Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787-1788: Chapter VI
Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787-1788
Edited by John Bach McMaster and Frederick D. Stone
CHAPTER VI: AFTER THE CONVENTION ROSE[While the members of the Convention were eating their dinner and drinking their toasts at Epple’s Tavern, some enthusiastic Federalists were busy in one of the ship-yards preparing a novel method of celebrating their victory. By evening all was ready, and what then took place was after-wards described in the Gazetteer.]
“On the evening of the public rejoicing for the ratification of the Federal Constitution, a number of ship carpenters and sailors conducted a boat, on a wagon drawn by five horses, through the city, to the great amusement of many thousand spectators. On their way through the different streets, they frequently threw a sounding line and cried out, “Three and twenty fathomfoul bottom,” and in other places, “Six and forty fathomsound bottomsafe anchorage,” alluding to the numbers that composed the minority and majority of the late Convention of Pennsylvania which ratified the Federal Constitution.”[If the rejoicing Federalists supposed that all opposition to their new plan would stop, they were greatly mistaken. The Antifederalists were far from humbled, and, till well into the autumn of 1788, the Antifederal presses of the State teemed with assaults on the Constitution. First in time and importance came]
THE ADDRESS AND REASONS OF DISSENT OF THE MINORITY OF THE CONVENTION OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS. 1
It was not until after the termination of the late glorious contest, which made the people of the United States an independent nation, that any defect was discovered in the present confederation. It was formed by some of the ablest patriots in America. It carried us successfully through the war, and the virtue and patriotism of the people, with their disposition to promote the common cause, supplied the want of power in Congress.
The requisition of Congress for the five per cent. impost was made before the peace, so early as the first of February, 1781, but was prevented taking effect by the refusal of one State; yet it is probable every State in the Union would have agreed to this measure at that period, had it not been for the extravagant terms in which it was demanded. The requisition was new moulded in the year 1783, and accompanied with an additional demand of certain supplementary funds for twenty-five years. Peace had now taken place, and the United States found themselves laboring under a considerable foreign and domestic debt, incurred during the war. The requisition of 1783 was commensurate with the interest of the debt, as it was then calculated; but it has been more accurately ascertained since that time. The domestic debt has been found to fall several millions of dollars short of the calculation, and it has lately been considerably diminished by large sales of the Western lands. The States have been called on by Congress annually for supplies until the general system of finance proposed in 1783 should take place.
It was at this time that the want of an efficient federal government was first complained of, and that the powers vested in Congress were found to be inadequate to the procuring of the benefits that should result from the union. The impost was granted by most of the States, but many refused the supplementary funds; the annual requisitions were set at naught by some of the States, while others complied with them by legislative acts, but were tardy in their payments, and Congress found themselves incapable of complying with their engagements and supporting the federal government. It was found that our national character was sinking in the opinion of foreign nations. The Congress could make treaties of commerce, but could not enforce the observance of them. We were suffering from the restrictions of foreign nations, who had suckled our commerce while we were unable to retaliate, and all now agreed that it would be advantageous to the union to enlarge the powers of Congress, that they should be enabled in the amplest manner to regulate commerce and to lay and collect duties on the imports throughout the United States. With this view, a convention was first proposed by Virginia, and finally recommended by Congress for the different States to appoint deputies to meet in convention, “for the purposes of revising and amending the present articles of confederation, so as to make them adequate to the exigencies of the union.” This recommendation the legislatures of twelve States complied with so hastily as not to consult their constituents on the subject; and though the different legislatures had no authority from their constituents for the purpose, they probably apprehended the necessity would justify the measure, and none of them extended their ideas at that time further than ” revising and amending the present articles of confederation.” Pennsylvania, by the act appointing deputies, expressly confined their powers to this object, and though it is probable that some of the members of the assembly of this State had at that time in contemplation to annihilate the present confederation, as well as the constitution of Pennsylvania, yet the plan was not sufficiently matured to communicate it to the public.
The majority of the legislature of this commonwealth were at that time under the influence of the members from the city of Philadelphia. They agreed that the deputies sent by them to convention should have no compensation for their services, which determination was calculated to prevent the election of any member who resided at a distance from the city. It was in vain for the minority to attempt electing delegates to the convention who understood the circumstances, and the feelings of the people, and had a common interest with them. They found a disposition in the leaders of the majority of the house to choose themselves and some of their dependents. The minority attempted to prevent this by agreeing to vote for some of the leading members, who they knew had influence enough to be appointed at any rate, in hopes of carrying with them some respectable citizens of Philadelphia, ire whose principles and integrity they could have more confidence, but even in this they were disappointed, except in one member: the eighth member was added at a subsequent session of the assembly.
The Continental Convention met in the city of Philadelphia at the time appointed. It was composed of some men of excellent character; of others who were more remarkable for their ambition and cunning than their patriotism, and of some who had been opponents to the independence of the United States. The delegates from Pennsylvania were, six of them, uniform and decided opponents to the Constitution of this commonwealth. The convention sat upwards of four months. The doors were kept shut, and the members brought under the most solemn engagements of secrecy. 2 Some or those who opposed their going so far beyond their powers, retired, hopeless, from the convention; others had the firmness to refuse signing the plan altogether; and many who did sign it, did it not as a system they wholly approved, but as the best that could be then obtained, and notwithstanding the time spent on this subject, it is agreed on all hands to be a work of haste and accommodation.
Whilst the gilded chains were forging in the secret conclave, the meaner instruments of the despotism without were busily employed in alarming the fears of the people with dangers which did not exist, and exciting their hopes of greater advantages from the expected plan than even the best government on earth could produce. The proposed plan had not many hours issued forth from the womb of suspicious secrecy, until such as were prepared for the purpose, were carrying about petitions for people to sign, signifying their approbation of the system, and requesting the legislature to call a convention. While every measure was taken to intimidate the people against opposing it, the public papers teemed with the most violent threats against those who should dare to think for themselves, and tar and feathers were liberally promised to all those who would not immediately join in supporting the proposed government, be it what it would. Under such circumstances petitions in favor of calling a Convention were signed by great numbers in and about the city, before they had leisure to read and examine the system, many of whomnow they are better acquainted with it, and have had time to investigate its principlesare heartily opposed to it. The petitions were speedily handed in to the legislature.
Affairs were in this situation, when on the 28th of September last, a resolution was proposed to the assembly by a member of the house, who had been also a member of the federal convention, for calling a State convention to be elected within ten days for the purpose of examining and adopting the proposed Constitution of the United States, though at this time the house had not received it from Congress. This attempt was opposed by a minority, who after offering every argument in their power to prevent the precipitate measure, without effect, absented themselves from the house as the only alternative left them, to prevent the measures taking place previous to their constituents being acquainted with the business. That violence and outrage which had been so often threatened was now practised; some of the members were seized the next day by a mob collected for the purpose, and forcibly dragged to the house, and there detained by force whilst the quorum of the legislature so formed, completed their resolution. We shall dwell no longer on this subject: the people of Pennsylvania have been already acquainted therewith. We would only further observe that every member of the legislature, previously to taking his seat, by solemn oath or affirmation, declares “that he will not do or consent to any act or thing whatever, that will have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared in the constitution of this State.” And that constitution which they are so solemnly sworn to support, cannot legally be altered but by a recommendation of the council of censors, who alone are authorized to propose alterations and amendments, and even these must be published at least six months for the consideration of the people. The proposed system of government for the United States, if adopted, will alter and may annihilate the constitution of Pennsylvania; and therefore the legislature had no authority whatever to recommend the calling a convention for that purpose. This proceeding could not be considered as binding on the people of this commonwealth. The house was formed by violence, some of the members composing it were detained there by force, which alone would have vitiated any proceedings to which they were otherwise competent; but had the legislature been legally formed, this business was absolutely without their power.
In this situation of affairs were the subscribers elected members of the Convention of Pennsylvaniaa Convention called by a legislature in direct violation of their duty, and composed in part of members who were compelled to attend for that purpose, to consider of a Constitution proposed by a Convention of the United States, who were not appointed for the purpose of framing a new form of government, but whose powers were expressly confined to altering and amending the present articles of confederation. Therefore the members of the continental Convention in proposing the plan acted as individuals, and not as deputies from Pennsylvania. 3 The assembly who called the State Convention acted as individuals, and not as the legislature of Pennsylvania; nor could they or the Convention chosen on their recommendation have authority to do any act or thing that can alter or annihilate the Constitution of Pennsylvania (both of which will be done by the new Constitution), nor are their proceedings, in our opinion, at all binding on the people.
The election for members of the Convention was held at so early a period, and the want of information was so great, that some of us did not know of it until after it was over, and we have reason to believe that great numbers of the people of Pennsylvania have not yet had an opportunity of sufficiently examining the proposed Constitution. We apprehend that no change can take place that will affect the internal government or Constitution of this commonwealth, unless a majority of the people should evidence a wish for such a change; but on examining the number of votes given for members of the present State Convention, we find that of upwards of seventy thousand freemen who are entitled to vote in Pennsylvania, the whole convention has been elected by about thirteen thousand voters, and though two-thirds of the members of the Convention have thought proper to ratify the proposed Constitution, yet those two-thirds were elected by the votes of only six thousand and eight hundred freemen.
In the city of Philadelphia and some of the eastern counties the junto that took the lead in the business agreed to vote for none but such as would solemnly promise to adopt the system in toto, without exercising their judgment. In many of the counties the people did not attend the elections, as they had not an opportunity of judging of the plan. Others did not consider themselves bound by the call of a set of men who assembled at the State-house in Philadelphia and assumed the name of the legislature of Pennsylvania; and some were prevented from voting by the violence of the party who were determined at all events to force down the measure. To such lengths did the tools of despotism carry their outrage, that on the night of the election for members of convention, in the city of Philadelphia, several of the subscribers (being then in the city to transact your business) were grossly abused, ill-treated and insulted while they were quiet in their lodgings, though they did not interfere nor had anything to do with the said election, but, as they apprehend, because they were supposed to be adverse to the proposed constitution, and would not tamely surrender those sacred rights which you had committed to their charge.
The convention met, and the same disposition was soon manifested in considering the proposed constitution, that had been exhibited in every other stage of the business. We were prohibited by an express vote of the convention from taking any questions on the separate articles of the plan, and reduced to the necessity of adopting or rejecting in toto. ‘Tis true the majority permitted us to debate on each article, but restrained us from proposing amendments. They also determined not to permit us to enter on the minutes our reasons of dissent against any of the articles, nor even on the final question our reasons of dissent against the whole. Thus situated we entered on the examination of the proposed system of government, and found it to be such as we could not adopt, without, as we conceived, surrendering up your dearest rights. We offered our objections to the convention, and opposed those parts of the plan which, in our opinion, would be injurious to you, in the best manner we were able; and closed our arguments by offering the following propositions to the convention.
- The right of conscience shall be held inviolable; and neither the legislative, executive nor judicial powers of the United States shall have authority to alter, abrogate or infringe any part of the constitution of the several States, which provide for the preservation of liberty in matters of religion.
- That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, trial by jury shall remain as heretofore, as well in the federal courts as in those of the several States.
- That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man has a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, as well in the federal courts as in those of the several States; to be heard by himself and his counsel; to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses; to call for evidence in his favor, and a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; and, that no man be deprived of his liberty, except by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.
- That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel nor unusual punishments inflicted.
- That warrants unsupported by evidence, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded or required to search suspected places; or to seize any person or persons, his or their property not particularly described, are grievous and oppressive, and shall not be granted either by the magistrates of the federal government or others.
- That the people have a right to the freedom of speech, of writing and publishing their sentiments; therefore the freedom of the press shall not be restrained by any law of the United States.
- That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and their own State or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and be governed by the civil powers.
- The inhabitants of the several States shall have liberty to fowl and hunt in seasonable time on the lands they hold, and on all other lands in the United States not inclosed, and in like manner to fish in all navigable waters, and others not private property, without being restrained therein by any laws to be passed by the legislature of the United States.
- That no law shall be passed to restrain the legislatures of the several States from enacting laws for imposing taxes, except imposts and duties on goods imported or exported, and that no taxes, except imposts and duties upon goods imported and exported, and postage on letters, shall be levied by the authority of Congress.
- That the house of representatives be properly increased in number; that elections shall remain free; that the several States shall have power to regulate the elections for senators and representatives, without being controlled either directly or indirectly by any interference on the part of the Congress; and that the elections of representatives be annual.
- That the power of organizing, arming and disciplining the militia (the manner of disciplining the militia to be prescribed by Congress), remain with the individual States, and that Congress shall not have authority to call or march any of the militia out of their own State, without the consent of such State, and for such length of time only as such State shall agree.
That the sovereignty, freedom and independency of the several States shall be retained, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this Constitution expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.
- That the legislative, executive and judicial powers be kept separate; and to this end that a constitutional council be appointed to advise and assist the President, who shall be responsible for the advice they givehereby the senators would be relieved from almost constant attendance; and also that the judges be made completely independent.
- That no treaty which shall be directly opposed to the existing laws of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be valid until such laws shall be repealed or made conformable to such treaty; neither shall any treaties be valid which are in contradiction to the Constitution of the United States, or the constitution of the several States.
- That the judiciary power of the United States shall be be confined to cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, to cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more Statesbetween a State and citizens of different Statesbetween citizens claiming lands under grants of different States, and between a State or the citizens thereof and foreign States; and in criminal cases to such only as are expressly enumerated in the constitution; and that the United States in Congress assembled shall not have power to enact laws which shall alter the laws of descent and distribution of the effects of deceased persons, the titles of lands or goods, or the regulation of contracts in the individual States.
After reading these propositions, we declared our willingness to agree to the plan, provided it was so amended as to meet those propositions or something similar to them, and finally moved the convention to adjourn, to give the people of Pennsylvania time to consider the subject and determine for themselves; but these were all rejected and the final vote taken, when our duty to you induced us to vote against the proposed plan and to decline signing the ratification of the same.
During the discussion we met with many insults and some personal abuse. We were not even treated with decency, during the sitting of the convention, by the persons in the gallery of the house. However, we flatter ourselves that in contending for the preservation of those invaluable rights you have thought proper to commit to our charge, we acted with a spirit becoming freemen; and being desirous that you might know the principles which actuated our conduct, and being prohibited from inserting our reasons of dissent on the minutes of the convention, we have subjoined them for your consideration, as to you alone we are accountable. It remains with you whether you will think those inestimable privileges, which you have so ably contended for, should be sacrificed at the shrine of despotism, or whether you mean to contend for them with the same spirit that has so often baffled the attempts of an aristocratic faction to rivet the shackles of slavery on you and your unborn posterity.
Our objections are comprised under three general heads of dissent, viz.:
We dissent, first, because it is the opinion of the most celebrated writers on government, and confirmed by uniform experience, that a very extensive territory cannot be governed on the principles of freedom, otherwise than by a confederation of republics, possessing all the powers of internal government, but united in the management of their general and foreign concerns.
If any doubt could have been entertained of the truth of the foregoing principle, it has been fully removed by the concession of Mr. Wilson, one of the majority on this question, and who was one of the deputies in the late general convention. In justice to him, we will give his own words; they are as follows, viz.: “The extent of country for which the new constitution was required, produced another difficulty in the business of the federal convention. It is the opinion of some celebrated writers, that to a small territory, the democratical; to a middling territory (as Montesquieu has termed it), the monarchical; and to an extensive territory, the despotic form of government is best adapted. Regarding then the wide and almost unbounded jurisdiction of the United States, at first view, the hand of despotism seemed necessary to control, connect and protect it; and hence the chief embarrassment rose. For we know that although our constituents would cheerfully submit to the legislative restraints of a free government, they would spurn at every attempt to shackle them with despotic power.” And again, in another part of his speech, he continues: “Is it probable that the dissolution of the State governments, and the establishment of one consolidated empire would be eligible in its nature, and satisfactory to the people in its administration? I think not, as I have given reasons to show that so extensive a territory could not be governed, connected and preserved, but by the supremacy of despotic power. All the exertions of the most potent emperors of Rome were not capable of keeping that empire together, which in extent was far inferior to the dominion of America.”
We dissent, secondly, because the powers vested in Congress by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the several States, and produce from their ruins one consolidated government, which from the nature of things will be an iron handed despotism, as nothing short of the supremacy of despotic sway could connect and govern these United States tinder one government.
As the truth of this position is of such decisive importance, it ought to be fully investigated, and if it is founded to be clearly ascertained; for, should it be demonstrated that the powers vested by this constitution in Congress will have such an effect as necessarily to produce one consolidated government, the question then will be reduced to this short issue, viz.: whether satiated with the blessings of liberty, whether repenting of the folly of so recently asserting their unalienable rights against foreign despots at the expense of so much blood and treasure, and such painful and arduous struggles, the people of America are now willing to resign every privilege of freemen, and submit to the dominion of an absolute government that will embrace all America in one chain of despotism; or whether they will, with virtuous indignation, spurn at the shackles prepared for them, and con-firm their liberties by a conduct becoming freemen.
That the new government will not be a confederacy of States, as it ought, but one consolidated government, founded upon the destruction of the several governments of the States, we shall now show.
The powers of Congress under the new constitution are complete and unlimited over the purse and the sword, and are perfectly independent of and supreme over the State governments, whose intervention in these great points is entirely destroyed. By virtue of their power of taxation, Congress may command the whole or any part of the property of the people. They may impose what imposts upon commerce, they may impose what land taxes, poll taxes, excises, duties on all written instruments and duties on every other article, that they may judge proper; in short, every species of taxation, whether of an external or internal nature, is comprised in section the eighth of article the first, viz.:
“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States.”
As there is no one article of taxation reserved to the State governments, the Congress may monopolize every source of revenue, and thus indirectly demolish the State governments, for without funds they could not exist; the taxes, duties and excises imposed by Congress may be so high as to render it impracticable to levy farther sums on the same articles; but whether this should be the case or not, if the State governments should resume to impose taxes, duties or excises on the same articles with Congress, the latter may abrogate and repeal the laws whereby they are imposed, upon the allegation that they interfere with the due collection of their taxes, duties or excises, by virtue of the following clause, part of section eighth, article first, viz.:
“To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”
The Congress might gloss over this conduct by construing every purpose for which the State legislatures now lay taxes, to be for the “general welfare,” and therefore as of their jurisdiction.
And the supremacy of the laws of the United States is established by article sixth, viz.: “That this constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” It has been alleged that the words “pursuant to the constitution,” are a restriction upon the authority of Congress; but when it is considered that by other sections they are invested with every efficient power of government, and which may be exercised to the absolute destruction of the State governments, without any violation of even the forms of the constitution, this seeming restriction, as well as every other restriction in it, appears to us to be nugatory and delusive; and only introduced as a blind upon the real nature of the government. In our opinion, “pursuant to the constitution ” will be co-extensive with the will and pleasure of Congress, which, indeed, will be the only limitation of their powers.
We apprehend that two co-ordinate sovereignties would be a solecism in politics; that, therefore, as there is no line of distinction drawn between the general and State governments, as the sphere of their jurisdiction is undefined, it would be contrary to the nature of things that both should exist togetherone or the other would necessarily triumph in the fulness of dominion. However, the contest could not be of long continuance, as the State governments are divested of every means of defence, and will be obliged by “the supreme law of the land ” to yield at discretion.
It has been objected to this total destruction of the State governments that the existence of their legislatures is made essential to the organization of Congress; that they must assemble for the appointment of the senators and President-general of the United States. True, the State legislatures may be continued for some years, as boards of appointment merely, after they are divested of every other function; but the framers of the constitution, foreseeing that the people will soon become disgusted with this solemn mockery of a government without power and usefulness, have made a pro-vision for relieving them from the imposition in section fourth of article first, viz.: “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be pre-scribed in each State by the legislature thereof ; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the place of choosing senators.”
As Congress have the control over the time of the appointment of the President-general, of the senators and of the representatives of the United States, they may prolong their existence in office for life by postponing the time of their election and appointment from period to period under various pretences, such as an apprehension of invasion, the factious disposition of the people, or any other plausible pretence that the occasion may suggest; and having thus obtained life-estates in the government, they may fill up the vacancies themselves by their control over the mode of appointment; with this exception in regard to the senators that as the place of appointment for them must, by the constitution, be in the particular State, they may depute some body in the respective States, to fill up the vacancies in the senate, occasioned by death, until they can venture to assume it themselves. In this manner may the only restriction in this clause be evaded. By virtue of the foregoing section, when the spirit of the people shall be gradually broken, when the general government shall be firmly established, and when a numerous standing army shall render opposition vain, the Congress may complete the system of despotism, in renouncing all dependence on the people by continuing themselves and children in the government.
The celebrated Montesquieu, in his Spirit of Laws, vol. i., page 12, says, “That in a democracy there can be no exercise of sovereignty, but by the suffrages of the people, which are their will; now the sovereign’s will is the sovereign himselfthe laws, therefore, which establish the right of suffrage, are fundamental to this government. In fact, it is as important to regulate in a republic in what manner, by whom, and concerning what suffrages are to be given, as it is in a monarchy to know who is the prince, and after what manner he ought to govern.” The time, mode and place of the election of representatives, senators and president-general of the United States, ought not to be under the control of Congress, but fundamentally ascertained and established.
The new Constitution, consistently with the plan of consolidation, contains no reservation of the rights and privileges of the State governments, which was made in the confederation of the year 1778, by article the 2d, viz.: “That each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.”
The legislative power vested in Congress by the foregoing recited sections, is so unlimited in its nature, may be so comprehensive and boundless in its exercise, that this alone would be amply sufficient to annihilate the State governments, and swallow them up in the grand vortex of general empire.
The judicial powers vested in Congress are also so various and extensive, that by legal ingenuity they may be extended to every case, and thus absorb the State judiciaries; and when we consider the decisive influence that a general judiciary would have over the civil polity of the several States, we do not hesitate to pronounce that this power, unaided by the legislative, would effect a consolidation of the States under one government.
The powers of a court of equity, vested by this constitution in the tribunals of Congresspowers which do not exist in Pennsylvania, unless so far as they can be incorporated with jury trialwould, in this State, greatly contribute to this event. The rich and wealthy suitors would eagerly lay hold of the infinate mazes, perplexities and delays, which a court of chancery, with the appellate powers of the Supreme Court in fact as well as law would furnish him with, and thus the poor man being plunged in the bottomless pit of legal discussion, would drop his demand in despair.
In short, consolidation pervades the whole constitution. It begins with an annunciation that such was the intention. The main pillars of the fabric correspond with it, and the concluding paragraph is a confirmation of it. The preamble begins with the words, “We the people of the United States,” which is the style of a compact between individuals entering into a state of society, and not that of a confederation of States. The other features of consolidation we have before noticed.
Thus we have fully established the position, that the powers vested by this constitution in Congress will effect a consolidation of the States under one government, which even the advocates of this constitution admit could not be done without the sacrifice of all liberty.
3. We dissent, thirdly, because if it were practicable to govern so extensive a territory as these United States include, on the plan of a consolidated government, consistent with the principles of liberty and the happiness of the people, yet the construction of this Constitution is not calculated to attain the object; for independent of the nature of the case, it would of itself necessarily produce a despotism, and that not by the usual gradations, but with the celerity that has hitherto only attended revolutions effected by the sword.
To establish the truth of this position, a cursory investigation of the principles and form of this constitution will suffice.
The first consideration that this review suggests, is the omission of a BILL OF RIGHTS ascertaining and fundamentally establishing those unalienable and personal rights of men, with-out the full, free and secure enjoyment of which there can be no liberty, and over which it is not necessary for a good government to have the controlthe principal of which are the rights of conscience, personal liberty by the clear and unequivocal establishment of the writ of habeas corpus, jury trial in criminal and civil cases, by an impartial jury of the vicinage or county, with the common law proceedings for the safety of the accused in criminal prosecutions; and the liberty of the press, that scourge of tyrants, and the grand bulwark of every other liberty and privilege. The stipulations hereto-fore made in favor of them in the State constitutions, are entirely superseded by this Constitution.
The legislature of a free country should be so formed as to have a competent knowledge of its constitutents, and enjoy their confidence. To produce these essential requisites, the representation ought to be fair, equal and sufficiently numerous to possess the same interests, feelings, opinions and views which the people themselves would possess, were they all assembled; and so numerous as to prevent bribery and undue influence, and so responsible to the people, by frequent and fair elections, as to prevent their neglecting or sacrificing the views and interests of their constituents to their own pursuits.
We will now bring the legislature under this Constitution to the test of the foregoing principles, which will demonstrate that it is deficient in every essential quality of a just and safe representation. The House of Representatives is to consist of sixty-five members; that is one for about every 50,000 inhabitants, to be chosen every two years. Thirty-three members will form a quorum for doing business, and seventeen of these, being the majority, determine the sense of the house.
The Senate, the other constituent branch of the legislature, consists of twenty-six members, being two from each State, appointed by their legislatures every six years ; fourteen senators make a quorumthe majority of whom, eight, determines the sense of that body, except in judging on impeachments, or in making treaties, or in expelling a member, when two-thirds of the senators present must concur.
The president is to have the control over the enacting of laws, so far as to make the concurrence of two-thirds of the representatives and senators present necessary, if he should object to the laws.
Thus it appears that the liberties, happiness, interests, and great concerns of the whole United States, may be dependent upon the integrity, virtue, wisdom, and knowledge of twenty-five or twenty-six men. How unadequate and unsafe a representation! Inadequate, because the sense and views of three or four millions of people, diffused over so extensive a territory, comprising such various climates, products, habits, interests, and opinions, cannot be collected in so small a body; and besides, it is not a fair and equal representation of the people even in proportion to its number, for the smallest State has as much weight in the Senate as the largest; and from the smallness of the number to be chosen for both branches of the legislature, and from the mode of election and appointment, which is under the control of Congress, and from the nature of the thing, men of the most elevated rank in life will alone be chosen. The other orders in the society, such as farmers, traders, and mechanics, who all ought to have a competent number of their best informed men in the legislature, shall be totally unrepresented.
The representation is unsafe, because in the exercise of such great powers and trusts, it is so exposed to corruption and undue influence, by the gift of the numerous places of honor and emolument at the disposal of the executive, by the arts and address of the great and designing, and by direct bribery.
The representation is moreover inadequate and unsafe, because of the long terms for which it is appointed, and the mode of its appointment, by which Congress may not only control the choice of the people, but may so manage as to divest the people of this fundamental right, and become self-elected.
The number of members in the House of Representatives may be increased to one for every 30,000 inhabitants. But when we consider that this cannot be done without the consent of the Senate, who from their share in the legislative, in the executive, and judicial departments, and permanency of appointment, will be the great efficient body in this government, and whose weight and predominancy would be abridged by an increase of the representatives, we are persuaded that this is a circumstance that cannot be expected. On the contrary, the number of representatives will probably be continued at sixty-five, although the population of the country may swell to treble what it now is, unless a revolution should effect a change.
We have before noticed the judicial power as it would affect a consolidation of the States into one government; we will now examine it as it would affect the liberties and welfare of the people, supposing such a government were practicable and proper.
The judicial power, under the proposed constitution, is founded on well-known principles of the civil law, by which the judge determines both on law and fact, and appeals are allowed from the inferior tribunals to the superior, upon the whole question; so that facts as well as law, would be re-examined, and even new facts brought forward in the court of appeals; and to use the words of a very eminent civilian”The cause is many times another thing before the court of appeals, than what it was at the time of the first sentence.”
That this mode of proceeding is the one which must be adopted under this constitution, is evident from the following circumstances: 1st. That the trial by jury, which is the grand characteristic of the common law, is secured by the constitution only in criminal cases. 2d. That the appeal from both law and fact is expressly established, which is utterly inconsistent with the principles of the common law and trials by jury. The only mode in which an appeal from law and fact can be established, is by adopting the principles and practice of the civil law, unless the United States should be drawn into the absurdity of calling and swearing juries, merely for the purpose of contradicting their verdicts, which would render juries contemptible and worse than useless. 3d. That the courts to be established would decide on all cases of law and equity, which is a well-known characteristic of the civil law, and these courts would have conusance not only of the laws of the United States, and of treaties, and of cases affecting ambassadors, but of all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, which last are matters belonging exclusively to the civil law, in every nation in Christendom.
Not to enlarge upon the loss of the invaluable right of trial by an unbiased jury, so dear to every friend of liberty, the monstrous expense and inconveniences of the mode of proceeding to be adopted, are such as will prove intolerable to the people of this country. The lengthy proceedings of the civil law courts in the chancery of England, and in the courts of Scotland and France, are such that few men of moderate fortune can endure the expense of; the poor man must therefore submit to the wealthy. Length of purse will too often prevail against right and justice. For instance, we are told by the learned Judge Blackstone, that a question only on the property of an ox, of the value of three guineas, originating under the civil law proceedings in Scotland, after many interlocutory orders and sentences below, was carried at length from the court of sessions, the highest court in that part of Great Britain, by way of appeal to the House of Lords, where the question of law and fact was finally determined. He adds, that no pique or spirit could in the court of king’s bench or common pleas at Westminster, have given continuance to such a cause for a tenth part of the time, nor have cost a twentieth part of the expense. Yet the costs in the courts of king’s bench and common pleas in England, are infinitely greater than those which the people of this country have ever experienced. We abhor the idea of losing the transcendent privilege of trial by jury, with the loss of which, it is remarked by the same learned author, that in Sweden, the liberties of the commons were extinguished by an aristocratic Senate; and that trial by jury and the liberty of the people went out together. At the same time we regret the intolerable delay, the enormous expense, and infinite vexation, to which the people of this country will be exposed from the volumnious proceedings of the courts of civil law, and especially from the appellate jurisdiction, by means of which a man may be drawn from the utmost boundaries of this extensive country to the seat of the Supreme Court of the nation to contend, perhaps, with a wealthy and powerful adversary. The consequence of this establishment will be an absolute confirmation of the power of aristocratical influence in the courts of justice; for the common people will not be able to contend or struggle against it.
Trial by jury in criminal cases may also be excluded by declaring that the libeller for instance shall be liable to an action of debt for a specified sum, thus evading the common law prosecution by indictment and trial by jury. And the common course of proceeding against a ship for breach of revenue laws by informa (which will be classed among civil causes) will at the civil law be within the resort of a court, where no jury intervenes. Besides, the benefit of jury trial, in cases of a criminal nature, which cannot be evaded, will be rendered of little value, by calling the accused to answer far from home; there being no provision that the trial be by a jury of the neighborhood or country. Thus an inhabitant of Pittsburgh, on a charge of crime committed on the banks of the Ohio, may be obliged to defend himself at the side of the Delaware, and so vice versa. To conclude this head: we observe that the judges of the courts of Congress would not be independent, as they are not debarred from holding other offices, during the pleasure of the President and Senate, and as they may derive their support in part from fees, alterable by the legislature.
The next consideration that the constitution presents, is the undue and dangerous mixture of the powers of government; the same body possessing legislative, executive and judicial powers. The Senate is a constituent branch of the legislature, it has judicial power in judging on impeachments, and in this case unites in some measure the characters of judge and party, as all the principal officers are appointed by the president-general, with the concurrence of the Senate, and therefore they derive their offices in part from the Senate. This may bias the judgments of the senators, and tend to screen great delinquents from punishment. And the Senate has, moreover, various and great executive powers, viz., in concurrence with the president-general, they form treaties with foreign nations, that may control and abrogate the constitutions and laws of the several States. Indeed, there is no power, privilege or liberty of the State governments, or of the people, but what may be affected by virtue of this power. For all treaties, made by them, are to be the “supreme law of the land; anything in the constitution or laws of any State, to the contrary notwithstanding.”
And this great power may be exercised by the President and ten senators (being two-thirds of fourteen, which is a quorum of that body). What an inducement would this offer to the ministers of foreign powers to compass by bribery such concessions as could not otherwise be obtained. It is the unvaried usage of all free States, whenever treaties interfere with the positive laws of the land, to make the intervention of the legislature necessary to give them operation. This became necessary, and was afforded by the parliament of Great Britain, in consequence of the late commercial treaty between that kingdom and Prance. As the Senate judges on impeachments, who is to try the members of the Senate for the abuse of this power! And none of the great appointments to office can be made without the consent of the Senate.
Such various, extensive, and important powers combined in one body of men, are inconsistent with all freedom; the celebrated Montesquieu tells us, that “when the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty, because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.”
“Again, there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would then be legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with all the violence of an oppressor. There would be an end of everything, were the same man, or the same body of the nobles, or of the people, to exercise those three powers; that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and that of judging the crimes or differences of individuals.”
The president general is dangerously connected with the senate; his coincidence with the views of the ruling junto in that body, is made essential to his weight and importance in the government, which will destroy all independency and purity in the executive department; and having the power of pardoning without the concurrence of a council, he may screen from punishment the most treasonable attempts that may be made on the liberties of the people, when instigated by his coadjutors in the senate. Instead of this dangerous and improper mixture of the executive with the legislative and judicial, the supreme executive powers ought to have been placed in the president, with a small independent council, made personally responsible for every appointment to office or other act, by having their opinions recorded; and that without the concurrence of the majority of the quorum of this council, the president should not be capable of taking any step.
We have before considered internal taxation as it would effect the destruction of the State governments, and produce one consolidated government. We will now consider that subject as it affects the personal concerns of the people.
The power of direct taxation applies to every individual, as Congress, under this government, is expressly vested with the authority of laying a capitation or poll tax upon every person to any amount. This is a tax that, however oppressive in its nature, and unequal in its operation, is certain as to its produce and simple in its collection; it cannot be evaded like the objects of imposts or excise, and will be paid, because all that a man hath will he give for his head. This tax is so congenial to the nature of despotism, that it has ever been a favorite under such governments. Some of those who were in the late general convention from this State, have labored to introduce a poll tax among us.
The power of direct taxation will further apply to every individual, as Congress may tax land, cattle, trades, occupations, etc., to any amount, and every object of internal taxation is of that nature that however oppressive, the people will have but this alternative, either to pay the tax or let their property be taken, for all resistance will be vain. The standing army and select militia would enforce the collection.
For the moderate exercise of this power, there is no control left in the State governments, whose intervention is destroyed. No relief, or redress of grievances, can be extended as heretofore by them. There is not even a declaration of RIGHTS to which the people may appeal for the vindication of their wrongs in the court of justice. They must therefore, implicitly obey the most arbitrary laws, as the most of them will be pursuant to the principles and form of the constitution, and that strongest of all checks upon the conduct of administration, responsibility to the people, will not exist in this government. The permanency of the appointments of senators and representatives, and the control the congress have over their election, will place them independent of the sentiments and resentment of the people, and the administration having a greater interest in the government than in the community, there will be no consideration to restrain them from oppression and tyranny. In the government of this State, under the old confederation, the members of the legislature are taken from among the people, and their interests and welfare are so inseparably connected with those of their constituents, that they can derive no advantage from oppressive laws and taxes; for they would suffer in common with their fellow-citizens, would participate in the burthens they impose on the community, as they must return to the common level, after a short period; and notwithstanding every exertion of influence, every means of corruption, a necessary rotation excludes them from permanency in the legislature.
This large State is to have but ten members in that Congress which is to have the liberty, property and dearest concerns of every individual in this vast country at absolute command, and even these ten persons, who are to be our only guardians, who are to supersede the legislature of Pennsylvania, will not be of the choice of the people, nor amenable to them. From the mode of their election and appointment they will consist of the lordly and high minded; of men who will have no congenial feelings with the people, but a perfect indifference for, and contempt of them; they will consist of those harpies of power that prey upon the very vitals, that riot on the miseries of the community. But we will suppose, although in all probability it may never be realized in fact, that our deputies in Congress have the welfare of their constituents at heart, and will exert themselves in their behalf, what security could even this afford? what relief could they extend to their oppressed constitutents? To attain this, the majority of the deputies of the twelve other States in Congress must be alike well disposed; must alike forego the sweets of power, and relinquish the pursuits of ambition, which, from the nature of things, is not to be expected. If the people part with a responsible representation in the legislature, founded upon fair, certain and frequent elections, they have nothing left they can call their own. Miserable is the lot of that people whose every concern depends on the will and pleasure of their rulers. Our soldiers will become Janissaries, and our officers of government Bashaws; in short, the system of despotism will soon be completed.
From the foregoing investigation, it appears that the Congress under this constitution will not possess the confidence of the people, which is an essential requisite in a good government; for unless the laws command the confidence and respect of the great body of the people, so as to induce them to support them when called on by the civil magistrate, they must be executed by the aid of a numerous standing army, which would be inconsistent with every idea of liberty; for the same force that may be employed to compel obedience to good laws, might and probably would be used to wrest from the people their constitutional liberties. The framers of this constitution appear to have been aware of this great deficiencyto have been sensible that no dependence could be placed on the people for their support: but on the contrary, that the government must be executed by force. They have therefore made a provision for this purpose in a permanent standing army and a militia that may be objected to as strict discipline and government.
A standing army in the hands of a government placed so independent of the people, may be made a fatal instrument to overturn the public liberties; it may be employed to enforce the collection of the most oppressive taxes, and to carry into execution the most arbitrary measures. An ambitious man who may have the army at his devotion, may step up into the throne, and seize upon absolute power.
The absolute unqualified command that Congress have over the militia may be made instrumental to the destruction of all liberty, both public and private; whether of a personal, civil or religious nature.
First, the personal liberty of every man, probably from sixteen to sixty years of age, may be destroyed by the power Congress have in organizing and governing of the militia. As militia they may be subjected to fines to any amount, levied in a military manner; they may be subjected to corporal punishments of the most disgraceful and humiliating kind; and to death itself, by the sentence of a court martial. To this our young men will be more immediately subjected, as a select militia, composed of them, will best answer the purposes of government.
Secondly, the rights of conscience may be violated, as there is no exemption of those persons who are conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms. These compose a respectable proportion of the community in the State. This is the more remarkable, because even when the distresses of the late war, and the evident disaffection of many citizens of that description, inflamed our passions, and when every person who was obliged to risk his own life, must have been exasperated against such as on any account kept back from the common danger, yet even then, when outrage and violence might have been expected, the rights of conscience were held sacred.
At this momentous crisis, the framers of our State Constitution made the most express and decided declaration and stipulations in favor of the rights of conscience; but now, when no necessity exists, those dearest rights of men are left insecure.
Thirdly, the absolute command of Congress over the militia may be destructive of public liberty; for under the guidance of an arbitrary government, they may be made the unwilling instruments of tyranny. The militia of Pennsylvania may be marched to New England or Virginia to quell an insurrection occasioned by the most galling oppression, and aided by the standing army, they will no doubt be successful in subduing their liberty and independency; but in so doing, although the magnanimity of their minds will be extinguished, yet the meaner passions of resentment and revenge will be increased, and these in turn will be the ready and obedient instruments of despotism to enslave the others; and that with an irritated vengeance. Thus may the militia be made the instruments of crushing the last efforts of expiring liberty, of riveting the chains of despotism on their fellow-citizens, and on one another. This power can be exercised not only without violating the Constitution, but in strict conformity with it; it is calculated for this express purpose, and will doubtless be executed accordingly.
As this government will not enjoy the confidence of the people, but be executed by force, it will be a very expensive and burthensome government. The standing army must be numerous, and as a further support, it will be the policy of this government to multiply officers in every department; judges, collectors, tax-gatherers, excisemen and the whole host of revenue officers, will swarm over the land, devouring the hard earnings of the industriouslike the locusts of old, impoverishing and desolating all before them.
We have not noticed the smaller, nor many of the considerable blemishes, but have confined our objections to the great and essential defects, the main pillars of the constitution; which we have shown to be inconsistent with the liberty and happiness of the people, as its establishment will annihilate the State governments, and produce one consolidated government that will eventually and speedily issue in the supremacy of despotism.
In this investigation we have not confined our views to the interests or welfare of this State, in preference to the others. We have overlooked all local circumstanceswe have considered this subject on the broad scale of the general good; we have asserted the cause of the present and future agesthe cause of liberty and mankind.
|Nathaniel Breading,||John Ludwig,|
|John Smilie,||Abraham Lincoln,|
|Richard Bard,||John Bishop,|
|Adam Orth,|| ||Joseph Hiester,|
|John A. Hannah,|| ||Joseph Powell,|
|John Whitehill,||James Martin,|
|John Harris,||William Findley,|
|Robert Whitehill,||John Baird,|
|John Reynolds,||James Edgar,|
|Jonathan Hoge,||William Todd. Nicholas Lutz,|
|The yeas and nays upon the final vote were as follows, viz. :YEAS.YEAS.|
|George Latimer,||John Barclay,|
|Benjamin Rush,||Thomas Yardley,|
|Hilary Baker,||Abraham Stout,|
|James Wilson,||Thomas Bull,|
|Thomas M’ Kean,||Anthony Wayne,|
|William Macpherson,||William Gibbons,|
|John Hunn,||Richard Downing,|
|George Gray,||Thomas Cheyney,|
|Samuel Ashmead,||John Hannum,|
|Enoch Edwards,||Stephen Chambers,|
|Henry Wynkoop,||Robert Coleman,|
|Sebastian Graff,||David Deshler,|
|John Hubley,||William Wilson,|
|Jaspar Yates,||John Boyd,|
|Henry Slagle,||Thomas Scott,|
|Thomas Campbell,||John Neville,|
|Thomas Hartley,||John Allison,|
|David Grier,||Jonathan Roberts,|
|John Black,||John Richards,|
|Benjamin Pedan,||E. A. Muhlenberg,|
|John Arndt,||James Morris,|
|Stephen Balliet,||Timothy Pickering,|
|Joseph Horsfield,||Benjamin Elliot,|
|John Whitehill,||William Iindley,|
|John Harris,||John Baird,|
|John Reynolds,||William Todd,|
|Robert Whitehill,||James Marshel,|
|John Whitehill,||James Edgar,|
|Nicholas Lutz,||Nathaniel Breading,|
|John Ludwig,||John Smilie,|
|Abraham Lincoln,||Richard Bard,|
|John Bishop,||William Brown,|
|Joseph Hiester,||Adam Orth,|
|James Martin,||John Andre Hannah. Joseph Powell,|
Philadelphia December 12, 1787[The example thus set by the minority was quickly followed by individual members of the majority. No sooner did they reach their homes than they too made appeals to their constituents under the form of reports to county meetings. The earliest of these was made at Easton.]
Philadelphia, January 7. 4
At a meeting of sundry respectable inhabitants of the county of Northampton, held at Easton, the twentieth day of December, 1787.
Alexander Patterson, Esq. in the chair.
The meeting took into consideration the report made to the people of this county by their deputies to the State Convention. Whereupon
Resolved unanimously, First. That we highly approve of the conduct of our deputies, in assenting to and ratifying the Constitution of the United States, as proposed by the late Federal Convention.
Second. That the chairman be requested to return our hearty thanks to the said deputies, for, the patriotism, public spirit and faithful discharge of their duty, as representatives of this county.
Third. That their report, together with these resolutions, be transmitted by the chairman to Philadelphia, for publication. Signed, by order of the meeting,
ALEXANDER PATTERSON, Chairman.
Attest, JAMES PETTIGREW, Secretary.
Friends and Fellow-citizens of Northampton county.
The representatives of this county in the late convention of this State, think it their duty, as servants of the public, to lay before you, their constituents, the result of their deliberations upon the new Constitution for the United States, submitted to their consideration by a resolve of the legislature for calling a State Convention.
The debates at large we have reason to expect will be published, wherein those whose inclination may lead them to it, will find a detail of all the arguments made use of either for or against the adoption of the constitution. Our intention, therefore, is not to enter fully into an investigation of the component parts of it, but only to inform our constituents that it has been carefully examined in all its parts; that every objection that could be offered to it has been heard and attended to; and that upon mature deliberation, two-thirds of the whole number of deputies from the city and counties of this State, in the name and by the authority of the people of this State, fully ratified it, upon the most clear conviction:
1st. That the state of America required a concentration and union of the powers of government for all general purposes of the United States.
2d. That the constitution proposed by the late convention of the United States, held at Philadelphia, was the best form that could be devised and agreed upon. Northampton County Approves the Constitution.
3d. That such a constitution will enable the representatives of the different States in the Union to restore the commerce of all the States in general, and this in particular, to its former prosperity.
4th. That by a diminution of taxes upon real estates, agriculture may be encouraged, and the prices of lands, which have of late greatly declined, will be increased to their former value.
5th. That by imposing duties on foreign luxuries, not only arts and manufactures will be encouraged in our own country; but the public creditors of this State and the United States will be rendered secure in their demands, without any perceptible burthen on the people.
6th. That all disputes which might otherwise arise, concerning territory or jurisdiction, between neighboring States, will be settled in the ordinary mode of distributing justice, without war or bloodshed.
7th. That the support of government will be less expensive than under the present constitutions of the different States.
8th. That all partial laws of any particular State for the defeating contracts between parties, or rendering the compliance therewith on one part easier than was originally intended, and fraudulent to the other party, are effectually provided against, by a prohibition of paper money and tender laws; and
9th. That peace, liberty, and safety, the great objects for which the late United Colonies, now free independent States, expended so much blood and treasure, can only be secured by such an union of interests as this constitution has provided for.
In full confidence that our unanimous conviction and concurrence in favor of this constitution will meet the entire approbation of our constituents, the freemen and citizens of this county, we have the honor to subscribe ourselves,
|Their devoted servants,|
Easton, December 20, 1787.[A similar meeting held at Carlisle a week later was the cause of a serious riot; described by a writer in the Independent Gazetteer.]
Mr. Oswald: As you may perhaps have heard of an affray which happened in this town, I send you the particulars:On Wednesday the 26th of December last, a number of persons here, much in love with the new Constitution, formed a plan of rejoicing on account of its adoption by this State; they kept their purpose a profound secret from the rest of the inhabitants (who they knew were of a different opinion) until near night, at which time a cannon was brought from the public magazine, placed in the centre of the square, a drum beat and the bell rung; this collected a vast concourse of people, and a report having been propagated that whoever did not illuminate their windows would have them broke in pieces. This alarmed the people very much, who asked the rejoicers what they intended, and why they placed a cannon there at that time; they answered, it was to express their approbation of the adoption of the federal Constitution; they were then asked why they attempted to do so without calling a town meeting, to take the sense of the people on the subject. They replied that such as did not like it might let it alonethat they were determined, in spite of all opposition, to fire that cannon, and swearing most tremendously, if they would not clear the way, they would fire it through their bodies. A smart altercation now took place between both parties, when a number of barrels which had been piled for the bonfire, were thrown down; this provoked some of the most violent of the rejoicers to lay about them most unmercifully with such weapons as they were provided with, but the people defended themselves so well, and aimed their blows so successfully, that it soon converted the intended joy into mourningthe most forward of the rejoicing party were either carried off, or ran with the greatest precipitation, not caring longer to face the hardy cuffs of their enranged opponents, who they knew would pay no respect to their rank, nor make any allowance for their delicate constitutions; I assure you it was laughable to see lawyers, doctors, colonels, captains, etc., etc., leave the scene of their rejoicing in such haste, and run some one way and some another, so that in about three minutes from the first commencement of the battle, there was not one of the rejoicing party to be seen on the ground, except a few who skulked in the dark, in order to collect what they could hear, with a view of appearing as evidences on a future day.
When the fray was over, the rejoicing took a new turn; the fragments of the broken barrels were collected, piled and set fire to; the new constitution was then produced and committed to the flames, by the hands of the executor of the law, amidst the loudest acclamations, then followed three cheers in honor of the dissenting minority of twenty-three in the State convention. Immediately after this (the people having mostly dispersed) some fellows whom the rejoicers had employed to assist them in working the cannon (but who deserted their cause when they saw them defeated) went so far as to burn the carriage and every part of the cannon-mounting that would burn, contrary to the express prohibition of such of the people as were then present, but now too few to prevent the rabble, at the head of whom was one Ryan, a late wheelbarrow convict, whom the rejoicers had employed to work the cannon for them: he swore (when desired to desist and not destroy the carriage) that first he would burn one side of the cannon, and then turn it like a po-ta-tee, for he was captain now.
Next day at noon the rejoicers collected a number of men with fire-arms and ammunition, in order (as they expressed it) to rejoice at the risk of their lives; they fired a few rounds, but on hearing the people’s drum beat to arms, they dispersed, appointing to meet at two o’clock, to finish their rejoicings: this, however, they prudently declined. Now in their turn the people met, and having dressed up the effigies of two of the most noted partisans and promoters of the new constitution, after carrying them in procession through the principal streets of the town, to the funeral pile which was burning in the square for their reception, committed them to the flames, with an indignation suitable to the opinion they entertained of men who could endeavor to undermine the liberties of their country. From the first appearance of the effigies the dead bell tolled until they were totally consumed to ashes: this ended the exercises of the day; however, the lawyers are like to make something by the matterthe rejoicers swear they will be avenged, they have summoned a long train of evidences before a justice who they think favors their party, and are endeavoring to injure a number of respectable characters among the people; who in their turn have it amply in their power to retaliate, but will only act agreeably to the laws of their country, the nod of the great not being yet the supreme law of the land.
ONE OF THE PEOPLE.
Carlisle, January I, 17885
Carlisle, January 2.
As the riot on Wednesday last, and the burning of the effigies of two of the most distinguished characters in the State, in the public streets of Carlisle, by a mob on Thursday, has already made a considerable noise in the county, an impartial spectator, desirous of furnishing the public with a just and true state of facts, to enable them to form a proper judgment of the conduct of the parties concerned, begs leave to lay before them the following representation, for the truth of which he pledges himself, and which will appear by the depositions of a cloud of reputable and respectable witnesses, in the possession of John Agnew, esq.
About five o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, public notice being given by ringing the bell and beating the drum, a number of persons met at the public square, to testify their approbation of the proceedings of the late convention, in the most decent and orderly manner. A piece of artillery having been brought to the ground, and materials collected for a bonfire, a number of men armed with bludgeons, came in regular order from one quarter of the town, while others sallied forth from different streets armed in the same manner. Major James A. Wilson (having been appointed with two other gentlemen, to make the necessary arrangements for the occasion) was preparing to have the gun loaded, when he was ordered by many of the armed party to desist, and many threats thrown out against any person who would attempt to kindle the bonfire; to which the Major replied, that those who were not disposed to rejoice, might withdraw; and that he hoped, people so pregnant with poverty as they appeared to be, would not wish to hinder their neighbors from showing marks of joy, when they were pleased. Immediately after a number of barrels and staves were thrown at him, one of which struck him on the breast; he then sprung forward to the persons who threw at him, and struck one of them with a small pine stick, to which a piece of pitch rope was fixed; he was then beat down by a number of blows from six or seven persons with bludgeons, who continued beating him after he fell. They would have taken his life had not a trusty old soldier thrown himself on the Major, and received the blows aimed at him. A general confusion took place. Mr. Robert Miller, jun, was attacked by a person who with both hands wielded a massy bludgeon, and while he was engaged with the first, received several blows from one who stood behind him. The persons met for the purpose of the celebration, altogether unprepared for such an assault (being even without walking canes) were forced to return. The armed party having accomplished their premeditated designs of preventing the public rejoicing, proceeded to spike the cannon, and having made a large fire, committed to the flames the cannon and its carriage, together with a sledge on which it had been drawn to the ground. They then sent for an almanac containing the Federal Constitution, which was formally burned. Loud huzzas were repeated, with “Damnation to the 46 members, and long live the virtuous 23.”
On Thursday at 12 o’clock, I understood that the friends to government intended to carry into execution the resolution of the celebration of the event from which, the evening before they had been so violently prevented. I went to the place, found them, at the court house armed chiefly with muskets and bayonets; they discovered every pacific disposition, but at the same time the most determined resolution to repel, at the risk of their lives, any attack which might be made on them. A bonfire was made, and the ratification of the constitution by this State was read, accompanied by the acclamations of all the people present, repeated volleys of musketry and firing of cannon.
I cannot help giving my praise to the good order and coolness and determined spirit with which the business was conducted, although the mob made their appearance in several places, armed with guns and bludgeons, and even came close to where the federalists were firing the cannon, and used threatening language, which was treated with every possible contempt, and no violence offered to them. The federalists remained two hours on the ground, testified their joy, with every appearance of harmony and good humor, and returned without any disturbance to their homes. Immediately after a drum beatthe mob gathered, collected barrels, and proceeded to the court-house with noise and tumult, when there were brought from an adjacent lot two effigies with labels on their breasts, Thomas M’Kean, Chief Justice, and James Wilson, the Caledonian. They formed in order, had the effigies carried in front, preceded only by a noted captain of militia, who declared he was inspired from Heaven, paraded the streets, and with shouts and most dreadful execrations committed them to the flames. It is remarkable that some of the most active people in the riot of Wednesday evening, and the mob of Thursday, have come to this country within these two yearsmen perfectly unknown, and whose characters were too obscure to attract the notice of the inhabitants of this place, and others who but lately have stripped off the garb of British soldiers. I think it improper to prejudice the public by naming the persons concerned in these atrocious riots, as prosecutions are about to be commenced in the name of the State against them. Every lover of good order must lament the wound the dignity of the State has received in burning in the public street, in one of the largest towns in open day, the effigy of the first magistrate of the Commonwealth. Proceedings of this kind are really alarming, directly tend to the dissolution of all governments, and must receive the rebrobation of every honest citizen.
I was invited, being an old man, to spend the evening with the federalists at Mr. Joseph Postlethwait’s tavern, where an elegant supper had been prepareda number of the respectable inhabitants of Carlisle convened there and spent the evening with the most perfect harmony, good humor and conviviality. After supper the following toasts were drank:
- The Federal Constitution
- General Washington and the Federal Constitution.
- The States who Acceded to the Federal Constitution.
- A speedy accession and ratification of the Constitution by all the States.
- The patriotic forty-six.
- The president of the State.
- The chief justice of Pennsylvania and member of the late convention.
- The honorable James Wilson, Esq., of Philadelphia.
- Major James Armstrong Wilson.
- An increase of the agriculture, manufactures and commerce of America.
- May the flag of the United States fly triumphant in all the ports of the world.
- Our friends in Europe.6
Extract of a letter from Carlisle, dated January 4, 1788.
“I dare say you have heard of the unhappy rumpus which took place here on the 25th ult. This spirit of rage and discord is increasing every hour; Squire Agnew issued warrants for some of the rioters, but none would venture to serve them. A boy indeed was taken, but the people of the town threatening to rise again, he was discharged, and the country people declaring they would come in and pull down the houses of any who should attempt to issue or execute any warrants. Nothing is or can be done! You cannot conceive the violent language used here; the whole country is alive with wrath, and it is spreading from one county to another so rapidly that it is impossible to say where it will end, or how far it will reach, as the best and leading characters in all these counties during the late war are now the foremost in this unfortunate dispute. The county of Franklin is, if possible, they tell me, worse than ours; they also are forming themselves into societies and associations to oppose this new constitution. The order from council to repair the arms can-not be executed; it is the subject of much speculation.” 7[Some of the rioters, however, were arrested. What happened to them is set forth in the following narrative.]
Carlisle, March 5.
A narrative of facts, respecting the manner by which the prisoners were liberated from their confinement, in the gaol of Cumberland county, on Saturday the first of March instant.
It is presumed the public are already in full possession of the cause which gave rise to the following transactions, viz., the opposition made by some of the inhabitants of the borough of Carlisle, to the rejoicing intended to be celebrated by the new federalists, on the 26th and 27th of December last. It is already known that a number of depositions were taken in the office of John Agnew, Esquire, with an intention to criminate the several persons who were active in opposing said rejoicing, on which depositions or other information laid before the honorable the supreme justices of the State of Pennsylvania, a warrant was issued charging the said opposers with divers unlawful acts, &c., and commanding the Sheriff of this county to apprehend 20 persons therein named, and take them before some of the Justices of the Supreme Court, or any of the justices of Cumberland county, to answer to the premises and be dealt with according to law. Some time after the Sheriff received the warrant, and called upon the defendants, and informed them such warrant was in his hands; each person willingly agreed to appear at any time he might think proper before any magistrate of this county: he thought proper to appoint Monday the 25th of February last for them to appear before John Agnew, Esq., which they readily complied with. The warrant being read, which exhibited the charge of a riot against the defendants, who demanded that they should be confronted with the witnesses, and offered, if permitted, to produce sufficient evidence to exculpate themselves from the charge alleged against them, which was refused, as the magistrate was of opinion that it was not in his power to supersede a warrant issued by the Supreme Justices. In the interim a country magistrate arrived, who had been previously sent for by John Agnew, Esquire; after a short consultation they came forth, and the country justice told the defendants that in his opinion the warrant admitted of a hearing, but added, that he was determined not to act in the matter, and advised the defendants to accept of a proposal made by Mr. Agnew, which was to remain in the custody of the Sheriff until the 25th of March next, at which time Mr. Agnew hoped to have instructions from the Supreme Justices. Seven of the defendants absolutely refused the proposal, unless they were assured of an investigation of the premises at the time mentioned, which was likewise refused. Bail was then demanded by the Justice; the defendants answered they were conscious that they were guilty of no crime against the laws of their country; and as they were prosecuted to gratify party spite, they were determined not to enter bail on the occasion, but would otherwise willingly comply with the orders of his worship; upon which Mr. Agnew wrote and signed their commitment, and gave it to the Sheriff, who conducted the prisoners to the county gaol. Immediately the country took the alarm, on hearing that a number of persons were confined in prison for opposing a measure that was intended to give sanction to the proposed Federal Constitution. The people who composed the different companies of militia in this county, thought proper to collect, and appointed to meet in Carlisle, on Saturday last, to inquire why those persons were confined, and at the same time determined to act agreeably to the opposition offered them by the rejoicing party. Accordingly about sunrise the bell began to ring, and the men under arms made their appearance from different quarters, who previously had appointed one person from each company to represent them in a committee, for the purpose of consulting on such measures as might be most expedient on the occasion. Previous to their meeting five persons with delegated power from the people of Dauphin county, had met a number of new federalists, and had proposed terms of accommodation. In one hour the new federalists promised to give them an answer, at which time they accordingly met, together with the committee appointed by the different companies, who immediately agreed on terms of accommodation, and mutually consented to transmit a petition to Council, signed by a number of respectable persons on both sides of the question; they then agreed that the Sheiff would sign the following discharge:
“Be it known that I, Charles Leeper, Esq., Sheriff of Cumberland county, do hereby discharge from their imprisonment in the jail of this county of Cumberland, the following persons, viz., James Wallace, William Petrikin, Thomas Dickson, Samuel Greer, Bartholomew White, Joseph Young, and Joseph Steel.
” CHARLES LEEPER, Sheriff.”
After the above agreement was ratified, the militia were marched under their respective officers from the public square to the jail, where the sheriff conducted the prisoners to the street; having read the above discharge, they were restored to their former liberty with loud huzzas and a feu de joie from right to left of the companies, who then marched out of town in good order, without injuring any person or property, except two balls which were fired through a tavern-keeper’s sign who is said to be a warm federalist.
It is with pleasure we announce to the public, that the militia who appeared on this occasion amounted to about 1,500 men, who are generally men of property and good characters, who all evinced both by words and actions, that they intended to persevere in every measure that would oppose the establishment of the new Constitution, at the risk of their lives and fortunes.
The following is a copy of the petition to Council alluded to above.
To the Honorable the Supreme Executive Council of the Slate of Pennsylvania.
We, the undersigned, being desirous of preserving the peace of the county of Cumberland, do hereby signify and declare our wishes and desire that the prosecutions commenced respecting certain riots said to have been committed upon Wednesday and Thursday the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh of December last, should be discontinued; and that your honors will be pleased to direct the attorney-general to enter noli prosequi to the said prosecutions.
|John Montgomery,||William Blair,|
|John Agnew,||John Wray,|
|Stephen Duncan,||William Brown,|
|James Hamilton,||Mathew Alison,|
|Samuel A. M. Coskery,||John Jordan,|
|Robert Magaw,||James Lemberton,|
|Joseph Thornburg,||Samuel Gray,|
|John Holmes,||George Logan|
N. B. John Montgomery, etc., are in favor of the new constitution, and William Blair, etc., against it.8[The Antifederalists of Carlisle meantime had not been idle. The Assembly was petitioned and the minority of the convention repeatedly thanked.]
From the Carlisle Gazette.
Messrs. Printers: By inserting the following in your useful Gazette, you will oblige a number of your constant readers.
An address to the Minority of the State Convention of Pennsylvania.
The history of mankind is pregnant with frequent, bloody and almost imperceptible transitions from freedom to slavery. Rome, after she had been long distracted by the fury of the patrician and plebeian parties, at length found herself reduced to the most abject slavery under a Nero, a Caligula, etc. The successive convulsions, which happened at Rome, were the immediate consequence of the aspiring ambition of a few great men, and the very organization and construction of the government itself. The republic of Venice, by the progressive and almost imperceptible encroachments of the nobles, has at length degenerated into an odious and permanent aristocracy. This we are convinced by indubitable demonstration, will be the final consequence of the proposed Federal Constitution; and because we prize the felicity and freedom of our posterity equally with our own, we esteem it our indispensable duty to oppose it with that determined resolution and spirit that becomes freemen. That fire for liberty which was kindled in every patriotic breast during the late glorious contention, though in a latent state, will be easily rekindled; and upon the contact of a very spark will devour by its direful explosion, not only the enemies of liberty, but both parties promiscuously.
Discontent, indignation and revenge already begin to be visible in every patriotic countenance; and civil discord already raises her snakey head. And we are well convinced that nothing less than a total recantation and annihilation of the proposed aristocratic delusion will appease the insulted and enraged defenders of liberty. If the lazy and great wish to ride, they may lay it down as an indubitable position or axiom, that the people of America will make very refractory and restive hackneys. Although the designing and artful Federalists have effected their scheme so far as to have the constitution adopted in this State by surprise, notwithstanding the people are pretty generally convinced of their delusion, and little less than the lives of their betrayers will satiate their revenge. Not even the authority of the clergy, who seem generally to have been a set of men decidedly opposed to popular freedom, can give sanction to such a government. The people of America understand their rights better than, by adopting such a constitution, to rivet the fetters of slavery; or to sacrifice their liberty at the shrine of aristocracy or arbitrary government. We, the subscribers, are a society united for the express purpose of reciprocal or mutual improvement; we meet once a week, and political matters are frequently the subjects of litigation and debate. We have read and endeavored fully to comprehend the proposed federal constitution, and also the arguments for and against it; and after mature deliberation, we unanimously acquiesce with, and cordially thank you the minority in the late State convention: First, for your patriotic and spirited endeavors to support the drooping cause of liberty, and rights of your constituents: Secondly, for your integrity and firmness in stemming the torrent of popular clamor, insult and flattery: Thirdly, for your unanswerable, solid, and well-founded arguments and reason of dissent: Lastly, we rejoice to think that your names will shine illustriously in the page of history, and will be read with honor and grateful remembrance in the annals of fame; while the names of the majority and their ignorant tools will be spurned and execrated by the succeeding generations as the pillars of slavery, tyranny and despotism.
|James M’ Cormick,||James Bell,|
|David Boyd,||Thomas Atchley,|
|William Gelson,||William Irvin,|
|James Irvin,||William Douglass,|
|Andrew Irvin,||John Walker,|
|William Carothers, Senior,||William Greason,|
|William Adams,||David Walker,|
|William Carothers, Junior,||Jonathan Walker|
|John Walker,||John Buchanan,|
|Archibald Hamilton||Francis M’Guire,|
|Joseph Junkin,||John Armstrong,|
|John Clandinen||Benj. Junkin|
|Thomas Henderson,||John Carothers, junior,|
|Robert Bell,||James Fleming,|
|John Junkin,||Thomas Carothers, 9|
Carlisle, February 13.
An Address to the Minority of the Late State ConventionFrom Union Society.
GENTLEMEN : After the most mature and deliberate consideration, we feel ourselves prompted by the most lively glow of gratitude, to tender you our unfeigned address of thanks for your able and spirited exertions in the late Convention, in behalf of liberty and your country, and with unwearied assiduity struggling through fatigue and opposition, in support of the unalienable rights of mankind, against the iron hand of despotism, which is the concomitant of slavery and oppression. Though baffled and disappointed in your late glorious contest, in contending for the blessing of freedomwe congratulate you that the happy day is not far off when your virtuous endeavors will illustriously shine in the annals of fame, and immortalize your names in the historic page. Believe it, gentlemen, as a truth, that it will redound to your honor, whose lot it was to fall into an age that asserted common liberty and the rights of your country, that you were possessed of undaunted courage to give us some proofs of it in this critical moment, a blessing which we wish with all our souls may be perpetuated to posterity; for as to what concerns ourselves, one day’s experience is abundantly sufficient for our comfort and instruction, both young and old. Those that are in years will leave the world with less regret, when they shall better understand the advantages that attend liberty; and for those that are growing up, the very example will inflame them with a virtuous emulation of treading in the steps of their famous ancestors. Gentlemen, it is with great respect we offer this tribute of our acknowledgments due to your merits.
Signed by order of the Society,
JAMES STERRITT, Secretary. 10
An address of thanks from a number of the inhabitants of the borough of Carlisle, to the minority of the late State Convention in general, and the representatives of Cumberland county in particular.
GENTLEMEN: We return you our hearty thanks for the magnanimous and spirited opposition which you made in the late State Convention to that instrument of oppression, injustice and tyranny, which was then the subject of your deliberations, viz.: The Proposed Constitution for the United States.
We assure you that your conduct meets with our most cordial approbation, and fully answers the expectation we formed of you when we voted you to represent us. Although we did not tie up your hands, by dictating to you how to behave or what side to take, nor did we preclude you from investigating its properties or discussing its principles in the most ample manner, according to the dictates of your own enlightened understanding, by extorting from you, previous to your election or afterwards, any promises or engagements to vote for or against the proposed plan. This would have been treating you like machines or tools, and for such a purpose as this parrots and magpies trained to prattle would have answered the purpose much better than freemen. Nevertheless, gentlemen, the measures you have taken have fully justified the confidence we reposed in you, and come up to our most sanguine wishes.
We, gentlemen, with you, deprecate the impending ruin, and deplore the unhappy state of our dear country and innocent posterity, should this engine of slavery ever be established. We sincerely grieve to see the people of this State plunge themselves into the jaws of destruction, and sacrifice their dearest interests to gratify the ambition of a few selfish despots. Yet we sorrow not as those who have no hope; we are happy to find that a formidable opposition is made to it in some of our sister States; we rejoice in the expectation of your cogent arguments and spirited protest being disseminated through America, and rousing multitudes from their supine lethargy, and opening the eyes of others who are blinded with prejudice, and misled by artful men; we comfort ourselves with the hope that your example will animate such citizens of our own State, whose generous souls recoil at the idea of slavery, and who have not yet degenerated so far from their original principles as to be content to live in fettersto oppose it. We hope it is not yet too late, although the chains are making they are not yet riveted on, and their Constitution is not yet “the supreme law of the land,” and we flatter ourselves it never will. When liberty was the grand question, America combated an infinitely more formidable power than the partisans of the proposed Constitution; when her rights and privileges were invaded by one of the most puissant monarchs on earth, she bravely resisted the attack, and laughed at the shaking of their spearshe despised their menaces and returned their threats with redoubled vengeance on their own heads. Will her brave freeborn yeomen, then, tamely submit to be circumvented or cajoled out of their freedom and invaluable rights by a few petty domestic tyrants? No, we are persuaded they never will.
It is, gentlemen, with the most agreeable surprise that we behold a very few country farmers and mechanics nonplus the great rabbis and doctors of the schools, who no doubt summoned in all the rhetoric, logic, and sophistry they were capable of on this occasion. We rejoice to see scholastic learning and erudition fly before simple reason, plain truth and common sense. But though you defeated them in argument, they exceeded you in numbers; however, should the worst happen (which heaven avert) this will be your consolation, that in the time of danger you exerted every effort to prevent the calamity; you exonerated your consciences by a faithful discharge of your duty; your names will descend to posterity with admiration and esteem, when those of your opponents will be loaded with infamy and execration: It will be said, these were the Demosthenes’s, the Bruti, the Cato’s of America, when your antagonists will be classed with the vilest tyrants that ever disgraced human nature. This will be a sufficient compensation for all the outrage and insult you have received from the senseless, ignorant rabble in Philadelphia, and the harsh rude treatment given you by such of the aristocratical junto as were members of the Convention; so that your reward is sure, suppose this Constitution should even be adopted universally, which we are persuaded will never be. The late glorious revolution is too recent in the memory of American freemen, to suffer this. It may occasion a small conflict, but the cause of liberty is worth contending for, and we firmly believe there are yet numbers who will account it their highest honor to unite with you in the glorious struggle. That the same spirit which actuated you from the first appearance of this baneful instrument, may predominate in the breast of every brave American, is, gentlemen, the most ardent desire of your inflexible adherents. 11
Signed by order of the meeting,
WILLIAM BROWN, in the Chair.
GEORGE LOGUE, Clerk.
From the Carlisle Gazette.
Messrs. Kline and Reynolds : You will oblige a number of your customers by inserting the following address in your useful paper, and through it they ask the opportunity of soliciting the concurrence of their fellow-citizens.
To the Honorable the Representatives of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in General Assembly met.
The petition of the subscribers, freemen of the county of Franklin, most respectfully showeth : That your petitioners are desirous that order and good government should prevail, and that the Constitution of this State should not be subverted nor altered in any other way than is therein provided.
That as the members of your honorable House are all sworn or affirmed to do no act or thing prejudicial or injurious to the Constitution or government as established by the Convention, by whom the same was framed, they look up to you as the guardians of the rights and liberties therein secured to your petitioners, and pray that they may be protected therein.
That your petitioners are much alarmed at an instrument called a Constitution for the United States of America, framed by a Convention that had been appointed by several of the States, solely for the purpose of revising the articles of confederation, and to report such alterations and provisions therein, as should, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the several States, render the federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the union, inasmuch as the liberties, lives and property of your petitioners are not secured thereby.
That the powers therein proposed to be granted to the government of the United States are too great, and that the proposed distribution of these powers is dangerous and inimical to liberty and equality amongst the people.
That they esteem frequent elections and rotation in offices as the great bulwark of freedom.
That they conceive standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and that a well organized militia will be the proper security for our defence.
That the rights of conscience should be secured to all men, that none should be molested for his religion, and that none should be compelled contrary to his principles or inclination to hear or support the clergy of any one established religion.
That the liberty of the Press should not be insecure or in danger.
That the right of trial by jury should be secured in civil as well as in criminal cases.
That the government as proposed would be burthensome, expensive and oppressive, and that your petitioners from paying taxes to support a numerous train of offices erected there-by, which would be not only unnecessary but dangerous to our liberties.
That your petitioners observe this proposed Constitution hath not been approved of by the Congress of the United States, as directed by the articles of their confederation.
That your petitioners conceive the majority of the deputies of the General Convention, who have been appointed by the State, have assumed to exercise powers with which they were not delegated, that their conduct is reprehensible, and that they should be brought to account for the same, as the precedent is highly dangerous and subversive of all government.
And your petitioners desire that the said proposed plan of government may not be confirmed by the legislature of this State, nor adopted in the said United States, and that the delegates of Congress from this State be instructed for that purpose.
And your petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray. 12[The violence at Carlisle excited no comment and beyond the limits of the county in which it occurred was soon forgotten. In Philadelphia the antifederalists became more active than ever. To reprint all that was written is not necessary; but the following selection of pieces both wise and foolish may safely be taken as samples of the whole].
Mr. Oswald: I believe the leaders of the majority in our convention did not publish their address and reasons of assent on two accounts: First, because nearly one-half of their number were obliged to vote according to their solemn engagements and promises, (by which they were tied down before their election,) and not according to their judgments; therefore had not signed it.
Secondly, because when they found the address of the minority so ably drawn up, and so well supported by undoubted facts and unanswerable arguments, they despaired of their sophistical inflammatory address being of any service to them, therefore they resolved still to avoid the field of argument, and to depend on their old aids, detraction, scandal, and falsehoods.
However, I think they should have allowed their members (whom they detained from Wednesday till Tuesday, to sign and carry home their address) something towards extra expenses in that time. I am yours, etc.,
Messrs. Dunlap and Claypoole: In answer to Mr. Findley’s declaration on the day of the ratification, of only one-sixth part of the State of Pennsylvania having voted for the late convention, Colonel Hartley, or one of the federalists, observed that this was a very unfair mode of determining the strength or number of the friends of the new governmentthat the whole of the State seldom voted upon any occasion, except in contested elections, and that the reason why so few voted was because in the city of Philadelphia, and in all the large and populous counties, there was nearly a perfect unanimity upon the subject of the new constitution. The speaker added, that the convention that framed the Constitution of Pennsylvania was chosen only by about 6ooo votes, and that the members of the first legislature that sat under it were elected by a little more than 1500 votes.
A BYSTANDER. 14
Mr. Oswald: The conduct of our fellow-citizens on the late glorious occasion, of solemnly proclaiming to the people the ratification and adoption of the proposed new constitution, by the convention of this State, does them no honor; for, notwithstanding due notice having been given by our friends in the convention and council, to the members of council, judges, justices and other State officers, the faculty of the University, militia officers, and citizens, of the order and time of the procession; yet few of any of these attended; the citizens and militia officers in particular were uncommonly scarcethey should at least have given their countenance to this very important business; it is not very unaccountable that more officers of government did not come forth, but that more of the professors, etc., in the University, the militia officers, and citizens did not appear to celebrate this grand affair which concerns them all so materially, is wonderful.
And the common people, I observed, were as inattentive as the others; they did not seem to show any attention to a fine little batteau (dressed off with colors) that was industriously carried on a cart through some of the back streets, as an emblem of our future commerce; although the sailors, etc. who conducted it, used all their generous endeavors to excite admiration: they huzzaed at the corners, had the sweet music of a fiddle, etc. I followed them many squares, and could not find any but children with them. Ostrange behavior! the people do not seem to know what grandeur is preparing for them and their posterity.
But to come to the point, our friends, the majority, after dining together, enjoyed much happiness in the pleasures of the social bottle till late at night, when our worthy Chief Justice, that great patron and protector of the press, was a little affected by the working of small beer, and so retired.
Some of the toasts that were drank were middling, but most of them were not to the purpose; for we should now forget our past national transactions, and it will be ridiculous to give thirteen toasts hereafter, as we are all to be united and bound together into one: for the same reason it was wrong to fire thirteen gunsone great gun ought only to have been fired: and we must immediately alter our flags and remove the thirteen stripes and stars, and in their places insert the spread eagle or some other great monster, emblematical of our future unison.
I think the conduct of our people in the majority in Convention was from the beginning a true emblem of our future unanimity and grandeur, they were from the first united in and under J. Wn, Esquire, without whose direction nothing was done or said: in short, none of our party attempted to argue except him, and he deserves much credit for his industry and ingenuity on the occasion; to be sure, he had the best right to defend it, for it was framed by him and our worth friend, Mr. Gr Ms, in the Federal Convention. I think, Mr. Oswald, that if we had not put him in our Convention, the business would have been lost; the yellow whigs were so arch, and upon the whole, they both deserve great promotion and the highest offices. I am sure they shall have the vote of
A few queries humbly submitted to the consideration of the people of Pennsylvania.
- Was the recommendation of the late General Assembly to choose a Convention for the purpose of adopting the new Constitution, so binding upon the people, as that they were necessarily and legally obliged to comply with it at the time and in the manner then recommended? Or were not the people still at liberty to act according to their own judgment on this momentous question?
- As no more than about one-sixth part of the freemen of this State have yet thought proper to appoint a convention for the above purpose, can the act of this small minority, or of the men chosen by them, be, with any propriety, considered as the act of the people of the State?
- May not, therefore, the freemen of Pennsylvania, at any time before the new Constitution shall become the supreme law of the land, call a Convention by their own authority, to consider of this proposed plan of government; and give them power either to adopt, propose amendments to, or reject the same, as they shall, upon due deliberation, judge most proper?
December 24, 1787
Mr. Oswald: Please to insert the following in your paper and oblige,
A Constant Reader.
From the New-Haven Gazette, of Dec. 13, 1787.
Broke into the State of Connecticut on the evening of the 12th ult., a large overgrown creature, marked and branded Centinel. She appears to be of Pennsylvania extraction, and was lately in the keeping of J L, Esq., of New York, from whence she escaped to this State. She is well pampered for market, and at first was thought to be of great value, but upon more minute examination she is found to be a deceptionCock’s head and tail at first sight, but is soon discovered to be lame in her foreFriends, Countrymen and Fellow Citizens. She was considerably galled and fretted before she left Pennsylvania, by the lash of Mr. Wilson, which caused her to quit the place of her nativity. She is well enough spread for the people of this State, and they do not wish her to be spread any more, and therefore if her original proprietor, or her late protector, will take her away and pay charges, no questions will be asked; if not before the first Thursday in January next, she will be re-shipped for New York to pay duties, as we are determined not to winter her.
The advocates of the new system of government must be very much exhausted in point of argument indeed, when they have recourse to such wretched abuse as is contained in the above advertisement. Unfortunately for this horrid scribbler, the gentleman, at whom he has leveled his scurrility and low ribaldry, is held in the highest estimation by his fellow-citizens for his honor, integrity, and unshaken attachment to the cause of liberty. And the name of the patriotic LAMB of New York, “will be sweet in the mouths” of a grateful and applauding country, when those of his infamous political adversaries,the upstarts and mushroons of an hour,the totos and major tiffaniesthe time-serving tools, the Phocions and Publiuses of our day,”will stink in the very nostrils of posterity.” 17
From the Daily Patriotic Register.
How one story brings another to mind! Mr. Wilson’s witticism (in the Pennsylvania Convention) about Sternhold and Hopkins’s psalms, made me think of the following: A man who was ridiculed for the shortness of his coat smartly said, “It will be long enough before I get another.” The person who ridiculed him was pleased with the reply, and treasured it up for the purpose of retailing it. He met with an opportunity, and said, he had heard one of the wittiest things lately that he ever met with. Upon being asked what it was, he replied he had been laughing at because his coat was so short; and told him it would be a long time before he would get another. His friend observed that he could not see any wit in it. “Why, really, nor I,” said he, “now; but I remember it was a good story when I heard it.” Mr. Wilson was equally unfortunate in retailing Sternhold and Hopkins; for the two lines he quoted are not in that version of the Psalms, nor I believe in any other.
Mr Oswald: As the publication of the debates of the late Convention promised by Mr. Lloyd, does not appear, I beg leave to present the public anticipation with the new political maxims which have been delivered in the course of their speeches, by the members who spoke in support of the new Constitution (for it is well known that what was said by the members of the opposition is not worth recording). These maxims which are the quintessence of the arguments that have been urged to prove the excellence of that new form of government, which has been sent down to us by God Almighty from Mount Sinai, or in other words of the new political testament, I think ought to be published together, for the honor of Pennsylvania, and of human nature.
- An aristocracy is the best form of government on earth, because according to its etymology, it is the government of the better sort of people.
- Whatever government is best administered is best, because the form or species of a government, and its administration are the same thing, and consequently one good king can make monarchy the best of all possible governments foreverTherefore we must say with Pope, who never was in the wrong:
For forms of government let fools contest,
Whate’er is best administered is best.
- Government is not founded on a compact between the governors and the governed, nor indeed on any compact or contract; its foundations are power on the one hand, and fear on the other.
- A plan of government submitted to the consideration of a popular convention, is like a house ready built, and ought to be adopted or rejected in toto, and it is not at all like the plan of a house before it is built, which may be altered or amended at pleasure; neither is it like a watch presented for inspection to a skilful artist, who would naturally take it to pieces, and examine every spring separately, before he gave his opinion upon the whole.
- BILLS or declaration of the RIGHTS of the people, are always useless in a new Constitution, and are often dangerous to liberty; and this is very clear, because Virginia has no bill of rights.
- The liberty of the press is not at all endangered by the new Constitution; first, because there is nothing said about it; and second, because the judicial officers of Congress alone will have the cognizance of libels against their government.
- Trial by jury was never known in Sweden, and therefore we ought not to have it in America.
- It is not true that appeals are unknown to the common law, because Blackstone has a chapter entitled “Of proceedings in the nature of appeals.”
- Standing armies are always necessary in times of peace.
- Congress ought to have an absolute command over the militia of the United States, in order that their muskets may be all of the same size.
- We must not be afraid of trusting too much power to our rulers, because we cannot suppose that they will be demons of tyranny.
- A government which doubles the number of public officers, and which will require a standing army, must of course lessen the taxes and national expenses.
- A federal government and a consolidated government are the sameunum et idem.19
Anecdote of Publius; who pants for a fat office under the new system of government.
A country relation of Publius’s calling to see him in New York, at the time his 18th number appeared, the author inquired of him, what the people up in his part of the country said of the Federalist; the other, not suspecting he was the author of it, answered that he had read it, but heard little said about it, as the attention of the people was so much occupied on the subject of the New Constitution, they had no time or inclination to read any essay on Foreign Affairs.20
For the Pennsylvania Packet.
The New Roof.
The roof of a certain mansion house was observed to be in a very bad condition, and insufficient for the purpose of protection from the inclemencies of the weather. This was matter of surprise and speculation, as it was well known the roof was not more than 12 years old, and therefore, its defects could not be ascribed to a natural decay by time. Although there were many different opinions as to the cause of this deficiency, yet all agreed that the family could not sleep in comfort or safety under it. It was at last determined to appoint some skilful architects to survey and examine the defective roof, to make report of its condition, and to point out such alterations and repairs as might be found necessary. These skilfil architects, accordingly went into a thorough examination of the faulty roof, and found
- That the whole frame was too weak.
- That there were indeed 13 rafters, but that these rafters were not connected by any braces or ties, so as to form a union of strength.
- That some of these rafters were thick and heavy, and others very slight, and as the whole had been put together whilst the timber was yet green, some had warped outwards, and of course sustained an undue weight, whilst others warping inwards, had shrunk from bearing any weight at all.
- That the lathing and shingling had not been secured with iron nails, but only wooden pegs, which, shrinking and swelling by successions of wet and dry weather, had left the singles so loose, that many of them had been blown away by the winds, and that before long the whole would probably, in like manner, be blown away.
- That the cornice was so ill proportioned, and so badly put up, as to be neither of use, nor an ornament. And
- That the roof was so flat as to admit the most idle servants in the family, their playmates and acquaintance, to trample on and abuse it.
Having made these observations, these judicious architects gave it as their opinion, that it would be altogether vain and fruitless to attempt any alterations or amendments in a roof so defective in all points; and therefore proposed to have it entirely removed, and that a new roof of a better construction should be erected over the mansion house. And they also prepared and offered a drawing or plan of a new roof, such as they thought most excellent for security, duration and ornament. In forming this plan they consulted the most celebrated authors in ancient and modern architecture, and brought into their plan the most approved parts, according to their judgments, selected from the models before them; and finally endeavored to proportion the whole to the size of the building, and strength of the walls.
This proposal of a new rood, it may well be supposed, became the principal subject of conversation in the family, and the opinions upon it were various, according to the judgment, interest or ignorance of the disputants.
On a certain day the servants of the family had assembled in the great hall to discuss this important point. Amongst these was James the architect, who had been one of the surveyors of the old roof, and had a principal hand in forming the plan of the new one. A great number of the tenants had also gathered out of doors and crowded the windows and avenues to the hall, which were left open that they might hear the arguments for and against the new roof.
Now there was an old woman known by the name of Margery, who had got a comfortable apartment in the mansion house. This woman was of an intriguing spirit, of a restless and inveterate temper, fond of tattle, and a great mischief maker. In this situation, and with these talents, she unavoidably acquired an influence in the family, by the exercise of which, according to her natural propensity, she had long kept the house in confusion, and sown discord and discontent amongst the servants. Margery was, for many reasons, an irreconcilable enemy to the new roof, and to the architects who had planned it; amongst these, two reasons were very obvious1st, The mantle piece on which her cups and platters were placed was made of a portion of the great cornice, and she boiled her pot with the shingles that blew off from the defective roof: And 2dly, It so happened that in the construction of the new roof, her apartment would be considerably lessened. No sooner, therefore, did she hear of the plan proposed by the architects, but she put on her old red cloak and was day and night trudging amongst the tenants and servants, and crying out against the new roof and the framers of it. Amongst these she had selected William, Jack and Robert, three of the tenants, and instigated them, to oppose the plan in agitationshe caused them to be sent to the great hall on the day of debate, and furnished them with innumerable alarms and fears, cunning arguments and specious objections.
Now the principal arguments and objections with which Margery had instructed William, Jack and Robert, were:
- That the architects had no exhibited a bill of scantling for the new roof as they ought to have done; and therefore the carpenters, under pretence of providing timber for it, might lay waste whole forests to the ruin of the farm.
- That no provision was made in the plan for a trap door for the servants to pass through with water, if the chimney should take fire, and that in case of such an accident, it might hereafter be deemed penal to break a hole in the roof for access to save the whole building from destruction.
- That this roof was to be guarded by battlements, which in stormy seasons would prove dangerous to the family, as the bricks might be blown down and fall on their heads.
- It was observed that the old roof was ornamented with twelve pedestals ranged along the ridge, which were objects of universal admiration; whereas, according to the new plan, these pedestals were only to be placed along the eaves of the roof, over the walls, and that a cupola was to supply their place on the ridge or summit of the new roof. As to the cupola itself, some of the objectors said it was too heavy and would become a dangerous burthen to the building, whilst others alledged that it was too light and would certainly be blown away by the wind.
- It was insisted that the thirteen rafters being so strongly braced together, the individual and separate strength of each rafter would be lost in the compounded and united strength of the whole; and so the roof might be considered as one solid mass of timber, and not as composed of distinct rafters like the old roof.
- That according to the proposed plan, the several parts of the roof were so framed as to mutually strengthen and support each other, and therefore there was great reason to fear that the whole might stand independent of the walls; and that in time the walls might crumble away and the roof remain suspended in air, threatening destruction to all that should come under it.
To these objections, James the architect, in substance, replied:
1st. As to the want of a bill of scantling, he observed, that if the timber for this roof was to be purchased from a stranger, it would have been quite necessary to have such a bill, lest the stranger should charge in account more than he was entitled to, but as the timber was to be cut from our own lands a bill of scantling was both useless and improperof no use, because the wood always was and always would be the property of the family, whether growing in the forest, or fabricated into a roof for the mansion houseand improper, because the carpenters would be bound by the bill of scantling, which, if it should not be perfectly accuratea circumstance hardly to be expectedeither the roof would be defective for want of sufficient materials, or the carpenters must cut from the forest without authority, which is penal by the laws of the house.
To the second objection he said that a trap door was not properly a part in the frame of a roof, but there could be no doubt but that the carpenters would take care to have such a door through the shingling, for the family to carry water through, dirty or clean, to extinguish fire either in the chimney or on the roof, and that this was the only proper way of making such a door.
3d. As to the battlements, he insisted that they were absolutely necessary for the protection of the whole house. 1st. In case of an attack by robbers, the family would defend themselves behind these battlements, and annoy and disperse the enemy. 2dly. If any of the adjoining buildings should take fire, the battlements would screen the roof from the destructive flames; and idly. They would retain the rafters in their respective places in case any of them should from rottenness or warping be in danger of falling from the general union, and injuring other parts of the roof; observing that the battlements should always be ready for these purposes, as there would be neither time nor opportunity for building them after an assault was actually made, or a conflagration begun. As to the bricks being blown down, he said the whole was in the power of the fancily to repair or remove any loose or dangerous parts, and there could be no doubt but that their vigilance would at all times be sufficient to prevent accidents of this kind.
4th. With respect to the twelve pedestals, he acknowledged their use and elegance; but observed that these, like all other things, were only so in their proper places, and under circumstances suited to their nature and design, and insisted that the ridge of a roof was not the place for pedestals, which should rest on the solid wall, being made of the same materials and ought in propriety to be considered as so many projections or continuations of the wall itself, and not as component parts of the wooden roof. As to the cupola, he said that all agreed there should be one of some kind or other, as well for a proper finish to the building, as for the purposes of indicating the winds and containing a bell to sound an alarm in cases of necessity. The objections to the present cupola, he said, were too contradictory to merit a reply.
To the fifth objection he answered, that the intention really was to make a firm and substantial roof by uniting the strength of the thirteen rafters; and that this was so far from annihilating the several rafters and rendering them of no use individually, that it was manifest from a bare inspection of the plan, that the strength of each contributed to the strength of the whole, and that the existence of each and all was essentially necessary to the existence of the whole fabric as a roof.
Lastly, he said that the roof was indeed so framed that the parts should mutually support and check each other, but it was most absurd and contrary to the known laws of nature, to infer from thence that the whole frame should stand self-supported in air, for however its component parts might be combined with respect to each other, the whole must necessarily rest upon and be supported by the walls. That the walls might indeed stand for a few years in a ruinous and uninhabitable condition without any roof, but the roof could not for a moment stand without the support of the walls; and finally, that of all dangers and apprehensions, this of the roof’s remaining when the walls are gone was the most absurd and impossible.
It was mentioned before that, whilst this debate was carrying on in the great hall, the windows and doors were crowded with attendants. Amongst these was a half crazy fellow who was suffered to go at large because he was a harmless lunatic. Margery, however, thought he might be a serviceable engine in promoting opposition to the new roof. As people of deranged understandings are easily irritated, she exasperated this poor fellow against the architects, and filled him with the most terrible apprehensions from the new roof, making him believe that the architects had provided a dark hole in the garret, where he was to be chained for life. Having by these suggestions filled him with rage and terror, she let him loose among the crowd, where he roared and bawled to the annoyance of all bystanders. This circumstance would not have been mentioned but for the opportunity of exhibiting the style and manner in which a deranged and irritated mind will express itselfone of his rhapsodies shall conclude this narrative:
“The new roof! the new roof! Oh! the new roof! Shall demagogues, despising every sense of order and decency, frame a new roof? If such bare-faced presumption, arrogance and tyrannical proceedings will not rouse you, the goad and the whipthe goad and the whip should do it ; but you are careless and insecure sinners, whom neither admonitions, entreaties nor threatenings can reclaimsinners consigned to unutterable and endless woe. Where is that pusillanimous wretch who can submit to such contumelyoh! the ultima Ratio Regium! [He got these three Latin words from Margery.] Oh! the ultima Ratio Regium! Ah! the days of Nero! ah! the days of Caligula! ah! the British tyrant and his infernal juntoglorious revolutionawful crisisselfimportant nabobsdiabolical plots and secret machinationsoh! the architects! the architectsthey have seized the government, secured power, browbeat with insolence and assume majestyoh! the architects! they will treat you as conquered slaves, they will make you pass under the yoke, and leave their gluttony and riot to attend the pleasing sportoh! that the glory of the Lord may be made perfectthat he would show strength with his arm and scatter the proud in the imaginations of their heartsblow the trumpetsound an alarm! I will cry day and nightbehold, is not this my number fiveattend to my words, ye women laboring of childye sick persons and young childrenbeholdbehold the lurking places, the despots, the infernal designslust of dominion and conspiraciesfrom battle and murder and from sudden death, good Lord deliver us.
“Figure to yourselves, my good fellows, a man with a cow and a horseoh the battlements, the battlements, they will fall upon his cow, they will fall upon his horse, and wound them, and bruise them, and kill them, and the poor man will perish with hunger. Do I exaggerate ?no trulyEurope and Asia and Indostan, deny it if you canoh God! what a monster is man!A being possessed of knowledge, reason, judgment and an immortal soulwhat a monster is man! But the architects are said to be men of skillthen the more their shamecurse on the villains!they are despots, sycophants, Jesuits, tories, lawyerscurse on the villains! We beseech thee to hear usLord have mercy on usOh!Ah! Ah!Oh!” 21[The author of The New Roof was Francis Hopkinson. This the anti-federalists quickly discovered, and set upon him savagely. These pieces contain nothing but personal abuse, and are therefore not inserted.]
Mr. Oswald: At this important crisis, when the sanction of the people is much wanted to the proceedings of our Convention, you will please insert the following recipe for making a county meeting; which upon trial, 22 I have found to be the best yet used in Pennsylvania, for the purpose of taking the sense of a county and obtaining their sanction to any measure. I am, etc.,
Draw up a set of resolves, enclose them, and (if you have any thing to do with a bank) a five-dollar note, in a letter to a partisan in the county (who must be promised an office, etc.), with the following directions to him, viz: Call on some few of your trusty friends and companions, and proceed as quietly as possible to some one of the little towns (the more out of the way the better), get all the townsmen you can into a tavern, and after laying out the five-dollar note in grog, beer, etc., and you are all grown cheerful, place a hero in the chair, who, after reading the resolves, must order those who do not dislike them to hold up their hands, and of course (nemine contradicente) let them sign them as the unanimous resolve of a meeting of sundry respectable (not disorderly) inhabitants of the county of , etc., but care must be taken that no stir be made during the time; ten or twelve persons will be sufficient for a meeting, sooner than make a stir about more; and the company must separate as soon as may be, as the farmers may hear of the meeting and give you interruption; but by all means avoid firing any cannon, as the reports will bring in and conjure up the antifederalists, etc., which may be attended with dangerous consequences. 23
Mr. Printer: I think it my duty to inform the public, that the aristocrats held an extraordinary meeting, in consequence of a special convocation on Friday evening last, at the house of Mr. Epple, at the sign of the Rainbow. This assembly, which clearly proclaims their fears of the present spirit of the people, was not so numerous as was expected by the chieftains. A great number of the persons invited did not attend, and one-fourth at least of those who attended, went there without any invitation. Mr. George Clymer was appointed chairman, and the meeting being organized, Mr. Wilson rose, and made a long pathetic speech, in which he observed that the Democratic party (to which to be sure he gave another name) was daily increasing in consequence of the publications which issued constantly from the press against the proposed constitution; that the aristocrats (to whom also he gave another denomination) had visibly relaxed of late in their efforts to complete the glorious work they had undertaken. That the press ought to be kept groaning with pieces, paragraphs, anecdotes, and skits of all kinds in favor of the new form of government. That as the publishing and circulating those pieces would be productive of some expense, they had been called together to consult on the propriety of raising money by subscription to defray those charges. In consequence he moved that committees might be appointed in the different wards of the city, to wait on the aristocrats and their dependents, and collect subscriptions among them, which motion was carried in the affirmative, and committees were consequently appointed.
The public will now no longer be at a loss to discover the origin of those numerous paragraphs, anecdotes, innuendos and falsehoods, which have begun to flow afresh with greater rapidity from the press; it was necessary to inform them of the means by which the aristocrats intend to carry their monstrous plan into execution, and of the effect which the present disposition of the people has begun to have upon them. 24
Mr. Oswald: Your correspondent, Tom Peep, who has undertaken to give you an account of the proceedings of the aristocratic meeting at Epple’s, has not been quite so particular as I could have wished. He mentions generally that on motion of Mr. Wilson, a committee was appointed to collect subscriptions in the different wards of the city, for the purpose of defraying the expense of printing pieces in favor of the new constitution. But it seems to me from other circumstances not mentioned by your correspondent, that printing and publishing are not the only uses for which the money is intended. The fact is, that a member of the above meeting, informed the aristocrats met, that 75l. had already been expended for the public service, and that a much larger sum was now wanted, which was no less than Two THOUSAND POUNDS! It was accordingly agreed by the meeting to raise that sum by subscription, upon which 131l. were subscribed immediately on the spot, and committees were appointed to collect the remainder.
Now, Mr. Oswald, it appears to me very proper, that the public should inquire into the nature of those services which require such a large sum as 20001. In my opinion, it can be no other than that great engine of gouveronian politics, bribery. Such a circumstance seems truly alarming, and will, I hope, convince the people of the necessity of opposing in the bud so dreadful a combination of the rich and well-born against the liberties of the nation. The means which they employ loudly proclaim their design, and loudly call for a speedy, manly, and spirited opposition from the freeborn part of the community. 25
Mr. Oswald, I blush for human nature; I tremble for the happiness of the United States, when I read such gross and shocking misrepresentation as that published in your paper of this day, under the signature of Peep, Junior. He says that two thousand pounds were mentioned by a person at that meeting, as necessary to he raised, and that 1311. was subscribed on the spot. Now I was present the whole time, and must and can declare both assertions to be absolutely untrue. Oh, my fellow citizens of Pennsylvania and of the union at large, how much are you abused by that wretched scribbler! how much is the inestimable privilege of a free press abused to alarm you with false and wanton charges of bribery, conspiracy, and every thing that is fearful! Think for yourselves, and cast away far from you all the suggestions and doctrines of men of such dreadful dispositions. 26
January 12, 1788.
To the People of America:
The subject now before you, like all other important matters, has excited much passion, and created innumerable misrepresentations. Two writers in the Philadelphia papers have most unwarrantably asserted, that the Quakers of this state are opposed to the proposed federal constitution. That numerous and wealthy society are certainly more universally in favor of it than any other society in this state. It is one of their known principles not to be much concerned in the alterations of governments; wherefore one would naturally suppose it would be difficult to adduce instances to prove their sentiments on the present occasion. It is, however, not impossible, as will be found from the four following facts:
1st. When the last assembly determined to call a convention, there were seven Quakers members of the House; all of whom attended and voted for the call of a convention, though nineteen members opposed it, and urged that it would be better to leave it to the next House, then soon to be chosen.
2d. When some of the members absented themselves the next day, in order to prevent the days of election and meeting of the convention from being fixed by that House of Assembly, the seven Quakers duly attended, and all voted with the majority on the several points that were moved as necessary to arrange and prepare for the business of the convention.
3d. Eight Quakers were chosen members of the State convention, and all took their seats. They all voted against postponing the final determination on the constitution till the spring, which was attempted by the minority.
4th. The same eight Quakers all voted for the adoption of the proposed federal constitution in toto, and for the grant to Congress of the jurisdiction of ten miles square within this commonwealth for the seat of the federal government.
If the Quakers were really opposed to the new constitution, they could have made up many times the number of votes that were given in at the election of members of convention in this city for the candidates who wished to alter the proposed federal form of government. The votes ran variously from 230 to 270 for the different persons of that description. The name of Dr. Franklin, whom the Quakers venerate, was put into the unsuccessful ticket, I am persuaded, without his permission. This the Quakers were convinced of, and not approving of the rest of the men, or approving of the successful members, the ticket of the antifederalists, as is evident from the number of votes, received neither their countenance nor support. 27
Philadelphia, January 14.
To the People of the United States :
When we observe how much the several gentlemen of the late convention, who declined to sign the federal constitution, differ in their ground of opposition, we must see how improbable it is that another convention would unite in any plan. Colonel Mason and Mr. Gerry complain of the want of a bill of rights: Governor Randolph does not even mention it as desirable, much less as necessary. Colonel Mason objects to the powers of Congress to raise an army; Governor Randolph and Mr. Gerry make no objections on this point, but the former seems to think a militia an inconvenient and uncertain dependence, which is contrary to our opinions in Pennsylvania. Mr. Randolph gives up the objection against the power of Congress to regulate trade by a majority; Mr. Mason complains of this, and says the objection is insuperable; Mr. Gerry does not say one word against it. Mr. Randolph wishes the president ineligible after a given number of years; Mr. Mason and Mr. Gerry do not make this one of their objections. Mr. Randolph objects to ambiguities of expression; Mr. Mason does not. Colonel Mason objects to the slave trade on the principles of policy merely; Mr. Gerry and Mr. Randolph make no such objection. Mr. Mason objects to the power of the president to pardon for treason; Mr. Gerry makes no such objection, and Mr. Randolph wishes only that the offender may be convicted before the president shall have power to pardon! This appears to be a legal solecism. Mr. Randolph objects to the power of Congress to determine their wages (the privilege of every legislature in the Union); but Mr. Gerry and Colonel Mason do not object to this power. Mr. Randolph objects to the president’s power of appointing the judges ; Mr. Gerry and Colonel Mason do not. Mr. Gerry says the people have no security for the right of election; Colonel Mason and Mr. Randolph do not make this objection. Mr. Gerry and Mr. Mason think the representation not duly provided for; Mr. Randolph expresses no such idea. Mr. Mason objects to the want of security for the common law, to the power of the Senate to alter money bills, to originate applications of money, to regulate the officers’ salaries, to the want of a privy council, to the vice-president, to the want of a clause concerning the press, and to the want of power in the States to lay imposts on exports, not one of which are stated as objections by Mr. Randolph or Mr. Gerry. Mr. Randolph objects to the want of a proper court of impeachment for Senators (though the State courts of impeachment can always take cognizance of them); Mr. Gerry and Colonel Mason do not hold this exceptionable. Colonel Mason objects to the States or Congress being restrained from passing ex post facto laws; Mr. Randolph and Mr. Gerry do not.
The minority of the Pennsylvania convention, on the other hand, differ from all these gentlemen. They say the defects of the old confederation were not discovered till after the peace, while Mr. Randolph says the short period between the ratification of the old constitution and the peace was distinguished by melancholy testimonies of its defects and faults.
The minority object because some of the persons appointed by Pennsylvania have disapproved of our State constitution, which differs from those of eleven States in the Union in the want of a division of the legislature, and in having nineteen persons to execute the office of governor, whose number will be increased by the addition of one more for every new county.
The minority object to the latitude taken by the convention. We find no such objection made by Mr. Randolph, Mr. Gerry, or Colonel Mason. Mr. Gerry says in his letter, it was necessary, and Mr. Mason insisted strongly in the house, that the convention could not do their business, unless they considered and recommended everything that concerned the interests of the United States, though the strict letter of their powers was supposed by some not to extend so far. The minority say religious liberty is not duly secured, which is omitted as an objection by all of the three gentlemen above named. The right of the people to fish, fowl and hunt, the freedom of speech, provision against disarming the people, a declaration of the subordination of the military to the civil power, annual elections of the representatives, and the organization and call of the militia, are considered by the minority of our convention as on an exceptionable footing; but none of these are even mentioned by Governor Randolph, Mr. Mason or Mr. Gerry.
The minority desire a declaration that such powers as are not expressly given shall be considered as retained; Mr. Randolph thinks this unnecessary, for that the States retain everything they do not grant; Mr. Gerry is silent on this head. The minority desire a constitutional council for the president; Mr. Gerry and Mr. Randolph do not. The minority except against powers to erect a court of equity being vested in the federal government, to which neither of the above gentlemen express any dislike. The minority desire a bill of rights, and object to the smallness of the representation, which Mr. Randolph does not. They object to the term of duration of the legislature, which none of the above gentlemen find fault with. Nor does the account of particulars end here. The objections severally made by the three honor-able gentlemen, and the Pennsylvania minority are so different and even discordant in their essential principles, that all hope of greater unanimity of opinion either in another convention or in the people must be given up by those who know the human heart and mind, with their infinitely varying feelings and ideas.
January 15, 1788. 28
Mr. Printer: Our two celebrated sowers of sedition, Centinel and Philadelphiensis, the one in Mr. Oswald’s, the other in Mr. Bailey’s paper of this day, exhibit a striking proof of what falsehoods disappointed ambition is capable of using to impose upon the public. The real patriot, sir, is the watchful guardian of the people’s liberties. The designing incendiary, well aware of the reception his base undertakings would meet with from an injured and insulted people, is obliged to assume the appearance of the real patriot, and fully pretend himself a friend to his country; but his infamous designs will still appear through his hypocritical mask; for truth being unfit for his purpose, he will be obliged to have recourse to falsehood; and this is the best criterion for distinguishing between the mock and the real patriotthe disguised enemy and the open friend of liberty.
What, sir, has been the conduct of the two incendiaries above-mentioned ? The one in a series of 12, the other in a series of 8 performances, which for the sophistry of their reasoning, and falsity of their assertions, are unparalleled in ancient or modern times, have disgraced the enlightened capital of Pennsylvania.
These hireling writers and hackneyed drudges of tottering power, jealous of the rising greatness of America, and convinced of the unstable ground on which they stand, have dared, Sempronius-like, to bellow out for that country, the happiness of which they fear will be their downfall. They have told the public that the proprietor of the Pennsylvania Herald has dismissed his editor, and that some of the subscribers to that paper have withdrawn their subscriptionsfor, what more is expressed by all the high-sounding, inflammatory bombast they have bellowed forth? What inference do they attempt to draw from these positions? That the conspirators, as they are pleased to term the federal citizens of Pennsylvania, are endeavoring to destroy the liberty of the pressfor shame! ye illustrious citizens, who have braved every danger of establishing the freedom of your country, are you thus to be traduced and slandered with impunity? If the proprietor of a paper dismisses his editor, must your patriotism be called in question, by the villainous enemies of America! If some of you wish no longer to contribute to the support of a newspaper, (which, instead of debates in the convention of Pennsylvania, has contained the most glaring falsehoods, and the grossest misrepresentations which its editor was capable of inventing)) must you, in consequence of this, be branded with infamy, as enemies to the freedom of the press? If you must, I confess printers of newspapers have an exclusive privilege, enjoyed by no other set of men upon earth, of making the public pay them for what they neither wish to purchase nor to read.
A REAL PATRIOT.
23d January, 1788. 29
Mr. Oswald: The admirers of the new constitution are continually blazing away on the great names which are said to be in favor of the system; but it is hoped that the good sense of the people of these states is not to be deceived by such flimsy arguments. If great names were to be the test of truth, it would frequently make sad work in religion, philosophy and politics. The Divine Oracles assert that great men are not always wise, and the history of the world demonstrates there is no perfection in human beings. What so delusive and fascinating in its nature as power? Nothing more apt to prejudice and mislead our minds, and to render our conduct and temper inconsistent. Where ambition may be concerned, an Archangel is not to be trusted.
As these premises are true, I could wish there would be no more attempts to delude the people with the authority of names; for, if the favorers of the new leviathan persist in such a mode of reasoning, it will become necessary to investigate the characters of those who are thus held up as the greatest patriarchs to the admiration of the public. It has been observed, too, that those paragraphists do not always adhere to truth, as may be seen in some of our late prints, where it is said, that ” the same characters which took the lead in each of the states, in the struggle for liberty, in the glorious years of 1775 and 1776, now take the lead in their exertions to establish the federal government.”
Amongst the great names, Few, Telfair and Baldwin are mentioned as leading characters at this early period in Georgia. Now it is well known that Mr. Few was originally a bricklayer in North Carolina, removed to Georgia, and but lately of any consideration in public life. As to Telfair, he with Doctor Zubly and many others, was taken up and put in confinement by order of the governor of that state, in the year 1776, being deemed as inimical to the American cause.
Mr. Baldwin’s political existence is of much later date. On Sunday, 24th December, 1780, I happened to be at Nassau Hall, Princeton, and heard Mr. Baldwin pray and read a sermon there, for want of a parson, the Reverend Mr. S being at Philadelphia. At that time he was unknown in the great world, and acted as college steward. There are some others among the great names that have been given us, who are not to be met with in the annals of 1775 and 1776, and who have no pretensions to be considered as leaders at this or any other period; neither did they endure any more “cold, hunger and nakedness,” than ten thousand besides of their fellow citizens. It has long been an expensive folly of America to admire great names, and to make great men; hence it is that we have been sending commissioners, ambassadors, agents, etc., etc., to London, Paris, Madrid, Petersburgh, Amsterdam, and even to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, to borrow money and to spend it; and we want to repeat the same follies, though it is evident as the meridian glory of the sun, that nothing can save America but the weaning ourselves from European attachments. 30
AN OLD AMERICAN.
Philadelphia, February 8, 1788.
Mr. Oswald : As the times are bad, and I am out of work, I have more leisure than I used to have to read news-papers. In reading your paper of this day, I observe a scribbler, who calls himself An Old American, attempts to derogate from the consequence of the worthy delegates from Georgia in the late Federal Convention. I have no knowledge of these gentlemen, except from character, but by their works I conclnde they are honest patriots. He particularly affects to despise the Honorable Mr. Few, saying he was a bricklayer. But tell this antifederal tool (a secret which he does not seem to know) that virtue alone ennobles human nature; and that an honest mechanic who serves his country faithfully is as well deserving of her favor as another. Tell him also, that if we judge of Mr. Few’s mechanical by his political bricklaying, we shall think him an excellent artist, for he has helped to build a noble mansion for the residence of American liberty.
February 11th. 31
Mr. Oswald: Having sometimes met in English newspapers with articles entitled “Bankruptcies this week,” “Casualties this week,” etc., etc., I once intended to publish in your Gazetteer, being a customer, a periodical list, in like manner, of all the falsehoods uttered in print by the Centinel, Philadelphiensis, and their associates, under the title of Antifederal lies this week, believing that if every lie was to be punished by clipping, as in the case of other forgeries, not an ear would be left amongst the whole party. From this undertaking, however, I was deterred on reflecting that in order to get at the said lies, the eye not being particularly solicited to them by italics, which would have saved an abundance of trouble, and which I therefore recommend to their future practice, I must at least have been under the necessity generally of going through a prodigious mass of heavy arguments and dull invectivea labor of most dreadful discouragement! Had the Old American, who certainly is young in the art of political lying, but been so prudent as to mix up his falsified facts in a great bundle of other villainous ingredients, after the example of some of his brethren of long-winded memory, they would probably have passed off unnoticed, but I have to thank him for making his whoppers the single subject of the piece, and thus by expressing the whole, make it impossible for them to escape even the slightest glance.
His subject is three gentlemen of GeorgiaMr. Few he affirms to have been but of little account until latebut this gentleman was in Congress as long ago at least as the year 1781. Mr. Telfair (who by the bye was not in the federal convention) was it seems an enemy to his country in 1776. How is this reconcilable with the confidence reposed in him by his country so soon after, and in more trying and dangerous times? for we find Mr. Telfair’s name to the first articles of confederation, in July, 1778. But the boldest whopper of all is what relates to Mr. Baldwinwho, says the writer, on Sunday, the 24th December, in the year of our Lord, 178o, occasionally read public prayers at Princeton College, being then the steward of the college. Now it is known to twenty lads here who have resided at that college, that Baldwin, the steward, had been a farmer in the neighborhood, and that he since removed to New York, where he at present keeps a boarding-house.
But if it be the general purpose to charge the new system upon the well born, why endeavor to show that Mr. Few was once a bricklayer, for which, indeed, we have only this Old American’s blasted word. Indeed, on this subject of inconsistency I am surprised, considering how few are the antifederal writers, though the signatures be many, that they do not oftener lay their loggerheads togetherthis would at least save them from many contradictions, than which nothing can be more disreputable to a partyfor instance, with respect to the conspiracy carrying on against Bn and Co., while the Centinel asserts that its authors are the powerful and the wealthy, Philadelphiensis affirms them to be men of no consideration and of desperate fortunes. 32
ON THE NEW CONSTITUTION.
[The State of Massachusetts having adopted the constitution, the antifederalists asserted that newspapers expressing their views had been suppressed in the mails by the federalists. Newspapers at that time were not mailable, and the post offices could not be forced to take them. They were carried by the riders on such terms as they could make with the printers. After the charge of suppressing the newspapers had been repeated many times, the postmaster made this denial.]
In evil hours his pen ‘Squire Adams drew,
Claiming dominion to his well-born few:
In the gay circle of St. James’s placed,
He wrote, and, writing, has his work disgraced.
Smit with the splendor of a British King,
The crown prevailed, so once despised a thing!
Shelburne and Pitt approved of all he wrote,
While Rush and Wilson echo back his note.
Tho’ British armies could not here prevail,
Yet British politics shall turn the scale ;
In five short years of Freedom weary grown,
We quit our plain republics for a throne ;
Congress and President full proof shall bring
A mere disguise for Parliament and King.
A standing army!hence the plan so base ;
A despot’s safetyliberty’s disgrace.
Who sav’d these realms from Britain’s bloody hand,
Who but the generous rustics of the land?
That free-born race, inured to every toil,
Who tame the ocean and subdue the soil,
Who tyrants banished from this injured shore,
Domestic traitors may expel once more.
Ye who have bled in Freedom’s sacred cause,
Ah, why desert her maxims and her laws ?
When thirteen states are mouldered into one,
Your rights are vanished, and your honors gone
The form of Freedom shall alone remain,
As Rome had senates when she hugged the chain.
Sent to revise your systemsnot to change
Sages have done what reason deems most strange :
Some alterations in our fabric we
Calmly proposed, and hoped at length to see
Ah, how deceived !these heroes in renown
Scheme for themselves, and pull the fabric down
Bid in its place Columbia’s tomb-stone rise,
Inscribed with these sad wordsHere freedom lies!33
General Post-Office, New York, March 19, 1788.
Several paragraphs having lately appeared in some of the newspapers, reflecting upon the conduct of the offices of this department, on account of irregularity in the transportation of newspapers, and indecent attacks of a more recent date, replete with illiberality and rancour, having been made upon the postmaster general, on the same account, he thinks it necessary to state the following facts in order to prevent any undue impressions being made upon the public mind; viz:
That the post-pffice was established for the purpose of facilitating commercial correspondence, and has, properly speaking, no connection with newspapers, the carriage of which was an indulgence granted to the post-riders, prior to the revolution in America.
That the riders stipulated with the printers for the carriage of their papers, at a price which was agreed upon between them, and this price was allowed as a perquisite to the readers.
That newspapers have never been considered as a part of the mail, nor (until within a very few years) admitted into the same portmanteau with it, but were carried in saddle-bags provided for that purpose by the riders, at their own expense.
That to promote general convenience, the postmasters (not officially) undertook to receive and distribute the newspapers brought by the riders, without any other compensation for their trouble than the compliment of a newspaper from each printer.
That although the United States in Congress assembled, from an idea that beneficial improvements might be made in the transportation of the mail, have directed alterations as to the mode of carrying it; yet they have not directed any to be made in the custom respecting newspapers; and
That the postmaster-general has given no orders or directions about them, either to the postmasters or to the riders.
From this succinct state of facts, the postmaster-general apprehends it will clearly appear, that so far as the post-office is concerned, the carriage of newspapers rests exactly on its original foundation ; and that the attempts to excite clamor against the department must have some other source than a failure in duty on the part of the officers. 34
For the Independent Gazetteer.
THE FALLACIES OF THE FREEMAN DETECTED BY A FARMER.
Some weeks since there was published in the Carlisle Gazette an address to the minority of the late convention of this State, under the signature of a Freeman, which I then supposed had been written by some well-meaning person of that place, who had not yet entered the porch of political knowledge, who was thus unacquainted with the nature of sovereignty, and incapable of distinguishing ministerial agency from the exercise of sovereignty; I therefore took no especial notice of it, until happening to see a Philadelphia newspaper, I found the address had originated there, and was ascribed to a gentleman who is far from being ignorant, as I had candidly supposed the author to be, but who hath habituated himself to presume much upon the supposed ignorance of the people, and whose expectation of future support and grandeur bath probably been very influential in framing and promoting the proposed system of government. Upon this discovery, I read the address again with more attention, and resolved to communicate, through your useful paper, the result of my observations thereon. I do not, however, design to answer the address in detail, but to establish and explain such general principles as may assist people in judging for themselves, and have a tendency to detect the sophistry which characterizes the performance. In order to do this, I shall explain:
First. The nature of sovereignty.
Second. Of a federal republic.
Third. Of a consolidated government.
Fourth. The nature of ministerial agency.
Fifth. Examine the address to the minority (the occasion of these enquiries).
Sixth. Conclude with some general observations on the times.
I return to the first then: From the very design that induces men to form a society that has its common interests, and to promote and secure which it ought to act to concert, it is necessary that there should be established a public authority, to order and direct what ought to be done by each individual as he stands in relation to the society itself, or to the individual members thereof; and this public authority, consisting of that portion of natural liberty which each member surrenders to the society, to be exercised for the common advantage, is the sovereignty which is often called political authority. If this sovereignty or political authority be vested in and exercised by the whole people, as in some of the ancient republics, or if it be delegated to representatives chosen by the people from among themselves, as in modern times, the government is called a democracy. If, on the contrary, the sovereignty be in a particular class of citizens who have not a common interest with the people at large, or body of the nation, it is called an aristocracy; and if in a single person, a monarchy or despotism; and these three kinds may be variously combined and modified, as in the British government and others; but every nation that governs itself by its own laws, let the form of government be what it may, is a sovereign state.
Sovereignty, therefore, consists in the understanding and will of the political society, and this understanding and will is originally and inherently in the people; the society having vested it where and in what manner it pleases, he or they to whom it is delegated is the sovereign, and is thus vested with the political understanding and will of the people, for their good and advantage solely.
The power of making rules or laws to govern or protect the society is the essence of sovereignty, for by this the executive and judicial powers are directed and contracted, to this every ministerial agent is subservient, and to this all corporate or privileged bodies are subordinate; this power not only regulates the conduct, but disposes of the wealth and commands the force of the nation. To keep this sovereign power, therefore, in due bounds, fundamental laws, which we call constitutions and bills of rights, have been made and declared. Scarcely hath the wisdom of man, matured by the experience of ages, been able with all the checks, negatives and balances, either of ancient or modern invention, to prevent abuses of this high sovereign authority.
Here I may possibly be misunderstood; it may perhaps be objected, that in Great Britain the King is called the Sovereign, and that he is an executive and not legislative officer. True, the king of Great Britain is the supreme executive of the nation, but it is not this alone that constitutes him a sovereign; he bath a negative over the legislative. The laws are made by and with his consent, and are called the King’s Laws; he calls, prorogues and dissolves his Parliament when he pleases; the Parliament indeed so manage that the necessity of the case obliges him to convene them frequently, but he is not obliged to do it by the constitution; so that, properly speaking, it is the King and Parliament of Great Britain which is sovereign. However, if the legislative authority were to be distributed in various portions, that man, or body of men, who should be vested with the sole and uncontrolled power of taxation, would eventually become the sovereign; for whoever can command our whole property has the means in his power of ruling us as he pleases, because (as Montesquieu says) “sovereignty necessarily follows the power of taxation.”
Secondly. I shall proceed to define a federal republic. A federal republic is formed by two or more single or consolidated republics, uniting together by a perpetual confederacy, and without ceasing to be distinct states or sovereignties, they form together a federal republic or an empire of states. As individuals in a state of nature surrender a portion of their natural liberty to the society of which they became members, in order to receive in lieu thereof protection and conveniency ; so in forming a federal republic the individual states surrender a part of their separate sovereignty to the general government or federal head, in order that, whilst they respectively enjoy internally the freedom and happiness peculiar to free republics, they may possess all that external protection, security, and weight by their confederated resources, that can possibly be obtained in the most extended, absolute monarchies.
The peculiar advantages and distinctive properties of a federal republic are that each state or member of the confederation may be fully adequate for every local purpose, that it may subsist in a small territory, that the people may have a common interest, possess a competent knowledge of the resources and expenditures of their own particular government, that their immediate representatives in the state governments will know and be known by the citizens, will have a common interest with them, and must bear a part of all the burdens which they may lay upon the people; that they will be responsible to the people, and may be dismissed by them at pleasure; that therefore the government would be a government of confidence, and possess sufficient energy without the aid of standing armies; that the collectors of the revenue would at least have the bowels of citizens, and not be the offscourings of Europe, or other states who have no interest in, or attachment to the people; that if one or more of the states should become the prey of internal despotism, or foreign foes, the other states may remain secure under the protection of their own state government; that if some popular and wealthy citizen should have influence enough to attempt the liberties of one state, he might be stopped in his career by the interposition of the others, for his influence could not be equally great in all the states; that if the general government should fail, or be revised or changed, yet the several state governments may remain entire to secure the happiness of the citizens; and that the members of a confederated republic may be increased to any amount, and consequently its external strength, without altering the nature of the government, or endangering the liberty of the citizens.
The perfection of a federal republic consists in drawing the proper line between those objects of sovereignty which are of a general nature, and which ought to be vested in the federal government, and those which are of a more local nature, and ought to remain with the particular governments; any rule that can be laid down for this must vary according to the situation and circumstances of the confederating states; yet still this general rule will hold good, viz: that all that portion of sovereignty which involves the common interest of all the confederating states, and which cannot be exercised by the states in their individual capacity without endangering the liberty and welfare of the whole, ought to be vested in the general government, reserving such a proportion of sovereignty in the state governments as would enable them to exist alone, if the general government should fail, either by violence or with the common consent of the confederates. The states should respectively have laws, courts, force and revenues of their own sufficient for their own security; they ought to be fit to keep house alone if necessary. If this be not the case, or so far as it ceases to be so, it is a departure from a federal to a consolidated government; and this brings me to the next particular, which is to show what is meant by a consolidated government.
Thirdly. The idea of a consolidated government is easily understood, where a single society or nation forms one entire separate government, and possesses the whole sovereign power; this is a consolidated or national government. Whether a government be of a monarchical, aristocratical or democratical nature, it doth not alter the case; it is either a federal or a consolidated government, there being no medium as to kind. The absoluteness of a despotic sovereignty is often restricted by corporate bodies, who are vested with peculiar privileges and franchises, and by a just distribution of the executive and ministerial powers; but although these may contribute to the happiness of the people, yet they do not change the nature of the government. Indeed, monarchies can never form a federal government; they may enter into alliances with each other; for monarchy cannot be divested of a competent proportion of sovereignty to form a general government without changing its nature. It is only free republics that can completely and safely form a federal republic; I say free republics, for there are republics who are not free, such as Venice, where a citizen carrying arms is punished with instant death, and where even the nobles dare not converse with strangers, and scarcely with their friends, and are liable by law to be put to death secretly without trialor Poland, which, in much the same words that are expressed in the new system, is by a league with the neighboring powers guaranteed to be forever independent and of a republican form; yet a writer of their own says that the body of the people are scarcely to be distinguished from brutes; and again he says, “we have reduced the people of our kingdom by misery to a state of brutes; they drag out their days in stupidity,” etc. Free republics are congenial to a federal republic. In order that a republic may preserve its liberty, it must not only have a good form of government, but it must be of small extent; for if it possess extensive territory, it would be ruined by internal imperfection. The authority of government in a large republic does not equally pervade all the parts; nor are the political advantages equally enjoyed by the citizens remote from the capital as by those in the vicinity; combinations consequently prevail among the members of the legislature, and this introduces corruption, and is destructive of that confidence in government, without which a free republic cannot be supported; besides, the high influential trusts which must be vested in the great officers of state, would at particular times endanger the government, and are necessarily destructive of that equality among the citizens, which is the only permanent basis of a republic; in short, the diversity of the situation, habits, manners, and interests of the people in an extensive dominion, subjects the government to a thousand accidents, which would embarrass a republican government. The experience of nations and the nature of things, sufficiently prove that the government of a single person, aided by armies and controlling influence, is necessary to govern a large consolidated empire.
And on the other hand, if the territory be small, the republic is liable to be destroyed by external force, therefore, reason and observation point out a confederation of republics, as the only method to preserve internal freedom, together with external strength and respectability. Small republics forming a federal republic on these principles, may be resembled to divers small ropes plaited together to make a large and strong one; if the latter is untwisted, the small ropes are still useful as such, but if the former are untwisted, they are reduced to hemp, the original state.
To apply these principles to our present situation without respect to the proposed plan of government: in order to render the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the confederating states, it is necessary not only that the general government should be properly constructed in its forms, but that it should be vested with powers relative to all the federal objects of government; these objects are not only the powers of making peace and war, etc., but also with the power of making treaties respecting commerce, regulating and raising revenues therefrom, etc., to make requisitions of money when necessity requires it, from each of the states, and a certain well-described power of compelling delinquent states to pay up their quota of such requisitionsperhaps if each State had its own share of the domestic debt quoted, so as they might each pay their own citizens, the general revenues would be sufficient for the other demands of the Union in times of peace, if the government itself be not made too expensive by too great a number of officers being created. Congress ought, however, to have all powers which cannot be exercised by one state without endangering the other states, such as the power of raising troops, treating with foreign nations, etc.The power of levying imposts will, by the particular states, be irregularly exercised, and the revenue in a great degree lost or misapplied; therefore, it ought not to be left with the states, but under proper checks, vested in the general government. All these the minority were amongst the foremost willing to have vested in the federal head, and more than this had never been asked by Congress, nor proposed by the greatest advocates for congressional power, nor is more than this consistent with the nature of a federal republic. When the existing confederation was adopted, powers were given with a sparing hand, and perhaps not improperly at that period, until experience should point out the discriminating line with sufficient certainty, well knowing that it is easy for a government to obtain an increase of power when common utility points out the propriety, but that powers once vested in a government, however dangerous they may prove, are rarely recovered without bloodshed, and even that awful method of regaining lost liberty is seldom effectual. It is now, however, evident that the power of regulating commerce, being of a general nature, ought to belong to the general government, and the burthen of debt incurred by the Revolution bath rendered a general revenue necessary; for this purpose imposts upon articles of importation present themselves, not only as a productive source of revenue, but as a revenue for which the governments of the particular states are, for well-known reasons, incompetent. The danger of entrusting a government so far out of the people’s reach as Congress must necessarily be, strongly impressed the public mind about four or five years since, but now a conviction of the advantage and probable safety of such a measure pervades almost every mind, and none are more willing for putting it in operation, under proper guards, than the opposers of the new system; they are also willing to admit what the majority of the states may judge proper checks in the form of the general government, as far as those checks, or the distribution of powers, and responsibility of those who be vested with those powers, may be consistent with the security of the essential sovereignity of the respective states. The minority of the convention (who I really believe, in their address, express the serious sentiments of the majority of this state) opposed vesting such powers in Congress as can be most effectually exercised by the state governments in a full consistency with the general interests of the confederating states, and which, not being of a general nature, are not upon federal principles, objects of the federal government. I mean the power of capitation, or poll tax, by which the head, or in other words, the existence of every person, is put in their power by the new system as a property, subject to any price or tax that may be judged proper. I do not mean to say that this implies the power of life and death, although it certainly implies the power of selling the property, or if none is to be had, of imprisoning or selling the person for a servant, who doth not choose, or is not able to pay the poll tax; the minority also objected to vesting Congress with power to tax the property, real and personal, of the citizens of the several states, to what amount, and in what manner it may please, without any check or control upon its discretion; also to the unlimited power over the excise; if this could extend only to spirituous liquors, as is usual with us, the danger would be less; but the power of excise extends to everything we eat, drink, or wear, and in Europe it is thus extensively put in practice. Under the term duties, every species of indirect taxes is included, but it especially means the power of levying money upon printed books, and written instruments.
The Congress, by the proposed system, have the power of borrowing money to what amount they may judge proper, consequently to mortgage all our estates, and all our sources of revenue. The exclusive power of emitting bills of credit is also reserved to Congress. They have, moreover, the power of instituting courts of justice without trial by jury, except in criminal cases, and under such regulations as Congress may think proper to decide, not only in such cases as arise out of all the foregoing powers, but in the other cases which are enumerated in the system.
The absolute sovereignity in all the foregoing instances, as well as several others not here enumerated, is vested in the general government, without being subject to any constitutional check or control from the state governments. 35
It remains to examine the nature of the powers which are left with the states, and on this subject it is not necessary to follow the Freeman through the numerous detail of particulars with which he confuses the reader. I shall examine only a few of the more considerable. The Freeman in his second number, after mentioning in a very delusory manner diverse powers which remain with the states, says we shall find many other instances under the constitution which require or imply the existence or continuance of the sovereignty and severalty of the states; he, as well as all the advocates of the new system, take as their strong ground the election of senators by the state legislatures, and the special representation of the states in the federal senate, to prove that internal sovereignty still remains with the States; therefore they say that the new system is so far from annihilating the state governments, that it secures them, that it cannot exist without them, that the existence of the one is essential to the existence of the other. It is true that this particular partakes strongly of that mystery which is characteristic of the system itself; but if I demonstrate that this particular, so far from implying the continuance of the state sovereignties, proves in the clearest manner the want of it, I hope the other particular powers will not be necessary to dwell upon.
The State legislatures do not chose senators by legislative or sovereign authority, but by a power of ministerial agency as mere electors or boards of appointment; they have no power to direct the senators how or what duties they shall perform; they have neither power to censure the senators, nor to supersede them for misconduct. It is not the power of chosing to office merely that designates sovereignty, or else corporations who appoint their own officers and make their own by-laws, or the heads of department who choose the officers under them, such as commanders of armies, etc., may be called sovereigns, because they can name men to office whom they cannot dismiss therefrom. The exercise of sovereignty does not consist in choosing masters, such as the senators would be, who, when chosen, would be beyond control, but in the power of dismissing, impeaching, or the like, those to whom authority is delegated. The power of instructing or superseding of delegates to Congress under the existing confederation hath never been complained of, although the necessary rotation of members of Congress hath often been censured for restraining the state sovereignties too much in the objects of their choice. As well may the electors who are to vote for the president under the new constitution, be said to be vested with the sovereignty, as the State legislatures in the act of choosing senators. The senators are not even dependent on the States for their wages, but in conjunction with the federal representatives establish their own wages. The senators do not vote by States, but as individuals. The representatives also vote as individuals, representing people in a consolidated or national government; they judge upon their own elections, and, with the Senate, have the power of regulating elections in time, place and manner, which is in other words to say, that they have the power of elections absolutely vested in them.
That the State governments have certain ministerial and convenient powers continued to them is not denied, and in the exercise of which they may support, but cannot control the general government, nor protect their own citizens from the exertion of civil or military tyranny, and this ministerial power will continue with the States as long as two-thirds of Congress shall think their agency necessary; but even this will be no longer than two-thirds of Congress shall think proper to propose, and use the influence of which they would be so largely possessed to remove it.
But these powers, of which the Freeman gives us such a profuse detail, and in describing which he repeats the same powers with only varying the terms, such as the powers of officering and training the militia, appointing State officers, and governing in a number of internal cases, do not any of them separately, nor all taken together, amount to independent sovereignty; they are powers of mere ministerial agency, which may, and in many nations of Europe are or have been vested, as before observed, in heads of departments, hereditary vassals of the crown, or in corporations; but not that kind of independent sovereignty which can constitue a member of a federal republic, which can enable a State to exist within itself if the general government should cease.
I have often wondered how any writer of sense could have the confidence to avow, or could suppose the people to be ignorant enough to believe, that, when a State is deprived of the power not only of standing armies (this the members of a confederacy ought to be), but of commanding its own militia, regulating its elections, directing or superseding its representatives, or paying them their wages; who is, moreover, deprived of the command of any property, I mean source of revenue or taxation, or what amounts to the same thing, who may enact laws for raising revenue, but who may have these laws rendered nugatory, and the execution thereof superseded by the laws of Congress. This is not a strained construction, but the natural operation of the powers of Congress under the new constitution; for every object of revenues, every source of taxation, is vested in the general government. Even the power of making inspection laws, which, for obvious conveniency, is left with the several States, will be unproductive of the smallest revenue to the State governments; for, if any should arise, it is to be paid over to the officers of Congressbesides, the words “to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,” etc., give, without doubt, the power of repelling or forbidding the execution of any tax law whatever, that may interfere with or impede the exercise of the general taxing power, and it would not be possible that two taxing powers should be exercised on the same sources of taxation without interfering with each other. May not the exercise of this power of Congress, when they think proper, operate not only to destroy those ministerial powers which are left with the States, but even the very forms? May they not forbid the state legislatures to levy a shilling to pay themselves, or those whom they employ, days’ wages?
The State governments may contract for making roads (except post-roads), erecting bridges, cutting canals, or any other object of public importance; but when the contract is performed or the work done, may not Congress constitutionally prevent the payment? Certainly; they may do all this and much more, and no man would have a right to charge them with breaking the law of their appointment. It is an established maxim, that wherever the whole power of the revenue or taxation is vested, there virtually is the whole effective, influential, sovereign power, let the forms be what they may. By this armies are procured, by this every other controlling guard is defeated. Every balance or check in government is only so far effective as it hath a control over the revenue.
The State governments are not only destitute of all sovereign command of, or control over, the revenue or any part of it, but they are divested of the power of commanding or prescribing the duties, wages, or punishments of their own militia, or of protecting their life, property or characters from the rigors of martial law. The power of making treason laws is both a power and and an important defence of sovereignty; it is relative to and inseparable from it; to convince the States that they are consolidated into one national government, this power is wholly to be assumed by the general government. All the prerogatives, all the essential characteristics of sovereignty, both of the internal and external kind, are vested in the general government, and consequently the several States would not be possesed of any essential power or effective guard of sovereignty.
Thus I apprehend, it is evident that the consolidation of the States into one national government (in contradistinction from a confederacy) would be the necessary consequence of the establishment of the new constitution, and the intention of its framersand that consequently the State sovereignties would be eventually annihilated, though the forms may long remain as expensive and burthensome remembrances of what they were in the days when (although laboring under many disadvantages) they emancipated this country from foreign tyranny, humbled the pride and tarnished the glory of royalty, and erected a triumphant standard to liberty and independence.
It is not my present object to decide whether the government is a good or a bad one, it is only to prove in support of the minority, that the new system does not in reality, whatever its appearances may be, constitute a federal but a consolidated government. Prom the distinguishing characteristics of these two kinds of government which I have stated, some assistance perhaps may be derived in judging which of them would be most suitable to our circumstances, and the best calculated to promote and secure the liberty and welfare of these United States.
A few general observations shall conclude this essay. It is commonly said by the friends of the system, that the dangers which we point out are imaginary, that we ought to depend more upon the virtue of those who shall exercise those powers; that we talk as if we supposed men would be possessed of a demon as soon as they should be vested with the proposed powers, etc. I shall in answer thereto join with a sensensible reasoner in saying that I will not abuse the new Congress until it exists, nor then until it misbehaves, nor then unless I dare; but it is a fact, that all governments that have ever been instituted among men, have degenerated and abused their power, and why we should conceive better of the proposed Congress than of all governments who have gone before us, I don’t know; it is certainly incumbent on the supporters of this system, first to prove either that the uniform testimony of history, and experience of society, is false, or else that the new system will have the divine influence to in-spire those who exercise the powers which it provides, with wisdom and virtue in an infallible degree. Surely the conduct of the framers and promoters of the new constitution do not present mankind as more worthy of confidence now, than they have been in other periods of society. For proof of this let us examine facts. The legislatures of the various States elected members for a federal convention, without having authority for that purpose from their constituents; this gave no alarm, as necessity perhaps justified the measure; but how dangerous is the smallest precedent of usurped power, for the general convention when met, far outdid the example. They were strictly bound by the law of their appointment to revise the confederation; the additional powers with which it ought to have been vested were generally understood, and would have been universally submitted to. This convention not only neglected the duty of their appointment, but assumed a power of the most extraordinary kind; they proceeded to destroy the very government which they were solemnly enjoined to strengthen and improve, and framed a system (to say no worse of it) that was destructive not only of the form, but of the nature of the government whose foundations were laid in the plighted faith and whose superstructure was cemented with the best blood of the United States. The legislature of this State, whose leading members were also self-chosen members of the general convention, no sooner had it in their power, than notwithstanding the solemn trust reposed in them, and still more solemn oath to preserve the constitution of this State inviolate, proceeded upon the expected last day of their session to call a convention, in order to adopt the proposed system of government before the people could be acquainted with it; and to carry this into execution, they added violence to perfidy, and by the aid of mob compelled members, sanctified by their presence that usurped exertion of power, which their faith and trust obliged them to discountenance.
The consequence was, that about one-sixth of the citizens only obeyed the irregular call of the Assembly, and elected members to the State convention: one-third of those members, and who were chosen by nearly one-half of the voters who did elect, voted against the adoption of the new constitution, and being refused the right of entering their testimony on the minutes, laid their conduct and their reasons before their constituents. About five out of six of the people, whether disdaining to obey a call which neither the general convention or Assembly were authorized to make, or whether being taken by surprise they were not sufficiently informed to act with decision, and therefore did not choose to act at all, I cannot tell, but so it is, that they have not yet publicly declared their sentiments for, nor have done anything in favor of the proposed system: in this situation Pennsylvania hath adopted the system. It is a very serious question, whether supposing nine States had agreed to it in this manner, the system would be practicable, whether general confidence would not be necessary unless we had greater resources. In addition to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut, have also adopted the system; these States are not only small, but in a high degree delinquent, and there is no provision made in the new constitution to compel delinquent States or persons to make up their deficiencies. The convention of Massachusetts have adopted the system with a solemn disapprobation; they have pointed out amendments on the same parchment with the act of ratification, and have solemnly enjoined those who may be the first deputies in the new Congress, to exert their every endeavor to have these amendments made part of the constitution; and to add weight to them, they have officially requested Pennsylvania and the other states to concur in their propositions of amendment. The New Hampshire convention have, on motion of the friends of the system, adjourned until June, in order to prevent an immediate rejection, which otherwise was unavoidable: the adjournment was carried by only three voices. At present there is and will for some months be a solemn and serious pause, a time of deliberation, the result of which will fill an important page in the history of human society. For my own part, I think the heaviest clouds are dispersed, and the gloomy darkness admits the cheering rays of hope, which promise meridian splendor to the sun of liberty. Most of those who were from the best motives friends to the system, have penetrated the shade of mystery in which it was wrapped; they see the snares, and discover the delusions with which it is replete; they see that every other system of government, whether good or bad, is easy to be understood, but that this system excels all of the kind which hath come to their knowledge in darkness and ambiguity; they have been informed, too, that this mysterious veil was the fruit of deliberation and design.
Whilst posts are prevented from carrying intelligence, whilst newspapers are made the vehicles of deception, and dark intrigue employs the avaricious office-hunters who long to riot on the spoils of their country, the great body of the people are coolly watching the course of the times, and determining to preserve their liberties, and to judge for them-selves by the principles of reason and common sense, and not by the weight of names. 36
A NEW FEDERAL SONG.
To the Tune of W’s March.
- A tavern-keeper spoke, a federal sign was made,
Saints, conjurers, Cincinnati, lawyers, and men o’ the blade,
With defaulters, deists, bankrupts, and office-hunters, just 39,
Their faces, figures, and attitudes all painted quite fine.
- This conclave being reared on the post near the inn door,
Attracted the attention of every coiner and goer;
Its beauties were admired for near half a long day,
But how transient are the goods of this world, you will say!
- Some mischievous Anti’s seeing it cut such a dash,
The next time they passed by, threw up a great splash.
The face of this most beauteous sign was now all over spotted,
And the ears, mouths, and noses of these patriots much blotted.
- The famed wisdom and virtue of the union here collected,
Which had for such a length of time so much lustre reflected,
Was now on a sudden, when at its meridian glory,
All besmeared with the tagh of Jamie the Rover.
- As for ‘Simons and the Caledonian, their eyes were turned green,
And General Tommy, Benny and Bobby, were also unclean.
Bob seemed to hold guineas and Jamie to beg,
But old Harry had hold of the man with one leg.
- In short, the shape of most the figures were altered,
And instead of masqued patriots, rose up rogues ready haltered.
All that was wanted to complete the black scene,
Was a gallows that would hold at least ten or fifteen. 37
Mr. Printer: Though religions creeds have long since been deemed quite useless, or rather indeed extremely prejudicial to the interests of virtue and true piety; yet I must at the same time be of opinion that political creeds are of a very different nature, and that no government, and least of all an arbitrary one, can be supported without some such summary of its credenda, or articles of faith. Our late Cn, sensible of the truth of this maxim, have taken care to draw up a very full and comprehensive creed for the use of their creatures and expectants, who are obliged to believe and maintain every article of it, right or wrong, on pain of political damnation. And to do those slavish expectants justice, there never was on earth a set of more firm and sincere believers, nor any who were willing to run greater risks in defence of their political dogmas.
This political creed, however, is no new invention: ’tis the old tory system revived by different hands. And the articles of it can be a secret to no one, who has the misfortune to converse with any of its advocates. But as such doctrines and maxims would better become the slave of a bashaw of three tails than the subject of a free republican government, I shall just take the liberty, by way of specimen, to mention a few of these articles for the sake of your more uninformed readers. And,
- They maintain that the revolution and the Declaration of Independence, however important at those periods, are now to be considered as mere farces, and that nothing that was then done ought to be any bar in the way of establishing the proposed system of arbitrary power.
- That as most of the European nations are in a state of vassalage and slavery, the Americans easily may be brought to a similar situation, and therefore ought to be reduced to the same abject condition.
- That to compass this end, a large standing army should be kept up in time of peace, under the specious pretence of guarding us against foreign invasions and our frontiers against the savages; but in reality to overawe and enslave the people, who if provoked at the violation of their rights, should at any time dare to murmur or complaim, the military should be employed to bayonet them for their arrogance and presumption.
- That to say the late convention was not authorized by the people at large to form an aristocratic, consolidated system of government for them, but merely to recommend alterations and amendments of the good old articles of confederation, is downright treason and rebellion.
- That to assert that it was a shameful departure from the principles of the revolution and republicanism, and a base violation of the trust reposed in them, is a crime of the deepest dye, and never to be forgiven.
- That if any man in the course of his writings should happen to give offence to a haughty favorite of the junto, it should be an express condition in the admission of every person into the new administration, that he concur in the prosecution of the author, or printer (or both, if the name of the author can be extorted or discovered, no matter how vile and infamous the means), to the utmost rigor of the law, and even in contradistinction to all law and justice.
- That the trial by jury, whether in civil or criminal cases, ought to be entirely abolished, and that the judges only of the new federal court, appointed by the well-born in the ten-mile-square, should determine all matters of controversy between individuals.
- That the trial by jury ought likewise to be abolished in the case of libels, and every one accused of writing or even publishing a libel, ought to be tried by informations, attachments, interrogatories, and the other arbitrary methods practiced in the court of star-chamber.
- That a libel is whatever may happen to give offence to any great man, or old woman; and the more true the charge, the more virulent the libel.
- That an unrestrained liberty of the press should be granted to those who write and publish against the liberties of the people, but be absolutely denied to such as write against unconstitutional measures, and the abominable strides of arbitrary power, which have recently been attempted by any of the rump conclaves or conventions.
- That the people indeed have no rights and privileges, but what they enjoy at the mercy of the rich lordlings, who may, of right, deprive them of any or of all their liberties whenever they think proper.
- That the freemen of America have no right to think for themselves, nor to choose their own officers of government, who ought to be named and appointed by the king elect, the half king and the senate; these being evidently much better judges of what is for the good of the people than the people themselves.
- That a bill of rights and other explicit declarations in favor of the people, are old musty things, and ought to be destroyed; and that for any set of men to declare themselves in favor of a bill of rights, is a most daring insult offered to General Washington and Doctor Franklin, who, it must be allowed by the whole world, are absolutely infallible.
- That those men are best qualified to conduct the affairs of a free people, who breathe nothing but a spirit of tyranny, and who, by their violent, illegal, and unconstitutional (consolidating, energetic, as they are pleased to style it) procedures, have well nigh reduced the good people of this great continent to the very eve of a civil war. And that as soon as nine States should accede to the new system of slavery, every one who would presume to lisp a syllable against it, ought to be taken up, imprisoned, and punished at the discretion of the judges of the supreme federal court.
Such are a few of the many articles of the political creed of the federal hacks, and how firmly they believe and diligently act up to them, is a matter of equal notoriety and grief to every real patriot in America. 38[While the Antifederalists were thus abusing the constitution, the men who framed, and the men who approved it, State after State continued to adopt it. No special demonstrations of joy were made by the Federalists, till they heard of the approval of Virginia and New York. Then, the new government being assured, they began to rejoice in earnest.]
The’ following account of the celebration, by the citizens of Pittsburgh and vicinity, of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States by Virginia, the ninth State, is taken from the Pittsburgh Gazette, of June 28th, 1788. The speech of Mr. Brackenridge we omit for the present, but will probably find a place for it shortly. 39
Pittsburgh, June 28.
On Friday last, the 20th instant, the news arrived at this place of the adoption of the new constitution by Virginia, making the ninth State. On Saturday evening following, the inhabitants of this town and the adjacent country, to the number of about fifteen hundred, assembled on Grant’s Hill, a beautiful rising mount to the east of the town, having the two rivers, the Allegheny and Monongahela, and their junction forming the Ohio, in prospect. Occupying the verge of the hill, they were addressed by Mr. Brackenridge. * * *
Three cheers were now given, and the hats thrown into the air. Nine piles of wood were then lighted, representing the nine States which had adopted the constitution. At intermediate distances, four piles were left uninflamed, representing those which had not adopted it. Fire was then kindled in them, but oppressed by green leaves and heavy boughs; in spite of all that could be done, the pile of New Hampshire burst out, and gave a luminous splendor; that of Rhode Island not having sent delegates to the general convention, or called a convention of their own, had brimstone, tar and feathers thrown into it; yet still some boughs of wood that were at the bottom, catching the flame, purged off the noxious vapor and materials. That of New York and North Carolina at length took fire, and exceeded even the other piles. The whole thirteen now in one blaze began to burn. The youths of the village danced around them on the green; and the Indians who were present, the chiefs of several nations, on the way to their treaty at Muskingum, stood in amazement at the scene; concluding this to be the great council, seeing the thirteen fires kindled on the hill.[On June 25th, 1788, Virginia ratified the constitution as the tenth State. As the approval of nine was to put it in force, all hope of defeating the new plan was now ended. So many States, however, had accepted the constitution with reluctance, and with long lists of proposed amendments, that the Antifederalists determined to make one more effort to have it sent to a new convention of the states for revision and amendment.
The earliest movement for such a convention began in the county of Cumberland, and was probably the work of Robert Whitehill. However this may be, representatives from the townships of Cumberland met towards the close of June, called for a conference of counties at Harrisburg, September 3d, elected delegates to represent it on that day, and sent a circular letter to prominent Antifederalists all over the state. The letter is as follows :]
East Pennsborough, Cumberland, July 3, 1788.
SIR : That ten states have already unexpectedly, without amending, ratified the constitution proposed for the government of these United States, cannot have escaped the notice of the friends of liberty. That the way is prepared for the full organization of the government, with all its foreseen and consequent dangers, is too evident, and unless prudent steps be taken to combine the friends to amendments in some plan in which they may confidently draw together, and exert their power in unison, the liberty of the American citizens must lie at the discretion of Congress, and most probably posterity become slaves to the officers of government.
The means adopted and proposed by a meeting of delegates from the townships of this county for preventing the alleged evils, and also the calamities of a civil war, are, as may be observed in perusing the proceedings of the said meeting herewith transmitted, to request such persons as shall be judged fit within the counties, respectively, to use their influence to obtain a meeting of delegates from each township, to take into consideration the necessity of amending the constitution of these United States, and for that purpose to nominate and appoint a number of delegates to represent the county in a general conference of the counties of this commonwealth, to be held at Harrisburg on the third day of September next, then and there to devise such amendments, and such mode of obtaining them, as in the wisdom of the delegates shall be judged most satisfactory and expedient.
A law will, no doubt, be soon enacted by the General Assembly for electing eight members to represent this state in the new Congress. It will, therefore, be expedient to have proper persons put in nomination by the delegates in conference, being the most likely method of directing the voices of the electors to the same object and of obtaining the desired end.
The society, of which you are chairman, is requested to call a meeting agreeable to the foregoing designs, and lay before the delegates the proceedings of this county, to the intent that the state may unite in casting off the yoke of slavery, and once more establish union and liberty.
By order of the meeting, I am with real esteem, sir,
Your most obedient servant,
BENJAMIN BLYTH, Chairman.[This letter in time was followed by another, addressed to prominent men in each township of Bucks county, and is as follows:]
Newtown, August 15, 1788.
GENTLEMEN : The important crisis now approaching (confident I am you will think with me) demands the most serious attention of every friend of American liberty. The constitution of the United States is now adopted by eleven states in the Union, and no doubt the other two will follow their example ; for, however just the sentiments of the opposition may be, I do conceive it would be the height of madness and folly, and in fact a crime of very detrimental consequence to our country, to refuse to acquiesce in a measure received in form by so great a majority of our country; not only to ourselves individually, but to the community at largefor the worst that we can expect from a bad form of government is anarchy and confusion, with all its common train of grievancesand by an opposition in the present situation of affairs we are sure of it. On the other hand, by a sullen and inactive conduct, it will give the promoters and warm advocators of the plan an opportunity (if any such design they have) to shackle us with those manacles, that we fear may be formed under color of law, and we be led to know it is constitutional, when it is too late to extricate ourselves and posterity from bondage.
To you it is not worth while to animadvert on the plain and pointed tendency the constitution has to this effect, and how easily it may be accomplished in power under its influence. That virtue is not the standard that has principally animated the adoption of the constitution in this state, I believe, is too true. Let us, therefore, as we wish to serve our country, and show the world that those only who have wished amendments were truly federal, adopt the conduct of our fellow-citizens in the back counties. Let us, as freemen, call a meeting of those citizens who wish for amendments, in a committee of the county, delegated from each township, for the purpose expressed in a copy of the (circular) inclosed. In promoting a scheme of this kind, I hope we shall not only have the satisfaction of seeing the minds and exertions of all who wish for amendments centre in this object, which will swallow others more injurious, but we will enjoy the supreme felicity of having assisted in snatching from slavery a once happy and worthy people.
I therefore hope you will undertake to call together your township, have delegates chosen to represent them in a committee to be held in the house of George Piper, on Monday, the 21st inst., at nine o’clock in the forenoon, for the purpose of appointing delegates to represent them in the state conference, and for giving them instructions, etc.
If you should apprehend the people will not call a town-meeting for the purpose, that you will, as we intend here, write or call on a few of the most respectable people of your township to attend at the general meeting, as they intend to do at Philadelphia, if they cannot accomplish their purpose in the other way.
Your usual public spirit on occasions of this kind, I am sure, needs no spur. We shall, therefore, rest assured that we will meet a representation of the township committed to your charge on the day appointed.
I am, with every sentiment of esteem,
(Signed.) Yours, &c.,
To John Vandegrift, Esq., Capt. Nathan Vansant, and Mr. Jacob Vandegrift, Bensalem.[The meeting of townships thus called was held at Piper’s tavern, Bedminster, and the following course of action taken:]
Bucks County, State of Pennsylvania, August 25, 1788.
The ratification of the federal constitution and its expected operation forming a new area in the American world, and giving cause of hope to some and fear to others, it has been thought proper that the freemen of the State, or delegates chosen by them, should meet together and deliberate on the subject. Accordingly it has been proposed that a meeting of deputies from the different counties be held at Harrisburg, the 3d day of September next. A circular letter bearing the above proposition was sent to this county, and in pursuance thereof, there met this day at Piper’s tavern, in Bedminster township, the following gentlemen from the townships annexed to their names, respectively:
Newtown. James Hanna, Esquire.
Warwick.John Crawford, Hugh Ramsay, Capt. William Walker, Benjamin Snodgrass, Samuel Flack.
New Britain.James Snodgrass, Thomas Stuart, David Thomas.
Bedminster.Jacob Utt, Alexander Hughes, George Piper, Daniel Soliday.
Haycock.Capt. Manus Yost, John Keller. Rockhill.-Samuel Smith, Esquire.
Millford.Henry Blilaz, Henry Hoover.
Springfield.Colonel John Smith, Charles Fleming.
Durham.-Richard Backhouse, Esquire.
Tinicum.John Thompson, Jacob Weaver, George Bennet.
Nockamixon.Samuel Willson, George Vogle.
Plumstead.Thomas Wright, Thomas Gibson, James Ruckman, Major John Shaw, James Farres, Thomas Henry, Moses Kelly, Henry Geddis.
Warrington.Rev. Nathaniel Erwin, Captain William Walker.
Buckingham.Captain Samuel Smith.
Samuel Smith, Esq., chosen Chairman, and James Hanna, Esq., Secretary. After some time spent in discussing the business of the meeting,
Resolved, that the Reverend Nathaniel Erwin, Richard Backhouse, Samuel Smith, John Crawford, and James Hanna, Esquires, be a committee to draw up resolves expressive of the sense of this meeting on the subject before them.
In a short time thereafter the following were presented by the gentlemen appointed, and unanimously approved:
That it is the opinion of this meeting, that the plan of government for the United States, formed by the general convention, having been adopted by eleven of the States, ought, in conformity to the resolves of said convention, to come into operation, and have force until altered in a constitutional way.
Agreeably to the resolve last past, the Reverend Nathaniel Erwin, Richard Backhouse, John Crawford, and James Hanna, Esquires, or any two of them, were appointed to represent us in said conference to be held at Harrisburg.
Resolved, That James Hanna, Esquire, be requested to hand the foregoing proceedings to the press for publication.
SAMUEL SMITH, Chairman.[Thus chosen, the delegates to Harrisburg assembled September 3d, and made Blair M’ Clenachan, of Philadelphia, Chairman, and John A. Hannah, of Harrisburg, Secretary. Precisely what the proceedings were cannot now be known, but it is certain that in the course of debate Albert Gallatin, then unknown to fame, submitted the following resolutions:]
1st. “Resolved, That in order to prevent a dissolution of the Union, and to secure our liberties, and those of our posterity, it is necessary that a revision of the federal constitution be obtained in the most speedy manner.
2d. “That the safest manner to obtain such a revision will be, in conformity to the request of the State of New York, to use our endeavors to have a convention called as soon as possible;
“Resolved, therefore, that the assembly of this State be petitioned to take the earliest opportunity to make an application for that purpose to the new Congress.
3d. “That in order that the friends to amendments to the federal constitution who are inhabitants of this State may act in concert, it is necessary, and it is hereby recommended to the several counties in the State, to appoint committees, who may correspond one with another, and with such similar committees as may be formed in other States.
4th. “That the friends to amendment to the federal constitution in the several States be invited to meet in a general conference, to be held at , on , and members elected by this conference, who, on any of them, shall meet at said place and time, in order to devise, in concert with such other delegates from the several States as may come under similar appointments, on such amendments to the federal constitution as to them may seem most necessary, and on the most likely way to carry them into effect.”[The resolutions of Mr. Gallatin seem to have been too strong, and not specific enough, and were not accepted by the convention. Concerning the proceedings very little is known, and that little is contained in a summary which appeared in the newspapers. The document is as follows :]
Harrisburg, Dauphin County, State of Pennsylvania,
September 3, 1788.
Agreeably to a circular letter which originated in the county of Cumberland, inviting to a conference such of the citizens of this State, who conceive that a revision of the federal system, lately proposed for the government of these United States, is necessary, a number of gentlemen from the city of Philadelphia, and counties of Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Lancaster, Cumberland, Berks, Northumberland, Bedford, Fayette, Washington, Franklin, Dauphin, and Huntingdon, assembled at this place for the said purpose, viz:
|Hon. George Bryan, Esq.,||William Petricken,|
|Charles Pettit,||Jonathan Hoge,|
|Blair M’Clenachan,||John Bishop,|
|Richard Backhouse,||Daniel Montgomery,|
|James Hanna,||John Lytle,|
|Joseph Gardner,||John Dickey,|
|James Mercer,||Honorable John Smiley,|
|Benjamin Blyth,||Albert Gallatin,|
|Robert Whitehill,||James Marshel,|
|John Jordan,||Benjamin Elliott,|
|William Sterrett,||Richard Bard,|
|William Rodgers,||James Crooks,|
|Adam Orth,||John A. Hannah,|
|John Rodgers,||Daniel Bradley,|
|Thomas Murray,||Robert Smith,|
|Robert M’ Kee,||James Anderson,|
Blair M’Clenachan, Esq., was unanimously elected chairman, and John A. Hannah, Esq., secretary.
After free discussion and mature deliberation had upon the subject before them, the following resolutions and propositions were adopted.
The ratification of the federal constitution having formed a new era in the American world, highly interesting to all the citizens of the United States, it is not less the duty than the privilege of every citizen, to examine with attention the principles and probable effects of a system on which the happiness or misery of the present, as well as future generations, so much depends. In the course of such examination, many of the good citizens of the State of Pennsylvania have found their apprehensions excited that the constitution in its present form contains in it some principles which may be perverted to purposes injurious to the rights of free citizens, and some ambiguities which may probably lead to contentions incompatible with order and good government. In order to remedy these inconveniences, and to avert the apprehended dangers, it has been thought expedient that delegates, chosen by those who wish for early amendments in the said constitution, should meet together for the purpose of deliberating on the subject, and uniting in some constitutional plan for obtaining the amendments which they may deem necessary.
We the conferees assembled, for the purpose aforesaid, agree in opinion:
That a federal government only can preserve the liberties and secure the happiness of the inhabitants of a country so extensive as these United States; and experience having taught us that the ties of our union, under the articles of confederation, were so weak as to deprive us of some of the greatest advantages we had a right to expect from it, we are fully convinced that a more efficient government is indispensably necessary; but although the constitution proposed for the United States is likely to obviate most of the inconveniences we labored under, yet several parts of it appear so exceptionable to us, that we are clearly of opinion considerable amendments are essentially necessary. In full confidence however of obtaining a revision of such exceptionable parts by a general convention, and from a desire to harmonize with our fellow citizens, we are induced to acquiesce in the organization of the said constitution.
We are sensible that a large number of the citizens both in this and the other states, who gave their assent to its being carried into execution, previous to any amendments, were actuated more by the fear of the dangers that might arise from delays, than by a conviction of its being perfect; we therefore hope they will concur with us in pursuing every peaceable method of obtaining a speedy revision of the constitution in the mode therein provided; and when we reflect on the present circumstances of the union, we can entertain no doubt that motives of conciliation, and the dictates of policy and prudence, will conspire to induce every man of true federal principles to give his support to a measure which is not only calculated to recommend the new constitution to the approbation and support of every class of citizens, but even necessary to prevent the total defection of some members of the union.
Strongly impressed with these sentiments, we have agreed to the following resolutions:
- Resolved, That it be recommended to the people of this State to acquiesce in the organization of the said government; but although we thus accord in its organization, we by no means lose sight of the grand object of obtaining very considerable amendments and alterations, which we consider essential to preserve the peace and harmony of the union, and those invaluable privileges for which so much blood and treasure have been recently expended.
- Resolved, That it is necessary to obtain a speedy revision of said constitution by a general convention.
- Resolved, That in order to effect this desirable end, a petition be presented to the legislature of this State, requesting that honorable body to take the earliest opportunity to make application for that purpose to the new Congress.
The petition proposed is as follows:
To the Honorable the Representatives of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in General Assembly met,the Petition and Representation of the Subscribers humbly show:
That your petitioners possess sentiments completely federal; being convinced that a confederacy of republican States, and no other, can secure political liberty, happiness, and safety throughout a territory so extended as the United States of America. They are well apprised of the necessity of devolving extensive powers to Congress, and of vesting the supreme legislature with every power and resource of a general nature; and consequently they acquiesce in the general system of government framed by the late federal convention; in full confidence, however, that the same will be revised without delay: for however worthy of approbation the general principles and outlines of the said system may be, your petitioners conceive that amendments in some parts of the plan are essential, not only to the preservation of such rights and privileges as ought to be reserved in the respective States, and in the citizens thereof, but to the fair and unembarrassed operation of the government in its various departments. And as provision is made in the constitution itself for the making of such amendments as may be deemed necessary, and your petitioners are desirous of obtaining the amendments which occur to them as more immediately desirable and necessary, in the mode admitted by such provision, they pray that your honorable House, as the Representatives of the people in this Commonwealth, will, in the course of your present session, take such measures as you in your wisdom shall deem most effectual and proper, to obtain a revision and amendment of the constitution of the United States, in such parts and in such manner as have been or shall be pointed out by the conventions or assemblies of the respective States; and that such revision be by a general convention of representatives from the several States in the union.
Your petitioners consider the amendments pointed out in the propositions hereto subjoined as essentially necessary, and as such they suggest them to your notice, submitting to your wisdom the order in which they shall be presented to the consideration of the United States.
The amendments proposed are as follows, viz:
I. That Congress shall not exercise any powers whatsoever, but such as are expressly given to that body by the constitution of the United States; nor shall any authority, power or jurisdiction, be assumed or exercised by the executive or judiciary departments of the union under color or pretense of construction or fiction. But all the rights of sovereignty, which are not by the said constitution expressly and plainly vested in the Congress, shall be deemed to remain with, and shall be exercised, by the several states in union according to their respective constitutions. And that every reserve of the rights of individuals, made by the several constitutions of the states in union to the citizens and inhabitants of each State respectively, shall remain inviolate, except so far as they are expressly and manifestly yielded or narrowed by the national constitution.
Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3.
II. That the number of representatives be for the present one for every twenty thousand inhabitants, according to the present estimated number in the several states, and continue in that proportion till the whole number of representatives shall amount to two hundred; and then to be so proportioned and modified as not to exceed that number till the proportion of one representative for every thirty thousand inhabitants shall amount to the said number of two hundred.
III. That Senators, though chosen for six years, shall be liable to be recalled or superseded by other appointments, by the respective legislatures of the States, at any time.
IV. That Congress shall not have power to make or alter regulations concerning the time, place, and manner of electing Senators and Representatives, except in case of neglect or refusal by the State to make regulations for the purpose, and then only for such time as such neglect or refusal shall continue.
V. That when Congress shall require supplies, which are to be raised by direct taxes, they shall demand from the several States their respective quotas thereof, giving a reasonable time to each State to procure and pay the same; and if any State shall refuse, neglect, or omit to raise and pay the same within such limited time, then Congress shall have power to assess, levy, and collect the quota of such State, together with interest for the same from the time of such delinquency, upon the inhabitants and estates therein, in such manner as they shall by law direct, provided that no poll-tax be imposed.
VI. That no standing army of regular troops shall be raised or kept up in time of peace, without the consent of two-thirds of both Houses in Congress.
VII. That the clause respecting the exclusive legislation over a district not exceeding ten miles square, be qualified by a proviso that such right of legislation extend only to such regulations as respect the police and good order thereof.
Article I, Section 8.
VIII. That each State respectively shall have power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia thereof, whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the militia shall not be subject to martial law, but when in actual service in time of war, invasion or rebellion; and when not in the actual service of the United States, shall be subject to such fines, penalties, and punishments only, as shall be directed or inflicted by the laws of its own State: nor shall the militia of any State be continued in actual service longer than two months under any call of Congress, without the consent of the legislature of such State, or, in their recess, the executive authority thereof.
IX. That the clause respecting vessels bound to or from any one of the States, be explained.
Article 3. Section I.
X. That Congress establish no court other than the Supreme Court, except such as shall be necessary for determining causes of admiralty jurisdiction.
Section 2. Paragraph 2.
XI. That a proviso be added at the end of the second clause of the second section of the third article, to the following effect, viz.: Provided, That such appellate jurisdiction, in all cases of common law cognizance, be by writ of error, and confined to matters of law only; and that no such writ of error shall be admitted except in revenue cases, unless the matter in controversy exceed the value of three thousand dollars.
Article 6. Paragraph 2.
XII. That to article six, clause two, be added the following proviso, viz.: Provided always, That no treaty which shall hereafter be made, shall be deemed or construed to alter or affect any law of the United States, or of any particular State, until such treaty shall have been laid before and assented to by the House of Representatives in Congress.
Resolved, That the foregoing proceedings be committed to the chairman for publication. 40
BLAIR M’CLNACHAN, Chairman.
Attest, JOHN A. HANNAH, Secretary.
2. The Journals of the conclave are still concealed. Return to text
3. The continental Convention, in direct violation of the 13th article of the confederation, have declared “that the ratification of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution, between the States so ratifying the same.” Thus has the plighted faith of the States been sported with! They had solemnly engaged that the confederation now subsisting should be inviolably preserved by each of them, and the Union thereby formed should be perpetual, unless th same should be altered by mutual consent. Return to text
4. Independent Gazetteer, Jan. 7, 1788.Return to text
5. Independent Gazetteer, Feb. 7, 1788.Return to text
8. Independent Gazetteer, Mar. 14, 1788. Return to text
9. Independent Gazetteer, Jan. 9, 1788. Return to text
10. Independent Gazetteer, Feb. 27, 1788. Return to text
11. Independent Gazetteer, Feb. 14, 1788. Return to text
12. Independent Gazetteer, Feb. 19, 1788. Return to text
13. Independent Gazetteer, Dec. 19, 1787. Return to text
14. Independent Gazetteer, Dec. 25, 1787. Return to text
15. Independent Gazetteer, Dec. 21, 1787. Return to text
16. Independent Gazetteer, Dec. 22, 1787. Return to text
17. Independent Gazetteer, Dec. 27, 1787. Return to text
18. Independent Gazetteer, Dec. 27, 1787. Return to text
19. Independent Gazetteer, Jan. 5, 1787. Return to text
20. Independent Gazetteer, Jan. 5, 1787. Return to text
21. Pennsylvania Packet, Dec. 29, 1787. Return to text
22. Pittsburgh, Carlisle, and Easton. Return to text
23. Independent Gazette, Jan. 10, 1788. Return to text
24. Independent Gazette, Jan. 10, 1788. Return to text
25. Independent Gazette, Jan. 14, 1788. Return to text
26. Independent Gazette, Jan. 15, 1788. Return to text
27. Independent Gazette, Jan. 15, 1788. Return to text
28. Independent Gazette, Jan. 16, 1788. Return to text
29. Independent Gazette, Jan. 28, 1788. Return to text
30. Independent Gazette, Feb. 11, 1788. Return to text
31. Independent Gazette, Feb. 15, 1788. Return to text
32. Independent Gazette, Feb. 16, 1788. Return to text
33. Independent Gazette, Mar. 10, 1788. Return to text
34. The Freeman’s Journal, March 26, 1788. Return to text
35. Independent Gazetteer, April 15, 1788. Return to text
36. Independent Gazetteer, Apr. 22, 1788. Return to text
37. Independent Gazetteer, Apr. 24, 1788. Return to text
38. Independent Gazetteer, May 10, 1788. Return to text
39. Hazard’s Register of Penna., Sep 14, 1833. Return to text
40. Independent Gazetteer, Sep. 15, 1788. Return to text