Observations on the new Constitution, and on the foederal and state conventions. By a Columbian patriot. ; Sic transit gloria Americana.
Warren, Mercy Otis, 1728-1814., Gerry, Elbridge, 1744-1814.
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OBSERVATIONS ON THE New CONSTITUTION, AND ON THE FOEDERAL AND STATE CONVENTIONS.

BY A COLUMBIAN PATRIOT.

SIC TRANSIT GLORIA AMERICANA.

BOSTON PRINTED, NEW-YORK RE-PRINTED, M,DCC,LXXX,VIII.

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OBSERVATIONS, &c.

MANKIND may amuse themselves with theoretic systems of liberty, and trace its social and moral effects on sciences, virtue, industry, and every improve|ment of which the human mind is capable; but we can only discern its true value by the practical and wretched effects of slavery; and thus dreadfully will they be realiz|ed when the inhabitants of the Eastern States are dragging out a miserable existence only on the gleanings of their fields; and the Southern, blessed with a softer and more fertile climate, are languishing in hopeless poverty; and when asked, what is become of the flower of their crop, and the rich produce of their farms—they may answer in the hapless stile of the Man of La Mancha—"The stew|ard of my Lord has seized and sent it to Madrid."—Or, in the moral literal language of truth—the exigencies of government require, that the collectors of the revenue should transmit it to the Federal City.

Animated with the firmest zeal for the interest of this country, the peace and union of the American States, and the freedom and happiness of a people who have made the most costly sacrifices in the cause of liberty—who have braved the power of Britain, weathered the convul|sions of war, and waded through the blood of friends and foes to establish their independence, and to support the freedom of the human mind, I cannot silently witness this degradation without calling on them, before they are com|pelled to blush at their own servitude, and to turn back their languid eyes on their lost liberties—to c••sider, that the character of nations generally changes at the moment of revolution. And when patriotism is discountenanced, and public virtue becomes the ridicule of the sycophant— when every man of liberality, firmness, and penetration, who cannot lick the hand stretched out to oppress, is deemed an enemy to the State—then is the gulph of des|otism set open, and the grades to slavery, though rapid, Page  4 are scarce perceptible—then genius drags heavily its iron chain—science is neglected, and real merit flies to the shades for security from reproach—the mind becomes enervated, and the national character sinks to a kind of apathy, with only energy sufficient to curse the breast that gave it milk, and as an elegant writer observes, "To be|wail every new birth as an encrease of misery, under a government where the mind is necessarily debased, and talents are seduced to become the panegyrists of usurpa|tion and tyranny." He adds, "That even sedition is not the most indubitable enemy to the public welfare; but that its most dreadful foe is despotism, which always changes the character of nations for the worse, and is pro|ductive of nothing but vice; that the tyrant no longer ex|cites to the pursuits of glory or virtue; it is not talents, it is baseness and servility that he cherishes, and the weight of arbitrary power destroys the spring of emula|tion."* If such is the influence of government on the character and manners, and undoubtedly the observation is just, must we not subscribe to the opinion of the cele|brated Abbe Mable? "That there are disagreeable seasons in the unhappy situation of human affairs, when policy requires both the intention and the power of doing mis|chief to be punished; and that when the senate proscribed the memory of Caesar they ought to have put Anthony to death, and extinguished the hopes of Octavius." Self de|fence is a primary law of nature, which no subsequent law of society can abolish; this primoeval principle, the immediate gift of the Creator, obliges every one to re|monstrate against the strides of ambition, and a wanton lust of domination, and to resist the first approaches of tyranny, which at this day threaten to sweep away the rights for which the brave sons of America have fought with an heroism scarcely paralleled even in ancient repub|lics. It may be repeated, they have purchased it with their blood, and have gloried in their independence with a dignity of spirit which has made them the admiration of philosophy, the pride of America, and the wonder of Europe. It has been observed, with great propriety, that

the virtues and vices of a people, when a revolu|tion happens in their government, are the measure of the liberty or slavery they ought to expect. An heroic Page  5 love for the public good, a profound reverence for the laws, a contempt of riches, and a noble haughtiness of soul, are the only foundations of a free government.
* Do not these dignified principles still exist among us? Or are they extinguished in the breasts of Americans, whose fields have been so recently crimsoned to repel the potent arm of a foreign Monarch, who had planted his ensigns of slavery in every city, with design to erase the vestiges of freedom in this his last asylum. It is yet to be hoped, for the honour of human nature, that no com|binations, either foreign or domestic, have thus darkened this Western hemisphere. On these shores freedom has planted her standard, dipped in the purple tide that flowed from the veins of her martyred heroes; and here every uncorrupted American yet hopes to see it supported by the vigour, the justice, the wisdom, and unanimity of the peo|ple, in spite of the deep-laid plots, the secret intrigues, or the bold effrontery of those interested and avaricious adven|turers for place, who, intoxicated with ideas of distinction and preferment, have prostrated every worthy principle beneath the shrine of ambition. Yet these are the men who tell us, republicanism is dwindled into theory—that we are incapable of enjoying our liberties—and that we must have a master. Let us retrospect the days of our ad|versity, and recollect who were then our friends; do we find them among the sticklers for aristocratic authority? No—they were generally the same men who now wish to save us from the distractions of anarchy on the one hand, and the jaws of tyranny on the other; where then were the class who now come forth importunately urging that our political salvation depends on the adoption of a sys|tem at which freedom spurns? Were not some of them hidden in the corners or obscurity, and others wrapping themselves in the bosom of our enemies for safety? Some of them were in the arms of infancy, and others speculat|ing for fortune, by sporting with public money, while a few, a very few of them were magnanimously defending their country, and raising a character which I pray hea|ven may never be sullied by aiding measures derogatory to their former exertions. But the revolutions in princi|ple which time produces among mankind, frequently ex|hibit the most mortifying instances of human weakness; Page  6 and this alone can account for the extraordinary appear|ance of a few names, once distinguished in the honorable walks of patriotism, but now found on the list of the Massachusetts assent to the ratification of a Constitution, which, by the undefined meaning of some parts, and the ambiguities of expression in others, is dangerously adapt|ed to the purposes of an immediate aristocratic tyranny; that from the difficulty, if not impracticability of its ope|ration, must soon terminate in the most uncontrouled des|potism.

All writers on government agree, and the feelings of the human mind witnesses the truth of these political axioms, that man is born free, and possessed of certain un|alienable rights—that government is instituted for the protection, safety, and happiness of the people, and not for the profit, honour, or private interest of any man, fa|mily, or class of men. That the origin of all power is in the people, and that they have an incontestible right to check the creatures of their own creation, vested with certain powers to guard the life, liberty, and property of the community: And if certain selected bodies of men, deputed on these principles, determine contrary to the wishes and expectations of their constituents, the people have an undoubted right to reject their decisions, to call for a revision of their conduct, to depute others in their room, or, if they think proper, to demand further time for deliberation on matters, of the greatest moment: it there|fore is an unwarrantable stretch of authority or influence, if any methods are taken to preclude this reasonable and peaceful mode of enquiry and decision. And it is with inexpressible anxiety, that many of the best friends to the Union—to the peaceable and equal participation of the rights of nature, and to the glory and dignity of this coun|try, behold the insidious arts, and the strenuous efforts of the partisans of arbitrary power, by their vague defini|tions of the best established truths, endeavouring to en|velope the mind in darkness—the concomitant of slavery; and to lock the strong chains of domestic despotism on a country, which, by the most glorious and successful strug|gles, is but newly emancipated from the sceptre of foreign dominion. But there are certain seasons in the course of human affairs, when Genius, Virtue, and Patriotism, seem to no over the vices of the times, and perhaps never more remarkably than at the present period, or we should not Page  7 see such a passive disposition prevail in some, who we must candidly suppose have liberal and enlarged sentiments; while a supple multitude are paying a blind and idolatrous homage to the opinions of those, who, by the most preci|pitate steps, are treading down their dear-bought privi|leges, and who are endeavouring, by all the arts of insinu|ation and influence, to betray the people of the United States into an acceptance of a most complicated system of government, marked on the one side with the dark, secret, and profound intrigues of the statesman, long practised in the purlieus of despotism; and on the other, with the ideal projects of young ambition, with its wings just ex|panded to soar to a summit which imagination has painted in such gawdy colours as to intoxicate the inexperienced votary, and send him rambling from State to State, to col|lect materials to construct the ladder of preferment.

But as a variety of objections to the heterogeneous phan|tom, have been repeatedly laid before the public, by men of the best abilities and intentions, I will not ex|patiate long on a Republican form of government, found|ed on the principles of monarchy—a democratic branch with the features of aristocracy—and the extravagance of nobility pervading the minds of many of the candidates for office, with the poverty of peasantry hanging heavily on them, and insurmountable, from their taste for expence, unless a generous provision should be made in the arrange|ment of the civil list, which may enable them with the champions of their cause, to "sail down the new Pactolean channel." Some gentlemen, with laboured zeal, have spent much time in urging the necessity of government, from the embarrassments of trade—the want of respectability abroad, and confidence in the public engagements at home: These are obvious truths which no one denies; and there are few who do not unite in the general wish for the restoration of public faith, the revival of commerce, arts, agriculture, and industry, under a lenient, peaceable, and energetic government: But the most sagacious advocates for the par|ty have not, by fair discussion, and rational argumentation, evinced the necessity of adopting this many-headed mon|ster; of such motley mixture, that its enemies cannot trace a feature of Democratic or Republican extract; nor have its friends the courage to denominate it a Monarchy, an Aristocracy, or an Oligarchy, and the favoured bantling must have passed through the short period of its existence Page  8 without a name, had not Mr. Wilson, in the fertility of his genius, suggested the happy epithet of a Federal Republic. But I leave the field of general censure on the secrecy of its birth, the rapidity of its growth, and the fatal conse|quences of suffering it to live to the age of maturity, and will particularize some of the most weighty objections to its passing through this continent in a gigantic size.—It will be allowed by every one, that the fundamental princi|ple of a free government, is the equal representation of a free people.—And I will first observe with a justly ce|lebrated writer,

That the principle aim of society is to protect individuals in the absolute rights which were vested in them by the immediate laws of nature, but which could not be preserved in peace, without the mutual intercourse which is gained by the institution of friendly and social communities.
—And when society has thus deputed a certain number of their equals to take care of their personal rights, and the interest of the whole community, it must be considered that responsibility is the great security of integrity and honour; and that annual e|lection is the basis of responsibility.—Man is not immedi|ately corrupted, but power, without limitation, or amean|ability, may endanger the brightest virtue—whereas a fre|quent return to the bar of their constituents is the strong|est check against the corruptions to which men are liable, either from the intrigues of others of more subtil genius, or the propensities of their own hearts—and the gentlemen who have so warmly advocated in the late Convention of the Massachusetts, the change from annual to biennial elec|tions; may have been in the same predicament, and per|haps with the same views that Mr. Hutchinson once ac|knowledged himself, when in a letter to Lord Hillsborough he observed,
that the grand difficulty of making a change in government against the general bent of the people had caused him to turn his thoughts to a variety of plans, in order to find one that might be executed in spite of opposition,
and the first he proposed was, that "instead of annual, the elections should be only once in three years:" But the minister had not the hardiness to attempt such an innovation, even in the revision of colonial char|ters: Nor has any one ever defended biennial, triennial, or septennial elections, either in the British house of com|mons, or in the debates of provincial assemblies, on general and free principles: But it is unnecessary to dwell long on this article, as the best political wri|ters Page  9 have supported the principles of annual elections with a precision that cannot be confuted, though they may be darkened by the sophistical arguments that have been thrown out with design, to undermine all the barriers of freedom.

2. There is no security in the profered system, either for the rights of conscience, or the liberty of the press:— Despotism usually, while it is gaining ground; will suffer men to think, say, or write what they please; but when once established, if it is thought necessary to subserve the purposes of arbitrary power, the most unjust restrictions may take place in the first instance, and an imprimator on the press in the next, may silence the complaints, and for|bid the most decent remonstrances of an injured and op|pressed people.

3. There are no well defined limits of the judiciary powers, they seem to be left as a boundless ocean, that has broken over the chart of the supreme lawgiver, "thus far shalt thou go and no farther," and as they cannot be com|prehended by the clearest capacity, or the most sagacious mind, it would be an Herculean labour to attempt to de|scribe the dangers with which they are replete.

4. The executive and the legislative are so dangerously blended as to give just cause of alarm, and every thing re|lative thereto, is couched in such ambiguous terms—in such vague and indefinite expressions, as is a sufficient ground without any other objection, for the reprobation of a system, that the authors dare not hazard to a clear in|vestigation.

5. The abolition of trial by jury in civil causes.—This mode of trial, the learned judge Blackstone observes,

has been coeval with the first rudiments of civil govern|ment, that property, liberty and life, depend on main|taining in its legal force the constitutional trial by jury.
He bids his readers pause, and with Sir Matthew Hale observes, how admirably this mode is adapted to the in|vestigation of truth beyond any other the world can pro|duce. Even the party who have been disposed to swallow without examination, the proposals of the secret conclave, have started on a discovery that this essential right was curtailed▪ and shall a privilege, the origin of which may be traced to our Saxon ancestors—that has been a part of the law of nations, even in the seudatory systems of France, Germany, and Italy—and from the earliest records has Page  10 been held so sacred, both in ancient and modern Britain, that it could never be shaken by the introduction of Nor|man customs, or any other conquests or chance of govern|ment —shall this inestimable privilege be relinquished in America—either through the fear of inquisition for unac|counted thousands of public monies in the hands of some who have been officious in the fabrication of the consolidat|ed system, or from the apprehension that some future delin|quent, possessed of more power than integrity, may be cal|led to a trial by his peers in the hour of investigation?

6. Though it has been said by Mr. Wilson, and many others, that a standing army is necessary for the dignity and safety of America, yet freedom revolts at the idea, when the Divan, or the despot, may draw out his dragoons to suppress the murmurs of a few, who may yet cherish those sublime principles which call forth the exertions, and lead to the best improvment of the human mind. It is hoped this country may yet be governed by milder methods than are usually displayed beneath the bannerets of military law. Standing armies have been the nursery of vice, and the bane of liberty, from the Roman legions, to the establish|ment of the artful Ximenes, and from the ruin of the Cor|tes of Spain, to the planting the British Cohorts in the ca|pitals of America.—By the edicts of authority vested in the sovereign power by the proposed constitution, the mi|litia of the country, the bulwark of defence, and the secu|rity of national liberty, is no longer under the controul of civil authority; but at the rescript of the monarch, or the aristocracy, they may either be employed to extort the enormous sums that will be necessary to support the civil list—to maintain the regalia of power—and the splendour of the most useless part of the community, or they may be sent into foreign countries for the fulfilment of treaties, stipulated by the president and two thirds of the senate.

7. Notwithstanding the delusory promise to guarantee a republican form of government to every state in the uni|on —if the most discerning eye could discover any mean|ing at all in the engagement, there are no resources left for the support of internal government, or the liquidation of the debts of the state. Every source of revenue is in the monopoly of Congress, and if the several legislatures in their enfeebled state, should against their own feelings be necessitated to attempt a dry tax for the payment of their debts, and the support of internal police, even this may Page  11 be required for the purposes of the general government.

8. As the new Congress are impowered to determine their own salaries, the requisitions for this purpose may not be very moderate, and the drain for public monies will probably rise past all calculation; and it is to be fear|ed, when America has consolidated its despotism, the world will witness the truth of the assertion—

that the pomp of an eastern monarch may impose on the vulgar who may estimate the force of a nation by the magnificence of its palaces; but the wise man judges differently, it is by that very magnificence he estimates its weakness. He sees nothing more in the midst of this imposing pomp, where the tyrant sets enthroned, than a sumptuous and mournful decoration of the dead; the aparatus of a fas|tuous funeral, in the centre of which is a cold and life|less lump of unanimated earth, a phantom of power rea|dy to disappear before the enemy, by whom it is de|spised!

9. There is no provision for a rotation, nor any thing to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done, to the exclusion of men of the best abilities from their share in the offices of government.—By this neglect we lose the advantages of that check to the overbearing in|solence of office, which by rendering him ineligible at cer|tain periods, keeps the mind of man in equilibrio, and teaches him the feelings of the governed, and better qua|lifies him to govern in his turn.

10. The inhabitants of the United States, are liable to be dragged from the vicinity of their own county, or state, to answer to the litigious or unjust suit of an adversary, on the most distant borders of the continent: In short, the appel|late jurisdiction of the supreme federal court, includes an unwarrantable stretch of power over the liberty, life, and property of the subject, through the wide continent of America.

11. One representative to thirty thousand inhabitants is a very inadequate representation; and every man who is not lost to all sense of freedom to his country, must repro|bate the idea of Congress altering by law, or on any pre|tence whatever interfering with any regulations for the time, places, and manner of choosing our own repre|sentatives.

12. If the sovereignty of America is designed to be elec|tive, Page  12 the circumscribing the votes to only ten electors in this state, and the same proportion in all the others, is nearly tantamount to the exclusion of the voice of the peo|ple in the choice of their first magistrate. It is vesting the choice solely in an aristocratic junto, who may easily com|bine in each state to place at the head of the union the most convenient instrument for despotic sway.

13. A senate chosen for six years, will in most instances, be an appointment for life, as the influence of such a body over the minds of the people, will be coeval to the exten|sive powers with which they are vested, and they will not only forget, but be forgotten by their constituents; a branch of the supreme legislature thus set beyond all responsibility, is totally repugnant to every principle of a free govern|ment.

14. There is no provision by a bill of rights to guard gainst the dangerous encroachments of power in too many instances to be named: But I cannot pass over in silence the insecurity in which we are left with regard to warrants unsupported by evidence—the daring experiment of grant|ing writs of assistance in a former arbitrary administration is not yet forgotten in the Massachusetts; nor can we be so ungrateful to the memory of the patriots who counteracted their operation, as so soon after their manly exertions to save us from such a detestable instrument of arbitrary pow|er, to subject ourselves to the insolence of any petty reve|nue officer to enter our houses, search, insult, and seize at pleasure. We are told by a gentlemen of too much virtue and real probity to suspect he has a design to deceive— "that the whole constitution is a declaration of rights,"— but mankind must think for themselves, and to many ve|ry judicious and discerning characters, the whole consti|tution, with very few exceptions, appears a perversion of the rights of particular states, and of private citizens—But the gentlemen goes on to tell us,

that the primary object is the general government, and that the rights of indi|viduals are only incidentally mentioned, and that there was a clear impropriety in being very particular about them.
But, asking pardon for dissenting from such re|spectable authority, who has been led into several mistakes, more from his predilection in favour of certain modes of governmens, than from a want of understanding or vera|city, the rights of individuals ought to be the primary object of all government, and cannot be too securely guard|ed Page  13 by the most explicit declarations in their favour. This has been the opinion of the Hampdens, the Pyms, and ma|ny other illustrious names, that have stood forth in the de|fence of English liberties; and even the Italian master of politics, the subtil and renowned Machiavel acknow|ledges, that no republic ever yet stood on a stable founda|tion without satisfying the common people.

15. The difficulty, if not impracticability, of exercising the equal and equitable powers of government by a single legislature over an extent of territory that reaches from the Missisippi to the western lakes, and from them to the At|lantic ocean, is an insuperable objection to the adoption of the new system.—Mr. Hutchinson, the great champion for arbitrary power, in the multitude of his machinations to subvert the liberties of this country, was obliged to ac|knowledge in one of his letters, that "from the extent of country from north to south, the scheme of one govern|ment was impracticable." But if the authors of the present visionary project, can by the arts of deception, precipita|tion and address, obtain a majority of suffrages in the con|ventions of the states to try the hazardous experiment, they may then make the same inglorious boast with this insidious politician, who may perhaps be their model, that "the union of the colonies was pretty well broken, and that he hoped never to see it renewed."

16. It is an indisputed fact, that not one legislature in the United States had the most distant idea when they first appointed members for a convention, entirely commercial, or when they afterwards authorised them to consider on some amendments of the federal union, that they would, without any warrant from their constituents, presume on so bold and daring a stride, as ultimately to destroy the state governments, and offer a consolidated system, irrever|sible but on conditions that the smallest degree of penetra|tion must discover to be impracticable.

17. The first appearance of the article which declares the ratification of nine states sufficient for the establishment of the new system, wears the face of dissention, is a sub|version of the union of the consederated states, and tends to the introduction of anarchy and civil convulsions,— and may be a means of involving the whole country in blood.

18. The mode in which this constitution is recommend|ed to the people to judge without either the advice of Con|gress, Page  14 or the legislatures of the several states, is very repre|hensible —it is an attempt to force it upon them before it could be thoroughly understood, and may leave us in that situation, that in the first moments of slavery the minds of the people, agitated by the remembrance of their lost liber|ties, will be like the sea in a tempest, that sweeps down every mound of security.

But it is needless to enumerate other instances, in which the proposed constitution appears contradictory to the first principles which ought to govern mankind; and it is equally so to enquire into the motives that induced to so bold a step as the annihilation of the independence and so|vereignty of the thirteen distinct states.—They are but too obvious through the whole progress o the business, from the first shutting up the doors of the Federal Convention, and resolving that no member should correspond with gen|tlemen in the different states on the subject under discussi|on; till the trivial proposition of recommending a few amendments was artfully ushered into the convention of the Massachusetts. The questions that were then before that honourable assembly were profound and important, they were of such magnitude and extent, that the consequences may run parallel with the existence of the country; and to see them waved and hastily terminated by a measure too absurd to require a serious refutation, raises the honest in|dignation of every true lover of his country. Nor are they less grieved that the ill policy and arbitrary dispositi|on of some of the sons of America, has thus precipitated to the contemplation and discussion of questions that no one could rationally suppose would have been agitated mong us, till time had blotted out the principles on which the late revolution was grounded; or till the last traits of the many political tracts, which defended the separation from Britain, and the rights of men were consigned to 〈◊〉 oblivion. After the severe conflicts this coun|try has suffered, it is presumed, that they are disposed to make every reasonable sacrifice before the altar of peace. But when we contemplate the nature of men, and consider them originally on an equal footing, subject to the same feelings, stimulated by the same passions, and recollecting the struggles they have recently made, for the security of their civil rights; it cannot be expected that the inhabit|ants of the Massachusetts, can be easily lulled into a fatal security, by the declamatory effusions of gentlemen, who, Page  15 contrary to the experience of all ages, would persuade them there is no danger to be apprehended from vesting discretionary powers in the hands of man, which he may, or may not abuse. The very suggestion, that we ought to trust to the precarious hope of amendments and redress, af|ter we have voluntarily fixed the shackles on our own necks, should have awakened to a double degree of cau|tion. —This people have not forgotten the artful insinuati|ons of a former governor, when pleading the unlimited authority of parliament before the legislature of the Mas|sachusetts; nor that his arguments were very similar to some lately urged by gentlemen who boast of opposing his measures, "with halters about their necks."

We were then told by him, in all the soft language of insinuation, that no form of government of human con|struction can be perfect—that we had nothing to fear— that we had no reason to complain—that we had only to acquiesce in their illegal claims, and to submit to the re|quisitions of parliament, and doubtless the lenient hand of government would redress all grievances, and remove the oppressions of the people:—Yet we soon saw armies of mercenaries encamped on our plains—our commerce ru|ined —our harbours blockaded—and our cities burnt. It may be replied, that this was in consequence of an obsti|nate defence of our privileges; this may be true, and when the "ultima ratio" is called to aid, the weakest must fall. But let the best informed historian produce an instance, when bodies of men were entrusted with power, and the proper checks relinquished, if they were ever found desti|tute of ingenuity sufficient to furnish pretences to abuse it. And the people at large are already sensible, that the liber|ties which America has claimed, which reason has justifi|ed, and which have been so gloriously defended by the sword of the brave, are not about to fall before the tyran|ny of foreign conquest; it is native usurpation that is shak|ing the foundations of peace, and spreading the sable cur|tain of despotism over the United States. The banners of freedom were erected in the wilds of America by our an|cestors, while the wolf prowled for his prey on the one hand, and more savage man on the other; they have been since rescued from the invading hand of foreign power, by the valor and blood of their posterity; and there was reason to hope they would continue for ages to illumine a quarter of the globe, by nature kindly separated from the Page  16 proud monarchies of Europe, and the infernal darkness of Asiatic slavery.

And it is to be feared, we shall soon see this country rushing into the extremes of confusion and violence, in consequence of the proceedings of a set of gentlemen, who, disregarding the purposes of their appointment, have assumed powers unauthorised by any commission, have unnecessarily rejected the consederation of the United States, and annihilated the sovereignty and independence of the individual governments. The causes which have inspired a few men, assembled for very different purposes, with such a degree of temerity as to break with a single stroke the union of America, and disseminate the seeds of discord through the land, may be easily investigated, when we survey the partizans of monarchy in the State Con|ventions, urging the adoption of a mode of government that militates with the former professions and exertions of this country, and with all ideas of republicanism, and the equal rights of men.

Passion, prejudice, and error are characteristics of hu|man nature; and as it cannot be accounted for on any principles of philosophy, religion, or good policy, to these shades in the human character must be attributed the mad zeal of some to precipitate to a blind adoption of the mea|sures of the late federal convention, without giving oppor|tunity for better information to those who are misled by influence or ignorance into erroneous opinions. Literary talents may be prostituted, and the powers of genius de|based to subserve the purposes of ambition or avarice; but the feelings of the heart will dictate the language of truth, and the simplicity of her accents will proclaim the infamy of those who betray the rights of the people, under the specious and popular pretence of justice, consolidation, and dignity.

It is presumed the great body of the people unite in sen|timent with the writer of these observations, who most de|voutly prays, that public credit may rear her declining head, and remunerative justice pervade the land; nor is there a doubt, if a free government is continued, that time and industry will enable both the public and private debtor to liquidate their arrearages in the most equitable manner. They wish to see the Confederated States bound together by the most indissoluble union, but without re|nouncing their several sovereignties and independence, Page  17 and becoming tributaries to a consolidated fabric of aristo|cratic tyranny. They wish to see government established, and peaceably holding the reins with honour, energy, and dignity; but they wish for no federal city, whose "cloud cap'd towers" may screen the state culprit from the hand of justice; while its exclusive jurisdiction may protect the riot of armies encamped within its limits. They depre|cate discord and civil convulsions, but they are not yet ge|nerally prepared, with the ungrateful Israelites, to ask a King, nor are their spirits sufficiently broken to yield the best of their olive grounds to his servants, and to see their sons appointed to run before his chariots. It has been observed, by a zealous advocate for the new system, that most governments are the result of fraud or violence, and this with a view to recommend its acceptance; but has not almost every step towards its fabrication been fraudu|lent in the extreme? Did not the prohibition, strictly en|joined by the general Convention, that no member should make any communication to his constituents, or to gentle|men of consideration and abilities in the other States, bear evident marks of fraudulent designs? This circumstance is regretted in strong terms by Mr. Martin, a member from Maryland, who acknowledges

he had no idea that all the wisdom, integrity, and virtue of the States was con|tained in that Convention, and that he wished to have corresponded with gentlemen of eminent political cha|racters abroad, and give their sentiments due weight.
He adds,
so extremely solicitous were they, that their proceedings should not transpire, that the members were prohibited from taking copies of their resolutions, or extracts from the journals, without express permission, by vote.
And the hurry with which it has been urged to the acceptance of the people, without giving time, by adjournments, for better information and more unanimity, has a deceptive appearance; and if finally driven to re|sistance, as the only alternative between that and servi|tude, till in the confusion of discord, the reins should be seized by the violence of some enterprising genius, that may sweep down the last barrier of liberty, it must be added to the score of criminality with which the fraudu|lent usurpation at Philadelphia may be chargeable. Hea|ven avert such a tremendous scene! and let us still hope a more happy termination of the present ferment:—may the people be calm, and wait a legal redress; may the mad Page  18 transport of some of our infatuated capitals subside; and every influential character through the States, make the most prudent exertions for a new general Convention, who may vest adequate powers in Congress for all nation|al purposes, without annihilating the individual govern|ments, and drawing blood from every pore by taxes, im|positions, and illegal restrictions. This step might again re-establish the Union, restore tranquility to the ruffled mind of the inhabitants, and save America from distresses dreadful even in contemplation.
The great art of go|verning is to lay aside all prejudices and attachments to particular opinions, classes, or individual characters; to consult the spirit of the people; to give way to it; and, in so doing, to give it a turn capable of inspiring those sentiments which may induce them to relish a change which an alteration of circumstances may here|after make necessary.
The education of the advocates for monarchy should have taught them, and their me|mory should have suggested, that
monarchy is a species of government fit only for a people too much corrupt|ed by luxury, avarice, and a passion for pleasure, to have any love for their country, and whose vices the fear of punishment alone is able to restrain; but by no means calculated for a nation that is poor, and at the same time tenacious of their liberty—animated with a disgust of tyranny—and inspired with the generous feel|ings of patriotism and liberty, and at the same time, like the ancient Spartans, have been hardened by tem|perence and manly exertions, and equally despising the fatigues of the field, and the fear of enemies;
—and while they change their ground they should recollect, that Aristocracy is still a more formidable foe to public virtue, and the prosperity of a nation—that under such a govern|ment her patriots become mercenaries—her soldiers cow|ards, and the people 〈◊〉. Though several State Con|ventions have assented to, and ratified, yet the voice of the people appears at present strong against the adoption of the Constitution. By the chicanery, intrigue, and false colouring of those who plume themselves more on their education and abilities, than their political, patriotic, or private virtues—by the imbecility of some, and the dupli|city of others, a majority of the Convention of Massachu|setts have been flattered with the ideas of amendments when it will be too late to complain—While several Page  19 very worthy characters, too timid for their situation, magni|fied the hopeless alternative between the dissolution of the bands of all government, and receiving the proffered sys|tem in toto, after long endeavouring to reconcile it to their consciences, swallowed the indigestible pnacea, and, in a kind of sudden desparation, lent their signature to the de|relection of the honourable station they held in the Uni|on, and have broken over the solemn compact by which they were bound to support their own excellent constitu|tion, till the period of revision. Yet Virginia, equally large and respectable, and who have done honour to them|selves by their vigourous exertions from the first dawn of independence, have not yet acted upon the question; they have wisely taken time to consider, before they introduce innovations of a most dangerous nature. Her inhabitants are brave, her burgesses are free, and they have a Gover|nor who dares to think for himself, and to speak his opi|nion (without first pouring libations on the altar of popu|larity) though it should militate with some of the most ac|complished and illustrious characters.

Maryland, who has no local interest to lead her to adopt, will doubtless reject the system. I hope the same characters still live, and that the same spirit which dictated to them a wise and cautious care against sudden revoluti|ons in government, and made them the last State that ac|ceded to the independence of America, will lead them to support what they so deliberately claimed: Georgia, ap|prehensive of a war with the Savages, has acceded, in or|der to insure protection. Pennsylvania has struggled through much in the same manner as the Massachusetts, against the manly feelings and masterly reasonings of a very respectable part of the Convention: They have adopted the system, and seen some of its authors burnt in effigy—their towns thrown into riot and confusion, and the minds of the people agitated by apprehension and dis|cord.

New-Jersey and Delaware have united in the measure from the locality of their situation, and the selfish motives which too generally govern mankind. The Federal Ci|ty and the seat of government will naturally attract the in|tercourse of strangers, the youth of enterprise, and the wealth of the nation to the central States.

Connecticut has pushed it through with the precipita|tion of her neighbour, with few dissentient voices; but Page  20 more from irritation and resentment to a sister State, per|haps partiality to herself in her commercial regulations, than from a comprehensive view of the system as a regard to the welfare of all. But New-York has motives that will undoubtedly lead her to a rejection, without being afraid to appeal to the understanding of mankind to justi|fy the grounds of their refusal to adopt a Constitution, that even the framers dare not risque to the hazard of re|vision, amendment, or reconsideration, last the whole su|perstructure should be demolished by more skilful and dis|creet architects. I know not what part the Caro••nas will take; but I hope their determinations will comport with the dignity and freedom of this country: their de|cisions will have great weight in the scale. But equally important are the small States of New-Hampshire and Rhode-Island:—New-York, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and these two lesser States, may yet support the liberties of the continent. If they refuse a ratification, or postpone their proceedings till the spirits of the commu|nity have time to cool, there is little doubt but the wise measures of another Federal Convention will be adopted, when the members would have the advantage of viewing at large, through the medium of truth, the objections that have been made from various quarters; such a measure might be attended with the most salutary effects, and pre|vent the dread consequences of civil feuds. But even if some of those large states should hastily accede, yet we have frequently seen, in the story of revolution, relief spring from a quarter least expected.

Though the virtues of a Cato could not save Rome, nor the abilities of a Padilla defend the citizens of Castile from falling under the yoke of Charles, yet a Tell once suddenly rose from a little obscure city, and boldly rescued the liberties of his country. Every age has its Bruti and its Decii, as well as its Caesars and Sejani. The happiness of mankind depends much on the modes of government and the virtues of the governors; and America may yet produce characters who have genius and capacity suffici|ent to form the manners and correct the morals of the peo|ple, and virtue enough to lead their country to freedom. Since her dismemberment from the British empire, Ame|rica has, in many instances, resembled the conduct of a restless, vigorous, luxurious youth, prematurely emanci|pated from the authority of a parent, but without the ex|perience Page  21 necessary to direct him to act with dignity or dis|cretion. Thus we have seen her break the shackles of foreign dominion, and all the blessings of peace restored on the most honourable terms. She acquired the liberty of framing her own laws, choosing her own magistrates, and adopting manners and modes of government the most favourable to the freedom and happiness of society. But how little have we availed ourselves of these superior ad|vantages: The glorious fabric of liberty, successfully rear|ed with so much labour and assiduity, totters to the foun|dation, and may be blown away, as the bubble of fancy, by the rude breath of military combinations, and the po|liticians of yesterday.

It is true this country lately armed in opposition to re|gal despotism—impoverished by the expences of a long war, and unable immediately to fulfil their public or pri|vate engagements, have appeared in some instances with a boldness of spirit that seemed to set at defiance all autho|rity, government, or order, on the one hand, while on the other, there has been not only a secret wish, but an open avowal of the necessity of drawing the reins of govern|ment much too taught, not only for republicanism, but for a wise and limited monarchy. But the character of this people is not averse to a degree of subordination: the truth of this appears from the easy restoration of tranqui|lity, after a dangerous insurrection in one of the states; this also evinces the little necessity of a complete revolu|tion of government throughout the Union. But it is a republican principle, that the majority should rule; and if a spirit of moderation could be cultivated on both sides, till the voice of the people at large could be fairly heard, it should be held sacred: And if, on such a scrutiny, the proposed constitution should appear repugnant to their character and wishes—if they, in the language of a late elegant pen, should acknowledge that

no confusion, in my mind, is more terrible to them, than the stern disciplined regularity and vaunted police of arbitrary governments, where every heart is depraved by fear, where mankind dare not assume their natural characters, where the free spirit must crouch to the slave in office, where genius must repress her effusions, or, like the Egyptian wor|shippers, offer them in sacrifice to the calves in power, and where the human mind, always in shackles, shrinks from every generous effort.
Who would then have Page  22 the effrontery to say, it ought not to be thrown out with indignation, however some respectable names have ap|peared to support it. But if after all, on a dispassionate and fair discussion, the people generally give their voice for a voluntary dereliction of their privileges, let every individual, who chooses the active scenes of life, strive to support the peace and unanimity of his country, though every other blessing may expire; and while the statesman is plodding for power, and the courtier practising the arts of dissimulation without check; while the rapacious are growing rich by oppression, and fortune throwing her gifts into the lap of fools, let the sublimer characters, the philosophic lovers of freedom, who have wept over her exit, retire to the calm shades of contemplation; there they may look down with pity on the inconsistency of human nature, the revolutions of states, the rise of king|doms, and the fall of empires.

FINIS.