Speech to the Pennsylvania Convention, December 4, 1787

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This version of Wilson’s speech is that of Thomas Lloyd. Lloyd’s notes have
been included here and are indicated by { }.

Before I proceed to consider those qualities in the Constitution before us, which I think will insure it our approbation, permit me to make some re-marks, and they shall be very concise, upon the objections that were offered this forenoon, by the member from Fayette (John Smilie). I do it, at this time, because I think it will be better to give a satisfactory answer to the whole of the objections, before I proceed to the other part of my subject. I find that the doctrine of a single legislature is not to be contended for in this Constitution. I shall therefore say nothing on that point. I shall consider that part of the system, when we come to view its excellencies. Neither shall I take particular notice of his observation on the qualified negative of the President, for he finds no fault with it; he mentions, however, that he thinks it a vain and useless power, because it can never be executed. The reason he assigns for this is, that the king of Great Britain, who has an absolute negative over the laws proposed by Parliament, has never exercised it, at least, not for many years. It is true, and the reason why he did not exercise it was, that during all that time, the king possessed a negative before the bill had passed through the two houses, a much stronger power than a negative after debate. I believe, since the Revolution, at the time of William III, it was never known that a bill disagreeable to the Crown passed both houses. At one time in the reign of Queen Anne, when there appeared some danger of this being effected, it is well-known that she created twelve peers, and by that means effectually defeated it. Again, there was some risk of late years in the present reign, with regard to Mr. [Charles James] Fox’s East India bill, as it is usually called, that passed through the House of Commons, but the king had interest enough in the House of Peers, to have it thrown out; thus it never came up for the royal assent. But that is no reason why this negative should not be exercised here, and exercised with great advan¬tage. Similar powers are known in more than one of the states. The governors of Massachusetts and New York have a power similar to this; and it has been exercised frequently to good effect.

I believe the governor of New York, under this power, has been known to send back five or six bills in a week; and I well recollect that at the time the funding system was adopted by our legislature, the people in that state considered the negative of the governor as a great security, that their leg¬islature would not be able to encumber them by a similar measure. Since that time an alteration has been supposed in the governor’s conduct, but there has been no alteration in his power.

The honorable gentleman from Westmoreland (William Findley), by his highly refined critical abilities, discovers an inconsistency in this part of the Constitution, and that which declares in [Article I,] section first: “All legislative powers, herein granted, shall be vested in a congress of the United States, which shall consist of a senate and a house of representatives,” and yet here, says he, is a power of legislation given to the President of the United States, because every bill, before it becomes a law, shall be presented to him. Thus he is said to possess legislative powers. Sir, the Convention observed on this occasion strict propriety of language; “if he approve the bill when it is sent, he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it”; but no bill passes in consequence of having his assent-therefore he possesses no legislative authority.

The effect of his power upon this subject is merely this, if he disapproves a bill, two-thirds of the legislature become necessary to pass it into a law, instead of a bare majority. And when two-thirds are in favor of the bill, it becomes a law, not by his, but by authority of the two houses of the leg¬islature
We are told, in the next place, by the honorable gentleman from Fayette (John Smilie) that in the different orders of mankind, there is that of a natural aristocracy. On some occasions, there is a kind of magical ex¬pression, used to conjure up ideas, that may create uneasiness and appre¬hension. I hope the meaning of the words is understood by the gentleman who used them. I have asked repeatedly of gentlemen to explain, but have not been able to obtain the explanation of what they meant by a consolidated government. They keep round and round about the thing, but never define. I ask now what is meant by a natural aristocracy? I am not at a loss for the etymological definition of the term, for, when we trace it to the language from which it is derived, an aristocracy means nothing more or less than a government of the best men in the community, or those who are recom¬mended by the words of the constitution of Pennsylvania, where it is di¬rected, that the representatives should consist of those most noted for wis¬dom and virtue. Is there any danger in such representation? I shall never find fault, that such characters are employed. Happy for us, when such char¬acters can be obtained. If this is meant by a natural aristocracy, and I know no other, can it be objectionable, that men should be employed that are most noted for their virtue and talents? And are attempts made to mark out these as the most improper persons for the public confidence?

I had the honor of giving a definition, and I believe it was a just one, of what is called an aristocratic government. It is a government where the supreme power is not retained by the people, but resides in a select body of men, who either fill up the vacancies that happen, by their own choice and election, or succeed on the principle of descent, or by virtue of territorial possessions, or some other qualifications that are not the result of personal properties. When I speak of personal properties, I mean the qualities of the head and the disposition of the heart.

We are told that the Representatives will not be known to the people, nor the people to the Representatives, because they will be taken from large districts where they cannot be particularly acquainted. There has been some experience in several of the states, upon this subject, and I believe the ex¬perience of all who have had experience demonstrates that the larger the district of election, the better the representation. It is only in remote corners of a government, that little demagogues arise. Nothing but real weight of character can give a man real influence over a large district. This is remark-ably shown in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The members of the House of Representatives are chosen in very small districts, and such has been the influence of party cabal and little intrigue in them, that a great majority seem inclined to show very little disapprobation of the conduct of the insurgents in that state.

The governor is chosen by the people at large, and that state is much larger than any district need be under the proposed Constitution. In their choice of their governor, they have had warm disputes; but however warm the disputes, their choice only vibrated between the most eminent char¬acters. Four of their candidates are well-known: Mr. [John] Hancock, Mr. [James] Bowdoin, General [Benjamin] Lincoln, and Mr. [Nathaniel] Gorham, the late President of Congress.

I apprehend it is of more consequence to be able to know the true interest of the people, than their faces, and of more consequence still, to have virtue enough to pursue the means of carrying that knowledge usefully into effect. And surely when it has been thought hitherto, that a representation in Con¬gress of from five to two members was sufficient to represent the interest of this state, is it not more than sufficient to have ten members in that body and those in a greater comparative proportion than heretofore? The citizens of Pennsylvania will be represented by eight, and the state by two. This, certainly, though not gaining enough, is gaining a good deal; the members will be more distributed through the state, being the immediate choice of the people, who hitherto have not been represented in that body. It is said that the House of Representatives will be subject to corruption, and the Senate possess the means of corrupting, by the share they have in the ap-pointment to office. This was not spoken in the soft language of attachment to government. It is perhaps impossible, with all the caution of legislators and statesmen, to exclude corruption and undue influence entirely from
government. All that can be done, upon this subject, is done in the Con¬stitution before you. Yet it behooves us to call out, and add, every guard and preventative in our power. I think, sir, something very important on this subject is done in the present system. For it has been provided, effectually, that the man that has been bribed by an office shall have it no longer in his power to earn his wages. The moment he is engaged to serve the Senate, in consequence of their gift, he no longer has it in his power to sit in the House of Representatives. For “no representative shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office, under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time.” And the following annihilates corruption of that kind: “And no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either house, during his continuance in office.” So that the mere acceptance of an office as a bribe effectually destroys the end for which it was offered. Was this attended to when it was mentioned that the members of the one house could be bribed by the other? “But the members of the Senate may enrich themselves” was an observation made as an objection to this system. As the mode of doing this has not been pointed out, I apprehend the objection is not much relied upon. The Senate are incapable of receiving any money, except what is paid them out of the public treasury. They cannot vote to themselves a single penny, unless the proposition originates from the other house. This objec¬tion therefore is visionary, like the following one, “that pictured group, that numerous host, and prodigious swarm of officers, which are to be appointed under the general government.” The gentlemen tell you that there must be judges of the supreme, and judges of the inferior courts, with all their appendages; there will be tax gatherers swarming throughout the land. Oh! say they, if we could enumerate the offices, and the numerous officers that must be employed every day, in collecting and receiving, and controlling the monies of the United States, the number would be almost beyond imagi¬nation. I have been told, but I do not vouch for the fact, that there are in one shape or another, more than a thousand persons in this very state, who get their living in assessing and collecting our revenues from the other citizens.
Sir, when this business of revenue is conducted on a general plan, we may be able to do the business of the thirteen states, with an equal, nay, with a less number-instead of thirteen comptrollers general, one controller will be sufficient. I apprehend that the number of officers under this system will be greatly reduced from the number now employed. For as Con¬gress can now do nothing effectually, the states are obliged to do everything. And in this very point, I apprehend, that we shall be great gainers.

Sir, I confess I wish the powers of the Senate were not as they are. I think it would have been better if those powers had been distributed in other parts of the system. I mentioned some circumstances in the forenoon, that I had observed on this subject I may mention now, we may think ourselves very well off, sir, that things are as well as they are, and that that body is even so much restricted. But surely objections of this kind come with a bad grace from the advocates, or those who prefer the present Confederation, and who wish only to increase the powers of the present Congress. A single body not constituted with checks, like the proposed one, who possess not only the power of making treaties, but executive powers, would be a perfect des¬potism; but, further, these powers are, in the present Confederation, pos¬sessed without control.

As I mentioned before, so I will beg leave to repeat, that this Senate can do nothing without the concurrence of some other branch of the govern¬ment. With regard to their concern in the appointment to offices, the Presi¬dent must nominate before they can be chosen; the President must acquiesce in that appointment. With regard to their power in forming treaties, they can make none, they are only auxiliaries to the President. They must try all impeachments; but they have no power to try any until presented by the House of Representatives; and when I consider this subject, though I wish the regulations better, I think no danger to the liberties of this country can arise even from that part of the system. But these objections, I say, come with a bad grace from those who prefer the present Confederation, who think it only necessary to add more powers to a body organized in that form. I confess, likewise, that by combining those powers, of trying impeach¬ments, and making treaties, in the same body, it will not be so easy as I think it ought to be, to call the Senators to an account for any improper conduct in that business.

Those who proposed this system were not inattentive to do all they could. I admit the force of the observation made by the gentleman from Fayette (John Smilie) that when two-thirds of the Senate concur in forming a bad treaty, it will be hard to procure a vote of two-thirds against them, if they should be impeached. I think such a thing is not to be expected; and so far they are without that immediate degree of responsibility, which I think requisite, to make this part of the work perfect. But this will not be always the case. When a member of Senate shall behave criminally, the criminality will not expire with his office. The Senators may be called to account after they shall have been changed, and the body to which they belonged shall have been altered. There is a rotation; and every second year one-third of the whole number go out. Every fourth year two-thirds of them are changed. In six years the whole body is supplied by a new one. Considering it in this view, responsibility is not entirely lost. There is another view in which it ought to be considered, which will show that we have a greater degree of security. Though they may not be convicted on impeachment before the Senate, they may be tried by their country; and if their criminality is es¬tablished, the law will punish. A grand jury may present, a petit jury may convict, and the judges will pronounce the punishment. This is all that can be done under the present Confederation, for under it there is no power of impeachment; even here then we gain something. Those parts that are exceptionable in this Constitution are improvements on that concerning which so much pains are taken to persuade us, that it is preferable to the other.

The last observation respects the judges. It is said that if they dare to decide against the law, one house will impeach them, and the other will convict them. I hope gentlemen will show how this can happen, for bare supposition ought not to be admitted as proof. The judges are to be im¬peached because they decide an act null and void that was made in defiance

of the Constitution! What House of Representatives would dare to impeach, or Senate to commit judges for the performance of their duty? These ob¬servations are of a similar kind to those with regard to the liberty of the press.

I will now proceed to take some notice of those qualities in this Con¬stitution, that I think entitle it to our respect and favor. I have not yet done, sir, with the great principle on which it stands; I mean the practical rec¬ognition of this doctrine, that in the United States the people retain the supreme power.

In giving a definition of the simple kinds of government known through-out the world, I had occasion to describe what I meant by a democracy; and I think I termed it, that government in which the people retain the supreme power, and exercise it either collectively or by representation-this Constitution declares this principle in its terms and in its consequences, which is evident from the manner in which it is announced: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES.” After all the examination, which I am able to give the subject, I view this as the only sufficient and the most honorable basis, both for the people and government, on which our Constitution can possibly rest. What are all the contrivances of states, of kingdoms, and empires? What are they all intended for? They are all in-tended for man, and our natural character and natural rights are certainly to take place, in preference to all artificial refinements that human wisdom can devise.

I am astonished to hear the ill-founded doctrine, that states alone ought to be represented in the federal government; these must possess sovereign authority forsooth, and the people be forgot. No, let us reascend to first prin¬ciples. That expression is not strong enough to do my ideas justice. Let us RETAIN first principles. The people of the United States are now in the possession and exercise of their original rights, and while this doctrine is known, and operates, we shall have a cure for every disease.

I shall mention another good quality, belonging to this system. In it the legislative, executive, and judicial powers are kept nearly independent and distinct. I express myself in this guarded manner, because I am aware of some powers that are blended in the Senate. They are but few; and they

are not dangerous. It is an exception, yet that exception consists of but few instances, and none of them dangerous. I believe [that] in no constitution for any country on earth is this great principle so strictly adhered to, or marked with so much precision and accuracy, as in this. It is much more accurate, than that which the honorable gentleman [John Smilie] so highly extols, I mean the constitution of England. There, sir, one branch of the legislature can appoint the members of another. The king has the power of introducing members into the House of Lords. I have already mentioned that in order to obtain a vote, twelve peers were poured into that house at one time; the operation is the same, as might be under this Constitution, if the President had a right to appoint the members of the Senate. This power of the king’s extends into the other branch, where, though he cannot im¬mediately introduce a member, yet he can do it remotely by virtue of his prerogative, as he may create boroughs with power to send members to the House of Commons. The House of Lords form a much stronger exception to this principle than the Senate in this system; for the House of Lords pos¬sess judicial powers, not only that of trying impeachments, but that of trying their own members, and civil causes when brought before them, from the courts of chancery, and the other courts in England.

If we therefore consider this Constitution, with regard to this special ob¬ject, though it is not so perfect as I would wish, yet it is more perfect than any other government that I know.

I proceed to another property which I think will recommend it to those who consider the effects of beneficence and wisdom. I mean the division of this legislative authority into two branches. I had an opportunity of dilating somewhat on this subject before. And as it is not likely to afford a subject of debate, I shall take no further notice of it, than barely to mention it. The next good quality, that I remark is, that the executive authority is one; by this means we obtain very important advantages. We may discover from history, from reasoning, and from experience, the security which this fur¬nishes. The executive power is better to be trusted when it has no screen. Sir, we have a responsibility in the person of our President; he cannot act improperly, and hide either his negligence, or inattention; he cannot roll upon any other person the weight of his criminality. No appointment can

take place without his nomination; and he is responsible for every nomi¬nation he makes. We secure vigor; we well know what numerous executives are. We know there is neither vigor, decision, nor responsibility in them. Add to all this, that officer is placed high, and is possessed of power, far from being contemptible, yet not a single privilege is annexed to his character; far from being above the laws, he is amenable to them in his private character as a citizen, and in his public character by impeachment.

Sir, it has often been a matter of surprise, and frequently complained of even in Pennsylvania, that the independence of the judges is not properly secured. The servile dependence of the judges, in some of the states that have neglected to make proper provision on this subject, endangers the lib¬erty and property of the citizen; and I apprehend that whenever it has hap¬pened that the appointment has been for a less period than during good behavior, this object has not been sufficiently secured-for if every five or seven years, the judges are obliged to make court for a reappointment to office, they cannot be styled independent. This is not the case with regard to those appointed under the general government. For the judges here shall hold their offices during good behavior. I hope no further objections will be taken, against this part of the Constitution, the consequence of which will be, that private property (so far as it comes before their courts) and personal liberty, so far as it is not forfeited by crimes, will be guarded with firmness and watchfulness.

It may appear too professional to descend into observations of this kind, but I believe, that public happiness, personal liberty, and private property depend essentially upon the able and upright determinations of indepen¬dent judges.

Permit me to make one more remark on the subject of the judicial de¬partment. Its objects are intended beyond the bounds or power of every par¬ticular state, and therefore must be proper objects of the general govern¬ment. I do not recollect any instance where a case can come before the judiciary of the United States, that could possibly be determined by a par¬ticular state, except one, which is, where citizens of the same state claim lands under the grant of different states, and in that instance, the power of the two states necessarily comes in competition; wherefore there would be great impropriety in having it determined by either. Sir, I think there is another subject with regard to which this Constitution deserves approbation. I mean the accuracy with which the line is drawn be¬tween the powers of the general government, and that of the particular state governments. We have heard some general observations on this subject, from the gentlemen who conduct the opposition. They have asserted that these powers are unlimited and undefined. These words are as easily pronounced as limited and defined. They have already been answered by my honorable colleague (Thomas M¬Kean) therefore, I shall not enter into an explana¬tion; but it is not pretended, that the line is drawn with mathematical pre¬cision; the inaccuracy of language must, to a certain degree, prevent the accomplishment of such a desire. Whoever views the matter in a true light will see that the powers are as minutely enumerated and defined as was pos¬sible, and will also discover that the general clause [Article I, section 8], against which so much exception is taken, is nothing more than what was necessary to render effectual the particular powers that are granted.

But let us suppose (and the supposition is very easy in the minds of the gentlemen on the other side) that there is some difficulty in ascertaining where the true line lies. Are we therefore thrown into despair? Are disputes between the general government and the state governments to be necessarily the consequence of inaccuracy? I hope, sir, they will not be the enemies of each other, or resemble comets in conflicting orbits mutually operating destruction. But that their motion will be better represented by that of the planetary system, where each part moves harmoniously within its proper sphere, and no injury arises by interference or opposition. Every part, I trust, will be considered as a part of the United States. Can any cause of distrust arise here? Is there any increase of risk, or rather are not the enumerated powers as well defined here, as in the present Articles of Confederation?

Permit me to proceed to what I deem another excellency of this system-all authority of every kind is derived by REPRESENTATION from the PEOPLE, and the DEMOCRATIC principle is carried into every part of the government. I had an opportunity when I spoke first of going fully into an elucidation of this subject. I mean not now to repeat what I then said.

I proceed to another quality that I think estimable in this system,it secures in the strongest manner the right of suffrage. Montesquieu, book 2d, ch. 2d, speaking of laws relative to democracy, says, “when the body of the people is possessed of the SUPREME POWER, this is called a democracy, When the SUPREME POWER is lodged in the hands of a part of the people, it is then an aristocracy

“In a democracy the people are in some respects the sovereign, and in others the subject.

“There can be no exercise of sovereignty but by their suffrages, which are their own will; now, the sovereign’s will is the sovereign himself. The laws, therefore, which establish the right of suffrage are fundamental to this government. And indeed it is as important to regulate, in a republic, in what manner, by whom, to 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.”

In this system it is declared, that the electors in each state shall have the qualification requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature. This being made the criterion of the right of suffrage, it is con¬sequently secured, because the same Constitution guarantees to every state in the Union a republican form of government. The right of suffrage is fun¬damental to republics.

Sir, there is another principle that I beg leave to mention. Representation and direct taxation, under this Constitution, are to be according to numbers. As this is a subject which I believe has not been gone into in this house, it will be worthwhile to show the sentiments of some respectable writers thereon. Montesquieu, in considering the requisites in a confederate repub¬lic, book 9th, ch. 3d, speaking of Holland observes, “it is difficult for the united states to be all of equal power and extent. The Lycian republic {Strabo, lib. 14} was an association of twenty-three towns; the large ones had three votes in the common council, the middling ones two, and the small towns one. The Dutch republic consists of seven provinces, of different extent of territory, which have each one voice.”

The cities of Lycia {Strabo, lib. 14} contributed to the expenses of the state, according to the proportion of suffrages. The provinces of the United Neth¬erlands
cannot follow this proportion; they must be directed by that of their power.

In Lycia {Strabo, lib. 14} the judges and town magistrates were elected by the common council, and according to the proportion already mentioned. In the republic of Holland, they are not chosen by the common council, but each town names its magistrates. Were I to give a model of an excellent confederate republic, I should pitch upon that of Lycia.

I have endeavored, in all the books that I could have access to, to acquire some information relative to the Lycian republic, but its history is not to be found; the few facts that relate to it are mentioned only by Strabo; and however excellent the model it might present, we were reduced to the ne¬cessity of working without it. Give me leave to quote the sentiments of an-other author, whose peculiar situation and extensive worth throws a luster on all he says, I mean Mr. Neckar, whose ideas are very exalted both in theory and practical knowledge on this subject. He approaches the nearest to the truth in his calculations from experience, and it is very remarkable that he makes use of that expression. His words are, {Neckar on Finance, Vol. i. p. 308} “population can therefore be only looked on as an exact measure of comparison, when the provinces have resources nearly equal; but even this imperfect rule of proportion ought not to be neglected; and of all the objects which may be subjected to a determined and positive calculation, that of the taxes, to the population, approaches nearest to the truth.”

Another good quality in this Constitution is, that the members of the legislature cannot hold offices under the authority of this government. The op¬eration of this I apprehend would be found to be very extensive, and very salutary in this country, to prevent those intrigues, those factions, that cor¬ruption, that would otherwise rise here, and have risen so plentiful in every other country. The reason why it is necessary in England to continue such influence is that the Crown, in order to secure its own influence against two other branches of the legislature, must continue to bestow places, but those places produce the opposition which frequently runs so strong in the British Parliament. Members who do not enjoy offices combine against those who do enjoy them. It is not from principle, that they thwart the ministry in all its op¬erations. No, their language is, let us turn them out and succeed to their places. The great source of corruption in that country is that persons may hold offices under the Crown, and seats in the legislature at the same time.

I shall conclude at present, and I have endeavored to be as concise as possible, with mentioning, that in my humble opinion, the powers of the general government are necessary, and well defined-that the restraints im¬posed on it, and those imposed on the state governments, are rational and salutary, and that it is entitled to the approbation of those for whom it was intended.

I recollect, on a former day, the honorable gentleman from Westmoreland (William Findley) and the honorable gentleman from Cumberland (Robert Whitehill) took exceptions against the first clause of the 9th section, Article I, arguing very unfairly, that because Congress might impose a tax or duty of ten dollars on the importation of slaves, within any of the United States, Congress might therefore permit slaves to be imported within this state, contrary to its laws. I confess I little thought that this part of the system would be excepted to.

I am sorry that it could be extended no further; but so far as it operates, it presents us with the pleasing prospect, that the rights of mankind will be acknowledged and established throughout the Union.

If there was no other lovely feature in the Constitution, but this one, it would diffuse a beauty over its whole countenance. Yet the lapse of a few years and Congress will have power to exterminate slavery from within our borders.

How would such a delightful prospect expand the breast of a benevolent and philanthropic European? Would he cavil at an expression? Catch at a phrase? No, sir, that is only reserved for the gentleman [William Findley] on the other side of your chair to do. What would be the exultation of that great man, whose name I have just now mentioned, we may learn from the following sentiments on this subject. They cannot be expressed so well as in his own words. {Neckar on Finance, Vol. i, page 329}

“The colonies of France contain as we have seen, near five hundred thou-sand slaves, and it is from the number of these wretches, that the inhabitants set a value on their plantations. What a fatal prospect and how profound a subject for reflection! Alas! How inconsequent we are, both in our morality, and our principles. We preach up humanity, and yet go every year to bind in chains twenty thousand natives of Africa! We call the Moors barbarians and ruffians, because they attack the liberty of Europeans, at the risk of their own; yet these Europeans go, without danger, and as mere speculators, to purchase slaves, by gratifying the cupidity of their masters; and excite all those bloody scenes which are the usual preliminaries of this traffic! In short, we pride ourselves on the superiority of man, and it is with reason that we discover this superiority, in the wonderful and mysterious unfolding of the intellectual faculties; and yet a trifling difference in the hair of the head, or in the color of the epidermis, is sufficient to change our respect into con-tempt, and to engage us to place beings like ourselves, in the rank of those animals devoid of reason, whom we subject to the yoke; that we may make use of their strength, and of their instinct, at command.

“I am sensible, and I grieve at it, that these reflections which others have made much better than me, are unfortunately of very little use! The necessity of supporting sovereign power has its peculiar laws, and the wealth of nations is one of the foundations of this power. Thus the sovereign who should be the most thoroughly convinced of what is due to humanity, would not singly renounce the service of slaves in his colonies; time alone could furnish a population of free people to replace them, and the great difference that would exist in the price of labor, would give so great an advantage to the nation that should adhere to the old custom, that the others would soon be discouraged in wishing to be more virtuous. And yet, would it be a chi¬merical project to propose a general compact, by which all the European nations should unanimously agree to abandon the traffic of African slaves! They would in that case, find themselves exactly in the same proportion relative to each other as at present; for it is only on comparative riches that the calculations of power are founded.

“We cannot as yet indulge such hopes; statesmen in general, think that every common idea must be a low one; and since the morals of private people stand in need of being curbed, and maintained by the laws, we ought not to wonder, if those of sovereigns conform to their independence.

“The time may nevertheless arrive, when, fatigued of that ambition which agitates them, and of the continual rotation of the same anxieties, and the same plans, they may turn their views to the great principles of humanity; and if the present generation is to be witness of this happy revo¬lution, they may at least be allowed to be unanimous in offering up their vows for the perfection of the social virtues, and for the progress of public beneficial institutions.” These are the enlarged sentiments of that great man.

Permit me to make a single observation in this place on the restraints placed on the state governments. If only the following lines were inserted in this Constitution, I think it would be worth our adoption: “No state shall hereafter emit bills of credit; make any thing, but gold and silver coin, a tender in payment of debts; pass any bills of attainder; ex post facto law; or law impairing the obligation of contracts.” Fatal experience has taught us, dearly taught us, the value of these restraints. What is the consequence even at this moment? It is true we have no tender law in Pennsylvania; but the moment you are conveyed across the Delaware you find it haunts your jour¬ney and follows close upon your heels. The paper passes commonly at twenty-five or thirty percent discount. How insecure is property!

These are a few of those properties in this system, that I think recommend it to our serious attention, and will entitle it to receive the adoption of the United States. Others might be enumerated, and others still will probably be disclosed by experience.

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