STUDIES IN AMERICAN POLITICAL HISTORY
Edited with Introduction by Alexander Johnston
Reedited by James Albert Woodburn
Volume I (of 4)
THE FORMATION OF THE CONSTITUTION
III.-THE RISE OF DEMOCRACY.
IV.—THE RISE OF NATIONALITY.
ROBERT Y. HAYNE
JOHN C. CALHOUN
THOMAS H. BENTON
LIST OF PORTRAITS.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON — Frontispiece From a painting by COL. J. TRUMBULL.
PATRICK HENRY From a painting by JAMES B. LONGACRE.
SAMUEL ADAMS From a steel engraving.
JAMES MADISON From a painting by GILBERT STUART.
FISHER AMES From a painting by GILBERT STUART.
THOMAS JEFFERSON From a painting by GILBERT STUART.
PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION.
In offering to the public a revised edition of Professor Johnston's American Eloquence, a brief statement may be permitted of the changes and additions involved in the revision. In consideration of the favor with which the compilation of Professor Johnston had been received, and of its value to all who are interested in the study of American history, the present editor has deemed it wise to make as few omissions as possible from the former volumes. The changes have been chiefly in the way of additions. The omission, from the first volume, of Washington's Inaugural and President Nott's oration on the death of Hamilton is the result, not of a depreciation of the value of these, but of a desire to utilize the space with selections and subjects which are deemed more directly valuable as studies in American political history. Madison's speech on the adoption of the Constitution, made before the Virginia Convention, is substituted for one of Patrick Henry's on the same occasion. Madison's is a much more valuable discussion of the issues and principles involved, and, besides, the volume has the advantage of Henry's eloquence when he was at his best, at the opening of the American Revolution. In compensation for the omissions there are added selections, one each from Otis, Samuel Adams, Gallatin, and Benton. The completed first volume, therefore, offers to the student of American political history chapters from the life and work of sixteen representative orators and statesmen of America.
In addition to the changes made in the selections, the editor has added brief biographical sketches, references, and textual and historical notes which, it is hoped, will add to the educational value of the volumes, as well as to the interest and intelligence with which the casual reader may peruse the speeches.
As a teacher of American history, I have found no more luminous texts on our political history than the speeches of the great men who have been able, in their discussions of public questions, to place before us a contemporary record of the history which they themselves were helping to make. To the careful student the secondary authorities can never supply the place of the great productions, the messages and speeches, which historic occasions have called forth. The earnest historical reader will approach these orations, not with the design of regarding then merely as specimens of eloquence or as studies in language, but as indicating the great subjects and occasions of our political history and the spirit and motives of the great leaders of that history. The orations lead the student to a review of the great struggles in which the authors were engaged, and to new interest in the science of government from the utterances and permanent productions of master participants in great political controversies. Certainly, there is no text-book in political science more valuable than the best productions of great statesmen, as reflecting the ideas of those who have done most to make political history.
With these ideas in mind, the editor has added rather extensive historical notes, with the purpose of suggesting the use of the speeches as the basis of historical study, and of indicating other similar sources for investigation. These notes, together with explanations of any obscurities in the text, and other suggestions for study, will serve to indicate the educational value of the volumes; and it is hoped that they may lead many teachers and students to see in these orations a text suitable as a guide to valuable studies in American political history.
The omissions of parts of the speeches, made necessary by the exigencies of space, consist chiefly of those portions which were but of temporary interest and importance, and which would not be found essential to an understanding of the subject in hand. The omissions, however, have always been indicated so as not to mislead the reader, and in most instances the substance of the omissions has been indicated in the notes.
The general division of the work has been retained: 1. Colonialism, to 1789. Constitutional Government, to 1801. 3. The Rise of Democracy, to 1815. 4. The Rise of Nationality, to 1840. 5. The Slavery Struggle, to 1860. 6. Secession and Civil War, to 1865. The extension of the studies covering these periods, by the addition of much new material has made necessary the addition of a fourth volume, which embraces the general subjects, (1) Reconstruction; (2) Free Trade and Protection; (3) Finance; (4) Civil-Service Reform. Professor Johnston's valuable introductions to the several sections have been substantially retained.
By the revision, the volumes will be confined entirely to political oratory. Literature and religion have, each in its place, called forth worthy utterances in American oratory. These, certainly, have an important place in the study of our national life. But it has been deemed advisable to limit the scope of these volumes to that field of history which Mr. Freeman has called "past politics,"—to the process by which Americans, past and present, have built and conducted their state. The study of the state, its rise, its organization, and its development, is, after all, the richest field for the student and reader of history. "History." says Professor Seeley, "may be defined as the biography of states. To study history thus is to study politics at the same time. If history is not merely eloquent writing, but a serious scientific investigation, and if we are to consider that it is not mere anthropology or sociology, but a science of states, then the study of history is absolutely the study of politics." It is into this great field of history that these volumes would direct the reader.
No American scholar had done more, before his untimely death, than the original editor of these orations, to cultivate among Americans an intelligent study of our politics and political history. These volumes, which he designed, are a worthy memorial of his appreciation of the value to American students of the best specimens of our political oratory.
J. A. W.
All authorities are agreed that the political history of the United States, beyond much that is feeble or poor in quality, has given to the English language very many of its most finished and most persuasive specimens of oratory. It is natural that oratory should be a power in a republic; but, in the American republic, the force of institutions has been reinforced by that of a language which is peculiarly adapted to the display of eloquence. Collections of American orations have been numerous and useful, but the copiousness of the material has always proved a source of embarrassment. Where the supply is so abundant, it is exceedingly difficult to make selections on any exact system, and yet impossible to include all that has a fair claim to the distinctive stamp of oratory. The results have been that our collections of public speeches have proved either unsatisfactory or unreasonably voluminous.
The design which has controlled the present collection has been to make such selections from the great orations of American history as shall show most clearly the spirit and motives which have actuated its leaders, and to connect them by a thread of commentary which shall convey the practical results of the conflicts of opinion revealed in the selections. In the execution of such a work much must be allowed for personal limitations; that which would seem representative to one would not seem at all representative to others. It will not be difficult to mark omissions, some of which may seem to mar the completeness of the work very materially; the only claim advanced is that the work has been done with a consistent desire to show the best side of all lines of thought which have seriously modified the course of American history. Some great names will be missed from the list of orators, and some great addresses from the list of orations; the apology for their omission is that they have not seemed to be so closely related to the current of American history or so operative upon its course as to demand their insertion. Any errors under this head have occurred in spite of careful consideration and anxious desire to be scrupulously impartial.
Very many of the orations selected have been condensed by the omission of portions which had no relevancy to the purpose in hand, or were of only a temporary interest and importance. Such omissions have been indicated, so that the reader need not be misled, while the effort has been made to so manage the omissions as to maintain a complete logical connection among the parts which have been put to use. A tempting method of preserving such a connection is, of course, the insertion of words or sentences which the speaker might have used, though he did not; but such a method seemed too dangerous and possibly too misleading, and it has been carefully avoided. None of the selections contain a word of foreign matter, with the exception of one of Randolph's speeches and Mr. Beecher's Liverpool speech, where the matter inserted has been taken from the only available report, and is not likely to mislead the reader. For very much the same reason, footnotes have been avoided, and the speakers have been left to speak for themselves.
Such a process of omission will reveal to any one who undertakes it an underlying characteristic of our later, as distinguished from our earlier, oratory. The careful elaboration of the parts, the restraint of each topic treated to its appropriate part, and the systematic development of the parts into a symmetrical whole, are as markedly present in the latter as they are absent in the former. The process of selection has therefore been progressively more difficult as the subject-matter has approached contemporary times. In our earlier orations, the distinction and separate treatment of the parts is so carefully observed that it has been comparatively an easy task to seize and appropriate the parts especially desirable. In our later orations, with some exceptions, there is an evidently decreasing attention to system. The whole is often a collection of disjecta membra of arguments, so interdependent that omissions of any sort are exceedingly dangerous to the meaning of the speaker. To do justice to his meaning, and give the whole oration, would be an impossible strain on the space available; to omit any portion is usually to lose one or more buttresses of some essential feature in his argument. The distinction is submitted without any desire to explain it on theory, but only as a suggestion of a practical difficulty in a satisfactory execution of the work.
The general division of the work has been into (1) Colonialism, to 1789; (2) Constitutional Government, to 1801; (5) the Rise of Democracy, to 1815; (4) the Rise of Nationality, to 1840; (5) the Slavery struggle, to 1860; (6) Secession and Reconstruction, to 1876; (7) Free Trade and Protection. In such a division, it has been found necessary to include, in a few cases, orations which have not been strictly within the time limits of the topic, but have had a close logical connection with it. It is hoped, however, that all such cases will show their own necessity too clearly for any need of further ex-planation or excuse.
THE FORMATION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
It has been said by an excellent authority that the Constitution was "extorted from the grinding necessities of a reluctant people." The truth of the statement is very quickly recognized by even the most surface student of American politics. The struggle which began in 1774-5 was the direct outcome of the spirit of independence. Rather than submit to a degrading government by the arbitrary will of a foreign Parliament, the Massachusetts people chose to enter upon an almost unprecedented war of a colony against the mother country. Rather than admit the precedent of the oppression of a sister colony, the other colonies chose to support Massachusetts in her resistance. Resistance to Parliament involved resistance to the Crown, the only power which had hitherto claimed the loyalty of the colonists; and one evil feature of the Revolution was that the spirit of loyalty disappeared for a time from American politics. There were, without doubt, many individual cases of loyalty to "Continental interests"; but the mass of the people had merely unlearned their loyalty to the Crown, and had learned no other loyalty to take its place. Their nominal allegiance to the individual colony was weakened by their underlying consciousness that they really were a part of a greater nation; their national allegiance had never been claimed by any power.
The weakness of the confederation was apparent even before its complete ratification. The Articles of Confederation were proposed by the Continental Congress, Nov. 15, 1777. They were ratified by eleven States during the year 1778, and Delaware ratified in 1779. Maryland alone held out and refused to ratify for two years longer. Her long refusal was due to her demand for a national control of the Western territory, which many of the States were trying to appropriate. It was not until there was positive evidence that the Western territory was to be national property that Maryland acceded to the articles, and they went into operation. The interval had given time for study of them, and their defects were so patent that there was no great expectation among thinking men of any other result than that which followed. The national power which the confederation sought to create was an entire nonentity. There was no executive power, except committees of Congress, and these had no powers to execute. Congress had practically only the power to recommend to the States. It had no power to tax, to support armies or navies, to provide for the interest or payment of the public debt, to regulate commerce or internal affairs, or to perform any other function of an efficient national government. It was merely a convenient instrument of repudiation for the States; Congress was to borrow money and incur debts, which the States could refuse or neglect to provide for. Under this system affairs steadily drifted from bad to worse for some six years after the formal ratification of the articles. There seemed to be no remedy in the forms of law, for the articles expressly provided that no alteration was to be made except by the assent of every State. Congress proposed alterations, such as the temporary grant to Congress of power to levy duties on imports; but these proposals were always vetoed by one or more states.
In 1780, in a private letter, Hamilton had suggested a convention of the States to revise the articles, and as affairs grew worse the proposition was renewed by others. The first attempt to hold such a convention, on the call of Virginia, was a failure; but five States sent delegates to Annapolis, and these wisely contented themselves with recommending another convention in the following year. Congress was persuaded to endorse this summons; twelve of the States chose delegates, and the convention met at Philadelphia, May, 14, 1787. A quorum was obtained, May 25th, and the deliberations of the convention lasted until Sept. 28th, when the Constitution was reported to Congress.
The difficulties which met the convention were mainly the results of the division of the States into large and small States. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, the States which claimed to extend to the Mississippi on the west and cherished indefinite expectations of future growth, were the "large" States. They desired to give as much power as possible to the new national government, on condition that the government should be so framed that they should have control of it. The remaining States were properly "small" states, and desired to form a government which would leave as much power as possible to the States. Circumstances worked strongly in favor of a reasonable result. There never were more than eleven States in the convention. Rhode Island, a small State, sent no delegates. The New Hampshire delegates did not appear until the New York delegates (except Hamilton) had lost patience and retired from the convention. Pennsylvania was usually neutral. The convention was thus composed of five large, five small, and one neutral State; and almost all its decisions were the outcome of judicious compromise.
The large States at first proposed a Congress in both of whose Houses the State representation should be proportional. They would thus have had a clear majority in both Houses, and, as Congress was to elect the President, and other officers, the government would thus have been a large State government. When "the little States gained their point," by forcing through the equal representation of the States in the Senate, the unsubstantial nature of the "national" pretensions of the large States at once became apparent. The opposition to the whole scheme centred in the large States, with very considerable assistance from New York, which was not satisfied with the concessions which the small States had obtained in the convention. The difficulty of ratification may be estimated from the final votes in the following State conventions: Massachusetts, 187 to 163; New Hampshire, 57 to 46; Virginia, 89 to 79, and New York, 30 to 27. It should also be noted that the last two ratifications were only made after the ninth State (New Hampshire) had ratified, and when it was certain that the Constitution would go into effect with or with-out the ratification of Virginia or New York. North Carolina did not ratify until 1789, and Rhode Island not until 1790.
The division between North and South also appeared in the convention. In order to carry over the Southern States to the support of the final compromise, it was necessary to insert a guarantee of the slave trade for twenty years, and a provision that three fifths of the slaves should be counted in estimating the population for State representation in Congress. But these provisions, so far as we can judge from the debates of the time, had no influence against the ratification of the Constitution; the struggle turned on the differences between the national leaders, aided by the satisfied small States, on one side, and the leaders of the State party, aided by the dissatisfied States, large and small, on the other. The former, the Federalists, were successful, though by very narrow majorities in several of the States. Washington was unanimously elected the first President of the Republic; and the new government was inaugurated at New York, March 4, 1789.
The speech of Henry in the Virginia House of Delegates has been chosen as perhaps the best representative of the spirit which impelled and guided the American Revolution. It is fortunate that the ablest of the national leaders was placed in the very focus of opposition to the Constitution, so that we may take Hamilton's argument in the New York convention and Madison's in the Virginia convention, as the most carefully stated conclusions of the master-minds of the National party.
OF MASSACHUSETTS. (BORN 1725, DIED 1783.)
ON THE WRITS OF ASSISTANCE—BEFORE THE SUPERIOR COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS, FEBRUARY, 1761.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONORS: I was desired by one of the court to look into the books, and consider the question now before them concerning Writs of Assistance. I have accordingly considered it, and now appear not only in obedience to your order, but likewise in behalf of the inhabitants of this town, who have presented another petition, and out of regard to the liberties of the subject. And I take this opportunity to declare, that whether under a fee or not (for in such a cause as this I despise a fee), I will to my dying day oppose with all the powers and faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one hand, and villainy on the other, as this writ of assistance is.
It appears to me the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was found in an English law-book. I must therefore beg your honors' patience and attention to the whole range of an argument, that may perhaps appear uncommon in many things, as well as to points of learning that are more remote and unusual: that the whole tendency of my design may the more easily be perceived, the conclusions better descend, and the force of them be better felt. I shall not think much of my pains in this cause, as I engaged in it from principle. I was solicited to argue this cause as Advocate-General; and because I would not, I have been charged with desertion from my office. To this charge I can give a very sufficient answer. I renounced that office, and I argue this cause from the same principle; and I argue it with the greater pleasure, as it is in favor of British liberty, at a time when we hear the greatest monarch upon earth declaring from his throne that he glories in the name of Briton, and that the privileges of his people are dearer to him than the most valuable prerogatives of his crown; and as it is in opposition to a kind of power, the exercise of which in former periods of history cost one king of England his head, and another his throne. I have taken more pains in this cause than I ever will take again, although my engaging in this and another popular cause has raised much resentment. But I think I can sincerely, declare, that I cheerfully submit myself to every odious name for conscience' sake; and from my soul I despise all those whose guilt, malice, or folly has made them my foes. Let the consequences be what they will, I am determined to proceed. The only principles of public conduct, that are worthy of a gentleman or a man, are to sacrifice estate, ease, health, and applause, and even life, to the sacred calls of his country.
These manly sentiments, in private life, make the good citizens; in public life, the patriot and the hero. I do not say that, when brought to the test, I shall be invincible. I pray God I may never be brought to the melancholy trial, but if ever I should, it will be then known how far I can reduce to practice principles which I know to be founded in truth. In the meantime I will proceed to the subject of this writ.
Your honors will find in the old books concerning the office of a justice of the peace, precedents of general warrants to search suspected houses. But in more modern books, you will find only special warrants to search such and such houses, specially named, in which the complainant has before sworn that he suspects his goods are concealed; and will find it adjudged, that special warrants only are legal. In the same manner I rely on it, that the writ prayed for in this petition, being general, is illegal. It is a power that places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer. I say I admit that special writs of assistance, to search special places, may be granted to certain persons on oath; but I deny that the writ now prayed for can be granted, for I beg leave to make some observations on the writ itself, before I proceed to other acts of Parliament. In the first place, the writ is universal, being directed "to all and singular justices, sheriffs, constables, and all other officers and subjects"; so that, in short, it is directed to every subject in the king's dominions. Every one with this writ may be a tyrant; if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may control, imprison, or murder anyone within the realm. In the next place, it is perpetual, there is no return. A man is accountable to no person for his doings. Every man may reign secure in his petty tyranny, and spread terror and desolation around him, until the trump of the archangel shall excite different emotions in his soul. In the third place, a person with this writ, in the daytime, may enter all houses, shops, etc., at will, and command all to assist him. Fourthly, by this writ, not only deputies, etc., but even their menial servants, are allowed to lord it over us. What is this but to have the curse of Canaan with a witness on us: to be the servant of servants, the most despicable of God's creation? Now one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient. This wanton exercise of this power is not a chimerical suggestion of a heated brain. I will mention some facts. Mr. Pew had one of these writs, and when Mr. Ware succeeded him, he endorsed this writ over to Mr. Ware; so that these writs are negotiable from one officer to another; and so your honors have no opportunity of judging the persons to whom this vast power is delegated. Another instance is this: Mr. Justice Walley had called this same Mr. Ware before him, by a constable, to answer for a breach of the Sabbath-day acts, or that of profane swearing. As soon as he had finished, Mr. Ware asked him if he had done. He replied, "Yes." "Well then," said Mr. Ware, "I will show you a little of my power. I command you to permit me to search your house for uncustomed goods"; and went on to search the house from the garret to the cellar; and then served the constable in the same manner! But to show another absurdity in this writ: if it should be established, I insist upon it every person, by the 14th Charles Second, has this power as well as the custom-house officers. The words are: "it shall be lawful for any person or persons authorized," etc. What a scene does this open! Every man prompted by revenge, ill-humor, or wantonness to inspect the inside of his neighbor's house, may get a writ of assistance. Others will ask it from self-defence; one arbitrary exertion will provoke another, until society be involved in tumult and in blood:
OF VIRGINIA. (BORN 1736, DIED 1799)
CONVENTION OF DELEGATES, MARCH 28, 1775
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope that it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen, if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility Which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly-kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that syren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array. If its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motives for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we any thing new to offer on the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer. Sir, we have done every thing that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated: we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free—if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending—if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature bath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides. sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable—and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace, peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
OF MASSACHUSETTS (BORN 1722, DIED 1803.)
ON AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE—IN PHILADELPHIA, AUGUST I, 1776.
COUNTRYMEN AND BRETHREN: I would gladly have declined an honor, to which I find myself unequal. I have not the calmness and impartiality which the infinite importance of this occasion demands. I will not deny the charge of my enemies, that resentment for the accumulated injuries of our country, and an ardor for her glory, rising to enthusiasm, may deprive me of that accuracy of judgment and expression which men of cooler passions may possess. Let me beseech you then, to hear me with caution, to examine without prejudice, and to correct the mistakes into which I may be hurried by my zeal.
Truth loves an appeal to the common sense of mankind. Your unperverted understandings can best determine on subjects of a practical nature. The positions and plans which are said to be above the comprehension of the multitude may be always suspected to be visionary and fruitless. He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all.
Our forefathers threw off the yoke of Popery in religion; for you is reserved the honor of levelling the Popery of politics. They opened the Bible to all, and maintained the capacity of every man to judge for himself in religion. Are we sufficient for the comprehension of the sublimest spiritual truths, and unequal to material and temporal ones? Heaven hath trusted us with the management of things for eternity, and man denies us ability to judge of the present, or to know from our feelings the experience that will make us happy. "You can discern," say they, "objects distant and remote, but cannot perceive those within your grasp. Let us have the distribution of present goods, and cut out and manage as you please the interests of futurity." This day, I trust, the reign of political protestantism will commence.
We have explored the temple of royalty, and found that the idol we have bowed down to, has eyes which see not, ears that hear not our prayers, and a heart like the nether millstone. We have this day restored the Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven, and with a propitious eye beholds His subjects assuming that freedom of thought and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them. From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come.
Men who content themselves with the semblance of truth, and a display of words, talk much of our obligations to Great Britain for protection. Had she a single eye to our advantage? A nation of shopkeepers are very seldom so disinterested. Let us not be so amused with words; the extension of her commerce was her object. When she defended our coasts, she fought for her customers, and convoyed our ships loaded with wealth, which we had acquired for her by our industry. She has treated us as beasts of burthen, whom the lordly masters cherish that they may carry a greater load. Let us inquire also against whom she has protected us? Against her own enemies with whom we had no quarrel, or only on her account, and against whom we always readily exerted our wealth and strength when they were required. Were these colonies backward in giving assistance to Great Britain, when they were called upon in 1739, to aid the expedition against Carthagena? They at that time sent three thousand men to join the British army, although the war commenced without their consent. But the last war, 't is said, was purely American. This is a vulgar error, which, like many others, has gained credit by being confidently repeated. The dispute between the Courts of Great Britain and France, related to the limits of Canada and Nova Scotia. The controverted territory was not claimed by any in the colonies, but by the Crown of Great Britain. It was therefore their own quarrel. The infringement of a right which England had, by the treaty of Utrecht, of trading in the Indian country of Ohio, was another cause of the war. The French seized large quantities of British manufactures, and took possession of a fort which a company of British merchants and factors had erected for the security of their commerce. The war was therefore waged in defence of lands claimed by the Crown, and for the protection of British property. The French at that time had no quarrel with America; and, as appears by letters sent from their commander-in-chief, to some of the colonies, wished to remain in peace with us. The part therefore which we then took, and the miseries to which we exposed ourselves, ought to be charged to our affection for Britain. These colonies granted more than their proportion to the support of the war. They raised, clothed, and maintained nearly twenty-five thousand men, and so sensible were the people of England of our great exertions, that a message was annually sent to the House of Commons purporting: "That his majesty, being highly satisfied of the zeal and vigor with which his faithful subjects in North America had exerted themselves in defence of his majesty's just rights and possessions, recommend it to the House, to take the same into consideration, and enable him to give them a proper compensation."
But what purpose can arguments of this kind answer? Did the protection we received annul our rights as men, and lay us under an obligation of being miserable?
Who among you, my countrymen, that is a father, would claim authority to make your child a slave because you had nourished him in his infancy?
'T is a strange species of generosity which requires a return infinitely more valuable than anything it could have bestowed; that demands as a reward for a defence of our property, a surrender of those inestimable privileges, to the arbitrary will of vindictive tyrants, which alone give value to that very property.
Courage, then, my countrymen! our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth, for civil and religious liberty? Dismissing, therefore, the justice of our cause as incontestable, the only question is, What is best for us to pursue in our present circumstances?
The doctrine of dependence on Great Britain is, I believe, generally exploded; but as I would attend to the honest weakness of the simplest of men, you will pardon me if I offer a few words on that subject.
We are now on this continent, to the astonishment of the world, three millions of souls united in one common cause. We have large armies, well disciplined and appointed, with commanders inferior to none in military skill, and superior in activity and zeal. We are furnished with arsenals and stores beyond our most sanguine expectations, and foreign nations are waiting to crown our success by their alliances. There are instances of, I would say, an almost astonishing Providence in our favor; our success has staggered our enemies, and almost given faith to infidels; so that we may truly say it is not our own arm which has saved us.
The hand of Heaven appears to have led us on to be, perhaps, humble instruments and means in the great Providential dispensation which is completing. We have fled from the political Sodom; let us not look back, lest we perish and become a monument of infamy and derision to the world! For can we ever expect more unanimity and a better preparation for defence; more infatuation of counsel among our enemies, and more valor and zeal among ourselves? The same force and resistance which are sufficient to procure us our liberties, will secure us a glorious independence and support us in the dignity of free, imperial states. We can not suppose that our opposition has made a corrupt and dissipated nation more friendly to America, or created in them a greater respect for the rights of mankind. We can therefore expect a restoration and establishment of our privileges, and a compensation for the injuries we have received from their want of power, from their fears, and not from their virtues. The unanimity and valor, which will effect an honorable peace, can render a future contest for our liberties unnecessary. He who has strength to chain down the wolf, is a mad-man if he lets him loose without drawing his teeth and paring his nails.
From the day on which an accommodation takes place between England and America, on any other terms than as independent states, I shall date the ruin of this country. A politic minister will study to lull us into security, by granting us the full extent of our petitions. The warm sunshine of influence would melt down the virtue, which the violence of the storm rendered more firm and unyielding. In a state of tranquillity, wealth, and luxury, our descendants would forget the arts of war, and the noble activity and zeal which made their ancestors invincible. Every art of corruption would be employed to loosen the bond of union which renders our resistance formidable. When the spirit of liberty which now animates our hearts and gives success to our arms is extinct, our numbers will accelerate our ruin, and render us easier victims to tyranny. Ye abandoned minions of an infatuated ministry, if peradventure any should yet remain among us!—remember that a Warren and a Montgomery are numbered among the dead. Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, What should be the reward of such sacrifices? Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship, and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood, and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity, forget that ye were our countrymen.
To unite the Supremacy of Great Britain and the Liberty of America, is utterly impossible. So vast a continent and of such a distance from the seat of empire, will every day grow more unmanageable. The motion of so unwieldy a body cannot be directed with any dispatch and uniformity, without committing to the Parliament of Great Britain, powers inconsistent with our freedom. The authority and force which would be absolutely necessary for the preservation of the peace and good order of this continent, would put all our valuable rights within the reach of that nation.
* * * * * * *
Some who would persuade us that they have tender feelings for future generations, while they are insensible to the happiness of the present, are perpetually foreboding a train of dissensions under our popular system. Such men's reasoning amounts to this—give up all that is valuable to Great Britain, and then you will have no inducements to quarrel among yourselves; or suffer yourselves to be chained down by your enemies, that you may not be able to fight with your friends.
This is an insult on your virtue as well as your common sense. Your unanimity this day and through the course of the war is a decisive refutation of such invidious predictions. Our enemies have already had evidence that our present constitution contains in it the justice and ardor of freedom, and the wisdom and vigor of the most absolute system. When the law is the will of the people, it will be uniform and coherent; but fluctuation, contradiction, and inconsistency of councils must be expected under those governments where every revolution in the ministry of a court produces one in the state. Such being the folly and pride of all ministers, that they ever pursue measures directly opposite to those of their predecessors.
We shall neither be exposed to the necessary convulsions of elective Monarchies, nor to the want of wisdom, fortitude, and virtue, to which hereditary succession is liable. In your hands it will be to perpetuate a prudent, active, and just legislature, and which will never expire until you yourselves lose the virtues which give it existence.
And, brethren and fellow-countrymen, if it was ever granted to mortals to trace the designs of Providence, and interpret its manifestations in favor of their cause, we may, with humility of soul, cry out, "Not unto us, not unto us, but to thy Name be the praise." The confusion of the devices among our enemies, and the rage of the elements against them, have done almost as much towards our success as either our councils or our arms.
The time at which this attempt on our liberties was made, when we were ripened into maturity, had acquired a knowledge of war, and were free from the incursions of enemies in this country, the gradual advances of our oppressors enabling us to prepare for our defence, the unusual fertility of our lands and clemency of the seasons, the success which at first attended our feeble arms, producing unanimity among our friends and reducing our internal foes to acquiescence,—these are all strong and palpable marks and assurances, that Providence is yet gracious unto Zion, that it will turn away the captivity of Jacob.
We have now no other alternative than independence, or the most ignominious and galling servitude. The legions of our enemies thicken on our plains; desolation and death mark their bloody career; whilst the mangled corpses of our countrymen seem to cry out to us as a voice from heaven: "Will you permit our posterity to groan under the galling chains of our murderers? Has our blood been expended in vain? Is the only reward which our constancy, till death, has obtained for our country, that it should be sunk into a deeper and more ignominious vassalage?" Recollect who are the men that demand your submission; to whose decrees you are invited to pay obedience! Men who, unmindful of their relation to you as brethren, of your long implicit submission to their laws; of the sacrifice which you and your forefathers made of your natural advantages for commerce to their avarice,—formed a deliberate plan to wrest from you the small pittance of property which they had permitted you to acquire. Remember that the men who wish to rule over you are they who, in pursuit of this plan of despotism, annulled the sacred contracts which had been made with your ancestors; conveyed into your cities a mercenary soldiery to compel you to submission by insult and murder—who called your patience, cowardice; your piety, hypocrisy.
Countrymen! the men who now invite you to surrender your rights into their hands are the men who have let loose the merciless savages to riot in the blood of their brethren—who have dared to establish popery triumphant in our land—who have taught treachery to your slaves, and courted them to assassinate your wives and children.
These are the men to whom we are exhorted to sacrifice the blessings which Providence holds out to us—the happiness, the dignity of uncontrolled freedom and independence.
Let not your generous indignation be directed against any among us who may advise so absurd and madd'ning a measure. Their number is but few and daily decreased; and the spirit which can render them patient of slavery, will render them contemptible enemies.
Our Union is now complete; our Constitution composed, established, and approved. You are now the guardians of your own liberties. We may justly address you, as the Decemviri did the Romans, and say: "Nothing that we propose, can pass into a law without your consent. Be yourselves, O Americans, the authors of those laws on which your happiness depends."
You have now, in the field, armies sufficient to repel the whole force of your enemies, and their base and mercenary auxiliaries. The hearts of your soldiers beat high with the spirit of freedom—they are animated with the justice of their cause, and while they grasp their swords, can look up to Heaven for assistance. Your adversaries are composed of wretches who laugh at the rights of humanity, who turn religion into derision, and would, for higher wages, direct their swords against their leaders or their country. Go on, then, in your generous enterprise, with gratitude to Heaven for past success, and confidence of it in the future. For my own part, I ask no greater blessing than to share with you the common danger and common glory. If I have a wish dearer to my soul, than that my ashes may be mingled with those of a Warren and a Montgomery, it is—that these American States may never cease to be free and independent!
OF NEW YORK. (BORN 1757, DIED 1804.)
ON THE EXPEDIENCY OF ADOPTING THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
—CONVENTION OF NEW YORK,
JUNE 24, 1788.
I am persuaded, Mr. Chairman, that I in my turn shall be indulged, in addressing the committee. We all, in equal sincerity, profess to be anxious for the establishment of a republican government, on a safe and solid basis. It is the object of the wishes of every honest man in the United States, and I presume that I shall not be disbelieved, when I declare, that it is an object of all others, the nearest and most dear to my own heart. The means of accomplishing this great purpose become the most important study which can interest mankind. It is our duty to examine all those means with peculiar attention, and to choose the best and most effectual. It is our duty to draw from nature, from reason, from examples, the best principles of policy, and to pursue and apply them in the formation of our government. We should contemplate and compare the systems, which, in this examination, come under our view; distinguish, with a careful eye, the defects and excellencies of each, and discarding the former, incorporate the latter, as far as circumstances will admit, into our Constitution. If we pursue a different course and neglect this duty, we shall probably disappoint the expectations of our country and of the world.
In the commencement of a revolution, which received its birth from the usurpations of tyranny, nothing was more natural, than that the public mind should be influenced by an extreme spirit of jealousy. To resist these encroachments, and to nourish this spirit, was the great object of all our public and private institutions. The zeal for liberty became predominant and excessive. In forming our confederation, this passion alone seemed to actuate us, and we appear to have had no other view than to secure ourselves from despotism. The object certainly was a valuable one, and deserved our utmost attention. But, sir, there is another object equally important, and which our enthusiasm rendered us little capable of regarding: I mean a principle of strength and stability in the organization of our government, and vigor in its operations. This purpose can never be accomplished but by the establishment of some select body, formed peculiarly upon this principle. There are few positions more demonstrable than that there should be in every republic, some permanent body to correct the prejudices, check the intemperate passions, and regulate the fluctuations of a popular assembly. It is evident, that a body instituted for these purposes, must be so formed as to exclude as much as possible from its own character, those infirmities and that mutability which it is designed to remedy. It is therefore necessary that it should be small, that it should hold its authority during a considerable period, and that it should have such an independence in the exercise of its powers, as will divest it as much as possible of local prejudices. It should be so formed as to be the centre of political knowledge, to pursue always a steady line of conduct, and to reduce every irregular propensity to system. Without this establishment, we may make experiments without end, but shall never have an efficient government.
It is an unquestionable truth, that the body of the people in every country desire sincerely its prosperity; but it is equally unquestionable, that they do not possess the discernment and stability necessary for systematic government. To deny that they are frequently led into the grossest errors by misinformation and passion, would be a flattery which their own good sense must despise. That branch of administration especially, which involves our political relations with foreign states, a community will ever be incompetent to. These truths are not often held up in public assemblies: but they cannot be unknown to any who hear me. From these principles it follows, that there ought to be two distinct bodies in our government: one, which shall be immediately constituted by and peculiarly represent the people, and possess all the popular features; another, formed upon the principle, and for the purposes, before explained. Such considerations as these induced the convention who formed your State constitution, to institute a Senate upon the present plan. The history of ancient and modern republics had taught them, that many of the evils which these republics had suffered, arose from the want of a certain balance and mutual control indispensable to a wise administration; they were convinced that popular assemblies are frequently misguided by ignorance, by sudden impulses, and the intrigues of ambitious men; and that some firm barrier against these operations was necessary; they, therefore, instituted your Senate, and the benefits we have experienced have fully justified their conceptions.
Gentlemen, in their reasoning, have placed the interests of the several States, and those of the United States in contrast; this is not a fair view of the subject; they must necessarily be involved in each other. What we apprehend is, that some sinister prejudice, or some prevailing passion, may assume the form of a genuine interest. The influence of these is as powerful as the most permanent conviction of the public good; and against this influence we ought to provide. The local interests of a State ought in every case to give way to the interests of the Union; for when a sacrifice of one or the other is necessary, the former becomes only an apparent, partial interest, and should yield, on the principle that the small good ought never to oppose the great one. When you assemble from your several counties in the Legislature, were every member to be guided only by the apparent interests of his county, government would be impracticable. There must be a perpetual accommodation and sacrifice of local advantages to general expediency; but the spirit of a mere popular assembly would rarely be actuated by this important principle. It is therefore absolutely necessary that the Senate should be so formed, as to be unbiased by false conceptions of the real interests, or undue attachment to the apparent good of their several States.
Gentlemen indulge too many unreasonable apprehensions of danger to the State governments; they seem to suppose that the moment you put men into a national council, they become corrupt and tyrannical, and lose all their affection for their fellow-citizens. But can we imagine that the Senators will ever be so insensible of their own advantage, as to sacrifice the genuine interest of their constituents? The State governments are essentially necessary to the form and spirit of the general system. As long, therefore, as Congress has a full conviction of this necessity, they must, even upon principles purely national, have as firm an attachment to the one as to the other. This conviction can never leave them, unless they become madmen. While the constitution continues to be read, and its principle known, the States must, by every rational man, be considered as essential, component parts of The Union; and therefore the idea of sacrificing the former to the latter is wholly inadmissible.
The objectors do not advert to the natural strength and resources of State governments, which will ever give them an important superiority over the general government. If we compare the nature of their different powers, or the means of popular influence which each possesses, we shall find the advantage entirely on the side of the States. This consideration, important as it is, seems to have been little attended to. The aggregate number of representatives throughout the States may be two thousand. Their personal influence will, therefore, be proportionably more extensive than that of one or two hundred men in Congress. The State establishments of civil and military officers of every description, infinitely surpassing in number any possible correspondent establishments in the general government, will create such an extent and complication of attachments, as will ever secure the predilection and support of the people. Whenever, therefore, Congress shall meditate any infringement of the State constitutions, the great body of the people will naturally take part with their domestic representatives. Can the general government withstand such an united opposition? Will the people suffer themselves to be stripped of their privileges? Will they suffer their Legislatures to be reduced to a shadow and a name? The idea is shocking to common-sense.
From the circumstances already explained, and many others which might be mentioned, results a complicated, irresistible check, which must ever support the existence and importance of the State governments. The danger, if any exists, flows from an opposite source. The probable evil is, that the general government will be too dependent on the State Legislatures, too much governed by their prejudices, and too obsequious to their humors; that the States, with every power in their hands, will make encroachments on the national authority, till the Union is weakened and dissolved.
Every member must have been struck with an observation of a gentleman from Albany. Do what you will, says he, local prejudices and opinions will go into the government.
What! shall we then form a constitution to cherish and strengthen these prejudices? Shall we confirm the distemper, instead of remedying it. It is undeniable that there must be a control somewhere. Either the general interest is to control the particular interests, or the contrary. If the former, then certainly the government ought to be so framed, as to render the power of control efficient to all intents and purposes; if the latter, a striking absurdity follows; the controlling powers must be as numerous as the varying interests, and the operations of the government must therefore cease; for the moment you accommodate these different interests, which is the only way to set the government in motion, you establish a controlling power. Thus, whatever constitutional provisions are made to the contrary, every government will be at last driven to the necessity of subjecting the partial to the universal interest. The gentlemen ought always, in their reasoning, to distinguish between the real, genuine good of a State, and the opinions and prejudices which may prevail respecting it; the latter may be opposed to the general good, and consequently ought to be sacrificed; the former is so involved in it, that it never can be sacrificed.
There are certain social principles in human nature from which we may draw the most solid conclusions with respect to the conduct of individuals and of communities. We love our families more than our neighbors; we love our neighbors more than our countrymen in general. The human affections, like the solar heat, lose their intensity as they depart from the centre, and become languid in proportion to the expansion of the circle on which they act. On these principles, the attachment of the individual will be first and forever secured by the State governments; they will be a mutual protection and support. Another source of influence, which has already been pointed out, is the various official connections in the States. Gentlemen endeavor to evade the force of this by saying that these offices will be insignificant. This is by no means true. The State officers will ever be important, because they are necessary and useful. Their powers are such as are extremely interesting to the people; such as affect their property, their liberty, and life. What is more important than the administration of justice and the execution of the civil and criminal laws? Can the State governments become insignificant while they have the power of raising money independently and without control? If they are really useful; if they are calculated to promote the essential interests of the people; they must have their confidence and support. The States can never lose their powers till the whole people of America are robbed of their liberties. These must go together; they must support each other, or meet one common fate. On the gentleman's principle, we may safely trust the State governments, though we have no means of resisting them; but we cannot confide in the national government, though we have an effectual constitutional guard against every encroachment. This is the essence of their argument, and it is false and fallacious beyond conception.
With regard to the jurisdiction of the two governments, I shall certainly admit that the Constitution ought to be so formed as not to prevent the States from providing for their own existence; and I maintain that it is so formed; and that their power of providing for themselves is sufficiently established. This is conceded by one gentleman, and in the next breath the concession is retracted. He says Congress has but one exclusive right in taxation—that of duties on imports; certainly, then, their other powers are only concurrent. But to take off the force of this obvious conclusion, he immediately says that the laws of the United States are supreme; and that where there is one supreme there cannot be a concurrent authority; and further, that where the laws of the Union are supreme, those of the States must be subordinate; because there cannot be two supremes. This is curious sophistry. That two supreme powers cannot act together is false. They are inconsistent only when they are aimed at each other or at one indivisible object. The laws of the United States are supreme, as to all their proper, constitutional objects; the laws of the States are supreme in the same way. These supreme laws may act on different objects without clashing; or they may operate on different parts of the same common object with perfect harmony. Suppose both governments should lay a tax of a penny on a certain article; has not each an independent and uncontrollable power to collect its own tax? The meaning of the maxim, there cannot be two supremes, is simply this—two powers cannot be supreme over each other. This meaning is entirely perverted by the gentlemen. But, it is said, disputes between collectors are to be referred to the federal courts. This is again wandering in the field of conjecture. But suppose the fact is certain; is it not to be presumed that they will express the true meaning of the Constitution and the laws? Will they not be bound to consider the concurrent jurisdiction; to declare that both the taxes shall have equal operation; that both the powers, in that respect, are sovereign and co-extensive? If they transgress their duty, we are to hope that they will be punished. Sir, we can reason from probabilities alone. When we leave common-sense, and give ourselves up to conjecture, there can be no certainty, no security in our reasonings.
I imagine I have stated to the committee abundant reasons to prove the entire safety of the State governments and of the people. I would go into a more minute consideration of the nature of the concurrent jurisdiction, and the operation of the laws in relation to revenue; but at present I feel too much indisposed to proceed. I shall, with leave of the committee, improve another opportunity of expressing to them more fully my ideas on this point. I wish the committee to remember that the Constitution under examination is framed upon truly republican principles; and that, as it is expressly designed to provide for the common protection and the general welfare of the United States, it must be utterly repugnant to this Constitution to subvert the State governments or oppress the people.
OF VIRGINIA. (BORN 1751, DIED 1836.)
ON THE EXPEDIENCY OF ADOPTING THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION—CONVENTION OF VIRGINIA,
JUNE 6, 1788.
In what I am about to offer to this assembly, I shall not attempt to make impressions by any ardent professions of zeal for the public welfare. We know that the principles of every man will be, and ought to be, judged not by his professions and declarations, but by his conduct. By that criterion, I wish, in common with every other member, to be judged; and even though it should prove unfavorable to my reputation, yet it is a criterion from which I by no means would depart, nor could if I would. Comparisons have been made between the friends of this constitution and those who oppose it. Although I disapprove of such comparisons, I trust that in everything that regards truth, honor, candor, and rectitude of motives, the friends of this system, here and in other States, are not inferior to its opponents. But professions of attachment to the public good, and comparisons of parties, at all times invidious, ought not to govern or influence us now. We ought, sir, to examine the Constitution exclusively on its own merits. We ought to inquire whether it will promote the public happiness; and its aptitude to produce that desirable object ought to be the exclusive subject of our researches. In this pursuit, we ought to address our arguments not to the feelings and passions, but to those understandings and judgments which have been selected, by the people of this country, to decide that great question by a calm and rational investigation. I hope that gentlemen, in displaying their abilities on this occasion, will, instead of giving opinions and making assertions, condescend to prove and demonstrate, by fair and regular discussion. It gives me pain to hear gentlemen continually distorting the natural construction of language. Assuredly, it is sufficient if any human production can stand a fair discussion. Before I proceed to make some additions to the reasons which have been adduced by my honorable friend over the way, I must take the liberty to make some observations on what was said by another gentleman (Mr. Henry). He told us that this constitution ought to be rejected, because, in his opinion, it endangered the public liberty in many instances. Give me leave to make one answer to that observation—let the dangers with which this system is supposed to be replete, be clearly pointed out. If any dangerous and unnecessary powers be given to the general legislature, let them be plainly demonstrated, and let us not rest satisfied with general assertions of dangers, without proof, without examination. If powers be necessary, apparent danger is not a sufficient reason against conceding them. He has suggested, that licentiousness has seldom produced the loss of liberty; but that the tyranny of rulers has almost always effected it. Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations; but on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions which, in republics, have, more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes. If we consider the peculiar situation of the United States, and go to the sources of that diversity of sentiment which pervades its inhabitants, we shall find great danger to fear that the same causes may terminate here in the same fatal effects which they produced in those republics. This danger ought to be wisely guarded against. In the progress of this discussion, it will perhaps appear, that the only possible remedy for those evils, and the only certain means of preserving and protecting the principles of republicanism, will be found in that very system which is now exclaimed against as the parent of oppression. I must confess that I have not been able to find his usual consistency in the gentleman's arguments on this occasion. He informs us that the people of this country are at perfect repose; that every man enjoys the fruits of his labor peaceably and securely, and that everything is in perfect tranquillity and safety. I wish sincerely, sir, this were true. But if this be really their situation, why has every State acknowledged the contrary? Why were deputies from all the States sent to the general convention? Why have complaints of national and individual distresses been echoed and re-echoed throughout the continent? Why has our general government been so shamefully disgraced, and our Constitution violated? Wherefore have laws been made to authorize a change, and wherefore are we now assembled here? A federal government is formed for the protection of its individual members. Ours was itself attacked with impunity. Its authority has been boldly disobeyed and openly despised. I think I perceive a glaring inconsistency in another of his arguments. He complains of this Constitution, because it requires the consent of at least three fourths of the States to introduce amendments which shall be necessary for the happiness of the people. The assent of so many, he considers as too great an obstacle to the admission of salutary amendments, which he strongly insists ought to be at the will of a bare majority, and we hear this argument at the very moment we are called upon to assign reasons for proposing a Constitution which puts it in the power of nine States to abolish the present inadequate, unsafe, and pernicious confederation! In the first case, he asserts that a majority ought to have the power of altering the government, when found to be inadequate to the security of public happiness. In the last case, he affirms that even three fourths of the community have not a right to alter a government which experience has proved to be subversive of national felicity; nay, that the most necessary and urgent alterations cannot be made without the absolute unanimity of all the States. Does not the thirteenth article of the confederation expressly require, that no alteration shall be made without the unanimous consent of all the States? Can any thing in theory be more perniciously improvident and injudicious than this submission of the will of the majority to the most trifling minority? Have not experience and practice actually manifested this theoretical inconvenience to be extremely impolitic? Let me mention one fact, which I conceive must carry conviction to the mind of any one,—the smallest State in the Union has obstructed every attempt to reform the government; that little member has repeatedly disobeyed and counteracted the general authority; nay, has even supplied the enemies of its country with provisions. Twelve States had agreed to certain improvements which were proposed, being thought absolutely necessary to preserve the existence of the general government; but as these improvements, though really indispensable, could not, by the confederation, be introduced into it without the consent of every State, the refractory dissent of that little State prevented their adoption. The inconveniences resulting from this requisition of unanimous concurrence in alterations of the confederation, must be known to every member in this convention; it is therefore needless to remind them of them. Is it not self-evident, that a trifling minority ought not to bind the majority? Would not foreign influence be exerted with facility over a small minority? Would the honorable gentleman agree to continue the most radical defects in the old system, because the petty State of Rhode Island would not agree to remove them?
He next objects to the exclusive legislation over the district where the seat of the government may be fixed. Would he submit that the representatives of this State should carry on their deliberations under the control of any one member of the Union? If any State had the power of legislation over the place where Congress should fix the general government, it would impair the dignity and hazard the safety of Congress. If the safety of the Union were under the control of any particular State, would not foreign corruption probably prevail in such a State, to induce it to exert its controlling influence over the members of the general government? Gentlemen cannot have forgotten the disgraceful insult which Congress received some years ago. And, sir, when we also reflect, that the previous cession of particular States is necessary, before Congress can legislate exclusively anywhere, we must, instead of being alarmed at this part, heartily approve of it.
But the honorable member sees great danger in the provision concerning the militia. Now, sir, this I conceive to be an additional security to our liberties, without diminishing the power of the States in any considerable degree; it appears to me so highly expedient, that I should imagine it would have found advocates even in the warmest friends of the present system. The authority of training the militia and appointing the officers is reserved to the States. But Congress ought to have the power of establishing a uniform system of discipline throughout the States; and to provide for the execution of the laws, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. These are the only cases wherein they can interfere with the militia; and the obvious necessity of their having power over them in these cases must flash conviction on any reflecting mind. Without uniformity of discipline, military bodies would be incapable of action; without a general controlling power to call forth the strength of the Union, for the purpose of repelling invasions, the country might be overrun and conquered by foreign enemies. Without such a power to suppress insurrections, our liberties might be destroyed by intestine faction, and domestic tyranny be established.
Give me leave to say something of the nature of the government, and to show that it is perfectly safe and just to vest it with the power of taxation. There are a number of opinions; but the principal question is, whether it be a federal or a consolidated government. In order to judge properly of the question before us, we must consider it minutely, in its principal parts. I myself conceive that it is of a mixed nature; it is, in a manner, unprecedented. We cannot find one express prototype in the experience of the world: it stands by itself. In some respects, it is a government of a federal nature; in others, it is of a consolidated nature. Even if we attend to the manner in which the Constitution is investigated, ratified, and made the act of the people of America, I can say, notwithstanding what the honorable gentleman has alleged, that this government is not completely consolidated; nor is it entirely federal. Who are the parties to it? The people—not the people as composing one great body, but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties. Were it, as the gentleman asserts, a consolidated government, the assent of a majority of the people would be sufficient for its establishment, and as a majority have adopted it already, the remaining States would be bound by the act of the majority, even if they unanimously reprobated it. Were it such a government as is suggested, it would be now binding on the people of this State, without having had the privilege of deliberating upon it; but, sir, no State is bound by it, as it is, without its own consent. Should all the States adopt it, it will be then a government established by the thirteen States of America, not through the intervention of the legislatures, but by the people at large. In this particular respect, the distinction between the existing and proposed governments is very material. The existing system has been derived from the dependent, derivative authority of the legislatures of the States; whereas this is derived from the superior power of the people. If we look at the manner in which alterations are to be made in it, the same idea is in some degree attended to. By the new system, a majority of the States cannot introduce amendments; nor are all the States required for that purpose; three fourths of them must concur in alterations; in this there is a departure from the federal idea. The members to the national House of Representatives are to be chosen by the people at large, in proportion to the numbers in the respective districts. When we come to the Senate, its members are elected by the States in their equal and political capacity; but had the government been completely consolidated, the Senate would have been chosen by the people, in their individual capacity, in the same manner as the members of the other house. Thus it is of complicated nature, and this complication, I trust, will be found to exclude the evils of absolute consolidation, as well as of a mere confederacy. If Virginia were separated from all the States, her power and authority would extend to all cases; in like manner, were all powers vested in the general government, it would be a consolidated government; but the powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases: it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.
But the honorable member has satirized, with peculiar acrimony, the powers given to the general government by this Constitution. I conceive that the first question on this subject is, whether these powers be necessary; if they be, we are reduced to the dilemma of either submitting to the inconvenience, or losing the Union. Let us consider the most important of these reprobated powers; that of direct taxation is most generally objected to. With respect to the exigencies of government, there is no question but the most easy mode of providing for them will be adopted. When, therefore, direct taxes are not necessary, they will not be recurred to. It can be of little advantage to those in power, to raise money in a manner oppressive to the people. To consult the conveniences of the people, will cost them nothing, and in many respects will be advantageous to them. Direct taxes will only be recurred to for great purposes. What has brought on other nations those immense debts, under the pressure of which many of them labor? Not the expenses of their governments, but war. If this country should be engaged in war, (and I conceive we ought to provide for the possibility of such a case,) how would it be carried on? By the usual means provided from year to year? As our imports will be necessary for the expenses of government, and other common exigencies, how are we to carry on the means of defence? How is it possible a war could be supported without money or credit? And would it be possible for government to have credit, without having the power of raising money? No, it would be impossible for any government, in such a case, to defend itself. Then, I say, sir, that it is necessary to establish funds for extraordinary exigencies, and give this power to the general government; for the utter inutility of previous requisitions on the States is too well known. Would it be possible for those countries, whose finances and revenues are carried to the highest perfection, to carry on the operations of government on great emergencies, such as the maintenance of a war, without an uncontrolled power of raising money? Has it not been necessary for Great Britain, notwithstanding the facility of the collection of her taxes, to have recourse very often to this and other extraordinary methods of procuring money? Would not her public credit have been ruined, if it was known that her power to raise money was limited? Has not France been obliged, on great occasions, to recur to unusual means, in order to raise funds? It has been the case in many countries, and no government can exist unless its powers extend to make provisions for every contingency. If we were actually attacked by a powerful nation, and our general government had not the power of raising money, but depended solely on requisitions, our condition would be truly deplorable: if the revenues of this commonwealth were to depend on twenty distinct authorities, it would be impossible for it to carry on its operations. This must be obvious to every member here: I think, therefore, that it is necessary for the preservation of the Union, that this power should be given to the general government.
But it is urged, that its consolidated nature, joined to the power of direct taxation, will give it a tendency to destroy all subordinate authority; that its increasing influence will speedily enable it to absorb the State governments. I cannot bring myself to think that this will be the case. If the general government were wholly independent of the governments of the particular States, then indeed, usurpation might be expected to the fullest extent: but, sir, on whom does this general government depend? It derives its authority from these governments, and from the same sources from which their authority is derived. The members of the federal government are taken from the same men from whom those of the State legislatures are taken. If we consider the mode in which the federal representatives will be chosen, we shall be convinced, that the general never will destroy the individual governments; and this conviction must be strengthened by an attention to the construction of the Senate. The representatives will be chosen, probably under the influence of the State legislatures: but there is not the least probability that the election of the latter will be influenced by the former. One hundred and sixty members representing this commonwealth in one branch of the legislature, are drawn from the people at large, and must ever possess more influence than the few men who will be elected to the general legislature. Those who wish to become federal representatives, must depend on their credit with that class of men who will be the most popular in their counties, who generally represent the people in the State governments: they can, therefore, never succeed in any measure contrary to the wishes of those on whom they depend. So that, on the whole, it is almost certain that the deliberations of the members of the federal House of Representatives will be directed to the interests of the people of America. As to the other branch, the Senators will be appointed by the legislatures, and, though elected for six years, I do not conceive they will so soon forget the source whence they derive their political existence. This election of one branch of the federal, by the State legislatures, secures an absolute independence of the former on the latter. The biennial exclusion of one third will lessen the facility of a combination, and preclude all likelihood of intrigues. I appeal to our past experience, whether they will attend to the interests of their constituent States. Have not those gentlemen who have been honored with seats in Congress often signalized themselves by their attachment to their States? Sir, I pledge myself that this government will answer the expectations of its friends, and foil the apprehensions of its enemies. I am persuaded that the patriotism of the people will continue, and be a sufficient guard to their liberties, and that the tendency of the Constitution will be, that the State governments will counteract the general interest, and ultimately prevail. The number of the representatives is yet sufficient for our safety, and will gradually increase; and if we consider their different sources of information, the number will not appear too small.