such a case.
This was not the first time that the same party availed themselves of this fatal artifice, to obstruct the business of the assembly, and compel the house to break up, and leave much very important business unfinished; and our citizens were determined not to suffer the like again, and the exertions of private citizens became in a manner necessary, forasmuch as our constitution provides no remedy against such an intolerable abuse of the public trust and confidence. I perceive that the framers of our constitution never once imagined that members of a Pennsylvania assembly could ever be guilty of such scandalous artifice, and, therefore, thought it needless to insult and wound the honorable feelings of their constituents by any provision or remedies against such pitiful tricks.
But all this notwithstanding, it is possible perhaps that a case may happen of an assembly mad enough to run on in full career in forming some act of a nature so absurd, and of consequence so ruinous, that some indirect methods of suspending or stopping their proceedings, might be justified. This brings me to the object which induced them to sacrifice all character and regularity of business, overleap all bounds, and strike at one blow the great council of the commonwealth into a state of perfect inaction. By their own showing.
5. It appears the great object, the great motive of this desperate step was to render ineffectual a resolution of the house (carried by 43 against 19), “recommending the calling a convention to consider of the constitution proposed by the Federal Convention, and to approve or disapprove the same.”
It is here to be noted that they all agreed that such a convention ought to be called, and their only objection was that the time proposed was too soon, because the people had not time to make up their minds, i. e.: z. To consider and judge whether the constitution was a suitable one or not; and, 2. To pitch on suitable persons for delegates to the convention.
The first of these reasons was nugatory, because it was confessed by all, that a convention was to be called, and this was the only way of knowing whether the constitution would be approved by the people or not; for this was the only method agreed on by all parties of collecting the sense of the people, and the convention could not be straitened for time to consider enough; because, when met, they would be at liberty to take as much time as they pleased.
The second reason is as trifling as the first; for the great characters in every part of the State suitable for such a trust, would be as well known to the people on the day of election proposed, as they would be three or six months afterwards.
To these reasons for delay were opposed the weightiest reasons for expediting the matter, because the whole Union, both in their domestic and foreign interests, suffered very great evils for want of a good constitution and energetic government: all which evils and mischiefs ought to be remedied as soon as possible. The mode of remedy first to be considered was the proposed constitution; if that was approved, we ought to proceed to execute it, without any needless delay; if it should be disapproved, something else must be adopted, and the pressing necessities of all the States are so great, that no time ought to be lost. But their surprise and reasons against the precipitate haste of the assembly in calling the convention, does not give all the heart and all the feelings of the sixteen members. They are greatly dissatisfied with the constitution proposed, and use every coloring, every artifice, and every argument they can devise to prejudice everybody against it; and in this they are very open and candid, and this part of their address certainly deserves our attention much more than all the rest.
As a kind of preface to their objections, they complain of the appointment of our delegates to the Federal Convention, and lament: 1. That none of them are calculated to represent the landed interest. I do not know how this can be, for the delegates own more land, that is, they possess more real estate on an average, than any eight of the sixteen complainants, and are as good economists in the management of it, and, for aught I know, are as much attached to it as any of them. 2. Their second lamentation is more weighty, viz., that almost none of them were of their party, for that I take to be their meaning, when they say that almost all of them were of one political party, and were opposed to the constitution of Pennsylvania, which most certainly needs great amendments in the opinion of almost everybody.
3. They further suggest that our delegates in convention exceeded their powers, which were to make and report such alterations and further provisions in the federal constitution, as would render it fully adequate to the exigencies of the Union, or in the language of the sixteen complainants, to revise and amend it. I suppose the whole force of their meaning must rest on the word amend; for I imagine that to revise without amending it, would not have come up to their ideas. Now an amendment, in the sense of legislative bodies, means either to strike out some words, clauses or paragraphs in a bill, without substituting anything in the place of them, or to insert new words, clauses or paragraphs where nothing was inserted before; or to strike out some words, clauses or paragraphs, and insert others in their room, which will suit better. Now I challenge the whole sixteen members to show that the convention have done an iota more than this ; besides, the new constitution does not by any express words, repeal the old one; therefore I suppose every article of the old one stands good and valid, unless where they are changed or annulled by the alterations and provisions of the new one. But after all, if the constitution offered to us is either a good one or a bad one, I cannot see that it is of any consequence to us, whether it is the old one revised and amended, or a new one fresh made; nor is it material whether the delegates of this State were competent to the business or not: it is offered by the whole respectable bodya body dignified by the general election of the Statesand therefore ought to be received with respect, and treated with candid attention; but in the discussion of it as a rule of government for us all, the merits of it ought to be the sole consideration, and it is the acceptance of the States alone which can give it the stamp of authority; therefore any little bickerings about the qualities, or views, or powers of this or that member, must be mere quibbles of no weight or consequence.
4. It is further objected with great parade, that three members of the convention refused to sign, and but thirty-nine of them only did sign the constitution proposed to us; but I think that so large a majority in its favor very far outweighs the negative of three members against it, neither of which has any pretensions of character superior to the thirty-nine who signed it.
Further, 5. They object to the assembly’s recommending the calling a convention, till they received the new constitution officially from Congress. I answer, I. The assembly meant to pursue the recommendation of the Federal Convention, which does not make the official directions of Congress necessary to calling the State conventions, under the recommendation of their legislatures; and had Congress refused to issue any official directions at all to the assembly, I do not know that the holding the State convention ought to have been prevented thereby. 2. The assembly had the most certain information of the fact, and had no doubt of receiving all necessary official communications from Congress, long before the convention could meet, or if they never came, could very well act without them. 3. Their not waiting for official letters from Congress did not proceed from any want of respect to Congress, but merely from their being straitened for time, as the end of the session drew very near.
I come now to consider the objections of our sixteen members to the constitution itself, which is much the most important part that lies on me.
1. Their first objection is, that the government proposed will be too expensive. I answer that if the appointments of officers are not more, and the compensations or emoluments of office not greater than is necessary, the expense will be by no means burdensome; and this must be left to the prudence of Congress, for I know of no way to control supreme powers from extravagance in this respect. Doubtless many instances may be produced of many needless offices being created, and many inferior officers, who receive far greater emoluments of office than the president of the state.
2. Their next objection is against a legislature consisting of three branches. This is so far from an objection that I consider it as an advantage. The most weighty and important affairs of the union must be transacted in congress; the most essential councils must be there decided, which must all go through three several discussions in three different chambers (all equally competent to the subject and equally governed by the same motives and interests, viz., the good of the great commonwealth, and the approbation of the people) before any decision can be made; and when disputes are very high, five discussions are necessary, all of which afford time for all parties to cool and reconsider.
This appears to me to be a very safe way, and a very likely method to prevent any sudden and undigested resolutions from passing, and though it may delay, or even destroy, a good bill, will hardly admit the passing of a bad one, which is by far the worst evil of the two. But if all this cannot stop the course of a bad bill, the negative of the president will at least give it further embarrassment, will furnish all the new light which a most serious discussion in a third House can give, and will make a new discussion necessary in each of the other two, where every member will have an opportunity to revise his opinion, to correct his arguments, and bring his judgment to the greatest maturity possible. If all this can not keep the public decision within the bounds of wisdom, natural fitness, right and convenience, it will be hard to find any efforts of human wisdom that can do it.
I believe it would be difficult to find a man in the union who would not readily consent to have congress vested with all the vast powers proposed by the new constitution, if he could be sure that those powers would be exercised with wisdom, justice, and propriety, and not be abused; and I do not see that greater precautions and guards against abuses can well be devised, or more effectual methods used to throw every degree of light on every subject of debate, or more powerful motives to a reasonable and honest decision can be set before the minds of congress than are here proposed; and if this is the best that can be obtained, it ought in all prudence to be adopted till better appears, rather than to be rejected merely because it is human, not perfect, and may be abused. At any rate, I think it very plain that our chance of a right decision in a congress of three branches, is much greater than in one of a single chamber; but, however all this may, be I can not see the least tendency in a legislature of three branches to increase the burdens or taxes of the people. I think it very evident that any proposition of extravagant expense would be checked and embarrassed in such an assembly, more than in a single house.
Further, the two houses being by their election taken from the body of the states, and being themselves principal inhabitants, will naturally have the interest of the commonwealth sincerely at heart: their principle must be the same, their differences must be (if any) in the mode of pursuing it, or arise from local attachments. I say, the great interest of their country, and the esteem, confidence, and approbation of their fellow citizens must be strong governing principles in both houses, as well as in the president himself; “whilst at the same time the emulation naturally arising between them will induce a very critical and sharp-sighted inspection into the motions of each other. Their different opinions will bring on conferences between the two houses, in which the whole subject will be exhausted in arguments pro and con, and shame will be the portion of obstinate convicted error. Under these circumstances a man of ignorance or evil design will be afraid to impose on the credulity, inattention or confidence of his house by introducing any corrupt or indigested proposition which he knows he must be called on to defend against the severe scrutiny and poignant objections of the other house. I do not believe the many hurtful and foolish legislative acts which first or last have injured all the states on earth, have originated so much in corruption as in indolence, ignorance, and a want of a full comprehension of the subject, which a full, prying and emulous discussion would tend in a great measure to remove: this naturally rouses the lazy and idle, who hate the pain of close thinking, animates the ambitious to excel in policy and argument, and excites the whole to support the dignity of their house and vindicate their own propositions. I am not of opinion that bodies of elective men which usually compose parliaments, diets, assemblies, congresses, etc., are commonly dishonest; but I believe it rarely happens that there are not designing men among them, and I think it would be much more difficult for them to unite their partisans in two houses and corrupt or deceive them both, than to carry on their designs where there is but one unalarmed, unapprehensive house to be managed; and as there is no hope of making these bad men good, the best policy is to embarrass them, and make their work as difficult as possible. In these assemblies are frequently to be found sanguine men, upright enough indeed, but of strong, wild projection, whose brains are always teeming with Utopian, chimerical plans and political whims, very destructive to society. I hardly know a greater evil than to have the supreme councils of a nation played off on such men’s wires; such baseless visions at best end in darkness, and the dance, though easy and merry enough at first, rarely fails to plunge the credulous, simple followers into sloughs and bogs at last. Nothing can tend more effectually to obviate these evils and to mortify and cure such maggoty brains, than to see the absurdity of their projects exposed by the several arguments and keen satire which a full, emulous and spirited discussion of the subject will naturally produce. We have had enough of these geniuses in the short course of our politics, both in our national and provincial councils, and have felt enough of their evil effects, to induce us to wish for any good methods to keep ourselves clear of them in future.
“The consultations and decisions of national councils are so very important, that the fate of millions depends on them; therefore no man ought to speak in such assemblies, without considering that the fate of millions hangs on his tongue, and, of course, a man can have no right in such august councils to utter indigested sentiments, or indulge himself in sudden unexamined flights of thought; his most tried and improved abilities are due to the States, who have trusted him with their most important interests. A man must therefore be most inexcusable, who is either absent during such debates, or sleeps, or whispers, or catches flies during the argument, and just rouses when the vote is called to give his yea or nay, to the weal or woe of a nation. Therefore it is manifestly proper, that every natural motive that can operate on his understanding, or his passions, to engage his attention and utmost efforts, should be put in practice, and that his present feelings should be raised by every motive of honor and shame, to stimulate him to every practicable degree of diligence and exertion, to be as far as possible useful in the great discussion. I appeal to the feelings of every reader, if he would not (were he in either house) be much more strongly and naturally induced to exert his utmost abilities and attention to any question which was to pass through the ordeal of a spirited discussion of another house, than he would be, if the absolute decision depended on his own house without any further enquiry or challenge on the subject”Vide a Dissertation on the Political Union and Constitution of the Thirteen United States, published by a citizen of Philadelphia, February 16, 1783, where the subject is taken up at large.
3. Another objection is, that the constitution proposed will annihilate the state governments or reduce them to mere corporations. I take it that this objection is thrown out (merely invidice causa) without the least ground for it; for I do not find one article of the constitution proposed, which vests congress, or any of their officers or courts, with a power to interfere in the least in the internal police or goverment of any one state, when the interests of some other state or strangers, or the union in general, are not concerned; and in all such cases it is absolutely and manifestly necessary that congress should have a controlling power, otherwise there would be no end of controversies and injuries between different states, nor any safety for individuals, nor any possibility of supporting the union with any tolerable degree of honor, strength or security.
4. Another objection is against the power of taxation vested in congress. But, I answer, this is absolutely unavoidable, from the necessity of the case; I know it is a tender point, a vast power, and a terrible engine of oppression and tyranny, when wantonly, injudiciously, or wickedly used, but must be admitted; for it is impossible to support the union, or indeed any government, without expensethe congress are the proper judges of that expensethe amount of it, and the best means of supplying it; the safety of the states absolutely requires that this power be lodged somewhere, and no other body can have the least pretensions to it; and no part of the resources of the states can, with any safety, be exempt, when the exigencies of the union or government require their utmost exertion. The stronger we make our government, the greater protection it can afford us, and the greater will our safety be under it. It is easy enough here to harangue on the arts of a court to create occasions for money, or the unbounded extravagance with which they can spend it; but all this notwithstanding, we must take our courts as we do our wives, for better or for worse. We hope the best of an American congress, but if they disappoint us, we cannot help it; it is in vain to try to form any plan of avoiding the frailties of human nature. Would any man choose a lame horse, lest a sound one should run away with him? or will any man prefer a small tent to live in before a large house, which may fall down and crush him in its ruins? No man has any right to find fault with this article, till he can substitute a better in its room.
The sixteen members attempt to aggravate the horrors of this devouring power, by suggesting the rigid severity with which congress, with their faithful soldiers, will exact and collect the taxes. This picture, stripped of its black drapery, amounts to just this, viz: That whatever taxes are laid will be collected, without exception, from every person charged with themwhich must look disagreeable, I suppose, to people who, by one shift or another, have avoided paying taxes all their lives. But it is a plain truth, and will be obvious to anybody who duly considers it, that nothing can be more ruinous to a state, or oppressive to individuals, than a partial and dilatory collection of taxes, especially where the tax is an impost or excise, because the man who avoids the tax can undersell, and consequently ruin, him who pays it, i. e. smuggling ruins the fair trader; and a remedy of this mischief, I cannot suppose, will be deemed by our people in general such a very awful judgment, as the sixteen members would make us believe their constituents will consider it to be.
5. They object that the liberty of the press is not asserted in the constitution. I answer, neither are any of the ten commandments, but I do not think that it follows that it was the design of the convention to sacrifice either the one or the other to contempt or to leave them void of protection and effectual support.
6. It is objected further that the constitution contains no declaration of rights. I answer, this is not truethe constitution contains a declaration of many rights, and very important ones, e. g., that people shall be obliged to fulfil their contracts, and not avoid them by tenders of anything less than the value stipulated; that no ex post facto laws shall be made, &c. ; but it was no part of the business of their appointment to make a code of lawsit was sufficient to fix the constitution right, and that would pave the way for the most effectual security of the rights of the subject.
7. They further object that no provision is made against a standing army in time offeace. I answer, that a standing army, i. e. regular troops are often necessary in time of peace, to prevent a war, to guard against sudden invasions, for garrison-duty, to quell mobs and riots, as guards to congress and perhaps other courts, &c., &c., as military schools to keep up the knowledge and habits of military discipline and exercise, &c., &c. ; and as the power of raising troops is rightfully and without objection vested in congress, so they are the properest and best judges of the number requisite, and of the occasion, time and manner of employing them; if they are not wanted on military duty, they may be employed in making public roads, fortifications, or any other public worksthey need not be a useless burden to the states. And for all this the prudence of congress must be trusted, and nobody can have a right to object to this, till they can point out some way of doing better.
8. Another objection is, that the new constitution abolishes trials by jury in civil causes. I answer, I do not see one word in the constitution, which by any candid construction can support even the remotest suspicion that this ever entered the heart of one member of the convention; I therefore set down the suggestion for sheer malice, and so dismiss it.
9. Another objection is that the federal judiciary is so constructed as to destroy the judiciaries of the several states, and that the appellate jurisdiction, with respect to law and fact, is unnecessary. I answer, both the original and appellate jurisdiction of the federal judiciary are manifestly necessary, where the cause of action affects the citizens of different states, the general interest of the union, or strangers (and to cases of these descriptions only, does the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary extend); I say, these jurisdictions of the federal judiciary are manifestly necessary for the reasons just now given under the third objection, and I do not see how they can avoid trying any issues joined before them, whether the thing to be decided is law or fact; but I think no doubt can be made, that if the issue joined is on fact, it must be tried by a jury.
10. They object, that the election of delegates for the house of representatives is for two years, and of senators for six years. I think this a manifest advantage, rather than an objection. Very great inconveniences must necessarily arise from a too frequent change of the members of large legislative or executive bodies, where the revision of every past transaction must be taken up, explained and discussed anew for the information of the new members, when the settled rules of the house are little understood by them, &c., &c., all which ought to be avoided, if it can be with safety. Further, it is plain that any man who serves in such bodies, is better qualified the second year than he could be the first, because experience adds qualifications for every business, &c. The only objection is that long continuance affords danger of corruption, but for this the constitution provides a remedy by impeachment and expulsion, which will be a sufficient restraint, unless a majority of the house and senate should become corrupt, which is not easily presumable; in fine, there is a certain mean between too long and too short continuances of members of congress, and I cannot see but it is judiciously fixed by the convention.
Upon the whole matter, I think the sixteen members have employed an address-writer of great dexterity, who has given us a strong sample of ingenious malignity and ill-naturea masterpiece of high coloring in the scare-crow way; in his account of the conduct of the sixteen members, by an unexpected openness and candor, he avows facts which he certainly cannot expect to justify, or even hope that their constituents will patronize or even approve; but he seems to lose all candor when he deals in sentiments; when he comes to point out the nature and operation of the new constitution, he appears to mistake the spirit and true principles of it very much; or which is worse, takes pleasure in showing it in the worst light he can paint it in. I however agree with him in this, that this is the time for consideration and minute examination: and I think the great subject, when viewed seriously, without passion or prejudice, will bear and brighten under the severest examination of the rational inquirer. If the provisions of the law or constitution do not exceed the occasions, if the remedies are not extended beyond the mischiefs, the government cannot be justly charged with severity; on the other hand, if the provisions are not adequate to the occasions, and the remedies not equal to the mischiefs, the government must be too lax, and not sufficiently operative to give the necessary security to the subject; to form a right judgment, we must compare these two things well together, and not suffer our minds to dwell on one of them alone, without considering them in connexion with the other; by this means we shall easily see that the one makes the other necessary.
Were we to view only the gaols and dungeons, the gallows and pillories, the chains and wheel-barrows, of any state, we might be induced to think the government severe; but when we turn our attention to the murders and parricides, and robberies and burglaries, the piracies and thefts, which merit these punishments, our idea of cruelty vanishes at once, and we admire the justice, and perhaps clemency, of that government which before shocked us as too severe. So when we fix our attention only on the superlative authority and energetic force vested in congress and our federal executive powers by the new constiution, we may at first sight be induced to think that we yield more of the sovereignty of the states and of personal liberty, than is requisite to maintain the federal government; but when on the other hand we consider with full survey the vast supports which the union requires, and the immense consequence of that union to us all, we shall probably soon be convinced that the powers aforesaid, extensive as they are, are not greater than is necessary for our benefit; for, 1. No laws of any state, which do not carry in them a force which extends to their effectual and final execution, can afford a certain and sufficient security to the subject; for, 2. Laws of any kind, which fail of execution, are worse than none, because they weaken the government, expose it to contempt, destroy the confidence of all men, both subjects and strangers, in it, and disappoint all men who have confided in it; in fine, our union can never be supported without definite and effectual laws which are coextensive with their occasions, and which are supported by authorities and powers which can give them execution with energy; if admitting such powers into our constitution can be called a sacrifice, it is a sacrifice to safety, and the only question is whether our union or federal government is worth this sacrifice. Our union, I say, under the protection of which every individual rests secure against foreign and domestic insult and oppression; but without it we can have no security against invasions, insults, and oppressions of foreign powers, or against the in-roads and wars of one state on another, or even against insurrections and rebellions arising within particular states, by which our wealth and strength, as well as ease, comfort and safety, will be devoured and destroyed by enemies growing out of our own bowels. It is our union alone which can give us respectability abroad in the eyes of foreign nations; and secure to us all the advantages both of trade and safety, which can be derived from treaties with them.
The Thirteen States all united and well cemented together, are a strong, rich and formidable body, not of stationary, maturated power, but increasing every day in riches, strength, and numbers; thus circumstanced, we can demand the attention and respect of all foreign nations, but they will give us both in exact proportion to the solidity of our union. For if they observe our union to be lax, from insufficient principles of cement in our constitution, or mutinies and insurrections of our own people (which are the direct consequence of an insufficient cement of union); I say, when foreign nations see either of these, they will immediately abate of their atten-tion and respect to us and confidence in us.
And, as it appears to me, that the new constitution does not vest congress with more or greater powers than are necessary to support this important union, I wish it may be admitted in the most cordial and unanimous manner by all the states.
It is a human composition, and may have errors which future experience will enable us to discover and correct; but I think it is pretty plain, if it has faults, that the address-writer of the sixteen members has not been able to find them; for he has all along either hunted down phantoms of error, that have no real existence, or which is worse, tarnished real excellencies into blemishes.
I have dwelt the longer on these remarks on this writer, because I observe that all the scribblers in our papers against the new constitution, have taken their cue principally from him, all their lucubrations contain little more than his ideas dressed out in a great variety of forms; one of which colors so high as to make the new constitution strongly resemble the Turkish government (vide Gazetteer of the 10th instant), which, I think, comes about as near the truth as any of the rest, and brings to my mind a sentiment in polemical divinity, which I have somewhere read, that there were once great disputes and different opinions among divines about the mark which was set on Cain, when one of them very gravely thought it was a horn fully grown out on his forehead. It is probable he could not think of a worse mark than that.
On the whole matter there is no end of the extravagancies of the human fancy, which are commonly dictated by poignant feelings, disordered passions, or affecting interests; but I could wish my fellow-citizens, in the matter of vast importance before us, would divest themselves of bias, passion, and little personal or local interests, and consider the great subject with that dignity of reason and independence of sentiment, which national interests ever require. I have here given my sentiments with the most unbiased freedom, and hope they will be received with the most candid attention and unbiased discussion, by the states in which I live, and in which I expect to leave my children.
I will conclude with one observation, which I take to be very capital, viz: that the distresses and oppressions both of nations and individuals often arise from the powers of government being too limited in their principle, too indeterminate in their definition, or too lax in their execution, and of course the safety of the citizens depends much on full and definite powers of government, and an effectual execution of them.
Philadelphia, October 12, 1787.
To the PEOPLE of AMERICA: 14
The present situation of the United States has attracted the notice of every country in Europe. By the discussions which led to the revolution, we have proved to the world, that we were intimately acquainted with the natural rights and political relations of mankind. By those discussions, and the subsequent conduct of America, her enemies must be well convinced that she is sincerely attached to liberty, and that her citizens will never submit to a deprivation of that inestimable blessing. To ensure the continuance of that real freedom in the spirit of which our State constitutions were universally formed; to ensure it from enemies within, then existing and numerous; to ensure it from enemies without, then and ever to be watched and repelled, the first confederation was formed. It was an honest and solemn covenant among our infant States, and virtue and common danger supplied its defects. When the immediate perils of those awful times were removed by the valor and persevering fortitude of America, aided by the active friendship of France, and the follies of Great Britain, those defects were too easily seen and felt. They have been acknowledged at various times by all the legislatures of the Union; and often, very often indeed, represented by Congress. The Commonwealth of Virginia took the first step to obtain this object of universal desire, by applying to her sister States to meet her in the Commercial Convention in the last year. Some of the States immediately adopted the measure, Congress afterwards added their sanction, and a few more of the States concurred. A meeting of the deputies, though not a general one, took place at the appointed time. The members of that body, influenced, I am persuaded, by the purest considerations, added their voice to the general wish for another Convention, whose object should be the revision and amendment of the federal government. It is worthy of remark that these proceedings of the States were not conducted through those channels the confederation points out, but they were not inconsistent with it, they were certainly not improper: for it is not material in what manner the United States in Congress become possessed of the matter and form of changes really desired by the people of the Union. It is only necessary when that body shall determine on alterations, that they proceed constitutionally to obtain the adoption of them. It may be observed further, that the address of the Annapolis Convention, signed by the Hon. John Dickinson, Esq., was published in September, 1786, in the newspapers of all the Middle States, and particularly those of Pennsylvania, during the sitting of the Hon. the General Assembly of the Commonwealth. The people, therefore, throughout the Union, and most certainly in Pennsylvania, must have known that the important duty of amending our Federal constitution (so far as the legislatures could interfere in it) must come before the members they were then about to choose. I have drawn the attention of my fellow-citizens to this fact, and request they will observe it, because a contrary idea has been given by some members of our legislature.
The recommendation for calling the late convention for the purpose of giving the requisite efficiency to the Union, was adopted by Congress and all the States, but Rhode Island. I will not abuse that unhappy, fallen, lost sister. As a sincere relation, however, wounded by the dishonor to our family nameas an honest man, distressed at the injury she has done to the cause of public and private virtueas a friend to liberty, alarmed at the arguments against our republican governments which she has furnished to royal tyrantsI solemnly conjure her to consider her late conduct, unexampled in the history of the world. She exhibits to mankind the unheard of spectacle of a people, possessed of a constitution containing all the principles of substantial justice, and of civil and religious liberty, disregarding the rights of property and obligations between man and man, and trampling under their feet a solemn compact with neighboring and related States, yet bleeding with wounds sustained in fighting by their side in a common cause, and infringing the established laws of nations and treaties with allies most powerful and friendly. Let them ask themselves, let them permit a friend to ask them, what they can hope from such a conduct, or in what fatal catastrophe it may not issue ?
The twelve states which made the appointment, sent forward their deputies in due time. I waive all weight of names, but they were such in general as it became the states to appoint. Exceptions, perhaps just ones, may have been made to some of them; but remember these were not alone; they did not even form a majority of the representation of one state; much less could they affect the general views of the whole body. I am not acquainted with the situation of parties in the other states, but have had too much opportunity, with the rest of the world, of judging of them in Pennsylvania. I acknowledge, that in my mind there might have been more propriety in the appointment from this state. The gentlemen were individually fully competent to the duty. They were so collectively. Had some of the same men resided in the western counties, it would have been more satisfactory. In point of good policy, it should have been so. While candor forbids us to withhold these observations, the public good requires that even the just offence it may have given, should not interfere with a plan sincerely intended to promote the happiness of our country. I wish to avoid offence, but I beg to be indulged in remarking that the appointment of our deputies to the Convention, from the city and county of Philadelphia, does not appear to have made any painful impressions on the people of the western counties. Perhaps it is because they have not observed the fact. If that is the case, it cannot be of importance to the tranquility of the state, nor to the great business before us. I confess my wishes were strongly in favor of some western deputies, though it seems the seceding members themselves proposed but one. I believe, however, many persons wished at the time, he had been appointed. Yet the people of that part of the state have not complained, and it was the act of a real majority. Besides, I feel too independent a freeman to endure the idea, that any one man could be indispensably necessary to that appointment. The truth is that some members of the Pennsylvania Assembly, after seceding from their brethren, have brought the idea for the first time, at an ill-judged moment, before the public. They have suggested it to their constituents, not their constituents to them. Reflect dispassionately on these circumstances, my Pennsylvania readers. I mean not offensive censure, which I despise and condemn. The seceding members, I say, suggested the idea of offence at the appointment of our deputies, after an unlucky quarrel had taken place. Does it not seem to be a little in the way of apology? When these gentlemen say they were apprehensive of the consequences of the appointment, I can believe they spoke trulybut when they bring it forward to the people only after their own secession from the house, to the people who have never complained of it, does it not rather appear that the jealousy they entertained in their own minds, has by too much brooding over it, grown to a sore, and that their letting it out now, is rather a proof of their own feelings than of any discontent among the people. Is it consistent with the delicacy of one of those gentlemen, that he should sign this sentiment among the sixteen, when he was himself a candidate? It were to be wished his name at least had not been there, or that the observation in their address had been omitted. It is consistent with propriety, that another gentleman should vote for calling the Convention, and afterwards secede from his brethren? How much more becoming the honor of their private characters, and the dignity of their public offices, was the conduct of the two gentlemen who were brought to the house by the speaker’s order, in entering freely into the debates that ensued. Though they have not accustomed themselves to speak often, they, on this occasion, proposed matters for the good of their constituents (which they could not have done if absent), and their motions were adopted.
The address carries an idea that the new federal constitution has been only approved by what is called the republican party. I would cheerfully rest the disproving this insinuation upon any man of honor in the constitutional party. Dr. Franklin and Mr. Ingersoll, who assisted to frame, and afterwards signed the act of the convention, never opposed our state constitution. Messrs. Will, Foulke, G. Heister, Kreemer, J. Heister, Davis, Trexler, Burkhalter and Antis, and other members of the house, who voted for the call of a State Convention, are surely not republicans; and among the four thousand petitioners for the adoption of the new federal government, will be found many of the most zealous, active and respectable friends of the constitution of this commonwealth. This I assert as an incontrovertible fact, of which every indi-vidual of the sixteen seceding gentlemen was fully possessed; for the petitions, with a very great number of the names of such persons, were presented to the house on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. The secession took place on Friday afternoon, and was repeated on Saturday morning. The good men of Pennsylvania will satisfy themselves whether their sixteen representatives have given this wrong idea from want of temper or from want of virtueit was indeed unguarded to pass upon their constituents a suggestion that the friends of the new federal government were all of them enemies to the constitution of the State of Pennsylvania, and had all of them destructive designs on the State frame of government. Before I quit this point let me add one piece of information, which is, that the gentleman alluded to in a preceding paragraph, is the only unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the convention who has not declared for the adoption of the federal constitution.
But to return.The twelve States which concurred sent forward their deputies in due time. I shall not attempt, as I have already said, to pass upon your understandings the weight of names-determine that matter for yourselves. Suffer me to remark only, that the faithful, disinterested and invaluable services of WASHINGTONthe incessant, faithful and essential services of FRANKLINmight have saved them from the contemptuous insinuations of a late writer. Were such compositions applauded, it might indeed be said “that republics are ungrateful.”
The constitution which these gentlemen have offered to their fellow citizens has been considered with manly freedom, such I am sure as they wished it to meet. If in some cases it has been carried further, it is a proof at once of our liberty, and of the passions which we know to prevail among men; and as every cause is open to the friendship and enmity of bad men, there can be no doubt but that very wicked and dangerous motives influence some, both among the friends and enemies of the new frame of government. Leaving all observations upon such points, in treating which even truth will appear uncertain, and candor may heat and inflame, I recommend to all men of pure, honest intentions the utmost moderation and forbearance. The object before us is indeed great and interesting. We are to arrange affairs essential to our own happiness, and highly important to the present and future people of the earth. Though it must be admitted that too much and too bitter contention has appeared in our affairs, yet it is no less true that the active and speculative friends of liberty, throughout the world, consider us at this day as the enlightened and sincere supporters of their cause, and look to us for examples which the one expects to approve, the other to imitate. Let us refrain then from these little, mean, bitter invectives; let us suppress those contemptible remains of narrow party spirit, and consider our critical situation with decency and candor, remembering that the true sons of liberty are brothers to each other.
Much observation has been made in regard to the omission of a bill of rights in the new frame of government. Such remarks, I humbly conceive, arise from a great inadvertency in taking up the subject. When the people of these States dissolved their connection with the crown of Great Britain, by the Declaration of Independence, they found themselves, as to government, in a state of nature: yet they were very sensible of the blessings of civil society. On a recommendation of Congress, who were then possessed of no authority, the inhabitants of each colony respectively formed a compact for themselves, which compacts are our State constitutions. These were original agreements among individuals before actually in a state of nature. In these constitutions a bill of rights (that is, a declaration of the unaliened rights of each individual) was proper, and indispensably necessary. When the several States were thus formed into thirteen separate and independent sovereignties, Congress, who managed their general affairs, and their respective legislatures, thought it proper (and it was surely absolutely necessary) that a confederation should be prepared and executed. The measure was accordingly adopted; and here let us observe this was a compact among thirteen independent States of the nature of a perpetual treaty. It was acceded to by the several States as sovereign. No individuals were parties to it. No rights of individuals could, therefore, be declared in it. The rights of contracting parties (the thirteen States) were declared. Those rights remain inviolate. No bill of the rights of the freemen of the Union was thought of, nor could be introduced. No complaint was made of the want of it, for it was a matter foreign from the nature of the compact. In articles of agreement among a number of people forming a civil society, a bill of the rights of individuals comes in of course, and is indispensably necessary. In articles of agreement among a number of independent states, entering into a union, a bill of the rights of individuals is excluded of course. As in the old confederation or compact among the thirteen inde-pendent sovereignties of America, no bill of rights of individuals could be or was introduced; so in the proposed compact among the same thirteen independent sovereignties, no bill of the rights of individuals has been or could be introduced. This would be to annihilate our state constitutions, by rendering them unnecessary. The liberty of the press, from an honest republican jealousy, which I highly applaud, has also been a subject of observation: but the right of writing for publication, and of printing, publishing and selling what may be written, are personal rights, are part of the rights of individuals. Thus we see when attempts have been made to restrain them in any country, the individuals concerned have only been, or indeed could be, the objects of attention. They are the rights of the people in the states, and can only be exercised by them. They are not the rights of the thirteen independent sovereignties, therefore could not enter into either the old or new compact among them. Every constitution in the union guards the liberty of the press. It has also become a part of the common law of the land. But who is to destroy it? Not the people at large, for it is their most invaluable privilegethe palladium of their happinessnot the state legislatures, for their respective constitutions forbid them to infringe it. Not the federal government, for they have never had it transferred into their hands. It remains amongst those rights not conveyed to them. But who are the federal government, that they should take away the freedom of the press, was it not out of their reach? Are they not the temporary responsible servants of the people? How then, my countrymen, is this favorite inestimable privilege in danger? It cannot be affected. It is understood by all men that it is never to be touched. It is guarded by insurmountable barriers, as you have already seen; and woe betidethe heaviest woe will betide the sacrilegious hand that shall attempt to remove them.
A CITIZEN OF PENNSYLVANIA.
To the FREEMEN of PENNSYLVANIA 15
A publication has lately appeared in several of our papers, said to be signed by sixteen members of the late Assembly of Pennsylvania, which challenges a few remarks.
The first remark that occurs is, that the paper was neither written by any one of them, nor signed by all of them. They are too illiterate to compose such an address, and it can be proved that several of the persons whose names are subscribed to it left the city on Saturday, before there was time to collect the materials of the address, or to receive it from the person who is well known to have written it.
A second remark that occurs in this place is, that there was a fixed resolution of the anti-federal junto to oppose the federal government, long before it made its appearance. In the month of July last, at a meeting of this junto, it was agreed, “that if the new constitution of Congress interfered in the least with the constitution of Pennsylvania, it ought to be opposed and rejected, and that even the name of a WASHINGTON should not carry it down.” Happily it requires a reduction of the enormous expenses, and some other alterations of our constitution. Hence the reason of their opposition. Had it been much more perfect, or had it, like the Jewish theocracy, been framed by the hand of the SUPREME BEING himself, it would have been equally unpopular among them, since it interferes with their expensive hobby-horse, the Constitution of Pennsylvania.
The address, and all the opposition to the new government, originate from the officers of government, who are afraid of losing their salaries or places. This will not surprise those of us who remember the opposition which our Independence received from a few officers of government in the years 1775 and 1776. Recollect the FRIENDLY ADDRESSES and the CATOS, which appeared in those years in all our newspapers. Remember too, that these publications came from men of as great understandings, and of more extensive influence, than Randolph, Mason or Gerry. Which of them is fit to be named with Hutchinson, Bernard, Tryon or Kemp?
The address begins with two palpable falsehoods. ” We lamented (it says) at the time, that a majority of our legislature appointed men to represent this state, who were all citizens of Philadelphia, and none of them calculated to represent the landed interest of Pennsylvania.”
It is a well-known fact, that a seat in the convention was offered to William Findley, and that he objected to it, because no wages were to be connected with it. It became, therefore, a matter of econotny, as well as convenience, to fill up the delegation with members from Philadelphia. If this was a crime, the sixteen concurred in it, for they all voted for five of the delegation, and for three other men who were at that time citizens of Philadelphia, viz: Thomas M’Kean, Charles Pettit and John Bayard, esquires.
The story of the delegates from Pennsylvania having no interest in the landed property of the state is equally ground-less with the foregoing. They are all landholders, and one of them alone owns a greater landed estate than the whole sixteen absconders; and has for many years past punctually and justly paid more taxes on it than are paid by the whole anti-federal junto, and, unfortunately, for the support of the men who compose this junto.
The address confesses that the sixteen absconded to prevent the majority of the house from calling a convention, to consider the new form of government. Is this right, freemen of Pennsylvania? Is it agreeable to democratic principles, that the minority should govern the majority? Is not this aristocracy in good earnest? Is it not tyranny, that a few should govern the many? By absconding, and thereby obstructing the public business, they dissolved the constitution. They annihilated the first principles of government, and threw the commonwealth into a state of nature. Under these circumstances, the citizens of Philadelphia appealed to the first of nature’s laws, viz: self-preservation. They seized two of the sixteen absconders, and compelled them to form a House by their attendance. In this they acted wisely and justlyas much so as the man who seizes a highwayman, who is about to rob him. If they were wrong in this action, then the men who drove Galloway, Skinner, Delancey, and other miscreants, from our states, by force, in the year 1776, were wrong likewise. What justified all the outrages that were committed against the tories in the beginning of the war? Nothing but the dissolution of our governments. What was the foundation of the dissolution of these governments? Nothing but a resolution of Congress. What determined us to establish new governments on the ruins of the old ? Nothing but a recommendation of Congress. Why, then, do these men fly in the faces of the convention and Congress ? It was from similar bodies of men, similarly constituted, that their present form of government derived its independence. It cannot exist without a Congressit is meet, therefore, that it should harmonize with it.
The objections to the federal government are weak, false and absurd. The neglect of the convention to mention the liberty of the press arose from a respect to the state constitutions, in each of which this palladium of liberty is secured, and which is guaranteed to them as an essential part of their republican forms of government. But supposing this had not been clone, the liberty of the press would have been an inherent and polical right, as long as nothing was said against it. The convention have said nothing to secure the privilege of eating and drinking, and yet no man supposes that right of nature to be endangered by their silence about it.
Considering the variety of interests to be consulted, and the diversity of human opinions upon all subjects, and especially the subject of government, it is a matter of astonishment that the government formed by the convention has so few faults. With these faults, it is a phenomenon of human wisdom and virtue, such as the world never saw before. It unites in its different parts all the advantages, without any of the disadvantages, of the three well-known forms of government, and yet it preserves the attributes of a republic. And lastly, if it should be found to be faulty in any particular, it provides an easy and constitutional method of curing its faults.
I anticipate the praise with which this government will be viewed by the friends of liberty and mankind in Europe. The philosophers will no longer consider a republic as an impracticable form of government, and pious men of all denominations will thank God for having provided in our federal constitution, an Ark for the preservation of the remains of the justice and liberties of the world.
Freemen of Pennsylvania, consider the character and services of the men who made this government. Behold the venerable FRANKLIN, in the 70th year of his age, cooped up in the cabin of a small vessel, and exposing himself to the dangers of a passage on the ocean, crowded with British cruisers, in a winter month, in order to solicit from the court of France that aid, which finally enabled America to close the war with so much success and gloryand then say, is it possible that this man would set his hand to a constitution that would endanger your liberties? From this aged servant of the public, turn your eyes to the illustrious American hero, whose name has ennobled human natureI mean our beloved WASHINGTON. Behold him, in the year 1775, taking leave of his happy family and peaceful retreat, and flying to the relief of a distant, and at that time an unknown part of the American continent. See him uniting and cementing an army, composed of the citizens of thirteen states, into a band of brothers. Follow him into the field of battle, and behold him the first in danger, and the last out of it. Follow him into his winter quarters, and see him sharing in the hunger, cold and fatigues of every soldier in his army. Behold his fortitude in adversity, his moderation in victory, and his tenderness and respect upon all occasions for the civil power of his country. But above all, turn your eyes to that illustrious scene he exhibited at Annapolis in 1782, when he resigned his commission, and laid his sword at the feet of Congress, and afterwards resumed the toils of an American farmer on the banks of the Potomac. Survey, my countrymen, these illustrious exploits of patriotism and virtue, and then say, is it possible that the deliverer of our country would have recommended an unsafe form of government for that liberty, for which he had for eight long years contended with such unexampled firmness, constancy and magnanimity.
Pardon me, if I here askWhere were the sixteen absconders and their advisers, while these illustrious framers of our federal constitution were exposing their lives and exerting their talents for your safety and happiness? Some of them took sanctuary in offices, under the constitution of Pennsylvania, from the dangers of the year 1776, and the rest of them were either inactive, or known only on the muster-rolls of the militia during the war.
Look around you, my fellow citizens, and behold the confusion and distresses which prevail in every part of our country. Behold, from the weakness of the government of Massachusetts, the leaders of rebellion making laws to exempt themselves from punishment. See, in Rhode Island, the bonds of society and the obligations of morality dissolved by paper money and tender laws. See the flames of courthouses in Virginia, kindled by debtors to stop the course of justice. Hear the complaints of our farmers, whose unequal and oppressive taxes in every part of the country amount to nearly the rent of their farms. Hear too the complaints of every class of public creditors. Look at the records of bankruptcies that fill every newspaper. Look at the melancholy countenances of our mechanics, who now wander up and down the streets of our cities without employment. See our ships rotting in our harbors, or excluded from nearly all the ports in the world. Listen to the insults that are offered to the American name and character in every court of Europe. See order and honor everywhere prostrate in the dust, and religion, with all her attending train of virtues, about to quit our continent forever. View these things, my fellow citizens, and then say that we do not require a new, a protecting, and efficient federal government, if you can. The picture I have given you of the situation of our country is not an exaggerated one. I challenge the boldest enemy of the federal constitution to disprove any one part of it.
It is not to be wondered at, that some of the rulers and officers of the government of Pennsylvania are opposed to the new constitution of the United States. It will lessen their power, number and influencefor it will necessarily reduce the expenses of our government from nearly 5,000l. to 10,000l., or, at most, 15,000l. a year. I am very happy in being able to except many worthy officers of our government from concurring in this opposition. Their names, their conduct, and their characters, are well-known to their fellow citizens, and I hope they will all be rewarded by a continuance and accumulation of public favor and confidence.
The design of this address is not to inflame the passions of my fellow citizens; I know the feelings of the people of Pennsylvania are sufficiently keen. It becomes me not, therefore (to use the words of the address of the sixteen absconders), to add to them, by dwelling longer “upon the distresses and dangers of our country. I have laid a real state of facts before you; it becomes you, therefore, to judge for yourselves.”
The absconders have endeavored to sanctify their false and seditious publication by a solemn address to the Supreme Being. I shall conclude the truths I have written, by adopting some of their own words, with a short addition to them.
“May HE, who alone has dominion over the passions and understandings of men, preserve you from the influence of rulers, who have upon many occasions held fellowship with iniquity, and established mischief by law.”
The author of this Address is one of the FOUR THOUSAND Citizens of Philadelphia and its neighborhood, who subscribed the petition to the late Assembly, immediately to call a Convention, in order to adopt the proposed FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.
- From Proceedings and Debates of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, taken in short-hand by Thomas Lloyd. Philadelphia, 1787. Vol. I., p. II5. Return to text
- These Resolutions are copied from the Minutes of the Assembly. Those in Lloyd’s debates are given in the language in which the resolutions were finally passed, with the exception of the time of holding the election. Return to text
- Mr. Whitehall. Return to text
- Mr. Fitzsimons. Return to text
- Mr. Whitehall. Return to text
- Mr. Brackenridge. Return to text
- Mr. Whitehall. Return to text
- From the Minutes of the Assembly. Return to text
- From the Pennsylvania Packet, Oct. 4th, 1787. Return to text
- Pennsylvania Gazette, Oct. 3, 1787. Return to text
- Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 5, 1787. Return to text
- Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 9, 1787. Return to text
- These remarks were printed in pamphlet form by Eleazer Oswald. They were subsequently included in a volume of Essays Mr. Webster published in 179-, and to them he then appended the following note:
“When the new constitution was laid before the Assembly of Pennsylvania, in September, 1787, a resolution passed the House (forty-three against nineteen) to call a convention to consider it, etc. Sixteen of the dissentients published an address to their constituents, dated September 27, 1787, stating their conduct, and assigning the reasons of it; but as there was very little in all this affair that reflected much honor on the dissenting members or on the State to which they belonged, and nothing that could affect or concern anybody out of that State, I have here omitted my remarks on all of it, but their objections to the new constitution itself which being of general consequence to the States, inasmuch as that constitution (with a few amendments since adopted) is the same which now exists in full establishment through the Union, I therefore here insert, I say, their objections and my remarks on them and leave out all the rest as a matter of local concern at that time, but like to be little interesting to the public in general at this or any future time.”
A copy of the original pamphlet is in the Boston Anthenaeum, and the librarian, Mr. Cutter, has kindly had copied the portions omitted in the collected Essays, and has collated the text with the original. Return to text
- From the Pennsylvania Packet, Oct. 12, 1787. Return to text
- From the Independent Gazetteer, or the Chroinicle of Freedom, October 15, 1787. Return to text