Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution 1787-1788: Chapter III
Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787-1788
Edited by John Bach McMaster and Frederick D. Stone
CHAPTER III. BEFORE THE MEETING OF THE CONVENTION[Between the day when the convention was called and the day when the convention met, a period of seven weeks elapsed. During this time both the friends and detractors of the con-stitution resorted to every known means of influencing public opinion. Appeals were made to the prejudices, to the fears, to the religious bigotry of the people. The Antifederalists, as they began to be called, found a friend in Eleazer Oswald, and filled his "Independent Gazetteer" with all manner of effusions. The mouth-piece of the Federal party was the "Pennsylvania Packet," and from these two journals the greater part of this chapter is taken. The champion of the kntifederalists was " Centinel," whose name is still unknown. The champion of the Federalists was James Wilson, whose speech in the State House yard was held to be unanswerable. The essays of "Centinel" and the speech of Wilson are, therefore, given in full. But the essays of "Philadelphiensis" and "Old Whig," who supported the Antifederal cause, and of "American Citizen," who wrote on the Federal side, have not, for lack of space, been reprinted.
In place of these will be found a few, and but a few, of the immense number of short pieces that appeared day after day in the " Packet" and the "Gazetteer," and set forth such popular opinions as might be heard any afternoon in the taverns and the coffee-houses. In writings of this sort the Antifederal greatly outnumbered the Federal, and justify the belief that the burden of proof was considered to be with tile party of opposition.]
From the Pennsylvania Gazette.
(By particular desire.)
The former distinction of the citizens of America (says a correspondent) into Whigs and Tories, should be lost in the more important distinction of Federal and Antifederal men. The former are the friends of liberty and independence; the latter are the enemies of liberty and the secret abettors of the interests of Great Britain.
Should the federal government be rejected (AWFUL WORDS), another correspondent has favored us with the following paragraphs, to be published in our paper in the month of June, 1789:
On the 30th ult., his Excellency, David Shays, Esq., took possession of the government of Massachusetts. The execution of , Esq., the late tyrannical governor, was to take place the next day.
Accounts from New Jersey grow every day more alarming. The people have grown desperate from the oppressions of their new masters, and have secretly, it is said, dispatched a messenger to the court of Great Britain, praying to be taken again under the protection of the British Crown.
We hear from Richmond, that the new state house, lately erected there, was burnt by a mob from Berkeley county, on account of the assembly refusing to emit paper money. From the number and daring spirit of the mob, government have judged it most prudent not to meddle with them.
Yesterday 300 ship-carpenters embarked from this city for Nova Scotia, to be employed in his Britannic Majesty’s shipyards at Halifax.
We hear from Cumberland, Franklin and Bedford counties, in this State, that immense quantities of wheat are rotting in stacks and barns, owing to the demand for that article having ceased, in consequence of our ships being shut out of all the ports of Europe and the West Indies.
We hear that 300 families left Chester county last week, to settle in Kentucky. Their farms were exposed to sale before they set off, but many of them could not be raised to the value of the taxes that were due on them.
On Saturday last were interred from the bettering-house the remains of Mrs. Mary . This venerable lady was once in easy circumstances; but having sold property to the amount of 5,0001. and lodged it in the funds, which, from the convulsions and distractions of our country, have unfortunately become insolvent, she was obliged to retire to the city poor-house. Her certificates were sold on the Monday following her interment, but did not bring as much cash as paid for her winding-sheet.
By a vessel just arrived from L’Orient, we learn that the partition treaty between Great Britain and the Emperor of Morocco was signed on the 25th of April last, at London. The Emperor is to have possession of all the States to the southward of Pennsylvania, and Great Britain is to possess all the States to the eastward and northward of Pennsylvania, inclusive of this middle State. Private letters from London add, that Silas Dean, Esq., is to be appointed Governor of Connecticut, and Joseph Galloway, Esq., is to be appointed Governor of Pennsylvania. The government of Rhode Island was offered to Brigadier-General Arnold, who refused to accept of it, urging, as the reason of his refusal, that he was afraid of being corrupted by living in such a nest of speculators and traitors.
But, adds our correspondent, should the federal government be adopted, the following paragraphs will probably have a place in our paper in the same month, viz., June, 1789:
Yesterday arrived in this city his Excellency the Earl of Surry, from the Court of Great Britain, as Envoy Extraordinary to the United States. He was received by the principal Secretary of State, and introduced to the President-General at the federal State House, who received him with great marks of politeness. His lordship’s errand to America is to negotiate a commercial treaty with the United States. The foundation of this treaty is, that all British ports are to be opened to American vessels, duty free, and a proposal to build 200 ships every year in the ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston.
Last evening arrived at Billingsport the ship Van Berkel, Nicholas van Vleck, master, from Amsterdam, with loo reputable families on board, who have fled from the commotions which now distress their unhappy country. It is said they have brought cash with them to the amount of 45,0001. sterling, to be laid out in purchasing cultivated farms in this and the neighboring States.
We learn from Cumberland county, in this State, that land in the neighborhood of Carlisle, which sold in the year 1787 for only 51. has lately been sold for 10l. per acre at public vendue. This sudden rise in the value of estates is ascribed to the new mode of taxation adopted by the federal government, as well as to the stability of this government.
Such are the improvements in the roads in this State since the establishment of the federal government, that several loaded wagons arrived in this city in two days from the town of Lancaster.
By a gentleman just arrived from Tioga, we learn that the insurgents in that place were surprised and taken by a party of the federal militia, and that their leaders are on their way to Wyoming, to be tried for their lives.
It appears from the custom-house books of this city, that the exports from this State were nearly double last year, of the exports of the year 1786.
In the course of the present year, it appears that there have arrived in this state 18,923 souls from different parts of Europe.
Several foreigners who attended the debates in the federal Assembly and Senate last Wednesday, declare that they never saw half so much decorum nor heard more noble specimens of eloquence in the House of Lords and Commons, than they saw and heard in our illustrious republican assemblies.
We hear from Fort Pitt, that since the navigation of the Mississippi has been confirmed to the United States by the Court of Spain, the price of wheat has risen from 4s. to 7s. 6d. per bushel in all the counties to the westward of the Allegheny mountains.
In consequence of the new and successful modes of taxation adopted by the United States, public securities of all kinds have risen to par with specie, to the great joy of widows, orphans, and all others who trusted their property in the funds of their country.
We hear that the Honorable Thomas , Esq., is appointed to deliver the anniversary oration in September next, in honor of the birthday of our present free and glorious federal Constitutiona day that cannot fail of being equally dear to all Americans with the 4th of July, 1776for while this day gave us liberty, the 17th of September, 1787, gave us, under the smiles of a benignant Providence, a government, which alone could have rendered that liberty safe and perpetual. 1
Mr. Oswald.Having stepped into Mr. ’s beerhouse, in street, on Saturday evening last, I perceived the room filled with a number of decent tradesmen, who were conversing very freely about the members of the federal convention, who, it was said, like good workmen, had finished their work on a Saturday night. As the principles of this company were highly federal, and many of their remarks very shrewd, I took notes of them in my memorandum book, in short-hand, and have since copied them for the use of your truly federal paper.
- A Sea Captain.By George, if we don’t adopt the federal government we shall all go to wreck.
- His Mate.Hold, hold, captain, we are in no danger; Washington is still at the helm.
- A Continental Lieutenant.If we don’t adopt the new governmentwhy the hardest send offpromotion is always most rapid in a civil war.
- A Cooper.If we reject the new government, we shall all go to staves.
- A Blacksmith.If we don’t submit to the convention, we shall all be burned into cinders.
- A Shoemaker.If we do not adopt the alterations in the federal convention now, we shall never have such another opportunity of having it mended.
- A Mason.The old fabric must be underpinned, or we shall all go to the devil together.
- A House Carpenter.We shall never do well till all the little rooms in the federal mansion house are thrown into one.
- A Silversmith.I hate your party-colored metalsthe sooner we are all melted into one mass the better.
- A Baker.Let me see the man that dares oppose the federal government, and I will soon make biscuit of him.
- A Butcher.And I would soon quarter the dog.
- A Barber.And I would shave the son of a .
- A Cook.And I would break every bone in his body.
- A Joiner.And I would make a wooden jacket for him.
- A Potter.And I would grind his dust afterward into a chamber-pot.
- A Tailor.And I would throw it into hell. 2
From a Correspondent.I was walking the other day in Second street, and observed a child, of five or six years old, with a paper in his hand, and lisping, with a smile, “Here’s what the convention have done.” Last evening I was walking down Arch street, and was struck with the appearance of an old man, whose head was covered with hoary locks, and whose knees bent beneath the weight of his body, stepping to his seat by the door, with a crutch in one hand and his spectacles and the new federal constitution in the other. These incidents renewed in my mind the importance of the present era to one-half of the world! I was pleased to see all ages anxious to know the result of the deliberations of that illustrious council, whose constitutions are designed to govern a world of freemen! The unthinking youth, who cannot realize the importance of government, seems to be impressed with a sense of our want of union and system; and the venerable sire, who is tottering to the grave, feels new life at the prospect of having everything valuable secured to posterity.
Ye spirits of ancient legislators! Ye ghosts of Solon, Lycurgus and Alfred! Of the members of the grand Amphictyonic Council of Greece! and of the illustrious Senate of Rome! attend and bear testimony, how important the task of making laws for governing empires! Attend, ye ghosts of Warren, Montgomery, Mercer, and other heroes who offered your lives upon the altar of freedom! Bear witness, with what solicitude the great council of America, headed by a Franklin and a Washington, the fathers of their country, have deliberated upon the dearest interests of men, and labored to frame a system of laws and constitutions that shall perpetuate the blessings of that independence which you obtained by your swords!
“These are the fathers of this western clime !
Nor names more noble grac’d the walls of fame,
When Spartan firmness braved the wrecks of time,
Or Rome’s bold virtues fanned the heroic flame.
Not deeper thought the immortal sage inspired
On Solon’s lips when Grecian senates hung ;
Nor manlier eloquence the bosom fired
When genius thundered from the Athenian tongue.”
Away, ye spirits of discord! ye narrow views! ye local policies! ye selfish patriots, who would damn your country for a sixpenny duty! In the present state of America, local views are general ruin! Unanimity alone is our last resort. Every other expedient has been tried, and unanimity now will certainly secure freedom, national faith and prosperity. 3
[Extract of a letter from a gentleman in Montgomery county to his friend in Philadelphia, dated 24th September, 1787.]
“We hear the petitions which are handing about in favor of the federal constitution, have met with no opposition in your city, except by five persons, who have lived upon the distresses of the people for some time past; you may expect those gentlemen will in time, on finding their little opposition will not avail, become good subjects of the federal government. They were not decided characters in our late glorious revolution, until they found independence would be maintained; it is even said that one of them, who was in Europe early in the contest, was decidedly against us, but, on finding we were able to support our independence, they became the best street whigs you had, and got themselves fixed in fat offices, which they cannot but with reluctance run the risk of losing. We also hear that the only machine for spinning cotton with facility in your city has been bought up by a British rider and put on board a vessel for London. It is to be hoped the Manufacturing Society will have spirit enough to furnish that enemy to our country with a coat of
“TAR AND FEATHERS.” 4
For the Independent Gazetteer.
Mr. Oswald: In searching among some old papers a few days ago, I accidentally found a London newspaper, dated in March, 1774, wherein a certain Dean Tucker, after stating several advantages attendent on a separation from the then colonies, now United States of America, proceeds thus: “After a separation from the colonies our influence over them will be much greater than ever it was, since they began to feel their own weight and importance.” “The moment a separation takes effect, intestine quarrels will begin;” and “in proportion as their factious republican spirit shall intrigue and cabal, shall split into parties, divide and sub-divide, in the same proportion shall we be called in to become their general umpires and referees.”
I stood aghast on perusing this British prophecy, and could not help reflecting how my infatuated countrymen are on the very verge of suffering it to be fulfilled. Already have they in several of the States spurned at the federal government, despised their admonitions, and absolutely refused to comply with their requisitions; nay, they have gone further, and have enacted laws in direct violation of those very requisitions; nor does the present federal constitution give Congress power to enforce a compliance with the most trifling measure they may recommend. Hence, liberty becomes licentiousness (for while causes continue to produce their effects, want of energy in government will be followed by disobedience in the governed). Hence, also, credit, whether foreign or domestic, public or private, bath been abused, and, of course, is reduced to the lowest ebb; Rhode Island faith in particular is become superlatively infamous, even to a proverb. Would to God that censure in this respect were only due to that petty State! Sorry I am to say, several others merit a considerable share of it. Ship-building and commerce no more enrich our country; agriculture is neglected, or what is just the same, our produce, instead of being exported, is suffered to rot in the fields. Britain has dared to retain our frontier posts, whereby she not only deprives us of our fur trade, but is enabled to keep up a number of troops, to take every advantage of any civil broils which may arise in these States; and to close the dismal scene, rebellion, with all its dire concomitants, has actually reared its head in a sister State-such have been the deplorable effects of a weak and impotent government. Perhaps the present situation of America cannot be better described than by comparing her to a ship at sea in a storm, when the mariners tie up the helm and abandon her to the fury of the winds and waves. O, America! arouse! awake from your lethargy! bravely assert the cause of federal unanimity! and save your sinking country! Let it not be said that those men who heroically extirpated tyranny from America, should suffer civil discord to undo all that they have achieved, or to effect more than all the powers of Britain, aided by her blood-thirsty mercenaries, were able to accomplish. Let not posterity say: “Alas, our fathers expended much blood and treasure in erecting the temple of liberty; and when nothing more was wanting but thirteen pillars to support the stately edifice, they supinely neglected this essential part; so has the whole become one mighty heap of ruins, and slavery is entailed on their unhappy offspring.” God forbid that this should ever be the case!
Do any of my fellow citizens ask, how may we avert the impending danger? The answer is obvious; let us adopt that federal constitution, which has been earnestly recommended by a convention of patriotic sages, and which, while it gives energy to our government, wisely secures our liberties. This constitution, my friends, is the result of four months’ deliber-ation, in an assembly composed of men whose known integrity, patriotism and abilities justly deserve our confidence; let us also remember that the illustrious WASHINGTON was their President. And shall we, my fellow citizens, render all their measures ineffectual by withholding our concurrence? The preservation of ourselves and our country forbid it. Me-thinks I hear every hill from St. Croix to the Mississippi re-echo the praises of this simple but excellent constitution.
Having once adopted this truly federal form of government, Dean Tucker and all the divines in England may prophecy our downfall if they will, we shall not regard them. Then shall commerce revisit our shores; then shall we take a distinguished rank among the nations of the earth; then shall our husbandmen and mechanics of every denomination enjoy the fruits of their industry; and then, and not till then, shall we be completely happy.
A PENNSYLVANIA FARMER.
Bucks County, Sept. 22, 1787. 5
For the Independent Gazetteer.
Mr. Oswald: An anonymous scribbler, in the Freeman’s Journal of last Wednesday, has daringly attacked the new federal constitution, in making objections to supposed faults or defects therein, which this mock-patriot himself acknowledges to be trivial and of very small importance. Why then in the name of wonder has he started them at this awful crisis, when the fate of America depends on the unanimity of all classes of citizens in immediately establishing this hitherto unequalled, and I am happy to add, this popular form of government? Certainly, with a design to sow dissensions among the weak, the credulous and the ignorant, since no other effect can be produced by his antifederal remarks at this stage of the business.
I repeat it, sir, the proposed Federal Constitution is a master-piece in politics, and loudly proclaims the wisdom of its authors. But, even if it were imperfect, none of my fellow-citizens are stupid enough to think it, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, irrevocable and unalterableno, it has one article which wisely provides for future amendments and alterations whenever they shall appear necessary. I can easily perceive that the author of these silly remarks is the same person who attacked the Convention, under the signature of ” Z,” before the result of their deliberations was known. Need we wonder, then, to find him carping at their works when published?
This Antifederalist should reflect that his name may yet be known and himself branded with infamy as an enemy to the happiness of the United States. I would therefore advise him to choose some other subject for his remarks in future, if he wishes to escape the just resentment of an incensed people, who perhaps may honor him with a coat of
TAR AND FEATHERS. 6
For the Independent Gazetteer.
That the opinion of the people becomes of great moment, either to impart applause or obtain condemnation on those who have been signally employed in national service, is a maxim established by experience; but it is generally best understood and attended to by men of base intentions, who to favor some deep design, take care to varnish out a scheme of deception with apparent colors of truth, whereby the multudes seeing the object through false colors alone, are often ensnared and led to adopt sentiments repugnant to their dearest interest. In the Freeman’s Journal of Wednesday last, a writer well acquainted with this principle has with daring effrontery attempted to make strictures on our new constitution, in order to tarnish with his corrosive ink extracted from an antifederal heart the lustre of our august Convention. Instigated either by private designs of some party or by hatred to the national character of America, he has set out, with the nimble feet of counterfeit probity, to exhibit imaginary defects, and to raise in the mind of the unthinking citizens groundless conjectures, which, if not checked in time, may become so deeply seated that the joint force of truth and pure demonstration can scarce be able to erase them, or until, perhaps, the injury done to our country be of such magnitude that it will be equally indifferent whether the deception be or be not discovered.
In the exordium he says: “The writer of the following remarks has the happiness and respectability of the United States much at heart, and it is with pleasure he has seen a system promulged by the late Convention, which promises to ensure those blessings; but as perfection is not in the lot of human nature, we are not to expect it in the new federal constitution. Candor must confess, however, that it is a well-wrought piece of stuff; and claims upon the whole the approbation of all the States. Our situation is critical and demands our immediate care. It is therefore to be hoped that every State will be speedy in calling a conventionspeedy, because the business is momentous and merits the utmost deliberation.” It is pleasant to observe with what affected tenderness and diffidence this writer attempts to remark upon the imperfections of our new constitution; but, with all his candor in allowing it to be a well-wrought piece of stuff, I fear there are some who will be apt to think that his design is to seduce the people; as the devil is painted in his temptation of Saint Anthony in the modest habit of a fair face and the charming form of virgin innocence, but his cloven foot is very visible to those who can take their eyes off the object of seduction. “It is therefore to be hoped (says he) that every State will be speedy in calling a convention”but for what? Why to follow the example of this writer, to remark upon and to condemn several articles of the new constitution, and finally to reject the whole of such a well-wrought piece of stuff. I appeal to the understanding, and ask, is not this the language and true meaning of the writer?
Before he begins his futile remarks, he says: “The following strictures on the proposed constitution are submitted with diffidence. Excepting a single instance, they regard points of an inferior magnitude only; and as the writer is not possessed of any of the reasons which influenced the convention, he feels the more diffident in offering these remarks.” Here is a matter of curiosity, undoubtedly; this gentleman is not possessed of any of the reasons which influenced the convention, and yet, I affirm it, there is not another person in America besides himself unacquainted with them. There is not a man in America or even in Europe possessed of common sense that has heard of the meeting of that honorable body, but knows the reasons and motives which influenced every member of it. Yes, the very enemies of America known them well, and will, I trust, soon feel their effects to their mortification. The reasons and motives which influenced the convention were: “To form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, and to promote the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all.” These, I say, were their motives; and where is the wretch so base as to suppose they were influenced by any other. Perhaps the writer may pretend to say that he meant no more in this paragraph than he is not possessed of any of the reasons which influenced the convention to adopt those articles on which he has thought proper to make his strictures. Now if this were his meaning, the general answer given above will still apply; for the same motives which influenced the convention to frame the whole body of this noble constitution, must necessarily have influenced them in framing every article of it, namely, the good of their country. Is not such a writer either an insidious enemy to his country or wilfully wicked?
But let us examine what he has to say against the constitution, and we will find that his objections are groundless and absurd. His first remark is upon Art. I, Sec. 2: “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000.” After exhibiting a long paragraph of unmeaning sentences in the discussion of this subject, he concludes: “In America representation ought to be in a ratio with population.” Now the very article against which he objects manifestly provides that the representation shall be in the direct ratio of the population. It seems to me that this gentleman’s idea of the term ratio is to be explained by some learned definition of his own, with which I hope he will soon favor the literati, and then perhaps he will demonstrate the representation in America must increase in the duplicate ratio or proportion of the number of inhabitants. Such a learned Antifederal gentleman! O princeps asinorum!
It would indeed be spending time in a useless manner to remark upon all his strictures, which are equally erroneous. I shall therefore pass over his second and third, and conclude with taking some notice of his fourth or last remark, which is on Art. III, Sec. 2: “The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury. I sincerely wished,” says he, ” the convention had said a jury of thirteen, a majority of whom shall determine the verdict. Is it not extravagantly absurd to expect that twelve men shall have but one opinion among them upon the most difficult case? Common sense revolts at the idea, while conscience shudders at the prostitution of an oath thus sanctioned by law! Starve or be perjured! say our courts. The monstrous attachment of the people to an English jury show how far the force of prejudice can go; and the encomiums which have been so incessantly lavished upon it should caution us against borrowing from others, without the previous conviction of our own minds.” Here is a complete specimen of this man of diffidence and candor; here we see him throwing off the mask, and stepping forth with dauntless courage, and attacking, with philosophical declamation, the first privilege of freementhe noblest article that ever entered the constitution of a free countrya jewel whose transcendant lustre adds dignity to human nature. No, sir, common sense does not revolt at the idea; common sense and experience confirm the excellency of this law every day; in short, your own condemnation of it is manifestly a negative proof of its goodness. Sit perpetua hac lex. But plunge this Janus, this double-faced wretch (who, under the pretence of patriotism and candor, writes only with a view to embarrass the mind, and so prevent the adoption of the new constitution), into the mines a thousand yards deep; and there let the injured ghost of Columbia incessantly torment the monster.
To the Printer of the Independent Gazetteer.
Sir: I am a FEDERAL MAN in the truest sense of the word. I wish to see the United States in possession of a general government, which may ensure to them strength and liberty at home and respectability abroad. But I do not agree with a writer in your paper of this day that every person who objects to some parts, or even to the whole of the aristocratical plan proposed by the late convention, ought to have “a coat of tar and feathers.” Tar and feathers, I believe, never made a convert to any system whatever, whether religious or political; and that must be a most noble form of government indeed which requires such infamous measures to support and establish it! That would be a mob government with a witness.
At the glorious period of our Independence the newspapers were filled with publications against as well as for that salutary measure, and I am clearly of opinion that the LIBERTY OF THE PRESSthe great bulwark of all the liberties of the peopleought never to be restrained (notwithstanding the honorable convention did not think fit to make the least declaration in its favor) and that on every occasion truth and justice should have
FAIR PLAY. 8
28th Sept., 1787.
The inhabitants of the Old World, says a correspondent, have long been looking at America to see whether liberty and a republican form of government are worth contending for. The United States are at last about to try the experiment. They have formed a constitution, which has all the excellencies, without any of the defects, of the European governments. This constitution has been pronounced by able judges to be the wisest, most free and most efficient of any form of government that ancient or modern times have produced. The gratitude of ages only can repay the enlightened and illustrious patriots for the toil and time they have bestowed in framing it.
It is remarkable that while the federal government lessens the power of the States it increases the privileges of individuals. It holds out additional security for liberty, property and life in no less than five different articles which have no place in any one of the State constitutions. It moreover provides an effectual check to the African trade in the course of one-and-twenty years. How honorable to America to have been the first Christian power that has borne a testimony against a practice that is alike disgraceful to religion and repugnant to the true interests and happiness of society!
George Washington, Esq., has already been destined by a thousand voices to fill the place of the first President of the United States under the new frame of government. While the deliverers of a nation in other countries have hewn out a way to power with the sword or seized upon it by stratagems and fraud, our illustrious hero peaceably retired to his farm after the war, from whence it is expected he will be called by the suffrages of three millions of people to govern that country by his wisdom (agreeable to fixed laws) which he had previously made free by his arms. Can Europe boast of such a man ? or can the history of the world show an instance of such voluntary compact between the deliverer and the de-livered of any country as will probably soon take place in the United States? 9
Mr. Oswald : I have never interested myself much in the politics of the State, from an idea that the difference between a Constitutionalist and a Republican was of so trifling a nature that it was not worth interesting myself in. I have asked some of the parties what they were contending for: was it the bare name, a shadow, or was there a substance in view? but found they could not tell. It then appeared to me like two men worshipping the same being, but different in the mode, as there were many valuable and worthy men in each party who were worthy members of Republican government.
I have seen with astonishment “a land,” I may say, ” flowing with milk and honey,” a country that can boast of more natural advantages than perhaps any other on the face of the globe, a-going to destruction from the factions and bad policy of its inhabitants: I viewed with pleasure the meeting of the late Federal Convention; a convention composed of our wisest and best menmen perhaps unequaled for wisdom and virtue, with Washington at their head, as the only thing that could save a distressed people from destruction, and from falling an easy prey to foreign powers. The Convention has given us a constitution perhaps superior to any upon earth, and notwithstanding its excellence, it meets the opposition of a factious few, whose lives and conduct have been filled with dissimulation and deceit. These few men have had address sufficient to sway the judgment of nineteen of their creatures, members of the late General Assembly, whose names will be handed down with infamy to posterity. On Friday last, when a vote was to be taken of the utmost importance to Pennsylvania, and to keep them from attending the house contrary to their positive oaths, contrary to religion and virtue, and contrary to the real interest of their constituents, who have unfortunately placed a mistaken confidence in their integrity and patriotism, and who were paying them for their attendance and service as their representatives.
The people will now be convinced that the leaders of this party have not, nor never had, the real interest of Pennsylvania in view; they have clearly shown that their attachments to the Constitution were from its elasticitythey have turned it, and twisted it, as their interest and party views required, into a thousand shapes; and all under the mask of supporting it, have created offices, officers, and place-men to strengthen their party. They have, under a funding bill, loaded the State with debts she never contracted, debts of the neighboring states, in order to enrich a few individuals in Philadelphia. In short, their conduct has been such as show the only spark of patriotism they have is the bare name; I would advise the leaders of this party to take care how they conduct themselves in future, to offer no more injuriesthey are well known. The people of Pennsylvania are an easy, good people; but they are a spirited people. Let those enemies to the State and to the United States recollect how Doctor Kearsley was treated in 1775, for his abuses of the people. They may probably share the same fate he did.
The Federal constitution no doubt will put an end to all parties, if it is adopted, as it clearly will. Offices and officers will not be so numerous, nor offices so valuable, as to make it the interest of the people to neglect their business in pursuit of them. The large sums of money paid to a set of supernumerary officers and members of Assembly and Executive Council, will serve to pay our foreign and domestic debts. Our credit at home and abroad will revive; our treasury will be enabled to pay the real creditor, and the Federal treasury, by imposts and indirect taxation, which will not be felt by the people, will be enabled to answer all demands that may be upon it. British gold could not have done more injury to Pennsylvania than a few party men in Philadelphia have done, under the mask of friends to the Constitution and friends to the people. The grievance is great, and must be redressed. The only cure for it is to lay hold of the heads of the faction, do justice to yourselves, inflict the punishment on their persons equal to their demerits, which, by the bye, will not be a small one, and you will soon settle and cure the disease, and after-wards be a happy people.
A MECHANIC. 10
To the Printer of the Independent Gazetteer.
Sir: When we had the honor of addressing you, a few days since, we hoped our caution to the modern Tories, alias Anti-Federalists, might not be amiss. It has, however, attracted the notice of your correspondent, ” Fair Play,” who observes that ” we never made a convert, either in religion or politics.” Well, sir, it is granted. We would ask this gentleman, whether the sword, either of war or of justice, has ever made proselytes to any opinion ? Certainly not in a greater degree than we have. Yet it is often found expedient to use these means (in punishing those on whom remonstrance and reason were thrown away) for the same purpose that Jehovah sent the deluge in Noah’s days. Laughable indeed would it be, to suppose that no villain, however dignified among villains, ought to be punished, but with a view to reclaim him; there is a point of more consequence to be considered, and that is to expel from society a monster who is unfit to associate with men, and thereby to deter others from treading in his steps. That we have frequently, during the Revolution, terrified the Tories, or Anti/federalists of those times, into a moderate line of conduct, is well known. True, indeed, we did not make many converts to Whiggism (although we have often decorated the backs of those gentry); neither did the sword.
If you trace our history, sir, you will find that we have been faithful allies to America, throughout the late war; but were never well relished by the Tories, and a few sham, or lukewarm Whigs. Should our country again demand our aid, we shall cheerfully obey the summons. At the same time permit us to declare, that we will never attack any real friend to America, however different his sentiments may be from the throng; nor will we ever assist in shackling the liberty of the press, but on the contrary, will exert ourselves to the last, in defence of that most invaluable privilege of freemen.
When, on Friday last, eighteen or nineteen human asses, who are a disgrace to Pennsylvania, basely deserted the trust reposed in them, by an unwarrantable revolt from the assembly, we confess candidly that nothing could have given us more pleasure than to have been employed in chastising these disciples of Shays, wretches who were not influenced in their defection by the laudable motives which actuated the citizens of Rome, when they revolted, and were appeased by the institution of those popular magistrates, styled tribunes; nor by that patriotic spirit, which prompted the illustrious English Barons to extort “Magna Charta” from their tyrannical King John. No, sir, those tools of sedition, whose ignorance is still greater than their obstinacy, evidently copied after those despicable incendiaries, Jack Straw and Wat Tyler, in endeavoring to introduce anarchy into these States, that they might be an easy prey to their lord and master, Daniel Shays. Against such traitors to their delegated trust, we would willingly be engaged.
To conclude, we cannot help lamenting the monstrous ingratitude of the Americans in neglecting many of the best friends of the revolution, and among the rest, their faithful allies.
TAR AND FEATHERS. 11
To the Printer of the Independent Gazetteer.
Sir: Your correspondent, who has assumed the signature of “Tar and Feathers,” seems to allow that his mode of administering justice never made a convert, yet persists in his diabolical plan of endeavoring to inflame the minds of the people against those who happen to differ from him on political subjects. Perhaps, like the fox who lost his tail and strove to persuade the rest of his species to have theirs cut off also, he himself has undergone the discipline he is now so anxious to bestow on others. I wonder whether this gentleman (though I much doubt he has any claim to the epithet) ever had the honor of bearing either “the sword of war or of justice.” One would be apt to conclude he never had; otherwise, he could not be so destitute of those excellent qualifications which constitute the character of a good soldier and an impartial judge. Generous minds will ever rouse with indigna-tion against such monsters as wish to interrupt the peace of society by flying in the face of all law and authority; and I must confess the new constitution comes in a very ” question-able shape,” when attended with such furious advocates as “Tar and Feathers.” Brave men and good citizens will never associate with the most abandoned of the humam species, for such we must deem those creatures who contend for mob, governments, to abuse an individual because he entertains a different opinion from themselves, or because he has firmness and honesty enough to show his own sentiments. None but the mere echoes and tools of party and faction would engage in such dirty business.
It is a fact, I believe, that will not be denied, that many of those who arrange themselves under the banner of those who call themselves Federalists, were either downright Tories, lukewarm Whigs, or disaffected to the cause of America and the revolution, and who now eagerly wish to seize the present opportunity to gratify their revenge and to retaliate on the real Whigs of 1775 and 1776. And I am more inclined to espouse this opinion, because the author of “Tar and Feathers” aims to destroy the distinction of Whig and Tory, and to establish one more odious, viz.: Federalists and Anti-Federalists.
The new friends to the tarring and feathering system seem to direct their resentment against the Tories. “Laughable indeed would it be to suppose” that they had not well examined and sought for a few of that class of beings among their own party to begin with. Look at home first, Mr. Tar and Feathers, and try to work a reformation there before you begin to deal damnation abroad. There invoke the Great Jehovah to forgive thy past crimes and follies; and presume no more, thou blasphemous wretch, to compare your infamous doctrine of expedients with the purpose of that Deity, “who sent the deluge in the days of Noah.”
I shall conclude for the present, Mr. Oswald, with observing that I consider this demon of discord as some cowardly “villain,” “however dignified among villains”some ferocious monster, whose nerves do not admit of his heading a tarring and feathering mob, but who, at the same time, would rejoice to see anarchy and confusion prevailing and triumphing over peace and good order among the citizens of Philadelphia.
FAIR PLAY. 12
We are authorized to declare that the two first pieces published in our paper, signed Tar and Feathers, were received from a different quarter from the two last under the same signature; and that therefore no part of the reply by Fair Play was intended for the author of the two first. He only meant in general to reprobate the idea of raising a commotion among the citizens. 13
A correspondent informs us that a letter has lately been written to the Stadtholder of Holland, inviting him to come over to America, where there is shortly to be a vacancy. It is to be hoped that, as he is so ill-treated by his own countrymen, he will be induced to accept the invitation.
Another correspondent observes that although the tide seems to run so high at present in favor of the new constitution, there is no doubt but the people will soon change their minds when they have had time to examine it with coolness and impartiality.
Among the blessings of the new proposed government, our correspondent enumerates the following: 1. The liberty of the press abolished. 2. A standing army. 3. A Prussian militia. 4. No annual elections. 5. Five-fold taxes. 6. No trial by jury in civil cases. 7. General search warrants. 8. Excise laws, custom-house officers, tide and land waiters, cellar rats, etc. 9. A free importation of negroes for one and twenty years. 10. Appeals to the supreme continental courts, where the rich may drag the poor from the further-most parts of the continent. 11. Elections for Pennsylvania held at Pittsburg, or perhaps Wyoming. 12. Poll taxes for our heads, if we choose to wear them. 13. And death if we dare to complain.
A correspondent who sees with horror the low ribaldry which is daily published against Messrs. Whitehill, Findley and other virtuous characters, cannot but lament the blindness of those who smile at such wretched productions. Let us suppose for a moment that the scene is reverted and that a piece is published in which Robert Morris is styled a rascal, Thomas Fitzsimons a scoundrel, George Clymer a vain fool, etc., a cry of scandalum magnatum will immediately be raisedthe people will take the part of the well-born, not from respect or love for their virtues, but from reverence for their WEALTH. O altitudo divitiarum !
A correspondent with pleasure informs the public that John Franklin, of Luzerne county, a refractory member of our late Assembly, was taken a few days ago by a few of the old continental officers, and is now safely lodged with Captain Reynolds in the gaol of this city, where he is to remain without bail or main-prize, until he is impeached with the infamous nineteen members who had the audacity to attempt the breaking up of the late House of Assembly at the close of the last session, after wasting L1067 10s. of the public’s money, without finishing any part of the business the House had been sitting upon. 14
Mr. Oswald: I have put on my spectacles and read with attention the proposed federal constitution, and find that the right of citizenship, if it is adopted, will meet with a very material change in one clause in the tenth section, “No person except a natural born citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.” Now, I would only ask if this is not very improper? The Americans ought not to be governors, they ought to be governed-let them cultivate the soil, and Europeans govern. What American in the United States is capable of governing or being President? O! it is a horrid constitution! Methinks the whole of it is damnable. What do you think, Mr. Oswald?
A GAUL. 15
According to advertisement, a very great concourse of people attended at the state-house on Saturday evening, to fix on a ticket of representatives for the ensuing General Assembly.
Mr. Nixon was chosen chairman and Mr. Tench Cote secretary of the meeting.
Mr. Jackson having spoken, Mr. Gurney reported from a committee that had been previously appointed, the following names, which were separately offered to the consideration of the citizens and approved of, viz.: William Will, Thomas Fitzsimons, George Clymer, Jacob Hiltzheimer, William Lewis.
On motion of Mr. Donaldson, the citizens of the respective wards were requested to meet on Monday evening to appoint proper persons for making out and circulating a sufficient number of tickets in favor of the above persons.
Mr. Wilson then rose and delivered a long and eloquent speech upon the principles of the federal constitution as proposed by the late convention. The outlines of this speech we shall endeavor to lay before the public, as tending to reflect great light upon the interesting subject now in general discussion.
Mr. Chairman and Fellow Citizens: Having received the honor of an appointment to represent you in the late convention, it is perhaps my duty to comply with the request of many gentlemen whose characters and judgments I sincerely respect, and who have urged that this would be a proper occasion to lay before you any information which will serve to explain and elucidate the principles and arrangements of the constitution that has been submitted to the consideration of the United States. I confess that I am unprepared for so extensive and so important a disquisition; but the insidious attempts which are clandestinely and industriously made to pervert and destroy the new plan, induce me the more readily to engage in its defence; and the impressions of four months’ constant attention to the subject, have not been so easily effaced as to leave me without an answer to the objections which have been raised.
It will be proper, however, before I enter into the refutation of the charges that are alleged, to mark the leading discrimination between the State constitutions and the constitution of the United States. When the people established the powers of legislation under their separate governments, they invested their representatives with every right and authority which they did not in explicit terms reserve; and therefore upon every question respecting the jurisdiction of the House of Assembly, if the frame of government is silent, the jurisdiction is efficient and complete. But in delegating federal powers, another criterion was necessarily introduced, and the congressional power is to be collected, not from tacit implication, but from the positive grant expressed in the instrument of the union. Hence, it is evident, that in the former case everything which is not reserved is given; but in the latter the reverse of the proposition prevails, and everything which is not given is reserved.
This distinction being recognized, will furnish an answer to those who think the omission of a bill of rights a defect in the proposed constitution; for it would have been superfluous and absurd to have stipulated with a federal body of our own creation, that we should enjoy those privileges of which we are not divested, either by the intention or the act that has brought the body into existence. For instance, the liberty of the press, which has been a copious source of declamation and oppositionwhat control can proceed from the Federal government to shackle or destroy that sacred palladium of national freedom ? If, indeed, a power similar to that which has been granted for the regulation of commerce had been granted to regulate literary publications, it would have been as necessary to stipulate that the liberty of the press should be preserved inviolate, as that the impost should be general in its operation. With respect likewise to the particular destrict of ten miles, which is to be made the seat of federal government, it will undoubtedly be proper to observe this salutary precaution, as there the legistive power will be exclusively lodged in the President, Senate, and House of Representatives of the United States. But this could not be an object with the Convention, for it must naturally depend upon a future compact, to which the citizens immediately interested will, and ought to be, parties; and there is no reason to suspect that so popular a privilege will in that case be neglected. In truth, then, the proposed system possesses no influence whatever upon the press, and it would have been merely nugatory to have introduced a formal declaration upon the subjectnay, that very declaration might have been construed to imply that some degree of power was given, since we undertook to define its extent.
Another objection that has been fabricated against the new constitution, is expressed in this disingenious form” The trial by jury is abolished in civil cases.” I must be excused, my fellow citizens, if upon this point I take advantage of my professional experience to detect the futility of the assertion. Let it be remembered then, that the business of the Federal Convention was not local, but generalnot limited to the views and establishments of a single State, but coextensive with the continent, and comprehending the views and establishments of thirteen independent sovereignities. When, therefore, this subject was in discussion, we were involved in difficulties which pressed on all sides, and no precedent could be discovered to direct our course. The cases open to a trial by jury differed in the different States. It was therefore impracticable, on that ground, to have made a general rule The want of uniformity would have rendered any reference to the practice of the States idle and useless; and it could not with any propriety be said that, ” The trial by jury shall be as heretofore,” since there has never existed any federal system of jurisprudence, to which the declaration could relate. Besides, it is not in all cases that the trial by jury is adopted in civil questions; for cases depending in courts of admiralty, such as relate to maritime captures, and such as are agitated in courts of equity, do not require the intervention of that tribunal. How, then was the line of discrimination to be drawn? The Convention found the task too difficult for them, and they left the business as it stands, in the fullest confidence that no danger could possibly ensue, since the proceedings of the Supreme Court are to be regulated by the Congress, which is a faithful representation of the people; and the oppression of government is effectually barred, by declaring that in all criminal cases the trial by jury shall be preserved.
This constitution, it has been further urged, is of a pernicious tendency, because it tolerates a standing army in the time of peace. This has always been a topic of popular declamation; and yet I do not know a nation in the world which has not found it necessary and useful to maintain the appearance of strength in a season of the most profound tranquility. Nor is it a novelty with us; for under the present articles of confederation, Congress certainly possesses this reprobated power, and the exercise of that power is proved at this moment by her cantonments along the banks of the Ohio. But what would be our national situation were it otherwise? Every principle of policy must be subverted, and the government must declare war, before they are prepared to carry it on. Whatever may be the provocation, however important the object in view, and however necessary dispatch and secrecy may be, still the declaration must precede the preparation, and the enemy will be informed of your intention, not only before you are equipped for an attack, but even before you are fortified for a defence. The consequence is too obvious to require any further delineation, and no man who regards the dignity and safety of his country can deny the necessity of a military force, under the control and with the restrictions which the new constitution provides.
Perhaps there never was a charge made with less reasons than that which predicts the institution of a baneful aristocracy in the federal Senate. This body branches into two characters, the one legislative and the other executive. In its legislative character it can effect no purpose, without the cooperation of the House of Representatives, and in its executive character it can accomplish no object without the concurrence of the President. Thus fettered, I do not know any act which the Senate can of itself perform, and such dependence necessarily precludes every idea of influence and superiority. But I will confess that in the organization of this body a compromise between contending interests is descernible; and when we reflect how various are the laws, commerce, habits, population and extent of the confederated States, this evidence of mutual concession and accommodation ought rather to command a generous applause, than to excite jealousy and reproach. For my part, my admiration can only be equalled by my astonishment in beholding so perfect a system formed from such heterogeneous materials.
The next accusation I shall consider is that which represents the federal constitution, as not only calculated, but designedly framed, to reduce the State governments to mere corporations, and eventually to annihilate them. Those who have employed the term corporation upon this occasion are not perhaps aware of its extent. In common parlance, indeed, it is generally applied to petty associations for the ease and convenience of a few individuals; but in its enlarged sense, it will comprehend the government of Pennsylvania, the existing union of the States, and even this projected system is nothing more than a formal act of incorporation. But upon what pretence can it be alleged that it was designed to annihilate the State governments? For I will undertake to prove that upon their existence depends the existence of the Federal plan. For this purpose, permit me to call your attention to the manner in which the President, Senate and House of Representatives are proposed to be appointed. The President is to be chosen by electors, nominated in such manner as the legislature of each State may direct; so that if there is no legislature there can be no electors, and consequently the office of President cannot be supplied.
The Senate is to be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature; and, therefore, if there is no Legislature, there can be no Senate. The House of Representatives is to be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States, and the electors in. each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature; unless, therefore, there is a State Legislature, that qualification cannot be ascertained, and the popular branch of the federal constitution must be extinct. From this view, then, it is evidently absurd to suppose that the annihilation of the seperate governments will result from their union; or, that having that intention, the authors of the new system would have bound their connection with such indissoluble ties. Let me here advert to an arrangement highly advantageous, for you will perceive, without prejudice to the powers of the Legislature in the election of Senators, the people at large will acquire an additional privilege in returning members to the House of Representatives; whereas, by the present confederation, it is the Legislature alone that appoints the delegates to Congress.
The power of direct taxation has likewise been treated as an improper delegation to the federal government; but when we consider it as the duty of that body to provide for the national safety, to support the dignity of the union, and to discharge the debts contracted upon the collected faith of the States for their common benefit, it must be acknowledged that those upon whom such important obligations are imposed, ought in justice and in policy to possess every means requisite for a faithful performance of their trust. But why should we be alarmed with visionary evils? I will venture to predict that the great revenue of the United States must, and always will, be raised by impost, for, being at once less obnoxious and more productive, the interest of the government will be best promoted by the accommodation of the people. Still, however, the objects of direct taxation should be within reach in all cases of emergency; and there is no more reason to apprehend oppression in the mode of collecting a revenue from this resource, than in the form of an impost, which, by universal assent, is left to the authority of the federal government. In either case, the force of civil institutions will be adequate to the purpose; and the dread of military violence, which has been assiduously disseminated, must eventually prove the mere effusion of a wild imagination or a factious spirit. But the salutary consequences that must flow from thus enabling the government to receive and support the credit of the union, will afford another answer to the objections upon this ground. The State of Pennsylvania particularly, which has encumbered itself with the assumption of a great proportion of the public debt, will derive considerable relief and advantage; for, as it was the imbecility of the present confederation which gave rise to the funding law, that law must naturally expire, when a competent and energetic federal system shall be substitutedthe State will then be discharged from an extraordinary burthen, and the national creditor will find it to be his interest to return to his original security.
After all, my fellow-citizens, it is neither extraordinary or unexpected that the constitution offered to your consideration should meet with opposition. It is the nature of man to pursue his own interest in preference to the public good, and I do not mean to make any personal reflection when I add that it is the interest of a very numerous, powerful and respectable body to counteract and destroy the excellent work produced by the late convention. All the officers of government and all the appointments for the administration of justice and the collection of the public revenue, which are transferred from the individual to the aggregate sovereignty of the States, will necessarily turn the stream of influence and emolument into a new channel. Every person, therefore, who enjoys or expects to enjoy a place of profit under the present establishment, will object to the proposed innovation; not, in truth, because it is injurious to the liberties of his country, but because it affects his schemes of wealth and consequence. I will confess, indeed, that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some parts of it which, if my wish had prevailed, would certainly have been altered. But, when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions, and that every man (and the observation applies likewise to every State) has an equal pretension to assert his own, I am satisfied that anything nearer to perfection could not have been accomplished. If there are errors, it should be remembered that the seeds of reformation are sown in the work itself, and the concurrence of two-thirds of the Congress may at any time introduce alterations and amendments. Regarding it, then, in every point of view, with a candid and disinterested mind, I am bold to assert that it is the best form of government which has ever been offered to the world.
Mr. Wilson’s speech was frequently interrupted with loud and unanimous testimonies of approbation, and the applause which was reiterated at the conclusion evinced the general sense of its excellence, and the conviction which it had impressed upon every mind.
Dr. Rush then addressed the meeting in an elegant and pathetic style, describing our present calamitous situation, and enumerating the advantages which would flow from the adoption of the new system of federal government. The advancement of commerce, agriculture, manufactures, arts and sciences, the encouragement of emigration, the abolition of paper money, the annihilation of party, and the prevention of war, were ingeniously considered as the necessary consequences of that event. The doctor concluded with an emphatic declaration”Were this the last moment of his existence, his dying request and injunction to his fellow citizens would be, to accept and support the offered constitution.”
Mr. Gurney moved that a committee be appointed to write and publish answers, under the authority of their names, to the anonymous pieces against the federal constitution. But Mr. Donaldson observing that it would be improper to expose any particular gentleman to a personal attack, Col. Gurney’s motion was withdrawn.
The thanks of the meeting being presented to the chairman, the business of the evening was closed.16
Messers. PrintersPlease to republish the following, and oblige “A Constant Reader:”
The arguments of the Honorable Mr. Wilson, expressed in the speech that he made at the State House on the Saturday preceding the general election, although extremely ingenious, and the best that could be adduced in support of so bad a cause, are yet extremely futile, and will not stand the test of investigation.
In the first place, Mr. Wilson pretends to point out a leading discrimination between the State constitution and the constitution of the United States. In the former, he says, every power which is not reserved is given, and in the latter, every power which is not given is reserved. And this may furnish an answer, he adds, to those who object that a bill of rights has not been introduced in the proposed federal constitution. If this doctrine is true, and since it is the only security that we are to have for our natural rights, it ought at least to have been clearly expressed in the plan of government. The second section of the present articles of confederation says: Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every lower, jurisdiction and right which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled. This declaration (for what purpose I know not) is entirely omitted in the proposed constitution. And yet there is a material difference between this constitution and the present confederation, for Congress in the latter are merely an executive body; it has no power to raise money, it has no judicial jurisdiction. In the other, on the contrary, the federal rulers are vested with each of the three essential powers of government-their laws are to be paramount to the laws of the different States: what then will there be to oppose to their encroachments? Should they ever pretend to tyrannize over the people, their standing army will silence every popular effort; it will be theirs to explain the powers which have been granted to them; Mr. Wilson’s distinction will be forgot, denied or explained away, and the liberty of the people will be no more.
It is said in the second section of the third article of the federal plan: “The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under this constitution.” It is very clear that under this clause, the tribunal of the United States may claim a right to the cognizance of all offences against the general government, and libels will not probably be excluded. Nay, those offences may be by them construed, or by law declared, misprision of treason, an offence which conies literally under their express jurisdiction. Where is then the safety of our boasted liberty of the press? And in case of a conflict of jurisdiction between the courts of the United States, and those of the several commonwealths, is it not easy to foresee which of the two will obtain the advantage?
Under the enormous power of the new confederation, which extends to the individuals as well as to the States of America, a thousand means may be devised to destroy effectually the liberty of the press. There is no knowing what corrupt and wicked judges may do in process of time, when they are not restrained by express laws. The case of John Peter Zenger, of New York, ought still to be present to our minds, to convince us how displeasing the liberty of the press is to men in high power. At any rate, I lay it down as a general rule, that wherever the powers of a government extend to the lives, the persons and properties of the subject, all of their rights ought to be clearly and expressly defined; otherwise, they have but a poor security for their liberties.
The second and most important objection to the federal plan, which Mr. Wilson pretends to be made in a disingenuous form, is the entire abolition of the trial by jury in civil cases. It seems to me that Mr. Wilson’s pretended answer is much more disingenuous than the objection itself, which I maintain to be strictly founded in fact. He says, ” that the cases open to trial by jury differing in the different States, it was therefore impracticable to have made a general rule.” This answer is extremely futile, because a reference might easily have been made to the common law of England, which obtains through every State, and cases in the maritime and civil law courts would, of course, be excepted. I must also directly contradict Mr. Wilson when he asserts that there is no trial by jury in the courts of chancery. It cannot be unknown to a man of his high professional learning, that when-ever a difference arises about a matter of fact in the courts of equity in America or England, the fact is sent down to the courts of common law to be tried by a jury, and it is what the lawyers call a feigned issue. This method will be impracticable under the proposed form of judicial jurisdiction for the United States.
But setting aside the equivocal answers of Mr. Wilson, I have it in my power to prove that under the proposed federal constitution, the trial of facts in civil cases by a jury of the vicinage is entirely and effectually abolished, and will be absolutely impracticable. I wish the learned gentleman had explained to us what is meant by the appellate jurisdiction as to law and fact which is vested in the superior court of the United States? As he has not thought proper to do it, I shall endeavor to explain it to my fellow citizens, regretting at the same time that it has not been done by a man whose abilities are so much superior to mine. The word appeal, if I understand it right, in its proper legal signification includes the fact as well as the law, and precludes every idea of a trial by jury. It is a word of foreign growth, and is only known in England and America in those courts which are governed by the civil or ecclesiastical law of the Romans. Those courts have always been considered in England as a grievance, and have all been established by the usurpations of the eclesiastical over the civil power. It is well known that the courts of chancery in England were formerly entirely in the hands of ecclesiastics, who took advantage of the strict forms of the common law, to introduce a foreign mode of jurisprudence under the specious name of equity. Pennsylvania, the freest of the American States, has wisely rejected this establishment, and knows not even the name of a court of chancery. And, in fact, there cannot be anything more absurd than a distinction between law and equity. It might perhaps have suited those barbarous times when the law of England, like almost every other science, was perplexed with quibbles and Aristotelian distinctions, but it would be shameful to keep up in these more enlightened days. At any rate, it seems to me that there is much more equity in a trial by jury than in an appellate jurisdiction from the fact.
An appeal, therefore, is a thing unknown to the common law. Instead of an appeal from facts, it admits of a second or even third trial by different juries, and mistakes in points of law are rectified by superior courts in the form of a writ of error; and to a mere common lawyer, unskilled in the forms of the civil law courts, the words appeal from law and fact are mere nonsense and unintelligible absurdity.
But, even supposing that the superior court of the United States had the authority to try facts by juries of the vicinage, it would be impossible for them to carry it into execution. It is well known that the supreme courts of the different States, at stated times in every year, go round the different counties of their respective States to try issues of fact, which is called riding the circuits. Now, how is it possible that the supreme continental court, which we will suppose to consist at most of five or six judges, can travel at least twice in every year through the different counties of America, from New Hampshire to Kentucky and from Kentucky to Georgia, to try facts by juries of the vicinage? Common sense will not admit of such a supposition. I am therefore right in my assertion, that trial by jury in civil cases is by the proposed constitution entirely done away and effectually abolished..
Let us now attend to the consequences of this enormous innovation and daring encroachment on the liberties of the citizens. Setting aside the oppression, injustice and partiality that may take place in the trial of questions of property between man and man, we will attend to one single case, which is well worth our consideration. Let us remember that all cases arising under the new constitution and all matters between citizens of different States are to be submitted to the new jurisdiction. Suppose, therefore, that the military officers of Congress, by a wanton abuse of power, imprison the free citizens of the United States of America; suppose the excise or revenue officers (as we find in Clayton’s Reports, page 44, Ward’s case)that a constable, having a warrant to search for stolen goods, pulled down the clothes of a bed in which there was a woman and searched under her shiftsuppose, I say, that they commit similar or greater indignities, in such cases a trial by jury would be our safest resource, heavy damage would at once punish the offender and deter others from committing the same; but what satisfaction can we expect from a lordly court of justice, always ready to protect the officers of government against the weak and helpless citizens, and who will perhaps sit at the distance of many hundred miles from the place where the outrage was committed? What refuge shall we then have to shelter us from the iron hand of arbitrary power? O! my fellow-citizens, think of this while it is yet time, and never consent to part with the glorious privilege of trial by jury but with your lives.
But Mr. Wilson has not stopped here. He has told us that a standing army, that great support of tyrants, not only was not dangerous, but was absolutely necessary. O, my much respected fellow citizens! and are you then reduced to such a degree of insensibility, that assertions like these will not rouse your warmest resentment and indignation ? Are we then, after the experience of past ages, and the result of the enquiries of the best and most celebrated patriots have taught us to dread a standing army above all earthly evilsare we then to go over all the threadbare, common-place arguments that have been used without success by the advocates of tyranny, and which have been for a long time past so gloriusly refuted? Read the excellent Burgh in his political disquisitions on this hackneyed subject, and then say whether you think that a standing army is necessary in a free country. Even Mr. Hume, an aristocratical writer, has candidly confessed that an army is a moral distemper in a Government, of which it must at last inevitably perish (2d Burgh, 349), and the Earl of Oxford (Oxford the friend of Prance and the Pretender, the attainted Oxford), said in the British parliament, in a speech on the mutiny bill, that, “While he had breath he would speak for the liberties of his country, and against courts martial and a standing army in peace, as dangerous to the Constitution.” (Ibid., page 455.) Such were the speeches even of the enemies of liberty when Britain had yet a right to be called free. But, says Mr. Wilson, ” It is necessary to maintain the appearance of strength even in times of the most profound tranquillity.” And what is this more than a thread-bare hackneyed argument, which has been answered over and over in different ages, and does not deserve even the smallest consideration? Had we a standing army when the British invaded our peaceful shores ? Was it a standing army that gained the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill, and took the ill-fated Burgoyne ? Is not a well-regulated militia sufficient for every purpose of internal defence ? And which of you, my fellow citizens, is afraid of any invasion from foreign powers that our brave malitia would not be able immediately to repel ?
Mr. Wilson says, that he does not know of any nation in the world which has not found it necessary to maintain the appearance of strength in a season of the most profound tranquillity. If by this equivocal assertion he has meant to say that there is no nation in the world without a standing army in time ofpeace, he has been mistaken. I need only adduce the example of Switzerland, which, like us, is a republic, whose thirteen cantons, like our thirteen States, are under a federal government, and which besides is surrounded by the most powerful nations in Europe, all jealous of its liberty and prosperity. And yet that nation has preserved its freedom for many ages, with the sole help of a militia, and has never been known to have a standing army, except when in actual war. Why should we not follow so glorious example, and are we less able to defend our liberty without an army, than that brave but small nation, which, with its militia alone has hitherto defied all Europe?
It is said likewise, that a standing army is not a new thing in AmericaCongress even at this moment have a standing army on foot. I answer that precedent is not principle. Congress have no right to keep up a standing army in time of peace. If they do, it is an infringement of the liberties of the peoplewrong can never be justified by wrong: but it is well known that the assertion is groundlessthe few troops that are on the banks of the Ohio, were sent for the express purpose of repelling the invasion of the savages and protecting the inhabitants of the frontiers. It is our misfortune that we are never at peace with those inhuman butchers of their species, and while they remain in our neighborhood, we are always, with respect to them, in a state of waras soon as the danger is over, there is no doubt but Congress will disband their handful of soldiers; it is therefore not true that Congress keep up a standing army in a time of peace and profound security.
The objection to the enormous powers of the President and Senate is not the least important of all, but it requires a full discussion and ample investigation. I shall take another op-portunity of laying before the public my observations upon this subject, as well as upon every other part of the new constitution. At present I shall only observe that it is an established principle in America, which pervades every one of our State constitutions, that the legislative and executive powers ought to be kept forever separate and distinct from each other; and yet in this new constitution we find there are two executive branches, each of which has more or less control over the proceedings of the Legislature. This is an innovation of the most dangerous kind upon every known principle of government, and it will be easy for me to convince my fellow citizens that it will, in the first place, create a Venetian aristocracy, and, in the end, produce an absolute monarchy.
Thus I have endeavored to answer to the best of my abilities the principal arguments of Mr. Wilson. I have written this in haste, in a short interval of leisure from my usual avocations. I have only traced the outlines of the subject, and I hope some abler hand will second my honest endeavors.
A DEMOCRATIC FEDERALIST. 17
From a Correspondent.A medical gentleman speaking to one of his frinds about the piece signed Centinel, asked him if he had seen the couching needle. It seems that that gentleman is justly apprehensive that many citizens are afflicted with the cataract, and that this excellent piece will be of great use to remove the inspissation of the crystalline humor of their eyes. (Johnson.)
Those who say that the petition presented to the Legislature, praying them to call a convention to adopt the new federal plan, assert what is not strictly true. There were not above 3,000 signatures from the whole city and Liberties, and it is well known that the city alone contains 5,000 taxables; the districts of Southwark and the Northern Liberties may contain about 2,000, which makes 7,000. Here then are 4,ooo who have not signed; and now deduct from the number of signers the minors, foreigners and old women, who have subscribed this famous petition, and see whether there is any ground for the assertion that was made in the House of Assembly, and echoed and re-echoed afterwards out of doors, and judge also whether there are no more than five persons opposed to this precious new plan.
THE COUCHING NEEDLE. 18
For the Independent Gazetteer.
Mr. Printer: The Centinel in your paper of last Friday, compliments the citizens of Philadelphia when he says, ” A Frenzy of enthusiasm has actuated them in their approbation of the proposed federal constitution, before it was possible that it could be the result of a rational investigation.” This, however, is trivial, compared with the sequel, wherein he charges the worthy and very patriotic characters of whom the late convention was composed, with a conspiracy against the liberty of their country. Not even the immortal Washington, nor the venerable Franklin, escapes his satire; but both of them, says this insidious enemy to his country, were non compos mentis when they concurred in framing the new federal constitution. When he ventured to make these assertions against characters so very respectable, he should have been able to support the charge. One of his objections to this constitution is, that each State is to have two senators, and not a number proportioned to its inhabitants. Here he has fallen into a terrible inconsistency, not recollecting that such is the mode of electing members of the Supreme Executive Council in this State, where every county appoints one, and only one, without any regard had to the number of taxble inhabitants in the respective counties. Yet he has gone so far in panegyrics upon the constitution of this State, as to maintain that a similar one would be the best that could be devised for the United States.
Had the different members of the Convention entertained sentiments thus narrow, local, contracted and selfish, each would have proposed the constitution of his own State, and they would never have united in forming that incomparable one which is now exhibited to our view, and which, without partiality to any particular State, is adapted to the general circumstances of all.
I am happy to find the distinction of Republican and Constitutionalist in this city has given way to the more important one of Federalist and Antifederalist. Such a worthy example will, I trust, be imitated through every part of this State.
To conclude, sir, if some person of better abilities should not step forth in defence of the form of government proposed by the Convention, I shall hold myself bound, in duty to the welfare of my country, to expose upon a future occasion the weakness and futility of Centinel’s arguments, together with the motives which urged him to undertake the infamous job. I shall not, however, retort his torrents of personal invective, but shall take notice of the sophistry he has made use of, so far as it is calculated to mislead the citizens of Pennsylvania, or of the adjacent states.
A FEDERALIST. 19
For the Independent Gazetteer.
Mr. Oswald: I have read without spectacles the proposed Federal Constitution, and I see with the most heartfelt pleasure the resemblance that it bears to that of our much admired Sublime Porte. Your President general will greatly resemble in his powers the mighty Ahdul Ahmed, our august Sultanthe senate will be his divanyour standing army will come in the place of our janizariesyour judges unchecked by vile juries may with great propriety be styled cadis ; and bishop Seabury will be your mufti. Oh ! I am delighted with this new Constitutionis it not a charming, a beautiful form of government? What do you think, Aga Oswald? What do you say, you Christian dog?
Allah ekber, allah illallah, Mohammed resul allah!
A TURK. 20
For the Independent Gazetteer.
Mr. Printer: The authors of a late publication in your paper, signed Centinel, which has represented Doctor Franklin as a fool from age, and General Washington as a fool from nature, and which is replete with the grossest falsehoods and absurdities, have concluded their address with some lines from Shakespeare. The only answer that such an infamous libel upon distinguished merit, truth and liberty, is entitled to, may be taken from the works of a British poet of equal fame.
“Did but teach the age to quit their clogs,
By the plain rules of ancient liberty:
When lo! a barbarous noise surrounded them
Of owls, and cuckows, asses, apes, and dogs.” MILTON 21
Montgomery County, October 8th, 1787.
Extract of a letter from Sussex (Delaware), September 29.
” I must not forget to mention by way of postscript, that one of the newspapers of your city, some time in August last, by the accidental transposition of a single letter, occasioned an explanation that has afforded some merriment. The paper, instead of the words United States read Untied States. A farmer of my acquaintance in reading over the paper was at a loss what to make of the matter. ” Untied States, Untied States, (said he) what can this mean? certainly it cannot mean that our governments are dissolved.” The same evening he carried the paper to old Mr. G, who, you know, keeps a school in the neighborhood, and desired an explanation. Mr. G, after putting on his spectacles to prevent a possibility of deception, examined the paragraph, and found what the man said to be true. ” It is even as you say, John, (replied he) and I think it can mean nothing more than that the States are, or shortly will be, no longer bound by their old Constitutions: that is, they will be completely untied from them, as soon as the new Constitution comes abroad!” 21
A correspondent observes that the opposers of the federal constitution are secretly affecting delay in order to prevent its adoption. In the mean time, they are moving heaven and earth to prejudice the public mind against it. They do not reason, but abuseGeneral Washington, they (in effect) say, is a dupe, and Doctor Franklin, an old foolvide the Centinel. They will doubtless in their next publications, assert that Daniel Shays is the best patriot in the United States, and that John Franklin should be king of Pennsylvania.
He further observes, that as delay is the means by which they are contriving to carry their point, they are about sending deputies to find out Lycurgus, the ancient lawgiver of the Spartans, whose death has never been clearly ascertained. Their errand is to invite him among us, that he may form another federal constitution. That until Lycurgus shall come, it will not be proper to adopt the constitution proposed by the convention, as he having lived two thousand years, will be able to frame a better one. They have agreed that when he shall come, they will renounce their offices as too profitable for his frugal plan of government, or will at least take their fees and salaries in iron, instead of gold and silver, pound for pound. But until Lycurgus come, they will hold their present offices and take their fees and salaries in gold and silver, as will be very convenient.
He further asks, whether any man of common sense believes we shall have another federal convention if the present plan is not adopted?whether the complying States can believe Pennsylvania to be serious in her federal professions, if she rejects a plan recommended by men so experienced, able and upright, as the late convention, especially after so full a consideration of the subject ?
He is curious to know what men will be named who are likely to form a better plan-and whether the nineteen seceding members, the Centinel and the Old Whig, are to be of the number-lastly, if they are, whether they are prepared to give security to their constituents that they will not desert their duty and make another secession when the salvation of their country depends on their keeping their posts. 22
For the Independent Gazetteer.
Were it possible to suppress the honest indignation of patriotism, or to stifle that resentment which arises against the foes of persecuted America, while we behold the boasted freedom of her press prostituted to the purposes of her bitterest enemiesyet would the soldier, who has fought and bled by the side of his beloved chief (while many of these miscreants mingled in the opposing ranks), have cause to reproach himself did he silently suffer his respected name to be thus vilified by the base agents of Europe, or the baser parricides of America, who (under the cloak of concern lest the liberties of this land should be exposed to danger from the determinations of a Washington, a Franklin, a Livingston, a Rutledge, a Dickinson, a Madison, a Morris, a Hamilton), are allowed to act a part for which the laws of Athens would have consigned them to the gibbet. No, Mr. Printer, the honest American, who, in asserting the freedom of the western world, wasted his youth and impaired his fortune, has a right to look for protection from the government in his old age-and he will rather rise in vengeance than submit to be thus abused by the Briton, the Gaul, the Spaniard, the Turk, or the turn-coat Americanand whether they act in their distinct capacities of agents for their several countries, or are leagued with the detestable placemen of our own country, in opposing the establishment of the Federal Constitution, that first production of political wisdom and integrity, they are alike the objects of a just resentment, from which neither the gold of Europe, nor the friendship of apostate Americans, will be able to protect them.
Mr. Oswald: Methinks by this time you are more fully convinced of the justice of my remarks on the federal constitution. I am astonished that so many of the Americans were so stupidly ignorant of their real interest as to run headlong with an enthusiastic spirit or mistaken zeal, and sign petitions to the late House of Assembly praying for the calling of a State convention, for the adoption of so wild a system of government; for the Americans, as I observed before, are unfit to govern themselves. Judge Bn, Dr.Eg, C Pt, Jn, B. Sb and Johnny Sy, who are the only men of good sense in Pennsylvania, were convinced of the absurdity of such a constitution the moment I discovered to them its design. A writer under the signature of A Turk, shows clearly what designing men would be at. He says: ” I see with heart-felt pleasure the resemblance that it 24 bears to our much admired Sublime Porte. Your President-general will greatly resemble in his powers the mighty Abdul Ahmed, our august Sultan; the Senate will be his Divan; your standing army will come in the place of our janizaries; your judges unchecked by vile juries,” &c. Such a government no doubt would be pleasing to him, provided he should be chosen the Sultan of the empire. 0! methinks it is damnable. I love our present government from its extensive liberty; as our Supreme Executive Council of this State can appoint me sworn interpreter of the English as well as the foreign languages, with a salary of