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Printers and Stereotypers, 

Lancaster, Pa. 


The object of this book is to show the circumstances under 
which the Federal Constitution was ratified by Pennsylvania. 
She was the first of the large states to accept the plan that 
gave the states having a small population an equal represen- 
tation in the Senate with the others, and her prompt action 
influenced the result. Had this action been less prompt or 
less decided, it would have opened the way to dissensions 
and amendments that would in all probability have caused 
the rejection of the Constitution, or have sunk it to the level 
of the Articles of Confederation. Preceded only by Delaware 
in taking final action on the Constitution, she was the first 
to undertake its consideration. 

Twenty hours after the Continental Congress submitted 
the Constitution to the States, the Assembly of Pennsylvania 
called a convention to ratify or reject it. When formally sent 
out to the people of the State, the "New Plan" at once be- 
came the subject of a violent contest, which continued almost 
to the day when Washington was sworn into office. 

The history of this contest has never been written. In 
1830 Jonathan Elliot published a collection of the debates 
that took place in some of the state conventions, and in this 
collection Pennsylvania was given a place. But what is 
there set forth as a record of the debate is false to history and 
discreditable to the industry of Mr. Elliot. The Conven- 
tion sat from November 21 to December 15, the debate was 
exhaustive, the adverse views were strongly and ably urged. 
Yet Mr. Elliot gives only the preliminary proceedings, the 
speeches of James Wilson and a single speech of Thomas 
McKean, each in defence of the Constitution. He simply 
reprinted the small volume published by Thomas Lloyd in 
1788, in which all the arguments of the opposition were 

It is true, the majority of the Convention refused to have 
their verdict weakened by allowing the minority to enter 

vi Preface. 

their reasons of dissent on the Journal; but these reasons 

with proposed amendments were issued as a broadside, and 

spread all over the country. They show that the battle was 

fou(;lit out here and conclusions reached that in many cases 

commended themselves to the majority of the people. The 

amendments thus unofficially offered were the forerunners 

of those of Massachusetts and Virginia, and undoubtedly 

formed the basis of what ]\Ir. Madison laid before the House 

of Representatives in 1789. 

The material for a proper showing of the conduct of the 
people of Pennsylvania during the struggle over the Federal 
Constitution in 1787, is plentiful and of two sorts — the official 
proceedings and debates of the Assembly and the Convention, 
and the essays, squibs, letters, speeches, etc. , that were pub- 
lished from day to day in the Journals and Gazettes. 

Of the debates, unhappily, no complete report is in ex- 
istence. The Convention employed no short-hand reporter 
to take down what was said, the report begun by Alexander 
J. Dallas for the Pennsylvania "Herald" was soon sup- 
pressed, and from November 30, 1787, the sources of inform- 
ation are some notes by James Wilson, some speeches reported 
by Thomas Lloyd, and the summaries that appeared in the 
newspapers. From such material has been constructed the 
account of the debates in the Convention given in Chapter 
Fourth, which is probably all that can ever be known. The 
Journal of the Convention — a bare record of meetings, mo- 
tions, adjournments, and votes — has not been reprinted for 
lack of room. 

From the squibs and essays, many exceedingly unwise and 
dry, but all showing forth the popular views of the Constitu- 
tion, such a selection has been made as seems to fairly 
represent both the Federal and Antifederal side. Much has 
been omitted, but whatever has been omitted has generally 
been said somewhere else in better form. 

To preserve the memoirs of the men who were thought fit 
to represent the people on this occasion, a series of biograph- 
ical sketches have been added. 

Philadelphia^ June gth^ 188S. 


The STRUGGI.E OVER THE Constitution i 

The Convention Cali^ed 27 

Before the Convention Met 120 

The Debate in the Convention 204 

Whii^e the Convention was Sitting 432 

After the Convention Rose 454 

Letters of Centinei, 565 

Sketches of the Pennsyi^vania Members of the Federal 
Convention 701 

Sketches of the Members of the Pennsyi^vania Convention . 712 

Appendix— Wii^ON's Notes— Replies of Mifflin and Morris to 
Centinel 763 




James "Wilson Frontispiece. 

Robert Morris 12 

George Clymer 27 

Jared IngersoIvL no 

Alexander James Dallas 213 

Anthony Wayne 247 

Jasper Yeates 295 

Thomas McKean 365 

William Findley 454 

Fleazer Oswald 566 

Thomas Mifflin 662 

Benjamin Franklin 699 

GoTjvERNEUR Morris 709 

Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg 743 

Benjamin Rush 749 


THE struggle: over the constitution. 

The constitution of the United States, as is well known, 
was framed during the summer of 1787, by a convention of 
delegates from twelve States. The convention sat in the old 
State House at Philadelphia, and after a stormy session of 
four months, ended its labors on September 17th, 1787. On 
the afternoon of that day, the constitution duly signed by 
thirty-nine of the members, some resolutions, and a letter 
from Washington, were ordered to be sent to Congress, to be 
by it transmitted to the States. 

While these things were taking place in a lower room of 
the State House, the Legislature of Pennsylvania was in ses- 
sion in a room above, and to it, on the morning of September 
1 8th, the constitution was read. Copies were then given to 
the press, and the next day the people of Philadelphia were 
reading the new plan in the "Packet," the "Journal," and 
the "Gazetteer." For a few days nothing but praise was 
heard. But, before a week was gone, a writer made bold 
to attack it in the "Freeman's Journal;" answers were 
made to him in the "Gazetteer;" more attacks followed, the 
community was split into two great parties, the names 
Federal and Antifederal were formally assumed, and a strug- 
gle, the most interesting in the early history of the constitu- 
tion, was commenced. 

The new frame of government meanwhile had been pre- 
sented to Congress, and there, too, had been strongly opposed. 
Led on by Melanchthon Smith, the New York delegates op- 
posed it to a man. William Grayson, of Virginia, denounced 
it as too weak. Richard Henry Lee hated it for being too 
strong, and with him went Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts. 
To submit such a document to Congress, they held, was 
absurd. Congress could give it no countenance whatever. 


2 The Struggle Over the Constitution. 

The proposed constitution was a plan for a new government; 
a new government could not be set up till the old had been 
pulled down, and to pull down the old was out of the power 
of Congress. They were reminded that Congress had sanc- 
tioned the meeting of the convention, and told that, if Con- 
gress could approve the convention, it could approve the 
work the convention did. But they would not be convinced, 
and on September 26th, Lee moved a bill of rights and a long 
list of amendments. He would have no Vice-President, a 
council of state to be joined with the President in making 
appointments, more representatives, and more than a majority 
to pass an act for the regulation of commerce. His bill and 
his amendments were not considered, and the next day Lee 
came forward with a new resolution. This was, that the acts 
of the convention should be sent to the executives of the 
States, to be by them laid before their legislatures. Instantly 
a member from Delaware moved to add the words: " In order 
to be by them submitted to conventions of delegates to be 
chosen agreeably to the said resolutions of the convention." 
The question was taken, and of the twelve States on the 
floor, all were for the motion save New York, and all save 
New York and Virginia were so unanimously. It was then 
moved to urge the legislatures to call state conventions with 
all the speed they could ; but Congress rose, and the matter 
went over to the next day. 

It was now quite clear that neither party could have its 
own way. The Federalists wished to send the new plan to 
the States by the undivided vote of Congress. But this they 
could not do while the New York delegates held out. Lee 
and his followers wished to send it, if sent at all, without one 
word of approval. But this they could not do unless the 
Federalists were willing. When, therefore. Congress again 
assembled at noon on the 28th, each party gave up something. 
The Federalists agreed to withhold all words of approval. 
The Antifederalists agree to unanimity. The amendments 
offered by Lee on the 26th, and the vote on the 27th, were then 
expunged from the journal, and the constitution, the resolu- 
tions of the convention, and the letter of Washington, were 
formally sent to the States. 

Action of the Pennsylvania Assembly. 3 

William Bingham of Pennsylvania at once sent oflf an ex- 
press to Philadelphia with the news. But the rider had not 
crossed the ferry to Paulus Hook when the Legislature of 
Pennsylvania began to act. The Assembly had resolved to 
adjourn sine die on Saturday, September 29th. But the Fed- 
eralists had determined that before adjournment a state con- 
vention to consider the constitution should be called. When, 
therefore, the day drew near, and no word of approval came 
from Congress, they took the matter into their own hands, 
and on Friday morning George Clymer rose in his place, and 
moved that a state convention of deputies be called, that they 
meet at Philadelphia, and that they be chosen in the same 
manner and on the same day as the members of the next 
General Assembly. Mr. Whitehill, who sat for Cumberland, 
objected, moved to put oflf consideration of the matter till 
afternoon, and provoked a long and bitter debate. The people, 
it was said, in the State at large knew nothing about the new 
plan. To inform them before election would be impossible. 
The matter should be left to the next Assembly. Congress 
besides had taken no action, and till Congress did, no State 
could act: the articles of confederation forbade them; they 
must keep on federal ground. The motion again was un- 
parliamentary. The custom of the Assembly had always 
been, when important business was to be brought on, to give 
notice beforehand, have the matter made the order of the 
day, and have the bill read three times. To now bring on 
business so important by surprise, and hurry it through with- 
out debate, was clearly to serve some bad end. 

Such argument, however, could not bring over a single 
Federalist, and the first of the resolutions,* that calling the 
convention to meet at Philadelphia, was carried by a vote of 
forty-three to nineteen. The Assembly then adjourned till 
four in the afternoon. 

Not a few of the minority lodged in the house of Major 
Boyd, on Sixth street, and there it is likely a plan was laid 
that came very near being successful. The Assembly consisted 
of sixty-nine members. Forty-six made a quorum. If, there- 

*Chap. II., p. 28. 

4 The Struggle Over the Constitution. 

fore, nfneteen kept away there would be no quorum, and if 
there was no quorum the house would be forced to adjourn 
with the day for the election of delegates unfixed, and the 
manner of choosing the members unsettled. It was accord- 
ingly arranged that not one of the nineteen should go to the 
afternoon session, and not one did. 

At four o'clock the Assembly met, with the Speaker and 
every federal member in his place. But all told, they counted 
only forty-four, and the business could not go on. After 
waiting a while and no more coming in, the Speaker sent out 
the sergeant-at-arms to summon the absentees. None would 
obey, and the house was forced to adjourn to 9 o'clock on 
Saturday morning. 

Meanwhile, the rider sent on by Mr. Bingham came spur- 
ring into town with the resolution of Congress submitting 
the constitution to the States. This, when the Speaker had 
taken the chair on Saturday, was read to the house. Hoping 
that the opposition of the minority would now be removed, 
the sergeant-at-arms and the assistant clerk were dispatched 
to hunt up the malcontents, show them the resolution, 
and summon them to attend. The two officers went first to 
Major Boyd's, where were James M'Calmont, who sat for 
Franklin, and Jacob Miley, from Dauphin. They were 
shown the resolution, and stoutly said they would not go. 
The people, however, decided that they should; broke into 
their lodgings, seized them, dragged them through the streets 
to the State House, and thrust them into the assembly room, 
with clothes torn and faces white with rage. The quorum 
was now complete. 

When the roll had been called and a petition praying for a 
convention presented and read, Mr. M'Calmont rose, com- 
plained of his treatment, and asked to be excused. Some de- 
bate followed, in the course of which the rules touching the 
matter were read. It then appeared that every member who 
did not answer at roll-call was to be fined 2s. 6d. But when 
a quorum could not be formed without him, a fine of 5s. was 
to be imposed. Thereupon Mr. M'Calmont rose, and, taking 
some silver from his pocket, said, "Well, sir, here is your 5s. 

Pelatiah Webster. 5 

to let me go." The gallery broke into a laugh, the Speaker 
refused the money, and the debate went on till the vote was 
about to be taken, when Mr. M'Calmont left his seat and 
made for the door. Instantly the gallery* cried out, "Stop 
him." The crowd about the door did so; Mr. M'Calmont 
returned to his seat; the house refused to excuse him, and 
appointed the first Tuesday in November for the election of 

While these things were happening in the Assembly, the 
minority were busy preparing an address to the people, which 
sixteen of the nineteen signed. 

The objections of these men were ten in number. The 
new plan was offensive because it was too costly, because it 
was to be a government of three branches, because it would 
ruin state governments or reduce them to corporations, be- 
cause power of taxation was vested in Congress, because lib- 
erty of the press was not assured, because trial by jury was 
abolished in civil cases, and because the federal judiciary 
was so formed as to destroy the judiciary of the States. There 
ought to have been rotation in office, in place of which repre- 
sentatives were to be chosen for two years and senators for 
six. There ought to have been a declaration of rights, and 
provision against a standing army. They were at once an- 
swered in verse, in squibs, in mock protests, in serious and 
carefully drawn replies. One such reply came from six of 
the majority. Another, the longest and the most elaborate 
of all, was written by Pelatiah Webster. Webster was born 
at Lebanon, Connecticut, in 1725, and seems to have pos- 
sessed the traditional versatility of the New England people. 
At twenty-one he was graduated from Yale college, studied 
theology, and for two years preached in the town of Green- 
wich. Wearying of this he turned business man, and went 
to Philadelphia in 1755. Either the profits were small or the 
business not to his taste, for in 1763 he accepted the place of 

*This -word occurs in the newspapers of the day. But the Assembly 
room contained no gallery. The term, therefore, must be understood in a 
parliamentary sense, and as referring to the people who stood in a crowd 
^ong the wall and around the door. 

6 The Struggle Over the Constitutio7t. 

second English master in the Germantown academy, on a 
salary of one hundred pounds, proclamation money, a year. 
This he gave up in 1766, after which time nothing is known 
concerning him till, in 1776, he published an essay in favor 
of taxation for the purpose of redeeming the continental bills 
of credit. The British in 1778 threw him into jail, where he 
staid six months. As soon as he was free he once more took 
up the study of continental finance, and began a series of 
seven essays on "Free Trade and Finance," of which the 
first appeared in 1779 and the last in 1785. "A Dissertation 
on the Political Union and Constitution of the Thirteen 
United States of North America," one of the early efforts 
towards a more perfect union, appeared in 1783. In 1795 
Webster died. 

But an answer more decisive than that of Mr. Webster 
was made by the people at the polls, when the day came 
for choosing the members of the new Assembly and Council. 
Then Robert Whitehill, who signed the address as one of 
the sixteen, and had, in return, been put up for a seat in 
the Council, was thrown out by the voters of Cumberland 
county. Samuel Dale, whose name likewise appeared at 
the foot of the address, and Frederick Antis, who, having 
voted for the convention in the memorable morning session, 
went out with the nineteen in the afternoon, each met a like 
fate in Northumberland. 

The election, however, to which the factions looked for- 
ward with most concern was that of delegates to the conven- 
tion. Four weeks were to come and go before this took 
place, and during these weeks the Antifederalists were all ac- 
tivity. A friend was early found in Eleazer Oswald, who 
then owned the "Independent Gazetteer, or Chronicle of 
Freedom," and a champion in the unknown author of the 
letters of "Centinel." 

Who "Centinel" was cannot be known. His letters in 
their day were ascribed to Oswald, to George Bryan, to 
almost every Antifederalist of note. But it seems not unlikely 
that the writer was Samuel Bryan.* Be this as it may, the 

*This statement is made on the authority of Mr. Paul Leicester Ford, who 

Eleazer Oswald. 7 

letters deserve the same rank in the list of pieces opposing 
the constitution, that has been given to the "Federalist" in 
the list of pieces supporting the constitution. 

Eleazer Oswald was a native of Great Britian, and came 
to this country just at the outbreak of the Revolutionary 
war. Young, romantic, deeply impressed with the rights of 
man, he instantly took the part of the colonies, joined their 
army and fought for them during half the war. He was with 
Bthen Allen when Ticonderoga was taken, marched with 
Benedict Arnold to the siege of Quebec, led the forlorn hope 
on the day Montgomery fell, and took part under Washington 
in the battle of Monmouth. Of war he now seems to have 
had enough, for he resigned his commission in 1778, went to 
Philadelphia, and there, after casting about for something to 
do, turned tavern keeper and printer, re-opened the London 
Coffee House, and began the publication of the "Independent 
Gazetteer." Like most Whigs, he firmly believed the arti- 
cles of confederation needed to be improved; but the con- 
stitution he considered no improvement at all, pronounced it 
monarchical, and made his paper the receptacle of the fiercest 
attacks on the new plan and its supporters. It was to the 
"Gazetteer" that Columbus and Gouvero, Tom Peep and 
Bye-Stander contributed their squibs, that " Philadelphien- 
sis" sent his observations, and that "Centinel" contributed 
his twenty-four letters. 

Stripped of all bitterness, the arguments of the two parties 
may be briefly stated. The new plan, said the Antifederalists, 
is not only a confederation of States, which it ought to be; but 
a government over individuals, which it ought not to be. 
Not only may Congress overawe the States, but it can go 

has kindly furnished the following piece of information: "At the time of 
their publication, George Bryan, of Pennsylvania, was charged with the 
authorship of the letters of Centinel, and as such was the subject of many 
attacks from the Federalist newspapers ; but his son, Samuel Bryan, writing 
to George Clinton, says: 'I have not the honor of being personally known 
to your Excellency, but * * * i flatter myself that in the character of 
Centinel I have been honored with your approbation and esteem.' It ap- 
pears, however, from the Belknap Papers (II. 24, 35), that Eleazer Oswald, 
printer of the ' Independent Gazetteer,' was the author of some of the shorter 
squibs over that pseudonym." 

8 The Struggle Over the Constitution. 

down and lay hold on the life, liberty and property of the 
meanest citizen in the land. Where powers so extensive are 
bestowed on a government, the limits of the powers and the 
rights of the people ought to be clearly defined. Does the 
constitution do this? Far from it. No safeguards whatever 
are provided. There is no bill of rights, while trial by jury, 
that great bulwark of liberty, is carefully done away with in 
civil cases. Liberty of the press is not secured. Religious 
toleration is not provided for. There are to be general search 
warrants, excise laws, a standing army which the constitu- 
tion does not forbid being quartered on the people. This is 
serious. For, by one article the ' ' constitution and the laws 
made in pursuance thereof," are to be "the supreme law of 
the land," They are, moreover, to be binding on the judges 
of each State, anything in the constitution or laws of that State 
to the contrary notwithstanding. Now, the state constitu- 
tions provide for liberty of the press, of speech, and of wor- 
ship. The constitution of the United States does not. A 
law by Congress abolishing any of these would therefore be 
in pursuance of the constitution, would be "the supreme law 
of the land," and would be binding on every state judge in 
the union. 

By another article Congress is to have power to lay taxes, 
imposts and duties. But so have the States power to lay 
taxes. How long will it be before all taxation is in the hands 
of Congress? For, is it not clear that when two powers are 
given equal command over the purses of the people, they will 
fight for the spoils ? And is it not clear that the weaker will 
be found to yield to the stronger? And will not Congress be 
stronger? State sovereignty, so carefully preserved in the 
articles, is well nigh destroyed in the constitution. The peo- 
ple, not the States, are to be represented in the house, and 
there every delegate is to vote as a man. Lest the people 
should derive any benefit from this change, annual elections 
and rotation in office are to be swept away. A republican 
form of government is indeed guaranteed, but whoever will 
take the pains to look will see that it is the form, and not 
the substance. Innumerable acts of sovereignty are to be 

speech of James Wilso7i. 9 

taken from the States. They can coin no money, nor regulate 
their trade, nor derive one shilling from impost duty. 

Indeed, there was hardly a provision in the whole constitu- 
tion of which the Antifederalists could approve. The num- 
ber of representatives was too small. The Senate was too 
aristocratic. The jurisdiction of the supreme court was too 
extensive. The President had powers which, when joined 
with those of the Senate, were utterly incompatible with 

To strictures such as these a number of replies were made 
by the Federalists. Some were sarcastic or foolish, and in- 
tended merely to provoke a laugh. Some were temperate, 
and well considered, and of such the best were the speech of 
James Wilson at the State House, and the essays of "A 
Federalist," and "Plain Truth.", 

The occasion of Mr. Wilson's speech was a public meeting 
in the State House yard, to nominate delegates to the next Gen- 
eral Assembly. As it was well known that the business of 
the meeting would bring a great crowd, the Federalists in- 
duced Mr. Wilson to make an address by way of answer to 
the many charges the Antifederalists had brought against the 

He began by calling on his hearers to recollect that the 
constitutions of the States were very different instruments 
from the constitution proposed for the United States. When 
the people set up their state governments, they gave to their 
legislatures every right and every power which they did not 
expressly withhold. But in giving powers to the federal 
government this principle had been reversed, and the au- 
thority of Congress would be determined not by tacit impli- 
cation, but by positive grant expressed in the constitution. 
In the case of the state governments, every power not ex- 
pressly reserved was given. In the case of the proposed 
federal government, every power not expressly given was 

This distinction being recognized, the objection of those 
who wished for a bill of rights was answered. A bill of 
rights was prefixed to the constitution of Pennsylvania, be- 

lO TJic Struggle Over the Constitution. 

cause in such an instrument the reserved powers must be 
specified, and this specification was done in the bill of 
rights. No bill of rights had been added to the proposed 
constitution of the United States, because it was not necessary 
to sum up the reserved powers, because no power was given 
unless expressly given, and the collection of express powers 
was the constitution. 

Another objection was that trial by jury in civil cases 
would be abolished. This was a mistake. The business of 
the convention that framed the constitution was not local, 
but general. Its duty was not to meet the views and usages 
of any one State, but the views and usages of thirteen States. 
These usages were not common. When, therefore, the fed- 
eral convention was considering the matter of jury trial, the 
members found themselves beset with difficulties on every 
hand. Cases open to a jury in one State were not open to a 
jury in another. Nowhere were admiralty cases, and such 
as came up in courts of equity, sent to a panel of twelve. To 
lay down a general rule was therefore impossible, and the 
convention wisely gave up the task, and left the matter as it 
stood, feeling sure no danger could arise. 

The charge that the constitution would destroy the state 
governments was, Mr. Wilson held, refuted by the constitu- 
tion itself Was not the President to be chosen by electors? 
and was not the manner of choosing the electors to be deter- 
mined by the legislatures of the States? Were not the sena- 
tors to be elected by the state legislatures? Were not the 
qualifications of an elector of representatives to be the same 
as "the qualifications requisite for electors of the most 
numerous branch of the state legislature? ' ' Did it not follow 
then that if the legislatures were destroyed no President could 
be chosen, no senators elected, no represenatives voted for? 

Mr. Wilson then went on to refute the charges of "a stand- 
ing army in time of peace," and of "the baleful aristocracy 
in the United States Senate." He ended his speech with 
the statement that the men who opposed the constitution did 
so from personal, not patriotic motives. They were, he said, 
placemen, tax collectors and excisemen, who, should the 

'■'•Great Na7nesy ii 

new plan go into effect, would be turned out of office by the 
abolition, or transfer to the federal government of the places 
they held under the State,* 

The speech was hailed by the Federalists as final, and pro- 
voked the Antifederalists to make innumerable replies. ' ' Cen- 
tinel" devoted a whole letter to answering it. From New 
York came a series of long letters in reply. "A Democratic 
Federalist" labored hard to refute him. 

Others, who could not answer, began to call names. ''An 
officer of the late Continental army ' ' described the speech as 
a "train of pitiful sophistries, unworthy of the man who 
uttered them." One bitter lampooner nick-named him 
"James de Caledonia." Another vilified him as "Jimmy." 
A third summed up his objections to the constitution with 
the remark that such a haughty aristocrat as Mr. Wilson 
having approved the new plan, was the best reason in the 
world why the people should reject it. 

This, it was said, might possibly be so, if Mr. Wilson 
were the only signer of the constitution. But he was not. 
His was but one name in a long list of great names. Had it 
not been signed by a Washington, and did there live a villain 
so black-hearted as to assert that the American Fabius was 
now seeking to destroy the liberties he had done so much to 
secure? Had not Franklin signed it, and did any one sup- 
pose that he would close a long and splendid career by re- 
commending to his countrymen an infamous constitution? 
Had it not been signed by a Morris and a Sherman? The 
Antifederalists admitted that it had, but warned the people 
not to be blinded by the glamour of great names. Were there 
not names, as great as any at the foot of the constitution, to 
be seen at the foot of the articles of confederation articles 

* Gouverneur Morris in a letter to Washington makes the same statement. 
There had, he wrote, been reason to "dread the cold and sour temper of the 
back counties, and still more the wicked industry of those who have long 
habituated themselves to live on the public, and cannot bear the idea of being 
removed from the power and profit of State government, which has been 
and still is the means of supporting themselves, their families and depend- 
ents, and (which perhaps is equally grateful) of depressing and humbling 
their political adversaries." 

12 The Struggle Over the Constitution. 

now declared to be thoroughly bad? Nay, had not some of 
the very men who put their hands to the one, put their hands 
to the other? Had not Roger Sherman, and Robert Morris, 
and Gouverneur Morris, recommended the confederation? 
What, then, was the value of these boasted great names ? If 
these patriots had erred once, what was to hinder them from 
erring twice? "Centinel" went so far as to make some re- 
marks on Washington and Franklin, which the Federalists 
interpreted to mean that Washington was a fool from nature 
and Franklin a fool from old age. The abuse of the "great 
names ' ' once begun, no one was spared. The whole list of 
signers was gone through with. Robert Morris was " Bobby 
the Cofferer, ' ' and was said to be for the constitution because he 
hoped the new government would wipe out the debts he owed 
the old. Thomas Mifflin was "Tommy the Quartermaster 
General," and gave his support because his accounts were 
400,000 dollars short. Gouverneur Morris was "Gouvero 
the cunning man." Few was sneered at as a bricklayer. 
Telfair was accused of having been a Tory. Baldwin was 
twitted with having once been steward of Princeton college, 
which was false. To the convention was given the nickname 
of the dark conclave. 

The hatred was most bitter, however, toward the eight who 
signed for Pennsylvania. Indeed, so loud was the outcry 
against them, that when the time came to nominate delegates 
to the state convention, it was thought best that James Wil- 
son should be the only one put up. The precaution was 
unnecessary, for in Philadelphia the Federalists carried 

Election day was the sixth of November. Five delegates 
were to be chosen from the city of Philadelphia, and when 
the polls were closed at the State House, it appeared that the 
Antifederalists had suffered a crushing defeat. The name 
standing highest on the federal ticket received twelve hun- 
dred and fifteen votes, and the name that stood lowest, eleven 
hundred and fifty-seven votes. For Pettit, who headed the 
antifederal ticket, one hundred and fifty votes were cast, while 
Irvine, who stood at the bottom, was given one hundred and 



J-W^n. tkK oriair'^P^'^'^^"^' 


The State Conventio7t. 13 

thirty-two. Franklin, it is true, ran far ahead of Pettit; but 
he was in no sense an Antifederalist, and was well known to 
have little sympathy for the party that used his name. He 
had not been nominated by the Federalists, partly, as was 
explained, because he was old and feeble, but chiefly because 
he was still president of the commonwealth, and it was not 
thought fit that any officer of the State should sit in the con- 
vention. The Antifederalists accordingly used his great name 
in the hope of drawing votes. But the ruse was detected, and 
though some votes were drawn, they were for him and not 
for the ticket. He received two hundred and thirty-five. 

The Federalists were greatly elated over their victory, and 
after midnight on election day a score or so of tipsy revellers 
went to the house of Major Boyd, where lived John Smilie, 
John Baird, Abraham Smith, James M'Calmont, James Mc- 
Lean, John Piper and William Findley, members of the leg- 
islature and noted Antifederalists, every one of them. Four 
had signed the address of the sixteen dissenting assemblymen. 
All had strongly opposed the calling of a state convention; 
all were detested by the mob which gathered before the house, 
broke the door, flung stones through the windows, and went 
off reviling the inmates by name. Enraged at the insult, they 
complained to the legislature. The Assembly asked the "Ex- 
ecutive Council" to offer a reward. The council did so, and 
Franklin promptly issued a proclamation offering three hun- 
dred dollars for the capture and punishment of the offenders. 
The proclamation was mere matter of form. No search was 
made, no rioter was arrested, and the delegates chosen to the 
convention met at the State House on Wednesday, the twenty- 
first of November, when sixty of the sixty-nine members were 

The sixty who, on that day, answered to their names, made 
up a body as characteristic of the State as has ever been 
gathered. Scarcely a sect, or creed, or nationality in the 
commonwealth, but had at least one representative on the 
floor of the convention. Some were Moravians; some were 
Lutherans; some Episcopalians; some Quakers; most were 
Presbyterians. Some were of German descent. The ances- 

14 The Struggle Over the Constitution. 

tors of others had but a generation or two before come over 
from Scotland or England, or Ireland, or that part of Ireland 
made famous by the Scotch. One had sat in the "Council of 
Censors. ' ' Three had been members of Assembly. Eleven 
had been judges, or justices of the peace. As many more had 
been Revolutionary officers. Scarce one but had taken some 
part in the struggle for Independence. One had received sub- 
scriptions to the continental loan. Others had served on com- 
mittees of observation, or had been members of the " Flying 
Camp." One had served with Washington and Braddock. 
Another had been turned out of meeting for taking arms in 
the good cause. Five in time acquired national fame. From 
the city of Philadelphia came Benjamin Rush, and James 
Wilson, and Thomas M' Kean. Chester sent Anthony Wayne. 
From Luzerne came Timothy Pickering, postmaster general, 
secretary of war, and secretary of state under Washington, 
secretary of state under Adams, senator from Massachusetts, 
and to the day of his death the bitterest, the most implacable 
of Federalists. 

Of the proceedings of the convention no full and satisfac- 
tory record is known to exist. For our knowledge of what 
was said and done we are indebted to the journal kept by the 
secretary of the convention, to the report of a few speeches 
taken down in shorthand by Thomas Lloyd, to the reports 
and summaries of the debates that appeared in the news- 
papers, and to the notes jotted down by Wilson and intended 
to be used by him as the subjects of replies and speeches. 
The minutes are exceedingly meagre; but from them it appears 
that Thomas Lloyd applied to the convention for the place of 
assistant clerk. Lloyd was a shorthand writer of considerable 
note, and, when the convention refused his request, determined 
to report the debates and print them on his own account. His 
advertisement promised that the debates should be accurately 
taken in shorthand, and published in one volume octavo at 
the rate of one dollar the hundred pages. These fine prom- 
ises, however, were never fulfilled. Only one thin volume ever 
came out, and that contains merely the speeches of Wilson 
and a few of those of Thomas M'Kean. The reason is not 

Dallas Reports the Debates. 15 

far to seek. He was bought up by the Federalists, and, in 
order to satisfy the public, was suffered to publish one volume 
containing nothing but speeches made by the two federal 

That the debates were thus suppressed may be considered as 
reasonably well-established. When the convention began its 
work, the "Packet" and the "Gazetteer," the "Journal" and 
the "Gazette" printed short summaries of each day's doings. 
The "Herald," however, published long and full reports, now 
known to have been the work of Alexander James Dallas, 
Mr. Dallas was then a young man, and was employed by 
William Spotswood to edit his two publications, the "Penn- 
sylvania Herald ' ' and the ' ' Columbian Magazine. ' ' So good 
were his reports that all the newspapers copied them, till 
January 6, 1788, having reached the debate of November 
30th, they suddenly stopped. No word of explanation was 
offered by the "Herald;" but "Centinel" declares they were 
stopped by the efforts of the Federalists, a charge which 
gains much likelihood from the facts that in February, 1788, 
the "Herald" ceased to be published and that the Federal- 
ists withdrew their subscriptions from every publication that 
warmly supported the Antifederal cause. * 

* Benjamin Rush, himself a Federalist, asserts in a letter to Noah Web- 
ster (Febeuary 13, 17S8): "From the impudent conduct of Mr. Dallas in 
misrepresenting the proceedings and speeches in the Pennsylvania conven- 
tion, as well as from his deficiency of matter, the " Columbian Magazine," of 
which he is editor, is in the decline." For this extract we are again in- 
debted to Mr. Paul Leicester Ford. 

Complaints of the same kind are made by Mr. Oswald day after day in the 
"Gazetteer:" "The printer, having most pressing calls for money, is again 
impelled to request that the subscribers to his newspaper be so kind as to 
discharge their respective balances. And those who have been so very lib- 
eral as to withdraw their subscriptions and support (and having NOT settled) 
because he chose, in the present great political controversy, to act with his 
usual impartiality, by publishing freely on both sides the question, are par- 
ticularly requested to call and pay off their arrearages. 

" He, however, for the present, chooses to suppress the ideas that occur to 
him on this occasion, and shall therefore only remind those high-flying tools, 
pigmies, and tiffanies of power and the prevailing party, those boasted 
friends of freedom and liberty of the press, that ' the tables ' may, in the 
course of human events, be again turned, and that ' the race is not always to 
the swift, nor the battle to the strong. ' ' ' 

l6 The Struggle Over the Constitution. 

From the first it was plain that in the convention the bur- 
den of debate wonld fall upon the Antifederalists, and by them 
the lead was gladly given to Whitehill, Findley and Smilie, 
who came from the counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland 
and Fayette. The Federalists looked up for leadership to Wil- 
son and ]\I'Kean. Indeed, it was M'Kean who, when a speaker 
had been chosen, and the rules approved, opened the busi- 
ness of the convention by moving that the constitution be 
adopted as the federal convention had framed it. Wilson 
supported him in a long and characteristic oration. Smilie 
attacked him in a speech which made up in bitterness what 
it lacked in length. Others followed, and a whole week was 
spent in debating motions to take up the constitution article 
by article in convention; to take it up by articles and sec- 
tions in committee of the whole; to give each member the 
right when the yeas and nays were called to enter the reasons 
of his vote on the journals. The first alone prevailed. On 
each the vote was twenty-four to forty-four; nor did it, on any 
question that came before the convention at any time, mater- 
ially change. Never did the majority have more than forty- 
six. Never did the minority have less than twenty-three. 

These questions settled, Mr. Wilson took up the preamble, 
and opened a long debate on the kind of government pro- 
posed to be set up. Findley and Smilie and Whitehill 
declared that it would be a consolidation, and not a confedera- 
tion of the States, and gave reasons for this belief. It would 
be a consolidated government because in the preamble were 
the words "We the People," and not "We the States," which 
showed it to be a compact between individuals forming a 
society, and not between sovereign States forming a govern- 
ment; because in Congress the votes were cast by indivi- 
duals, and not by States; because the taxing power of the 
federal body would destroy state sovereignties, as two 
independent and sovereign taxing powers could not exist in 
one community; because Congress could regulate elections; 
because the judiciary was co-extensive with the legislative 
power; because congressmen were to be paid out of the 
national, and not out of the state treasury; because there was 

Wilson Supports the Constitution in the Convention. 17 

no bill of rights, no annual elections, and power to make all 
laws necessary to put the constitution into effect. Under 
such a plan it was simply impossible for a confederation to 
exist. The moment it went into operation, that moment state 
sovereignty was ended. Stripped of every lucrative source 
of taxation, deprived of innumerable rights and powers, the 
States would sink to mere corporations doing such things as 
the laws and treaties of Congress would permit. 

To this one ardent Federalist made reply that he hoped they 
would sink to mere corporations. Plurality of sovereignty was 
in politics what plurality of gods was in religion. It was the 
idolatry, the heathenism of government. But the duty of de- 
fending the constitution fell chiefly to Mr. Wilson, and the 
arguments of Mr. Wilson were more forcible and direct. 
Those, he said, who opposed the new plan did so on the 
ground that the sovereign power was in the States as govern- 
ments. Those who supported the constitution, on the other 
hand, did so because they believed that sovereignty was in the 
people; that the people had not, meant not, and ought not to 
part with it to any government on earth; that, having it in 
their own hands, the people could delegate it in such quantity, 
to such bodies, and on such terms, and under such limitations, 
as they saw fit. This doctrine was far from new. Indeed, the 
people had boldly asserted it in that grand passage of the 
Declaration of Independence which says: "We hold these 
truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that 
they are endowed of their creator with certain unalienable 
rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are in- 
stituted among men, deriving their just powers from the con- 
sent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government 
becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people 
to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying 
its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers 
in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their 
safety and happiness." On this broad basis independence 
was asserted and on this basis the people had acted ever since. 
Exercising the rights there affirmed, they had first set up 

l8 TJic Struggle Over the Constitution. 

state governments, and then a government of confederated 
States, which, again using their old rights, they now proposed 
to supplant by a new government " laying its foundation ojt 
such principles^ orgajiizing its powers in such form as to 
them" seemed fitting. That the world might know by 
whose act this was done, a preamble had been added to the 
new plan distinctly stating that " We^ the People ^'''' the people 
in whose hands is all sovereignty, the people who, under God, 
alone have the right to pull down and set up governments, 
do ordain, and establish the constitution. To say then, that 
the new plan is one for a consolidated, and not a confeder- 
ated government, because it comes from "We, the People" 
and not from "We, the States," was to talk nonsense. The 
words were there to express two great truths, that all gov- 
ernments are created by the people, and for the people, and 
that this particular form of government had been so formed. 
Again and again Mr. Wilson called on the opposition to 
define what they meant by a consolidated government. Mr. 
Findley answered that it was a government "which put the 
thirteen States into one." Mr. Smilie defined it as one that 
took the sovereignty from the state governments and gave it 
to a general government. Mr. Whitehill would give no defi- 
nition at all. Taking up such as were given, Mr. Wilson 
declared that the States possessed no sovereignty^, and that, 
therefore, none could be taken from them. They were gov- 
ernments of delegated powers, and nothing more. Some of 
these powers were, indeed, to be taken away, or recalled, by 
the sovereign people. But in every case a power so trans- 
ferred was a power that had been long and shamefully abused. 
They could issue no more paper money; make no more ten- 
der laws; no longer treat the just requisitions of Congress with 
contempt. Weary of seeing Congress enact laws which no 
one obeyed, pass judgments the States refused to heed, the 
people had given to the new government executive and judi- 
cial as well as legislative power. Weary of seeing the States 
taxing, and burdening, and ruining the commerce of each 
other, the people had recalled the delegated right to lay im- 
post duties, and in the new plan had given it to Congress. 

Address of the Minority. 19 

The clamor raised about a bill of rights was pronounced idle. 
Were the States sovereign, doling out to the people such 
rights as the people could exact, the need of such a bill would 
indeed have been great. But they were not sovereign, they 
possessed no power not given. What reason was there then 
for the people to demand that they should be left secure in 
the enjoyment of their sovereign, undelegated powers? 

From the character of the constitution as a whole the de- 
bate drifted off to the particular articles, and objection after 
objection was raised by the opposition. The Vice-President 
was a needless and dangerous officer. The Senate ought not 
to make treaties, nor try impeachments, nor have a share in 
che appointing power ; nor its members be elected for so long 
a term as six years. Representation in the house was too 
small. The power of Congress was too great. It could bor- 
row money, keep up a standing army, lay taxes, deprive 
electors of a fair choice of their representatives, call out the 
militia, and make all laws necessary to put these powers into 
execution. The President ought not to have the pardoning 
power. Trial by jury was not secure. It seemed, indeed, as 
if the whole plan of government was, in the opinion of the 
opposition, bad. This Mr. Findley protested was not the 
case. The opposition had no wish to reject it. A few amend- 
ments would remove every objection, and these Mr. Whitehill 
presented to the convention on the morning of the twelfth of 
December. They were fifteen in number, and are remark- 
able as containing the substance of the ten amendments after- 
wards added to the constitution. Similarity so marked can- 
not be accidental. There is much reason, therefore, to believe 
that when Madison, in 1789, drew up the amendments for 
the House of Representatives, he made use of those offered 
by the minority of the convention of Pennsylvania. 

But the majority of the convention had no wish to use them, 
and, when the motion was made to adjourn to some future 
day, that the people might consider them, it was voted down 
by forty-six to twenty-three. By precisely the same vote, the 
constitution, just as it came from the body that framed it, 
was ratified a few minutes later. Without waiting to sign, 

20 The Struggle Over the Constitution. 

the convention, joined by the President and Vice-President of 
the State, the constables, the sub-sheriffs, the high-sheriff, 
the judges, the members of council, and all the state dignita- 
ries, both civil and military, went in procession the following 
day to the State House, and there read the ratification to a 
great gathering of the people. On Saturday the 15th of De- 
cember the convention adjourned. 

And now the minority published their address and reasons 
of dissent. It was not, they said, till the close of the late 
glorious contest that any fault was found with the articles of 
confederation. Then the wants which, during the war, had 
been supplied by the virtue and patriotism of the people, be- 
gan to be apparent. Then it was felt on every hand that 
it would be well for the union to enlarge the powers of Con- 
gress, and suffer that body to regulate commerce, and lay and 
collect duties throughout the United States. With this in 
view, Virginia proposed and Congress urged a convention of 
deputies to revise and amend the articles of confederation, 
and make them suited to the needs of the union. So hastily 
and eagerly did the States comply, that their legislatures, with- 
out the slightest authority, without ever stopping to consult 
the people, appointed delegates, and the conclave met at Phil- 
adelphia. To it came a few men of character, some more 
noted for cunning than patriotism, and some who had always 
been enemies to the independence of America. 

The doors were shut, secrecy was enjoined, and what then 
took place no man could tell. But it was well known that the 
sittings were far from harmonious. Some left the dark con- 
clave before the instrument was framed. Some had the firm- 
ness to withhold their hands when it was framed. But it 
came forth in spite of them, and was not many hours old 
when the meaner tools of despotism were carrying petitions 
about for the people to sign, praying the legislature to call a 
convention to consider it. The convention was called by 
a legislature made up in part of members who had been 
dragged to their seats and kept there against their wills, and 
so early a day was set for the election of delegates that many 
a voter did not know of it till it was passed. Others kept 

Antifederalism in Pennsylvania. 21 

away from the polls because they were ignorant of the new 
plan; some because they disliked it, and some because they 
did not think the convention legally called. Of the sev- 
enty thousand freemen entitled to vote but thirteen thousand 

Having given a history of the two conventions, the ad- 
dressers repeated the fifteen amendments they offered in con- 
vention, and summed up their reasons of dissent under three 
general heads. They dissented because so wide a domain 
could never be governed save by a confederation of republics 
having all the powers of internal government, but united in 
the management of their general and foreign concerns. They 
dissented because the powers vested in Congress would break 
down the sovereignty of the States, and put up on their ruins 
a consolidated government, "an iron-handed despotism." 
They dissented because there was no bill of rights securing 
trial by jury, habeas corpus^ liberty of conscience, and freedom 
of the press. Twenty-one of the twenty-three minority 
signed the address. 

An examination of this list reveals the fact that the little 
band of malcontents was made up of all the delegates from 
the counties of Cumberland, Berks, Westmoreland, Bedford, 
Dauphin, Fayette, half of those from Washington, half from 
Franklin, and John Whitehill, of Lancaster. The reason 
is plain. The constitution proposed for the United States 
was in many ways the direct opposite of the constitution of 
Pennsylvania. The legislature of Pennsylvania consisted of 
a single house. The legislature of the United States was to 
consist of two houses. The President of Pennsylvania was 
chosen by the Assembly. The President of the United 
States was chosen by special electors. The constitution of 
Pennsylvania had a bill of rights, provided for a body of 
censors to meet once each seven years to approve or disap- 
prove the acts of the legislature; for a council to advise the 
President; for annual elections; for rotation in office, all of 
which were quite unknown to the proposed constitution for 
the United States. But the Pennsylvania constitution of 
1776 was the work of the patriot party; of this party a very 

22 The Struggle Over the Constitution. 

considerable number were Presbyterians; and the great Pres- 
byterian counties were Cumberland, Westmoreland, Bedford, 
Dauphin and Fayette. In opposing the new plan these men 
simply opposed a system of government which, if adopted, 
would force them to undo a piece of work done with great 
labor, and beheld with great pride and satisfaction. Every 
man, therefore, who gave his vote for the ratification of the 
national constitution, pronounced his state constitution to be 
bad in form, and this its supporters were not prepared to do. 
By these men, the refusal of the convention to accept the 
amendments they offered was not regarded as ending the 
matter. They went back to the counties that sent them more 
determined than ever but failed to gain to their side the great 
body of Presbyterians. 

Elsewhere the action of the convention was heartily ap- 
proved. At Lancaster the delegates were received with bell 
ringing and discharge of cannon. At Easton the delegates 
from Northampton county held a meeting, and issued an 
address to their constituents giving nine reasons why they 
voted for ratification. The state of the union required a con- 
centration of the powers of government for general purposes. 
The proposed constitution provided for such a concentration 
in the best form that could be agreed on. Under it commerce 
would be restored to its former prosperity, agriculture would 
flourish, taxes be cut down, manufactures and the arts would 
be recognized, and the public creditors duly paid. There 
would be no more bloody contests between neighboring States 
over boundaries and territories; no more paper money and 
tender laws; no more partial laws of any kind. The dele- 
gates from Northampton were sure their constituents could 
not fail to approve so good a plan of government, and in this 
belief they were not mistaken. 

While these things were happening in Pennsylvania, the 
convention of New Jersey met and ratified the constitution 
without one dissenting voice. . Delaware had already done so, 
and these two with Pennsylvania made one-third of the num- 
ber of States necessary to put the new plan into force. 
This continued success the Federalists of Carlisle determined 

Riot at Carlisle. 23 

should be duly celebrated, and chose the last Wednesday in 
December as the day, secured a cannon, and made a great pile 
of barrels for a bonfire on the public square; but no sooner 
were they assembled than a mob of Antifederalists attacked 
them, drove them from the ground, spiked the cannon, 
burned a copy of the constitution, and went off shouting 
"Damnation to the forty-six; long live the virtuous twenty- 
three." On the morrow the Federalists, fully armed, again 
met and carried out their celebration. When they had fin- 
ished, the Antifederalists in turn appeared and burned two 
effigies, labelled, "Thomas M'Kean, Chief Justice," and 
"James Wilson, the Caledonian." Twenty of the rioters 
were in time arrested, but were speedily set at liberty by men 
chosen for that purpose by the companies of militia. 

Thus stirred up, the excitement spread over all the anti- 
federal counties. The country beyond the mountains was 
wholly in the hands of the Antifederalists. While the legisla- 
ture was in session in September, a petition against the state 
convention was passed round in the two counties of Franklin 
and Cumberland, and soon bore four thousand signatures. 
So overwhelming was the number of the Antifederalists that 
the few Federalists did not think it worth while to make any 
demonstration at all. In Fayette county, at a great county 
meeting, but two supporters of the constitution appeared; in 
Bedford county, in the mountains, the number was estimated 
at twenty; in Huntingdon county not above thirty; in 
Dauphin, in the middle country, less than one hundred; in 
Berks, where the taxable inhabitants were nearly five thou- 
sand, the number of active Federalists was put down at fifty*. 
Through all these counties associations and societies were 
formed for the purpose of opposing the constitution, and 
committees of correspondence appointed to secure unity of 
action. Such action was greatly needed, for their chances of 
success grew smaller and smaller every day. In January 
came news that Georgia had ratified unanimously, and hard 
upon this the news that Connecticut had accepted the consti- 
tution by a vote of more than three to one. February 6th 

*"Centinel," Letter 18. 

24 The Struggle Over the Constittition. 

the convention of Massachusetts approved the constitution by 
a majority of nineteen. This was most disheartening; for in 
no State did the chances of the Antifederalists seem better 
than in Massachusetts. There was the home of Shays, and 
there the people had within a year risen up in armed resist- 
ance to the authority of the State. 

Amazed and angry at their defeat in New England, the 
Antifederalists began to cast about them for the cause, and 
soon found it in the management of the post-office. As the 
law then stood, newspapers were not mailable. The post- 
masters could officially have nothing to do with them. 
Neither could the post- riders be forced to carry newspapers 
in their portmanteaux. For the convenience to the public, 
however, the postmaster had suffered the riders to carry the 
Gazetteer and Packet, bargain with the printers about the 
postage, and put the money thus received in their own 
pockets. For a like reason the postmasters in the great 
towns undertook to distribute the newspapers, and were given, 
as the price of their labor, a paper by each printer. The 
suppression of a batch of Gazetteers or Journals was therefore 
an easy matter, and a question merely of money on the one 
hand and honesty on the other. If the bribe were large 
enough, and the rider or the postmaster dishonest enough, the 
thing could be done. That it was done in this particular in- 
stance is doubtful. The charge of the Antifederalists rested 
on three counts. The first was that while the convention of 
Pennsylvania was in session, New York newspapers full of 
most important reading had been stopped, and held back for 
weeks. To refute this the Federalists drew up a paper stat- 
ing that while the convention was sitting the newspapers had 
come as usual. Most of the Philadelphia printers signed it. 
But the printer of the Freeman's Journal refused, and named 
seven consecutive numbers of Greenleaf's New York Journal 
which he stoutly maintained had not reached the city till the 
convention had risen. Some of these were most important, 
as they contained the essays of Brutus, Cato, and Cincinnatus. 
That containing the fifth number of the address of Cincinna- 
tus to James Wilson was, he claimed, especially hateful to 

Charges Against the Post Office. 25 

the Federalists, as it was full of information about tlie way in 
which " Bobby the Cofferer" had conducted the finances of 
the union. This paper was printed in the New York Jour- 
nal of November twenty-ninth ; but not a copy reached 
Philadelphia till December fifteenth, two days after the ratifi- 
cation of the constitution had been proclaimed from the 
State House. 

The second count was, that information which would surely 
have changed many votes in the conventions of Massachusetts 
and Connecticut was purposely held back. Since the new 
year came in, printers in the eastern States had not seen a 
newspaper published south of New York. No one in Boston, 
therefore, had read a line of the masterly address and reasons 
of dissent of the minority of the convention of Pennsylvania, 
or so much as knew that there had been a minority. 

The third count was, that the address and reasons of 
dissent of the minority of the convention of Pennsylvania 
had been published in pamphlet form, and a copy sent through 
the post-office to the address of every printer in the United 
States; yet not a copy, so far as could be learned, had ever 
been received by the persons to whom it had been sent. The 
post-office was clearly the cause of this. It was in the hands 
of the " well born," and these sons of power were determined 
that no newspaper should get out of the office in which it 
was dropped unless it contained fulsome praise of the new 
roof about to be put up to cover them and all the office-seekers 
of the continent. So much was made of this charge that the 
postmaster found it necessary to send out a circular in which 
he reminded the people that the post-office had nothing to 
do with the delivery of newspapers, and if they went astray 
the printers must look to the riders for redress, and not to him. 

That the strictures of Cincinnattus could have changed a 
vote in the Pennsylvania convention, or the reasons of dis- 
sent have had any effect on the convention of Massachu- 
setts, had both been promptly delivered, is not at all likely. 
Yet neither party ceased to strive to win supporters in the 
still doubtful States. The Federalists filled the columns of 
their newspapers with squibs and essays, and collected money 

26 The Struggle Over the Constitiitioii. 

to send hundreds of copies to New York, to Virginia, to 
Maryland, and even to South Carolina. Now it was the 
New Roof by Francis Hopkinson; now the letters of "Con- 
ciliator," and a "Freeman," a series of essays the Antifed- 
eralists declared could have been the work of no one but 
James Wilson. The Antifederalists seem to have made use 
chiefly of committees of correspondence, a piece of political 
machinery so effective in the early days of the Revolution. 

Their efforts, however, were vain, and not a month went 
by but another pillar, as the phrase went, was added to the 
New Roof. Maryland ratified in April, and South Carolina 
in May. In June came New Hampshire, and Virginia, and 
the needed list of nine States was more than completed. 

It was on the evening of the second of July that a post- 
rider brought to Philadelphia the news that Virginia, the 
tenth State, had accepted the new plan. The Federalists 
had already determined that the coming fourth of July should 
be a day of unusual rejoicing. But their zeal now burned 
more fiercely than ever, and it was resolved that besides the 
toasts and the speeches there should be a procession, and the 
finest procession the city had ever beheld. 

Though the " New Roof" was now up and Pennsylvania 
under it, the Antifederalists were not disheartened. The so- 
cieties, the committees and the associations in the western 
counties were as active as ever, and a call for a state conven- 
tion at Harrisburg was soon passing about among them. 
September 3d was fixed as the day, and on that day thirty- 
three delegates, representing eveiy county of the State save 
York and Montgomery, were present in the convention. Be- 
fore they adjourned resolutions were adopted and an address 
prepared, urging the legislature to apply to Congress for a 
revision and amendment of the constitution by a new federal 
convention. With this their active opposition ended. 





On Friday, September 28tli, after the House of Assembly 
had attended to some minor business, Mr. George Clymer 
rose and said:* The House cannot. Sir, have forgotten a busi- 
ness of the highest magnitude, which was recommended to 
their attention by the federal convention, and I am persuaded 
they will readily concur in taking the necessary measures for 
calling a convention of the citizens of Pennsylvania, to de- 
liberate upon that plan of government which has been pre- 
sented to this house; for which reason I shall submit the 
following resolutions :t 

Whereas the convention of deputies from the several States composing 
the Union lately held in this city, have published a constitution for the 
future government of the United States, to be submitted to conventions of 
deputies chosen in each State by the people thereof, under recommendation 
of its Legislature, for their assent and ratification. 

And whereas it is the sense of great numbers of the good people of this 
State, already signified in petitions and declarations to this House, that the 
earliest step should be taken to assemble a convention within the State, for 
the purpose of deliberating and determining on the said constitution. 

Resolved, That it be recommended to such inhabitants of the State as are 
entitled to vote for representatives to the General Assembly, that they 
choose suitable persons to serve as Deputies in a State convention, for the 
purpose herein before mentioned; that is, for the city of Philadelphia and 
the counties respectively, the same number of Deputies that each is entitled 
to of representatives in the General Assembly. That the election for Depu- 
ties as aforesaid be held at the several places in the said city and counties, 
as are fixed by law for holding the elections of representatives to the Gen- 
eral Assembly, and that they be conducted under the same ofiacers, and ac- 
cording to the regulations prescribed by law for holding the elections for 

* Erom Proceedings and Debates of the General Assembly of Pennsyl- 
vania, taken in short-hand by Thomas Lloyd. Philadelphia, 1787. Vol. I., 
p. 115. 

t These Resolutions are copied from the Minutes of the Assembly. Those 
in Lloyd's debates are given in the language in which the resolutions were 
finally passed, with the exception of the time of holding the election. 


28 The Convention Called. 

said Representatives, and at the times herein mentioned, viz. For the cit}' 
of Philadelphia, the counties of Philadelphia, Chester, Buctis, Lancaster, 
Ber/cs, Montgomery, Northampton, Northumberland, Dauphin, Luzerne, 
y'ork, Cumberland and Franklin on the day of the general election of Rep- 
resentatives to the General Assembly. For the counties of Bedford, Hun- 
tingdon, Westmoreland, Fayette and Washington, on the day of October. 

That the persons so elected to serve in Convention shall assemble on the 
last day of November, at the State House in the city oi Philadelphia. That 
the proposition submitted to this House by the Deputies of Pennsylvania in 
the General Convention of the States, of ceding to the United States a dis- 
trict of country within this State, for the seat of the General Government, 
and for the exclusive legislation of Congress, be particularly recommended 
to the consideration of the Convention. 

That it be recommended to the succeeding House of Assembly, to pro- 
vide for the payment of any extraordinary expenses which may be incurred 
by holding the said election of Deputies. 

These resolutions being seconded by Mr. Wynkoop, they 
were by agreement stated as distinct propositions, and on the 
question will the House agree to the following: 

Resolved, That it be recommended to such of the inhabitants of the State 
as are entitled to vote for representatives to the General Assembly, that they 
choose suitable persons to serve as deputies in a State Convention, for the 
purpose hereinbefore mentioned; that is, for the city of Philadelphia and 
the counties respectively, the same number of deputies that each state is 
entitled to of representatives in the General Assembly. 

Resolved, That the elections for Deputies as aforesaid be held at the 
several places in the said city and counties, as are fixed by law for holding 
the elections of representatives to the General Assembly, and that the same 
be conducted by the ofl&cers who conduct. the said elections of representa- 
tives, and agreeably to the rules and regulations thereof. 

Mr. Whitehill answered No. He then rose and said: The 
House, Sir, ought to have time to consider on this subject 
before they determine; for which reason I move to postpone 
the consideration until we meet again, and that may be this 
afternoon, as the session is drawing so near to a close. 

Mr. Fitzsimons. I will submit it to the House whether 
it is proper to delay this business for the reason assigned by 
the member from Cumberland. * If the gentlemen are not pre- 
pared to say what time the election for delegates shall be 
held, at least the general principle, or that such convention 
is proper, must be well enough understood to warrant an im- 

*Mr. Whitehill. 

Debate on Calling a Convention. 29 

mediate determination. It will be observed that the ordinar>' 
business of the state is pretty well gone through, and the 
House likely to dissolve to-morrow. But the subject brought 
forward by my worthy colleague is a business of the highest 
consequence, and the House must see how eligible it will be 
to give it the sanction of the Legislature. The only object 
of consideration is, whether the election shall be held with 
that propriety which may perhaps be best effected by the rep- 
resentatives pointing out the mode for the conduct of the peo- 
ple. We are not, I conceive, to consider whether calling a 
convention is proper or improper, because that I look upon as 
a measure inevitable, even should not the Assembly consent 
— but it will be well for us to appoint the mode by which such 
choice shall be conducted. These are distinct propositions, 
and on the first every gentleman must have determined, but 
on the other every member will have an opportunity of offer- 
ing his reasons, when it comes before us in the next resolu- 
tion. Perhaps, Sir, it may be necessary to alter the times, 
from what is there mentioned, to more distant periods; of this 
the gentlemen from the several counties will be better able to 
judge than I can pretend to, and I am sure I shall give no 
opposition to every reasonable extension of the time. I hope 
it will not be thought necessary that anything should be said 
in commendation of the new constitution prepared for the 
government of the United States. This, Sir, is not the object 
of our discussion or deliberation, and was it, I think, Sir, my 
abilities could not enable me to do justice to the subject; but 
the feelings of every member will more forcibly convince his 
judgment than all the argument which could be offered. 
From the number of petitions on your table, it may be clearly 
inferred that it is the wish and expectation of the people that 
this House should adopt speedy measures for calling a con- 
vention: I do not, therefore, see a necessity for saying much 
on a subject so well felt and understood within and without, 
but cheerfully submit it to the members to say whether they 
will proceed now or in the afternoon. 

Mr. D. Clymer. The worthy gentleman * from the city has 
*Mr. Fitzsimons. 

30 The Convention Called. 

submitted the subject to the feelings of the House, and I 
agree with him argument will not more clearly show the ad- 
vantage that must result from the adoption of the federal 
constitution, than what suggests to the mind of every person 
within these walls; nor have I a doubt, Sir, but every mem- 
ber will do justice to those feelings, and cheerfully assent to 
calling a convention for their own as well as for the future 
happiness and welfare of the citizens of Pennsylvania. The 
gentleman observes it is the general wish of the people that 
we should go forward in the measure. Here, Sir, I firmly 
believe him, for I think it has but few opposers, very few in- 
deed. I have heard. Sir, that only four or five leading party- 
men in this city are against it, whose names I should be glad 
to know, that their characters might be examined; for I am 
confident they will be hereafter ashamed to show their faces 
among the good people whose future prosperity they wish to 
blast in the bud. The reason of their opposition, though not 
positively known, can be well conjectured; and let them be 
careful, lest they draw upon themselves the odium of that 
people who have long indulged their rioting upon public 
favor. But, Sir, the adoption of this measure is a matter of 
so much consequence to America that I am satisfied it will 
meet the hearty concurrence of this House. 

Mr. Findley. Whatever gentlemen say with respect to the 
importance of this subject, is argument to prove that we 
should go into it with deliberation. And if it is of so much 
importance, and so well understood out of doors, the House 
then certainly ought not to be surprised into it. The gentle- 
man from Berks has spoken warmly against opposing the 
present measure in a manner as if intended to prevent men 
from speaking their minds. He has charged some leading 
characters in this city with giving opposition; if he means me 
as one of them — (Mr, D. Clymer interrupted him, addressing 
the Speaker with No, Sir, upon my honor, I did not mean 
him.) Well then, I don't consider that part of his speech as 
not addressed to the House, but merely to the gallery. But, 
Sir, I consider what has been said of the wishes of the people 
as applying to the plan of government, and not to the present 

Delay Urged. 31 

question. If I understand it right, we are not at present to 
judge of the merits of the plan, but on the proper and ade- 
quate measure of conducting the people into it Of the plan I 
believe there can be no doubt of its being wisely calculated 
for the purposes intended; but nothing is perfect, and this 
may be as well as could be expected, and I consider it as very 
deserving the commendation it received. But this can be no 
reason for hurrying on the measure with such precipitancy; 
if it is of the importance it is said to be, surely the House will 
not refuse to postpone for the present, in order that there may 
be time to make it as agreeable as possible. 

Mr. D. Clymer. I said. Sir, the matter was well under- 
stood, if we might judge from the sentiments of the people, 
and there was but little opposition, and that from a few men, 
who will be ashamed hereafter to come forward and avow 
their secret machinations; so. Sir, I say still — nor can any gen- 
tleman aver to the contrary. With respect to the postpone- 
ment of the business till the afternoon, I will ask where is 
the necessity? Every member must be confident, that with 
or without his consent, the measure will be adopted; for it is 
too generally agreeable, and too highly recommended, to be 
assassinated by the hand of intrigue and cabal. And if it 
must be adopted, why can it not be done as well this morning 
as in the afternoon ? Or do some gentlemen want an oppor- 
tunity of consulting with their associates, how far it is agree- 
able? If there are objections to the time of holding elections, 
it may be altered. I think sufficient time is not allowed to 
the county which I am honored by representing; many others 
may be in the same predicament, but this can be accommo- 
dated — yet the general principle is so clear that nothing is 
left for consideration or discussion. 

Mr. Wynkoop. I suppose. Sir, there is not a member in 
this House but what has pretty fully considered the present 
business. This I am led to believe from its importance, and 
the length of time which has elapsed since it was communi- 
cated to the House. Now if every member has made up his 
mind, what reason can there be for further consideration? 
And if the members do not declare they have not yet made 

32 The Convention Called. 

up their minds on the propriety of calling a convention, I 
shall vote for going on with the business. 

Mr. Whitehill. It is very well known, that this business 
is a matter of great importance, and deserves the serious at- 
tention of the House — But however well the people may be 
said to be acquainted with the design and intention, yet I 
don't know how far that may be the case. This, Sir, is a 
ver}' large and extensive State, and I may venture to say, 
that so far from being the general voice of the people, that 
not one in twenty know any thing about it. I believe a 
great many people in and about the city, have signed peti- 
tions in favor of it — but that is but a small part of the whole 

But to waive the question on the propriety of the measure, 
it will appear clear. Sir, when we come to consider whether 
it should be held in so many distant counties on the day of 
the general election, that it cannot be done; and the members 
ought to have an opportunity of asking or consulting them- 
selves on that, which would be more proper. 

The gentlemen that have brought forvvard this motion, 
must have some design, as they cannot digest the postpone- 
ment, or why not leave the members at liberty to consult, or 
acquire further information? If this is a concerted plan, and 
it must go through as it stands, we cannot help it; but if it is 
to be made agreeable to what may be right, on due considera- 
tion, why not allow time to consider of it ? I believe if time 
is allowed, we shall be able to show that this is not the 
proper time for calling a convention; and I don't know any 
reason there can be for driving it down our throats, without 
an hour's preparation. It appears to me to be a plan not fit 
for discussion, or why refuse to allow it to be postponed? I 
hope, when the House comes to consider how it has been in- 
troduced, they will allow us the time we desire. 

Mr. D. Clymer. The gentleman has misunderstood me, 
for I did not speak of the State at large, when I said the 
people understood it, and were in favor of it; though I have 
not the smallest doubt but it will receive their warmest ap- 
probation, when they hear of it. 

The Need of Delay. 2>2i 

Mr. Fitzsinions. I did wish, and still hope, the House 
will pretty luianiiiiously agree to the resolutions which are 
before us. When we took the business up, I flattered ni}-self 
the decision would not be delayed, because every member 
had time enough to consider this subject, since it was first in- 
troduced to our attention; but if it is the opinion of any con- 
siderable number of gentlemen, that it should lay over till 
the afternoon, I will not press it; I am sure the arguments 
made use of by the member from Cumberland, * offer no suffi- 
cient inducement for a delay. The plan of the new con- 
federation has laid upon your table near a fortnight, and it 
can be nothing more or less than a confession of inattention, 
not to say neglect of duty, for gentlemen to plead they have 
not considered it; for surely the subject was so important, 
that they must have turned it in their minds, and know what 
is proper to decide on this occasion. The House is also so 
near its dissolution, that if the measure is to be effected, very 
little time remains for it; though as I observed before, I do 
not think it lies with the House to determine, whether a con- 
vention shall be called or no. This I think. Sir, forms no 
part of our deliberations. But it is my wish, that the legis- 
lature should take the lead, and guide the people into a de- 
cent exercise of their prerogative; and surely. Sir, it cannot 
be a matter of such high consideration, as to require much 
time in determining the day, on which elections should be 
held for nominating persons to form a State convention — 
And, I conceive, this is the single point which we have to 
consider; for I repeat again, that I do not think it is in our 
power, nay, I am sure it is not in our power, to prevent the 
people from adopting what may be a lasting benefit to them- 
selves, and a certain treasure to posterity. But I think that 
taking the lead in this business, will be an honor not only to 
this legislature, but to the State also. It is not only honor- 
able but convenient and advantageous; and I submit it to the 
majority of this House to conclude, whether we shall, by pro- 
ceeding, obtain for ourselves and constituents these advan- 
tages, which even our neglect cannot prevent. 

* Mr. Whitehill. 

34 The Conventio7i Called. 

Mr. G. Clymer. The resolutions, Mr. Speaker, whicli I 
presented to you, contain separate and distinct propositions. 
Directing the elections to be held at a short day, goes upon 
the supposition that there is time to communicate the neces- 
sary information — if this is not well founded, of consequence 
it must be altered; but I hope no kind of hesitation can be 
made, as to the propriety of adopting the first, which goes on 
the principle, that such a convention is necessary for the bet- 
ter union and happiness of the several States of America. 
To hesitate upon this proposition will give a very unfavor- 
able aspect to a measure, on which our future happiness, nay, 
I may almost say, otir future existence, as a nation, depends. 
If the time, Sir, is not agreeable for holding elections, as 
mentioned in the second resolution, it cannot operate to pre- 
vent our entering upon the first: I therefore hope, gentlemen 
will withdraw their opposition, and let a degree of unanimity 
prevail, which may be an inducement to others steadily to 
co-operate in perfecting a work, that bids fair to relieve our 
embarassments, and carry us to a height of prosperity we 
have hitherto been strangers to. 

Mr. Brackenridge. Before the division of the propositions, 
I had made up my mind to be in favor of the postponement; 
but it now appears clear to me, that we may decide upon the 
general principle, to wit, shall a convention of the people be 
called? With respect to this point, every member must have 
made up his mind fully, because it is a measure, that from 
the first was apparent, and must have occupied the attention 
of every individual who had but seen the plan. This, as was 
remarked before, has been on your table many days, and from 
its magnitude and importance must have been a subject of 
reflection to the members, who wished to perform the duty 
they owed to their God, their conscience, and fellow-citizens 
— so that voting now on a subject already understood, cannot 
be difiicult, and in my opinion, we are as well prepared to 
determine upon the principle, as we shall be after dinner. 

Mr. Whitehill. The gentleman from Westmoreland,* as 
well as the others who have spoken in favor of the resolu- 

*Mr. Brackenridge. 

Should Wait till Congress Recommends. 35 

tions, seemed generally of opinion, that they ought to be 
adopted without farther consideration, concluding that every 
member is prepared to determine on the propriety thereof. 
But this. Sir, is not the case; for I own, that I have not pre- 
pared myself to take up this business, because I did not ex- 
pect any notice would be taken of it; for Congress ought to 
send forward the plan, before we do anything at all in this 
matter. For of what use was sending it forward to them, 
unless we meant to wait their determination — Now as these 
measures are not recommended by Congress, why should we 
take them up? Why should we take up a thing, which does 
not exist? For this does not exist, that is before us — nor can 
it until it is ratified by Congress. I have no doubt for my 
part, but Congress will adopt it; but if they should make 
alterations, and amendments in it, is there any one can say 
then, what sort of a plan it will be? And as this may happen, 
I hope the House, when they come to consider seriously, will 
see the impropriety of going on at present. It will appear, 
that it is necessary to give time for Congress to deliberate, be- 
fore they recommend. It does appear that Congress have not 
recommended it; and the recommendation of Congress ought 
to be waited for in a matter that concerns the liberties and 
rights of the people of the United States. I say this recom- 
mendation is not come forward to the House, nor we don't 
know when (if ever,) it will. We do not know that Congress 
may be able to go thro' with it this long time yet, and why 
are we to determine on it, before we know whether they will 
allow of such change of the confederation? We do not know 
that Congress are even sitting, or whether they will be in ses- 
sion. And before we proceed to measures of this importance, 
do let us know what we are going on, and let us not sport 
away the rights and liberties of the people altogether. I say, 
is it not better to go safely on the business, and let it lie over 
till the next House; when we have adjourned, let our constit- 
uents think of it, and instruct their representatives to con- 
sider of the plan proper to be pursued. Will not the next 
House be as able to determine as we are? And I would wish 
the members to consider, that it never was supposed at our 

36 The Co7ivention Called. 

election, that we had the power to determine on such a meas- 
ure. When we come to consider, it does appear to me bet- 
ter to leave it over to the next House, and they will be bet- 
ter able, and better instructed, what to do in this case. And 
what is the consequence the gentlemen propose by this hurry? 
That the State of Pennsylvania shall have the honor of taking 
the lead. This may be preserved, Sir, as well by letting it 
lie over; for, can the other states go into it before us? Can 
the State of Georgia receive it as soon, and send it forward 
for ratification, as we can? No, to be sure they cannot — 
therefore this hurry does appear too great in my opinion ; be- 
cause, if it is delayed, our determination can still be brought 
forward sooner than that of any other state. If there are any 
objections of moment against calling the convention at pres- 
ent, let us be prepared to make them; we may do that bet- 
ter, perhaps, by deferring only till the afternoon — for tho' 
gentlemen say they have had time, and have made up their 
minds, yet that has not been my case, and I don't see why 
the business should be hurried upon us at this rate. I hope 
when gentlemen consider, they will agree to postpone for the 

Mr. Brackenridge. I conceive. Sir, that the member has 
wandered from the point, whenever he went into remarks up- 
on the new constitution; but I did not interrupt, nor do I 
mean now to reply to those observations, because I would not 
follow him in a subject which is not before the House — but 
if it should be necessary to speak on the general principles, 
I trust that he would be fully answered. At present, Sir, I 
understand the question to be, whether sufficient time has 
not elapsed to give every member, who respects his duty, 
sufficient opportunity to have made up his mind on the pro- 
priety of calling a convention of the people; if this is the case, 
the House will not surely postpone. 

Mr. D. Clymer. The member from Cumberland * seems to 

think it highly improper, that we should proceed in this 

business until Congress shall recommend it to our attention, 

and have given it the stamp of their approbation, but this, 

* Mr. Whitehill. 

No Need to Wait for Congress. 2i7 

Sir, is extremely fallacious. For if Congress are to determine 
the point, where was the necessity for the federal convention 
to recommend calling state conventions? Or pray, Sir, were 
the delegates to that important undertaking ordered even to 
report to Congress? No, Sir, they were not — but I take it 
that their reason for having done so, was, that as they meant 
to report to the people of the United States at large, they 
thought Congress would be a proper channel to convey it to 
every part, from New Hampshire to Georgia, and I think the 
mode of conveyance very proper; but I never entertained an 
idea that it was submitted to their cognizance, as the gentle- 
man says, for alteration or amendment. He supposes, too, 
that the convention of the state may adopt some part of the 
frame of government, and refuse the other. But not so, Sir; 
they must adopt in toto^ or refuse altogether: for it must be 
apian that is formed by the United States; wh-ich can be 
agreeable to all, and not one formed upon the narrow policy 
and convenience of any one particular state. Such, Sir, is 
the constitution lately presented to you, framed by the collect- 
ive wisdom of a continent, centered in a venerable band of 
patriots, worthies, heroes, legislators and philosophers — the 
admiration of a world. This, Sir, is a subject the member 
from the city did well to submit to your feelings. Vain is 
every attempt to do justice to its merits. No longer shall 
thirty thousand people engage all our attention — all our 
efforts to procure happiness. No! — the extended embrace of 
fraternal love shall enclose three millions, and ere fifty years 
are elapsed thirty millions, as a band of brothers! And will 
the State of Pennsylvania — will a few of her inhabitants, I 
should say — attempt to defeat this long-expected and wished- 
for moment, by entering into a discussion of the minutiae — 
how her interest is preserved? Why, Sir, to form a happy 
union, the weakest eye must perceive the necessity of mutual 
concessions — mutual sacrifices. Had the late convention not 
been composed of gentlemen of liberal sentiments, patriotism, 
and integrity, it might never have been perfected. Had 
each been studious of accommodating the constitution to the 
circumstances and wishes of the state they represented, noth- 

38 The Convcnlion Called. 

ing coiikl have been effected. Do we not hear, that disposed 
as they were to make a sacrifice of the local interests to the 
general welfare, that five weeks elapsed before they could 
determine the proportion of representation? If these gentle- 
men met with such difiiculties, who possessed the informa- 
tion and knowledge of the continent, can it be supposed the 
United States would submit to the amendments and altera- 
tions to be made by a few inhabitants of Pennsylvania? 
Could it be expected that Virginia (the Dominion of Virginia, 
as some people in derision call it — though I say it is a land 
of liberty, a land of patriots, and the nurse of science) — I say 
will you expect. Sir, that Virginia and the southern states 
shall coincide with alterations made only for the benefit of 
Pennsylvania? No! — away with such ideas, and let that una- 
nimity prevail at its adoption that it did at its formation. 
It is improper for gentlemen to say, we ought not to enter on 
this business until it is ratified by Congress. This, Sir, is 
not the case — and let me, as setting my argument on a foun- 
dation of solidity, call your attention to the recommendation 
made by the united sense and wisdom of our continent to 
this legislature. Remember how strong the language of the 
venerable Franklin, when he addressed you to enforce this 
recommendation. Remember the advantage and prosperity 
held out to Pennsylvania, for her early and cheerful concur- 
rence in a measure, whose perfections are so clearly seen as to 
make hesitation criminal. Will all the art of sophistry prove 
an inferiority to the present confederation, which, upon trial, 
is found to be loose and ineffectual? Shall we, by chicane 
and artful procrastination, defeat the measure so loudly de- 
manded by every circumstance of happiness or preservation ? 
Better would it be, Mr. Speaker, to join in the glorious sen- 
timent of that gallant officer, who having quitted his station, 
and gained a signal victory over his enemy, and when called 
to account for his breach of orders, answered, "That man 
holds his life too dear, who would not sacrifice it for his coun- 
try's safety." 

If it is the interest of a few individuals to keep up the weak 
and shattered government, which brings on us the contempt 

No Need to Wait for Congress, 39 

of every surrounding tribe, and the reproach and obloquy of 
every nation, let them exert their opposition; but it will be 
all in vain, for should even this House refuse, I think it the 
duty of the peojDle, as they value their present and future wel- 
fare, to come forward, and do that justice to themselves, 
which others would deny them. 

As this subject is now before us, let us not hesitate, but 
eagerly embrace the glorious opportunity of being foremost 
in its adoption. Let us not hesitate, because it is damping 
the ardor with which it should be pursued. Sir, it is throw- 
ing cold water on the flame that warms the breast of every 
friend of liberty, and every patriot who wishes this country 
to acquire that respect to which she is justly entitled. 

As we have taken up this matter, let us go through; for our 
determination may have weight with our sister states, and 
they will follow, where we take the lead, the honor of agree- 
ing first to a measure, that must entitle to posterity security 
for their property — no longer subject to the fluctuation of 
faithless paper money and party laws — security to their lib- 
erty, and security to their personal safety. These are blessings 
which will engage the gratitude of posterity to venerate your 
ashes. Excuse me, Sir, iox. being warm ; it is a matter I have 
much at heart, and a subject which I almost adore; and let 
the consequences to me be what they may, I must give it my 
support; for it has my most hearty concurrence, and to every 
part and particle I do pronounce a willing and a grateful 

I am against the postponement of the question as to the 
principle; but as to that part of the resolution relating to the 
time, I shall move for an alteration, as my colleagues and 
myself think the period too short. 

Mr. Fitzsimons. I was inclined to delay the business 
until the afternoon; but from all that has been said, I believe 
it must be the opinion of the House that it will be proper to 
decide upon the first resolution before we adjourn. As to the 
constitution itself, I believe the proper place for discussing 
that will be in the convention, so that nothing need be added 
on that head. If the time mentioned for the elections is sup- 

40 The Convention Called. 

posed improper, that may be accommodated to the gentle- 
man's wishes by amendments. 

The question, Will the House agree to the postponement? 
was put, and only nine rose in favor of it. So it was deter- 
mined in the negative. 

Mr. Brackenridge. You will please to recollect, Sir, that 
when I was up last I observed that one of the arguments of 
the member from Cumberland might easily be obviated. As 
that was an improper time to reply to him, I declined doing 
it; but I mean now to enter on this subject, as I consider it 
fully before us. 

Mr. Whitehill interrupted him with saying he had said 
nothing against the principles of the proposed plan, but that 
we were not ready to take it up. 

Mr. Brackenridge. The gentleman must suppose me a fool 
to think I was going into a defence of the principles of the 
new form of government. No, Sir, that I take to be seated 
above either the reach of his arguments or information. 

It is wholly upon another point I mean to remark. He has 
said, if I could select what he said, that we ought not to take 
up the present question nor adopt the resolution until we 
heard from Congress ; and his argument was that this should 
be left to a future House to complete. Now this I mean to 
answer, and hope to show perfectly that neither premise or 
conclusion is well founded. There is also another question 
which seems to lie at the bottom of his argument, namely, 
that it is necessary at the same time for the state to wait 
until an improvement of the congressional government is 
recommended by Congress. This, Sir, I conceive would be a 
question lying at the bottom of the subject, which occupies 
our present consideration. But I have not been able to dis- 
cover any principle on which an idea of this nature can be 
founded. What particular right have Congress to recommend 
an improvement of the federal government? They may rec- 
ommend, but I should suppose it comes under no part of the 
authority delegated to them; and therefore that it was going 
wholly out of the province assigned to them. I should sup- 
pose it indelicate for the superior i)ower to solicit more. We 

No Need to Wait for Congress. 41 

know they are invested with the power of recommending by 
the confederation; but who would recommend from that body, 
that it should be gratified with more extensive power? I 
should, I say, presume it must come from them, not with the 
highest degree of delicacy. In the next place, taking it for 
granted that it should come entirely from them, what is the 
foundation or what must be the foundation of a recommenda- 
tion of that nature? Is it because they have become sensible, 
that the present powers are not sufficient to conduct the affairs 
of the United States, and that a more vigorous and energetic 
government became necessary ? Who ought to be the best 
judges of this necessity? — men in Congress reflecting abstract- 
edly, or the body of the people on this continent, feeling and 
knowing this necessity? I therefore think it would be advis- 
able to be guided in an alteration rather by this maxim than 
by the other. If a thing. Sir, ought to be done, it is little mat- 
ter whether it be from the reflection of Congress or the feeling 
and sensibility of the people; and I own that I always feel a 
contempt for those languid and trammeled sentiments which 
move but like a piece of mechanism. And what are the con- 
sequences of taking up the subject without waiting the result 
of Congressional deliberation ? We lead the way, and do great 
honor to ourselves in marking the road to obtain the sense of 
the people on a subject that is of the greatest moment to them 
and to their posterity. How did this business first originate? 
Did Virginia wait the recommendation of Congress? Did 
Pennsylvania, who followed her in the appointment of dele- 
gates, wait the recommendation of Congress? The assembly 
of New York, when they found they had not the honor of 
being foremost in the measure, revived the idea of its being 
necessary to have it recommended by Congress, as an excuse 
for their tardiness (being the seat of the federal government) 
— and Congress to humor them complied with their sugges- 
tions. How it happened to take effect in the other states I 
do not positively say; but I am rather inclined to believe it 
was adopted from the influence of example, rather than from 
the recommendation of Congress which happened to take 
place in the interval between the sittings of the legislatures. 

42 The Conveniion Called. 

But we never heard that it was supposed necessary to wait 
their recommendations. No such argument was made use of 
on this floor when the law was passed. The delegates to the 
convention were appointed without the recommendation -of 
Congress, and they reported the result of their deliberations 
to this House. What reason then is there for waiting any 
longer to determine whether it is proper to call a convention 
to consider of it or not? I don't see for my part what Con- 
gress have to do with it; though doubtless I should not object 
to waiting a few days to hear their opinion. This has been 
done even until now, which is so near the close of our session 
as to make a longer delay improper, therefore waiting their 
recommendation is no argument for prolonging the consider- 
ation of the subject before us. But there are certainly strong 
reasons why we should call up and determine the question, 
whether a convention should be called or not? The advant- 
ages to the state are that it will be to her honor to take the 
lead in adopting so wise a plan, and it will be an inducement 
for other states to follow. We no doubt remember the influ- 
ence the example of Virginia and Pennsylvania had in getting 
a general delegation appointed, and that example will no 
doubt as generally be followed in adopting the result, for it 
is everywhere fully and sensibly felt that an alteration in the 
federal government is requisite ; and I think there can be little 
hesitation in agreeing to the resolution for calling a conven- 
tion. As for the day of election, that is but a secondary con- 
sideration, and may be determined when it comes before us. 
We surely shall unanimously agree to the first resolution at 
this time, for delay would argue a lukewarmness that must 
be injurious to the cause. Every person who should hear we 
had the subject ten days before us, and notwithstanding 
avoided entering upon it, must conclude we are unfriendly to 
it; and it will be cause of triumph to our enemies, who wait 
only to see us refuse that government which alone can save 
us from their machinations. 

As it is fully in our power to appoint the mode and man- 
ner of calling the convention, I hope gentlemen will turn 
their thoughts, and say what is the proper time; for if it is 

" /;? a State of Nature. ' ' 43 

delayed until the next House, it will be some time far ad- 
vanced into another year, before a convention can sit to ratify 
the plan of our future government; by which means the force 
of example would be for delay, and a measure so extremely 
necessary would be left exposed or perhaps neglected, unless 
the ardor of our citizens should induce them to do what our 
timidity would decline. The influence which this state may 
acquire by decision will be lost, and many of the advantages 
lessened by an unnecessary delay. 

Mr. Findley. I do not intend to reply to the arguments 
used in favor of the present measure, but only examine the 
ground on which we stand. When the question was on post- 
ponement, I did not think it right that gentlemen should 
have introduced the observations which they did, nor that 
the manner of speaking which some used was proper. It was 
only addressed to the passions, and in my reply I do not mean 
to justify such language by using what may be similar. No, 
Sir, I intend to address the judgment, and not the passions 
of any man. I have no doubt but a convention might be CMlled^ 
and will be called. That it ought to be called^ and will be 
called^ is seen so clearly, that I shall add nothing to enforce 
it; therefore I take it that the propriety of calling a conven- 
tion is not the question before us. After declaring my senti- 
ments so far, I shall proceed. Sir, now to examine the 
ground on which we stand: I believe we stand on federal 
ground; therefore we are not in a state of nature. If we were 
in a state of nature, all the arguments produced for hastening 
this business would apply; but as we are not, I would observe 
that the most deliberate manner of proceeding is the best 
manner. But the manner in which this subject has been in- 
troduced is an indeliberate manner, and seems to argue that 
we are not on federal ground. The design of carrying this 
through, I say. Sir, is a presumption that we are in a state 
of nature. If that is the case, then it can only be proper to 
use this expedition. What I mean, Sir, by a state of nature 
is with respect to the confederation or union of the states, and 
not any wise alluding to our particular state government. 
Now my opinion is. Sir, that we are on federal ground: that 

44 TJie Convention Called. 

the federal convention was a federal convention; that it had 
the powers of a federal convention, and that they were limited 
to act federally; that they have acted agreeably to the limita- 
tion, and have acted federally. I know by some of the argu- 
ments which have been used that some gentlemen suppose 
otherwise. Well then. Sir, we will have recourse to the con- 
federation itself, and then to the law which appointed dele- 
gates to the convention, and let them decide whether we are 
on federal ground or not. 

The sixth article of the confederation says: "No two or 
more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation, or alli- 
ance whatever between them, without the consent of the 
United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately 
the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and 
how long it shall continue." It may be said this don't apply. 
Well, let us examine what it says further in the thirteenth 
article: "The articles of confederation shall be inviolably ob- 
served by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor 
shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of 
them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the 
United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures 
of every state." Now, did we act in conformity with these 
articles by passing the law appointing delegates to the con- 
vention, or did we not? I say we did. I know the contrary 
has been said, but let us have recourse to our own act. I 
don't mean, as I said before, to reply particularly to any 
arguments, but to establish the point that we have all along 
acted upon federal principles, and that we ought to continue 
federal, and I have no doubt but we shall. But what sa}'S 
the preamble of the law? Hear our own words. Sir: 
"Whereas, the general assembly of this commonwealth, tak- 
ing into their serious consideration the representations here- 
tofore made to the legislatures of the several states in the 
union, by the United States in Congress assembled," etc. 
It has been mentioned that we took it up in consequence of 
Virginia's having engaged in the measure; and as the reasons 
are only mentioned in the preamble, they may not deserve 
much attention, but the second section of the law decides this 

'"''In a State of Nature.'''' 45 

point. The words are, after enumerating the persons, that 
they are hereby constituted and appointed deputies from this 
state, with powers to meet such deputies as may be appointed 
and authorized by the other states to assemble in the said con- 
vention at the city aforesaid, and to join with them in devis- 
ing, deliberating on, and discussing all such alterations and 
further provisions as may be necessary to render the federal 
constitution fully adequate to the exigencies of the Union; 
and in reporting such act or acts for that purpose to the 
United States in Congress assembled, as, when agreed to by 
them and duly confirmed by the several states, will effectually 
provide for the same. 

Now I consider it as a question of importance, whether we 
are to take up the new constitution, as being in a state of na- 
ture, or, acting on federal ground, whether we stand uncon- 
nected or subordinate to the present confederation ; if we are 
bound by that, it obliges us to continue on federal ground. 
I should conceive that we are still bound by the confederation, 
and that the conduct of the House has hitherto been federal ; 
that the convention was federal, as appears by their appoint- 
ment and their report to Congress. Did they, Sir, address 
their report to this House? No, Sir, they did not. It is true. 
Sir, we were honored with a report from our own delegates. 
No, Sir, I retract the word — the delegates were honored; they 
did themselves the honor of communicating the result of 
their deliberations. But did the convention address this 
House? No, Sir, they did not. They addressed Congress, 
as they were ordered to do. Hitherto the business has been 
in a federal channel, and this. Sir, is the first step that places 
us upon unfederal ground. The report is before Congress, 
and it is to be presumed Congress will agree to it; but has 
such a length of time elapsed, as to induce us to suspect they 
will not concur, or to justify our going into it without their 
recommendation? We may act. Sir, without due delibera- 
tion, and hurry on without consideration, but Congress will 
not. I know the propriety of waiting to hear from them 
must have weight with every member, and I ask every gen- 
tleman in this House, will they take upon themselves to 

46 The Convention Called. 

doubt of the acquiescence of Congress, in order to furnish an 
argument for dispatch ? If any will, let him say so, and take 
the consequences upon his character. No doubt can be en- 
tertained, but Congress will recommend, as the acquisition of 
power is a desirable object with them. Their disposition 
must be to promote the present plan, but they must wish to 
preserve the appearance of decency on such a subject. I ask, 
can any gentleman suppose but what Congress will come 
readily into it? They who have been many years recom- 
mending and requiring, nay, I may say, begging for such 
powers as are now proposed to be given them, cannot change 
their disposition, and decline receiving an increase. Well, 
what does all this tend to prove? have we not all along been 
a federal State, remarkably so? And shall we be the first to 
step out of our way wantonly, and without any reason? Cer- 
tainly we will not. 

However, I suppose some gentleman will say, it is neces- 
sary for Pennsylvania to show a ready compliance on the 
present occasion — that it is absolutely necessary to supersede 
the existing confederation. Why, Sir, we know that noth- 
ing, no argument, no opposition, can withstand the plea of 
necessity. Well, but the absolute necessity must arise from 
the dangers we are in. Now where are any dangers to be 
avoided, while Congress are going only through their usual 
forms to recommend this measure? They must have time to 
read and consider the plan; it must go through the usual 
course of business. Circular letters must be prepared and 
sent with authenticated copies of the new form of govern- 
ment. I am of opinion all this will be done with proper 
speed, and the communications will be made as soon as pos- 
sible. Why send the plan to Congress at all, if we must act 
upon it without their approbation ? If the present confedera- 
tion is not adequate to the great national purposes, it is fair 
to put it in competition with the proposed one. We know it 
was framed by good and wise men, and so was this. Wise 
and great men were employed in framing both. Nay, some 
of the same men prepared them — but as time and experience 
have shown a revision to be necessary, has it not been entered 

'''Must Act Federally.'''' 47 

into on federal ground? And will the State of Pennsylvania 
quit this to answer the concealed purposes of those who urge 
on the present measure? No, I hope not, — but they will 
agree to leave it to another House, by which time the usual 
formalities may be given it by the United States. Surely 
Pennsylvania can take it up early enough to prevent any 
damage that is feared. In doing so we act federally. What 
are held out as inducements to act with such precipitation ? 
As some members say the honor of being foremost; but I would 
rather say the dishonor oi acting unfederally; and will any 
federal purposes be answered by a breach of the confederation, 
which can counterbalance the disgrace of being the first to 
dissolve the union? And, Sir, it is not convenient that one 
State should enter into this measure any length of time before 
the others. This is one reason of waiting the recommenda- 
tion of Congress — for then the new constitution comes offici- 
ally and all are prepared to go hand in hand in perfecting the 
work — but will a name justify us for a breach of faith un- 
necessarily? and no necessity is alleged to justify the measure. 
Sir, in acting the part I do in supporting federal measures, I 
am justified by every citizen who will think with deliberation 
on a subject of this importance. I have supposed the gentle- 
men who support the resolutions before j-^du, have some 
object in view which is not understood. I have a right for 
such suspicion, or why was it delayed to the last but one day 
of the sessions? We do not treat this subject which is 
allowed to be of importance with any respect; we treat it 
rather as a matter of no importance when we hurry it on in 
this manner. Why, Sir, even the trifling business of ap- 
pointing a prothonotary, or register, is made the order of the 
day. Certainly then we treat this with indignity. 

There must be some reasons for this, but though I cannot 
see it, I may suppose it, and I would ask the gentlemen 
whether it is that they may have the merit of promoting a 
business which appears to be very popular; but will this con- 
sist with our federal engagements? I would go further and 
assign another reason against it, but I may be supposed to 
touch it with indelicacy. It may be asked, was this House 

48 The Co7ive7ition Called. 

elected with a view of entering into matters of this import- 
ance? I say this may be indelicate, as the House have 
elected delegates to convention — but then, Sir, I have showed 
they had that right by the articles of confederation, so that 
the House so far did their duty. It is true they happened, in 
their choice of delegates, to choose a number of their own 
members, but in this they were also justified for one reason: 
perhaps they thought them better judges of what would be 
for the benefit of a State they regulated by their legislation. 
I believe nothing was improper in this; but, I remember, it 
was lamented that some persons were not chosen better to 
represent the country interest. And it is these very men who 
now come forward with the resolutions. They, no doubt, are 
able to decide; but I think they should indulge others with 
time for a like consideration — therefore, I hope they will 
agree to let it lie over to the next House. I don't think that 
it will be then too late, and few or none of the other States 
can be forwarder than ourselves in calling a convention. 

Mr. G. Clymer. We now, Mr. Speaker, have heard all 
the commonplace arguments against adopting the federal 
constitution; and among this mass of matter, what has the 
gentleman attempted to establish? I think, Sir, it may be 
reduced to these two points: first, that the legislature of 
Pennsylvania is not adequate to calling a convention, though 
generally desired; and the other is, that the measure of calling 
a convention, if gone into, is anti-federal, and shows an im- 
propriety in the conduct of the House, in not waiting the 
result of the deliberations of Congress. Sir, I have as great 
respect for federal measures, and for Congress, as that gentle- 
man can pretend to. But waiting their report. Sir, I believe 
will be to attend to forms, and lose the substance. A little 
calculation will serve to demonstrate this, and show the im- 
propriety of waiting the report of that body. At the same 
time a due regard to decency has been had by postponing this 
business to so late an hour. If this House order a conven- 
tion, it may be deliberated and decided some time in Novem- 
ber, and the constitution may be acted under by December. 
But if it is left over to the next House, it will inevitably be 

Delay of Congress not from Opposition. 49 

procrastinated until December, 1788. No man, I presume, 
would be willing that our union and existence should remain 
so long- in jeopardy, or run the risk of a final ruin. 

If this business is neglected by the present House, and suf- 
fered to pass over to the next, it will undoubtedly have the 
appearance of our being unfriendly to the new constitution, 
or will be owning to the world that we are not willing to de- 
cide in its favor. The gentleman supposes wrong, when he 
says, that the reason for bringing it forward now is, that 
Congress are not favorable to the measure. It originated on 
no such apprehension; on the contrary, we know that Con- 
gress are favorable, and I have been informed by a gentleman 
of information, lately from York, that the members of Con- 
gress were unanimous in approving it; but that the formality 
which accompanies their decisions is of such a nature as to 
require a longer time for making official communications. 

The other argument, that it is unfederal to call a conven- 
tion without the approbation of Congress, is not supported; 
for he agrees, that should Congress disapprove, there is still 
a way left of laying it before the people, which amounts to a 
full proof that Congress is considered only as a vehicle to 
communicate the information generally to the United States. 
In this light the gentleman will find the convention ad- 
dressed them; i-f he turns over to the resolutions accompany- 
ing the constitution, it is there declared as their opinion, that 
it should be addressed to a convention of delegates, chosen in 
each State by the people thereof, under the recommendation 
of its legislature; and when agreed to in such manner by nine 
States, it shall then be in force. Thus we see there is no 
power vested in Congress, to prevent the States going into it 
separately and independently. The idea which he has taken 
up, may be traced undoubtedly in the original confederation, 
but he will not find it at all attended to by the convention. 
Waiting to receive a recommendation of the measure from 
Congress, must even by that gentleman be esteemed merely 
as a compliment, which I think, by the delay already made, 
has been fully complied with; so that I think little remains 
but that the House patronize the calling a convention by 

50 The Convention Called. 

agreeing to the first resolution, and no man, I apprehend, in 
favor of federal measures, will oppose this; and when the 
second comes before us, we may determine the time for hold- 
ing the election. 

Mr. Robinson. The argument of the gentleman, who ob- 
jects to the present measure, is not against the propriety of 
calling a convention, but only that this is an improper time; 
and it appears that he supposes farther, that we are not act- 
ing consistent with our federal engagements in deciding on 
this subject before it is recommended by Congress: because, 
as he says, we quit the federal ground on which we have 
hitherto trodden, and act as if we were in a state of nature 
with respect to the confederation existing between the thir- 
teen States. Now, Sir, I must oppose these arguments by 
asserting, in the first place, that we have not acted hitherto 
on federal ground ; that the appointment made by this House 
of delegates to convention, was not federal, nor any one step 
taken by us has been in conformity with the articles of con- 
federation. And all this I think. Sir, I shall be able to prove 
to your satisfaction, and to a full refutation of every pretext 
which the gentleman from Westmoreland has set up to defeat 
the proposed measure at the present. The gentleman has in- 
troduced to your attention the thirteenth article of the con- 
federation, and concludes from it that we are acting unfeder- 
ally, if we do not wait their decision. Now I mean to prove 
by this article, that we have not acted hitherto in conformity 
with it — but that at the very first onset, we entered new 
ground, and the articles of this confederation (it says) shall be 
inviolably observed^ and the union shall be perpetual., nor 
shall any alteration, at any time hereafter be made in any of 
them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the 
United States and be afterwards confirmed by the LEGISLA- 

From this is plainly inferred, that alterations ought to have 
originated with Congress., and by them been recommended 
to the several LEGISLATURES. Here is no provision for 
leaving it to another body of men., to recommend alterations 
to State Conventions — here is no provision for making an en- 

Federal Convention not Called by Congress. 51 

gagement binding, as soon as entered into by nine States as- 
sembled in conventions. No, sir, the constitution proposed 
is no alteration of any particular article of the confederation^ 
which is the only thing provided for. The federal conven- 
tion did not think of amending and altering the present con- 
federation, for they saw the impropriety of vesting one body 
of men with the necessary powers. Hence resulted the neces- 
sity of a different organization. America has been taught by 
dear-bought experience, that she could never hope for 
security or prosperity under articles of union that were no 
longer binding than suited the convenience of each particular 
state, and were slighted or contemned as petulance or caprice 
dictated. America has seen the confederation totally inade- 
quate to the purposes of an equal general government, inca- 
pable of affording security either within or without. At- 
tempts in vain have been made to obtain the assent of all the 
States, to measures which have at one time or another been 
agreed by them severally, yet retracted by some when a 
prospect of success appeared. Hence resulted the necessity 
of taking up this business on original ground. Hence re- 
sulted the necessity of having again recourse to the au- 
thority OF THE PEOPLE. Under this impression., Sir., 
the CONVENTION originated. Virginia passed a law appoin- 
ting delegates to join with the delegates of such other 
States as, influenced by her example, and convinced of the 
necessity of having a more effective federal government, 
should concur therein. Virginia, Sir, was not authorized by 
Congress to make such appointment, nor did Pennsylvania 
wait for that authority; but this reason, which is inserted in 
the preamble of the bill, was thought sufficient to justify our 
conduct, and was the real inducement for passing the law: 
"And whereas the legislature of the State of Virginia have 
already passed an act of that commonwealth, empowering 
certain commissioners to meet at the city of Philadelphia, in 
May next, a convention of commissioners, or deputies, from 
the different States; and the legislature of this State are fully 
sensible of the important advantages which may be derived 
to the United States, and every of them, from co-operating 

52 The Convention Called. 

wifh the com7no7iivealth ofVirgmia^ and the other States of the 
confederation, in the said design." 

Finally, Sir, the recommendation of Congress was obtained 
for calling the convention; but this was a power not vested 
in them by any article of the confederation, under which they 
ought to act. In this, Sir, they departed from that federal 
conduct, which the member from Westmoreland, by mistake, 
asserts has hitherto been pursued. Having, Sir, not hither- 
to proceeded one step on federal ground, is it to be expected 
that federal ground should now be resumed? But, Sir, if we 
were to proceed under the most earnest recommendation of 
Congress, to call a state convention^ we proceed contrary to 
the principle laid down in the 13th article, which de- 
clares the alteration must be confirmed by the legisla- 
ture: so whether Congress recommend, or do not recom- 
mend — if a convention is called^ (which every gentleman 
agrees is proper) we act inconsistent with the articles of con- 
federation. For is it any where said, that conventions of the 
people shall be called to determine such alterations as are sub- 
mitted by Congress? No, Sir, the legislatures are 
to decide, and moreover, it must be confirmed by all of them 
before it can have effect. Now is this a circumstance that 
can be reasonably expected after the disunion and obstinacy 
which has heretofore taken place? The new constitution de- 
clares, when nine States concur, it shall be binding on them; 
so that whatever way we proceed in, it must be clear we pro- 
ceed without regard to the confederation. 

With respect to the recommendation of Congress, I think 
it is generally believed they will recommend, but it is only 
mere formality that could require us to wait it — even was it 
federal — which it is not. Let us suppose that Congress were to 
refuse recommending, would it drop to the ground? And 
suppose we decline calling a convention, will not the people 
call one themselves? They surely will, and have an un- 
doubted right so to do. And the only question before us is, 
what advantage will arise from calling that convention now ? 
The people who reside near the seat of government have gen- 
erally applied to you to direct this affair — now should we 

Calling a Convention not Unfederal. 53 

treat their application with a silent neglect, it will argue 
that the general assembly are unfriendly to a more federal 
and eflfective government. If it should not carry that idea to 
the people about us, who may have fuller information, it cer- 
tainly will to the extremes of the State, and other distant 
places. It will tend to damp that ardor, which the proposed 
plan has universally inspired. The State of Pennsylvania is 
of great weight, her influence would be extended, nor has she 
ever relaxed her federal exertions; she would become still of 
greater importance in the union, and her example on the pre- 
sent-question may fix the liberty, prosperity and happiness of 
united America, while sun and moon endureth. 

A tardiness will lose us these advantages, and by referring 
to another House, we may not see it effected until many 
other States that have formed a better judgment of its impor- 
tance, shall have acceded and eclipsed our fame. 

Mr. Fitzsimons. I think too highly of the good sense of 
this House, to suppose it necessary to say anything to prove 
to them, that their agreement to calling a convention is not 
nnfederal^ as every member must have fully considered the 
point before this time; nor I do not think a single gentleman 
supposes, that it would be unfederal — though the member 
from Westmoreland has taken some pains to persuade us, 
that Pennsylvania has been hitherto a federal State, and that 
we are about to depart from that conduct, and to run before 
even prosperity itself. I think it greatly to the honor of 
Pennsylvania, that she deserves the gentleman's commenda- 
tion, by having always stood foremost in support of federal 
measures; and I think it will redound still more to her 
honor, to enter foremost into this new system of confederation, 
seeing the old is so dissolved or rotten as to be incapable 01 
answering any good purpose whatsoever. Has the gentleman 
ever looked at the new constitution? If he has, he will see, 
it is not an alteration of an article in the old, but that it de- 
parts in every principle from the other. It presupposes, Sir, 
that no confederation exists; or if it does exist, it exists to no 
purpose: as it can answer no useful purpose, it cannot provide 
for the common defence, nor promote the general welfare. 

54 The Convention Called. 

Therefore, arguments that are intended to reconcile one with 
the other, or make the latter an appendage to the former, are 
but a mere waste of words. Does the gentleman suppose 
that the convention thought themselves acting under any 
provision made in the confederation for altering its articles? 
No, Sir, they had no such idea. They were obliged, in the 
first instance, to begin with the destruction of its greatest 
principle, equal represe7itation. They found the confedera- 
tion without vigor, and so decayed that it was impossible to 
graft a useful article upon it; nor was the mode^ Sir, as pre- 
scribed by that confederation, which requires alterations to 
originate with Congress. They found at an early period, 
that no good purpose could be effected by making such alter- 
ations as were provided by the first articles of union. They 
also saw, that what alterations were necessery could not be 
ratified by the legislatures, as they were incompetent to or- 
daining a form of government. They knew this belonged to 
the people only, and that the people only would be adequate 
to carry it into effect. What have Congress and the legisla- 
tures to do with the proposed constitution? Nothing, Sir, — 
they are but the mere vehicles to convey the information to 
the people. The convention, Sir, never supposed it was 
necessary to report to Congress, much less to abide their 
determination: they thought it decent to make the compli- 
ment to them of sending the result of their deliberations — 
concluding the knowledge of that would be more extensively 
spread through their means. Not that I would infer there is 
the least doubt of the most hearty concurrence of that body; 
but, should they decline, and the State of Pennsylvania 
neglect calling a convention, as I said before, the authority is 
with the people, and they will do it themselves; but there is 
a propriety in the legislatures providing the mode by which 
it may be conducted in a decent and orderly manner. 

The member from Westmoreland agrees, that a convention 
ought to take place. He goes further and declares, that it 
must and will take place, but assigns no reason why it should 
not early take place. He must know that any time after the 
election will be proper, because at that time, the people being 

Afr. Flndley Urges Delay. 55 

collected together, have full opportunity to learn each other's 
sentiments on this subject. Taking measures for calling a 
convention in a very different thing from deciding on the 
plan of government. The sentiments of the people, so far as 
they have been collected, have been unanimously favorable to 
its adoption, and its early adoption, if their representatives 
think it a good one. If we set the example now, there is a 
great prospect of its being generally come into; but if we de- 
lay, many ill consequences may arise. And I should suppose, 
if no better arguments are offered for the delay that what has 
been advanced by the gentleman on the other side of the 
House, that we will not agree to it. As to the time of elec- 
tion, that has been all along conceded, and gentlemen will 
propose such time as they think proper. 

Mr. Findley. I wish to make a few observations, Sir, on 
what has been said by the several gentlemen who support the 
motion, and to offer some further reasons in favor of delay. 
One gentleman says, it will be procrastinated, if laid over to 
the next House, into another year — in that. Sir, I will agree 
with him, if he means the beginning, but not if the middle 
or latter end. The same gentleman says, that no one, in 
favor of federal measures, would oppose it. Now, Sir, I pro- 
fess myself in favor of federal measures, and I believe the 
members of the House are generally so ; and it is for that very 
reason that I wish to defer it, in order that we may accom- 
plish in a federal manner. The gentleman further says, that 
if Congress disapprove of it, there is still a way left of having 
it adopted: but if Congress should disapprove — will it be con- 
tended, that we have acted properly, in agreeing to a measure 
without consideration. Congress certainly take no more 
time than is necessary, and they must know how the legisla- 
ture of Pennsylvania is circumstanced: they know we are 
near our dissolution, and never can imagine that even if they 
were to determine on recommending, that we have time to 
decide on that recommendation. 

As to what the gentleman from the county (Mr. Robinson) 
says of the federal convention's not being a federal conven- 
tion, I have but little to reply. I stated some facts to prove 

56 The Convention Called. 

they were a federal convention, acting under the confedera- 
tion both by its injunctions and by the law. He charges 
Congress also with not having acted agreeable to the confed- 
eration; but he has not shown us why that body should wan- 
tonly step out of the way, when, by the 13th section, they 
were able to effect every alteration which was required. But 
for my part, I think their conduct was federal, and their reso- 
lution conformable to the confederation. Neglecting to adopt 
the measure of calling a convention is said by him to carry 
the idea of this state's being unfriendly to the proposed con- 
stitution. But why should it have this effect? Is it not 
known that the usual method of determining any matter of a 
public nature is by a due consideration and repeated delibera- 
tion conformable with our constitution? Can a hasty deci- 
sion be expected? No; it is expressly prohibited. Why, then, 
must it be inferred from delay that we are unfriendly? 

The member from the city (Mr. Fitzsimons) says that every 
member must have considered this subject. I will say that 
every member has not considered it; for my part I have read 
it over not with a view of considering it in this house, and as 
for the object before us — I never thought of it at all, taking 
it for granted that the session was so far expired that time was 
not left to receive it from Congress or deliberate upon it. I 
know that it is the province of the convention to consider of 
the merits of the plan, and I suppose that they will have good 
reasons assigned for their determination, whether it be to re- 
ject or adopt it, so that I shall add nothing on this head. 
The gentleman goes further, and informs us that the federal 
convention did not act under the confederation, which he says 
is dissolved and rotten, and they paid no respect to it in their 
deliberations. I know this matter does not come properly 
before the House, but. Sir, I cannot forbear remarking upon 
these words. I should think it unwise to throw out the dirty 
water. Sir, before we get clean. If the confederation is dis- 
solved, there is no bond to keep us together even while we 
deliberate on the new. But, Sir, our confederation is not dis- 
solved, though it may be defective. We remember it was 
framed in time of war, and every requisite for the time of 

Mr. Findley Urges Delay. 57 

peace may not have been adverted to; and we should remem- 
ber it served, and served us faithfully, through a difficult and 
protracted war. Let us, therefore, not censure it too highly, 
as we have been advantaged by it, nor despise it, and say it 
is dissolved and rotten: for. Sir, when I go into my new 
house, I wait till it is finished and furnished, before I quit 
the humble cabin that has served me many a cold and weary 
day; and when I bid it an adieu, it is becoming to speak re- 
spectfully of it, because it was true and faithful to the last. 

Now with respect to the propriety of waiting the recom- 
mendations of Congress, and vrhelher we are acting federally 
or not, are questions, in my opinion, of high importance. 
The gentlemen say also that the subject is important — but 
how do they treat it? They treat it. Sir, as a trifle, whilst 
we, by desiring due deliberation, treat it as important. Ask 
the gentlemen. Sir, what they are about to do? They mean 
to summon an election of delegates at so short a day, that 
people have not the least time to consult together even on a 
proper representation. Perhaps the city and county of Phil- 
adelphia may have time stifficient, but no other can. If a 
majority of the people of Pennsylvania are favorable to the 
new constitution, how can they find out the sentiments of 
those whom they wish to represent them? Perhaps they may 
elect persons who will give it every opposition; and it may 
be. Sir, that the very persons who are pressing this business 
forward, do it to inspire a confidence that they are its sup- 
porters, when they mean, if opportunity shall offer, to de- 
stroy it. I ask the members of this House, Is it reasonable 
to suppose proper time is allowed? Let every member ask 
himself if the people can choose delegates with any kind of 
judgment? The people generally are disposed to have a 
government of more energy. How far the proposed one may 
answer their idea, I think we ought to let them consider. 
They have a right to think and choose for themselves. Shall 
we then deprive them of their right? Surely not. Let them 
then have time, and they no doubt will act right, and refuse 
or adopt the plan of government held out to them. 

Mr. Brackenridge. With respect to the expediency of im- 

58 The Conve7ition Called. 

mediate decision on this question, it has been sufficiently ob- 
served, that the example of Pennsylvania would be a great 
inducement to the other States to come speedily into its adop- 
tion — on the contrary, a delay with us will occasion a delay 
in the other legislatures. The gentleman allows we labor 
under inconveniences by the present mode of government; 
let his object then be to remove the difficulties and hasten 
their termination, by a speedy application of the only remedy 
the case admits of. I cannot see, Mr. Speaker, whence the 
gentlemen (Messrs. Whitehill and Findley) are so averse to a 
measure that the one owns is necessary and the other cannot 
state a single objection against. 

All efforts to restore energy to the federal government have 
proved ineffectual, when exerted in the mode directed by the 
13th article of the confederation, and it is in consequence of 
this that recourse is once more had to the authority of the 
people. The first step toward obtaining this was anti-federal; 
the acquiescence of Congress was anti-federal; the whole pro- 
cess has been anti-federal so far as it was not conducted in 
the manner prescribed by the articles of union. But the first 
and every step \\3iS federal^ inasmuch as it was sanctioned by 
the PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES. The member from 
Westmoreland pleases his fancy with being on federal ground, 
pursuing federal measures, and being a very federal sort of 
person; he concludes we are not in a state of nature, because 
we are on federal ground. But, Sir, we are not on federal 
ground, but on the wild and extended field of nature, unre- 
strained by any former compact, bound by no peculiar tie; at 
least so far are we disengaged, as to be capable of forming a 
constitution which shall be the wonder of the universe. It is 
on the principle of self-conservation that we act. The former 
articles of confederation have received sentence of death, and 
though they may be on earth, yet are inactive, and have no 
efficacy. But the gentleman would still have us to be bound 
by them, and tells you your acts must correspond with their 
doctrine. This he proves. Sir, from the 13th article: but in 
this he is like some over-studious divines, who in comment- 
ing on their text, turn it to different shapes, and force it to 
prove what it never meant, or in the words of the poet. 

Mr. Whitehill U^-ges Delay. 59 

As critics, learned critics view, 

In Homer, more than Homer knew. 

He will not suffer the old to be dissolved until the new is 
adopted ; he will not quit his old cabin, till the new house is 
furnished, not if it crumbles about his ears. But, Sir, we 
are not now forsaking our tenement, it has already been for- 
saken: and I conceive we have the power to proceed inde- 
pendent of Congress or Confederation. But as to the second 
object, whether the time is proper as stated in the resolution, 
I do not say that it is, because I conceive it too short for sev- 
eral counties distant from this city; but this subject will come 
forward with propriety after the present question is agreed to. 

Mr. Findley. The proposed plan is not now before us; 
therefore we have nothing to say on that subject. But, Sir, 
I would still suppose the old confederation is in existence — 
the new says that when nine States agree, it shall be binding 
on them ; — that is to say, we shall not go out of the old, until 
the new is so far completed. Then, Sir, for my part I would 
retire from under the old, but not till then, when I would 
bid it an honorable and friendly adieu for its meritorious 
services; then I would cheerfully pay that attention to the 
new, which a more perfect edifice deserves; I would then 
support or act under it, as occasion might require. 

Mr. Whitehill. I shall make but a very few observations 
on this business as enough has already been said, I apprehend, 
to convince the house of the propriety of delay, if any consid- 
eration can effect it. I believe. Sir, we are under the confed- 
eration, and when we come to consider the articles of that 
confederation, as well as the law passed appointing delegates 
to Congress, we shall have reason to conclude that we are on 
federal ground, and not in a state of nature. In the sixth 
article it is expressly declared that no State shall enter into 
any confederation without the consent of Congress; this is 
sufficient to satisfy the house that they ought not to proceed 
without the approbation of Congress. I say, when we come 
to consider, that the States appointed delegates in consequence 
of the recommendation of Congress, and that they reported to 
Congress agreeably to their orders, every member must be 

6o The Convention Called. 

convinced that it is a federal measure, and this way of going 
out of it must be contrary to all right and propriety. We 
have articles of confederation, Sir, and we are bound by them. 
We are acting. Sir, a very wrong part to deny this — they are 
our government. They have the necessary powers by the 
confederation, and I say their recommendation is necessary; 
and unless we have it, nothing can be done toward establish- 
ing the new constitution. 

]\Ir. D, Clymer said the new constitution had nothing to do 
with the present question which was simply. Will the house 
take the proper means to have a convention of the people 
called to deliberate on the propriety of receiving or refusing 
the new plan of confederation? 

The question was now put. Will the house agree to the 
resolution? And the yeas and nays being called by IMessrs. 
D. Clymer and Fitzsimons, are as follows : 

Yeas. — Will, Fitzsimons, Clymer, Hiltzeimer, Gray, Rob- 
inson, Salter, Logan, Foulke, Wynkoop, Chapman, Upp, 
Moore, Willing, Ralston, Evans, Thomas, Wheelen, Lowry, 
Hubley, Carpenter, Work, Ross, Clemson, M'Conaghy^ 
Schmyser, M'Clellan, Lilley, G. Hiester, Kreemer, J. Hiester, 
Davis, D. Clymer, Trexler, Burkhalter, Cannon, Antis, 
Brackenridge, Moore, Wheeler, Hockley, Risse, Carson — 43. 

Nays. — Whitehill, Kennedy, Mitchell, Brown, Piper, 
Powell, Dale, Findley, Barr, Wright, M' Dowel, Flenniken, 
Allison, Phillips, Gilchrist, Smith, M'Calmont, Clarke, 
Miley — 19. 

After which the house adjourned till 4 o'clock in the after- 

Eodein die^ p. m. 

Mr. Speaker took the chair, when it appeared there were 
but 44 members met, which, not being a quorum, 

Mr. Wynkoop observed that the house had under their con- 
ideration a business of the highest importance, and as he 
remarked the absent members were mostly those who had 
given it opposition in the forenoon, he suspected they had 
withdrawn themselves by design, he would therefore move 
that the Sergeant of Arms be sent for them. This being 

No Quorum in the Assmbly. 6i 

unanimously agreed to, the Sergeant was dispatched in search 
of the following members of the general Assembly of Penn- 
sylvania, namely : 
From Cumberland — Robert Whitehill^ Thomas Kennedy^ 

David Mitchell. 
From Bedford — -John Piper^ Joseph Powell. 
From Northumberland — FredeiHck Antis^ (who voted in favor 

of calling the convention), Samuel Dale. 
From Westmoreland — William Findley^ James Bar. 
From Washington — Alexander Wright^ John M'' Dowel^John 

Flenniken, James Allison. 
From Fayette — Theophiliis Phillips .^ John Gildnist. 
From F^'ranklin — Abraham Smithy James AP Calmont. 
From Dauphin — Robert Clarke a.ndi Jacob Miley. 

The Speaker left the chair until the return of the Sergeant 
at Arms, who was immediately examined at the bar of the 

Mr. Speaker. Well, Sergeant, have you seen the absent 
members? Sergeant. Yes, Sir, I saw R. Whitehill, Ken- 
nedy, Mitchell, Piper, Powell, Dale, Findley, Bar, Wright, 
M' Dowel, Flenniken, Allison, Gilchrist, M' Calmont, R. 
Clarke, Antis and Miley. 

Mr. Speaker. What did you say to them? Sergeant. I 
told the gentlemen that the Speaker and the house had sent 
for them, and says they. There is no house. 

Mr. Speaker. Did you let them know they were desired 
to attend? Sergeant. Yes, Sir, but they told me they could 
not attend this afternoon, for they had not made up their 
minds yet. 

Mr. D. Clymer. How is that? Sergeant. They had not 
made up their minds this afternoon to wait on you. 

Mr. Speaker. Who told you this? Sergeant. Mr. White- 
hill told me the first. 

Mr. Speaker. Where did you see them? Sergeant. At a 
house in Sixth street; Major Boyd's, I think. 

D. Clymer. You say Mr. Whitehill told you first there 
was no house; who told you afterward? Sergeant. Mr. 
Clarke said they must go electioneering now. 

62 The Convention Called. 

D. Clymer. I would be glad to know what conversation 
there was among them, and who was there ? Sergeant, 
There was a member of council with them, Mr. M'Laine, and 
he asked me. Who sent you? 

Mr. Speaker. Was no other person in the room? Ser- 
geant. Yes, I saw Mr. Smiley there. 

D. Clymer. Was there no private citizens? Sergeant. No, 

D. Clymer. There was none then but men in public of- 
fices? Sergeant. No, 

D, Clymer. Well; and pray what did the honorable Mr. 
Smiley say? Sergeant. He said nothing, 

D. Clymer. Could all the persons in the room hear Mr. 
M'Laine's question. Sergeant, Yes, Sir. 

D, Clymer, And did they seem pretty unanimous in their 
determination not to come? that is, did it appear so to you? 
Sergeant. Yes, Sir, as I understood it, nearly. 

D, Clymer, Did you hear of any one willing to come? 
Sergeant, No, Sir. 

Sergeant, you may retire. 

The Speaker now recapitulated the unfinished business, 
and wished to know what the members would choose to do. 

Mr. Wynkoop would be glad to know, if there was no way 
to compel men, who deserted from the duty they owed their 
country, to a performance of it, when they were within the 
reach of the House. If there is not, then God be niercifid to 


/ / / 

Mr. Lowry believed there was a law to compel the absent 
members to serve, which was passed in the year 1777; but 
upon investigation, this law was found wholly inadequate, 
and upon search it appeared, that the only penalty to which 
such men were liable, was a forfeiture of one third of one 
day's pay, being the sum of five shillings Pennsylvania cur- 
rency; and this is inflicted under one of the rules for the reg- 
ulation of the members' conduct. 

Mr. Robinson. I believe. Sir, that punishment is not in 
our power, nor can we compel their presence, so that we have 
nothing left but to adjourn; but before this I would wish to 

The Sergeant Sent After Mernbci^s. 63 

make a few observations. This House, Sir, have this after- 
noon agreed to call a convention of the people of this State,' 
in order to deliberate upon a new form of confederation. I 
would remark, that this business is not of such a nature as to 
require a law to carry it into effect, it being merely to lay 
down the mode by which the citizens may proceed in their 
choice in a manner best suited to their convenience. This 
business. Sir, is of that important nature to all the citizens 
of the United States, that it must not be suffered to fail by 
the secession of nineteen of your members — though sorry I 
am that our journals are again to be stained by recording the 
conduct of an unmanly minority. But passing this over, I 
think there will be a propriety of meeting again, and under 
our respective signatures recommend this measure to our con- 
stituents. Fully impressed with the idea of its importance 
and necessity, I cannot but strongly recommend its adoption, 
and leave these men to suffer the stings of conscience, and 
that contempt and displeasure of their constituents, which 
they have drawn upon themselves. 

Adjourned until to-morrow half past nine. 

Saturday^ September .?p, A. M. 

Mr. Speaker took the chair, and on calling over the roll, it 
appeared there were but forty-four members present; namely, 
all those who appeared yesterday, but Mr. Robert Brown 
FROM Northampton, who has now withdrawn himself. 
And by order, the Sergeant of Arms, accompanied by the 
assistant clerk, was dispatched in pursuit of the seceding 
members. But first Mr. G. Clymer presented to the chair the 
unanimous resolution of Congress, which he said had been 
agreed to yesterday, and was forwarded by Mr. Bingham to 
him express, having chosen this mode in preference to the 
ordinary conveyance by post. Whereupon, 

The following resolution was read, and sent by the assis- 
tant clerk to the seceding members, (as was observed by the 
Speaker,) in order to remove that objection, which they had 
taken yesterday against the measure. 

64 The Convention Called. 

The United States in Congress Assembled. 

Friday, September 28, ijSj. 

Present — New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New 
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, 
and Georgia, and from Maryland, Mr. Ross. 

Congress having received the report of the Convention lately assem- 
bled in Philadelphia, 

Resolved unanimously, That the said report, with the resolution and let- 
ter accompanying the same, be transmitted to the several legislatures, in 
order to be submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each State, by 
the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the convention, made 
and provided in that case. CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary. 

The Speaker left the chair, and in a few minutes Mr. 
James M'Cahnont and Mr. Jacob Miley entered the house. 
The Speaker resumed the chair, and the roll was called, 
when the following gentlemen answered to their names: 
From the City of Philadelphia — Messrs. Will, Morris, Fitz- 

simons, G. Clymer, and Hiltzeimer. 
From the county of Philadelphia — Messrs. Gray, Robinson, 

Salter and Logan. 
From Bucks — Messrs. Foiilke, Wynkoop, Chapman and Upp. 
From Chester — Messrs. /. Moore, Willing, Thomas, Ralston, 

Evans, and Wheelen. 
From Lancaster — Messrs. Lowry, Hubley, Carpenter, Work, 

Ross, and Clemson. 
From York — Messrs. M^ Conaghy, Schmyser, AF Clellan, and 

From Cumberland — NONE. 

From Berks — INIessrs. /. Hiester, Davis, and D. Clymer. 
From Northampton — Messrs. Trexler, and Biirkhalter. 
From Bedford — Mr. Cannon. 
From Northumberland — NONE. 
From Westmoreland — Mr. Bi'-ackenridge. 
From Washington — none. 
From Fayette — none. 
From Franklin — Mr. J/' Cahnont. 
From Montgomery — Messrs. /. Wheeler, C. Moore., Hockley., 

and Risse. 
From Dauphin — IMessrs. F. Miley, and Carson. 

J/' Cahnont Co7nplains of Violence. 65 

Being 45, and with the Speaker 46, the number which 
constitutes a quorum. 

After reading over the minutes of yesterday. 

Mr, Hockley presented a petition and memorial from forty- 
three inhabitants of the county of Montgomery, desiring the 
house would take the necessary measures to have a conven- 
tion of the people assembled as speedily as possible. 

Which was read, and ordered to lie on the table. 

The Committee appointed to select such business from the 
files of the House, as would be proper to recommend to the 
attention of the succeeding General Assembly, made report, 
which was also read, and ordered to lie on the table. 

Mr. M'Calmont informed the house, that he had been 
forcibly brought into the assembly room, contrary to his 
wishes, this morning by a number of the citizens, whom he 
did not know, and that therefore, he begged he might be 
dismissed the house. 

Mr. Lowry. I hope, as the gentleman says, he was forci- 
bly brought, he will give some reason why force was neces- 
sary to make him do his duty; and what reason can he give 
now he is here, that should induce us to part with him again? 
Surely his being brought by force and against his wishes, is 
not a reason that he should be suffered to go off again. 

Mr. Fitzsimons would be glad to know, if any member of 
the house was guilty of forcing the gentleman from the de- 
termination of absenting himself; if there was, he thought 
it necessary that the house mark such conduct with their 
disapprobation. But we are to consider. Sir, that the mem- 
ber is now here, and that the business of the State cannot be 
accomplished, if any one is suffered to withdraw: from which 
consideration I conclude, it will be extremely improper for 
any member to leave this house, until the laws and other 
unfinished business, is completed. 

Mr. Robinson. I believe my sentiments. Sir, are well 
known on the subject of the new federal constitution, and I 
yesterday declared my strong disapprobation of the conduct 
of those members, who, by leaving the house, ha\-e forsaken 
that obligation they owe their God, their country, and their 

66 The Conventio7i Called. 

conscience. But at the same time, that I decidedly condemn 
their conduct, I would not wish to act by any means unfair, 
in completing that business which they have neglected. No, 
Sir, I consider that there are but forty-five members here, if 
the gentleman is retained by compulsion. He cannot. Sir, 
be detained against his will; and if the member is so callous 
as to refuse the calls of his country to do her service, and for- 
sakes his duty, when much is required, he must stand re- 
sponsible to his constituents, and to his God, and must suffer 
the general odium and reproach of every friend to decency or 
order. But, Sir, we have no authority to confine him within 
these walls; if any gentlemen suppose so, they will find upon 
a due consideration, that their opinion is not well founded. 
If any improper method has been used to bring him here, 
and he is detained against his will, I do conceive we are not 
a house. 

Mr. Brackenridge. It may be a proper question for the 
house to discuss, whether their officers by force have brought 
this member here, or whether other members have by 
violence compelled him. I suppose in either of these cases, 
the house might have cognizance. But if the member has 
been conducted by the citizens of Philadelphia to his seat in 
the legislature, and they have not treated him with the re- 
spect and veneration he deserves, it must lie with him to ob- 
tain satisfaction, but not with us. The gentleman by 
answering to his name, when the roll was called, acknowl- 
edged himself present, and forms a part of the house. Well, 
Sir, I conceive the question is, what is to be done now he is 
here — for how he came here, can form no part of our enquiry. 
Whether his friends brought him (and I should think they 
could not be his enemies, who would compel him to do his 
duty, and avoid wrong) I say. Sir, whether his- friends 
brought him, or by the influence of good advice persuaded 
him to come, and he did come; or whether to ease his diflS- 
culty in walking to this room, they brought him in a sedan 
chair, or by whatever ways or means he introduced himself 
among us, all we are to know, is, that he is here, and it 
only remains for us to decide whether he shall have leave of 

Report of the Sergeant at Arms. 67 

absence. Now, if the gentleman can show, that his life will 
be endangered by staying with us (for I should think the loss 
of health, on the present occasion, an insufEcient reason) we 
may grant him the indulgence he asks for, waiving the whole 
story of his coming, I presume the house can immediately 
decide whether he may retire or not. 

Mr. M'Calmont. I desire that the rules may be read, and 
I will agree to stand by the decision of the house. 

The rules were read accordingly, and it appeared, that 
every member who did not answer on calling the roll, should 
pay two shillings and six pence, or, if there was not a quorum 
without him, five shillings. 

Mr. M'Calmont then rose from his place, and putting his 
hand in his pocket took out some loose silver, and said. Well, 
Sir, here is your five shillings to let me go. 

This ludicrous circumstance occasioned a loud laugh in 
the gallery. And the speaker told him, that the person who 
had been appointed to receive the fines, was not in his place; 
but if he was, the member ought not to pay it, as he had not 
broke the rule, which declared those persons only finable, 
who did not appear and answer to their names; he had done 
both, and therefore might retain his money. 

Mr. Fitzsimons hoped the member would not be dismissed; 
for he thought no one man ought to be allowed to break up 
the assembly of Pennsylvania, which could be done agree- 
able to constitution only by the time expiring for which it 
was chosen. 

The Sergeant at Arms and assistant clerk had, by this time, 
returned from hunting up the seceeding members, and ap- 
pearing in the house, the clerk was examined at the bar, and 
related as follows: 

I went. Sir, in the pursuance of your order, with the Ser- 
geant at Arms, in search of the absent members. First, Sir, 
I went to Major Boyd's, and there saw Mr. Miley and Mr. 
M'Calmont. I informed them that the Speaker and mem- 
bers present had sent me for them, and showed them the 
resolution of Congress. They told me in answer that they 
would not attend. Before I got from that door I saw Col. 

68 The Convoitioii Called. 

Piper and some other member, who I do not recollect, at a 
great distance. I went after them to the corner of Arch and 
Sixth streets. I saw Mr. Barr and Mr. Findley, Col. Piper 
and some other member, going toward Marke tstreet. Mr. 
Findley looked round and saw me^ as I supposed^ for he 
mended his pace. I followed Mr. Piper and Mr. Barr, who 
kept on to Market street, and soon turned the corner — before 
I got there. / lost sight of Mr. Findley.^ ivho I supposed had 
got into so7ne house. I went forward after Piper and Bar and 
came up with them, and told them of the unanimous resolu- 
tion of Congress, but they answered me in the same manner, 
that they would not attend. From them I went to Mr, White- 
hill's lodging, and saw a woman that I supposed to be the 
maid of the house. SJie informed me that Mr. Whitehill was 
tipstairs; she went up^ and staid sojtte time^ ivhen she returned 
and told 7ne he was not at home. I saw also Mr. Clark and 
Mr. M'Dowell in the street, and Mr. M'Dowell told me he 
would consider of the matter, and he would do what he 
thought just. I saw Mr. Mitchell at Mr. Whitehill's lodging, 
and he said he would not attend. Mr. Dale and Mr. Antis I 
found at their lodgings, and Mr. Dale told me he zvould not 
attend. Mr. Antis said this resolution of Congress had not 
come officially, and therefore he zvould not attend. 

D. Clynier asked if Mr. M'Calmont had offered any excuse 
when he was desired to attend? 

Clerk. No, he said he had heard of the resolution of Con- 
gress, but he zvould not attejid. 

Thus ended the report of the clerk. 

Mr. Logan entered into a long detail of the benefits and 
advantages which would result from the adoption of the pro- 
posed confederation, when several of the members desired he 
would confine himself to the question. He went on to remark 
that the member was a part of the house, he had answered to 
his name, and after this it lay entirely with the house whether 
they would dismiss him or no. 

Mr. Robinson. I do not conceive the question to be, 
whether he shall be dismissed or not; but as the doors are 
open he may go out, and if he does he is only responsible to 

Debate on Detainijig Af CalmoitL. 69 

his constituents for his conduct. I conceive he cannot be 
detained as in prison, and it rests with the gentleman whether 
he will stay or not. 

Mr. Wynkoop expressed some amaze at the argument of 
the gentleman. The member, Mr. M'Calmont, had sworn to 
do the duties he was delegated to; there had been nothing of 
force in that, and he should not for his part think himself at 
liberty to withdraw until the business was completed, nor 
could he think any member ought. He would call on the 
gentleman to assign his reasons for absconding from his duty 
at the bar of the house, where he might be heard as to his 
complaint; but the house could not be formed without him. 

Mr. M'Calmont replied he was not to be called to the bar 
of this house, he had to answer for his conduct at another bar. 

Mr. D. Clymer was of opinion the member was within the 
power of the house by being present, and instanced the case 
of General Ganfell, who was arrested by the sheriff's officers 
in a protected place. The determination of the judges was 
that as he was taken, he should be confined until the debt 
was paid, though he had his action for damages against the 
officers who had broken the law of the realm in arresting 
him. So he was for punishing every person who had ill- 
treated the gentleman; however faulty his conduct was, it be- 
longed not to individuals to punish, that was to be left to the 
judges, who, no doubt, will see the law properly executed. 

Mr. Fitzsimons was a friend to good order and decorum, 
but he believed the gentleman's complaint was not to be 
redressed by the house. The member himself had trespassed, 
may be iuadvertedly, since he had taken his seat. He had 
perhaps offered the greatest indignity to the legislature of 
Pennsylvania, which could be offered. He has. Sir, tendered 
you a fine of five shillings in order to be permitted to destroy 
the business, if not the good government of the State. On 
this. Sir, I will make no reflection; the member is now here, 
and we may determine that he shall stay, not only on consti- 
tutional ground, but from the law of nature, that will not 
suffer any body to destroy its own existence prematurely. 

Mr. Robinson. The question. Sir, is whether the member 

70 The Convention Called. 

shall have leave of absence. Now suppose the house deter 
mine that he shall not, and yet he should attempt to with- 
draw. Certainly you will not lock your doors. (Mr. Fitz- 
simons interrupted with, Yes, Sir, if no other method could 
retain him.) 

This can't be proper, Sir, for it appears to me inconsistent 
with the rules of every house to return a person as a membei 
by compulsion. With respect to calling a convention, I ap- 
prehend the recommendation of forty- four members will have 
as good effect as if the consent of that gentleman was ob- 
tained; for the citizens of Pennsylvania will not lose their 
rights or liberty because nineteen members absconded this 
house. But, Sir, I can't admit the idea that there is a house 
while the member declares he is retained by compulsion, but 
as long as he answers to his name and keeps his seat there 
surely is a house. 

D. Clymer would ask if the power to refuse leave of absence 
did not imply a power to detain the person, and whether in 
that case, if it was necessary to lock the doors, the house 
would not be justifiable? An anecdote had occurred to him 
which he would wish to communicate, though somewhat for- 
eign. // was remarkable that three years back from yester- 
day^ a similar session had taken place ; the satne number of 
members^ 7iamely nineteen^ had then absconded^ and there was 
the same number of laws ready to be compared at the table. 

Mr. G. Clymer was decidedly of opinion, even had not the 
gentleman submitted himself to the decision of the house, 
that they were competent to use measures to compel his stay. 

The Speaker now stated the question. 

Mr. Robinson had all along agreed that the member was 
in the power of the house, after answering to his name — but 
he had supposed him to be held by compulsion, and if so, 
then they were not a house. 

Mr. M'Calmont now rose and made towards the door. Mr. 
Fitzsimons addressed him, but so as not to be heard; and the 
gallery called out stop him^ there being a number of citizens 
at the door he went toward. The commotion subsided in a 
few seconds, and Mr. M'Calmont returned to his seat to wait 
the decision of the house. 

M'' Cabnont not Excused. 7 1 

Mr. Fitzsimons informed the Speaker that Mr. M'Calmont 
had told him he had occasion to go out, and was willing to 
go in company with the Sergeant at Arms; he thereupon 
hoped the gentleman's wish might be complied with. 

The Speaker put the question, Shall Mr. M'Calmont have 
leave of absence? which was determined almost, if not quite, 
unanimously in the negative. 

The house now proceeded to compare and enact a number 
of bills which were lying engrossed on the table. 

On motion the house resumed the consideration of the un- 
finished resolutions which were presented yesterday by Mr. 
G. Clymer, when the one fixing the day for holding the elec- 
tion of delegates to convention was read. 

Mr. Brackenridge moved to insert the first Tuesday in 
November to be the day throughout the State. 

Mr. Wynkoop thought the last Tuesday in October would 
allow sufficient time, but Mr. D. Clymer approved of the most 
distant day. None of the gentlemen were anxious about the 
week, and therefore agreed the question should be on the first 
Tuesday in November. 

Mr. M'Calmont thought this much too early, and moved 
successively for the last Tuesday, the third Tuesday, and 
second Tuesday in December, without being seconded. 

The question was therefore taken on the first Tuesday in 
November^ which was agreed to. 

On appointing the place where the convention should sit, 
it was proposed by Mr. M'Calmont to alter it from the city 
of Philadelphia to Carlisle; but in this he was not seconded. 
He then moved for Ivancaster, and after some time was sec- 
onded by Mr. Lowry. The yeas and nays were called by him 
on this question, and are: 

Yeas. Lowry, Hubley, Carpenter, Work, Ross, Clemson, 
M'Conaghy, Schmyser, M'Clellan, J. Hiester, G. Hiester, 
Cannon, M'Calmont, Miley, Carson — 15. 

Nays. Will, Morris, Fitzsimons, Clymer, Hiltzeimer, 
Gray, Robinson, Salter, Logan, Foulke, Wynkoop, Chapman, 
Upp, Moore, Willing, Ralston, Evans, Thomas, Wheeleii, 
Lilley, Kreemer, Davis, D. Clymer, Trexler, Burkhalter, 
Brackenridge, Moore, Wheeler, Hockley and Risse — 30. 

72 The Conveiitzon Called. 

So it was determined in the negative, and afterward the 
resolution was agreed to as it stood. 

Mr. G. Clymer now moved to insert these words in the 
preamble: "And whereas Congress on Friday, the twenty- 
eighth instant, did unanimously resolve that the said consti- 
tution be transmitted to the several legislatures of the States 
to the intent aforesaid." Which was accordingly done. 

The resolutions were finally passed in the following form: 

Whe;re;as, the Convention of Deputies from the several States composing 
the union, lately held in this city, have published a constitution for the fu- 
ture government of the United States, to be submitted to conventions of 
deputies chosen in each State by the people thereof, under the recommenda- 
tion of its legislature, for their assent and ratification; and. 

Whereas, Congress, on Friday, the 28th inst., did unanimously resolve 
that the said constitution be transmitted to the several legislatures of the 
States to the intent aforesaid; and, 

Whereas, it is the sense of great numbers of the good people of this State, 
already signified in petitions and declarations to this house, that the earliest 
steps should be taken to assemble a convention within the State, for the pur- 
pose of deliberating and determining on the said constitution. 

Resolved, That it be recommended to such of the inhabitants of the State 
as are entitled to vote for representatives to the general assembly, that they 
choose suitable persons to serve as dej^uties in a State convention, for the 
purpose hereinbefore mentioned, that is, for the city of Philadelphia and 
the counties respectively, the same number of deputies that each is entitled 
to of representatives in the general assembl}'. 

Resolved, That the elections for deputies as aforesaid, be held at the sev- 
eral places in the said city and counties as are fixed by law for holding the 
elections of representatives to the general assembly, and that the same be 
conducted by the officers who conduct the said elections of representatives, 
and agreeably to the rules and regulations thereof; and that the election of 
deputies as aforesaid, shall be held for the city of Philadelphia, and the sev- 
eral counties of this State, on the first Tuesday of November next. 

Resolved, That the persons so elected to serve in convention shall assem- 
ble on the third Tuesday of November, at the State House in the city of 

Resolved, That the proposition submitted to this house by the deputies of 
Pennsylvania in the general convention of the States, of ceding to the United 
States a district of country within this State for the seat of the general gov- 
ernment, and for the exclusive legislation of Congress, be particularly re- 
commended to the consideration of the convention. 

Resolved, That it be recommended to the succeeding house of assembly 
to make the same allowance to the attending members of the convention as 
is made to the members of the general assembly, and also to provide for the 
extraordinar}' expenses which may be incurred by holding the said elec- 

*From the Minutes of the Assembly. 

Address of the AIi7ioriiy of the Assembly. ^2) 

The sixteen seceding members attempted to justify their 
conduct, and issued the following address to their constitu- 

An Address of the subscribers, members of the i.ate 
House of Representatives of the Commonweai^th 
OF Pennsylvania, to their constituents. * 
Gentlemen: When in consequence of your suffrages at 
the late election we w^ere chosen to represent you in the gen- 
eral assembly of this commonwealth, we accepted of the im- 
portant trust with a determination to execute it in the best 
manner we were able; and we flatter ourselves we have acted 
in such a manner as to convince you, that your interest, with 
that of the good of the State, has been the object of our 

During the fall and spring sessions of the legislature on the 
recommendation of the Congress of the United States your 
representatives proceeded to the appointment of delegates to 
attend a convention to be held in the city of Philadelphia, for 
the purposes of revising and amending the present articles of 
confederation, and to report their proceedings to Congress, 
and when adopted by them, and ratified by the several States, 
to become binding on them as part of the confederation of the 
United States, We lamented at the time, that a majority of 
our legislature appointed men to represent this State who 
were all citizens of Philadelphia, none of them calculated to 
represent the landed interest of Pennsylvania, and almost all 
of them of one political party, men who have been uniformly 
opposed to that constitution for which you have on every 
occasion manifested your attachment. We were apprehen- 
sive at the time of the ill-consequences of so partial a repre- 
sentation, but all opposition was in vain. When the conven- 
tion met, members from twelve States attended, and after 
deliberating upwards of four months on the subject, agreed 
on a plan of government which was sent forward by them to 
Congress, and which was reported to the house by the dele- 
gates of Pennsylvania as mere matter of information, and 

*From the Pennsylvania Packet, Oct, 4th, 1787. 

74 The Convention Called. 

printed in the newspapers of the city of Philadelphia; but the 
house had not received it officially from Congress, nor had we 
the least idea that, as the annual election was so near, we 
should be called upon to deliberate, much less to act on so 
momentous a business; a business of the utmost importance 
to you and your posterity. We conceived it required the 
most minute examination and mature consideration, and that 
it ought to be taken up by the next house. Judge then of 
our surprise on finding the last day but one in the sessions, a 
member of the house who had been a delegate in the conven- 
tion, without any previous notice or any intimation of his 
intentions to the house, offer a resolution recommending the 
calling a convention to consider of the proposed constitution 
and to direct the electing members for the same, at so early a 
period as the day of your annual election, thus attempting to 
surprise you into a choice of members — to approve or disap- 
prove of a constitution, which is to entail happiness or misery 
forever, without giving time to the greatest part of the State 
even to see, much less to examine, the plan of government. 
Our duty to ourselves and our regard for your dearest in- 
terests induced us to oppose the measure by every possible 
argument that we could suggest at the time; but all our efforts 
were insufficient even to produce a postponement until the 
afternoon. We urged and urged in vain the constant prac- 
tice of the house when any important business was to be 
brought on, of giving previous notice and making it the order 
of the day sometime beforehand; that no bill, however tri- 
fling, was passed without three readings, and without this 
formality which gave the members time and opportunity to 
think on the subject; that the rules were adhered to so strictly, 
that even the building of a bridge, or the laying out a road, 
could not be determined on without this form; but this, the 
most important of all matters, was to be done by surprise, 
and as we conceived with design to preclude you from hav- 
ing it in your power to deliberate on the subject. Our 
anxiety for your interests was great, but notwithstanding the 
fiimest and most determined opposition, no respite could be 
obtained, and the first resolution was adopted by a majority 

Address of the Minority of the Assembly. 75 

of the house, when they adjourned till the afternoon to com- 
plete the business. In these circumstances we had no alter- 
native; we were under a necessity of either returning to the 
house, and by our presence enabling them to call a conven- 
tion before our constituents could have the means of informa- 
tion, or time to deliberate on the subject, or by absenting 
ourselves from the house, prevent the measure taking place. 
Our regard for you induced us to prefer the latter, and we de- 
termined not to attend in the afternoon. We conceived that 
at the time we were chosen you had no view to this business, 
and we could see no inconvenience nor loss of time from de- 
ferring a matter of such importance, and which would in its 
consequences ajBfect or perhaps annihilate our own constitu- 
tion, as well as that of every constitution in the union, to a 
house chosen after the people had some knowledge of the 
plan, especially as the next house will meet at so early a 
period, and a convention could be called by them time 
enough to meet in a few months, which would be as early as 
any State in the union, and would be allowing you time to 
make up your minds on a matter which appeared to us to fe- 
quire so much deliberation. Thus circumstanced and thus 
influenced, we determined the next morning again to absent 
ourselves from the house, when James M'Calmont, esq., a 
member from Franklin, and Jacob Miley, esq., a member from 
Dauphin, were seized by a number of citizens of Philadelphia, 
who had collected together for that purpose, their lodgings 
were violently broken open, their clothes torn, and after 
much abuse and insult they were forcibly dragged through 
the streets of Philadelphia to the State house, and there de- 
tained by force, and in the presence of the majority, who had 
the day before voted for the first of the proposed resolutions, 
treated with the most insulting language; while the house so 
formed proceeded to finish their resolutions, which they mean 
to offer to you as the doings of the legislature of Pennsylva- 
nia. On this outrageous proceeding we make no comment. 
The inhabitants of Franklin and Dauphin have been grossly 
insulted by the treatment of their members. We know the 
feelings of the people of these counties are sufficiently keen ; 

'j^ The Convention Called. 

it becomes us not to add to them by dwelling longer on the 
subject; but as our conduct may, and we have no doubt will, 
be misrepresented, we thought it our duty to lay before 
our constituents, to whom alone we are accountable, a real 
state of facts, that they may judge for themselves. We need 
not tell you that we could have no interested motive to influ- 
ence our conduct. A sense of that duty which we owed to 
you and to ourselves could have alone induced us to submit 
to the variety of abuse and insults which many of us have ex- 
perienced for not consenting to a measure that might prob- 
ably have surprised you into a surrender of your dearest 
rights. Our conduct has at least had the good effect to 
lengthen out the time of election, and induced them to post- 
pone the election for members to the convention until the 
first Tuesday in November next; whereas, the resolution first 
proposed directed it to be holden for all the counties east of 
Bedford on the day of the annual election, nine days from 
the time of proposing the measure. . 

We cannot conclude without requesting you to turn your 
serious attention to the government now offered to your con- 
sideration: "We are persuaded that a free and candid discus- 
sion of any subject tends greatly to the improvement of know- 
ledge, and that a matter in which the public are so deeply in- 
terested cannot be too well understood. A good constitution 
and government is a blessing from heaven, and the right of 
posterity and mankind; suffer then we intreat you no inter- 
ested motive, sinister view, or improper influence to direct 
your determinations or bias your judgments." Provide 
yourselves with the new constitution ofiered to you by the 
convention, look it over with attention, that you be enabled 
to think for yourselves. We confess when the legislature ap- 
pointed delegates to attend the convention, our ideas ex- 
tended no farther than a revision or amendment of the j)re- 
sent confederation, nor were our delegates, by the acts of as- 
sembly appointing them, authorized to do more, as will ap- 
pear by referring to the said act, the second section of which 
describes their powers in the following words, viz. 

"2. Be it enacted, and it is herebv enacted by the represen- 

Address of the Minority of the Assembly. 77 

tatives of the freemen of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania 
in general assembly met, and by the authority of the same. 
That Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Jared 
Ingersoll, Thomas Fitzsimons, James Wilson and Gouverneur 
Morris, Esquires, are hereby appointed deputies from this 
State to meet in the convention of the deputies of the respec- 
tive States of North America, to be held at the city of Phila- 
delphia, on the second day of the month of May next. And 
the said Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, 
Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Fitzsimons, James Wilson and 
Gouverneur Morris, Esquires, or any four of them, are hereby 
constituted and appointed deputies from this State, with 
powers to meet such deputies as may be appointed and 
authorized by the other States to assemble in the said con- 
vention at the city aforesaid, and to join with them in devis- 
ing, deliberating on and discussing all such alterations and fur- 
ther provisions as may be necessary to render the federal 
constitution fully adequate to the exigencies of the union; 
and in reporting such act or acts for that purpose, to the 
United States in Congress assembled, as when agreed to by 
them, and duty confirmed by the several States, will effect- 
ually provide for the same. ' ' 

You will therefore perceive that they had no authority 
whatever from the legislature, to annihilate the present con- 
federation and form a constitution entirely new, and in doing 
which they have acted as mere individuals, not as the offlcial 
deputies of this commonwealth. If, however, after mature 
deliberation, you are of opinion that the plan of government 
which they have offered for your consideration is best calcu- 
lated to promote your political happiness and preserve those 
invaluable privileges you at present enjoy, you will no doubt 
choose men to represent you in convention who will adopt it; 
if you think otherwise, you will, with your usual firmness, 
determine accordingly. 

You have a right, and we have no doubt you will consider 
whether or not you are in a situation to support the expense 
of such a government as is now offered to you, as well as the 
expense of your State government? or whether a legislatiire 

78 The Convention Called. 

consisting of three branches, neither of them chosen annu- 
ally, and that the senate, the most powerful, the members of 
which are for six years, are likely to lessen your burthens or 
increase your taxes? or whether in case your State govern- 
ment should be annihilated, which will probably be the case, 
or dwindle into a mere corporation, the continental govern- 
ment will be competent to attend to your local concerns? 
You can also best determine whether the power of levying 
and imposing internal taxes at pleasure, will be of real use to 
you or not? or whether a continental collector assisted by a 
few faithful soldiers will be more eligible than your present 
collectors of taxes? You will also in your deliberations on 
this important business judge, whether the liberty of the 
press may be considered as a blessing or a curse in a free gov- 
ernment, and whether a declaration for the preservation of it 
is necessary? or whether in a plan of government any decla- 
ration of rights should be prefixed or inserted? You will be 
able, likewise, to determine whether in a free government 
there ought or ought not to be any provision against a stand- 
ing army in time of peace? or whether the trial by jury in 
civil causes is becoming dangerous and ought to be abol- 
ished? and whether the judiciary of the United States is not 
so constructed as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the 
several States? You will also be able to judge whether such 
inconveniencies have been experienced by the present mode 
of trial between citizen and citizen of different States as to 
render a continental court necessary for that purpose? or 
whether there can be any real use in the appellate jurisdic- 
tion with respect to fact as well as law? We shall not dwell 
longer on the subject ; one thing however, it is proper you 
should be informed of: the convention were not unanimous 
with respect to men, though they were as States; several of 
those who have signed did not fully approve of the plan of 
government, and three of the members, viz. : Governor Ran- 
dolph and Colonel George Mason, of Virginia, and Eldridge 
Gerry, Esq., of Massachusetts, whose characters are very re- 
spectable, had such strong objections as to refuse signing. 
The confederation, no doubt, is defective, and requires 

Reply of Some of the Majority. 79 

amendment and revision, and had the convention extended 
their plan to the enabling the United States to regulate com- 
merce, equalize the impost, collect it throughout the United 
States, and have the entire juristiction over maritime affairs, 
leaving the exercise of internal taxation to the separate 
States, we apprehend there would have been no objection to 
the plan of government 

The matter will be before you, and you will be able to 
judge for yourselves. "Show that you seek not yourselves, 
but the good of your country, and may He who alone has 
dominion over the passions and understandings of men en- 
lighten and direct you aright, that posterity may bless God 
for the wisdom of their ancestors. ' ' 

James M'Calmont, John Gilchrist, 

Robert Clark, Abraham Smith, 

Jacob Miley, ■ Robert Whitehill, 

Alexander Wright, David Mitchell, 

John M'Dowell, John Piper, 

John Flenniken, Samuel Dale, 

James Allison, William Findley, 

Theophilus Philips, James Barr. 

Saturday^ Sept. ^p, ijSy. 

To this address a dozen replies came forth immediately. 
One was signed by six members of the Assembly, and ap- 
peared in the Pennsylvania Packet for October 8. 

Messrs. Dunlap and Claypoole. 

Mr. Findley, Mr. Whitehill, and others, members of the 
late General Assembly, making a disorderly secession from 
the house, with intention to put an end to its deliberations 
upon the subject of calling a State Convention, for the pur- 
pose of considering the system offered for the general govern- 
ment of the United States, they have, in a public address, 
rested their justification on these two points: 

ist. The irregularity of taking up the constitution framed 
by the convention without the special permission of Con- 
gress — the assembly having in the appointment of deputies 
to the convention, proceeded but upon the recommendation of 

8o The Convention Ca'llcd. 

3d. The unfitness of the deputies appointed — the ad- 
dressers lamenting at the time when the choice was made, 
that they were all citizens of Philadelphia, and none of them 
calculated to represent the landed interest of the State. 

Having been also members of the house, and competent to 
judge with respect to these points of justification, we beg 
leave to state all the necessary facts concerning them for the 
information of the public. 

As to the first — on a communication of the proposition of 
Virginia, for holding a general convention, a bill for the ap- 
pointment of the deputies was reported b}^ a committee, of 
which Mr. Findley and Mr. Whitehill were members, and 
passed into a law on the 30th of December last. The law, 
as set forth in the preamble, stood upon ''''Representations 
of Congress heretofore made^'''' and on the proposition of 
Virginia; but the special recommendation of Congress, to 
send the deputies to the proposed convention, made no part 
of the preamble — this recommendation not having passed 
Congress until the 21st day of February following, when that 
body, for the first time, recognized the convention. In the 
next session, on the 28th of March, a supplementary law 
passed the house; but its only object was to add another 
deputy to the number already chosen, and its only reference 
was to the original act. 

As the representations of Congress spoken of in the pre- 
amble to the law, of the first session, were only such as had 
been frequently made of the weakness of the general govern- 
ment, and of the necessity that arose of endowing it with 
greater powers, but gave no special license to the States to 
send deputies to the convention proposed by the State of Vir- 
ginia, it follows that in the appointment of the deputies, the 
assembly acted independently of Congress or of its recom- 
mendation. It is in vain, for the reasons before mentioned, 
that the addressers attempt, by a general reference to the 
transactions of both sessions, to cover their assertion upon 
this head — it is an artifice more unworthy than the most 
naked falsehood. 

As little can be said in support of the second, their disap- 

Reply of Some of the Majority. 8i 

probation of the deputies, which a state of nominations and 
votes will evince. The original intention of the house was 
to send seven deputies, though afterwards that number was, 
by the supplementary law, increased to eight. To supply 
the seven places, twelve persons stood in nomination; they, 
with the votes for each, were as follows: 

*Jared Ingersoll, 6i; Charles Pettit, 25; ^Robert Morris, 
63; *George Clymer, 63; *Thomas Mifflin, 63; Thomas 
M'Kean, 26; John Bayard, 25; *Thomas Fitzsimons, 37; 
*James Wilson, 35; *Governeur Morris, 33; Benjamin Frank- 
lin, 10; William Findley, 2. 

Of whom those marked with an * were elected. 
As to four of these persons, there appears from the votes to 
have been a general agreement, 63 being the number com- 
posing the house; so that no real controversy took place but 
as to the remaining three. Between these opposite three 
then must have have lain the question with the house, with 
respect to the fitness to represent the landed interest; and for 
this they might all have been fit, except in the circumstance 
of city residence, the candidates generally holding consider- 
able landed property within the State, the whole body of 
candidates, Mr. Findley excepted, being inhabitants of Phila- 
delphia; and as to that gentleman, the solitary nominee from 
the country, he seems then, from the state of the votes, to 
have been out of the question, which is the more extraordi- 
nary, if, as the addressers must be understood, a country resi- 
dence was indispensable to represent the landed interest of 
the State. 

But the truth is, that at the time of election no such lamen- 
tation was made by the sixteen or any others that the candi- 
dates were citizens of Philadelphia, or otherwise unqualified 
to represent the landed interest; for it is well known, that 
both Mr. Findley and Mr. Whitehill were of opinion that the 
choice should be confined to the city of Philadelphia and its 
neighborhood, as it would not be convenient for persons liv- 
ing at a distance to attend a convention; the former declar- 
ing a seat there would not suit him, which, perhaps, may ac- 
count for the fewness of his votes. 

82 The Convention Called. 

This being the state of facts relating to these points, can 
we suppose a depravation of mind equal to such impositions 
and deceptions, or ought we not rather to suppose, in these 
instances, that the addressers were not at the pains to read 
what was prepared to their hands? 

It is urged, in argument against the house, that the depu- 
ties having exceeded the terms of their powers, the sys- 
tem they agreed to ought not to be taken up. It is not easy 
to determine to what the powers of the deputation from 
Pennsylvania, and from the other States (for they are in the 
same predicament), did really extend; but any argument 
brought from an excess in the exercise of the powers against 
the object of them cannot be that of good sense or integrity. 
A man of understanding, or a good patriot, will examine 
only whether or not the system actually offered is calculated 
to better the condition of our country. Indeed one would 
think, the system being no more than a proposition, which 
none are bound to yield to, though all ought to consider, that 
the convention have not really transgressed their powers: 
they certainly might make whatever propositions they pleased. 
The addressers resent the harsh treatment of the house to 
the two of their body who were forced back to their seats, by 
some of the citizens from without. They suffered no such 
treatment; on the contrary, the house showed a wonderful 
good temper on so provoking an occasion. When a misde- 
meanor had been committed of a kind which, though it has 
hitherto escaped even the slightest punishment, is deserving 
of the highest. When the addressers had by their conduct 
violated the first condition of all political society, which 
obliges the few to give way to the many. When they had 
ofiended in the double capacity of citizens of the United 
States and of Pennsylvania, in setting a dangerous example 
of riot and turbulence to the continent; and, as much as lay 
in their feeble means, attempting to dissolve the government 
under which they live. 

William Will, Jacob Hiltzheimer, 

Thomas Fitzsimons, Daniel Clymer, 

George Clymer, William Robinson, Junr. 

A Mock Protest. 83 

Dr. Franklin's not having been chosen at the first elec- 
tion, was owing to a misunderstanding among the members 
with respect to his willingness to serve; but on better infor- 
mation, in the next session, it was the unanimous desire of 
the house that he should be added, which gave occasion to 
the supplementary law. 

Philadelphia, October 6, 1787. 

Another was a mock protest entitled: 
The Protest of the Minority, who objected to cali.- 
ing a convention for the purpose of adopting the 
federai. constitution. * 

1. Because, by the diminution of the power of the State of 
Pennsylvania, we shall have fewer officers and smaller sala- 
ries to bestow upon our friends. 

2. Because, like the declaration of independence, the meas- 
ure, if a right one, is premature. 

3. Because the new federal constitution puts an end to all 
future emissions of paper money, and to tender laws, to both 
of which many of us owe our fortunes, and all of us our pros- 
pects of extrication from debt and exemption from gaol, or 
the benefit of the bankrupt law. 

4. Because, by the new constitution of the United States, 
we shall be compelled to pay our taxes . . . whereas we now 
pay nothing towards the support of the government, and yet 
are handsomely supported out of the State treasury. 

5. Because, the new constitution was not submitted to the 
consideration of the anti-federal junto in Philadelphia, before 
it was sent to Congress, to each individual whereof America 
is under greater obligations than to General Washington. 

6. Because, by the 6th section of the ist article of the Con- 
stitution of the United States, it is made impossible for per- 
sons in power to create offices for themselves, or to appoint 
themselves to office. This we conceive to be an evident de- 
parture from the free and excellent constitution of Pennsyl- 
vania, by which it is lawful for assemblymen and councillors 

* Pennsylvania Gazette, Oct. 3, 1787. 

84 The Conve7itio}i Called. 

to appoint themselves or their sons to all, or to any of the 
offices of the State. 

7. Because a disaffected member of the federal convention 
from Virginia, in a closet conversation with R. Whitehill, 
disapproved of the federal government, and we hold it to be 
our duty rather to follow his advice, than the inclinations of 
our constituents. 

8. Because, from the power claimed by the new constitu- 
tion, Congress will have a right to suppress all "domestic 
insurrections" in particular States, by which means we shall 
be deprived of the only means of opposing the laws of this 
State, especially laws for collecting taxes. 

F y, W 11 & Co., Major B d's cellar, Sept. 29, 


A local poet furnished the following : 

Sung by W — h-ll and F — dl--y, accompanied by G — e B — n with a Vio- 
lincelo. — Tune Darby, in the Poor Soldier. 

Though rascals and rogues they may call, 

Right toll loll, etc. 
Yet now we may laugh at them all ; 

Right, etc. 
' Twas well we escaped with whole bones, 

Right, etc. 
For we merited horsewhips and stones, 
Right, etc. 

In troth we have cut no great dash, 

Right, etc. 
Run away and not compass the cash, 

Right, etc. 
I am sure 'twas a damnable shame. 

Right, etc. 
But on fear we may lay all the blame, 
Right, etc. 

They may call us the glorious sixteen, 

Right, etc. 
Such glory I wish I'd not seen ; 

Right, etc. 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 5. 1787. 

Address of ' '■Independent Citizen. ' ' 35 

For of all rogues tlie greatest we are 

Right, etc. 
That ever smelt feathers and tar, 

Right, etc. 

Then quietly let us jog on. 

Right, etc. 
Drink in comfort our whisky grog strong, 

Right, etc. 
Rejoice that we 'scaped without evil, 

Right, etc. 
And go as we ought to the devil. 

Right, etc. 

But more serious addresses were called forth, of which the 
following were the most important : 

Fellow Citizens : * 

Upon perusing the address of sixteen of the seceding 
members of the late General Assembly to their constituents, 
I was much surprised to find, that they had so far lost all 
sense of their own dignity, as representatives of a free people, 
as basely to assert what I am informed are absolute false- 
hoods with respect to the conduct of those citizens, who did 
them the honor to conduct them to that house. The manner 
in which they endeavored to interest the feelings of their 
constituents in the supposed insults offered, and fancied 
wrongs done them, must convince every impartial mind, that 
they were aware of the impropriety of their own conduct, and 
fearful lest the good sense of their constituents should doom 
them to future neglect if a true state of facts should reach 
them. They knew full well that first impressions are, gen- 
erally, the strongest, and that injuries or insults offered the 
representatives of any part of the community, could not but 
deeply interest that part in their favor — they knew these 
things, and they wisely determined to be beforehand with 
their opponents. 

But let us candidly examine into the conduct of both par- 
ties in this affair, and let us not fear to censure where blame 
is due. What were the reasons which induced the seceding 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 9, 1787. 

86 The Convention Called. 

members to swerve from that duty wliicli they owed their 
constituents — from that duty which they owed themselves. 

The first grievance which they complain of is, that there 
were no country members in the delegation of this State to 
the late convention. What occasioned this circumstance I 
presume not to say, although I have no doubt that the house 
by which they were appointed had ample reason for this part 
of their conduct, and such reason as would be perfectly satis- 
factory to the State at large. Their next complaint appears 
to be, that the House of Assembly did not wait for Congress 
ofiicially to recommend to them the calling of a convention 
upon this great and truly interesting occasion ; but they are 
not candid enough to mention, that an express arrived to 
them from that body (whilst that very business was yet be- 
fore them) earnestly recommending the very mode of con- 
ducting this important affair which the assembly had had in 
contemplation, and which they have since adopted. From 
this statement of the case, our representatives in the General 
Assembly do not appear to have acted improperly, and the 
progress they had made in the business before they were offi- 
cially called upon, is rather deserving of praise than censure; 
for it shows that they attended to the call of duty, without 
reflecting whether it might turn to their private emolument 
or not. 

What good could have resulted from delay, or why should 
a calling of a convention require so much deliberation? No 
good I am bold to say could have been derived from the post- 
ponement, but much evil might have resulted from such a 
measure — and certainly no one will hesitate to say that the 
representatives of a people convened for the express purpose 
of examining a constitution proposed for the acceptance or 
refusal of the citizens of the United States, will be fully com- 
petent to the task assigned them, and be as much possessed 
of the confidence of their constituents as any assembly, which 
they might choose at any future day. But is it not probable 
that the seceding members might have had something else in 
view which they wished to give the appearance of public 
good ? As an individual I must acknowledge that I think 

Address of '''' Independent Citiseny 87 

they had, and I fully believe that every candid man, and 
every impartial observer of public transactions and party 
cabals, will join me in this acknowledgment. For it is too 
evident from the meeting of the junto at a certain clergy- 
man's house in the neighborhood of the university, as well 
as from the frequent passings of one of the judges of the su- 
preme court from that house to the lodgings of Mr. W , 

not long since, when Sunday's dinner was given by that 
clergyman to a chosen few, that private interest was deeply 
concerned in the decision, and that a scheme was laid to im- 
pose upon our fellow citizens in the back as well as neighbor- 
ing counties, that by sowing dissensions amongst us, they 
may save from deserved censure and disgrace, those poor tools 
who had shown themselves ready to encounter the displeasure 
of all good men, to forward the sinister views and wicked 
designs of a wretched faction. 

After much pretended regard for your interests (which by 
the bye is a convenient cloak for their ruinous, and I may 
add, detestable schemes) they wish to excuse their conduct in 
attempting to break up the house, at this important crisis, by 
asserting that they had no alternative left, that they must 
either abandon your interests or break up the house. But 
how would they sacrifice your interests by calling of a con- 
vention? It is true, that they are conceited enough to 
imagine, that you are not able to form a judgment without 
their assistance; and they treat you like children who must 
be closely watched, to prevent them from injuring them- 
selves; at the same time, they do not neglect this opportu- 
nity of filling your ears with complaints against the citizens 
of Philadelphia, for injuries and insults offered you, as they 
pretend, through them your representatives. But the fact 
appears very different from what they have stated it to every 
impartial mind, and I have not the least doubt but that you 
will judge, upon calmly considering the action which hath 
excited their spleen, that the persons complained against by 
them, were induced by motives of necessity, and public good 
to exert themselves in bringing your servants as well as theirs, 
to that duty from which they had disgracefully absconded. 

88 The Convention Called. 

They wish to prejudice you also agaiust the house of assem- 
bly, by representing their conduct as illegal, and of course 
insinuating, that you ought not to consider yourselves bound 
by their resolves for calling a convention. They must cer- 
tainly have thought differently upon this subject, or at least 
those two who were conducted to that house, and who have 
joined in the address to you; for they made motions and pro- 
posed alterations in the same manner as they would have 
done, if they had considered that house, as it most certainly 
was, legally and constitutionally formed. 

Shortly after they discover a little more of their true senti- 
ments, and throwing off the mask, which they have worn too 
long for your good, discover themselves to be much opposed, 
nay utterly averse, to the constitution proposed by the con- 
vention. And in declaring the delegates from this state no 
ways authorized to accede to the constitution proposed, by 
the act of assembly in which they were appointed, they inju- 
diciously point out what they would wish to conceal and 
discover as the author of their piece and as their prime mover 
and adviser upon all occasions, an hackneyed attorney, and 
an unnecessary judge. 

Little do their constituents imagine that they are paying 
men to answer private purposes, and that the alarm which is 
sounded arises to seceding members from their fears that the 
offices under this commonwealth will be made less lucrative, 
and, instead of being confined to one party, will be more re- 
gularly diffused through the community. The}^ fear lest 
their particular friends in this city, by being found unworthy 
of the posts they fill, should no longer eat the bread of idle- 
ness or riot in the spoils of their fellow-citizens; and that the 
Trenton hero, who mistook the march of his battalion, and 
claimed the place of vendue-master of this city, in a long 
parade of imaginary services rendered the state, should no 
longer fill offices for which he is totally unqualified. 

They also fear for the descendants of their masters, and they 
lament that the great man in embryo, whose strut has long 
since announced his self-importance, will no longer have an 
opportunity of occasioning to disappear from the files of the 

Pelatiah Webster's Pamphlet. 89 

house, such papers, as like the petition or rather demand of 
the Trenton hero, show their authors in their proper colors as 
vain, as useless, and as ignorant tools. 

They declare themselves apprehensive that the constitu- 
tion of this State should dwindle into a corporation, and 
that the Congress of the United States should levy contribu- 
tions by an armed force, instead of collecting taxes by muni- 
cipal officers. What part of the constitution offered to you 
gives them such a power? I am bold to say that there is no 
part, and that they have not the slightest apprehension of the 
kind. The fear that paper money, that engine of oppres- 
sion, should be banished the land, and that honest industry 
should rise superior to fraud and deceit, makes them anxious 
of reserving the power within their own hands of defrauding 
the widow and the orphan, and of keeping persons better 
principled than themselves, within the humble limits in 
which they had rather move than rise to power and to wealth 
by disreputable means. The concluding prayer, I will ven- 
ture to assume, as I am sure that if that is attended to, they 
will forever be neglected. ' ' Show that you seek not your- 
selves, but the good of your country, and may He alone, who 
has dominion over the passions and understandings of men, 
enlighten and direct you aright, that posterity may bless God 
for the wisdom of their ancestors." 

An Independent Citizen. 

The Independent Citizen, following the custom then in 
vogue, never made known his name. But another citizen, 
quite as independent, who replied to the address of the dis- 
contented sixteen, thought his work good enough to own and 
republish after the constitution had been adopted, and the 
"new roof" firmly set up. He was Pelatiah Webster, well 
known for his essays on Free Trade and Finance, and his 
pamphlet he called : Remarks* on the Address of Six- 

* These remarks were printed in pamphlet form by Eleazer Oswald. 
They were subsequently included in a volume of Essays Mr. Webster pub- 
lished in 179-, and to them he then appended the following note : 

"When the new constitution was laid before the Assembly of Pennsylvania, 
in September, 1787, a resolution passed tlie House (forty-three against nine- 

90 The Convention Called. 

TEEN Members of the Assembly of Pennsylvania to 

THEIR constituents, DATED SEPTEMBER 29, 1787. WiTH 

1. The sixteen members, as appears by their own showing, 
are a minority of the assembly, belonging- to a party which 
is strongly overruled by a great majorty of the house, and 
very much out of humor. 

2. They were duly appointed members of the assembly, 
had accepted the trusty and were solemnly sworn to discharge 
the duties of \t faithfully and to the best of their abilities. 

3. That at a crisis of great importance in the assembly, 
they deserted their station.^ abdicated their diity^ and refused 
their attendance in the house, with the most explicit and 
avowed intention to put an absolute stop to any business of 
the house, which was a contrivance not only ineaii and infa- 
mous^ a trick below the dignity of members of that house, 
but ruinous to the public councils^ and might in effect annihi- 
late the assembly itself; for our constitution requires two- 
thirds of the members elected to make a quorum of the house, 
and of course if every member elected was in the house 
(which very rarely happens), a minority of one more than a 
third, or (as very frequently happens, where a bare quorum, 
or perhaps two or three more, attend in the house) one single 
member, or at most three or four, by deserting the house, 

teen) to call a convention to consider it, etc. Sixteen of the dissentients 
published an address to their constituents, dated September i'] , 1787, stating 
their conduct, and assigning the reasons of it ; but as there was very little 
in all this affair that reflected mucli honor on the dissefiting members or on 
the State to which tliey belonged, and nothing that could affect or concern 
anybody out of that State, I have here omitted my remarks on all of it, but 
ttieir objections to the new co7istitution itself, which being of general conse- 
quence to the States, inasmuch as that constitution (with a few amendments 
since adopted) is the same which now exists in full establishment through 
the Union, I therefore here insert, I say, their objections and my remarJzs on 
thevt, and leave out all the rest as matter of local concern at that time, but 
like to be little interesting to the public in general at this or any future 

A copy of the original pamphlet is in the Boston Athenaeum, and the 
librarian, Mr. Cutter, has kindly had copied the portions omitted in the col- 
lected Essays, and has collated the text with the original. 

Pelatiah Webster's Pamphlet. 91 

might leave less than a quorum behind, and of course render 
them incapable of doing business; this might be continued 
through the year, which would in effect annihilate the house, 
and of course the whole State would be deprived of all benefits 
from their assembly. 

Had our sixteen members attended their duty in the house, 
they might by their arguments have convinced their oppon- 
ents, or might by the reasoning of their opponents have been 
themselves convinced, or might at least have obtained some 
valuable amendment; which is a benefit they claim the honor 
of, though only two of them attended the house, when the 
amendment was made. 

4. It further appears by their own showing that two of 
their number were ywr«';^^ dragged to the assembly, and there 
detained by force ^ i. e. they were compelled by force to attend 
their place and duty in the assembly, and were not suffered 
to run away again, till their duty was done. That they re- 
ceived any other force, insult or dragging, than a simple com- 
pulsion to attend their duty, I suppose is not true; but this I 
allow to be a considerable dishonor, and a very trying morti- 
fication; for it is certainly very dishonorable and insulting to a 
dignified character to be publicly /o7^ced along the streets.^ and 
co7npelled to attend on that duty, which honor and character 
ought to induce him to do voluntarily without any force at all. 

However, I conceive the dishonor in this case does not con- 
sist in the force and insult offered by the citizens to the 
deserting members, so much as in the demonstration which 
the circumstance affords, that their own interjtal honor and 
sense of character was not sufficient to induce them to do 
their duty without the assistance of some external compul- 

Whether compelling people to do their duty is a breach of 
peace and violation of law, must be left to the proper court to 
determine ; but I conceive that it can never be deemed a 
damage to any man to be compelled to do his duty, and of 
consequence no dajnages can be given in such a case. 

This was not the first time that the same party availed 
themselves of this fatal artifice, to obstruct the business of 

92 The Convention Called. 

the assembly, and compel the house to break up, and leave 
much very important business unfinished; and our citizens 
were determined not to sufier the like again, and the exer- 
tions of private citizens became in a manner necessary, foras- 
much as our constitution provides no remedy against such an 
intolerable abuse of the public trust and confidence. I per- 
ceive that the framers of our constitution never once imag- 
ined that members of a Pennsylvania assembly could ever be 
guilty of such scandalous artifice, and, therefore, thought it 
needless to insult and wound the honorable feelings of their 
constituents by any provision or remedies against such pitiful 

But all this notwithstanding, it is possible perhaps that a 
case may happen of an assembly mad enough to run on in 
full career in forming some act of a nature so absurd, and of 
consequence so ruinous, that some indirect methods of sus- 
pending or stopping their proceedings, might be justified. 
This brings me to the object which induced them to sacrifice 
all character and regularity of business, overleap all bounds, 
and strike at one blow the great council of the common- 
wealth into a state of perfect inaction. By their own show- 

5. It appears the great object, the great motive of this des- 
perate step was to render inefiectual a resolution of the house 
(carried by 43 against 19), "recommending the calling a con- 
vention to consider of the constitution proposed by the Fed- 
eral Convention, and to approve or disapprove the same." 

It is here to be noted that they all agreed that such a con- 
vention ought to be called, and their only objection was that 
the time proposed was too soon, because the people had not 
time to make up their minds, i. e. : i. To consider and judge 
whether the constitution was a suitable one or not ; and, 2. 
To pitch on suitable persons for delegates to the convention. 

The first of these reasons was nugatory, because it was 
confessed by all, that a convention was to be called, and this 
was the only way of knowing whether the constitution would 
be approved by the people or not; for this was the only 
method agreed on by all parties of collecting the sense of the 

Pelatiah Webster* s Pamphlet. 93 

people, and the convention could not be straitened for time 
to consider enough; because, when met, they would be at 
liberty to take as much time as they pleased. 

The second reason is as trifling as the first; for the great 
characters in every part of the State suitable for such a trust, 
would be as well known to the people on the day of election 
proposed, as they would be three or six months afterwards. 

To these reasons for delay were opposed the weightiest rea- 
sons for expediting the matter, because the whole Union, 
both in their domestic and foreign interests, suffered very 
great evils for want of a good constitution and energetic gov- 
ernment: all which evils and mischiefs ought to be remedied 
as soon as possible. The mode of remedy first to be consid- 
ered was the proposed constitution ; if that was approved, we 
ought to proceed to execute it, without any needless delay; 
if it should be disapproved, something else must be adopted, 
and the pressing necessities of all the States are so great, that 
no time ought to be lost. But their surprise and reasons 
against the precipitate haste of the assembly in calling the 
convention, does not give all the heart and all the feelings of 
the sixteen members. They are greatly dissatisfied with the 
constitution proposed, and use every coloring, every artifice, 
and every argument they can devise to prejudice everybody 
against it; and in this they are very open and candid, and 
this part of their address certainly deserves our attention 
much more than all the rest. 

As a kind of preface to their objections, they complain of 
the appointment of our delegates to the Federal Convention, 
and lament: i. That none of them are calculated to represent 
the landed interest. I do not know how this can be, for the 
delegates own more land, that is, they possess more real es- 
tate on an average, than any eight of the sixteen complain- 
ants, and are as good economists in the management of it, 
and, for aught I know, are as much attached to it as any of 
them. 2. Their second lamentation is more weighty, viz. , 
that almost none of them were of their party, for that I take 
to be their meaning, when they say that almost all of them 
were of one political party ^ and were opposed to the constitu- 

94 The Convention Called. 

tion ofPennsylvajtia^ which most certainly needs great amend- 
ments in the opinion of almost everybody. 

3. They further suggest that our delegates in convention 
exceeded their powers, which were to make and report such 
alterations 2inA further provisions in the federal constitution, 
as would render it fully adequate to the exigencies of the 
Union, or in the language of the sixteen complainants, to 
revise and amend it. I suppose the whole force of their 
meaning must rest on the word amend; for I imagine that to 
revise without amending it, would not have come up to their 
ideas. Now an amendmejtt^ in the sense of legislative bodies, 
means either to strike out some words, clauses or paragraphs 
in a bill, without substituting anything in the place of them, 
or to insert new words, clauses or paragraphs where nothing 
was inserted before ; or to strike out some words, clauses or 
paragraphs, and insert others in their room, which will suit 
better. Now I challenge the whole sixteen members to show 
that the convention have done an iota more than this ; be- 
sides, the new constitution does not by any express words, 
repeal the old one; therefore I suppose every article of the old 
one stands good and valid, unless where they are changed or 
annulled by the alterations and provisions of the new one. 
But after all, if the constitution offered to us is either a good 
one or a bad one, I cannot see that it is of any consequence 
to us, whether it is the old one revised and amended, or a new 
one fresh made; nor is it material whether the delegates of 
this State were competent to the business or not; it is offered 
by the whole respectable body — a body dignified by the gen- 
eral election of the States — and therefore ought to be received 
with respect, and treated with candid attention; but in the 
discussion of it as a rule of government for us all, the merits 
of it ought to be the sole consideration, and it is the acceptance 
of the States alone which can give it the stamp of authority; 
therefore any little bickerings about the qualities, or views, 
or powers of this or that member, must be mere quibbles of 
no weight or consequence. 

4. It is further objected with great parade, that three mem- 
bers of the convention refused to sign, and but thirty-nine of 

Pelatiah Webster^ s Pamphlet. 95 

them only did sign the constitution proposed to us; but ] 
think that so large a majority in its favor very far outweighs 
the negative of three members against it, neither of which 
has any pretensions of character superior to the thirty-nine 
who signed it. 

Further, 5. They object to the assembly's recommending 
the calling a convention, till they received the new constitu- 
tion officially from Congress. I answer, i. The assembly 
meant to pursue the recommendation of the Federal Conven- 
tion^ which does not make the official directions of Congress 
necessary to calling the State conventions, under the recom- 
mendation of their legislatures; and had Congress refused to 
issue any official directions at all to the assembly, I do not 
know that the holding the State convention ought to have 
been prevented thereby. 2. The assembly had the most cer- 
tain inforfnation of the fact ^ and had no doubt of receiving all 
necessary oflicial communications from Congress.^ long before 
the convention could meet, or if they never came, could very 
well act without them. 3. Their not waiting for official let- 
ters from Congress did not proceed //"t*;;? any want of respect 
to Congress^ but merely from their being straitened for time., 
as the end of the session drew very near. 

I come now to consider the objections of our sixteen mem- 
bers to the constitution itself, which is much the most im- 
portant part that lies on me. 

1. Their first objection is, that the government proposed will 
be too expensive. I answer that if the appointments of offi- 
cers are not more, and the compensations or emoluments of 
office not greater than is necessary, the expense will be by no 
means burdensome; and this must be left to the prudence of 
Congress, for I know of no way to control supreme powers 
from extravagance in this respect. Doubtless many instances 
may be produced of many needless offices being created, and 
many inferior officers, who receive far greater emoluments of 
office than the president of the state. 

2. Their next objection is against a legislature consisting of 
three branches. This is so far from an objection that I con- 
sider it as an advantage. The most weighty and important 

96 The Convention Called. 

affairs of the union must be transacted in congress; the most 
essential councils must be there decided, which must all go 
through three several discussions in three different chambers 
(all equally competent to the subject and equally governed by 
the same motives and interests, viz., the good of the great 
commonwealth, and the approbation of the people) before any 
decision can be made; and when disputes are very high, five 
discussions are necessary, all of which afford time for all 
parties to cool and reconsider. 

This appears to me to be a very safe way, and a very likely 
method to prevent any sudden and undigested resolutions 
from passing, and though it may delay, or even destroy, a 
good bill, will hardly admit the passing of a bad one, which 
is by far the worst evil of the two. But if all this cannot stop 
the course of a bad bill, the negative of the president will at 
least give it further embarrassment, will furnish all the new 
light which a most serious discussion in a third House can 
give, and will make a new discussion necessary in each of the 
other two, where every member will have an opportunity to 
revise his opinion, to correct his arguments, and bring his 
judgment to the greatest maturity possible. If all this can not 
keep the public decision within the bounds of wisdom, nat- 
ural fitness, right and convenience, it will be hard to find any 
efforts of human wisdom that can do it. 

I believe it would be difficult to find a man in the union 
who would not readily consent to have congress vested with 
all the vast powers proposed by the new constitution, if he 
could be sure that those powers would be exercised with wis- 
dom, justice, and propriety, and not be abused; and I do not 
see that greater precautions and guards against abuses can 
well be devised, or more effectual methods used to throw 
every degree of light on every subject of debate, or more pow- 
erful motives to a reasonable and honest decision can be set 
before the minds of congress than are here proposed; and if 
this is the best that can be obtained, it ought in all prudence 
to be adopted till better appears, rather than to be rejected 
merely because it is human, not perfect, and may be abused. 
At any rate, I think it very plain that our chance of a right 

Pelatiah Webster* s Pamphlet. 97 

decision in a congress of three branches, is mnch greater than 
in one of a single chamber; but, however all this may, be I 
can not see the least tendency in a legislature of three branches 
to increase the burdens or taxes of the people. I think it 
very evident that any proposition of extravagant expense 
would be checked and embarrassed in such an assembly, more 
than in a single house. 

Further, the two houses being by their election taken from 
the body of the states, and being themselves principal inhab- 
itants, will naturally have the interest of the commonwealth 
sincerely at heart: their principle must be the same, their 
differences must be (if any) in the mode of pursuing it, or 
arise from local attachments. I say, the great interest of 
their country, and the esteem, confidence, and approbation of 
their fellow citizens must be strong governing principles in 
both houses, as well as in the president himself; "whilst at 
the same time the emulation naturally arising between them 
will induce a very critical and sharp-sighted inspection into 
the motions of each other. Their different opinions will 
bring on conferences between the two houses, in which the 
whole subject will be exhausted in arguments pro and con, 
and shame will be the portion of obstinate convicted error. 
Under these circumstances a man of ignorance or evil design 
will be afraid to impose on the credulity, inattention or confi- 
dence of his house by introducing any corrupt or indigested 
proposition which he knows he must be called on to defend 
against the severe scrutiny and poignant objections of the 
other house. I do not believe the many hurtful and foolish 
legislative acts which first or last have injured all the states 
on earth, have originated so much in corruption as in indo- 
lence, ignorance, and a want of a full comprehension of the 
subject, which a full, prying and emulous discussion would 
tend in a great measure to remove: this naturally rouses the 
lazy and idle, who hate the pain of close thinking, animates 
the ambitious to excel in policy and argument, and excites 
the whole to support the dignity of their house and vindicate 
their own propositions. I am not of opinion that bodies of 
elective men which usually compose parliaments, diets, as- 

98 The Convention Called. 

semblies, congresses, etc., are commonly dishonest; but I 
believe it rarely happens that there are not designing men 
among them, and I think it would be much more difficult for 
them to unite their partisans in two houses and corrupt or 
deceive them both, than to carry on their designs where 
there is but one unalarmed, unapprehensive house to be man- 
aged; and as there is no hope of making these bad men good, 
the best policy is to embarrass them, and make their work 
as difficult as possible. In these assemblies are frequently to 
be found sanguine men, upright enough indeed, but of 
strong, wild projection, whose brains are always teeming 
with Utopian, chimerical plans and political whims, very de- 
structive to society. I hardly know a greater evil than to 
have the supreme councils of a nation played off on such 
men's wires; such baseless visions at best end in darkness, 
and the dance, though easy and merry enough at first, rarely 
fails to plunge the credulous, simple followers into sloughs 
and bogs at last. Nothing can tend more effectually to 
obviate these evils and to mortify and cure such maggoty 
brains, than to see the absurdity of their projects exposed 
by the several arguments and keen satire which a full, emu- 
lous and spirited discussion of the subject will naturally 
produce. We have had enough of these geniuses in the 
short course of our politics, both in our national and pro- 
vincial councils, and have felt enough of their evil effects, to 
induce us to wish for any good methods to keep ourselves 
clear of them in future. 

"The consultations and decisions of national councils are 
so very important, that the fate of millions depends on them; 
therefore no man ought to speak in such assemblies, without 
considering that the fate of millions hangs on his tongue, and, 
of course, a man can have no right in such august councils to 
utter indigested sentiments, or indulge himself in sudden un- 
examined flights of thought; his most tried and improved 
abilities are due to the States, who have trusted him with 
their most important interests. A man must therefore be 
most inexcusable, who is either absent during such debates, 
or sleeps, or whispers, or catches flies during the argument, 

Pelatiah Webster's Pa^nphlef. 99 

and just rouses when the vote is called to give his yea or nay, 
to the weal or woe of a nation. Therefore it is manifestly 
proper, that every natural motive that can operate on his 
understanding, or his passions, to engage his attention and 
utmost efforts, should be put in practice, and that his present 
feelings should be raised by every motive of honor and shame, 
to stimulate him to every practicable degree of diligence and 
exertion, to be as far as possible useful in the great discussion. 
I appeal to the feelings of every reader, if he would not (were 
he in either house) be much more strongly and naturally in- 
duced to exert his utmost abilities and attention to any ques- 
tion which was to pass through the ordeal of a spirited dis- 
cussion of another house, than he would be, if the absolute 
decision depended on his own house without any further en- 
quiry or challenge on the subject." — Vide a Disseriatiojt on 
the Political Union and Constitution of the Thirteen United 
States, published by a citizen of Philadelphia^ February 16, 
1783, where the subject is taken up at large. 

3. Another objection is, that the constitution proposed will 
annihilate the state governments or reduce them to mere cor- 
porations. I take it that this objection is thrown out (merely 
invidicB causa) without the least ground for it; for I do not 
find one article of the constitution proposed, which vests con- 
gress, or any of their officers or courts, with a power to inter- 
fere in the least in the internal police or goverment of any 
one state, when the interests of some other state or strangers, 
or the union in general, are not concerned ; and in all such 
cases it is absolutely and manifestly necessary that congress 
should have a controlling power, otherwise there would be no 
end of controversies and injuries between different states, nor 
any safety for individuals, nor any possibility of supporting 
the union with any tolerable degree of honor, strength or 

4. Another objection is against the pozver of taxation vested 
in congress. But, I answer, this is absolutely unavoidable, 
from the necessity of the case; I know it is a tender point, a 
vast power, and a terrible engine of oppression and tyranny, 
when wantonly, injudiciously, or wickedly used, but must be 

lOO The Conveiition Called. 

admitted; for it is impossible to support the union, or indeed 
any government, without expense — the congress are the 
proper judges of that expense — the amount of it, and the best 
means of supplying it; the safety of the states absolutely re- 
quires that this power be lodged somewhere, and no other 
body can have the least pretensions to it; and no part of the 
resources of the states can, with any safety, be exempt, when 
the exigencies of the union or government require their 
utmost exertion. The stronger we make our government, the 
greater protection it can afford us, and the greater will our 
safety be under it. It is easy enough here to harangue on 
the arts of a court to create occasions for money, or the un- 
bounded extravagance with which they can spend it; but all 
this notwithstanding, we must take our courts as we do our 
wives, for better or for worse. We hope the best of an Amer- 
ican congress, but if they disappoint us, we cannot help it; 
it is in vain to try to form any plan of avoiding the frailties 
of human nature. Would any man choose a lame horse, lest 
a sound one should run away with him? or will any man pre- 
fer a small tent to live in before a large honse^ which may 
fall down and crush him in its ruins? No man has any right 
to find fault with this article, till he can substitute a better 
in its room. 

The sixteen members attempt to aggravate the horrors of 
this devouring power, by suggesting the rigid severity with 
which congress, with their faithful soldiers^ will exact and 
collect the taxes. This picture, stripped of its black drapery, 
amounts to just this, viz: That whatever taxes are laid will 
be collected, without exception, from every person charged 
with them — which must look disagreeable, I suppose, to peo- 
ple who, by one shift or another, have avoided paying taxes 
all their lives. But it is a plain truth, and will be obvious to 
anybody who duly considers it, that nothing can be more 
luinous to a state, or oppressive to individuals, than a partial 
and dilatory collection of taxes, especially where the tax is 
an impost or excise, because the man who avoids the tax can 
undersell, and consequently ruin, him who pays it, i. e. 
smuggling ruins the fair trader; and a remedy of this mis- 

Pelatiah Webster' s Pamphlet. loi 

chief, I cannot suppose, will be deemed by our people in gen- 
eral such a very awful judgment, as the sixteen members 
would make us believe their constituents will consider it to be. 

5. They object that the liberty of the press is not asserted 
in the constitution. I answer, neither are any of the ten 
commandments, but I do not think that it follows that it was 
the design of the convention to sacrifice either the one or the 
other to contempt or to leave them void of protection and 
effectual support. 

6. It is objected further that the constitution contains 710 
declaratiojt of rights. I answer, this is not true — the consti- 
tution contains a declaration of many rights, and very im- 
portant ones, e. g. , that people shall be obliged to fulfil their 
contracts, and not avoid them by tenders of anything less 
than the value stipulated; that no ex post facto laws shall be 
made, &c. ; but it was no part of the business of their appoint- 
ment to make a code of laws — it was sufficient to fix the con- 
stitution right, and that would pave the way for the most 
effectual security of the rights of the subject. 

7. They further object that no provision is made against 
a standing army in time of peace. I answer, that a standing 
army, i. <?. regular troops are often necessary in time of peace, 
to prevent a war, to guard against sudden invasions, for gar- 
rison-duty, to quell mobs and riots, as guards to congress and 
perhaps other courts, &c. , &c. , as military schools to keep up 
the knowledge and habits of military discipline and exercise, 
&c. , &c. ; and as the power of raising troops is rightfully and 
without objection vested in congress, so they are the proper- 
est and best judges of the number requisite, and of the occa- 
sion, time and manner of employing them; if they are not 
wanted on military duty, they may be employed in making 
public roads, fortifications, or any other public works — they 
need not be a useless burden to the states. And for all this 
the prudence of congress must be trusted, and nobody can 
have a right to object to this, till they can point out some 
way of doing better, 

8. Another objection is, that the new constitution abolishes 
trials by jury in civil causes. I answer, I do not see one word 

I02 The Convention Called. 

iu the constitution, which by any candid construction can 
support even the remotest suspicion that this ever entered 
the heart of one member of the convention; I therefore set 
down the suggestion for sheer malice, and so dismiss it. 

9, Another objection is that the {^^0X21 judiciary is so con- 
structed as to destroy the judiciaries of the several states^ and 
that the appellate jurisdiction^ with respect to law and/act^ is 
unnecessary. I answer, both the original and appellate juris- 
diction of the federal judiciary are manifestly necessary, 
where the cause of action affects the citizens of different 
states, the general interest of the union, or strangers (and to 
cases of these descriptions only, does the jurisdiction of the 
federal judiciary extend); I say, these jurisdictions of the 
federal judiciary are manifestly necessary for the reasons just 
now given under the third objection, and I do not see how 
they can avoid trying any issues joined before them, whether 
the thing to be decided is law or fact; but I think no doubt 
can be made, that if the issue joined is on fact^ it must be 
tried by a jury. 

10. They object, that the election of delegates for the house 
of representatives is for two years^ and of senators for six 
years. I think this a manifest advantage, rather than an ob- 
jection. Very great inconveniences must necessarily arise 
from a too frequent change of the members of large legisla- 
tive or executive bodies, where the revision of every past 
transaction must be taken up, explained and discussed anew 
for the information of the new members, when the settled 
rules of the house are little understood by them, &c., &c., all 
which ought to be avoided, if it can be with safety. Further, 
it is plain that any man who serves in such bodies, is better 
qualified the second year than he could be the first, because 
experience adds qualifications for every business, &c. The 
only objection is that long continuance affords danger of cor- 
ruption, but for this the constitution provides a remedy by 
impeachment and expulsion, which will be a sufficient re- 
straint, unless a majority of the house and senate should 
become corrupt, which is not easily presumable; in fine, 
there is a certain mean between too long and too short con- 

Pelatiah Webster' s Pamphlet. 103 

tinuances of members of congress, and I cannot see but it is 
judiciously fixed by the convention. 

Upon the whole matter, I think the sixteen members have 
employed an address-writer of great dexterity, who has given 
us a strong sample of ingenious malignity and ill-nature — a 
master-piece of high coloring in the scare-crow way; in his 
account of the conduct of the sixteen members, by an unex- 
pected openness and candor, he avows facts which he certainly 
cannot expect to justify, or even hope that their constituents 
will patronize or even approve; but he seems to lose all candor 
when he deals in sentiments; when he comes to point out the 
nature and operation of the new constitution, he appears to 
mistake the spirit and true principles of it very much; or 
which is worse, takes pleasure in showing it in the worst 
light he can paint it in. I however agree with him in this, 
that this is the time for consideration and minute examina- 
tion: and I think the great subject, when viewed seriously, 
without passion or prejudice, will bear and brighten under 
the severest examination of the rational inquirer. If the pro- 
visions of the law or constitution do not exceed the occasions, 
if the remedies are not extended beyond the mischiefs, the 
government cannot be justly charged with severity; on the 
other hand, if the provisions are not adequate to the occasions, 
and the remedies not equal to the mischiefs, the government 
must be too lax, and not sufficiently operative to give the 
necessary security to the subject; to form a right judgment, 
we must compare these two things well together, and not suffer 
our minds to dwell on one of them alone, without consider- 
ing them in connexion with the other; by this means we 
shall easily see that the one makes the other necessary. 

Were we to view only the gaols and dungeons, the gallows 
and pillories, the chains and wheel-barrows, of any state, we 
might be induced to think the government severe; but when 
we turn our attention to the murders and parricides, and rob- 
beries and burglaries, the piracies and thefts, which merit 
these punishments, our idea of cruelty vanishes at once, and 
we admire the justice, and perhaps clemency, of that govern- 
ment which before shocked us as too severe. So when we 

I04 The Convention Called. 

fix our attention only on the superlative authority and ener- 
getic force vested in congress and our federal executive pow- 
ers by the new constiution, we may at first sight be induced 
to think that we yield more of the sovereignty of the states 
and of personal liberty, than is requisite to maintain the fed- 
eral government; but when on the other hand we consider 
with full survey the vast supports which the union requires, 
and the immense consequence of that union to us all, we shall 
probably soon be convinced that the powers aforesaid, exten- 
sive as they are, are not greater than is necessary for our 
benefit; for, i. No laws of any state ^ which do not carry in 
them a force which extends to their effectual and final execu- 
tion, can afford a certaUi and sufficietit security to the subject; 
for, 2. Laws of any kind^ which fail of execution^ are worse 
than none^ because they weaken the government, expose it to 
contempt, destroy the confidence of all men, both subjects 
and strangers, in it, and disappoint all men who have confided 
in it; in fine, our union can never be supported without defin- 
ite and effectual laws which are coextensive with their occa- 
sions, and which are supported by authorities and powers 
which can give them execution with energy; if admitting 
such powers into our constitution can be called a sacrifice, 
it is a sacrifice to safety, and the only question is whether our 
union or federal government is worth this sacrifice. Our 
union, I say, tinder the protection of zvhich every individual 
rests secure against foreign and domestic insult and oppres- 
sion; but without it we can have no security against invasions, 
insults, and oppressions of foreign powers, or against the in- 
roads and wars of one state on another, or even against insur- 
rections and rebellions arising within particular states, by 
which our wealth and strength, as well as ease, comfort and 
safety, will be devoured and destroyed by enemies growing 
out of our own bowels. It is our union alone which can give 
us respectability abroad in the eyes of foreign nations; and 
secure to us all the advantages both of trade and safety, which 
can be derived from treaties with them. 

The Thirteen States all united and well cemented together, 
are a strong, rich and formidable body, not of stationary. 

Pelatiah Webster* s Pamphlet. 105 

maturated power, but increasing every day in riches, strength, 
and numbers; thus circumstanced, we can demand the atten- 
tion and respect of all foreign nations, but they will give us 
both in exact proportion to the solidity of our union. For 
if they observe our union to be lax, from insufficient princi- 
ples of cement in our constitution, or mutinies and insurrec- 
tions of our own people (which are the direct consequence of 
an insufficient cement of union); I say, when foreign nations 
see either of these, they will immediately abate of their atten- 
tion and respect to us and confidence in us. 

And, as it appears to me, that the new constitution does 
not vest congress with more or greater powers than are neces- 
sary to support this important union, I wish it may be admit- 
ted in the most cordial and unanimous manner by all the 

It is a human composition, and may have errors which 
future experience will enable us to discover and correct; but 
I think it is pretty plain, if it has faults, that the address- 
writer of the sixteen members has not been able to find them; 
for he has all along either hunted down phantoms of error, 
that have no real existence, or which is worse, tarnished real 
excellencies into blemishes. 

I have dwelt the longer on these remarks on this writer, 
because I observe that all the scribblers in our papers against 
the new constitution, have taken their cue principally from 
him, all their lucubrations contain little more than his ideas 
dressed out in a great variety of forms; one of which colors 
so high as to make the new constitution strongly resemble 
the Turkish government [vide Gazetteer of the lotli instant), 
which, I think, comes about as near the truth as any of the 
rest, and brings to my mind a sentiment in polemical divin- 
ity, which I have somewhere read, that there were once great 
disputes and different opinions among divines about the mark 
which was set on Cain, when one of them very gravely 
thought it was a horn fully grown out on his forehead. It is 
probable he could not think of a worse mark than that. 

On the whole matter there is no end of the extravagancies 
of the human fancy, which are commonly dictated by poig- 

io6 The Conveiitio7i Called. 

nant feelings, disordered passions, or affecting interests; but 
I could wish my fellow-citizens, in the matter of vast impor- 
tance before us, would divest themselves of bias, passion, and 
little personal or local interests, and consider the great sub- 
ject with that dignity of reason and independence of senti- 
ment, which national interests ever require. I have here 
given my sentiments with the most unbiased freedom, and 
hope they will be received with the most candid attention 
and unbiased discussion, by the states in which I live, and 
in which I expect to leave my children. 

I will conclude with one observation, which I take to be 
very capital, viz: that the distresses and oppressions both of 
nations and individuals often arise from the powers of gov- 
ernment being too limited in their principle, too indetermi- 
nate in their definition, or too lax in their execution, and of 
course the safety of the citizens depends much on full and 
definite powers of government, and an effectual execution of 

Philadelphia, October 12, 1787. 

To the People of America:* 

The present situation of the United States has attracted 
the notice of every country in Europe. By the discussions 
which led to the revolution, we have proved to the world, 
that we were intimately acquainted with the natural rights 
and political relations of mankind. By those discussions, 
and the subsequent conduct of America, her enemies must be 
well convinced that she is sincerely attached to liberty, and 
that her citizens will never submit to a deprivation of that 
inestimable blessing. To ensure the continuance of that 
real freedom in the spirit of which our State constitutions 
were universally formed; to ensure it from enemies within, 
then existing and numerous; to ensure it from enemies with- 
out, then and ever to be watched and repelled, the first 
confederation was formed. It was an honest and solemn 
covenant among our infant States, and virtue and common 
danger supplied its defects. When the immediate perils of 

*From the Pennsylvania Packet, Oct. 12, 17S7. 

A Citizen of Pennsylvania. 107 

those awful times were removed by the valor and persevering 
fortitude of America, aided by the active friendship of France, 
and the follies of Great Britain, those defects were too easily 
seen and felt. They have been acknowledged at various 
times by all the legislatures of the Union; and often, very 
often indeed, represented by Congress. The Commonwealth 
of Virginia took the first step to obtain this object of uni- 
versal desire, by applying to her sister States to meet her in 
the Commercial Convention in the last year. Some of the 
States immediately adopted the measure, Congress after- 
wards added their sanction, and a few more of the States 
concurred. A meeting of the deputies, though not a general 
one, took place at the appointed time. The members of that 
body, influenced, I am persuaded, by the purest considera- 
tions, added their voice to the general wish for another Con- 
vention, whose object should be the revision and amendment 
of the federal government. It is worthy of remark that these 
proceedings of the States were not conducted through those 
channels the confederation points out, but they were not 
inconsistent with it, they were certainly not improper: for it 
is not material in what manner the United States in Con- 
gress become possessed of the matter and form of changes 
really desired by the people of the Union. It is only neces- 
sary when that body shall determine on alterations, that they 
proceed constitutionally to obtain the adoption of them. It 
may be observed further, that the address of the Annapolis 
Convention, signed by the Hon. John Dickinson, Esq., was 
published in September, 1786, in the newspapers of all the 
Middle States, and particularly those of Pennsylvania, during 
the sitting of the Hon. the General Assembly of the Com- 
monwealth. The people, therefore, throughout the Union, 
and most certainly in Pennsylvania^ must have known that 
the important duty of amending our Federal constitution (so 
far as the legislatures could interfere in it) must come before 
the members they were then about to choose. I have drawn 
the attention of my fellow-citizens to this fact, and request 
they will observe it, because a contrary idea has been given 
by some members of our legislature. 

io8 The Conveiition Called. 

The recommendation for calling the late convention for the 
purpose of giving the requisite efficiency to the Union, was 
adopted by Congress and all the States, but Rhode Island. I 
will not abuse that unhappy, fallen, lost sister. As a sincere 
relation, however, wounded by the dishonor to our family 
name — as an honest man, distressed at the injury she has 
done to the cause of public and private virtue — as a friend to 
liberty, alarmed at the arguments against our republican 
governments which she has furnished to royal tyrants — I sol- 
emnly conjure her to consider her late conduct, unexampled 
in the history of the world. She exhibits to mankind the 
unheard of spectacle of a people.^ possessed of a constitution 
containing all the principles of substantial justice, and of 
civil and religious liberty, disregarding the rights of property 
and obligations between man and man, and trampling under 
their feet a solemn compact with neighboring and I'elated 
States, yet bleeding with wounds sustained in fighting by their 
side in a common cause, and infringing the established laws 
of nations and treaties with allies most powerful 2.xidi friendly. 
Let them ask themselves, let them permit a friend to ask 
them, what they can hope from such a conduct, or in what 
fatal catastrophe it may not issue ? 

The twelve states which made the appointment, sent for- 
ward their deputies in due time. I waive all weight of names, 
but they were such in general as it became the states to ap- 
point. Exceptions, perhaps just ones, may have been made 
to some of them ; but remember these were not alone ; they 
did not even form a majority of the representation of one 
state; much less could they affect the general views of the 
whole body. I am not acquainted with the situation of 
parties in the other states, but have had too much oppor- 
tunity, with the rest of the world, of judging of them in Penn- 
sylvania. I acknowledge, that in my mind there might 
have been more propriety in the appointment from this 
state. The gentlemen were individually fully competent to 
the duty. They were so collectively. Had some of the same 
men resided in the western counties, it would have been 
more satisfactory. In point of good policy, it should have 

A Citizen of Pennsylvania. 109 

been so. While candor forbids us to withhold these observa- 
tions, the public good requires that even the just offence it 
may have given, should not interfere with a plan sincerely 
intended to promote the happiness of our country. I wish to 
avoid offence, but I beg to be indulged in remarking that the 
appointment of our deputies to the Convention, from the city 
and county of Philadelphia, does not appear to have made 
any painful impressions on the people of the western counties. 
Perhaps it is because they have not observed the fact. If 
that is the case, it cannot be of importance to the tranquility 
of the state, nor to the great business before us. I confess 
my wishes were strongly in favor of some western deputies, 
though it seems the seceding members themselves proposed 
but one. I believe, however, many persons wished at the 
time, he had been appointed. Yet the people of that part of 
the state have not complained, and it was the act of a real 
majority. Besides, I feel too independent a freeman to en- 
dure the idea, that any one man could be indispensably nec- 
essary to that appointment. The truth is that some mem- 
bers of the Pennsylvania Assembly, after seceding from their 
brethren, have brought the idea for the first time, at an ill- 
judged moment, before the public. They have suggested it 
to their constituents, not their constituents to them. Reflect 
dispassionately on these circumstances, my Pennsylvania 
readers. I mean not offensive censure, which I despise and 
condemn. The seceding members, I say, suggested the idea 
of offence at the appointment of our deputies, after an un- 
lucky quarrel had taken place. Does it not seem to be a 
little in the way of apology? When these gentlemen say 
they were apprehensive of the consequences of the appoint- 
ment, I can believe they spoke truly — but when they bring 
it forward to the people only after their own secession from 
the house, to the people who have never complained of it, 
does it not rather appear that the jealousy they entertained 
in their own minds, has by too much brooding over it, grown 
to a sore, and that their letting it out now, is rather a proof of 
their own feelings than of any discontent among the people. 
Is it consistent with the delicacy of one of those gentlemen. 

no The Convention Called. 

that he should sign this sentiment among the sixteen, when 
he was himself a candidate? It were to be wished his name 
at least had not been there, or that the observation in their 
address had been omitted. It is consistent with propriety, 
that another gentleman should vote for calling the Conven- 
tion, and afterwards secede from his brethren? How much 
more becoming the honor of their private characters, and the 
dignity of their public offices, was the conduct of the two 
gentlemen who were brought to the house by the speaker's 
order, in entering freely into the debates that ensued. 
Though they have not accustomed themselves to speak often, 
they, on this occasion, proposed matters for the good of their 
constituents (which they could not have done if absent), and 
their motions were adopted. 

The address carries an idea that the new federal constitu- 
tion has been only approved by what is called the republican 
party. I would cheerfully rest the disproving this insinua- 
tion upon any man of honor in the constitutional party. Dr. 
Franklin and Mr. Ingersoll, who assisted to frame, and after- 
wards signed the act of the convention, never opposed our 
state constitution. Messrs. Will, Foulke, G. Heister, Kree- 
mer, J. Heister, Davis, Trexler, Burkhalter and Antis, and 
other members of the house, who voted for the call of a State 
Convention, are surely not republicans; and among the four 
thousand petitioners for the adoption of the new federal gov- 
ernment, will be found many of the most zealous, active and 
respectable friends of the constitution of this commonwealth. 
This I assert as an incontrovertible fact, of which every indi- 
vidual of the sixteen seceding gentlemen was fully possessed; 
for the petitions, with a very great number of the names 
of such persons, were presented to the house on Monday, 
Wednesday and Thursday. The secession took place on Fri- 
day afternoon, and was repeated on Saturday morning. The 
good men of Pennsylvania will satisfy themselves whether 
their sixteen representatives have given this wrong idea from 
want of temper or from want of virtue — it was indeed un- 
guarded to pass upon their constituents a suggestion that the 
friend-^ of the new federal government were all of them ene- 

^rafc-?SM*k*iKTMft-'W/'V&/rtrt?^'(-i;.- i',.^^^ 

1750 -1822. 

J'ront' tAe. or^^intjj, uv tA^> Ji/osse^SM/i. of ^i/t//a^-d Jfu^erst?//^ fiy. 

A Citizen of Pennsylvania. m 

mies to the constitution of the State of Pennsylvania, and 
had all of them destructive designs on the State frame of gov- 
ernment Before I quit this point let me add one piece of 
information, which is, that the gentleman alluded to in a 
preceding paragraph, is the only unsuccessful candidate for a 
seat in the convention who has not declared for the adoption 
of the federal constitution. 

But to return. — The twelve States which concurred sent 
forward their deputies in due time. I shall not attempt, as 
I have already said, to pass upon your understandings the 
weight of names — determine that matter for yourselves. Suf- 
fer me to remark only, that the faithful, disinterested and 
invaluable services of Washington — the incessant, faithful 
and essential services of Franklin — might have saved them 
from the contemptuous insinuations of a late writer. Were 
such compositions applauded, it might indeed be said ''''that 
republics are ungratefniy 

The constitution which these gentlemen have offered to 
their fellow citizens has been considered with manly free- 
dom, such I am sure as they wished it to meet. If in some 
cases it has been carried further, it is a proof at once of our 
liberty, and of the passions which we know to prevail among 
men ; and as every cause is open to the friendship and enmity 
of bad men, there can be no doubt but that very wicked and 
dangerous motives influence some, both among the friends 
and enemies of the new frame of government. Leaving all 
observations upon such points, in treating which even truth 
will appear uncertain, and candor may heat and inflame, I 
recommend to all men of pure, honest intentions the utmost 
moderation and forbearance. The object before us is indeed 
great and interesting. We are to arrange affairs essential to 
our own happiness, and highly important to the present and 
future people of the earth. Though it must be admitted that 
too much and too bitter contention has appeared in our af- 
fairs, yet it is no less true that the active and speculative 
friends of liberty, throughout the world, consider us at this 
day as the enlightened and sincere supporters of their cause, 
and look to us for examples which the one expects to approve, 

112 The Co)ivention Called. 

the other to imitate. Let us refrain then from these little, 
mean, bitter invectives; let us suppress those contemptible 
remains of narrow party spirit, and consider our critical sitii- 
ation with decency and candor, remembering that the true 
sons of liberty are brothers to each other. 

Much observation has been made in regard to the omission 
of a bill of rights in the new frame of government. Such 
remarks, I humbly conceive, arise from a great inadvertency 
in taking up the subject. When the people of these States 
dissolved their connection with the crown of Great Britain, 
by the Declaration of Independence, they found themselves, 
as to government, in a state of nature : yet they were very 
sensible of the blessings of civil society. On a recommenda- 
tion of Congress, who were then possessed of no authority, 
the inhabitants of each colony respectively formed a compact 
for themselves, which compacts are our State constitutions. 
These were original agreements among individiials before 
actually in a state of nature. In these constitutions a bill of 
rights (that is, a declaration of the unaliened rights of each 
individual) was proper, and indispensably necessary. When 
the several States were thus formed into thirteen separate and 
independent sovereignties, Congress, who managed their 
general affairs, and their respective legislatures, thought it 
proper (and it was surely absolutely necessary) that a con- 
federation should be prepared and executed. The measure 
was accordingly adopted; and here let us observe this was 
a compact among thii-teen independent States of the nature of 
a perpetual treaty. It was acceded to by the several States 
as sovereign. No individuals were parties to it. No rights 
oftJtdividuals could, therefore, be declared in it. The rights 
of contracti7ig parties (the thirteen States) were declared. 
Those rights remain inviolate. No bill of the rights of the 
freemen of the Union was thought of, nor could be intro- 
duced. No complaint was made of the want of it, for it was a 
matter foreign from the nature of the compact. In articles 
of agreement among a number of people forming a civil 
society^ a bill of the rights of individuals comes in of course, 
and is iiidispensably necessary. In articles of agreement 

A Citizen of Pennsylvania. 113 

among a number of independent states^ entering into a union, 
a bill of the rights of individuals is excluded oi course. As in 
the old confederation or compact among the thirteen inde- 
pendent sovereignties of America, no bill of rights of individ- 
uals could be or was introduced; so in the proposed compact 
among the same thirteen independent sovereignties, no bill 
of the rights of individuals has been or could be introduced. 
This would be to annihilate our state constitutions, by ren- 
dering them unnecessary. The liberty of the press, from an 
honest republican jealousy, which I highly applaud, has also 
been a subject of observation: but the right of writing for 
publication, and of printing, publishing and selling what 
may be written, SlXQ. personal rights, are part of the rights of 
individuals. Thus we see when attempts have been made to 
restrain them in any country, the individuals concerjied have 
only been, or indeed could be, the objects of attention. They 
are the rights of the people in the states., and can only be 
exercised by them. They are not the rights of the thirteen 
independent sovereignties, therefore could not enter into 
either the old or new compact among them. Every constitu- 
tion in the union guards the liberty of the press. It has also 
become a part of the common law of the land. But who is 
to destroy it? Not the people at large, for it is their most 
invaluable privilege — the palladium of their happiness — not 
the state legislatures, for their respective constitutions forbid 
them to infringe it. Not the federal government, for they 
have never had it transferred into their hands. It remains 
amongst those rights not conveyed to them. But who are the 
federal government, that they should take away the freedom 
of the press, was it not out of their reach? Are they not the 
temporary responsible servants of the people ? How then, my 
countrymen, is this favorite inestimable privilege in danger? 
It cannot be affected. It is understood by all men that it is 
never to be touched. It is guarded by insurmountable bar- 
riers, as you have already seen; and woe betide — the heaviest 
woe will betide the sacrilegious hand that shall attempt to 
remove them. A Citizen of Pennsylvania. 

ii4 The Convention Called. 

To the Freemen of Pennsylvania:* 

A publication lias lately appeared in several of onr papers, 
said to be signed by sixteen members of the late Assembly of 
Peni?sylvania, which challenges a few remarks. 

The first remark that occurs is, that the paper was neither 
written by any one of them, nor signed by all of them. They 
are too illiterate to compose such an address, and it can be 
proved that several of the persons whose names are subscribed 
to it left the city on Saturday, before there was time to col- 
lect the materials of the address, or to receive it from the 
person who is well known to have written it. 

A second remark that occurs in this place is, that there 
was a fixed resolution of the anti-federal junto to oppose the 
federal government, long before it made its appearance. In 
the month of July last, at a meeting of this junto, it was 
agreed, "that if the new constitution of Congress interfered 
in the least with the constitution of Pennsylvania, it ought 
to be opposed and rejected, and that even the name of a 
Washington should not carry it down." Happily it re- 
quires a reduction of the enormous expenses, and some other 
alterations of our constitution. Hence the reason of their 
opposition. Had it been much more perfect, or had it, like 
the Jewish theocracy, been framed by the hand of the 
Supreme Being himself, it would have been equally unpop- 
ular among them, since it interferes with their expensive 
hobby-horse, the Constitution of Pennsylvania. 

The address, and all the opposition to the new government, 
originate from the officers of government, who are afraid of 
losing their salaries or places. This will not surprise those 
of us who remember the opposition which our Independence 
received from a few officers of government in the years 1775 
and 1776. Recollect the Friendly Addresses and the 
Catos, which appeared in those years in all our newspapers. 
Remember too, that these publications came from men of 
as great understandings, and of more extensive influence, 

*Froin the Independent Gazetteer, or the Chronicle of Freedom, October 
X5, 1787. 

^''One of the Four Thousand.''^ 115 

than Randolph, Mason or Gerry. Which of them is fit to be 
named with Hutchinson, Bernard, Tryon or Kemp ? 

The address begins with two palpable falsehoods. "We 
lamented (it says) at the time, that a majority of our legisla- 
ture appointed men to represent this state, who were all citi- 
zens of Philadelphia, and none of them calculated to represent 
the landed interest of Pennsylvania." 

It is a well-know fact, that a seat in the convention was 
offered to William Findley, and that he objected to it, because 
no wages were to be connected with it. It became, therefore, 
a matter of economy, as well as convenience, to fill up the 
delegation with members from Philadelphia. If this was a 
crime, the sixteen concurred in it, for they all voted for five 
of the delegation, and for three other men who were at that 
time citizens of Philadelphia, viz: Thomas M'Kean, Charles 
Pettit and John Bayard, esquires. 

The story of the delegates from Pennsylvania having no 
interest in the landed property of the state is equally ground- 
less with the foregoing. They are all landholders, and one 
of them alone owns a greater landed estate than the whole 
sixteen absconders; and has for many years past punctually 
and justly paid more taxes on it than are paid by the whole 
anti-federal junto, and, unfortunately, for the support of the 
men who compose this junto. 

The address confesses that the sixteen absconded to prevent 
the majority of the house from calling a convention, to con- 
sider the new form of government. Is this right, freemen of 
Pennsylvania? Is it agreeable to democratic principles, that 
the minority should govern the majority? Is not this aris- 
tocracy in good earnest? Is it not tyranny, that ay^w should 
govern the many ? By absconding, and thereby obstructing 
the public business, they dissolved the constitution. They 
annihilated the first principles of government, and threw the 
commonwealth into a state of nature. Under these circum- 
stances, the citizens of Philadelphia appealed to \h^ first of 
nature's laws, viz: self-preservation. They seized two of the 
sixteen absconders, and compelled them to form a House by 
their attendance. In this they acted wisely and justly — as 

ii6 The Convention Called. 

much so as the man who seizes a highwayman, who is about 
to rob him. If they were wrong in this action, then the men 
who drove Galloway, Skinner, Delancey, and other miscre- 
ants, from our states, by force, in the year 1776, were wrong 
likewise. What justified all the outrages that were commit- 
ted against the tories in the beginning of the war? Nothing 
but the dissolution of our governments. What was the 
foundation of the dissolution of these governments? Noth- 
ing but a resolution of Congress. What determined us to 
establish new governments on the ruins of the old ? Nothing 
but a recommendation of Congress. Why, then, do these 
men fly in the faces of the convention and Congress? It was 
from similar bodies of men, similarly constituted, that their 
present form of government derived its independence. It 
cannot exist without a Congress — it is meet, therefore, that 
it should harmonize with it. 

The objections to the federal government are weak, false 
and absurd. The neglect of the convention to mention the 
liberty of the press arose from a respect to the state constitu- 
tions, in each of which this palladium of liberty is secured, 
and which is guaranteed to them as an essential part of their 
republican forms of government. But supposing this had not 
been done, the liberty of the press would have been an inher- 
ent and polical right, as long as nothing was said against it. 
The convention have said nothing to secure the privilege of 
eating and drinking, and yet no man supposes that right of 
nature to be endangered by their silence about it. 

Considering the variety of interests to be consulted, and 
the diversity of human opinions upon all subjects, and espe- 
cially the subject of government, it is a matter of astonish- 
ment that the government form.ed by the convention has so 
few faults. With these faults, it is a phenomenon of human 
wisdom and virtue, such as the world never saw before. It 
unites in its different parts all the advantages, without any of 
the disadvantages, of the three well-known forms of govern- 
ment, and yet it preserves the attributes of a republic. And 
lastly, if it should be found to be faulty in any particular, it 
provides an easy and constitutional method of curing its faults. 

"0«^ of the Four Thoicsand.^'' 117 

I anticipate the praise with which this government will be 
viewed by the friends of liberty and mankind in Europe. 
The philosophers will no longer consider a republic as an im- 
practicable form of government, and pious men of all denom- 
inations will thank God for having provided in our federal 
constitution, an Ark for the preservation of the remains of 
the justice and liberties of the world. 

Freemen of Pennsylvania, consider the character and ser- 
vices of the men who made this government. Behold the 
venerable Franklin, in the 70th year of his age, cooped up 
in the cabin of a small vessel, and exposing himself to the 
dangers of a passage on the ocean, crowded with British 
cruisers, in a winter month, in order to solicit from the court 
of France that aid, which finally enabled America to close 
the war with so much success and glory — and then say, is it 
possible that this man would set his hand to a constitution 
that would endanger your liberties ? From this aged servant 
of the public, turn your eyes to the illustrious American hero, 
whose name has ennobled human nature — I mean our be- 
loved Washington. Behold him, in the year 1775, taking 
leave of his happy family and peaceful retreat, and flying to 
the relief of a distant, and at that time an unknown part of 
the American continent. See him uniting and cementing an 
army, composed of the citizens of thirteen states, into a band 
of brothers. Follow him into the field of battle, and behold 
him theyfrj-/ in danger, and the last out of it. Follow him 
into his winter quarters, and see him sharing in the hunger, 
cold and fatigues of every soldier in his army. Behold his 
fortitude in adversity, his moderation in victory, and his ten- 
derness and respect upon all occasions for the civil power of 
his country. But above all, turn your eyes to that illustrious 
scene he exhibited at Annapolis in 1782, when he resigned 
his commission, and laid his sword at the feet of Congress, 
and afterwards resumed the toils of an American farmer on 
the banks of the Potomac. Survey, my countrymen, these 
illustrious exploits of patriotism and virtue, and then say, is 
it possible that the deliverer of our country would have 
recommended an unsafe form of government for that liberty. 

ii8 The Convettlion Called. 

for which he had for eight long years contended with such 
unexampled firmness, constancy and magnanimity. 

Pardon me, if I here ask — Where were the sixteen ab- 
sconders and their advisers, while these illustrious framers of 
our federal constitution were exposing their lives and exert- 
ing their talents for your safety and happiness? Some of 
them took sanctuary in offices, under the constitution of 
Pennsylvania, from the dangers of the year 1776, and the rest 
of them were either inactive, or known only on the muster- 
rolls of the militia during the war. 

Look around you, my fellow citizens, and behold the con- 
fusion and distresses which prevail in every part of our 
country. Behold, from the weakness of the government of 
Massachusetts, the leaders of rebellion making laws to ex- 
empt themselves from punishment. See, in Rhode Island, 
the bonds of society and the obligations of morality dissolved 
by paper money and tender laws. See the flames of court- 
houses in Virginia, kindled by debtors to stop the course of 
justice. Hear the complaints of our farmers, whose unequal 
and oppressive taxes in every part of the country amount to 
nearly the rent of their farms. Hear too the complaints of 
every class of public creditors. Look at the records of bank- 
ruptcies that fill every newspaper. Look at the melancholy 
countenances of our mechanics, who now wander up and 
down the streets of our cities without employment. See our 
ships rotting in our harbors, or excluded from nearly all the 
ports in the world. Listen to the insults that are offered to 
the American name and character in every court of Europe, 
See order and honor everywhere prostrate in the dust, and 
religion, with all her attending train of virtues, about to quit 
our continent forever. View these things, my fellow citizens, 
and then say that we do not require a new, a protecting, and 
efficient federal government, if you can. The picture I have 
given you of the situation of our country is not an exaggerated 
one. I challenge the boldest enemy of the federal constitu- 
tion to disprove any one part of it. 

It is not to be wondered at, that some of the rulers and 
officers of the government of Pennsylvania are opposed to the 

^^One of the Four Thousand.''^ 119 

new constitution of the United States. It will lessen their 
power, number and influence — for it will necessarily reduce 
the expenses of our government from nearly 50,0001. to 
10,000 1., or, at most, 15,0001. a year. I am very happy in 
being able to except many worthy officers of our government 
from concurring in this opposition. Their names, their con- 
duct, and their characters, are well-known to their fellow 
citizens, and I hope they will all be rewarded by a continu- 
ance and accumulation of public favor and confidence. 

The design of this address is not to inflame the passions of 
my fellow citizens; I know the feelings of the people of 
Pennsylvania are sufficiently keen. It becomes me not, 
therefore (to use the words of the address of the sixteen ab- 
sconders), to add to them, by dwelling longer "upon the 
distresses and dangers of our country. I have laid a real 
state of facts before you; it becomes you, therefore, to judge 
for yourselves." 

The absconders have endeavored to sanctify their false and 
seditious publication by a solemn address to the Supreme 
Being. I shall conclude the truths I have written, by adopt- 
ing some of their own words, with a short addition to them. 

"May He, who alone has dominion over the passions and 
understandings of men, preserve you from the influence of 
rulers, who have upon many occasions held fellowship with 
iniquity^ and established mischief by law.''"' 

The author of this Address is one of the Four Thousand 
Citizens of Philadelphia and its neighborhood, who sub- 
scribed the petition to the late Assembly, immediately to 
call a Convention, in order to adopt the proposed Federal 



[Between the day wlieu the couvention was called and the 
day when the convention met, a period of seven weeks elapsed. 
During this time both the friends and detractors of the con- 
stitution resorted to every known means of influencing public 
opinion. Appeals were made to the prejudices, to the fears, 
to the religious bigotry of the people. The Antifederalists, 
as they began to be called, found a friend in Eleazer Oswald, 
and filled his "Independent Gazetteer" with all manner of 
effusions. The mouth-piece of the Federal party was the 
"Pennsylvania Packet," and from these two journals the 
greater part of this chapter is taken. The champion of the 
Antifederalists was "Centinel," whose name is still unknown. 
The champion of the Federalists was James Wilson, whose 
speech in the State House yard was held to be unanswerable. 
The essays of "Centinel" and the speech of Wilson are, 
therefore, given in full. But the essays of " Philadelphien- 
sis" and "Old Whig," who supported the Antifederal cause, 
and of "American Citizen," who wrote on the Federal side, 
have not, for lack of space, been reprinted. 

In place of these will be found a few, and but a few, of the 
immense number of short pieces that appeared day after day 
in the "Packet" and the "Gazetteer," and set forth such 
popular opinions as might be heard any afternoon in the 
taverns and the coffee-houses. In writings of this sort the 
Antifederal greatly outnumbered the Federal, and justify the 
belief that the burden of proof was considered to be with the 
party of opposition.] 

From the Pennsylvania Gazette. 

(By particular desire.) 

The former distinction of the citizens of America (says a 

A Prophecy for lySg. I2i 

correspondent) into Whigs and Tories, should be lost in the 
more important distinction oi Federal and Antifederal men. 
The former are the friends of liberty and independence; the 
latter are the enemies of liberty and the secret abettors of the 
interests of Great Britain. 

Should the federal government be rejected (awful words), 
another correspondent has favored us with the following 
paragraphs, to be published in our paper in the month of 
June, 1789: 

On the 30th ult., his Excellency, David Shays, Esq., took 
possession of the government of Massachusetts. The execu- 
tion of , Esq. , the late tyrannical governor, was 

to take place the next day. 

Accounts from New Jersey grow every day more alarmmg. 
The people have grown desperate from the oppressions of 
their new masters, and have secretly, it is said, dispatched a 
messenger to the court of Great Britain, praying to be taken 
again under the protection of the British Crown. 

We hear from Richmond, that the new state house, lately 
erected there, was burnt by a mob from Berkeley county, on 
account of the assembly refusing to emit paper money. From 
the number and daring spirit of the mob, government have 
judged it most prudent not to meddle with them. 

Yesterday 300 ship-carpenters embarked from this city for 
Nova Scotia, to be employed in his Britannic Majesty's ship- 
yards at Halifax. 

We hear from Cumberland, Franklin and Bedford counties, 
in this State, that immense quantities of wheat are rotting in 
stacks and barns, owing to the demand for that article having 
ceased, in consequence of our ships being shut out of all the 
ports of Europe and the West Indies. 

We hear that 300 families left Chester county last week, to 
settle in Kentucky. Their farms were exposed to sale before 
they set off, but many of them could not be raised to the value 
of the taxes that were due on them. 

On Saturday last were interred from the bettering-house 

the remains of Mrs. Mary . This venerable lady was 

once in easy circumstances; but having sold property to the 

122 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

amount of 5,000/. and lodged it in the funds, which, from 
the convulsions and distractions of our country, have un- 
fortunately become insolvent, she was obliged to retire to the 
city poor-house. Her certificates were sold on the Monday 
following her interment, but did not bring as much cash as 
paid for her winding-sheet. 

By a vessel just arrived from L' Orient, we learn that the 
partition treaty between Great Britain and the Emperor of 
IMorocco was signed on the 25th of April last, at London. 
The Emperor is to have possession of all the States to the 
southward of Pennsylvania, and Great Britain is to possess all 
the 'States to the eastward and northward of Pennsylvania, 
inclusive of this middle State. Private letters from London 
add, that Silas Dean, Esq., is to be appointed Governor of 
Connecticut, and Joseph Galloway, Esq. , is to be appointed 
Governor of Pennsylvania. The government of Rhode Island 
was offered to Brigadier-General Arnold, who refused to ac- 
cept of it, urging, as the reason of his refusal, that he was 
afraid of being corrupted by living in such a nest of specula- 
tors and traitors. 

But, adds our correspondent, should the federal govern- 
ment be adopted^ the following paragraphs will probably have 
a place in our paper in the same month, viz., June, 1789: 

Yesterday arrived in this city his Excellency the Earl of 
Surry, from the Court of Great Britain, as Envoy Extraor- 
dinary to the United States. He was received by the princi- 
pal Secretary of State, and introduced to the President-General 
at the federal State House, who received him with great 
marks of politeness. His lordship's errand to America is to 
negotiate a commercial treaty with the United States. The 
foundation of this treaty is, that all British ports are to be 
opened to American vessels, duty free, and a proposal to build 
200 ships every year in the ports of Boston, New York, Phila- 
delphia and Charleston. 

Last evening arrived at Billingsport the ship Van Berkel, 
Nicholas van Vleck, master, from Amsterdam, with 100 
reputable families on board, who have fled from the commo- 
tions which now distress their unhappy country. It is said 

A Prophecy for ijSg. 123 

they have brought cash with them to the amount of 45,000/. 
sterling, to be laid out in purchasing cultivated farms in this 
and the neighboring States. 

We learn from Cumberland county, in this State, that 
land in the neighborhood of Carlisle, which sold in the year 
1787 for only 5/. has lately been sold for 10/. per acre at 
public vendue. This sudden rise in the value of estates is 
ascribed to the new mode of taxation adopted by the federal 
government, as well as to the stability of this government. 

Such are the improvements in the roads in this State since 
the establishment of the federal government, that several 
loaded wagons arrived in this city in two days from the town 
of Lancaster. 

By a gentleman just arrived from Tioga, we learn that 
the insurgents in that place were surprised and taken by a 
party of the federal militia, and that their leaders are on their 
way to Wyoming, to be tried for their lives. 

It appears from the custom-house books of this city, that 
the exports frc^n this State were nearly double last year, of 
the exports of the year 1786. 

In the course of the present year, it appears that there 
have arrived in this state 18,923 souls from different parts of 

Several foreigners who attended the debates in the federal 
Assembly and Senate last Wednesday, declare that they never 
saw half so much decorum nor heard more noble specimens 
of eloquence in the House of Lords and Commons, than they 
saw and heard in our illustrious republican assemblies. 

We hear from Fort Pitt, that since the navigation of the 
Mississippi has been confirmed to the United States by the 
Court of Spain, the price of wheat has risen from 4^-. to 7^. 6d. 
per bushel in all the counties to the westward of the Allegheny 

In consequence of the new and successful modes of taxa- 
tion adopted by the United States, public securities of all 
kinds have risen to par with specie, to the great joy of wid- 
ows, orphans, and all others who trusted their property in the 
funds of their countrv- 

124 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

We hear that the Honorable Thomas , Esq. , is ap- 
pointed to deliver the anniversary oration in September next, 
in honor of the birthday of our present free and glorious fed- 
eral Constitution — a day that cannot fail of being equally dear 
to all Americans with the 4th of July, 1776 — for while this 
day gave us liberty^ the 17th of September, 1787, gave us, 
under the smiles of a benignant Providence, a government^ 
which alone could have rendered that liberty safe and per- 
petual. * 

Mr. Oswald. — Having stepped into Mr. 's beer- 
house, in street, on Saturday evening last, I perceived 

the room filled with a number of decent tradesmen, who were 
conversing very freely about the members of the federal con- 
vention, who, it was said, like good workmen, had finished 
their work on a Saturday night. As the principles of this 
company were highly federal, and many of their remarks very 
shrewd, I took notes of them in my memorandum book, in 
short-hand, and have since copied them for the use of your 
truly federal paper. 

1. A Sea Captain. — By George, if we don't adopt the fed- 
eral government we shall all go to wreck. 

2. His Mate. — Hold, hold, captain, we are in no danger; 
Washington is still at the helm. 

3. A Continental Lieutenant. — If we don't adopt the new 
government — why the hardest send off— promotion is ahvays 
most rapid in a civil war. 

4. A Cooper. — If we reject the new government, we shall 
all go to staves. 

5. A Blacksmith. — If we don't submit to the convention, 
we shall all be burned into cinders. 

6. A Shoemaker. — If we do not adopt the alterations in the 
federal convention now, we shall never have such another 
opportunity of having it mended. 

7. A Mason. — The old fabric must be underpinned^ or we 
shall all go to the devil together. 

8. A House Carpenter. — We shall never do well till all 

* ludepeudent Gazetteer, Sept. 20, 1787, 

Street and Tavern Scenes. 125 

the little rooms in the federal mansion house are thrown 
into one. 

9. A Silversmith. — I hate your party-colored metals — the 
sooner we are all melted into 07ie mass the better. 

10. A Baker. — Let me see the man that dares oppose the 
federal government, and I will soon make biscuit of him. 

11. A Butcher. — And I would soon quarter the dog. 

12. A Barber. — And I would shave the son of a . 

13. A Cook. — And I would break every bone in his body. 

14. ^ Joiner. — And I would make a wooden jacket for him. 

15. A Potter. — And I would grind his dust afterward into 
a chamber-pot. 

16. A Tailor. — And I would throw it into hell.^ 

From a Correspondent. — I was walking the other day in 
Second street, and observed a child, of five or six years old, 
with a paper in his hand, and lisping, with a smile, '''' Here'' s 
what the convention have done. ' ' Last evening I was walk- 
ing down Arch street, and was struck with the appearance of 
an old man, whose head was covered with hoary locks, and 
whose knees bent beneath the weight of his body, stepping 
to his seat by the door, with a crutch in one hand and his 
spectacles and the new federal constitution in the other. 
These incidents renewed in my mind the importance of the 
present era to one-half of the world! I was pleased to see all 
ages anxious to know the result of the deliberations of that 
illustrious council, whose constitutions are designed to govern 
a world of freemen! The unthinking youth, who cannot 
realize the importance of government, seems to be impressed 
with a sense of our want of union and system ; and the vener- 
able sire, who is tottering to the grave, feels new life at the 
prospect of having everything valuable secured to posterity. 

Ye spirits of ancient legislators! Ye ghosts of Solon, Lycur- 
gus and Alfred! Of the members of the grand Amphictyonic 
Council of Greece! and of the illustrious Senate of Rome! at- 
tend and bear testimony, how important the task of making 
laws for governing empires! Attend, ye ghosts of Warren, 

* Independent Gazetteer, Sept. 20, 1787. 

126 Before the Meeting of the Conventio7t. 

Montgomery, Mercer, and other heroes who offered your lives 
upon the altar of freedom! Bear witness, with what solici- 
tude the great council of America, headed by a Franklin and 
a JVashingtoji^ the fathers of their country, have deliberated 
upon the dearest interests of men, and labored to frame a sys- 
tem of laws and constitutions that shall perpetuate the bless- 
ings of that independence which you obtained by your 

"These are the fathers of this western clime ! 

Nor names more noble grac'd the walls of fame, 
Wheq Spartan firmness braved the wrecks of time, 

Or Rome's bold virtues fanned the heroic flame. 
Not deeper thought the immortal sage inspired 

On Solon's lips when Grecian senates hung ; 
Nor manlier eloquence the bosom fired 

When genius thundered from the Athenian tongue." 

Away, ye spirits of discord! ye narrow views! ye local pol- 
icies! ye selfish patriots, who would damn your country for a 
sixpenn}^ duty! In the present state of America, local views 
are general ruin ! Unanimity alone is our last resort. Every 
other expedient has been tried, and unanimity now will cer- 
tainly secure freedom, national faith and prosperity.* 

[Extract of a letter from a gentleman in Montgomery 
county to his friend in Philadelphia, dated 24th September, 

"We hear the petitions which are handing about in favor 
of the federal constitution, have met with no opposition in 
your city, except by five persons, who have lived upon the 
distresses of the people for some time past; you may expect 
those gentlemen will in time, on finding their little opposi- 
tion will not avail, become good subjects of the federal govern- 
ment. They were not decided characters in our late glorious 
revolution, until they found independence would be main- 
tained; it is even said that one of them, who was in Europe 
early in the contest, was decidedly against us, but, on finding 
we were able to support our independence, they became the 
best street whigs you had, and got themselves fixed in fat of- 

* Pennsylvania Packet, Sept. 22. 

Bad Condition of the Coicntry. 127 

fices, which they cannot but with reluctance run the risk of 
losing. We also hear that the only machine for spinning 
cotton with facility in your city has been bought up by a 
British rider and put on board a vessel for London. It is to 
be hoped the Manufacturing Society will have spirit enough 
to furnish that enemy to our country with a coat of 

"Tar and Feathers."* 

For the Independent Gazetteer. 

Mr. Oswald: In searching among some old papers a few 
days ago, I accidentally found a London newspaper, dated in 
March, 1774, wherein a certain Dean Tucker, after stating 
several advantages attendent on a separation from the then 
colonies, now United States of America, proceeds thus: 
"After a separation from the colonies our influence over them 
will be much greater than ever it was, since they began to 
feel their own weight and importance." "The moment a 
separation takes effect, intestine quarrels will begin;" and 
"in proportion as their factious republican spirit shall intrigue 
and cabal, shall split into parties, divide and sub-divide, in 
the same proportion shall we be called in to become their 
general umpires and referees." 

I stood aghast on perusing this British prophecy, and could 
not help reflecting how my infatuated countrymen are on the 
very verge of suffering it to be fulfilled. Already have they 
in several of the States spurned at the federal government, 
despised their admonitions, and absolutely refused to comply 
Avith their requisitions; nay, they have gone further, and have 
enacted laws in direct violation of those very requisitions; nor 
does the present federal constitution give Congress power to 
enforce a compliance with the most trifling measure they may 
recommend. Hence, liberty becomes licentiousness (for while 
causes continue to produce their effects, want of energy in 
government will be followed by disobedience in the gov- 
erned). Hence, also, credit, whether foreign or domestic, 
public or private, hath been abused, and, of course, is reduced 
to the lowest ebb; Rhode Island faith in particular is become 

* Independent Gazetteer, Sept. 26, 1787. 

128 Before the Meeting of the Cotivention. 

superlatively infamous, even to a proverb. Would to God 
that censure in this respect were only due to that petty State! 
Sorry I am to say, several others merit a considerable share 
of it. Ship-building and commerce no more enrich our 
country; agriculture is neglected, or what is just the same, 
our produce, instead of being exported, is suffered to rot in 
the fields. Britain has dared to retain our frontier posts, 
whereby she not only deprives us of our fur trade, but is en- 
abled to keep up a number of troops, to take every advantage 
of au}' civil broils which may arise in these States; and to 
close the dismal scene, rebellion, with all its dire concomi- 
tants, has actually reared its head in a sister State — such have 
been the deplorable effects of a weak and impotent govern- 
ment. Perhaps the present situation of America cannot be 
better described than by comparing her to a ship at sea in a 
storm, when the mariners tie up the helm and abandon her 
to the fury of the winds and waves. O, America! arouse! 
awake from your lethargy! bravely assert the cause of federal 
unanimity! and save your sinking country! Let it not be 
said that those men who heroically extirpated tyranny from 
America, should suffer civil discord to undo all that they have 
achieved, or to effect more than all the powers of Britain, 
aided by her blood-thirsty mercenaries, were able to accom- 
plish. Let not posterity say: "Alas, our fathers expended 
much blood and treasure in erecting the temple of liberty; 
and when nothing more was wanting but thirteen pillars to 
support the stately edifice, they supinely neglected this essen- 
tial part; so has the whole become one mighty heap of ruins, 
and slavery is entailed on their unhappy offspring." God 
forbid that this should ever be the case! 

Do any of my fellow citizens ask, how may we avert the 
inpending danger? The answer is obvious; let us adopt that 
federal constitution, which has been earnestly recommended 
by a convention of patriotic sages, and which, while it gives 
energy to our government, wisely secures our liberties. This 
constitution, my friends, is the result of four months' deliber- 
ation, in an assembly composed of men whose known integ- 
rity, patriotism and abilities justly deserve our confidence; let 

An Antifederalist Rebuked. 129 

us also remember that the illustrious Washington was theii 
President. And shall we, my fellow citizens, render all their 
measures ineffectual by withholding our concurrence? The 
preservation of ourselves and our country forbid it. Me- 
thinks I hear every hill from St. Croix to the Mississippi re- 
echo the praises of this simple but excellent constitution. 

Having once adopted this truly federal form of government. 
Dean Tucker and all the divines in England may prophecy 
our downfall if they will, we shall not regard them. Then 
shall commerce revisit our shores; then shall we take a dis- 
tinguished rank among the nations of the earth; then shall 
our husbandmen and mechanics of every denomination enjoy 
the fruits of their industry; and then, and not till then, shall 
we be completely happy. A Pennsyi^vania Farmer. 

Bucks County^ Sept. 22, 1787.* 

For the Independent Gazetteer. 

Mr. Oswald: An anonymous scribbler, in the Freeman's 
Journal of last Wednesday, has daringly attacked the new 
federal constitution, in making objections to supposed faults 
or defects therein, which this 7nock-patriot himself acknow- 
ledges to be trivial and of very small importance. Why then 
in the name of wonder has he started them at this awful 
crisis, when the fate of America depends on the unanimity 
of all classes of citizens in immediately establishing this 
hitherto unequalled, and I am happy to add, this popnlaf 
form of government? Certainly, with a design to sow dissen- 
sions among the weak, the credulous and the ignorant, since 
no other effect can be produced by his antifederal remarks at 
this stage of the business. 

I repeat it, sir, the proposed Federal Constitution is a mas- 
ter-piece in politics, and loudly proclaims the wisdom of its 
authors. But, even if it were imperfect, none of my fellow- 
citizens are stupid enough to think it, like the laws of the 
Medes and Persians, irrevocable and unalterable — no, it has 
one article which wisely provides for future amendments and 
alterations whenever they shall appear necessary. I can easily 

* Ijodependent Gazetteer, Sept. 27, 1787. 

130 Before the ]\Ieeting of the Convention. 

perceive that the author of these silly remarks is the same 
person who attacked the Convention, under the signature 
of "Z," before the result of their deliberations was known. 
Need we wonder, then, to find him carping at their works 
when published? 

This antifederalist should reflect that his name may yet be 
known and himself branded with infamy as an enemy to the 
happiness of the United States. I would therefore advise 
him to choose some other subject for his remarks in future, 
if he wishes to escape the just resentment of an incensed peo- 
ple, who perhaps may honor him with a coat of 

Tar and Feathers. * 

For the Independent Gazetteer. 

That the opinion of the people becomes of great moment, 
either to impart applause or obtain condemnation on those 
who have been signally employed in national service, is a 
maxim established by experience; but it is generally best 
understood and attended to by men of base intentions, who 
to favor some deep design, take care to varnish out a scheme 
of deception with apparent colors of truth, whereby the mul- 
tudes seeing the object through false colors alone, are often 
ensnared and led to adopt sentiments repugnant to their dear- 
est interest. In the i^r^^;;m;2'j- y^z^r/m/ of Wednesday last, 
a writer well acquainted with this principle has with daring 
effrontery attempted to make strictures on our new constitu- 
tion, in order to tarnish with his corrosive ink extracted 
from an antifederal heart the lustre of our august Convention. 
Instigated either by private designs of some party or by 
hatred to the national character of America, he has set out, 
with the nimble feet of counterfeit probity, to exhibit imagin- 
ary defects, and to raise in the mind of the unthinking citi- 
zens groundless conjectures, which, if not checked in time, 
may become so deeply seated that the joint force of truth and 
pure demonstration can scarce be able to erase them, or 
until, perhaps, the injury done to our country be of such 
magnitude that it will be equally indifferent whether the de- 
ception be or be not discovered. 

* Independent Gazetteer, Sept. 28, 1787. 

An Antifederalist Rebuked. 131 

In the exordium he says: "The writer of the following- re- 
marks has the happiness and respectability of the United 
States much at heart, and it is with pleasure he has seen a 
system promulged by the late Convention, which promises to 
ensure those blessings ; but as perfection is not in the lot of 
human nature, we are not to expect it in the new federal con- 
stitution. Candor must confess, however, that it is a well- 
wrought piece of stuff, and claims upon the whole the appro- 
bation of all the States. Our situation is critical and de- 
mands our immediate care. It is therefore to be hoped that 
every State will be speedy in calling a convention — speedy, 
because the business is momentous and merits the utmost 
deliberation." It is pleasant to observe with what affected 
tenderness and diffidence this writer attempts to remark upon 
the imperfections of our new constitution ; but, with all his 
candor in allowing it to be a well-zvro2ight piece of stuffs I fear 
there are some who will be apt to think that his design is to 
seduce the people; as the devil is painted in his temptation 
of Saint Anthony in the modest habit of a fair face and the 
charming form of virgin innocence, but his cloven foot is 
very visible to those who can take their eyes off the object of 
seduction. " It is therefore to be hoped (says he) that every 
State will be speedy in calling a convention" — but for 
what? Why to follow the example of this writer, to remark 
upon and to condemn several articles of the new constitution, 
and finally to reject the whole of such a well-wrought piece 
ofshiff. I appeal to the understanding, and ask, is not this 
the language and true meaning of the writer? 

Before he begins his futile remarks, he says: "The follow- 
ing strictures on the proposed constitution are submitted with 
diffidence. Excepting a single instance, they regard points 
of an inferior magnitude only; and as the writer is not pos- 
sessed of any of the reasons which influenced the convention, 
he feels the more diffident in offering these remarks." Here 
is a matter of curiosity, undoubtedly; this gentleman is 7iot 
possessed of any of the reasons which influenced the convention^ 
and yet, I affirm it, there is not another person in America 
besides himself unacquainted with them. There is not a man 

132 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

in America or even in Europe possessed of common sense that 
has heard of the meeting of that honorable body, but knows 
the reasons and motives which influenced every member of 
it. Yes, the very enemies of America known them well, and 
will, I trust, soon feel their effects to their mortification. 
The reasons and motives which influenced the convention 
were: ^'To form a more perfect union, establish justice, en- 
sure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, 
promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of 
liberty to themselves and their posterity, and to promote the 
lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all." These, I 
say, were their motives; and where is the wretch so base as 
to suppose they were influenced by any other. Perhaps the 
writer may pretend to say that he meant no more in this 
paragraph than he is not possessed of any of the reasons which 
influenced the conventio7t to adopt those articles on which he has 
thought proper to make his strictures. Now if this were his 
meaning, the general answer given above will still apply; for 
the same motives which influenced the convention to frame 
the whole body of this noble constitution, must necessarily 
have influenced them in framing every article of it, namely, 
the good of their country. Is not such a writer either an in- 
sidious enemy to his country or wilfully wicked? 

But let us examine what he has to say against the constitu- 
tion, and we will find that his objections are groundless and 
absurd. His first remark is upon Art. I, Sec. 2: "The num- 
ber of Representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000." 
After exhibiting a long paragraph of unmeaning sentences in 
the discussion of this subject, he concludes: "In America 
representation ought to be in a ratio with population. ' ' Now 
the very article against which he objects manifestly provides 
that the representation shall be in the direct ratio of the 
population. It seems to me that this gentleman's idea of the 
term ratio is to be explained by some learned definition of his 
own, with which I hope he will soon favor the literati; and 
then perhaps he will demonstrate the representation in Amer- 
ica must increase in the djiplicate ratio or proportion of the 
number of inhabitants. Such a learned Antifederal gentle- 
man! O princeps asinorum! 

An Atttifederalist Rebuked. 133 

It would indeed be spending time in a useless manner to 
remark upon all his strictures, which are equally erroneous. 
I shall therefore pass over his second and third, and conclude 
with taking some notice of his fourth or last remark, which 
is on Art. Ill, Sec. 2: ''''The trial of all crimes^ except in cases 
of impeachment^ shall be by jury. I sincerely wished," says 
he, "the convention had said a jury of thirteen, a majority of 
whom shall determine the verdict. Is it not extravagantly 
absurd to expect that twelve men shall have but one opinion 
among them upon the most difficult case? Common sense 
revolts at the idea, while conscience shudders at the prostitu- 
tion of an oath thus sanctioned by law! Starve or be perjured; 
say our courts. The monstrous attachment of the people to 
an English jury show how far the force of prejudice can go; 
and the encomiums which have been so incessantly lavished 
upon it should caution us against borrowing from others, 
without the previous conviction of our own minds." Here 
is a complete specimen of this man of diffidence and candor; 
here we see him throwing off the mask, and stepping forth 
with dauntless courage, and attacking, with philosophical 
declamation, the first privilege of freemen — the noblest article 
that ever entered the constitution of a free country — a jewel 
whose transcendant lustre adds dignity to human nature. 
No, sir, common sense does not revolt at the idea; common 
sense and experience confirm the excellency of this law every 
day; in short, your own condemnation of it is manifestly a 
negative proof of its goodness. Sit perpetua hac lex. But 
plunge this Janus, this double-faced wretch (who, under the 
pretence of patriotism and candor, writes only with a view to 
embarrass the mind, and so prevent the adoption of the new 
constitution), into the mines a thousand yards deep; and there 
let the injured ghost of Columbia incessantly torment the 
monster. Nestor. * 

To the Printer of the htdependent Gazetteer. 

Sir: I am a Federal Man in the truest sense of the word. 
I wish to see the United States in possession of a general 

* Independent Gazetteer, Sept. 29, 1787. 

134 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

government, which may ensure to them strength and liberty 
at home and respectability abroad. But I do not agree with 
a writer in your paper of this day that every person who ob- 
jects to some parts, or even to the whole of the aristocratical 
plan proposed by the late convention, ought to have "a 
coat of tar and feathers.'''' Tar and feathers, I believe, 
never made a convert to any system whatever, whether reli- 
gious or political; and that must be a most noble form of 
government indeed which requires such infamous measures 
to support and establish it! That would be a mob govern- 
ment with a witness. 

At the glorious period of our Independence the newspapers 
were filled with publications against as well as for that salu- 
tary measure, and I am clearly of opinion that the LIBERTY 
OF THE PRESS— the great bulwark of all the liberties of 
the people — ought never to be restrained (notwithstanding 
the honorable convention did not think fit to make the least 
declaration in its favor) and that on every occasion truth and 
justice should have Fair Play. * 

2M1 Sept., 1787. 

The inhabitants of the Old World, says a correspondent, 
have long been looking at America to see whether liberty 
and a republican form of government are worth contending 
for. The United States are at last about to try the experi- 
ment. They have formed a constitution, which has all the 
excellencies, without any of the defects, of the European 
governments. This constitution has been pronounced by 
able judges to be the wisest, most free and most efficient of 
any form of government that ancient or modern times have 
produced. The gratitude of ages only can repay the enlight- 
ened and illustrious patriots for the toil and time they have 
bestowed in framing it. 

It is remarkable that while the federal government lessens 
the power of the States it increases the privileges of individ- 
uals. It holds out additional security for liberty, property 
and life in no less than five different articles which have no 

* Independent Gazetteer, Sept. 29, 17S7. 

Washington for President. 135 

place iu any one of the State constitutions. It moreover 
provides an eflfectual check to the African trade in the 
course of one-and-twenty years. How honorable to America 
— to have been the first Christian power that has borne a tes- 
timony against a practice that is alike disgraceful to religion 
and repugnant to the true interests and happiness of society! 
George Washington, Esq., has already been destined by a 
thousand voices to fill the place of the first President of the 
United States under the new frame of government. While 
the deliverers of a nation in other countries have hewn out a 
way to power with the sword or seized upon it by stratagems 
and fraud, our illustrious hero peaceably retired to his farm 
after the war, from whence it is expected he will be called 
by the suffrages of three millions of people to govern that 
country by his wisdom (agreeable to fixed laws) which he 
had previously made free by his arms. Can Europe boast of 
such a man ? or can the history of the world show an instance 
of such voluntary compact between the deliverer and the de- 
livered of any country as will probably soon take place in the 
United States?* 

Mr. Oswald : I have never interested myself much in the 
politics of the State, from an idea that the difference between 
a Constitutionalist and a Republican was of so trifling a nature 
that it was not worth interesting myself in. I have asked 
some of the parties what they were contending for: was it 
the bare name, a shadow, or was there a substance in view? 
but found they could not tell. It then appeared to me like 
two men worshipping the same being, but different in the 
mode, as there were many valuable and worthy men in each 
party who were worthy members of Republican government. 

I have seen with astonishment "<a; land^^'' I may say, 
''''flowing with milk and honey ^'^'' a country that can boast of 
more natural advantages than perhaps any other on the face 
of the globe, a-going to destruction from the factions and bad 
policy of its inhabitants: I viewed with pleasure the meeting 
of the late Federal Convention; a convention composed of 

* Pennsylvania Packet, Sept. 27, 1787. 

136 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

our wisest aud best men — men perhaps unequaled for wisdom 
and virtue, with IVashuigton at their head, as the only thing 
that could save a distressed people from destruction, and from 
falling an easy prey to foreign powers. The Convention has 
given us a constitution perhaps superior to any upon earth, 
and notwithstanding its excellence, it meets the opposition 
of a factious few, whose lives and conduct have been filled 
with dissimulation and deceit. These few men have had 
address sufficient to sway the judgment of nineteen of their 
creatures, members of the late General Assembly, whose names 
will be handed down with infamy to posterity. On Friday 
last, when a vote was to be taken of the utmost importance to 
Pennsylvania, and to keep them from attending the house 
contrary to their positive oaths, contrary to religion and 
virtue, and contrary to the real interest of their constituents, 
who have unfortunately placed a mistaken confidence in their 
integrity and patriotism, and who were paying them for their 
attendance and service as their representatives. 

The people will now be convinced that the leaders of this 
party have not, nor never had, the real interest of Pennsyl- 
vania in view; they have clearly shown that their attachments 
to the Constitution were from its elasticity — they have turned 
it, and twisted it, as their interest and party views required, 
into a thousand shapes; and all under the mask of supporting 
it, have created offices, officers, and place-men to strengthen 
their party. They have, under a funding bill, loaded the 
State with debts she never contracted, debts of the neighbor- 
ing states, in order to enrich a few individuals in Philadel- 
phia. In short, their conduct has been such as show the 
only spark of patriotism they have is the bare name; I would 
advise the leaders of this party to take care how they con- 
duct themselves in future, to offer no more injuries — they are 
well known. The people of Pennsylvania are an easy, good 
people; but they are a spirited people. I^et those enemies to 
the State and to the United States recollect how Doctor 
Kearsley was treated in 1775, for his abuses of the people. 
They may probably share the same fate he did. 

The Federal constitution no doubt will put an end to all 

Some Benefits of Federal Government. 137 

parties, if it is adopted, as it clearly will. Offices and officers 
will not be so numerous, nor offices so valuable, as to make it 
the interest of the people to neglect their business in pursuit of 
them. The large sums of money paid to a set of supernumer- 
ary officers and members of Assembly and Executive Council, 
will serve to pay our foreign and domestic debts. Our credit 
at home and abroad will revive; our treasury will be enabled 
to pay the real creditor, and the Federal treasury, by imposts 
and indirect taxation, which will not be felt by the people, 
will be enabled to answer all demands that may be upon it. 
British gold could not have done more injury to Pennsylvania 
than a few party men in Philadelphia have done, under the 
mask of friends to the Constitution and friends to the peo- 
ple. The grievance is great, and must be redressed. The 
only cure for it is to lay hold of the heads of the faction, do 
justice to yourselves, inflict the punishment on their persons 
equal to their demerits, which, by the bye, will not be a small 
one, and you will soon settle and cure the disease, and after- 
wards be a happy people. A Mechanic. * 

To the Printer of the Independeiit Gazetteer. 

Sir: When we had the honor of addressing you, a few 
days since, we hoped our caution to the modern Tories, alias 
Anti-Federalists, might not be amiss. It has, however, 
attracted the notice of your correspondent, "Fair Play," 
who observes that "we never made a convert, either in relig- 
ion or politics." Well, sir, it is granted. We would ask 
this gentleman, whether the sword, either of war or of justice, 
has ever made proselytes to any opinion ? Certainly not in a 
greater degree than we have. Yet it is often found expedient 
to use these means (in punishing those on whom remon- 
strance and reason were thrown away) for the same purpose 
that Jehovah sent the deluge in Noah's days. Laughable 
indeed would it be, to suppose that no villain, however dig- 
nified among villains, ought to be punished, but with a view 
to reclaim hi7n ; there is a point of more consequence to be 
considered, and that is to expel from society a monster who is 
unfit to associate with men, and thereby to deter others from 

*Independent Gazetteer, Oci. 2, 17S7. 

138 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

treading in his steps. That we have frequently, during the 
Revolution, terrified the Tories^ or Antifederalists of those 
times, into a moderate line of conduct, is well known. True, 
indeed, we did not make many converts to Whiggism 
(although we have often decorated the backs of those gentry); 
neither did the sword. 

If you trace our history, sir, you will find that we have been 
faithful allies to America, throughout the late war ; but were 
never well relished by the Tories, and a few sham, or luke- 
warm Whigs. Should our country again demand our aid, we 
shall cheerfully obey the summons. At the same time permit 
us to declare, that we will never attack any real friend to 
America, however different his sentiments may be from the 
throng; nor will we ever assist in shackling the liberty of the 
press, but on the contrary, will exert ourselves to the last, in 
defence of that most invaluable privilege of freemen. 

When, on Friday last, eighteen or nineteen human asses, 
who are a disgrace to Pennsylvania, basely deserted the trust 
reposed in them, by an unwarrantable revolt from the assem- 
bly, we confess candidly that nothing could have given us 
more pleasure than to have been employed in chastising these 
disciples of Shays, wretches who were not influenced in their 
defection by the laudable motives which actuated the citizens 
of Rome, when they revolted, and were appeased by the in- 
stitution of those popular magistrates, styled tribunes; nor by 
that patriotic spirit, which prompted the illustrious English 
Barons to extort "Magna Charta" from their tyrannical King 
John. No, sir, those tools of sedition, whose ignorance is still 
greater than their obstinacy, evidently copied after those 
despicable incendiaries, Jack Straw and Wat Tyler, in en- 
deavoring to introduce anarchy into these States, that they 
might be an easy prey to their lord and master, Daniel Shays. 
Against such traitors to their delegated trust, we would will- 
ingly be engaged. 

To conclude, we cannot help lamenting the monstrous in- 
gratitude of the Americans in neglecting many of the best 
friends of the revolution, and among the rest, their faithful 
allies. Tar and Feathers.* 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 2, 1787. 

''''Tar and Feathers''^ Rebuked. I39 

To the Printer of the Independent Gazetteer. 

Sir: Your correspondent, who has assumed the signature 
of "Tar and Feathers," seems to allow that his mode of ad- 
ministering justice never made a convert, yet persists in his 
diabolical plan of endeavoring to inflame the minds of the 
people against those who happen to differ from him on politi- 
cal subjects. Perhaps, like the fox who lost his tail and strove 
to persuade the rest of his species to have theirs cut off also, 
he himself has undergone the disciplme he is now so anxious 
to bestow on others. I wonder whether this gentleman 
(though I much doubt he has any claim to the epithet) ever 
had the honor of bearing either "the sword of war or of jus- 
tice. ' ' One would be apt to conclude he never had ; otherwise, 
he could not be so destitute of those excellent qualifications 
which constitute the character of a good soldier and an im- 
partial judge. Generous minds will ever rouse with indigna- 
tion against such monsters as wish to interrupt the peace of 
society by flying in the face of all law and authority; and I 
must confess the new constitution comes in a very "question- 
able shape," when attended with such furious advocates as 
"Tar and Feathers." Brave men and good citizens will 
never associate with the most abandoned of the humam 
species, for such we must deem those creatures who contend 
for mob govetnments, to abuse an individual because he enter- 
tains a different opinion from themselves, or because he has 
firmness and honesty enough to show his own sentiments. 
None but the mere echoes and tools of party and faction would 
engage in such dirty business. 

It is a fact, I believe, that will not be denied, that many of 
those who arrange themselves under the banner of those who 
call themselves Federalists^ were either downright Tories^ 
lukewarm IVhigs^ or disaffected to the cause of America and 
the revolution, and who now eagerly wish to seize the present 
opportunity to gratify their revenge and to retaliate on the 
real Whigs of 1775 and 1776. And I am more inclined to 
espouse this opinion, because the author of "Tar and Feath- 
ers" aims to destroy the distinction of Whig and Tory, and 
to establish one more odious, viz. : Federalists and Anti- 

^o Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

The new friends to the tarring and feathering system seem 
to direct their resentment against the Tories. ^''Laughable 
indeed would it be to suppose'''' that they had not well exam- 
ined and sought for 2. few of that class of beings among their 
own party to begin with. Look at home first, Mr. Tar and 
Feathers., and try to work a reformation there before you 
begin to deal damnation abroad. There invoke the Great 
Jehovah to forgive thy past crimes and follies; and presume 
no more, thou blasphemous wretch, to compare your infamous 
doctrine of expedients with the purpose of that Deity, "who 
sent the deluge in the days of Noah. ' ' 

I shall conclude for the present, Mr. Oswald, with observing 
that I consider this demon of discord as some cowardly 'V?7- 
/«/;^," '''' however dignified among villains'''' — some ferocious 
monster, whose nerves do not admit of his heading a tarring 
and feathering mob., but who, at the same time, would rejoice 
to see anarchy and confusion prevailing and triumphing over 
peace and good order among the citizens of Philadelphia. 

Fair Play.* 

We are authorized to declare that the two first pieces pub- 
lished in our paper, signed Tar and Feathers., were received 
from a different quarter from the two last under the same sig- 
nature; and that therefore no part of the reply by Fair Play 
was intended for the author of the two first. He only meant 
in general to reprobate the idea of raising a commotion 
among the citizens, f 

A correspondent informs us that a letter has lately been 
written to the Stadtholder of Holland, inviting him to come 
over to America, where there is shortly to be a vacancy. It 
is to be hoped that, as he is so ill-treated by his own country- 
men, he will be induced to accept the invitation. 

Another correspondent observes that although the tide 
seems to run so high at present in favor of the new constitu- 
tion, there is no doubt but the people will soon change their 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 4, 1787. 
i Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 6, 17S7. 

A7t Antifederal View of "'The Blessings.'''' 141 

minds when they have had time to examine it with coolness 
and impartiality. 

Among the blessings of the new proposed government, our 
correspondent enumerates the following: i. The liberty of 
the press abolished. 2. A standing army. 3. A Prussian 
militia. 4. No annual elections. 5. Five-fold taxes. 6. No 
trial by jury in civil cases. 7. General search warrants. 8. 
Excise laws, custom-house officers, tide and land waiters, 
cellar rats, etc. 9. A free importation of negroes for one 
and twenty years. 10. Appeals to the supreme continental 
courts, where the rich may drag the poor from the further- 
most parts of the continent. 11. Elections for Pennsylvania 
held at Pittsburg, or perhaps Wyoming. 12. Poll taxes for 
our heads, if we choose to wear them. 13. And death if we 
dare to complain. 

A correspondent who sees with horror the low ribaldry 
which is daily published against Messrs. Whitehill^ Findley 
and other virtuous characters, cannot but lament the blind- 
ness of those who smile at such wretched productions. Let 
us suppose for a moment that the scene is reverted and that 
a piece is published in which Robert Morris is styled a ras- 
cal, Thomas Fitzsimons a scoundrel, George Clymer a vain 
fool, etc., a cry oi scandahcm ^nagnattim will immediately be 
raised — the people will take the part of the well-borii., not 
from respect or love for their virtues^ but from reverence for 
their Wealth. O altitudo divitiarum ! 

A correspondent with pleasure informs the public that 
John Franklin.^ of Luzeriie county.^ a refractory member of 
our late Assembly, was taken a few days ago by a few of the 
old continental officers, and is now safely lodged with Cap- 
tain Reynolds in the gaol of this city, where he is to remain 
without bail or main-prize, until he is impeached with the 
infamous nineteen members who had the audacity to attempt 
the breaking up of the late House of Assembly at the close of 
the last session, after wasting ^^1067 los. of the public's 
money, without finishing any part of the business the House 
had been sitting upon. * 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 6, 1787. 

142 Before the Meeting of the Conveiition. 

Mr. Oswald: I have put on my spectacles and read with at- 
tention the proposed federal constitution, and find that the 
right of citizenship, if it is adopted, will meet with a very 
material change in one clause in the tenth section, "No 
person except a natural born citizen of the United States, at 
the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall be eligible 
to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible 
to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty- 
five years and been fourteen years a resident within the 
United States." Now, I would only ask if this is not very 
improper? The Americans ought not to be governors, they 
ought to be governed — let them cultivate the soil, and Eu- 
ropeans govern. What American in the United States is 
capable of governing or being President? O! it is a horrid 
constitution! Methinks the whole of it is da77iJiable. What 
do you think, Mr. Oswald? A Gaul.* 

According to advertisement, a very great concourse of peo- 
ple attended at the state-house on Saturday evening, to fix 
on a ticket of representatives for the ensuing General Assem- 

Mr. Nixon was chosen chairman and Mr. Tench Coxe sec- 
retary of the meeting. 

Mr. Jackson having spoken, Mr. Gurney reported from a 
committee that had been previously appointed, the following 
names, which were separately offered to the consideration of 
the citizens and approved of, viz. : William Will, Thomas 
Fitzsimons, George Clymer, Jacob Hiltzheimer, William 

On motion of Mr. Donaldson, the citizens of the respective 
wards were requested to meet on Monday evening to appoint 
proper persons for making out and circulating a sufficient 
number of tickets in favor of the above persons. 

Mr. Wilson then rose and delivered a long and eloquent 
speech upon the principles of the federal constitution as pro- 
posed by the late convention. The outlines of this speech 
we shall endeavor to lay before the public, as tending to re- 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 9, 1787. 

IVi/soii' s Stale House Speech. 143 

fleet great light upon the interesting subject now in general 

Mr. Chatj-rnan and Fellow Citizens : Having received the 
honor of an appointment to represent you in the late conven- 
tion, it is perhaps my duty to comply with the request of 
many gentlemen whose characters and judgments I sincerely 
respect, and who have urged that this would be a proper oc- 
casion to lay before you any information which will serve to 
explain and elucidate the principles and arrangements of the 
constitution that has been submitted to the consideration of 
the United States. I confess that I am unprepared for so 
extensive and so important a disquisition; but the insidious 
attempts which are clandestinely and industriously made to 
pervert and destroy the new plan, induce me the more readily 
to engage in its defence; and the impressions of four months' 
constant attention to the subject, have not been so easily 
effaced as to leave me without an answer to the objections 
which have been raised. 

It will be proper, however, before I enter into the refutation 
of the charges that are alleged, to mark the leading discrim- 
ination between the State constitutions and the constitution 
of the United States. When the people established the powers 
of legislation under their separate governments, they invested 
their representatives with every right and authority which 
they did not in explicit terms reserve; and therefore upon 
every question respecting the jurisdiction of the House of 
Assembly, if the frame of government is silent, the jurisdic- 
tion is efficient and complete. But in delegating federal 
powers, another criterion was necessarily introduced, and the 
congressional power is to be collected, not from tacit implica- 
tion, but from the positive grant expressed in the instrument 
of the union. Hence, it is evident, that in the former case 
everything which is not reserved is given; but in the latter 
the reverse of the proposition prevails, and everything which 
is not given is reserved. 

This distinction being recognized, will furnish an answer 
to those who think the omission of a bill of rights a defect 
in the proposed constitution; for it would have been super- 

144 Before the Aleetmg of the Convention. 

fluous and absurd to have stipulated with a federal body 
of our own creation, that we should enjoy those privileges 
of which we are not divested, either by the intention or 
the act that has brought the body into existence. For 
instance, the liberty of the press, which has been a copious 
source of declamation and opposition — what control can pro- 
ceed from the Federal government to shackle or destroy that 
sacred palladium of national freedom ? If, indeed, a power 
similar to that which has been granted for the regulation of 
commerce had been granted to regulate literary publications, 
it would have been as necessary to stipulate that the liberty 
of the press should be preserved inviolate, as that the impost 
should be general in its operation. With respect like- 
wise to the particular destrict of ten miles, which is to be 
made the seat of federal government, it will undoubtedly be 
proper to observe this salutary precaution, as there the legis- 
tive power will be exclusively lodged in the President, 
Senate, and House of Representatives of the United States. 
But this could not be an object with the Convention, for it 
must naturally depend upon a future compact, to which the 
citizens immediately interested will, and ought to be, parties; 
and there is no reason to suspect that so popular a privilege 
will in that case be neglected. In truth, then, the proposed 
system possesses no influence whatever upon the press, and it 
would have been merely nugatory to have introduced a 
formal declaration upon the subject — nay, that very declara- 
tion might have been construed to imply that some degree of 
power was given, since we undertook to define its extent. 

Another objection that has been fabricated against the new 
constitution, is expressed in this disingenious form — "The 
trial by jury is abolished in civil cases." I must be excused, 
my fellow citizens, if upon this point I take advantage of my 
professional experience to detect the futility of the assertion. 
Let it be remembered then, that the business of the Federal 
Convention was not local, but general — not limited to the 
views and establishments of a single State, but co-extensive 
with the continent, and comprehending the views and estab- 
lishments of thirteen independent sovereignities. When, 

Wilson on Jury Trial. 145 

therefore, this subject was in discussion, we were involved in 
difficulties which pressed on all sides, and no precedent could 
be discovered to direct our course. The cases open to a trial 
by jury differed in the different States. It was therefore im 
practicable, on that ground, to have made a general rule 
The want of uniformity would have rendered any reference 
to the practice of the States idle and useless; and it could 
not with any propriety be said that, "The trial by jury shall 
be as heretofore," since there has never existed any federal 
system of jurisprudence, to which the declaration could 
relate. Besides, it is not in all cases that the trial by jury is 
adopted in civil questions; for cases depending in courts of 
admiralty, such as relate to maritime captures, and such as 
are agitated in courts of equity, do not require the interven- 
tion of that tribunal. How, then was the line of discrimina- 
tion to be drawn ? The Convention found the task too diffi- 
cult for them, and they left the business as it stands, in the 
fullest confidence that no danger could possibly ensue, since 
the proceedings of the Supreme Court are to be regulated 
by the Congress, which is a faithful representation of the 
people; and the oppression of government is effectually 
barred, by delaring that in all criminal cases the trial by jury 
shall be preserved. 

This constitution, it has been further urged, is of a perni- 
cious tendency, because it tolerates a standing army in the 
time of peace. This has always been a topic of popular 
declamation; and yet I do not know a nation in the world 
which has not found it necessary and useful to maintain the 
appearance of strength in a season of the most profound 
tranquility. Nor is it a novelty with us; for under the pres- 
ent articles of confederation, Congress certainly possesses 
this reprobated power, and the exercise of that power is 
proved at this moment by her cantonments along the banks 
of the Ohio. But what would be our national situation were 
it otherwise? Every principle of policy must be subverted, 
and the government must declare war, before they are pre- 
pared to carry it on. Whatever may be the provocation, 
however important the object in view, and however necessary 

146 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

dispatch and secrecy may be, still the declaration mnst pre- 
cede the preparation, and the enemy will be informed of your 
intention, not only before you are equipped for an attack, 
but even before you are fortified for a defence. The conse- 
quence is too obvious to require any further delineation, and 
no man who regards the dignity and safety of his country can 
deny the necessity of a military force, under the control and 
with the restrictions which the new constitution provides. 

Perhaps there never was a charge made with less reasons 
than that which predicts the institution of a baneful aristoc- 
racy in the federal Senate. This body branches into two 
characters, the one legislative and the other executive. In 
its legislative character it can effect no purpose, without the 
co-operation of the House of Representatives, and in its 
executive character it can accomplish no object without the 
concurrence of the President. Thus fettered, I do not know 
any act which the Senate can of itself perform, and such 
dependence necessarily precludes every idea of influence and 
superiority. But I will confess that in the organization of 
this body a compromise between contending interests is 
descernible; and when we reflect how various are the laws, 
commerce, habits, population and extent of the confederated 
States, this evidence of mutual concession and accommoda- 
tion ought rather to command a generous applause, than to 
excite jealousy and reproach. For my part, my admiration 
can only be equalled by my astonishment in beholding so 
perfect a system formed from such heterogeneous materials. 

The next accusation I shall consider is that which repre- 
sents the federal constitution, as not only calculated, but 
designedly framed, to reduce the State governments to mere 
corporations, and eventually to annihilate them. Those who 
have employed the term corporation upon this occasion are 
not perhaps aware of its extent. In common parlance, 
indeed, it is generally applied to petty associations for the 
ease and convenience of a few individuals; but in its enlarged 
sense, it will comprehend the government of Pennsylvania, 
the existing union of the States, and even this projected 
system is nothing more than a formal act of incorporation. 

Wilson on ''State Rights.''' 147 

But upon what pretence can it be alleged that it was designed 
to annihilate the State governments ? For I will undertake 
to prove that upon their existence depends the existence of 
the Federal plan. For this purpose, permit me to call your 
attention to the manner in which the President, Senate and 
House of Representatives are proposed to be appointed. The 
President is to be chosen by electors, nominated in such 
manner as the legislature of each State may direct; so that if 
there is no legislature there can be no electors, and conse- 
quently the office of President cannot be supplied. 

The Senate is to be composed of two Senators from each 
State, chosen by the Legislature; and, therefore, if there is 
no Legislature, there can be no Senate. The House of Repre- 
sentatives is to be composed of members chosen every second 
year by the people of the several States, and the electors in 
each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors 
of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature; un- 
less, therefore, there is a State Legislature, that qualification 
cannot be ascertained, and the popular branch of the federal 
constitution must be extinct. From this view, then, it is 
evidently absurd to suppose that the annihilation of the 
seperate governments will result from their union; or, that 
having that intention, the authors of the new system would 
have bound their connection with such indissoluble ties. Let 
me here advert to an arrangement highly advantageous, for 
you will perceive, without prejudice to the powers of the 
Legislature in the election of Senators, the people at large 
will acquire an additional privilege in returning members to 
the House of Representatives; whereas, by the present con- 
federation, it is the Legislature alone that appoints the dele- 
gates to Congress. 

The power of direct taxation has likewise been treated 
as an improper delegation to the federal government; but 
when we consider it as the duty of that body to provide for 
the national safety, to support the dignity of the union, and 
to discharge the debts contracted upon the collected faith of 
the States for their common benefit, it must be acknowledged 
that those upon whom such important obligations are im- 

148 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

posed, ought in justice and in policy to possess every means 
requisite for a faithful performance of their trust. But why 
should we be alarmed with visionary evils? I will venture 
to predict that the great revenue of the United States must, 
and always will, be raised by impost, for, being at once less 
obnoxious and more productive, the interest of the govern- 
ment will be best promoted by the accommodation of the 
people. Still, however, the objects of direct taxation should 
be within reach in all cases of emergency; and there is no 
more reason to apprehend oppression in the mode of collect- 
ing a revenue from this resource, than in the form of an 
impost, which, by universal assent, is left to the authority of 
the federal government. In either case, the force of civil 
institutions will be adequate to the purpose; and the dread 
of military violence, which has been assiduously disseminated, 
must eventually prove the mere effusion of a wild imagina- 
tion or a factious spirit. But the salutary consequences that 
must flow from thus enabling the government to receive and 
support the credit of the union, will afford another answer to 
the objections upon this ground. The State of Pennsylvania 
particularly, which has encumbered itself with the assump- 
tion of a great proportion of the public debt, will derive con- 
siderable relief and advantage; for, as it was the imbecility 
of the present confederation which gave rise to the funding 
law, that law must naturally expire, when a competent and 
energetic federal system shall be substituted — the State will 
then be discharged from an extraordinary burthen, and the 
national creditor will find it to be his interest to return to his 
original security. 

After all, my fellow-citizens, it is neither extraordinary or 
unexpected that the constitution offered to your consideration 
should meet with opposition. It is the nature of man to pur- 
sue his own interest in preference to the public good, and I 
do not mean to make any personal reflection when I add 
that it is the interest of a very numerous, powerful and re- 
spectable body to counteract and destroy the excellent work 
produced by the late convention. All the officers of govern- 
,ment and all the appointments for the administration of jus- 

RusK s State House Speech. 149 

tice and the collection of the public revenue, which are 
transferred from the individual to the aggregate sovereignty 
of the States, will necessarily turn the stream of influence 
and emolument into a new channel. Every person, there- 
fore, who enjoys or expects to enjoy a place of profit under 
the present establishment, will object to the proposed innova- 
tion; not, in truth, because it is injurious to the liberties of 
his country, but because it affects his schemes of wealth and 
consequence. I will confess, indeed, that I am not a blind 
admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some 
parts of it which, if my wish had prevailed, would certainly 
have been altered. But, when I reflect how widely men dif- 
fer in their opinions, and that every man (and the observation 
applies likewise to every State) has an equal pretension to 
assert his own, I am satisfied that anything nearer to perfec- 
tion could not have been accomplished. If there are errors, 
it should be remembered that the seeds of reformation are 
sown in the work itself, and the concurrence of two-thirds of 
the Congress may at any time introduce alterations and 
amendments. Regarding it, then, in every point of view, 
with a candid and disinterested mind, I am bold to assert 
that it is the best form of government which has ever been 
offered to the world. 

Mr. Wilson's speech was frequently interrupted with loud 
and unanimous testimonies of approbation, and the applause 
which was reiterated at the conclusion evinced the general 
sense of its excellence, and the conviction which it had im- 
pressed upon every mind. 

Dr. Rush then addressed the meeting in an elegant and 
pathetic style, describing our present calamitous situation, 
and enumerating the advantages which would flow ft om the 
adoption of the new system of federal government. The ad- 
vancement of commerce, agriculture, manufactures, arts and 
sciences, the encouragement of emigration, the abolition of 
paper money, the annihilation of party, and the prevention 
of war, were ingeniously considered as the necessary conse- 
quences of that event. The doctor concluded with an em- 
phatic declaration — "Were this the last moment of his exist- 

150 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

ence, his dying request and injunction to his fellow citizens 
Vv^ould be, to accept and support the offered constitution." 

Mr. Gurney moved that a committee be appointed to write 
and publish answers, under the authority of their names, to 
the anonymous pieces against the federal constitution. But 
Mr. Donaldson observing that it would be improper to ex- 
pose any particular gentleman to a personal attack, Col. 
Gurney's motion was withdrawn. 

The thanks of the meeting being presented to the chairman, 
the business of the evening was closed.* 

Messers. Printers — Please to republish the following, and 
oblige "A Constant Reader:" 

The arguments of the Honorable Mr. Wilson, expressed in 
the speech that he made at the State House on the Saturday 
preceding the general election, although extremely ingenioits^ 
and the best that could be adduced in support of so bad a 
cause, are yet extremely yz////^, and will not stand the test of 

In the first place, Mr. Wilson pretends to point out a lead- 
ing discrimination between the State constitution and the 
constitution of the United States. In the former, he says, 
every power which is not reserved is given^ and in the latter, 
every power which is not given is reserved. And this may 
furnish an answer, he adds, to those who object that a bill of 
rights has not been introduced in the proposed federal consti- 
tution. If this doctrine is true, and since it is the only- 
security that we are to have for our natural rights, it ought at 
least to have been clearly expressed in the plan of govern- 
ment. The second section of the present articles of con- 
federation says: Each State retains its sovereignty.^ freedom 
and ijidependejice., and every power., jurisdiction and right 
which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the 
United States in Congress assembled. This declaration (for 
what purpose I know not) is entirely omitted in the proposed 
constitution. And yet there is a material difference between 
this constitution and the present confederation, for Congress 

* Pennsylvania Packet, Oct. 10, 1787. 

Liberty of the Press Destroyed, 151 

in the latter are merely an executive body; it has no power 
to raise money, it has no judicial jurisdiction. In the other, 
on the contrary, the federal rulers are vested with each of the 
three essential powers of government — their laws are to be 
paramount to the laws of the different States: what then will 
there be to oppose to their encroachments? Should they ever 
pretend to tyrannize over the people, their standing army 
will silence every popular effort; it will be theirs to explain 
the powers which have been granted to them; Mr. Wilson's 
distinction will be forgot, denied or explained away, and the 
liberty of the people will be no more. 

It is said in the second section of the third article of the 
federal plan: "The judicial power shall extend to all cases in 
law and equity arising under this constitution. " It is very 
clear that under this clause, the tribunal of the United States 
may claim a right to the cognizance of all offences against the 
general government, and libels will not probably be ex- 
cluded. Nay, those offences may be by them construed, or 
by law declared, misprision of treason, an offence which 
comes literally under their express jurisdiction. Where is 
then the safety of our boasted liberty of the press ? And in 
case of a conflict of jurisdiction between the courts of the 
United States, and those of the several commonwealths, is 
it not easy to foresee which of the two will obtain the ad- 
vantage ? 

Under the enormous power of the new confederation, which 
extends to the individuals as well as to the States of America, 
a thousand means may be devised to destroy effectually the 
liberty of the press. There is no knowing what corrupt and 
wicked judges may do in process of time, when they are not 
restrained by express laws. The case of John Peter Zenger, 
of New York, ought still to be present to our minds, to con- 
vince us how displeasing the liberty of the press is to men in 
high power. At any rate, I lay it down as a general rule, 
that wherever the powers of a government extend to the lives, 
the persons and properties of the subject, all of their rights 
ought to be clearly and expressly defined; otherwise, they 
have but a poor security for their liberties. 

152 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

The second and most important objection to the federal 
plan, which Mr. Wilson pretends to be made in a disingenu- 
ons form, is the entire abolition of the trial by jury in civil 
cases. It seems to me that Mr. Wilson's pretended answer is 
much more disingenuous than the objection itself, which I 
maintain to be strictly founded in fact. He says, "that the 
cases open to trial by jury differing in the different States, it 
was therefore impracticable to have made a general rule." 
This answer is extremely futile, because a reference might 
easily have been made to the common law of England, which 
obtains through every State, and cases in the maritime and 
civil law courts would, of course, be excepted. I must also 
directly contradict Mr. Wilson when he asserts that there is 
no trial by jury in the courts of chancery. It cannot be un- 
known to a man of his high professional learning, that when- 
ever a difference arises about a matter of fact in the courts of 
equity in America or England, the fact is sent down to the 
courts of common law to be tried by a jury, and it is what the 
lawyers call a feigned issue. This method will be impracti- 
cable under the proposed form of judicial jurisdiction for the 
United States. 

But setting aside the equivocal answers of Mr. Wilson, I 
have it in my power to prove that under the proposed federal 
constitution, the trial of facts in civil cases by a jnry of the 
vicinage i?, entirely and effectually abolished, and will be ab- 
solutely impracticable. I wish the learned gentleman had 
explained to us what is meant by the appellate jurisdiction as 
to law and fact which is vested in the superior court of the 
United States ? As he has not thought proper to do it, I shall 
endeavor to explain it to my fellow citizens, regretting at the 
same time that it has not been done by a man whose abilities 
are so much superior to mine. The word appeal^ if I under- 
stand it right, in its proper legal signification includes the fact 
as well as the law, and precludes every idea of a trial by jury. 
It is a word of foreign growth, and is only known in England 
and America in those courts which are governed by the civil 
or ecclesiastical law of the Romans. Those courts have always 
been considered in England as a grievance, and have all been 

Trial by Jury Abolished. 153 

established by the usurpations of the eclesiastical over the 
civil power. It is well known that the courts of chancery in 
England were formerly entirely in the hands of ecclesiastics, 
who took advantage of the strict forms of the common law, 
to introduce a foreign mode of jurisprudence under the 
specious name of equity. Pennsylvania, the freest of the 
American States, has wisely rejected this establishment, and 
knows not even the name of a court of chancery. And, in 
fact, there cannot be anything more absurd than a distinction 
between law and equity. It might perhaps have suited those 
barbarous times when the law of England, like almost every 
other science, was perplexed with quibbles and Aristotelian 
distinctions, but it would be shameful to keep up in these 
more enlightened days. At any rate, it seems to me that 
there is much more equity in a trial by jury than in an ap- 
pellate jurisdiction from the fact. 

An appeal, therefore, is a thing unknown to the common 
law. Instead of an appeal from facts, it admits of a second 
or even third trial by different juries, and mistakes in points 
of law are rectified by superior courts in the form of a writ of 
error; and to a mere common lawyer, unskilled in the forms 
of the civil law courts, the words appeal from law and fact 
are mere nonsense and unintelligible absurdity. 

But, even supposing that the superior court of the United 
States had the authority to try facts by juries of the vicinage, 
it would be impossible for them to carry it into execution. 
It is well known that the supreme courts of the different 
States, at stated times in every year, go round the different 
counties of their respective States to try issues of fact, which 
is called riding the circuits. Now, how is it possible that 
the supreme continental court, which we will suppose to con- 
sist at most of five or six judges, can travel at least twice in 
every year through the different counties of America, from 
New Hampshire to Kentucky and from Kentucky to Georgia, 
to try facts by juries of the vicinage? Common sense will 
not admit of such a supposition. I am therefore right in my 
assertion, that trial by jury in civil cases is by the proposed 
constitution enlirely done away and effectually abolished. 

154 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

Let us now attend to the consequences of this enormous 
innovation and daring encroachment on the liberties of the 
citizens. Setting aside the oppression, injustice and partial- 
ity that may take place in the trial of questions of property 
between man and man, we will attend to one single case, 
which is well worth our consideration. Let us remember 
that all cases arising under the new constitution and all mat- 
ters between citizens of different States are to be submitted to 
the new jurisdiction. Suppose, therefore, that the military 
officers of Congress, by a wanton abuse of power, imprison the 
free citizens of the United States of America; suppose the ex- 
cise or revenue officers (as we find in Clayton's Reports, page 
44, Ward's case) — that a constable, having a warrant to search 
for stolen goods, pulled down the clothes of a bed in which 
there was a woman and searched under her shift — suppose, I 
say, that they commit similar or greater indignities, in such 
cases a trial by jury would be our safest resource, heavy dam- 
age would at once punish the offender and deter others from 
committing the same; but what satisfaction can we expect 
from a lordly court of justice, always ready to protect the offi- 
cers of government against the weak and helpless citizens, 
and who will perhaps sit at the distance of many hundred 
miles from the place where the outrage was committed ? 
What refuge shall we then have to shelter us from the iron 
hand of arbitrary power? O! my fellow-citizens, think of 
this while it is yet time, and never consent to part with the 
glorious privilege of trial by jury but with your lives. 

But Mr. Wilson has not stopped here. He has told us that 
a standing army, that great support of tyrants, not only was 
not dangerous, but was absolutely necessary. O, my much 
respected fellow citizens ! and are you then reduced to such a 
degree of insensibility, that assertions like these will not 
rouse your wannest resentment and indignation ? Are we 
then, after the experience of past ages, and the result of the 
enquiries of the best and most celebrated patriots have taught 
us to dread a standing army above all earthly evils — are we 
then to go over all the threadbare, common-place arguments 
that have been used without success by the advocates of 

Standing Ainny. 155 

tyranny, and which have been for a long time past so glori- 
ously refuted? Read the excellent Burgh in his political 
disquisitions on this hackneyed subject, and then say 
whether you think that a standing army is necessary in a 
free country. Even Mr. Hume, an aristocratical writer, has 
candidly confessed that an army is a moral distemper in a 
government^ of which it mzist at last inevitably perish (2d 
Burgh, 349), and the Earl of Oxford (Oxford the friend of 
France and the Pretender, the attainted Oxford), said in the 
British parliament, in a speech on the mutiny bill, that, 
" While he had breath he would speak for the liberties of his 
country, and against courts martial and a standing army in 
peace, as dangerous to the Constitution." (Ibid., page 455.) 
Such were the speeches even of the enemies of liberty when 
Britain had yet a right to be called free. But, says Mr. 
Wilson, "It is necessary to maintain the appearance of 
strength even in times of the most profound tranquillity." 
And what is this more than a thread-bare hackneyed argu- 
ment, which has been answered over and over in different 
ages, and does not deserve even the smallest consideration ? 
Had we a standing army when the British invaded our peace- 
ful shores ? Was it a standing array that gained the battles 
of Lexington and Bunker Hill, and took the ill-fated Bur- 
goyne ? Is not a well-regulated militia sufficient for every 
purpose of internal defence ? And which of you, my fellow 
citizens, is afraid of any invasion from foreign powers that 
our brave malitia would not be able immediately to repel ? 

Mr. Wilson says, that he does not know of any nation in 
the world which has not found it necessary to maintain the 
appearance of strength in a season of the most profound tran- 
quillity. If by this equivocal assertion he has meant to say that 
there is no nation in the world without a standiiig army in 
time ofpeace^ he has been mistaken. I need only adduce the 
example of Switzerland, which, like us, is a republic, whose 
thirteen cantons, like our thirteen States, are under a federal 
government, and which besides is surrounded by the most 
powerful nations in Europe, all jealous of its liberty and 
prosperity. And yet that nation has preserved its freedom 

156 Before the Meeting of the Conventiojt. 

for many ages, with the sole help of a militia, and has never 
been known to have a standing army, except when in actual 
war. Why should we not follow so glorious example, and 
are we less able to defend our liberty without an army, than 
that brave but small nation, which, with its militia alone has 
hitherto defied all Europe? 

It is said likewise, that a standing army is not a new thing 
in America — Congress even at this moment have a standing 
army on foot. I answer that precedent is not principle. Con- 
gress have no right to keep up a standing army in time of 
peace. If they do, it is an infringement of the liberties of 
the people — wrong can never be justified by wrong: but it is 
well known that the assertion is groundless — the few troops 
that are on the banks of the Ohio, were sent for the express 
purpose of repelling the invasion of the savages and protect- 
ing the inhabitants of the frontiers. It is our misfortune that 
we are never at peace with those inhuman butchers of their 
species, and while they remain in our neighborhood, we are 
always, with respect to them, in a state of war — as soon as 
the danger is over, there is no doubt but Congress will dis- 
band their handful of soldiers; it is therefore not true that 
Congress keep up a standing army in a time of peace and pro- 
found security. 

The objection to the enormous powers of the President and 
Senate is not the least important of all, but it requires a full 
discussion and ample investigation. I shall take another op- 
portunity of laying before the public my observations upon 
this subject, as well as upon every other part of the new con- 
stitution. At present I shall only observe that it is an estab- 
lished principle in America, which pervades every one of our 
State constitutions, that the legislative and executive powers 
ought to be kept forever separate and distinct from each other; 
and yet in this new constitution we find there are two execu- 
tive branches, each of which has more or less control over the 
proceedings of the LrCgislature. This is an innovation of the 
most dangerous kind upon every known principle of govern- 
ment, and it will be easy for me to convince my fellow citizens 
that it will, in the first place, create a Venetian aristocracy, 
and, in the end, produce an absolute monarchy. 

Replies to ^'Centineiy 157 

Thus I "have endeavored to answer to the best of my 
abilities the principal arguments of Mr. Wilson. I have writ- 
ten this in haste, in a short interval of leisure from my usual 
avocations. I have only traced the outlines of the subject, 
and I hope some abler hand will second my honest endeavors. 
A Democratic Federalist.* 

From a Correspondent. — A medical gentleman speaking to 
one of his frinds about the piece signed Centinel^ asked him 
if he had seen the couching needle. It seems that that gen- 
tleman is justly apprehensive that many citizens are afflicted 
with the cataract, and that this excellent piece will be of 
great use to remove the inspissation of the crystalline humor 
of their eyes. (Johnson.) 

Those who say that the petition presented to the Legisla- 
ture, praying them to call a convention to adopt the new 
federal plan, assert what is not strictly true. There were not 
above 3,000 signatures from the whole city and Liberties, 
and it is well known that the city alone contains 5,000 taxa- 
bles; the districts of South wark and the Northern Liberties 
may contain about 2,000, which makes 7,000. Here then are 
4,000 who have not signed; and now deduct from the number 
of signers the minors, foreigners and old women, who have 
subscribed this famous petition, and see whether there is any 
ground for the assertion that was made in the House of 
Assembly, and echoed and re-echoed afterwards out of doors, 
and judge also whether there are no more than five persons 
opposed to this precious new plan. 

The Couching Needle, t 

For the Independent Gazetteer. 

Mr. Printer : The Centinel in your paper of last Friday, 
compliments the citizens of Philadelphia when he says, " A 
frenzy of enthusiasm has actuated them in their approbation 
of the proposed federal constution, before it was possible that 

* Pennsylvania Packet, Oct. 23, 1787. 
t Independent Gazetteer, Oct. lO, 1787. 

158 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

it could be the result of a rational investigation." This, 
however, is trivial, compared with the sequel, wherein he 
charges the worthy and very patriotic characters of whom 
the late convention was composed, with a conspiracy against 
the liberty of their country. Not even the immortal Wash- 
ington, nor the venerable Franklin, escapes his satire; but 
both of them, says this insidious enemy to his country, were 
nan compos mentis when they concurred in framing the 
new federal constitution. When he ventured to make these 
assertions against characters so very respectable, he should 
have been able to support the charge. One of his objections 
to this constitution is, that each State is to have two senators, 
and not a number proportioned to its inhabitants. Here he 
has fallen into a terrible inconsistency, not recollecting that 
such is the mode of electing members of the Supreme Execu- 
tive Council in this State, where every county appoints one, 
and only one, without any regard had to the number of tax- 
ble inhabitants in the respective counties. Yet he has gone 
so far in panegyrics upon the constitution of this State, as to 
maintain that a similar one would be the best that could be 
devised for the United States. 

Had the different members of the Convention entertained 
sentiments thus narrow, local, contracted and selfish, each 
would have proposed the constitution of his own State, and 
they would never have united in forming that incomparable 
one which is now exhibited to our view, and which, without 
partiality to any particular State, is adapted to the general 
circumstances of all. 

I am happy to find the distinction of Republican and Con- 
stitutionalist in this city has given way to the more important 
one of Federalist and Antifederalist. Such a worthy example 
will, I trust, be imitated through every part of this State. 

To conclude, sir, if some person of better abilities should 
not step forth in defence of the form of government proposed 
by the Convention, I shall hold myself bound, in duty to the 
welfare of my country, to expose upon a future occasion the 
weakness and futility of CentineV s arguments, together with 
the motives which urged him to undertake the infamous job. 

Replies to '■''Centmel.'''' 159 

I shall not, however, retort his torrents of personal invective, 
but shall take notice of the sophistry he has made use of, so 
far as it is calculated to mislead the citizens of Pennsylvania, 
or of the adjacent states. A Federalist. * 

For the Independent Gazetteer. 

Mr. Oswald: I have read without spectacles the proposed 
Federal Constitution, and I see with the most heartfelt plea- 
sure the resemblance that it bears to that of our much 
admired Sublime Porte. Your President general will greatly 
resemble in his powers the mighty Ahdul Ahmed, our 
august Sultan — the senate will be his divan — your standing 
army will come in the place of our janizaries — your judges 
unchecked by vile juries may with great propriety be styled 
cadis ; and bishop Seabury will be your mufti. Oh ! I am 
delighted with this new Constitution — is it not a charming, a 
beautiful form of government? What do you think, Aga 
Oswald? What do you say, you Christian dog? 

Allah ekber, allah illallah, Mohammed resul allah ! 

A TuRK.f 

For the Independent Gazetteer. 

Mr. Printer: The authors of a late publication in your 
paper, signed Centinel^ which has represented Doctor Frank- 
lin as a fool from age, and General Washington as a fool from 
nature, and which is replete with the grossest falsehoods and 
absurdities, have concluded their address with some lines 
from Shakespeare. The only answer that such an infamous 
libel upon distinguished merit, truth and liberty, is entitled 
to, may be taken from the works of a British poet of equal 

The Convention 

" Did but teach the age to quit their clogs, 
By the plain rules of ancient liberty : 
When lo ! a barbarous noise surrounded them — 
Of owls, and cuckows, asses, apes, and dogs." Mll,TON.t 
Montgomery County^ October 8th^ ^7^7- 

*Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 10, 1787. 
t Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 10, 1787. 

l6o Before the Meeting of the Conve^ition. 

Extract of a letter from Sussex (Delaware), September 29. 

"I must not forget to mention by way of postscript, that 
one of the newspapers of your city, some time in August last, 
by the accidental transposition of a single letter, occasioned 
an explanation that has afforded some merriment. The 
paper, instead of the words United States read Untied States. 
A farmer of my acquaintance in reading over the paper was 
at a loss what to make of the matter. "Untied States, 
Untied States, (said he) what can this mean ? certainly it 
cannot mean that our governments are dissolved." The 

same evening he carried the paper to old Mr. G , who, 

you know, keeps a school in the neighborhood, and desired 

an explanation. Mr. G , after putting on his spectacles 

to prevent a possibility of deception, examined the paragraph, 
and found what the man said to be true. " It is even as you 
say, John, (replied he) and I think it can mean nothing more 
than that the States are, or shortly will be, no longer bound 
by their old Constitutions : that is, they will be completely 
untied from them, as soon as the new Constitution comes 
abroad ! " * 

A correspondent observes that the opposers of the federal 
constitution are secretly affecting delay in order to prevent 
its adoption. In the mean time, they are moving heaven and 
earth to prejudice the public mind against it. They do not 
reason, but abuse — General Washington^ they (in effect) say, 
is a dupe, and Doctor Franklin^ an old fool — vide the Centi- 
nel. They will doubtless in their next publications, assert 
that Daniel Shays is the best patriot in the United States, 
and iX\2Xfohn Franklin should be king of Pennsylvania. 

He further observes, that as delay is the means by which 
they are contriving to carry their point, they are about 
sending deputies to find out Lycurgus, the ancient lawgiver 
of the Spartans, whose death has never been clearly ascer- 
tained. Their errand is to invite him among us, that he may 
form another federal constitution. That until Lycurgus shall 
come, it will not be proper to adopt the constitution proposed 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 11, 1787. 

Antifederal Scribblers Denounced. i6i 

by the convention, as he having lived two thousand years, 
will be able to frame a better one. They have agreed that 
when he shall come, they will renounce their offices as too 
profitable for his frugal plan of government, or will at least 
take their fees and salaries in iron, instead of gold and silver, 
pound for pound. But until Lycurgus come, they will hold 
their present offices and take their fees and salaries in gold 
and silver, as will be very convenient. 

He further asks, whether any man of common sense be- 
lieves we shall have another federal convention if the present 
plan is not adopted ? — whether the complying States can be- 
lieve Pennsylvania to be serioiis in her federal professions, if 
she rejects a plan recommended by men so experienced, able 
and upright, as the late convention, especially after so full a 
consideration of the subject ? 

He is curious to know what men will be named who are 
likely to form a better plan — and whether the nineteen seced- 
ing members, the Centinel and the Old Whig^ are to be of 
the number — lastly, if they are, whether they are prepared to 
give security to their constituents that they will not desert 
their duty and make another secession when the salvation of 
their country depends on their keeping their posts. * 

For the Indepeiident Gazetteer, 

Were it possible to suppress the honest indignation of patri- 
otism, or to stifle that resentment which arises against the 
foes of persecuted America, while we behold the boasted free- 
dom of her press prostituted to the purposes of her bitterest 
enemies — yet would the soldier, who has fought and bled by 
the side of his beloved chief (while many of these miscreants 
mingled in the opposing ranks), have cause to reproach him- 
self did he silently suffer his respected name to be thus vili- 
fied by the base agents of Europe, or the baser parricides of 
America, who (under the cloak of concern lest the liberties of 
this land should be exposed to danger from the determinations 
of a Washmgton^ a Franklin^ a Livingston^ a Rutledge, a Dick- 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 13, 1787. 

i6z Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

inson^ a Afadison^ a Morris^ a Hamilton), are allowed to act a 
part for which the laws of Athens would have consigned them 
to the gibbet. No, Mr. Printer, the honest American, who, 
in asserting the freedom of the western world, wasted his 
youth and impaired his fortune, has a right to look for protec- 
tion from the government in his old age — and he will rather 
rise in vengeance than submit to be thus abused by the 
Briton, the Gaul, the Spaniard, the Turk, or the turn-coat 
Atnerican — and whether they act in their distinct capacities 
of agents for their several countries, or are leagued with the 
detestable placemen of our own country, in opposing the es- 
tablishment of the Federal Constitution, that first production 
of political wisdom and integrity, they are alike the objects 
of a just resentment, from which neither the gold of Europe, 
nor the friendship of apostate Americans, will be able to pro- 
tect them, Dentatus.* 

Mr. Oswald: Methinks by this time you are more fully 
convinced of the justice of my remarks on the federal consti- 
tution. I am astonished that so many of the Americans were 
so stupidly ignorant of their real interest as to run headlong 
with an enthusiastic spirit or mistaken zeal, and sign peti- 
tions to the late House of Assembly praying for the calling 
of a State convention, for the adoption of so wild a system of 
government; for the Americans, as I observed before, are unfit 

to govern themselves. Jtidge B w. Dr. E g, C 

P /, J ;/, B. S b and Johnny S -j, who are the 

only men of good sense in Pennsylvania, were convinced of 
the absurdity of such a constitution the moment I discovered 
to them its design. A writer under the signature of A Turk, 
shows clearly what designing men would be at. He says: 
' ' I see with heart-felt pleasure the resemblance that it f bears 
to our much admired Sublime Porte. Your President-gen- 
eral will greatly resemble in his powers the mighty Abdul 
Ahmed, our august Sultan; the Senate will be his Divan; 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 13, 1787. 
fThe Federal Constitution. 

Antifederal Scribblers Denounced. 163 

your standing army will come in the place of our janizaries; 
your judges unchecked by vile juries," &c. Such a govern- 
ment no doubt would be pleasing to him, provided he should 
be chosen the Sultan 'of the empire. O! methinks it is daimi- 
able. I love our present government from its extensive 
liberty; as our Supreme Executive Council of this State can 
appoint me sworn interpreter of the English as well as the 
foreign languages, with a salary of ;^500 a year, to expound 
the laws to them, and let the people pledge themselves to 
each other to support and carry into execution the wholesome 
and wise laws that are made under the present constitution, 
and there needs be no new form of government in Pennsyl- 
vania. What do you think, Mr. Oswald ? A Gaul.* 

Mr. Oswald: I wish your correspondent, Dentatus^ would 
be pleased to tell us who are those bitterest enemies of America, 
who, while the American soldier fought by the side of his 
beloved chief, mingled in the opposing ranks, and who now 
are writing against the proposed federal constitution? Is it 
not a shame to have recourse to such base lies in order to 
support the cause of tyranny and aristocratic power? But, 
Mr. Oswald, to confound your toothless Dentatus and his 
compeers, I think I am well grounded to assure you that 
many of the paragraphs and pieces which have appeared in 
the newspapers in favor of the new constitution, were written 
by a person who was, during the late war, a sergeant in the 
British army in America. MoRSUS.f 

For the Independent Gazetteer. 

Mr. Oswald: It is a pretty cunning trick of the aristocrat- 
ical party to fill the papers with ludicrous pieces under the 
signatures of "Britons," "Gauls," "Spaniards," and even 
"Turks," against the proposed federal constitution, in order 
to make you believe that the opposition that is made to it 
arises chiefly from foreigners and foreign agents. But I hope 
my fellow citizens will not suffer themselves to be deceived 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 13, 1787. 
t Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 15, 1787. 

164 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

by tliis thread-bare piece of political jockeyisin. Look around 
you, Mr. Oswald, ask the British and other foreign agents 
their opinion of the new constitution, and you will find them 
all open-mouthed, bellowing forth its praises. How could it 
be otherwise, when its principles are so similiar to those of 
the constitutions of their own respective countries, which 
they have sucked with their milk? It is well known that all 
the foreign ministers at New York have declared in favor of 
this new form of government, and it is suspected that they 
have not been inactive in endeavoring to bring it about. 
What say the British Consuls in every part of the continent? 
Are they ever seen to mix or keep company with those who 
oppose the pretended federal plan? No; they would think 
themselves polluted to mix with any of the brave Whigs, who 
after having defended their liberties from the British tyrant, 
will not suffer them to be laid prostrate by tyrants of their 
own creating. This new proposed form of government is 
much better suited to their views than any other, because it 
will be much easier for them to deal with a single magistrate 
and a handful of senators, who are to remain six years in 
office, and may be re-elected during their lives, than with a 
a numerous Congress, annually elected, who cannot preserve 
their appointment longer than three years in six, and conse- 
quently are in a constant state of fluctuation. Away then 
with such perfidious insinuations ! Those who are intent 
upon piirsuing the interest of foreign princes in America will 
never suffer this country to preserve its liberties. Their most 
earnest wish is to see us under a tyrannical government, lest 
we should become too formidable. 

An American Citizen.* 

To the Freemen of Pennsylvania. 

Friends and Fellow Citizens : Conscious of no other 
motives than those with which the love of my country in- 
spires me, permit me to request your candid, impartial and 
unprejudiced attention, while I address you on business of 
the utmost importance to every honest American — a business 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 15, 1787. 

Reply to ^'■CentineV 165 

of no less magnitude than the salvation of the United 

I need hardly tell you, what is universally allowed, that 
our situation is no^v more precarious than it ever has been, 
even at that time when our country was laid waste by the 
sanguinary armies of Britain and her mercenary allies, and 
when our coasts were infested with her hostile fleets. Then 
a sense of the common danger united every heroic, every 
patriotic soul in the great cause of liberty. Even selfish- 
ness itself, forgetting every narrow, contracted idea, gave 
way to that diffusive liberality of sentiment, which was so 
instrumental in procuring peace and independence to America. 

But ever since that memorable epoch, unanimity, the great 
source of national happiness and glory, has been banished 
from among us, and discord, with all its cursed attendants, 
has succeeded in its stead. Such a train of calamities issued 
from this fatal change as at length aroused the virtuous citi- 
zens of the different States from their lethargy, and excited 
in them a desire of exploring, and of removing the cause. 
Nor was the former a different task. Our distresses were 
immediately discovered to be inevitable effects of a weak, a 
disunited, and a despicable federal government. To effect 
the latter, delegates were sent by twelve of the States to the 
late Federal Convention, who, after four months' deliberation, 
at length agreed upon a plan of government for the United 
States, which is now submitted to your consideration. Upou 
this proposed federal constitution I mean not to bestow my 
useless panegyrics at this time. My slender praise might 
cast an odium upon what is in itself truly excellent, and 
needs but a candid reading to be admired. Suspended, as 
the fate of the United States now is, how immensely base 
must the wretch be, who strains every nerve to disunite his 
fellow-citizens, and by a long train of sophistical arguments, 
strives to establish antifederal sentiments in this State ! Yet, 
however strange it may seem, such there are among us. One 
antifederal piece signed "Centinel," which is replete with 
glaring absurdities and complete nonsense, has been indus- 
triously circulated among you, in the newspapers and in 

1 66 Before the Meeting of the Co7ive7ition. 

hand-bills. The author (I should have said authors) of this 
illiberal and scandalous performance, remarks that a "frenzy 
of enthusiasm," not "a rational investigation into its princi- 
ples, actuated the citizens of Philadelphia in their approba- 
tion of the proposed plan " of government. As some drunken 
men think every person they see is intoxicated, and as an illit- 
erate observer on this earth is apt to believe in the sun's 
motion, not discerning that its apparent revolution is the effect 
of his own real motion, so has " Centinel " charged others with 
neglecting that rational investigation, to which he has paid 
very little attention. For if he carefully examines the pro- 
posed constitution, he will find that he has either ignorantly, 
or designedly, perverted its plain and simple construction. 
He seems to think that the citizens of Philadelphia ought to 
have suspended their judgment till they had know the result 
of his i^ational investigation. For, says the profound politi- 
cian, ' ' Those who are competent to the task of developing 
the principles of government ought to be encouraged to come 
forward, and thereby the better enable the people to make a 
proper judgment. For the science of government is so 
abstruse, that few are able to judge for themselves." He 
certainly must have forgot that he was addressing Ameri- 
can freemen, who enjoy the darling prerogative of thinking 
for themselves. Such political priestcraft might have 
answered some purpose in the early ages of ignorance and 
superstition, when a set of artful and designing monks 
assumed an absolute control over both the purses and con- 
sciences of the people. But thanks to heaven ! we live in an 
enlightened age, and in a free country, where such pernicious 
doctrine has long since been treated with deserved contempt. 
He begins with enumerating "certain privileges secured 
to you by the constitution of this Commonwealth," which, 
notwithstanding his groundless assertions, are not infringed 
in the smallest degree by the proposed federal constitution, 
which obliges Congress to guarantee to each State its respec- 
tive republican form of government. Whatever he may think 
of the matter, a firm union of all the States is certainly neces- 
sary to procure happiness and prosperity to America. In vain 

Members of the Convention Defended. 167 

do we look up to the constitution or legislature of this State ; 
they cannot alleviate our distresses. 

Is it in the power of Pennsylvania to protest her own trade, 
by entering into commercial treaties with the nations of 
Europe, and thereby to secure a West India or an European 
market for her produce? No. Is it in her power to treat 
with and obtain from Spain a free navigation of the river 
Mississippi, to which God and nature have given us an un- 
doubted right? The impoverished state of our Western 
country, where the luxuriant crops of a fertile soil are suffered 
to rot in the fields, for want of exportation, answers No. Is 
it in her power to encourage our infant manufactures, to give 
sustenance to our starving mechanics, to prevent a general 
bankruptcy, or to raise a revenue, by laying an impost on 
foreign goods imported into this State? No. All her at- 
tempts are liable to be counteracted by any neighboring State; 
for it is well known that the imposts have been frequently 
evaded in this State, and always will while Jersey and Dela- 
ware open free ports for the reception of foieign wares. So 
that the exigencies of government must necessarily be pro- 
vided for by a heavy land tax, which you, my fellow citizens, 
have groaned under for some years past with surprising 
patience and resignation. Should some desperate ruffians, as 
a Shays or a Wyoming Franklin, with an armed banditti at 
his back, proceed to murder our defenceless inhabitants, has 
Pennsylvania the means of speedily repelling their ravages? 
No. Before the necessary steps could be taken for a defence, 
her towns might be laid in ruins and her fields deluged with 
the blood of her helpless citizens. And oh! distracting 
thought! the citizens of the neighboring States would aban- 
don us to our unhappy fate; nor would they deign to shed a 
tear of pity on our funeral urn. It would be an endless talk 
to give a detail of all the cases in which the exertions of in- 
dividual States cannot afford the smallest relief. An idea of 
thirteen neighboring States being able to exist independent 
of each other, without a general government, to control, con- 
nect and unite the whole, is no less absurd than was the con- 
duct of the limbs, in the fable, which refused to contribute to 

1 68 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

the support of the belly, and by working its downfall, acceler- 
ated their own ruin. Of this every State in the Union is fully 
convinced, by awful experience, unless we except Rhode 
Island; for the meridian of which "Centinel" has calculated 
his Antifederal remarks, which he has had the presumption 
to address to the freemen of Pennsylvania. 

Afraid of investigating the constitution itself, he previously 
attempts to prejudice you against it by charging the patriotic 
members of the convention with a design "of lording it 
over their fellow-creatures" and with "long meditated 
schemes of power and aggrandizement. " Is it possible that 
the freemen of America would appoint such men as these to 
so important a trust? No. The public characters of the 
gentlemen who were chosen by my respectable fellow-citizens 
in the different States are such as at once justify their con- 
duct in the choice, and contradict the unjust and ungenerous 
assertion. This defamer has even dared to let fly his shafts 
at a Washington and a Franklin^ who, he tells you, have 
been so mean, ignorant and base as to be dupes to the de- 
signs of the other members. Is not every man among you 
fired with resentment against the wretch who could under- 
take a job thus low, infamous and vile, and who was so prone 
to slander as wantonly to traduce names dear to every Amer- 
ican — names, if not respected and esteemed, at least admired 
even by their enemies ? 

After having striven to inflame your passions against these 
worthy men, he then makes a general objection to different 
branches in government; here again he advances doctrine 
which has long since been exploded as dangerous and des- 
potic. That a single legislative body is more liable to en- 
croach upon the liberties of the people than two who hold an 
useful check upon the proceedings of each other he does not 
attempt to deny, but asserts that one body will be more re- 
sponsible to the people than two or more can be; therefore, 
after this body shall have erred, the people can immediately 
take vengeance of its members, that is, if I may be indulged 
with a trite saying, after the steed is stolen lock the stable 
door. Had he proceeded in the same mode of reasoning, he 

Powers of Congress. 169 

might have proved that an elective monarchy is the best gov- 
ernment, for it is certainly the most responsible, since one 
man is accountable for every grievance. In truth, my 
friends, you will easily perceive that this responsibility, 
which he lays so much stress on, is by no means sufficient to 
secure your liberties. If you enquire into the effects of san- 
guinary punishments upon criminals, you will find that in- 
stead of reforming they have increased the wickedness of the 

But the convention, not content with providing punish- 
ments for the misdemeanors of government, have done wiser, 
in endeavoring to prevent these misdemeanors, which was 
evidently their intention in new modeling the federal gov- 

He next complains of the too extensive powers of Congress. 
"It will not be controverted," says he, "that the legislative 
is the highest delegated power in government, and that all 
others are subordinate to it." In this I perfectly agree with 
him, and am apt to believe, that had he paused here one mo- 
ment, he would not have been so ready to fear an aristocracy 
in any branch of the new federal government ; since the most 
essential parts of legislation are to be vested in the House of 
Representatives, the immediate servants of the people, with 
whom all money bills must originate. 

He is ready to allow Congress to pay the debts of the 
Union; but then, they are to have power to lay and collect 
duties, imposts, &c. , which the new constitution declares shall 
be uniform throughout the United States; here the word 
collect seems to stick in his stomach. What ! says he, will 
they have power to enforce the payment of taxes ? Oh ! it is 
dangerous to invest them with such authority; they ought to 
call upon us as heretofore, and leave it at our option' to com- 
ply with their requisitions or not. Such is the reasoning of 
this advocate for delinquency, the absurdity of whose politi- 
cal creed is self-apparent, and needs no comment. Happy 
would it be for Pennsylvania, if the different States were 
obliged to pay their proportions of the foreign and domestic 
debt; she would not then be struggling under an enormous 

170 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

land tax, to pay much more than her just quota of the public 
burthens. But, says he, there is a possibility of having stand- 
ing armies too. This is quite wrong; let Congress have 
power to make war, crush insurrections, &c., but let them 
have no troops for these purposes, unless each State shall 
think proper to furnish its quota of men; or if we vest the 
power of raising armies in Congress, let them be tied down, 
and not permitted to raise a single regiment, until an inva- 
sion shall have actually taken place, and the enemy shall 
have ravaged and spread desolation over five or six of the 
States; it will then be time enough. Indeed I think we 
ought immediately to disband the troops stationed on the 
Ohio, and not raise a man for that service before the savages 
shall have laid our country waste, as far as Susquehanna at 
least. Why need we trouble ourselves about the inhabitants 
on the frontiers ? Such truly is the substance of his argu- 

He has further discovered that the trial by jury in civil 
cases is abolished — that the liberty of the press is not pro- 
vided for — and that the judicial and legislative powers of the 
respective States will be absorbed by those of the general 

As to the first of these, it is well known that the cases 
which come before a jury, are not the same in all the States; 
that therefore the Convention found themselves unequal to 
the task of forming a general rule, among so many jarring 
interests, and left it with Congresss to regulate the conduct 
of the judiciary in all civil cases. It may not be improper 
here to remark, that Congress can at any time propose 
amendments to this Constitution, which shall become a part 
of it when ratified by the legislatures or Conventions of three- 
fourths of the States. 

True, no declaration in favor of the liberty of the press is 
contained in the new Constitution, neither does it declare 
that children of freemen are also born free. Both are alike 
the unalienable birthright of freemen, and equally absurd 
would it have been, in the Convention, to have meddled with 

Powers of Congress. 171 

The ne plus ultra of the powers of Congress, and of the 
judiciary of the United States, is expressly fixed — therefore, 
no danger can arise to the legislative or judicial authority 
of any State in the union. Centinel, in discussing this point, 
has ransacked his brains, tortured, twisted, and preverted 
the new plan of government, to support his blundering as- 
sertions ; especially where he has quoted sect. 4 of the ist 
Art. "The times, places, and manner, of holding elections, 
for senators, and representatives, shall be prescribed, in each 
State, by the legislature thereof ; but the Congress may at 
any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as 
to the place of choosing senators." 

"The plain construction of which," says Centinel, "is, 
that when the State legislatures drop out of sight, from the 
necessary operation of this government, then Congress are 
to provide for the election and appointment of representa- 
tives, and senators." O amazing result of a rational investi- 
gation/ I confess he understands the meaning of words 
much better than I do, if his construction of that section be 
just. What may Congress "make or alter?" The times, 
places and manner of holding elections, in the different States. 
But why is the place of choosing senators excepted ? Who 
are to appoint them ? Certainly, the legislatures of the re- 
spective States, who are to elect the senators in any place 
they may think proper, which probably will be, where they 
meet in their legislative capacity. The existence of every 
branch of the Federal government depends upon the State 
legislatures, and both must stand or fall together. 

He next attacks the construction of the federal govern- 
ment, says the number of representatives is too few. Others 
have thought it too many. How was it possible that the 
Convention, in this, or indeed in any other instance, could 
please everybody? For my part I am of opinion that the 
number fixed by the Convention (one for every 30,000) is 
fully adequate to the task of effectually representing the peo- 
ple ; and that a greater number would only clog the wheels, 
and add to the expenses of government, in which the strict- 
est economy is at all times necessary. That two years is too 

173 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

long a time to continue in office is a mistaken notion ; much 
more inconvenience and expense would be attendant on an- 
nual elections throughout this extensive continent. The 
most strenuous advocates for a parliamentary reform, in 
Great Britain, never stickled for more than triennial elections, 
which they deemed fully sufficient to secure the liberties of 
the people. This body may justly be called the guardians 
of our liberties, since they are not chosen by the State legis- 
latures, as Congress has hitherto been, but by the freemen at 
large, in every State. No undue influence can be exercised 
over them, nor the Senate, for no placemen, or officers of 
government, can have a seat among them. 

He says the senate is constituted on the most unequal 
principles, since the smallest State in the Union sends as 
many senators as the largest. Here is a small concession to 
the smaller States, which proclaims the liberality of senti- 
ment that prevailed in the convention. Let us, my friends, 
in the larger States, be satisfied with our superior influ- 
ence in the House of Representatives. As to the senate 
being composed of the better sort^ the well-born^ etc. , it is a 
most illiberal reflection thrown out by this antifederal 
demagogue against the freemen of America, who, I trust, 
will always elect to this important trust men of integrity and 
abilities. But how is there any danger of this body be- 
coming an aristocracy? In their executive capacity they are 
checked by the President, and in their legislative capacity 
are checked by the House of Representatives, and of them- 
selves cannot do a single act. He seems apprehensive that 
the President may form a coalition with the senate, "whose 
influence might secure his re-election to office." I cannot 
conceive how they can exercise any influence in his favor, 
for both senators and representatives are expressly excluded 
from being electors. 

The only objection he makes to the power of the President 
is that he can grant pardons and reprieves. This preroga- 
tive must be and always is vested somewhere in all free gov- 
ernments; to whom then can it be given with more safety 
than to this officer, who never can have any interest in exer- 

Humble Address of the Low Born. 173 

cising it to evil purposes? If he should, he will be liable to 
impeachment, etc. 

Previous to his conclusion he attempts to lull us into se- 
curity; but his sophistry can never operate so far upon our 
senses as to make us believe that our situation is not "criti- 
cally dreadful." The most ignorant among us severely feel 
the miseries which surround us on all sides. That he may 
be very well pleased with his present situation, I have not 
the smallest doubt; for it is notorious that the Antifederal 
junto in Philadelphia is composed of a few self-interested men, 
who, in the midst of our distresses, are receiving most enor- 
mous sums out of the public treasury, and like ravens are 
preying upon our very vitals. A Federalist. * 

Extract of a letter from a gentleman in the Western coun- 
try to his friend in this city: 

"It hath been reported that a great number of copies of the 
proposed constitution was directed to be printed in the Eng- 
lish and German languages, to be distributed throughout the 
State. I wish it were done, that the people might have an 
opportunity of reading it, and judging for themselves. Much 
time elapses before information can reach the industrious 
yeomanry of the State that are distant from the seat of gov- 
ernment. If a convention is to be chosen, the great body of 
the people will be ignorant of the plan to be decided upon, 
and be therefore unable to determine whether they ought to 
vote for persons who would oppose it or advocate it. If it will 
bear the examination of the people, who are to be bound 
thereby, why is such preciptancy used ? " f 

For the Independent Gazetteer. 

The humble address of the low-born of the United States of 

America, to their fellow slaves scattered throughout the 

world — greeting : 

Whereas, it hath been represented unto us that a most 
dreadful disease hath for these five years last past infected, 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 25, 1787. 
t Pennsylvania Packet; Nov. i, 1787. 

174 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

preyed upon and almost ruined the government and people 
of this our country; and of this malady we ourselves have had 
perfect demonstration, not mentally, but bodily, through every 
one of the five senses: For although our sensations in regard 
to the mind be not just so nice as those of the well born^ yet 
our feeling, through the medium of the plow, the hoe and 
the grubbing ax, is as acute as any nobleman's in the world. 
And, whereas, a number of skillful physicians having met 
together at Philadelphia last summer, for the purpose of ex- 
ploring, and, if possible, removing the cause of this direful 
disease, have, through the assistance of John Adams, Esq., 
in the profundity of their great political knowledge, found 
out and discovered that nothing but a new government, con- 
sisting of three different branches, namely, king, lords and 
commons, or, in the American language. President, Senate and 
Representatives, can save this, our country, from inevitable 
destruction; and, whereas, it hath been reported that several 
of our low-born brethren have had the horrid audacity to think 
for themselves in regard to this new system of government, 
and, dreadful thought! have wickedly begun to doubt con- 
cerning the perfection of this evangelical constitution, which 
our political doctors have declared to be a panacea, which (by 
inspiration) they know will infallibly heal every distemper in 
the confederation, and finally terminate in the salvation of 

Now we the low born^ that is, all the people of the United 
States, except 600 or thereabouts, well born^ do by this our 
humble address, declare and most solemnly engage, that we 
will allow and admit the said 600 well born^ immediately to 
establish and confirm this most noble, most excellent and 
truly divine constitution: and we further declare that with- 
out any equivocation or mental reservation whatever we will 
support and maintain the same according to the best of our 
power, and after the manner and custom of all other slaves 
in foreign countries, namely by the sweat and toil of our 
body: nor will we at any future period of time ever attempt 
to complain of this our royal government, let the consequen- 
ces be what they may. And although it appears to us that 

Humble Address of the Low Born. 175 

a standing army, composed of the purgings of the jails of 
Great Britain, Ireland and Germany, shall be employed in 
collecting the revenues of this our king and goverment; yet, 
we again in the most solemn manner declare, that we will 
abide by our present determination of non-assistance and pas- 
sive obedience; so that we shall not dare to molest or disturb 
those military gentlemen in the service of our royal govern- 
ment. And (which is not improbable) should any one of 
those soldiers when employed on duty in collecting the taxes, 
strike off the arm (with his sword) of one of our fellow slaves, 
we will conceive our case remarkably fortunate if he leaves 
the other arm on. And morever, because we are aware that 
many of our fellow slaves shall be unable to pay their taxes, 
and this incapacity of theirs is a just cause of impeachment 
of treason; wherefore in such cases we will use our utmost 
endeavors, in conjunction with the standing army, to bring 
such atrocious offenders before our federal judges, who shall 
have power, without jury or trial, to order the said miscreants 
for immediate execution; nor will we think their sentence 
severe unless after being hanged they are also to be both be- 
headed and quartered. And finally we shall henceforth and 
forever leave all power, authority and dominion over our 
persons and properties in the hands of the wellborn^ who 
were designed by Providence to govern. And in regard to 
the liberty of the press, we renounce all claim to it forever 
more, Amen ; and we shall in future be perfectly contented 
if our tongues be left us to lick the feet of our wellborti 

Done on behalf of three millions of low-born American 
slaves. John Humble, Secretary.* 

To the Printers of the United States. 

Gentlemen: I have been delighted with the nobie struggle 
which the brave and virtuous throughout America have been 
and still are making to establish the new frame of govern- 
ment. I am charmed with the good sense and humanity of 
the people at large, who, though they are very generally 
* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 29, 1787. 

176 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

warmly attached to it, yet they bear with uncommon pa- 
tience all the insults hitherto thrown out against it and the 
gentlemen of the late convention. 

The friends of the new system are not ashamed to avow 
their principles and their writings on the subject, while its 
enemies take every prudent measure to prevent detection. 

I know a gentleman in this city, high in office, who has 
written much against the new system, notwithstanding he 
has never in company uttered a syllable against it. Hence 
I conclude that the antifederal junto are conscious of the 
wickedness of their proceedings — that their cause is that of 
the devil, and of it they are truly ashamed. It appears by a 
late eastern paper that the publisher of the Massachusetts 
Gazette is determined to publish no sentiments on this im- 
portant subject unless the writers leave their names with the 
printers, "that any one who may be desirous of knowing the 
author may be informed." No honest man, no true friend 
of America or to the liberty or happiness of mankind, can 
object to this. 

For your imitation, gentlemen, I humbly propose the con- 
duct of this your worthy brother, the publisher of the Massa- 
chusetts Gazette. A Pennsylvania Mechanic. * 

26th October^ ^7^7- 

Mr. Oswald: Since the new constitution of Congress has 
been published, I have made a journey into the three coun- 
ties adjoining to us, in which I had many acquaintances 
among honest men of both the old parties which formerly 
divided this State. Good manners induced me, where I was 
hospitably entertained, to avoid broaching the subject of our 
new federal constitution, as I might possibly spoil the social 
happiness which I (who am no party man) had been used to 
enjoy with my good friends, constitutionalists and republicans. 
My hosts could not bear this my reserve — one and the other 
exclaimed, "Why do you not talk to me of the new constitu- 
tion? — I have seen and read it, and though I liked the men 
who made it, I like the constitution they have given to us much 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 29, 17S7. 

Remarks of '■'• Homespun.'^'' 177 

more." Others observed that the good men who have been so 
often tried and approved by us, may go off this uncertain 
stage in the course of a few passing years, but they have left 
a legacy which will make us and our children and our chil- 
dren's children as happy as a good government can make 
them, for hundreds of years after the framers of it are no more. 
"God be praised !" said an old man (whose benevolence I shall 
long remember) "my neighbors of the Jerseys, of Delaware, 
New York and Maryland, will be as happy as myself. ' ' He 
then addressed himself to his younger child, a daughter: 
' ' Dolly, my girl, you will not go from home when you go with 
Jersey Dick, for we are all now one people; I shall not fear as 
I have done, that we who lie on the borders shall be cutting- 
each other's throats, about bounds, smuggling and trade." 
One man, indeed, in a corner of one of our friendly circles, 
who after hunting for an office twenty years, had at last got 
the office of excise in his county, muttered something of Old 
IVhig^ Centi7iel^ sixteen assemblymen, Governor Randolph^ 
lawyer Mason^ one Gerry ^ liberty of the press, jurymen, and 
that officers who had served but a few years and who had 
not been paid for their services should be continued for life, 
and many other things of the same kind, in a sullen, grumb- 
ling, ill-natured way, was at length interrupted by a decent 
elderly man, who as I learned had ever been a friend to his 
country, never a placeman, a whig from benevolence to his 
family, his neighbors and all whom he knew, an honest man 
in the worst of times, who wished the farmer might reap 
plentiful crops and have a good market, and that trade might 
flourish, that we might make as many things among our- 
selves as possible, that tradesmen might fare well, and as he 
said that the President and Senate might be able to make 
and keep good and sufficient treaties to insure all these solid 
benefits to us — says this good man, "My friend the exciseman, 
there in yon corner, talks of old whigs: no body can doubt 
of my being one of that sort, for I am an old man and always 
was a whig since the name was known, and have been, I am 
bold to say, as good a centinel among our militia in the field 
of battle, as any man who calls himself a Centinel in a news- 

178 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

paper. I think sixteen men should submit in their opinions 
to forty-three, when all our States approve of the conduct of 
the forty-three, and condemn the sixteen: and I will say the 
men were right who, with the sergeant of the assembly, 
brought the two men of the sixteen runaways back to the as- 
sembly; for if they had not done so sixteen men would have 
overthrown our government of Pennsylvania. Though I am 
no scholar, I think the speaker and the forty-three had a 
power from the good rule of preventing greater evils to force 
the whole sixteen to attend in their seats. If they have not 
this power, my friend the exciseman there in the corner, 
must lose his office, as the government and all offices, and the 
constitution and all, would be at an end immediately. As to 
Governor Randolph, I am told he is a cunning man, but no 
enemy to the new constitution ; he only wanted to overreach 
another man in politics. Lawyer Mason may plead his own 
cause in Virginia, where it is a chance of about four hundred 
thousand (that being the number of people in that State) to 
one, that is lawyer Mason, that he is in the wrong. Besides, 
I may say, he has the delegates of every State against him 
into the bargain. That Geary will never get on farther than 
Rhode Island, where the bad people will keep him, as the 
only man they can find out of their State, who is as bad as 
themselves. The liberty of printing, I find, from Burns' 
justice and our State constitution, is a thing quite safe already, 
and so is our trial by jurymen. If so, our convention would 
have wasted their time and our patience, my friends, if they 
had spent their time in making new fences where the old 
ones were strong enough. They had enough to do that was 
necessary, God knows ! My friend, the exciseman, thinks 
that a man once in office, should continue so for his life. I 
must needs say, I think he may if he be a good officer; I 
would give him my vote that he remain exciseman as long 
as he lives, and longer if it was possible, if that will make 
him listen to reason; for neither myself nor my children, I 
hope, will covet any office unless it be such in which we may 
fight the enemies of our United States. As we begun, my 
friends, so let us continue united. I have often told mv chil- 

Twenty-three Defects of the Constitution. 179 

dren of the bundle of fagots ; you may break eacli of them 
apart like the stem of this pipe (taking hold of the pipe he 
was then smoking), but if you bind them together, Goliah 
nor Sampson cannot break them," Wherever I went in this 
my journey I found all the good people talking in the same 
honest sensible way; this pleased me I will confess, for it 
favored an old opinion, that where passion does not twist our 
understandings, all upright and sensible men think in the 
same way. In short, that plain downright good sense which 
governs the honest farmer, miller, tradesman and merchant, 
governed the honest, tried and approved men, who sat in the 
late convention of these our United States. 

Homespun. * 

Mr. Oswald: By inserting the following in your impartial 
paper, you will oblige yours, &c. 
To the Citizens of Philadelphia. 

Friends, countrymen, brethren and fellow-citizens: The 
important day is drawing near when you are to elect dele- 
gates to represent you in a convention, on the result of whose 
deliberations will depend in a great measure your future hap- 

This conv^ention is to determine whether or not the com- 
monwealth of Pennsylvania shall adopt the plan of govern- 
ment proposed by the late convention of delegates from the 
different States which sat in this city. 

With a heart full of anxiety for the preserv^ation of your 
dearest rights, I presume to address you on this important 
occasion. In the name of sacred liberty, dearer to us than 
our property and our lives, I request your most earnest atten- 

The proposed plan of continental government is now fully 
known to you. You have read it, I trust, with the attention 
it deserves. You have heard the objections that have been 
made to it. You have heard the answers to these objections. 

If you have attended to the whole with candor and un- 
biased minds, as becomes men that are possessed and deserv- 

* Independent Gazetteer, Oct. 31, 17S7. 

i8o Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

ing of freedom, you must have been alarmed at the result of 
your observations. Notwithstanding the splendor of names 
which has attended the publication of the new constitution, 
notwithstanding the sophistry and vain reasonings that have 
been urged to support its principles, alas! you must at least 
have concluded that great men are not always infallible, and 
that patriotism itself may be led into essential errors. 

The objections that have been made to the new constitu- 
tion are these: 

1. It is not merely (as it ought to be) a Confederation of 
States, but a Government of individuals. 

2. The powers of Congress extend to the lives, the liberties 
and the property of every citizen. 

3. The sovereignty of the different States is ipso facto de- 
stroyed in its most essential parts. 

4. What remains of it will only tend to create violent dis- 
sensions between the State government and the Congress, and 
terminate in the ruin of the one or the other. 

5. The consequence must therefore be, either that the 
union of the States will be destroyed by a violent struggle, 
or that their sovereignty will be swallowed up by silent en- 
croachments into a universal aristocracy; because it is clear, 
that if two different sovereign powers have a coequal com- 
mand over the purses of the citizens, they will struggle for 
the spoils, and the weakest will be in the end obliged to yield 
to the efforts of the strongest. 

6. Congress being possessed of these immense powers, the 
liberties of the States and of the people are not secured by a 
bill or Declaration of Rights. 

7. The sovereignty of the States is not expressly reserved; 
the form only, and not the substance of the government, is 
guaranteed to them by express words. 

8. Trial by Jury, that sacred bulwark of liberty, is abol- 
ished in civil cases, and Mr. W , one of the convention, 

has told you, that not being able to agree as to the form of es- 
tablishing this point, they have left you deprived of the sub- 
stance. Here are his own words : "The subject was involved 
in diflSculties. The convention found the task too difficult 
for them, and left the business as it stands." 

Twenty-three Defects of the Constitution. i8i 

9. The lyiberty of the Press is not secured, and the powers 
of Congress are fully adequate to its destruction, as they are 
to have the trial of libels, or pretended libels against the 
United States, and may by a cursed abominable Stamp Act 
(as the Bowdoin administration has done in Massachusetts) 
preclude you eflfectually from all means of information, Mr. 
W has given no answer to these arguments. 

10. Congress have the power of keeping up a standing 

army in time of peace, and Mr. W has told you that it 

was necessary. 

11. The Legislative and Executive powers are not kept 
separate, as every one of the American constitutions declares 
they ought to be; but they are mixed in a manner entirely 
novel and unknown, even in the constitution of Great Britain ; 

12. In England the king only has a nominal negative over 
the proceedings of the legislature, which he has never dared 
to exercise since the days of King William, whereas by the 
new constitution, both the President-General and the Senate, 
two executive branches of Government, have that negative, 
and are intended to support each other in the exercise of it, 

13. The representation of the lower house is too small, 
consisting only of 65 members. 

14. That of the Senate is so small that it renders its exten- 
sive powers extremely dangerous; it is to consist only of 26 
members, two-thirds of whom must concur to conclude any 
treaty or alliance with foreign powers. Now we will suppose 
that five of them are absent, sick, dead, or unable to attend; 
twenty -one will remain, and eight of these (one-third, and 
one over) may prevent the conclusion of any treaty, even the 
most favorable to America. Here will be a fine field for the 
intrigues and even the bribery and corruption of European 

15. The most important branches of the executive depart- 
ment are to be put into the hands of a single magistrate, who 
will in fact be an elective king. The military, the land and 
naval forces, are to be entirely at his disposal, and therefore, 

16. Should the senate, by the intrigues of foreign powers, 

132 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

become devoted to foreign influence, as was the case of late 
in Sweden, the people will be obliged, as the Swedes have 
been, to seek their refuge in the arms of the monarch or 

17. Rotation, that noble prerogative of liberty, is entirely- 
excluded from the new system of government, and the great 
men may and probably will be continued in office during 
their lives. 

18. Annual elections are abolished, and the people are not 
to re-assume their rights until the expiration of two, four and 
six years. 

19. Congress are to have the power of fixing the time, 
place and manner of holding elections, so as to keep them 
forever subjected to their influence. 

20. The importation of slaves is not to be prohibited until 
the year 1808, and slavery will probably resume its empire in 

21. The militia is to be under the immediate command of 
Congress, and men conscientiously scrupulous of bearing 
arms may be compelled to perform military duty. 

22. The new government will be expensive beyond any we 
have ever experienced; the judicial department alone, with 
its concomitant train of judges, justices, chancellors, clerks, 
sheriffs, coroners, escheators. State attorneys and solicitors, 
constables, etc., in every State and in every county in each 
State, will be a burden beyond the utmost abilities of the 
people to bear, and upon the whole, 

23. A government partaking of monarchy and aristocracy 
will be fully and firmly established, and liberty will be but a 
name to adorn the short historic page of the halcyon days of 

These, my countrymen, are the objections that have been 
made to the new proposed system of government, and if you 
read the system itself with attention you will find them all to 
be founded in truth. But what have you been told in an- 

I pass over the sophistry of Mr. W , in his equivocal 

speech at the state-house. His pretended arguments have 

Aristocratic Sophistry. 183 

been echoed and re-echoed by every retailer of politics, and 
victoriously refuted by several patriotic pens. Indeed, if you 
read this famous speech in a cool dispassionate moment, you 
will find it to contain no more than a train of pitiful sophis- 
try and evasions, unworthy of the man who spoke them. I 
have taken notice of some of them in stating the objections, 
and they must, I am sure, have excited your pity and indig- 
nation. Mr. W is a man of sense, learning and exten- 
sive information ; unfortunately for him, he has never sought 
the more solid fame of patriotism. During the late war he 
narrowly escaped the effects of popular rage, and the people 
seldom arm themselves against a citizen in vain. The whole 
tenor of his political conduct has always been strongly 
tainted with the spirit of high aristocracy; he has never been 
known to join in a truly popular measure, and his talents 
have ever been devoted to the patrician interest. His lofty 
carriage indicates the lofty mind that animates him — a mind 
able to conceive and perform great things, but which unfor- 
tunately can see nothing great out of the pale of power and 
worldly grandeur; despising what he calls the inferior order 
of the people, popular liberty and popular assemblies offer to 
his exalted imagination an idea of meanness and contemptibil- 
ity, which he hardly seeks to conceal. He sees at a distance 
the pomp and pageantry of courts, he sighs after those stately 
palaces and that apparatus of human greatness which his 
vivid fancy has taught him to consider as the supreme good. 
Men of sublime minds, he conceives, were born a different 
race from the rest of the sons of men; to them and them 
only, he imagines, high heaven intended to commit the reins 
of earthly government; the remaining part of mankind he 
sees at an immense distance; they, he thinks, were born to 
serve, to administer food to the ambition of their superiors 
and become the footstool of their power. Such is Mr. 

W , and fraught with these high ideas, it is no wonder 

that he should exert all his talents to support a form of gov- 
ernment so admirably contrived to carry them into execution. 
But when the people, who possess collectively a mass of 
knowledge superior to his own, inquire into the principles of 

1S4 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

that government on the establishment or rejection of which 
depend their dearest concerns, when he is called upon by the 
voice of thousands to come and explain that favorite system 
which he holds forth as an object of their admiration, he 
comes — he attempts to support by reasoning what reason 
never dictated, and finding the attempt vain, his great mind, 
made for nobler purposes, is obliged to stoop to mean evasions 
and pitiful sophistry; himself not deceived, he strives to de- 
ceive the people, and the treasonable attempt delineates his 
true character, beyond the reach of the pencil of a West or 
Peale, or the pen of a Valerius. 

And yet that speech, weak and insidious as it is, is the 
only attempt that has been made to support by argument that 
political monster, the proposed constitution. I have sought 
in vain amidst the immense heap of trash that has been 
published on the subject, an argument worthy of refutation, 
and I have not been able to find it. If you can bear the dis- 
gust which the reading of those pieces must naturally occa- 
sion, and which I have felt in the highest degree, read them, 
my fellow citizens, and say whether they contain the least 
shadow of logical reasoning, say (laying your hands upon 
your hearts) whether there is anything in them that can 
impress unfeigned conviction upon your unprejudiced minds. 

One of them only I shall take notice of, in which I find 
that argument is weakly attempted. This piece is signed 
"An American Citizen," and has appeared with great pomp 
in four succeeding numbers in several of our newspapers. 
But if you read it attentively, you will find that it does not 
tell us what the new constitution is, but what it is not, and 
extols it on the sole ground that it does not contain all the 
principles of tyranny with which the European governments 
are disgraced. 

But where argument entirely failed, nothing remained for 
the supporters of the new constitution but to endeavor to in- 
flame your passions. The attempt has been made, and I am 
sorry to find not entirely without effect. The great names 
of Washingtoji and Franklin have been taken in vain and 
shockingly prostituted to effect the most infamous pur- 

'"''Great Names'''' not to be Considered. 185 

poses. What ! because our august chieftain has subscribed 
his name in his capacity of president of the convention to the 
plan offered by them to the States, and because the venerable 
sage of Pennsylvania has testified by his signature that the 
majority of the delegates of this State assented to the same 
plan, will any one infer from this that it has met with their 
entire approbation, and that they consider it as the master- 
piece of human wisdom ? lam apt to think the contrary, 
and I have good reason to ground my opinion on. 

In the first place we have found by the publication of 
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney^ esquire, one of the signing mem- 
bers of the convention, who has expressed the most pointed 
disapprobation of many important parts of the new plan of 
government, that all the members whose names appear at the 
bottom of this instrument of tyranny have not concurred in 
its adoption. Many of them might conceive themselves 
bound by the opinion of the majority of their State, and 
leaving the people to their own judgment upon the form of 
government offered to them, might have conceived it impoli- 
tic by refusing to sign their names, to offer to the world the 
lamentable spectacle of the disunion of a body on the deci- 
sions of whom the people had rested all their hopes. We 
know, and the long sitting of the convention tells us, that 
(as it is endeavored to persuade us) concord and unanimity 
did not reign exclusively among them. The thick veil of 
secrecy with which their proceedings have been covered, has 
left us entirely in the dark, as to the debates that took place, 
and the unaccountable suppression of their journals^ the high- 
est insult that could be offered to the majesty of the people, 
shows clearly that the whole of the new plan was entirely the 
work of an aristocratic majority. 

But let us suppose for a moment that the proposed govern- 
ment was the unanimous result of the deliberations of the 
convention — must it on that account preclude an investiga- 
tion of its merits ? Are the people to be dictated to without 
appeal by any set of men, however great, however dignified ? 
Freedom spurns at the idea and rejects it with disdain. We 
appeal to the collective wisdom of a great nation, we appeal 

1 36 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

to their general sense, which is easily to be obtained through 
the channel of a multitude of free presses, from the opinions 
of thirty-nine men, who secluded from the rest of the world, 
without the possibility of conferring with the rest of their 
fellow-citizens, have had no opportunity of rectifying the 
errors into which they may have been led by the most design- 
ing among them. We have seen names not less illustrious 
than those of the members of the late convention, subscribed 
to the present reprobated articles of confederation, and if 
those 23atriots have erred, there is no reason to suppose that 
a succeeding set should be more free from error. Nay, the 
very men who advocate so strongly the new plan of govern- 
ment, and support it with the infallibility of Doctor Franklin, 
affect to despise the present constitution of Pennsylvania, 
which was dictated and avowed by that venerable patriot. 
They are conscious that he does not entirely approve of the 
new plan, whose principles are so different from those he 
has established in our ever-glorious constitution, and there 
is no doubt that it is the reason that has induced them to 
leave his respected name out of the ticket for the approaching 

Now then my fellow-citizens, my brethren, my friends; if 
the sacred flame of liberty be not extinguished in your breasts, 
if you have any regard for the happiness of yourselves, and 
your posterity, let me entreat you, earnestly entreat you by 
all that is dear and sacred to freemen, to consider well before 
you take an awful step which may involve in its consequences 
the ruin of millions yet unborn. You are on the brink of a 
dreadful precipice — in the name therefore of holy liberty, for 
which I have fought and for which we have all suffered, I call 
upon you to make a solemn pause before you proceed. One 
step more, and perhaps the scene of freedom is closed forever 
in America. Let not a set of aspiring despots, who make us 
slaves^ and tell us 'tis our charter, wrest from you those in- 
valuable blessings, for which the most illustrious sons of 
America have bled and died — but exert yourselves, like men, 
like freemen, and like Americans, to transmit unimpaired to 
your latest posterity those rights, those liberties, which have 

The Twenty-three Objections Refuted, 187 

ever been dear to you, and which it is yet in your power to 

An Officer of thf latf Continental Army. * 
Philadelphia, November 3, 1787. 

[Reply to "An Officer, &c."] 

Friend Oswald: Seeing in thy paper of yesterday twenty- 
three objections to the new plan of federal government, I am 
induced to trouble the public once more; and shall endeavor 
to answer them distinctly and concisely. That this may be 
done with candor, as well as perspicuity, I request thee to re- 
print them as they are stated by "an officer of the late Con- 
tinental army," and to place my answers in the same order. 

I shall pass over everything that is not in point, and leave 

the strictures on friend W to those who are acquainted 

with him: I will only observe that "his lofty carriage," is 
very like to be the effect of habit; for I know by experience 
that a man who wears spectacles, must keep his head erect to 
see through them with ease, and to prevent them from falling 
off his nose. 

Now for the objections: 

"i. It is not merely (as it ought to be) a Confederation of 
States^ but a Government of Individuals.'''' 

Answer i. It is more a government of the people, than the 
present Congress ever was, because the members of Congress 
have been hitherto chosen by the lyCgislatures of the several 
States. The proposed representatives are to be chosen ' ' by 
the people. ' ' If therefore it be not a confederation of the States^ 
it is a popular compact, something more in favor of liberty. 
Art. I, Sect. 2. 

"2. The powers of Congress extend to the lives, the liber- 
ties and the property of every citizen." 

2. Is there a government on earth, where the life, liberty 
and property of a citizen may not be forfeited by a violation 
of the laws of God and man? It is only when justified by 
such crimes, that the new government has such power; and 

•* Independent Gazetteer, Nov. 6, 1787. 

i88 Before the Meeting of the Convcntio7i. 

all crimes (except in cases of impeachment) are expressly to 
be tried by jury ^ in the State where they may be committed. 
Art. 3, Sect. 2. 

"3. The sovereignty of the different states is ipso facto de- 
stroyed in its most essential parts." 

3. Can the sovereignty of each state in all its parts exist, 
if there be a sovereignty over the whole ? Is it not nonsense 
in terms, to suppose a united government of any kind^ over 
thirteen co-existent sovereignties? "It is obviously imprac- 
ticable in the federal government of these states, to secure all 
the rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet pro- 
vide for the interest and safety of all." (President's letter.) 

"4. What remains of it, will only tend to create violent 
dissensions between the state governments and the Congress, 
and terminate in the ruin of the one or the other." 

4. No such dissension can happen, unless some state oppose 
the interests of the whole collectively; and it is to overcome 
such opposition by a majority of 12 to i, *'to ensure domestic 
tranquillity, to provide for the common defence, promote the 
general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty," that the 
union is now, and has ever been thought indispensable. (In- 
troduction to the new plan.) 

"5. The consequence must therefore be, either that the 
union of the states will be destroyed by a violent struggle, or 
that their sovereignty will be swallowed up by silent encroach- 
ments into a universal aristocracy; because it is clear, that if 
two different foreign powers have a co-equal command over 
the purses of the citizens, they will struggle for the spoils, 
and the weakest will be in the end obliged to yield to the ef- 
forts of the strongest." 

5. The preceding petition being eradicated, this conse- 
quence falls to the ground. It may be observed, however, 
that the revenue to be raised by Congress, is not likely to in- 
terfere with the taxes of .iny state. Commerce is the source 
to which they will naturally apply, because that is one great 
and uniform object, and they cannot attend to detail. The 
burden, too, will in this way be scarcely felt by the people. 
All foreigners who may sell merchandise at a loss (and that 

The Twenty-three Objections Refuted. 189 

often has been, and often will be the case in an extensive de- 
gree,) will pay the impost in addition to that loss, and the 
duties on all that may be sold at a profit, will be eventually 
paid by the consumers: thus the taxes will be insensibly in- 
cluded in the price, and every man will have the power of re- 
fusal, by not consuming the taxed luxuries. 

"6. Congress being possessed of these immense powers, 
the liberties of the states and of the people are not secured 
by a bill or declaration of rights." 

6. Notwithstanding all that has been written against it, I 

must recur to friend W 's definition on this subject. A 

state government is designed for all cases whatsoever^ con- 
sequently what is not reserved, is tacitly given. A federal 
government is expressly only for federal purposes^ and its 
power is consequently bounded by the terms of the compact. 
In the first case a Bill of Rights is indispensable, in the sec- 
ond it would be at best useless, and if one right were to be 
omitted, it might injuriously grant, by implication, what was 
intended to be reserved. 

"7. The sovereignty of the states is not expressly reserved: 
the form only, and not the substance of their government, is 
guaranteed to them by express words." 

7. When man emerged from a state of nature, he surely 
did not reserve the natural right of being the judge of his 
wrongs, and the executioner of the punishments he might 
think they deserved. A renunciation of such rights, is the 
price he paid for the blessings of good government; and for 
the same reason, state sovereignty (as I have before observed) 
is as incompatible with the federal union, as the natural right 
of human vengeance is, wiih the peace of society. 

"The United States shall guarantee to every state a repub- 
lican form of government." That is, they shall guarantee 
it against monarchical or aristocratical encroachments ; Con- 
gress can go no further, for the states would justly think 
themselves insulted, if they should presume to interfere in 
other alterations which may be individually thought more 
consistent with the good of the people. Art. 4, Sec. 4. 

"8. Trial by jury, that sacred bulwark of liberty, is abol- 

190 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

ished in civil cases, and Mr. W , one of the convention, 

has told yon, that not being able to agree as to the form of 
establishing this point, they have left you deprived of the 
substance. Here is his own words: 'The subject was in- 
volved in difficulties. The convention found the task too 
difficult for them, and left the business as it stands.'" 

8. Trial by jury has been seen to be expressly preserved in 
criminal cases. In civil cases, the federal court is like a court 
of chancery, except that it has original jurisdiction only in 
state affairs; in all other matters it has "appellate jurisdic- 
tion both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and under 
such regulations as Congress shall make." Art. 3, Sec, 2. 
Nobody ever complained that trials in chancery were not by 
jury. A court of chancery "may issue injunctions in various 
stages of a cause," saith Blackstone, "and stay oppressive 
judgment." Yet courts of chancery are every where extolled 
as the most equitable; the federal court has not such an ex- 
tent of power, and what it has is to be always under the ex- 
ceptions and regulations of the United States in Congress. 

Friend W has well observed that it was impossible 

to make one imitation of thirteen different models, and the 
matter seems now to stand as well as human wisdom can 

"9. The liberty of the press is not secured, and the powers 
of Congress are fully adequate to its destruction, as they are 
to have the trial of libels, or pretended libels against the 
United States, and may by a cursed abominable stamp act 
(as the Bowdoin administration has done in Massachusetts) 
preclude you effectually from all means of information. Mr. 
W has given you no answer to these arguments." 

9. The liberty of the press in each state can only be in 
danger from the laws of that state, and it is everywhere well 
secured. Besides, as the new Congress can only have the de- 
fined powers given, it was needless to say anything about 
liberty of the press, liberty of conscience, or any other liberty 
that a freeman ought never to be deprived of. It is remark- 
able in this instance, that among all the cases to which the 
federal jurisdiction is to extend (art. 3), not a word is said of 

The Twenty-three Objections Refuted. 191 

"libels or pretended libels. " Indeed, in this extensive con- 
tinent, and among this enlightened people, no government 
whatever could control the press. For after all that is said 
about "balance of power," there is one power which no ty- 
ranny on earth could subdue if once roused by this great and 
general grievance, that is, the people. This respectable 
power has preserved the press in Great Britain in spite of 
government; and none but a madman could ever think of 
controlling it in America. 

"10. Congress have the power of keeping up a standing 

army in time of peace, and Mr. W has told you that it 

is necessary.'''' 

10. The power here referred to is this, "to raise and sup- 
port armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be 
for a longer term than two years.'''' — Art. i. Sect. 8. Thus 
the representatives of the people have it in their power to dis- 
band this army every two years, by refusing supplies. Does 
not every American feel that no standing army in the power 
of Congress to raise, could support despotism over this im- 
mense continent, where almost every citizen is a soldier? If 
such an apprehension came, in my opinion, within the bounds 
of possibility, it would not indeed become my principles to 
oppose this objection. 

"11. The Lregislative and Executive powers are not kept 
separate, every one of the American constitutions declares they 
ought to be; but they are mixed in a manner entirely novel 
and unknown, even to the constitution of Great Britain." 

11. The first article of the constitution defines the legisla- 
tive, the second, the executive, and the third the judicial 
powers; this does not seem like mixing them. It would be 
strange indeed if a professed democratist should object, that 
the president's power is made subject to "the advice and con- 
sent of two-thirds of the Senate. " Art. 2, Sect. 2. 

"12. In England, the king only has a nominal negative 
over the proceedings of the legislature, which he has never 
dared to exercise since the days of King William, whereas by 
the new constitution, both the President-General and the 
Senate, two executive branches of the government, have the 

192 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

negative, and are intended to support each other in the exer- 
cise of it." 

12. Whoever will read the 7th section of the 4th article, 
will see that the president has only a conditional negative, 
which is effectual or not as two-thirds of the Senate and two- 
thirds of the Representatives may on reconsideration deter- 
mine. If the "two executive branches" (as they are here 
called) should agree in the negative, it would not be novel, 
as to the power of the Senate; for I believe every senate on 
the continent, and every upper house in the world, may 
refuse concurrence, and quash a bill before it arrives at the 
executive department. The king of England has an uncon- 
ditional negative, and has often exercised it in his former 

"13. The representation of the lower house is too small, 
consisting only of 65 members." 

13. The Congress on the old plan had but 13 voices, and 
of these, some were frequently lost by equal divisions. If 
65 voices be yet too few, it must follow that the new plan has 
made some progress towards perfection. 

"14. That of the Senate is so small that it renders its ex- 
tensive powers extremely dangerous: it is to consist only of 
26 members, two-thirds of whom must concur to conclude 
any treaty or alliance with foreign powers. Now we will 
suppose that five of them are absent, sick, dead, or unable to 
attend, twenty-one will remain, and eight of these (one-third, 
and one over) may prevent the conclusion of any treaty, even 
the most favorable to America. Here will be a fine field for 
the intrigues and even the bribery and corruption of Euro- 
pean powers. ' ' 

14. This like the former objection is mere matter of opin- 
ion. The instance as to supposed vacancies does not apply, 
for ' ' if vacancies happen by resignation or otherwise during 
the recess of the Legislature of any State, the executive there- 
of may make temporary appointments until the meeting of 
the Legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies." Art. 
I, Sec. 3. This provision expressly implies that accidental 
vacancies shall be immediately filled. 

The Twenty-three Objections Refuted. 193 

"15. The most important branches of the executive depart- 
ment are to be put into the hands of a single magistrate, who 
will be in fact an elective king. The military, the land and 
naval forces are to be entirely at his disposal." 

15. It was mentioned as a grievance in the 12th objection 
that this supposed "elective king" had his powers clogged 
by the conjunction of another branch; here he is called a 
"single magistrate." Yet the new constitution provides that 
he shall act ' ' by and with the advice and consent of the Sen- 
ate," Art. 2, Sec. 2, and can in no instance act alone, except 
in the cause of humanity by granting reprieves or pardons. 

"16. Should the Senate, by the intrigues of foreign powers, 
become devoted to foreign influence, as was the case of late 
in Sweden, the people will be obliged, as the Swedes have 
been, to seek their refuge in the arms of the monarch or Pres- 

16. The comparison of a little kingdom to a great repub- 
lic, cannot be just. The revolution in Sweden was the affair 
of a day, and the success of it was owing to its confined 
bounds. To suppose a similar event in this extensive coun- 
try, 3000 miles distant from European intrigues, is, in the 
nature of things, a gross absurdity. 

"17. Rotation, that noble prerogative of liberty, is entirely 
excluded from the new system of government, and great men 
may and probably will be continued in office during their 

17. How can this be the case, when at stated periods the 
government reverts to the people, and to the representatives 
of the people, for a new choice in every part of it ? 

"18. Annual elections are abolished, and the people are 
not to re-assume their rights until the expiration of two, four 
and six years." 

18. Annual changes in a federal government would beget 
confusion; it requires years to learn a trade, and men in this 
age are not legislators by inspiration. One-third of the Sen- 
ate, as well as all of the Representatives, are to be elected 
every two years. Art. i. Sec. 3. 

"19. Congress are to have the power of fixing the time, 

194 Before the Meeting of' the Conveiition. 

place, and manner of holding elections, so as to keep them 
forever subjected to their influence." 

19. Congress are not to have power to fix the place of 
choosing Senators: and the time, place, and manner of elect- 
ing Representatives are to be fixed by each State itself. Con- 
gress, indeed, are to have control to prevent undue influence 
in elections, which we all know but too often happens through 
party zeal. Art. i. Sec. 4. 

"20. The importation of slaves is not to be prohibited until 
the year 1808, and slavery will probably resume its empire in 

20. This is fully answered in my letter to Timothy, but it 
may not be amiss to repeat that Congress will have no power 
to meddle in the business until 1808. All that can be said 
against this offending clause is, that we may have no altera- 
tion in this respect for twenty-one years to come; but twenty- 
one years is fixed as a period when we may be better, and in 
the meantime we cannot be worse than we are now. Art. i, 
Sec. 9. 

"21. The militia is to be under the immediate command 
of Congress, and men conscientiously scrupulous of bearing 
arms, may be compelled to perform military duty." 

21. Congress may "provide for calling forth the militia, 
and may provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining it." 
But the states respectively can only raise it, and they ex- 
pressly reserve the right of "appointment of officers and of 
training it." Now we know that men conscientiously scru- 
pulous by sect or profession are not forced to bear arms in any 
of the States, a pecuniary compensation being accepted in 
lieu of it. Whatever may be my sentiments on the present 
state of this matter is foreign to the point. But it is certain 
that whatever redress may be wished for, or expected, can 
only come from the State Legislature, where, and where only, 
the dispensing power, or enforcing power, is in the first in- 
stance placed. Art. I, Sec. 8. 

"22. The new government will be expensive h^yon^. d^ny 
we have ever experienced; the judicial department alone, with 
its concomitant, train of judges, justices, chancellors, clerks, 

The Twenty-three Objections Refuted. 195 

sheriffs, coroners, escheators, state attorneys and solicitors, 
constables, etc., in every state, and in every county in each 
state, will be a burden beyond the utmost abilities of the peo- 
ple to bear." 

22. This mighty expense would be paid by about one shil- 
ling a man throughout the states. The other part of this ob- 
jection is not intelligible; nothing is said in the new consti- 
tution of a judicial department in "states and counties," 
other than what is already established. 

"23. A government partaking of ;;z(9;z<2r^/zy and aristocracy 
will be fully and firmly established, and liberty will be but a 
name to adorn the short historic page of the halcyon days of 
America. ' ' 

23. The 5th article expressly provides against every dan- 
ger, by pointing out a mode of amendment when necessary. 
And liberty will thus be a name to adorn the long historic 
page of American virtue and happiness. 

Thus I have answered all the objections, and supported my 
answers by fair quotations from the new constitution; and I 
particularly desire my readers to examine all the references 
with accurate attention. If I have mistaken any part, it will, 
I trust, be found to be an error of judgment, not of will, and 
I shall thankfully receive any candid instruction on the sub- 
ject. One quotation more and I have done: "In all our de- 
liberations on this subject (saith George Washington) we kept 
steadily in our view, that which appears to us the greatest in- 
terest of every true American, the consolidation of our union, 
in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps 
our national existence. This important consideration, seri- 
ously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in 
the convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magni- 
tude, than might have been otherwise expected; and thus 
the constitution which we now present is the result of a 
spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession 
which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered in- 
dispensable. ' ' Plain Truth. * 

* Independent Gazetteer, Nov. 10, 1787. 

196 Before the Meeting of the Convention. 

[One of the Dissenting Assemblymen.] 

From The Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser^ Nov. 

14, 1787. 

Messrs. Printers: As the Constitution framed by the late 
Continental Convention is an object of the greatest magni- 
tude, and upon the adoption or rejection of which the happi- 
ness or misery of this country greatly depends, I am happy 
to find it has become a subject of general discussion, and that 
many able pens are employed in the investigation of its 
nature and principles; everything, therefore, that hath any 
relation to this business must be interesting and of import- 
ance to the public. The secession of the minority of the late 
house of assembly having connection with this matter, and 
being severely reprobated by many who are, perhaps, igno- 
rant of the principles which influenced their conduct, I have 
taken the liberty, as one of that minority, of stating to the 
public, through the medium of your paper, the motives 
which induced us to take such a measure. 

In the formation of every good government, every innova-- 
tion should be carefully guarded against, as it is much easier 
to prevent than to remedy evils; therefore, in every free gov- 
ernment, the power of putting a negative upon particular 
laws is lodged in such a man or body of men, as have not the 
power of enacting laws. Thus, in Britain, a complete nega- 
tive is vested not only in each house of parliament, but also 
in the king, whereas the concurrence of king, lords, and 
commons are necessary to enact a law. The despotism of the 
French monarchy is much restrained by the powers lodged 
with the parliament of Paris, of preventing the operation of 
any new laws, by refusing to register them. When the Ro- 
man Republic was in the zenith of its glory, the negative of 
a single tribune was sufficient to prevent the enacting of a 
law, but the concurrence of twelve tribunes was necessary to 
make any new law or innovation. In the Republic of Genoa, 
four-fifths of the Senate must assent to any new law, conse- 
quently if even forty should concur in the measure, it might 
be prevented by eleven. 

But to come nearer home. In our neighboring States, the 

The Negative. 197 

majority of the Senate or upper house have a complete nega- 
tive over the whole Legislature, which amounts in most cases 
to one exercising a complete negative over eight, ten, or 

The framers of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, sensible 
of the necessity of preventing innovations, have also pro- 
vided sufficient checks; and though our legislature consists 
of but one branch, and it is not in the power of a single 
magistrate, or a majority of a small upper house, to put a 
negative on our laws, or prevent what they might think im- 
proper innovations; yet, even in this government which de- 
rives its greatest security from responsibility and necessary 
rotation, no bills can be enacted into laws, except in cases of 
sudden necessity, without being published for consideration 
from session to session, and thus laying them before the peo- 
ple, together with the yeas and nays, and reasons for the vote, 
if any two members require it; but as the house are neces- 
sarily judges of the sudden necessity which may exist for en- 
acting laws hastily, the constitution has carefully guarded 
against any attempt of designing men, who may, from the 
prevailing influence of some improper or dangerous interest, 
prostitute the cry of public necessity to cloak their ambition, 
and thus attempt such innovations as the minority may think 
unconstitutional and highly mischievous, to prevent which 
our form of government provides, that a quorum of not less 
than two-thirds of the whole number elected shall be neces- 
sarily present, in order to do business. Thus, a negative 
check is clearly erected, and the exercise thereof vested in 
such a minority as shall exist of a little more than one-third 
of the whole number elected. This is clearly a constitutional 
check; the legislature have not the power of preventing it, 
and the members who shall exercise it are responsible to their 
constituents only for their conduct. 

This negative has been often put in practice; there is an 
instance of its having been done twice in one day; but as, 
perhaps, the house was not of the greatest importance, or 
what is more probable, that the majority were not aided by a 
mob, these instances made very little noise, nor was the ex- 

198 Befoi'e the Meeting of the Convention. 

ercise of this negative ever attempted to be prevented, until 

the day of , 1784; when near the close of the last 

session of the house, a bill was brought forward for reviving 
the test laws. This the minority considered as a matter in 
which their constituents ought to be consulted, and for the 
enacting of which there was no sudden necessity; they, there- 
fore, considered the enacting thereof in such a manner as a 
wilful breach of the constitution, and judged it to be their 
duty to avail themselves of every means which the constitu- 
tion itself put in their power to preserve it inviolable, and 
consequently put a stop to the business, until it comes before 
their constituents; but on this occasion the doors were at- 
tempted to be shut, and force was used to detain the mem- 
bers, therefore they did not return to finish the business of 
the house, apprehending that if they acted under compulsion 
or the power of a mob, whatever was done would not be bind- 
ing on the citizens, because freedom of acting is indispensa- 
ble to the exercise of legislative authority. The case, of 
course, came before the people, and they decided, by approv- 
ing of and returning the members who dissented, and by re- 
jecting the majority of those who urged on the business. 

The next occasion when this negative was exercised was on 
the 28th day of September last, being expected (at least by 
many of the members) to be the last day of the house sitting, 
when a resolution was proposed by one of the members (who 
had also been a member of the late Federal Convention) for 
calling a state convention, to be elected in the greatest part 
of the State within about ten days, for the purpose of exam- 
ining and adopting the proposed new constitution for the 
government of the United States. To offer a resolution of 
such importance at that late hour, to take it up instantly 
without giving the members who did not expect such an at- 
tempt, and were consequently wholly unprepared, time even 
until the afternoon for advisement, was truly extraordinary. 
But, when it is considered that the adopting of the proposed 
plan may, in its consequences, alter, or even annihilate the 
constitution of our own State under which we act, and which 
is the rule and measure of our legislative authority, and to 

Remarks of a Dissenting Assemblyman. 199 

preserve which inviolate we had, in the presence of God, and 
of each other, solemnly plighted our faith; every unpreju- 
diced person will allow we ought to have taken time to delib- 
erate. Even the Council of Censors, who have the constitu- 
tional right to propose alterations or amendments to the con- 
stitution, yet are strictly prohibited from calling a convention 
to adopt such alterations or amendments, until they are pub- 
lished at least six months for the consideration of the people. 
But in the present instance, the assembly were called upon 
by surprise to propose essential alterations in the forms of 
government, without having received any new powers for 
that purpose from the people, but being expressly guarded 
from doing it, both by the powers delegated to them and by 
their own solemn oaths, and without permitting the people to 
know or judge of the importance of those alterations in their 
government, which they were thus called upon to adopt or 
reject, or the relative fitness of the persons whom they were 
about to elect for the proposed convention, or without the 
shadow of necessity for going into the measure with precipi- 
tation, as no injury could arise from deferring the business 
until the meeting of the new house, who would at least enjoy 
implied powers for that purpose, and might have sufficient 
information from the people to enable them to go into the 
business with a degree of understanding suited to its import- 
ance. But taking the matter up at that time and manner 
was an express violation of the existing confederation, for it 
is now well known that Congress did not transmit the new 
constitution to this State until the week after the last house 
finally rose, and that it was not ofiicially before the legislature 
until after the present house met. In this situation we, who 
were of the minority, saw no alternative but either by our 
presence to assist in breaking the constitution of this State 
and the confederation of the United States, or else to avail 
ourselves of that negative check which the constitution itself 
hath instituted, by constituting a large quorum, and secured 
the exercise of by preventing the doors from being shut. 

If the constitution had not pointed out such an alternative, 
or if the minority had not thought proper to make use of it, 

200 Before the Aleeting of the Convention. 

necessity dictated the measure; for before the business was 
brought forward, and before many of us knew any such mat- 
ter was designed, the gallery and doors were so unusually 
crowded as to give ground of surprise, though we had no sus- 
picion of the design until the extraordinary resolution was 
offered, and the still more extraordinary language that was 
used to support it, viz. : 

"That the citizens who had declined to sign an approba- 
tion of the new plan would shortly be dragged forth with 
public infamy and disgrace; that none would dare to oppose 
it; that the confederation was dissolved and rotten, and did 
not exist," etc. I was by that time fully convinced that we 
were surrounded with a mob, probably collected there for the 
occasion by those who, being members of the house, had the 
address to procure seats in the Federal Convention ; and these 
having exceeded the powers delegated to them were intoxi- 
cated with such fondness for the creature of their own pro- 
duction, or perhaps for the enjoyment of those offices which 
they had so liberally provided in the proposed plan, as not 
only to break through the rules of decency and good order, 
but every obligation they were under to their constituents. 

Under the full persuasion that we were acting under such 
restraint as was inconsistent with the free exercise of legisla- 
tive authority, and entirely subversive of the powers with 
which we were entrusted, when the first paragraph of the 
plan was pretty largely debated and adopted, and the remain- 
ing paragraphs were before us, the house adjourned until the 
afternoon, which was the only instance of that session in 
which we were to sit twice in one day. I then determined in 
my own mind not to return to the house until I could do it 
with confidence of enjoying personal freedom, steadfastly be- 
lieving that no law enacted under the evident restraint of a 
mob could be binding or admitted in a court of justice; but 
such of us who had opportunity proposed to the speaker of 
the house, and to the members who moved that hasty busi- 
ness, for to return to the house and finish the business that 
was regularly brought before the house, upon those gentle- 
men engaging that the new plan should not be further urged 

Remarks of a Dissenting Assemblyman. 201 

until it would come officially and orderly before them, but 
this was refused; and it is now notorious, that upon the next 
day after the resolution was introduced, the mob, after ren- 
dezvousing at the State House, marched to and entered by 
force the lodging of some of the members, and carried off two 
of them (which was all that fell into their hands), unto the 
assembly room — then become the guard house of the mob — 
and after putting them into it kept them there, and when 
under this restraint they assumed the form of a legislative 
assembly, and counting upon the imprisoned members as a 
necessary part of their number, proceeded to complete the 
resolutions, but with some alteration, for they did not then 
dare to give so short a day for the election as on the preced- 
ing day, and they added an idea to delude the people, as if 
the proposed plan of government had been transmitted to the 
house from Congress ; but this I have already noticed, and it 
is now universally known to be true, whilst proceeding on 
this business the two members who were forced there by the 
mob were not only under restraint, but one of them prevented 
from his freedom of going even to the door by one who was 
both a member of the late Federal Convention and of the 
assembly, laying forcible hands upon him, and by the mob- 
cry "stop, stop," &c., and during those transactions so far was 
the discipline of the house from being exerted, that there was 
not even a call to order by the Speaker. 

Thus it appears that the dissenting members only availed 
themselves of this constitutional negative in a case where 
the Constitution itself and the confederation were both at 
stake, as well as the people's right to information in a case 
wherein they are to judge for themselves and posterity. The 
magnitude of the case invited, and forcible necessity drove 
them to appeal to their constituents, who have already given 
an uncontrovertible decision in favor of our conduct by re- 
electing all those members who dissented that had not already 
served four years in the house, except one man who was left 
out through a mistaken division of votes, occasioned by a re- 
cent erection of a county. Thus the people have given the 
strongest testimony of their approbation which the case 
admits of. 

202 Befo7'e the Meetmg of the Convention. 

It is the glory of the American revolution that the respec- 
tive governments underwent a free and rational discussion, 
were the fruit of deliberation and choice, and were not dic- 
tated by a chieftain, nor hatched in a secret conclave, where 
the depraved and intriguing generally overreach and circum- 
vent the disinterested and virtuous: they were also generally 
left open to a regular course of alteration or amendment, ac- 
cording as experience and circumstances dictate the propriety. 
But who would then have believed that at this early period, 
within the remembrance, and even when the feelings of the 
revolution were yet fresh on every sensible patriotic mind, 
that an attempt should be made in a legislative body to pre- 
clude the people who accomplished the revolution, and whose 
wounds have yet scarcely ceased to bleed, from the means 
of understanding and judging of the amendments or altera- 
tions by which they are to be bound. Future generations 
will justly censure those who precipitated this business, when 
the dark designs and ambitious intrigues which have fo- 
mented the embarrassments of the Union, and paved the way 
for the aristocratic attempts of the present day, shall be fully 

The worst that even an improper exertion of this negative 
by a minority can do is to postpone the business in question, 
be it what it will, and so to give further time for advisement. 

But what will be the opinion of freemen of the precedent 
set by the majority of the late house, if a mob may be em- 
ployed or countenanced in compelling members to attend and 
act who are necessarily responsible only to the rules of their 
own house and their constituents. May not the mob by the 
same rule, if they dislike a business which is likely to be 
enacted into a law, take out what number of members they 
please so as to turn the majority to their wishes? or may they 
not by all the terrors of riot oblige the members to vote as 
they think fit ? But the consequences are too plain and too 
dreadful to be dwelt upon. 

In some other free countries, mobs have had the audacity 
to interrupt the legislature, and prevent for a time the pro- 
gress of some business obnoxious to the populace; but it 

Remarks of a Dissenting Assemblyman. 203 

remained for the legislature of Pennsylvania to suflfer, and 
for the mob of Philadelphia to commit, that kind of outrage 
which puts an end to constitutional government, and the 
peace and confidence of society at once: for who can think a 
deliberative body free in their decisions, which sits in reach 
of the operations and terrors of such a set of desperadoes ? 

One of the evils prevalent in the controversies of the pres- 
ent times is, that the supposed merit or demerit of names 
are urged instead of reason, and detraction instead of argu- 
ment. For this cause I shall not at present give my real 
name, but subscribe myself what I really have been, 

One of the Dissenting Assembi^ymen. 



The election of delegates to represent Philadelphia in the 
State Convention to consider the constitution took place at the 
State House on Tuesday, November 6th. All went quietly 
during the day. But at midnight a crowd gathered, and a 
riot occurred before the now famous house of Mr. Alexander 
Boyd on Sixth street The occasion of the riot was the pres- 
ence in the house of the Anti-Federal Junto against whom 
the voters had been muttering threats all day. What hap- 
pened was stated to the Assembly a few days later by one of 
the members insulted. 


Saturday^ Novejnber loth. 

The house met pursuant to adjournment. 

The order of the day for electing a state treasurer was 
called up, but Mr. M'Lean expressing a desire to state a sub- 
ject of some importance, that order was postponed to give him 
an opportunity to address the house, which he did in the fol- 
lowing manner: 

Mr. M ' Lean. It is with the greatest diffidence I rise to 
represent some facts, which in my opinion, respect more the 
dignity, and honor of this house, than the personal safety 
and resentments of those who are individually interested. 
As a member of the legislature, it is my duty to guard and 
protect its privileges in whatever form they may be attacked ; 
and even Mr. Speaker, when so humble a member as he that 
now addresses you, has been made the means of offering an 
insult to the house, the offence, which is but trivial when we 
consider the man, becomes of great importance when we con- 
sider his office. For these reasons therefore, I think myself 
bound to lay before the house, the circumstances of complaint 

Riot at Mr. Boyd^s. 205 

to which I have alluded ; but to their wisdom I shall impli- 
citly submit the measures which are proper to be pursued 
upon the occasion. About midnight on Tuesday last, a great 
concourse of people assembled opposite to the house of Mr. 
Alexander Boyd, in which myself, several other members of 
this house, and several members of the supreme executive 
council lodged, and at that time had retired to our respec- 
tive chambers. The persons thus assembled made a consider- 
able noise in the streets, and at length assailed Mr. Boyd's 
house, beating loudly at the door, and breaking the windows, 
thro' which they threw some very large stones, etc. , exclaim- 
ing repeatedly, "here the damned rascals live who did all the 
mischief," and using other words highly reproachful to the 
members of this house and of the executive council. What 
were the motives of the rioters for this conduct, I do not 
know, nor am I solicitous to enquire; but having stated these 
facts, I am confident every gentleman here is ready to ex- 
press his disapprobation of the proceedings, so grossly in vio- 
lation of the law of the land, and the established privilege of 
this house. 

Mr. Findley. Though I am aware, Mr. Speaker, that the 
fullest credit will be given to the information of the member 
who has just spoken, and that upon this subject no other 
evidence is necessary to support his allegation, yet I have 
been solicitous to put the authenticity of the facts which have 
been stated beyond all doubt, and therefore beg leave to pre- 
sent two affidavits, one made by Mr. Boyd, whose house has 
been attacked, and the other by Mr. Baird, a member of the 
supreme executive council. 

The clerk then read the affidavits, which were as follows: 

^'' Philadelphia^ ss.'''' 

On this ninth day of November, in the year of our Lord 
one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, before me 
Plunket Fleeson, Esquire, being one of the justices of peace, 
in the city and county of Philadelphia, residing in the said 
city; Cometh Alexander Boyd, of Sixth street, from Delaware 
river in the said city, Esquire, who being solemnly sworn 
with uplifted hand, doth depose, testify and say that on the 

2o6 The Debate in the Convention. 

night of Tuesday last, being the sixth of this present month 
of November, this dependent, together with the honorable 
John Smilie, John Baird and Abraham Smith, members of the 
supreme executive council; and James M'Calmont, James 
M'lycan, John Piper and William Findley, Esquires, represen- 
tatives in the general Assembly of the State of Pennsylvania, 
who lodge with this deponent, were gone to bed in his dwelling 
in Sixth street aforesaid: that this deponent was fallen asleep, 
when about 12 o'clock at midnight, a great noise in the ad- 
joining street, awaked this deponent, who thereupon imme- 
diately jumped out of his bed, and raising the sash of a win- 
dow towards the street of the the third floor of the house, he 
saw a considerable number of men in the street, of w^hom 
twelve or fifteen were nigh to the door of this deponent's 
dwelling, and that divers of the persons, so as aforesaid as- 
sembled, did then and there speak reproachfully of the gentle- 
men who were lodged with this deponent, and did say that 
here is the house where the damned rascals lodge who do all 
the devilment, or words to the like effect; adding that they 
ought to be all hanged. That hearing the window rise and 
seeing this deponent at the window, as this deponent believes, 
this deponent hear one of the same persons say. ' There 
is one of the damned rascals putting his head out of the win- 
dow. ' That a man who lives nigh to this deponent, at this 
moment coming out of this dwelling, and approaching the 
mob aforesaid, the persons who composed the same ran 
northerly towards Mulberry street, and this deponent saw 
them no more. That this deponent was awaked as aforesaid, 
by the noise aforesaid, and by the throwing of large stones 
against the front door of his dwelling, some of which stones 
drove in the sash over the same door and fell in his entry, 
and one of them was at least ten pounds in weight. And 
that this deponent was not able to distinguish au)^ of the 
aforesaid rioters, so as to know their names, or who they or 
any of them were. And further this deponent saith not." 

^''Philadelphia^ ss. 

"On this ninth day of November, Anno Domini one thou- 
sand seven hundred and eighty-seven, before me, Plunket 

Riot at Mr. Boyd^s. 207 

Fleeson, Esq., being one of the justices of the peace in and 
for the city and county of Philadelphia, and residing in the 
same city, cometh the Honorable John Baird, who is one of 
the members of the supreme executive council of this com- 
monwealth, and the said John, being duly sworn on the holy 
gospel, doth depose, testify and say, that he, this deponent, 
doth lodge with Alexander Boyd, and that being in bed at 
the dwelling of the said Alexander, in Sixth street from Del- 
aware river, in the city of Philadelphia, on Tuesday night 
last, the 6th instant, and being fallen asleep, he was disturbed 
and awaked by a confused noise, at first seeming to him to 
be the report of guns fired, made by riotous persons in the 
street, at and near the same dwelling, and heard the glass of 
the lower story of the house breaking, by the throwing of 
stones against the same; that this deponent, still lying in his 
bed and not rising, heard some persons in the street say, 
'Here the damned rascals live who do all the mischief,' or 
words to like effect; that the disturbance aforesaid did not 
continue after this deponent awaked, as aforesaid, above a 
minute, after which this deponent heard the rioters aforesaid 
departing hastily, as the sound of their feet indicated, towards 
Mulberry street; and that the Honorable John Smilie and 
Abraham Smith, together with James M'Calmont, James 
M'Lean, John Piper and William Findley, Esquires, repre- 
sentatives in the general assembly of this state, do also lodge 
with the said Alexander Boyd, and were all in bed, as this 
deponent hath good reason to believe, in the dwelling of the 
said Alexander aforesaid, at the time of the outrage and riot 
so as aforesaid committed, and further saith not." 

Mr. Kennedy. Sir, the outrage that has been committed 
against the public peace, and against the privilege of this 
house, being thus authenticated, I beg leave to offer a reso- 
lution upon the subject, in which I expect the unanimous 
concurrence of the members. 

[The resolution was prefaced with a recital of the injury 
stated in the depositions and complained of by the members, 
and concluded with authorizing the executive council to offer 
a reward for the discovery of the offenders, and requiring 

2o8 The Debate in the Convention. 

them to direct the attorney general to prosecute the offenders 
when discovered.] 

Mr. Peters. I am very ready Mr. Speaker, to declare that 
the transaction represented to the house is of an unwarrant- 
able and scandalous nature, for the punishment of which I 
shall cheerfully unite with the movers of this resolution. But 
I profess, sir, to be at a loss in what manner we ought to pro- 
ceed in order to maintain the dignity of the legislature, and 
to give efficacy to our decisions upon this subject, which is 
certainly of great importance, not only as it respects the 
present object, but as it is to establish a precedent for the 
future. I wish therefore to have a short time for reflection, 
and move that the resolution before us be referred to a com- 
mittee — not, Mr. Speaker, to create unnecessary dela}', but as 
I said before, to enable us to proceed with propriety and 

Mr. M'Lean. I do not perceive the least reason for refer- 
ring this business to a committee: It is a plain, easy, and 
consistent proposition that lies before us, and the honor of the 
house requires that an explicit and immediate determination 
shall take place. The very reference to a committee will 
propagate an opinion that we are indifferent and in doubt as 
to the offence which has been committed, and it is probable 
that the executive council will have proceeded upon the com- 
plaint of their members, while we are indulging this useless 
spirit of procrastination. I cannot suppose that it is the wish 
of any member to defeat the question in this manner; and as 
it seems to be agreed that the disapprobation of the house 
ought to be expressed, there can be no reason given for not 
expressing it at this time, since every objection either to the 
form or substance of the proposed resolution may be obviated 
by immediate alteration or amendment. It was with reluct- 
ance that I consented to delay calling the attention of the 
house to this business so long, but as any further delay will 
I am confident be injurious to the legislative character, I 
shall oppose the motion for a commitment. 

Mr. Lewis. It is difficult upon questions of importance 
suddenly to form an opinion which will be satisfactory' to the 

Riot at Mr. Boyd^ s. 209 

mind; and therefore, though I shall never consent to sacrifice 
a moment to mere delay, I shall always be desirous to obtain 
the time that is necessary for deliberation. The subject be- 
fore us is certainly of great moment, and therefore deserves 
consideration; is likewise of a complex nature, and 
therefore demands it. In the account which has been given 
to the house, we discover an offence that may either be con- 
sidered as a riot and breach of the public peace, in which case 
the common course of the law is competent to punish the 
offenders, or it may be regarded as an infringement of the 
privilege of this house, in which case it becomes our duty to 
investigate the circumstances, for it is in our power alone to 
punish the delinquency. Connected with this distinction are 
many enquiries which it is impossible to ascertain by an in- 
stantaneous recourse to the memory; and therefore I shall 
vote for the commitment, which is intended, I am confident, 
to provide the proper means of redressing the injury, and not 
to divert our attention from the complaint which has been 
made to the house, 

Mr. Fitzsimons. I have taken a cursory view of the depo- 
sitions, and in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, they do not support 
the resolution which has been offered to the house. I should 
certainly therefore vote for the commitment upon that ground 
alone; but I conceive likewise, that in point of justice the 
legislature will not pass a vote which tends highly to reflect 
upon the city and its police, without a perfect investigation 
of the grounds on which they proceed. If the committee 
shall find the charge sufficiently supported, I shall concur in 
any proper measure for punishing the offenders; but to vindi- 
cate the conduct of the house, it is certainly necessary to 
enquire into the subject before we decide upon it. 

Mr. Findley. Sir, I may be thought personally interested 
in the question, and therefore I shall not animadvert upon 
the means which the house ought to pursue, in order to de- 
clare their disapprobation of the transaction complained of; 
but I beg leave to observe, that I hope no other proofs will be 
called for in this case, than could be called for in any other 
case of a similar nature. According to parliamentary usage, 

210 The Debate in the Convention. 

the complaint of a member, Mr. Speaker, need only be sup- 
ported by his own assertion, and the affidavits which have 
been produced on this occasion were superfluous and unneces- 
sary. I claim no personal compliment or distinction, but 
possessing the honor of a seat in this house, I hope it will not 
be deemed arrogant or improper to claim the privileges and 
credit that belong to it. 

Here the Speaker declared that Mr. Findley was certainly 
right in his ideas upon the subject, and Mr. Fitzsimons ob- 
served, that not being present when the business was intro- 
duced, he did not know that it came in the form of a com- 
plaint from any member of the house. 

After some further debate, the question for commitment 
was carried by a small majority. 

In due time the committee reported, the house accepted the 
report, and the President issued the following proclamation: 

Pennsylvania.^ ss. 
By the President and the Supreme Executive Coun- 
cil OF THE Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

A Proclamation. 
Whereas, It appears to us that about midnight between Tuesday the 
sixth and Wednesday the seventh instant, a most daring riot was committed 
by a large company of disorderly and evil-minded persons unknown, at and 
on the dwelling of Major Alexander Boyd, in Sixth street, in the city of 
Philadelphia, which company violently assaulted the same house by throw- 
ing stones thereat and damaging the same, to the great disturbance and an- 
noyance of the honorable John Baird, Abraham Smith, and John Sniilie, 
members of Council, and of James M'Lean, James M'Calmont, William 
Findley and John Piper, esquires, members of the General Assembly of this 
Commonw^ealth, who were there asleep within the same dwelling; and 

U'liereas, It is manifest that the said rioters did perpetrate the riot and 
outrage aforesaid, with design to affront and injure the gentlemen aforesaid, 
in as much as they at the same time declared that they knew that they were 
lodgers with the said Alexander Boyd, and did speak concerning them in 
the most contumelious and threatening terms; and 

Whereas, The General Assembly of this state have transmitted to Council 
the following resolutions entered into by them on this occasion, viz. : 

"Saturday, November loth, ijSj. 
"The committee to whom was referred, this forenoon, the motion respect- 
ing the insult offered to some members of this House, made report which 
was read and on motion and by special order the same was read the second 
time and unanimously adopted as follows, viz: 

Proclamation of President Franklin. 211 

""Whereas, Complaint hath been made to this House by James M'Calmont 
James M'Lene, John Piper and William Findley, esquires, members thereof, 
that on the night of Tuesday the sixth instant, the house of major Boyd, of 
this city, in which they resided, was riotously attacked by a number of per- 
sons, to the said members unknown, and themselves abused and insulted by 
reproachful language. 

^"■Resolved, That such outrageous proceedings is highly disapproved of by 
this House, and is a breach of the privilege of its members. 

'■'Resolved, That this resolution, together with the affidavits which the said 
members have thought proper to produce on the subject, be transmitted to 
the Supreme Executive Council, and that Council be reqiiested to issue a 
proclamation, offering such rewards as they may deem necessary for appre- 
hending the perpetrators of the said outrage, in order that they may be 
brought to punishment, and that this House will provide for the payment 
of such rewards;" and 

Whereas, It is highly proper that the authors of such high contempts, so 
inconsistent with the dignity and good order of government, and of the 
most pernicious example, should be immediately discovered and brought to 
condign punishment; WE do, therefore, by this our proclamation, offer and 
promise the reward of THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS for the discovery of the 
rioters aforesaid, so that they be duly convicted of the same offence, to be 
paid out of the public treasury of this commonwealth, to the person or 
persons who shall furnish the necessary information concerning the prem- 
ises. And we do hereby charge and require all judges, justices, sheriffs and 
constables to make diligent search and enquiry after and to use their utmost 
endeavors to apprehend and secure the said rioters, their aiders, abettors and 
comforters, so that they may be dealt with according to law. 

Given in Council, utider the hand 0/ the President, and the seal of the 
State, at Philadelphia, this tzuelfth day 0/ November, in the year of out 
Lord one thousand, seven hundred and eigJity-seven. 


Attest: Charles Biddle, Sec'ry. 

Cod save the Commonwealth. 

The proclamation was matter of form ; neither the Judges, 
nor the Justices, the Sheriffs nor the Constables exerted them- 
selves to find the rioters, and the delegates chosen through- 
out the State assembled at the State House on the 21st of 


Wednesday.^ November 21? 
Sixty* of the gentlemen elected to serve in the convention 
met; the returns of the elections held for the city of Phila- 
delphia and the several counties of this State were read, by 

* From the Pennsylvania Packet, Nov. 27. 

213 The Debate iJt the Conveiition. 

which it appeared that the following gentlemen were re- 
turned as delegates to the convention* for the said city and 
counties respectively, viz: 

Philadelphia City. Chester. 

George Latimer Thomas Bull 

Benjamin Rush Anthony Wayne 

Hilary Baker William Gibbons 

James Wilson Richard Downing 

Thomas M'Kean. Thomas Cheyney 

Philadelphia County. John Hannuni. 
William ]\Iacpherson Lancaster. 

John Hunn Stephen Chambers 

George Gray Robert Coleman 

Samuel Ashmead Sebastian Graff 

Enoch Edwards. John Hubley 

Bucks. Jasper Yeates 

Henry Wynkoop John Whitehill. 
John Barclay York. 

Thomas Yardley Henry Slagle 

Abraham Stout Thomas Campbell 

*The minutes of the conveution gi-ve but a meagre account of its pro- 
ceedings, nor is there anj^ complete report of the debates, that took place, 
known to exist. At first the Philadelphia papers furnished short accounts 
of the proceedings, but before long they reprinted from the Penns3'lvania 
Herald what appears to have been a tolerably full report. Unfortunately 
this report was suspended after bringing the debates down to November 
30th, and if the statement of "Centinel," is accepted it was suppressed 
through the efforts of the Federalists. There is but little doubt that it 
was prepared by Alexander James Dallas, then a young man engaged by 
William Spotswood, proprietor of the Pennsylvania Herald and Columbian 
Magazine, to edit those publications. 

Thomas Lloyd, a short-hand writer of some iiote, proposed to take down 
the debates and print them as soon as the convention should adjourn. But 
one volume of his work however appeared, and that contains little else than 
the speeches of Wilson and a few of those of M'Kean. The language of 
some of these differs from the reports made by Dallas, and has evidently 
been subjected to revision. Nevertheless this volume was used by Elliot, 
and contains all he publishes as the Debates in the Pennsylvania Conven- 
tion. To give as full an account as is now possible of what was said in the 
Convention, the Reports of Dallas, and what else appeared in the papers 
of the day, have been carefully arranged, and the omissions from Lloyd's 
volume in part supplied, indicating in each case the authority drawn from. 


The Debate in the Convention. 


Thomas Hartley 
David Grier 
John Black 
Benjamin Pedan. 

John Harris 
John Reynolds 
Robert Whitehill 
Jonathan Hoge. 

Nicholas Lutz 
John Ludwig 
Abraham Lincoln 
John Bishop 
Joseph Hiester. 
John Arndt 
Stephen Balliet 
Joseph Horsfield 
David Deshler. 

James Martin 
Joseph Powell. 

William Wilson 
John Boyd. 

William Findley 
John Baird 
William Todd. 
James Marshel 
James Edgar 
Thomas Scott 
John Neville. 

Nathaniel Breading 
John Smilie. 
Richard Bard 
John Allison. 

Jonathan Roberts 
John Richards 
Fred. A. Muhlenberg 
James Morris. 

William Brown 
Adam Orth 
John Andre Hannah. 

Timothy Pickering 

Benjamin Elliott. 

The members then proceeded by ballot* to the election of 
a president, when there appeared 30 votes for Mr. Muhlen- 
berg, 29 for Mr. M'Kean, and one for Mr. Gray. General 
Wayne doubted whether 30 votes could be deemed the sense 
of the meeting, as it was not a majority of 60, the number 
of delegates present, which occasioned a short conversation 
upon the subject; but at length, the question being taken 

* From the Pennsylvania Herald, Nov. 27. Same in Independent Gazet- 
teer, Nov. 27. 

214 The Debate in the Convention, 

whether Mr. Muhlenberg should be conducted to the chair? 
it was determined in the affirmative. It was then proposed 
to proceed to the choice of a clerk, but that business was de- 
ferred on motion of Mr. Smilie. Dr. Rush moved ' ' that a 
committee be appointed to request the attendance of some 
minister of the gospel to-morrow morning, in order to open 
the business of the convention with prayer." This was con- 
sidered by several gentlemen as a new and unnecessary meas- 
ure, which might be inconsistent with the religious senti- 
ments of some of the members, as it was impossible to fix 
upon a clergyman to suit every man's tenets, and it was 
neither warranted by the example of the general assembly 
or of the convention that framed the government of Penn- 
sylvania. To these observations Dr. Rush replied, that he 
hoped there was liberality sufficient in the meeting to unite 
in prayers for the blessing of Heaven upon their proceedings, 
without considering the sect or persuasion of the minister 
who officiated; and with respect to precedent, he remarked 
that it might be taken from the conduct of the first, and 
every succeeding Congress, who certainly deserved our imi- 
tation. "That the convention who framed the government 
of Pennsylvania, did not preface their business with prayer, 
is probably the reason," added the Doctor, " that the state has 
ever since been distracted by their proceedings. ' ' Mr. Smilie 
objected to the absurd superstition of that opinion, and 
moved a postponement, which was accordingly agreed to. 
An invitation was read from the trustees of the university, 
requesting the attendance of the members at the ensuing 
Commencement, which was unanimously accepted, and the 
convention adjourned to meet to-morrow morning at 9 
o'clock, in order to proceed in a body to the college-hall. 

Thursday^ November 22^ 10 o'^ clock ^ a. in. 
The Convention met* agreeably to thei.r adjournment, and 
on motion of Mr. Whitehill, the members proceeded in a 
body to the Commencement of the University. After the 

* From the Pennsylvania Herald, Nov. 24. Same in the Independent 
Gazetteer, Nov. 27. 

The Debate in the Convention, 215 

exercises were concluded, the Convention returned to tlie 

On motion of Mr. Wayne,* seconded by Mr. Whitehill, a 
committee was appointed to report rules and regulations for 
conducting the business of the convention: the committee 
consisted of Benjamin Rush, James Wilson, George Gray, 
Anthony Wayne, and Robert Whitehill. 

Adjourned until half after 9 o'clock to-morrow. 

Friday^ November 2^. 

The Conventionf being met, pursuant to adjournment, on 
motion of Mr. M'Kean, they proceeded to the choice of a 
Secretary, when Mr. James Campbell was duly elected. 
Mr. Burt was afterwards appointed Messenger, and Mr. Fry, 
Doorkeeper. An application from Thomas Lloyd to be made 
Assistant Clerk, was read, and a motion, complying with the 
same, was postponed. 

The committee! appointed yesterday to bring in rules and 
regulations made report, and the same being read, was, by 
special order, taken up, read by paragraphs, and agreed to, 
as follows: 

ist. When the President assumes the chair, the members 
shall take their seats. 

2d. At the opening of the convention each day, the min- 
utes of the preceding day shall be read, and are then in the 
power of the convention to be corrected, after which any busi- 
ness addressed to the chair may be proceeded to. 

3d. Every petition, memorial, letter, or other matter of the 
like kind, read in the convention, shall be deemed as lying 
on the table for further consideration, unless any special 
order be moved therein. 

4th. A motion made and seconded shall be repeated by the 
President. A motion sha-U be reduced to writing, if the 
President or any two members require it. A motion may be 

*From the Pennsylvania Packet, Nov. 27, 1787. 

t From the Pennsylvania Herald, Nov. 24. Same in Independent Gazet- 
teer, Nov. 27. 
X From the Pennsylvania Packet, Nov. 27. 

2i6 The Debate in the Convention. 

withdrawn by the member making it before any decision is 
had on it. 

5th. No member speaking shall be interrupted but by a 
call to order by the President, or by a member through the 

6th. No member to be referred to in debate by name. 

7th. The President himself, or by request, may call to or- 
der any member who shall transgress the rules. If a second 
time, the President may refer to him by name. The conven- 
tion may then examine and censure the member's conduct, 
he being allowed to extenuate or justify. 

8th. Every member actually attending the convention shall 
be in his place at the time the convention stands adjourned 
to, or within half an hour thereof 

9th. The name of him who makes, and the name of him 
who seconds a motion, shall be entered on the minutes. 

loth. No member shall speak more than twice to a ques- 
tion without leave. 

nth. Every member of a committee shall attend at the 
call of his chairman. 

1 2th. The yeas and nays may be called, and entered on the 
minutes when any two members require it. 

On motion* of Mr. M'Kean, seconded by Mr. Smilie, re- 
solved that the doors of the Convention be kept open. 

On motion of Mr. M'Kean, the Constitution proposed for 
the federal government, was taken up and read by the Clerk. 

Mr. Wilson tlien moved that the time of meeting and ad- 
journing should be fixed, observing that with respect to the 
time of adjournment, it had been found necessary in the 
Federal Convention to make a rule that at 4 o'clock they 
should break up, even if a member was in the middle of his 
speech, and he proposed that two o'clock should be the hour 
now limited for adjournment; but, after a short conversation, 
it was agreed that the Convention should meet at 10 o'clock 
each morning, leaving the hour of adjournment unspecified. 

The Convention adjourned to meet to-morrow morning at 
10 o'clock. 

*From the Penusylvania Herald, Nov. 24, 1787. Same in Independent 
Gazetteer, Nov. 27. 

The Debate in the Convention, 


Saturday^ November 24th. 

The Convention met pursuant to adjournment. 

The Minutes of yesterday being read, the proposed Consti- 
tution of Federal Government was taken up for a second 
reading, after which the following proceedings took place: 

Mr. M'Kean.* Mr. President, there will perhaps be some 
difficulty in ascertaining the proper mode of proceeding to 
obtain a decision upon the important and interesting subject 
before us. We are certainly without precedent to guide us; 
but the utility of the forms observed by other public bodies, 
will be an inducement to adhere to them where a variation 
of circumstance does not render a variation of the mode 
essentially necessary. As far, therefore, as the rules of the 
Legislature of Pennsylvania will apply to the Constitution 
and business of this body, I shall recommend their adoption; 
but I perceive that in a very great degree we shall be obliged, 
for conveniency and propriety, to resort to new regulations, 

*This version of Wilson's speech on M'Kean's motion is taken from a 
pamphlet entitled "The Substance of a Speech delivered by James Wilson, 
Esq. Explanatory of the General Principles of the Proposed Federal Con- 
stitution Upon Motion made by the Honorable Thomas M'Kean, in the 
Convention of the State of Pennsylvania. On Saturday, the 24th of No- 
vember, 1787. Philadelphia. Printed by Thomas Bradford, in Front 
Street, four doors below the Coffee House. MDCCLXXXVII." 

It appears to have been prepared by Dallas, as the language attributed to 
M'Kean is almost exactly the same as that given in his report in the Penn- 
sylvania Herald. The publication of the speech excited the jealousy of 
Lloyd, who appended to his proposals to print the Debates the following : 

Several of the editor's friends having supposed a pamphlet printed by 
Thomas Bradford, entitled, "The Substance of ti Speech delivered by James 
Wilson, Esq., &c." was written by him, he conceives himself under the 
necessity of counteracting any impression such an opinion may have made 
upon the public, by assuring them he was not the writer, but pledges him- 
self to give that address in the forementioned volume, without mutilation 
or misrepresentation. 

December 3, 1787. 

In Lloyd's Debates the speech is erroneously given under date of Nov. 
26th, and is so copied by Elliot. The language differs, but the argument is 
the same. Notwithstanding Lloyd's card, we believe the pamphlet version 
to be the nearer correct. The language used in it and the style are more 
those of a speech, and as it was in the hands of the people long before 
Lloyd's volumes, and at a critical time, it is given in preference. In Dallas' 
Report, printed in the Herald of Nov. 28th, there is only an abstract of 
Wilson's speech. 

2i8 The Debate in the Convention. 

arising from the singularity of the subject offered to our con- 
sideration. For the present, however, I shall move you, Sir, 
that we come to the following resolution : 

Resolved, That this Couvention do adopt and ratify the Constitution of 
■federal Government as agreed upon by the Federal Convention at Phila- 
delphia on the 17th day of September, 1787. 

This measure, Mr. President, is not intended to introduce 
an instantaneous decision of so important a question, but 
merely to bring the object of our meeting fully and fairly 
into discussion. It is not my wish that it should be deter- 
mined this day, nor do I apprehend it will be necessary that 
it should be determined this day week; but it is merely pre- 
paratory to another motion with which I shall hereafter 
trouble you, and which, in my opinion, will bring on that 
regular and satisfactory investigation of the separate parts 
of the proposed Constitution, which will finally enable us to 
determine upon the whole. 

Mr. Wilson. As the only member of this respectable body, 
who had the honor of a seat in the late Federal Convention, 
it is peculiarly my duty, Mr. President, to submit to your 
consideration the general principles that have produced the 
national Constitution, which has been framed and proposed 
by the assembled delegates of the United States, and which 
must finally stand or fall by the concurrent decision of this 
Convention and of others acting upon the same subject, 
under similar powers and authority. To frame a government 
for a single city or State, is a business both in its importance 
and facility, widely different from the task entrusted to the 
Federal Convention, whose prospects were extended not only 
to thirteen independent and sovereign States, some of which 
in territorial jurisdiction, population, and resource, equal the 
most respectable nations of Europe, but likewise to innum- 
erable States yet unformed, and to myriads of citizens who 
in future ages shall inhabit the vast uncultivated regions of 
the continent. The duties of that body therefore, were not 
limited to local or partial considerations, but to the formation 
of a plan commensurate with a great and valuable portion of 
the olobe. 

The Debate in the Conventioii. 219 

I confess, Sir, that the magnitude of the object before us, 
filled our minds with awe and apprehension. In Europe, 
the opening and extending the navigation of a single river, 
has been deemed an act of imperial merit and importance; 
but how insignificant does it seem when we contemplate the 
scene that nature here exhibits, pouring forth the Potow- 
mack, the Rapahannock, the Susquehanna, and other in- 
numerable rivers, to dignify, adorn, and enrich our soil. 
But the magnitude of the object was equalled by the diffi- 
culty of accomplishing it, when we considered the uncommon 
dexterity and address that were necessary to combat and 
reconcile the jarring interests that seemed naturally to pre- 
vail, in a country which, presenting a coast of 1500 miles to 
the Atlantic, is composed of 13 distinct and independent 
States, varying essentially in their situation and dimensions, 
and in the number and habits of their citizens — their inter- 
ests too, in some respects really different, and in many appar- 
ently so; but whether really or apparently, such is the con- 
stitution of the human mind, they make the same impression, 
and are prosecuted with equal vigor and perseverance. Can 
it then be a subject for surprise that with the sensations in- 
dispensably excited by so comprehensive and so arduous an 
undertaking, we should for a moment yield to despondency, 
and at length, influenced by the spirit of conciliation, resort 
to mutual concession, as the only means to obtain the great 
end for which we were convened? Is it a matter of surprise 
that where the springs of dissension were so numerous, and 
so powerful, some force was requisite to impel them to take, 
in a collected state, a direction different from that which sep- 
arately they would have pursued ? 

There was another reason, that in this respect, increased 
the difficulties of the Federal Convention — the different tem- 
pers and dispositions of the people for whom they acted. 
But, however widely they may differ upon other topics, they 
cordially agree in that keen and elevated sense of freedom 
and independence, which has been manifested in their united 
and successful opposition to one of the most powerful king- 
doms of the world. Still it was apprehended by some, that 

220 TJie Debate in ihc Convention. 

their abhorrence of constraint, would be the source of objec- 
tion and opposition; but I confess that my opinion, formed 
upon a knowledge of the good sense, as well as the high 
spirit of my constituents, made me confident that they would 
esteem that government to be the best, which was best calcu- 
lated eventually to establish and secure the dignity and hap- 
piness of their country. Upon this ground, I have occasion- 
ally supposed that my constituents have asked the reason of 
my assent to the several propositions contained in the plan 
before us. My answer, though concise, is a candid and I 
think a satisfactory one — because I thought them right; and 
thinking them right, it would be a poor compliment indeed 
to presume they could be disagreeable to my constituents — 
a presumption that might occasion a retort to which I wish 
not to expose myself, as it would again be asked, "Is this 
the opinion you entertain of those who have confided in your 
judgment? From what ground do you infer that a vote 
right in itself would be disagreeable to us?" and it might 
with justice be added, "this sentiment evinces that you de- 
served not the trust which we reposed in you." No, Sir! 
I have no right to imagine that the reflected rays of dele- 
gated power can displease by a brightness that proves the 
superior splendor of the luminary from which they proceed. 

The extent of country for which the New Constitution was 
required, produced another difficulty in the business of the 
Federal Convention. It is the opinion of some celebrated 
writers, that to a small territory the democratical, to a mid- 
ling territory (as Montesquieu has termed it) the monarchical, 
and to an extensive territory the despotic form of govern- 
ment, is best adapted. Regarding then, the wide and almost 
unbounded jurisdiction of the United States, at first view the 
hand of despotism seemed necessary to control, connect and 
protect it ; and hence the chief embarrassment arose. For 
we knew that, although our constituents would cheerfully 
submit to the legislative restaints of a free government, they 
would spurn at every attempt to shackle them with despotic 

In this dilemma, a Federal Republic naturally presented 

The Debate in the Conve^ttion, 22 1 

itself to our observation, as a species of government which 
secured all the internal advantages of a republic, at the same 
time that it maintained the external dignity and force of a 
monarchy. The definition of this form of government may 
be found in Montesquieu, who says, I believe, that it consists 
in assembling distinct societies which are consolidated into a 
new body, capable of being increased by the addition of other 
members — an expanding quality peculiarly fitted to the cir- 
cumstances of America. 

But while a federal republic removed one difficulty, it in- 
troduced another, since there existed not any precedent to 
assist our deliberations; for, though there are many single 
governments, both ancient and modern, the history and prin- 
ciples of which are faithfully preserved and well understood, 
a perfect confederation of independent states is a system 
hitherto unknown. The Swiss cantons, which have often 
been mentioned in that light, cannot properly be deemed a 
federal republic, but merely a system of united states. The 
United Netherlands are also an assemblage of states; yet, as 
their proceedings are not the result of their combined deci- 
sions, but of the decisions of each state individually, their 
association is evidently wanting in that quality which is es- 
sential to constitute a federal republic. With respect to the 
Germanic Body, its members are of so disproportionate a size, 
their separate governments and jurisdictions so different in 
nature and extent, the general purpose and operation of their 
union so indefinite and uncertain, and the exterior power of 
the House of Austria so prevalent, that little information 
could be obtained or expected from that quarter. Turning, 
then, to ancient history, we find the Achaean and Lycian 
leagues and the Amphyctionic council bearing a superficial 
resemblance to a federal republic; but of all these, the ac- 
counts which have been transmitted to us are too vague and 
imperfect to supply a tolerable theory, and they are so desti- 
tute of that minute detail from which practical knowledge 
may be derived, that they must now be considered rather as 
subjects of curiosity, than of use or information. 

Government, indeed, taken as a science, may yet be con- 

222 The Debate in the Convcnt{o7i, 

sidered in its infancy; and with all its various modifications, 
it has hitherto been the result of force, fraud, or accident. 
For, after the lapse of six thousand years since the creation 
of the world, America now presents the first instance of a 
people assembled to weigh deliberately and calmly, and to 
decide leisurely and peaceably, upon the form of government 
by which they will bind themselves and their posterity. 
Among the ancients, three forms of government seem to 
have been correctly known — the monarchical, aristocratical, 
and democratical ; but their knowledge did not extend be- 
yond those simple kinds, though much pleasing ingenuity 
has occasionally been exercised in tracing a resemblance of 
mixed government in some ancient institutions, particularly 
between them and the British constitution. But, in my 
opinion, the result of these ingenious refinements does more 
honor to the moderns in discovering, than to the ancients in 
forming the similitude. In the work of Homer, it is sup- 
posed by his enthusiastic commentators, the seeds of every 
science are to be found; but, in truth, they are first observed 
in subsequent discoveries, and then the fond imagination 
transplants them to the book. Tacitus, who lived towards 
the close of that period which is called ancient, who had read 
the history of all antecedent and contemporary governments, 
who was perfectly competent to judge of their nature, ten- 
dency, and quality — Tacitus considers a mixed government 
as a thing rather to be wished than expected; and if ever it 
did occur, it was his opinion that it could not last long. One 
fact, however, is certain, that the ancients had no idea of 
representation, that essential to every system of wise, good, 
and efficient government. It is surprising, indeed, how very 
imperfectly, at this day, the doctrine of representation is un- 
derstood in Europe. Even Great Britain, which boasts a su- 
perior knowledge of the subject, and is generally supposed to 
have carried it into practice, falls far short of its true and 
genuine principles. For, let us enquire, does representation 
pervade the constitution of that country? No. Is it either 
immediately or remotely the source of the executive power? 
No. Vox it is not any part of the British constitution, as 

The Debate in the Convejttwn. 223 

practiced at this time, that the king derives his authority 
from the people. Formerly that authority was claimed by 
hereditary or divine right; and even at the revolution, when 
the government was essentially improved, no other principle 
was recognized but that of an original contract between the 
sovereign and the people — a contract which rather excludes 
than implies the doctrine of representation. Again, is the 
judicial system of England grounded on representation? 
No. For the judges are appointed by the king, and he, as 
we have already observed, derives not his majesty or power 
from the people. Lastly, then, let us review the legislative 
body of that nation, and even there, though we find represen- 
tation operating as a check, it cannot be considered as a per- 
vading principle. The lords, acting with hereditary right, 
or under an authority immediately communicated by regal 
prerogative, are not the representatives of the people, and yet 
they, as well as the sovereign, possess a negative power in the 
paramount business of legislation. Thus the vital principle 
of the British constitution is confined to a narrow corner, and 
the world has left to America the glory and happiness of 
forming a government where representation shall at once 
supply the basis and the cement of the superstructure. For 
representation. Sir, is the true chain between the people and 
those to whom they entrust the administration of the govern- 
ment; and though it may consist of many links, its strength 
and brightness never should be impaired. Another, and per- 
haps the most important obstacle to the proceedings of the 
Federal Convention, arose in drawing the line between the 
national and the individual governments of the states. 

On this point a general principle readily occurred, that 
whatever object was confined in its nature and operation to a 
particular State, ought to be subject to the separate govern- 
ment of the States; but whatever in its nature and operation 
extended beyond a particular State, ought to be comprehended 
within the federal jurisdiction. The great difficulty, there- 
fore, was the application of this general principle, for it was 
found impracticable to enumerate and distinguish the various 
objects to which it extended; and as the mathematics only 

224 The Debate in tJie Convention. 

are capable of demonstration, it ought not to be tlioiiglit ex- 
traordinary that the convention could not develop a subject 
involved in such endless perplexity. If, however, the pro- 
posed constitution should be adopted, I trust that in the 
theory there will be found such harmony, and in the practice 
such mutual confidence between the national and individual 
governments, that every sentiment of jealousy and apprehen- 
sion will be effectually destroyed. But, Sir, permit me to 
ask whether, on the ground of a union, the individual or the 
national government ought most to be trusted? For my part, 
I think it more natural to presume that the interest of each 
would be pursued by the whole, than the reverse of the pro- 
position that the several States would prefer the interest of 
the confederated body; for in the general government each is 
represented, but in the separate governments, only the sepa- 
rate States. 

These difficulties, Mr. President, which embarrassed the 
Federal Convention, are not represented to enhance the merit 
of surmounting them, but with a more important view, to 
show how unreasonable it is to expect that the plan of govern- 
ment should correspond with the wishes of all the States, of 
all the citizens of any one State, or of all the citizens of the 
united continent. I remember well. Sir, the effect of those 
surrounding difficulties in the late Convention. At one time 
the great and interesting work seemed to be at a stand, at 
another it proceeded with energy and rapidity, and when at 
last it was accomplished, many respectable members beheld 
it with wonder and admiration. But having pointed out the 
obstacles which they had to encounter, I shall now beg leave 
to direct your attention to the end which the Convention 

Our wants, imperfections, and weakness, Mr. President, 
naturally incline us to society ; but it is certain, society can- 
not exist without some restraints. In a state of nature each 
individual has a right, uncontrolled, to act as his pleasure or 
his interest may prevail, but it must be observed that this 
license extends to every individual, and hence the state of 
nature is rendered insupportable, by the interfering claims 

The Debate in the Coiivention. 225 

and the consequent animosities of men, who are independent 
of every power and influence but their passions and their 
will. On the other hand, in entering into the social com- 
pact, though the individual parts with a portion of his natural 
rights, yet it is evident that he gains more by the limitation 
of the liberty of others, than he loses by the limitation of his 
own, — so that in truth, the aggregate of liberty is more in 
society, than it is in a state of nature. 

It is then. Sir, a fundamental principle of society, that the 
welfare of the whole shall be pursued and not of a part, and 
the measures necessary to the good of the community must 
consequently be binding upon the individuals that compose 
it. This principle is universally allowed to be just with re- 
spect to single governments, and there are instances in which 
it applies with equal force to independent communities; for 
the situation and circumstances of states may make it as 
necessary for them as for individuals to associate. Hence, 
Mr. President, the important question arises: Are such the 
situation and circumstances of the American States ? 

At this period, America has it in her power to adopt either 
of the following modes of government: She may dissolve the 
individual sovereignty of the States, and become one consol- 
idated empire; she may be divided into thirteen separate, in- 
dependent and unconnected commonwealths; she may be 
erected into two or more confederacies; or, lastly, she may 
become one comprehensive Federal Republic. 

Allow me, Sir, to take a short view of each of these suppo- 
sitions. Is it probable that the dissolution of the State gov- 
ernments, and the establishment of one consolidated empire, 
would be eligible in its nature, and satisfactory to the people 
in its administration ? I think not, as I have given reasons 
to show that so extensive a territory could not be governed, 
connected and preserved but by the supremacy of despotic 
power. All the exertions of the most potent Emperors of 
Rome were not capable of keeping that Empire together, 
which in extent was far inferior to the dominion of America. 
Would an independent, an unconnected situation, without 
any associating head, be advantageous or satisfactory ? The 

226 The Debate in the Convention. 

consequences of this system would at one time expose the 
States to foreign insult and depredations, and at another, to 
internal jealousy, contention and war. Then let us consider 
the plan of two or more confederacies which has often been 
suggested, and which certainly presents some aspects more 
inviting than either of the preceding modes, since the sub- 
jects of strife would not be so numerous, the strength of 
the confederates would be greater, and their interests more 
united. But even here, when we fairly weigh the advantages 
and the disadvantages, we shall find the last greatly prepon- 
derating; the expenses of government would be considerably 
multiplied, the seeds of rivalship and animosity would spring 
up, and spread the calamities of war and tumult through the 
country; for tho' the sources of rancour might be diminished, 
their strength and virulence would probably be increased. 

Of these three species of government, however, I must ob- 
serve, that they obtained no advocates in the Federal Conven- 
tion, nor can I presume that they will find advocates here, or 
in any of our sister States. The general sentiment in that 
body, and, I believe, the general sentiment of the citizens of 
America, is expressed in the motto which some of them have 
chosen, unite or die; and while we consider the extent of 
the country, so intersected and almost surrounded with navi- 
gable rivers, so separated and detached from the rest of the 
world, it is natural to presume that Providence has designed 
us for an united people, under one great political compact. 
If this is a just and reasonable conclusion, supported by the 
wishes of the people, the Convention did right in proposing 
a single confederated Republic. But in proposing it they 
were necessary led, not only to consider the situation, cir- 
cumstances, and interests of one, two, or three States, but ot 
the collective body; and as it is essential to society, that the 
welfare of the whole should be preferred to the accommoda- 
tion of a part, they followed the same rule in promoting the 
national advantages of the Union, in preference to the sepa- 
rate advantages of the States. A principle of candor, as well 
as duty, led to this conduct; for, as I have said before, no 
government, either single or confederated, can exist, unless 

The Debate in the Conventioji. 227 

private and individual rights are subservient to the public 
and general happiness of the nation. It was not alone the 
State of Pennsylvania, however important she may be as a 
constituent part of the union, that could influence the delib- 
erations of a convention formed by a delegation from all the 
United States to devise a government adequate to their com- 
mon exigencies and impartial in its influence and operation. 
In the spirit of union, inculcated by the nature of their com- 
mission, they framed the constitution before us, and in the 
same spirit they submit it to the candid consideration of 
their constituents. 

Having made some remarks upon the nature and principles 
of civil society, I shall now take a cursory notice of civil lib- 
erty, which is essential to the well-being of civil government. 
The definition of civil liberty is, briefly, that portion of nat- 
ural liberty which men resign to the government, and which 
then produces more happiness than it would have produced 
if retained by the individuals who resign it; still, however, 
leaving to the human mind the full enjoyment of every priv- 
ilege that is not incompatible with the peace and order of 
society. Here I am easily led to the consideration of another 
species of liberty, which has not yet received a discriminating 
name, but which I will venture to term Federal liberty. 
This, Sir, consists in the aggregate of the civil liberty which 
is surrendered by each state to the national government; and 
the same principles that operate in the establishment of a 
single society, with respect to the rights reserved or re- 
signed by the individuals that compose it, will justly apply 
in the case of a confederation of distinct and independent 

These observations have been made, Mr. President, in 
order to preface a representation of the state of the Union, as 
it appeared to the late convention. We all know, and we 
have all felt, that the present system of confederation is inad- 
equate to the government and the exigencies of the United 
States. Need I describe the contrasted scene which the rev- 
olution has presented to our view? On the one hand, the 
arduous struggle in the cause of liberty terminated by a glo- 

228 The Debate in the Co7ivention. 

rious and triumphant peace; on the other, contention and 
poverty at home, discredit and disgrace abroad. Do we not 
remember what high expectations were formed by others and 
by ourselves on the return of peace ? And have those honor- 
able expectations from our national character been realized ? 
No! What then has been the cause of disappointment? Has 
America lost her magnanimity or perseverance? No! Has 
she been subdued by any high-handed invasion of her liber- 
ties? Still I answer no; for dangers of that kind were no 
sooner seen than they were repelled. But the evil has stolen 
in from a quarter little suspected, and the rock of freedom, 
which stood firm against the attacks of a foreign foe, has 
been sapped and undermined by the licentiousness of our 
own citizens. Private calamity and public anarchy have pre- 
vailed; and even the blessing of independency has been 
scarcely felt or understood by a people who have dearly 
achieved it. 

Shall I, Sir, be more particular in this lamentable history? 
The commencement of peace was likewise the commence- 
ment of our distresses and disgrace. Devoid of power, we 
could neither prevent the excessive importations which lately 
deluged the country, nor even raise from that excess a con- 
tribution to the public revenue; devoid of importance, we 
were unable to command a sale for our commodities in a for- 
eign market; devoid of credit, our public securities were 
melting in the hands of their deluded owners, like snow be- 
fore the sun; devoid of dignity, we were inadequate to per- 
form treaties on our own part, or to compel a performance on 
the part of a contracting nation. In short. Sir, the tedious 
tale disgusts me, and I fondly hope it is unnecessary to pro- 
ceed. The years of languor are over. We have seen dis- 
honor and destruction, it is true, but we have at length 
penetrated the cause, and are now anxious to obtain the cure. 
The cause need not be specified by a recapitulation of facts; 
every act of Congress, and the proceedings of every State, are 
replete with proofs in that respect, and all point to the weak- 
ness and imbecility of the existing confederation; while the 
loud and concurrent voice of the people proclaims an efficient 

The Debate in the Convejition. 239 

national government to be the only cure. Under these im- 
pressions, and with these views, the late convention were 
appointed and met; the end which they proposed to accom- 
plish being to frame one national and efficient government, in 
which the exercise of beneficence, correcting the jarring in- 
terests of every part, should pervade the whole, and by which 
the peace, freedom, and happiness of the United States should 
be permanently ensured. The principles and means that 
were adopted by the convention to obtain that end are now 
before us, and will become the great object of our discussion. 
But on this point, as upon others, permit me to make a few 
general observations. 

In all governments, whatever is their form, however they 
may be constituted, there must be a power established from 
which there is no appeal, and which is therefore called abso- 
lute, supreme, and uncontrollable. The only question is, 
where that power is lodged? — a question that will receive 
different answers from the different writers on the subject. 
Sir William Blackstone says, it resides in the omnipotence 
of the British Parliament, or in other words, corresponding 
with the practice of that country, it is whatever the British 
Parliament pleases to do: so that when that body was so 
base and treacherous to the rights of the people as to transfer 
the legislative authority to Henry the Eighth, his exercising 
that authority by proclamations and edicts could not strictly 
speaking be termed unconstitutional, for under the act of 
Parliament his will was made the law, and therefore his will 
became in that respect the constitution itself. But were we 
to ask some politicians who have taken a faint and inaccurate 
view of our establishments, where does this supreme power 
reside in the United States? they would probably answer, 
in their Constitutions. This however, though a step nearer 
to the fact, is not a just opinion; for in truth, it remains and 
flourishes with the people; and under the influence of that 
truth we, at this moment, sit, deliberate, and speak. In 
other countries, indeed, the revolutions of government are 
connected with war, and all its concomitant calamities. But 
with us, they are considered as the means of obtaining a 

230 The Debate in the Convention. 

superior knowledge of the nature of government, and of 
accomplishing its end. That the supreme power, therefore, 
should be vested in the people, is in my judgment the great 
panacea of human politics. It is a power paramount to 
every constitution, inalienable in its nature, and indefinite in 
its extent. For I insist, if there are errors in government, 
the people have the right not only to correct and amend 
them, but likewise totally to change and reject its form; and 
under the operation of that right, the citizens of the United 
States can never be wretched beyond retrieve, unless they 
are wanting to themselves. 

Then let us examine, Mr. President, the three species of 
simple government, which as I have already mentioned, are 
the monarchical, aristocratical and democratical. In a mon- 
archy, the supreme power is vested in a single person; in an 
aristocracy, it is possessed by a body not formed upon the 
principle of representation, but enjoying their station by de- 
scent, by election among themselves, or in right of some 
personal or territorial qualification; and lastly, in a democ- 
racy, it is inherent in the people, and is either exercised by 
themselves or by their representatives. Each of these sys- 
tems has its advantages and its disadvantages. The advant- 
ages of a monarchy are strength, dispatch, and unity; its 
disadvantages are expense, tyranny, and war. The advant- 
ages of an aristocracy are experience, and the wisdom result- 
ing from education ; its disadvantages are the dissension of 
the governors, and the oppression of the people. The ad- 
vantages of a democracy are liberty, caution, industry, fidel- 
ity, and an opportunity of bringing forward the talents and 
abilities of the citizens, without regard to birth or fortune; 
its disadvantages are dissension and imbecility, for the assent 
of many being required, their exertions will be feeble, and 
their counsels too soon discovered. 

To obtain all the advantages, and to avoid all the incon- 
veniences of these governments, was the leading object of the 
late convention. Having therefore considered the formation 
and principles of other systems, it is natural to enquire, of 
what description is the constitution before us? In its prin- 

The Debate in the Convention. 231 

ciples, Sir, it is purely democratical ; varying indeed, in its 
form, in order to admit all the advantages, and to exclude all 
the disadvantages which are incidental to the known and 
established constitutions of government. But when we take 
an extensive and accurate view of the streams of power that 
appear through this great and comprehensive plan, when we 
contemplate the variety of their directions, the force and 
dignity of their currents, when we behold them intersecting, 
embracing, and surrounding the vast possessions and interests 
of the continent, and when we see them distributing on all 
hands beauty, energy and riches, still, however numerous 
and wide their courses, however diversified and remote the 
blessings they diffuse, we shall be able to trace them all to 
one great and noble source, The People. 

Such, Mr, President, are the general observations with 
which I have thought it necessary to trouble you. In dis- 
cussing the distinct propositions of the federal plan, I shall 
have occasion to apply them more particularly to that subject; 
but at present I shall conclude with requesting the pardon 
of the convention for having so long intruded upon their 

When Mr. Wilson had concluded,* Mr. Smilie rose and 
entered into a severe animadversion upon the nature of the 
motion offered by Mr. M'Kean, which however, he observed, 
was consistent with the system of precipitancy that had uni- 
formly prevailed in respect to the important subject before 
the Convention. He observed that we were repeatedly told 
of the peculiar advantages which we enjoy in being able de- 
liberately and peaceably to decide upon a government for 
ourselves and our posterity, but we find every measure that 
is proposed leads to defeat those advantages, and to preclude 
all argument and deliberation, in a case confessedly of the 
highest consequence to the happiness of a great portion of the 
globe. What, continued he, can be the object of the motion ? 
Is it to bring on a hasty and total adoption of the constitu- 
tion? lyCt it be remembered that the Federal Convention 

*From the Pennsylvania Herald, Nov. 28, 1787. 

232 The Debate in the Conventioji, 

consumed four months in framing it, and shall we not employ 
a few days in deciding upon it? If it is that noble, that 
perfect system, we have been told it is, why interfere with the 
fullest investigation of its principles, since, in that case, the 
better they are understood, the more they will be approved. 
The most common business of a legislative body is treated 
with greater delicacy, being submitted to repeated discussion, 
upon different days, and are we on a point of such magnitude 
to determine without information, to agree in toto to so com- 
plicated a system, before we have weighed and examined its 
constituent parts? No, Sir, it is our duty to go coolly and 
circumstantially into the consideration of this business, and 
by comparing it, at least, with the circumstances and exigen- 
cies of our country, ask with firmness, is such a sacrifice of 
civil liberty necessary to the national honor and happiness 
of America? For my part, I think otherwise, though at the 
same time I am sensible of the expediency of giving addi- 
tional strength and energy to the Federal head. But we are 
not so situated as to be obliged to accept any terms; and if 
this plan is such as we ought no to accept, I hope this con- 
vention will have candour and fortitude enough to reject it. 

Mr. M'Kean followed Mr. Smilie, and remarked that the 
object of his motion was declared when it was proposed: it 
was not to preclude, but promote a free and ample discussion 
of the federal plan. But as to the precedents which are 
pointed out from the legislature of Pennsylvania to guide our 
proceedings, if they were always right, which I do not think 
they are, still no parallel can be drawn between the nature 
of their business and ours, consequently their rules cannot 
apply. We do not come here to legislate; we have no right 
to inquire into the power of the late convention, or to alter 
and amend their work; the sole question before us is, whether 
we will ratify and confirm, or, upon due consideration, reject 
in the whole, the system of federal government that is sub- 
mitted to us. But because this is the only question which 
we can decide, does it follow that we are not minutely to in- 
vestigate its principles in every section and sentence? No, 
Sir; that will be our duty before we conclusively say whether 

The Debate in the Convention. 233 

we will ratify or reject; but precedents in point of proceed- 
ing cannot be drawn from any part of the world, for we are 
the first people who have ever peaceably assembled upon so 
great and interesting an occasion. 

Mr. Whitehill stated that, in his opinion, the object of the 
motion had been misunderstood by the member from Fayette, 
which was undoubtedly intended to bring the subject fairly 
before the convention. Indeed, I cannot perceive how we 
can decide upon the whole without having first considered 
every part, and in order to do that with convenience and 
effect, I presume a motion to go into a committee of the 
whole convention, which I mean to propose, will be adopted. 
Notwithstanding the arrangements, there may be reasonable 
objections urged against the proposed plan, and if it is found 
that it conveys to the federal government rights and liberties 
which the people ought never to surrender, I hope no specu- 
lative argument will seduce us into a confirmation, which 
binds ourselves and our posterity forever. 

The convention then adjourned to meet on Monday after- 
noon at 3 o'clock. 

[The following comments on Mr. Wilson's speech appeared 
in the Pennsylvania Packet of Nov. 27th.] 

Mr. Wilson attracted the attention of the house by a speech 
which the celebrated Roman orator would not have blushed 
to own. He began by pointing out the difficulties that the 
late convention had to encounter; the diversity of opinion, 
interest and prejudice they had to combat. He sketched the 
different forms of ancient and modern republics, and showed 
how imperfect models they were for our imitation; he proved 
to demonstration that there was not among them one con- 
federated republic. He mentioned these difficulties (he said) 
not to make a parade of the merits of the convention in sur- 
mounting them, but to show how visionary — how idle it is to 
expect that under them a government could be framed unex- 
ceptionable in all its parts to each individual of so extensive 
an empire. He forcibly contrasted the imbecility of our 
present confederation with the energy which must result from 

234 The Debate in the Convention. 

the proffered constitution. After defining (with an accuracy 
which marked his acquaintance with governmental histor}') 
the different kinds of government, and pointing out their re- 
spective advantages and wants, he concluded a speech which 
had justly won the admiration of his audience, by saying 
that the late convention had in view, and he hoped had in 
some measure executed, a constitution whose energy would 
pervade the union and restore credit and happiness to a dis- 
tracted empire. 

Afonday^ Noveinber 26th. 

The convention* met agreeably to adjournment. 

It was moved by Mr. M'Kean, seconded by Mr. Chambers, 
that the convention do now proceed to consider the proposed 
constitution by articles. 

This motion occasioned a long and desultory debate, in 
which it was contended, on the one hand, that the restraints 
of proceeding in convention, under fixed rules, precluding 
any member from speaking oftener than twice on the same 
question, and the advantages of reconsideration afforded by 
going into a committee of the whole, would be sufiicient rea- 
sons for dissenting from the proposed motion. 

On the other side, the expense and delay of going twice 
over the same ground was insisted on ; and in order to obviate 
the difficulty arising from the rule of debate, it was proposed 
to rescind that, and leave it in the power of each member to 
speak as often as he pleased. 

The rule was accordingly rescinded, and the question be- 
ing taken on a motion made by Mr. Whiteh-ill, for postpo- 
ning the resolution proposed by Mr. M'Kean, in order to in- 
troduce a motion for going into a committee of the whole, was 
lost, there being 43 against it, and 24 in favor of it. 

While the convention were debating! on the propriety of 
referring the constitution to a committee of the whole, Mr. 
Wilson made the following observation: "Shall we, Sir, 

*From the Pennsylvania Herald, Nov. 28, 17S7. Same in Independent 
Gazetteer, Nov. 29. 

tFrom Independent Gazetteer, Nov 29, 1787. 

The Debate in the Convention. 235 

while we contemplate a great and magnificent edifice, con- 
descend like a fly, with its microscopic eye, to scrutinize tlK:.- 
imperfections of a single brick?" Mr. Findley, retorting the 
metaphor, said "Shall we not. Sir, when we are about to 
erect a large and expensive fabric (for as far as it respects us, 
we are about to erect this mighty fabric of government in 
Pennsylvania) examine and compare the materials of which 
we mean to compose it, fitting and combining the parts with 
each other, and rejecting every thing that is useless and rot- 
ten?" "That," concluded Dr. Rush, " is not our situation. 
We are not, at this time, called upon to raise the structure. 
The house is already built for us, and we are only asked, 
whether we choose to occupy it ? If we find its apartments 
commodious, and, upon the whole, that it is well calculated 
to shelter us from the inclemencies of the storm that threatens, 
we shall act prudently in entering it ; if otherwise, all that is 
required of us is to return the key to those who have built 
and offered it for our use." 

It was observed in the convention, that the Federal con- 
vention had exceeded the powers given to them by the seve- 
ral legislatures ; but Mr. Wilson observed, that however for- 
eign the question was to the present business, he would place 
it in its proper light. The Federal convention did not act at 
all upon the powers given to them by the States, but they 
proceeded upon original principles, and having framed a con- 
stitution which they thought would promote the happiness 
of their country, they have submitted it to their consideration, 
who may either adopt or reject it, as they please. 

Yesterday afternoon, * in the convention of this State, it was 
moved by Mr. M'Kean, seconded by Mr. Chambers, that this 
convention do now proceed to consider the proposed constitu- 
tion by articles. 

After some debate it was moved by Mr. R. Whitehill, 
seconded by Mr. Lincoln, that the aforesaid motion be post- 
poned in order to introduce the following, viz. — That this 
convention resolve itself into a committee of the whole, for 

*The following account is from the Pennsylvania Packet, Nov. 27, 1787. 

3^6 The Debate in the Co7ivention. 

the purpose of investigating and considering the aforesaid 
constitution by articles and sections, and to make report 

A debate of considerable length now took place, which 
turned principally on the expediency of resolving the conven- 
tion into a committee of the whole. In favor of this measure 
it was urged, that it would subject the constitution to a more 
free and candid discussion — that it would allow more time 
for the members to make up their minds — and that it would 
be more consonant to the practice of the Legislature of Penn- 
sylvania. Against the motion was urged that by going into 
a committee of the whole, no minutes could be taken of the 
proceedings, and that the people at large would thereby be 
kept in ignorance of them — that as full liberty was given to 
each to speak as often as he pleased, there would be the same 
time given for deliberation in convention as in the committee 
— that the practice of the Assembly of Pennsylvania was no 
precedent for the convention — that this was a body without a 
precedent in the history of mankind — and that as the whole 
constitution was a single proposition, and that proposition 
alone before the convention, it was unnecessary to go into a 
committee, especially as no question could be taken upon any 
part of the constitution, nor any additions made to it, agree- 
ably to the recommendation of the Assembly under which 
the convention sat; although objections to every part of it 
might be made before the question of ratification was pro- 

The question being at length put, Mr. Whitehill's motion 
for postponement was lost, the yeas and nays being as follows: 


John Whitehill, Abraham Lincoln, 

John Harris, John Bishop, 

John Reynolds, Joseph Hiester, 

Robert Whitehill, James Martin, 

Jonathan Hoge, Joseph Powell, 

Nicholas Lutz, William Findley, 

John Ivudwig, John Baird, 

The Debate in the Convention. 


John Smilie, 

Richard Bard, 

William Brown, 

Adam Orth, 

John Andre Hannah.— 24. 


Sebastain Graff, 

John Hubley, 

Jasper Yeates, 

Henry Slagle, 

Thomas Campbell, 

Thomas Hartley, 

David Grier, 

John Black, 

Benjamin Pedan, 

John Arndt, 

Stephen Balliet, 

Joseph Horsfield, 

David Deshler, 

William Wilson, 

John Boyd, 

John Neville, 

John Allison, 

Jonathan Roberts, 

John Richards, 

F. A. Muhlenberg, 

James Morris, 

Timothy Pickering.— 44. 

The question on Mr. M'Kean's motion was then put, and 
the motion adopted. 

The speakers in favor of the motion for a committee were 
Mr Findley, Mr. Smilie and Mr. Whitehill. The speakers 
against it were Mr. M'Kean, Mr. Wilson, Dr. Rush and Mr. 


Tuesday^ November 2y. 

The convention* being met pursuant to adjournment, Mr. 

*Froin the Pennsylvania Herald, Dec. ist, 1787. 

William Todd, 
James Marshall, 
James Edgar, 
Thomas Scott, 
Nathaniel Breading, 


George Latimer, 
Benjamin Rush, 
Hilary Baker, 
James Wilson, 
Thomas M'Kean, 
William Macpherson, 
John Hunn, 
George Gray, 
Samuel Ashmead, 
Enoch Edwards, 
Henry Wynkoop, 
John Barclay, 
Thomas Yardley, 
Abraham Stout, 
Thomas Bull, 
Anthony Wayne, 
William Gibbons, 
Richard Downing, 
Thomas Cheyney, 
John Hannum, 
Stephen Chambers, 
Robert Coleman, 

,238 The Debate in the Conve^ition. 

M'Kean moved that they should proceed to the consideration 
of the first article of the proposed constitution. 

The convention chose Messrs. Hall and Sellers and Mr. 
Steiner the printers of their journals — 3,000 copies to be in 
English, and 2,000 in German. 

Mr. Whitehill offered a resolution, declaring that "upon 
all questions where the yeas and nays were called, any mem- 
ber might insert the reason of his vote upon the journals of 
the convention." 

Mr. Hartley. Sir, before the question on this motion is 
decided, I should wish to understand how far it extends, and 
whether, contrary to what I have thought was the sense of 
the convention, more than one question will be taken upon 
the proposed constitution? If the questions are to be multi- 
plied, and protests are to be admitted on each, I shall cer- 
tainly object to the source of embarrassment, delay and ex- 
pense which this motion will open. But if we are limited to 
the comprehensive question, will you ratify or reject the plan? 
then I think it may be reasonable to allow every man that 
pleases, to justify his assent or dissent by the motives upon 
which it may be founded, 

Mr. M'Kean. When we were choosing our printers a few 
minutes ago, Mr. President, I did not think it a matter of so 
much importance as the adoption of the motion before us 
would render it; for, if every member whenever he pleases 
shall be at liberty to load our journals with long and labored 
arguments, it will be a profitable business indeed for those 
gentlemen that are appointed to publish them. There can, 
sir, but one question arise in the discussion of the plan that is 
submitted to us, which is simply whether we will ratify or 
reject it; and if the motion were narrowed to that point, I 
should have no objection to give it my approbation. But on 
its present ground we would expose ourselves to a scene of 
altercation highly unbecoming the character and dignity of 
this body. 

Mr. Whitehill. I hope, Sir, the measure I have proposed, 
will upon consideration meet with the favor of the conven- 
tion, since the arguments by which it is opposed arise chiefly 

The Debate in the Convention. 239 

from a presumption that the liberty it affords will be abused. 
This, Mr. President, ought not to be presumed, but rather 
that every member entertains so just a sense of his duty to 
himself and to this honorable convention, as to forbear every 
thing, in language or in argument, which will be unbecoming 
a place in your journals. In truth, Sir, unless we are allowed 
to insert our reasons, the yeas and nays will be a barren docu- 
ment, from which the public can derive no information, and 
the minority no justification for their conduct. On the other 
hand, if we are allowed to state the foundation of our votes, 
the merits of the constitution may be proved by the argu- 
ments of its advocates, and those who do not consider it to be 
an immaculate, or even salutary system, will have an oppor- 
tunity to point out the defects from which their opposition 
originates. I think. Sir, the public have a right in so impor- 
tant a transaction to know the principles upon which their 
delegates proceed; and it is the just right of every man who 
is bound by his vote to be permitted to explain it. I cannot 
therefore withdraw or reduce the object of my motion. 

Mr. Hartley. Then, Sir, if I comprehend the sense of the 
convention: we are limited to the one great question which 
shall decide the fate of the constitution; and upon that I 
agree in the propriety of permitting a protest. Let the oppo- 
nents of the new system state their reasons fully and fairly; 
it will be the duty of its advocates to refute them upon the 
same terms, and the record of the whole will be preserved 
for the information of our constituents. This seems indeed 
to open a door for the renewal of all the arguments which 
have been previously advanced, but it will answer the same 
purpose as if protests were entered on each distinct proposi- 

Mr. Whitehill. We are now, Mr. President, in the full 
enjoyment of the powers of the mind, and I hope we shall 
adopt no measure that will tend to curtail the exercise of our 
faculties. Upon every question that arises, it is in the power 
of any member to call the yeas and nays, and whenever a 
vote is registered in that permanent form, it is of no conse- 
quence whether it is in the intermediate or coiiclusive stages 

240 77/*? Debate in the Convention. 

of the business, we ought to be permitted to promulge the 
reasons which have influenced our decisions. Every argu- 
ment (and gentlemen seem to have conceded the propriety 
in one case) that will apply to entitle us to protest on the last 
question, will entitle us to that privilege on any preceding 
one: for I consider it rather as a right than an indulgence. 
But, Mr. President, it is said that we can only have one 
question in the business before us. If this is true, I see no 
cause to proceed further. It will be a great public saving to 
recur to that question at once, and we shall by such means 
escape the absurdity of arguing upon distinct propositions 
without determining anything with respect to them. Sir, 
there is no reason to suppose an improper use will be made 
of this necessary privilege. It is intended as the means of 
justifying to the people the conduct of those with whom they 
have entrusted their dearest interests, and if in the manner 
or the substance it is deficient or improper, the people will 
pronounce its condemnation. Let them therefore judge; but 
since we are answerable to them, let us not suppress the 
means of justification. 

Doctor Rush. I shall certainly. Sir, object to any protest, 
but upon the great question, and even there it is hardly in my 
opinion proper or necessary. Those, Mr. President, who are 
in favor of the constitution, will be as anxious to vindicate 
their opinions as those who are against it; hence, whatever 
is advanced on one side, will draw on a reply upon the other, 
till the whole debates of the convention are intruded upon 
the journals. The expense and procrastination of this trans- 
action would be intolerable. But, Sir, the proceedings of the 
convention are stamped with authenticity, and it v/ould be 
dangerous to suffer protests to be inserted in them, which 
might contain insinuations not founded, and consequently 
produce here what has disgraced the legislature of Pennsyl- 
vania, a majority defending themselves from the assertions 
and misrepresentations of a minority. We know, Sir, of what 
nature the protests will be, and if they bear the complexion 
of the publications that have lately teemed from the press, I 
am sure they would not be honorable to this body. The 

The Debate in the Convention. 241 

proceedings of the convention cannot be compared in this re- 
spect to the proceedings of the legislature, where protests 
may lay the foundation of a future revision or repeal of the 
law to which they object by laying the necessary information 
before the people; but we can have no view either to a revi- 
sion or a repeal, and therefore protests can only serve to dis- 
tract and perplex the state. If, Sir, the proposed plan 
should be adopted by this convention, it will be the duty of 
every man, particularly those who have opposed it, on the 
fundamental principles of society, to promote its interests 
among the people. But if, contrary to my opinion of what 
is their duty, the minority should persevere in their opposi- 
tion, I hope they will be left to publish in their own way, 
without our authority, the motives of their conduct, and let 
them enjoy all the advantages they may derive from the effects 
of that publication, 

Mr. M'Kean. I shall be satisfied, Mr. President, if the 
object of the motion is confined to the final question; and, 
indeed, I do not perceive to what other motions it can ex- 
tend. But it is said no harm will proceed from its adoption 
agreeably to its present general terms. Sir, all laws are made 
to prevent evil, upon a supposition that it may occur, and in 
the instance before us I do not only think it probable, but I 
have no doubt it will occur. We are again told of the con- 
duct of the general assembly of Pennsylvania, which some 
gentlemen seem to imagine is an unanswerable argument 
upon every topic. But even there the practice of protesting 
has only been introduced since the revolution, nor was it be- 
fore known in any province of America, or in any govern- 
ment in the world. Some compliment has on a former occa- 
sion been paid to my legal knowledge, with an intention 
however to depreciate my knowledge of parliamentary pro- 
ceedings. But the truth is. Sir, that those proceedings have, 
both before and since the revolution, formed a great object 
of my studies, and it has been my lot to have been engaged 
likewise con-siderably i-n the practice. I therefore repeat, 
confidently, that no precedent of protesting is to be found 
anywhere but in Pennsylvania. The lords in England, in- 

242 The Debate in the Convention. 

deed, enjoy, and frequently exercise the privilege; but the 
reason is, that they are not a representative body, nor ac- 
countable to any power for their legislative conduct but God 
and their consciences, and therefore from a desire to preserve 
their fame and honor free from suspicion and reproach, they 
lender this voluntary account of their actions to the world. 
The same motive, however, does not prevail with a represen- 
tative body the members of which are, from time to time, 
responsible to their constituents, and may be elected or re- 
moved from their trust according to the proof of their fidelity 
and industry in discharging it. I have seen, sir, language 
by such means intruded upon the journals of the legislature 
of Pennsylvania, which would have disgraced a private club 
at a tavern. But in the British house of lords, the language 
of the protest is under the control of the house, and it is not 
uncommon to erase sentences and paragraphs, and even whole 
protests, from their records. But, Mr. President, there cannot 
be any necessity for introducing the practice here, unless in- 
deed to indulge the vanity of some gentlemen who wish to 
turn authors at the public expense, to write discourses upon 
government, and to give them a value and consequence by 
incorporating them wuth your proceedings, to which they are 
not intrinsically entitled. I therefore move, sir, that the 
motion before you be amended, so as to restrict the right of 
protesting to the last great question, to adopt or reject the 
proposed plan. 

This motion was seconded by Mr. Chambers. 

Mr. Wilson*. I am equally opposed, Mr. President, to the 
amendment and to the original motion. I do not wish, how- 
ever, in any degree to suppress what may be spoken or done 
in this convention. On the contrary, I wish our proceedings 
may be fully known and perfectly understood by our constit- 
uents; and, to extend the scale, by all our fellow citizens of 
the United States. But we ought to pause and consider well 
before we communicate all this information at the public ex- 
pense, for as the motion has been opened and explained, 
under the influence of that rule, our minutes may be increased 
* From the Pennsylvania Herald, Dec. 5th, 17S7. 

The Debate in the Convention. 243 

to an immense volume, and yet we have just determined that 
3,000 copies of them shall be printed. I certainly, sir, (as 
well as every other member) will have a right to enter my 
sentiments and arguments in the manner most satisfactory to 
myself, and therefore, not only what I may hereafter say, but 
what I have already said, in order to preserve connection and 
system in the reasoning, must be admitted. The press is un- 
doubtedly free, but is it necessary to that freedom that every 
man's tenets on government should be printed at the public 
cost ? Sir, we are here as upon many other occasions, re- 
ferred to the constitution of Pennsylvania; but the privilege 
indulged in this respect, is, in my opinion, one of its excep- 
tional parts, and the instances of its abuse alluded to by my 
honorable colleague, must excite the indignation ot every 
friend to propriety and decency. Look at the journals of the 
legislature of Pennsylvania, and you will find altercations 
there which are adapted to the meridian of Billingsgate. In 
short, sir, the idea of a protest is not to be found in any other 
representative body, not even in that of the British house of 
commons; and if we must seek a lesson from other constitu- 
tions, we might, with great propriety, advert to the one be- 
fore us, by which one-fifth of the members are enabled to call 
for the yeas and nays, but in no case is it permitted to record 
the reasons of a vote. Shall we then employ the whole win- 
ter in carrying on a paper war, at the expense of the state, in 
spreading clamor and dissension not only among our own 
citizens, but throughout the United States? My voice, Sir, 
never shall concur in rendering this room the centre from 
which so many streams of bitterness shall flow. Let the op- 
ponents of the proposed plan write as much as they please, 
let them print when they will, but I trust we shall not agree 
to indulge them at the expense of those who have sent us 
hither for a very different purpose. 

Mr. Smilie. It appears, Mr. President, that on this ques- 
tion the gentlemen are divided among themselves. 

Mr. M'Keau. No, Sir, there shall be no division. T 
thought the measure totally improper, and only proposed 
the amendment in compliment to the members who urged 

244 '^^^^ Debate in the Co7iveniion. 

the general motion. I now withdraw my amendment, and 
leave the question upon its original ground. 

Mr. Smilie. I am sorry, Sir, that the honorable member 
should so suddenly have retracted his amendment, for it 
was more satisfactory to me than the original motion, which 
I wish still to be narrowed down to the final question, 
as, indeed, I do not perceive how it can operate on any other 
subject, and it will then answer every purpose to which it 
can be applied, without leaving room for the objection on ac- 
count of the extraordinary expense. It will, indeed, appear ex- 
ceedingl)' strange upon this important subject, that we should 
be denied an opportunity of declaring the reasons that influ- 
ence our votes — while we are responsible, it is our duty, and 
while we are bound, it is our right. Nor is it liberal or reason- 
able to presume that any harm can ensire from this privilege; 
for the apprehensions which are expressed, lest faction and 
clamor should be excited among the people, are highly unbe- 
coming the citizens of a free government. An excellent 
author has observed, that slavery succeeds sleep, and the 
moment parties and political contentions subside among the' 
people, from that moment liberty is at an end. I admit, Sir, 
that if the ferment rises to an extreme it is an evil ; but as it 
originates from a blessing, those who wish to preserve their 
freedom must bear with its inconveniences. But what is the 
evil so much dreaded? We are told that protests in past 
times have been a dishonor and a discredit; but to whom 
have they been such? Certainly to those who wrote them; 
and so, if anything unworthy should appear in the protests 
upon your journals, the authors alone will be liable to the 
infamy and odium of their productions. But let us suppose, 
on the other hand, what I believe to be the real ground of 
opposition, that the protest should produce a change in the 
minds of the people, and incline them to new measures, is 
this an event proper either to be evaded or suppressed? I 
take it. Sir, that even after this convention shall have agreed 
to ratify the proposed plan, if the people on better informa- 
tion, and maturer deliberation, should think it a bad and im- 
proper form of government, they will still have a right to as- 

The Debate in the Convention. 245 

semble another body, to consult upon other measures, and 
either in the whole, or in part, to abrogate this Federal work 
so ratified. If this is true, and that it is true a worthy mem- 
ber of the late convention admits, when he says the people 
have at all times a power to alter and abolish government, 
what cause is there to fear the operation of a protest ? The 
reasons may easily be given in public newspapers, which 
circulate more widely and more expedtiously than our jour- 
nals, and from whatever source the information is derived, as 
the people have the power, they may, and I believe they will 
exercise it, notwithstanding the determination of this body. 
The allusion to the conduct of the British commons will not 
apply, for they are in no instance called upon to enter their 
yeas and nays; and after all, it appears to me to be congenial 
with the spirit of a free government, and if the one before us 
is free, it will be congenial with the principles of the pro- 
posed constitution, that where men are bound by a solemn 
and recorded vote, their reasons should accompany their as- 
sent or dissent, and be together transmitted to posterity. 

Mr. Wilson. It is one reason of my opposition to this 
measure, that its objects can be effected in another manner 
than by inserting them in our journals, and therefore there is 
no pretense to load the public with an expense for diffusing 
what is called necessary information, but which in my opin- 
ion will terminate in the acrimony of party. But, Sir, if there 
were no other cause of objection — if the thing were proper in 
itself — the enormous expense that it would occasion would 
be a conclusive ground for rejecting it. It is asked, however, 
what is there to fear? Sir, I repeat, that I have not the least 
dread at the most public and most general promulgation of 
what is done and spoken here. We know that the same 
things may as effectually, and perhaps more expeditiously, be 
disseminated through other channels, but let them not in 
their course either involve the public in expense, nor derive 
from our countenance a stamp of authenticity. 

Mr. Whitehill. I do not think, Mr. President, that if there 
is any use in the proposed measure, the expense can be a suf- 
ficient reason to defeat it. The people ought to be informed 

246 The Debate in the Convention. 

of the principles upon wliicli we have acted, and they ought 
to know in the clearest manner, what is the nature and ten- 
dency of the government with which we have bound them. 
The friends to the constitution will be pleased to receive ar- 
guments in favor of their opinions; those against it will be 
pleased to show to the world that their opposition does not 
arise merely from caprice, and the people at large will ac- 
knowledge with thanks the resulting information upon a sub- 
ject so important to themselves and their latest posterity. 
But it is said that there are other means for accomplishing 
the same end, and that the press is open to those who chose 
to use it. This surely does not meet the object of the motion. 
A public paper is of a transient and perishable nature, but 
the journals of this house will be a permanent record for pos- 
terity, and if ever it becomes a question upon what grounds 
we have acted, each man will have his vote justified by the 
same instrument that records it. But this comparative view 
cannot take place through the medium of a common news- 
paper. As, however, it seems the general disposition, I am 
willing to reduce the motion to the last question, and this, at 
least, I hope will be acceded to. The expense cannot be so 
great as it is apprehended, and I really consider it essential 
to the discharge of the commission with which we are en- 

Mr, Hartley. On consideration, I do not think it necessary, 
Sir, to determine upon the motion at this time. It has been 
said on one hand, that there is no precedent but in the Brit- 
ish house of lords, and in the legislature of Pennsylvania, for 
the practice of protesting; and on the other hand, it is insisted 
upon from the example of Pennsylvania and the important 
nature of the subject in discussion. But, Sir, it is certain that 
much misinformation and misrepresentation have at all times 
proceeded from public bodies. At present, therefore, I wish 
the question to be waived; otherwise, I shall vote against it, 
although at a future period, when the reasons are produced, I 
may be disposed to concur. 

Mr. Whitehill. The gentleman's idea of a postponement 
amounts to this: If we like your reasons when we see them, 

The Debate in the Convention. 247 

we will permit you to enter them; if we do not, why we will 
withhold our consent. It is strange to observe how often 
members change their opinions on this subject. When I 
asked a general power to protest, it was said, we will not agree 
to that, but we think you ought to enjoy it on the last great 
question; then when we narrow our request to that point, even 
that is refused. Precedent, sir, cannot be adduced on this 
occasion, for a similar situation never had occurred before in 
the history of the world, nor do we know of any body of men 
assembled with similar powers to investigate so interesting a 
subject. The importance and singularity of the business 
must place it beyond any former rule. 

Mr. Wayne. As it is probable this subject may hereafter 
be considered in a different and more proper point of view, I 
am in favor of the postponement. In the interim the usual 
channel of expressing their disapprobation of this system are 
open to the opposition. It has already been tried; and I can- 
not consent that discord and discontent should be propagated 
through the state at the public expense, particularly as every 
information may be given in another manner. 

Mr. Wilson. Sir, I am against the postponement for two 
reasons — first, because I would not indulge a hope which it 
is not intended to gratify, and secondly, because I should 
wish as soon as possible to know the fate of the present 
motion, that every member may be prepared with his reasons 
if it should be adopted, and not have them to look for at the 
close of the business. But we are again asked, why suppress 
the species of information to be propagated by the proposed 
protests ? I thought this question had already been answered 
satisfactorily, when it was said that the public ought not to 
be loaded with so extraordinary an expense. In truth, sir, 
the newspapers will answer every proper purpose; and though 
it is said they are of a transient nature, yet if the reasons are 
good they will even in that mode be preserved, and if they 
are bad, I hope we shall not agree to perpetuate at the public 
cost what ought to be consigned immediately to oblivion. It 
is added that the expense will be small. Let us enquire 
then, what will be the consequence of this vote? The 

248 TJic Debate in the Convention. 

minority, dissatisfied with the event of this important busi- 
ness, will first wish to file their reasons, and it would be im- 
proper and unjust to deny them the necessary time to digest 
and arrange them in the best manner. These reasons cannot 
be answered till they appear, and though they may not pos- 
sess real merit, they may be plausible and specious, therefore 
some time will be necessarily given to the majority for fram- 
ing a replication; and so on through an endless succession of 
assertion and reply. For my part, I shall certainly expect to 
be allowed a sufficient time to state my reasons, not only 
those I have already delivered, but likewise those I may here- 
after, in the most accurate manner I can; but, as I am perhaps 
more accustomed to composition than other gentlemen, I 
shall not ask for that purpose more than two or three months. 
Shall we then. Sir, indulge this procrastinating plan at the 
expense of two or three hundred dollars a day, which is the 
daily expense of this meeting? I hope we shall have a 
greater regard for the interests of our constituents. 

Mr. Whitehill and Mr. Smilie repeated some of the former 
arguments, and concluded with observing that if the motion 
was negatived, their constituents would at least observe that 
they were anxious to show the grounds of their conduct, 
which they were refused the opportunity of doing. 

On taking the question there appeared a very great majority 
against the motion. 

Mr. M'Kean then rose and recommended candor and for- 
bearance in the investigation of this important subject. He 
stated that a difference of opinion was natural to the human 
mind, and was not only to be found in politics, but in religion. 
He then traced this difference through the various sects of 
the Christian faith, and concluded by expressing his appro- 
bation of a legislature constituted by two branches. 

The convention adjourned to meet to-morrow at half past 
nine o'clock. 

Wednesday^ Novetnber 28. 

The* convention met pursuant to adjournment. 

Mr. Wilson. Mr. President, I shall now beg leave to 

*From the Pennsylvania Herald, Dec. 8th, 1787. 

The Debate in the Co7iventioii. 249 

trouble you with a few observations upon the preamble to 
the proposed constitution. In delivering my sentiments on 
a former day, I had occasion to show that the supreme power 
of government was the inalienable and inherent right of the 
people, and the system before us opens with a practical dec- 
laration of that principle. Here, Sir, it is expressly an- 
nounced: "We, the people of the United States, do ordain, 
constitute, and establish. ' ' And those who can ordain and es- 
tablish, may certainly repeal or annul the work of government, 
which in the hands of the people, is like clay in the hands 
of the potter, and may be moulded into any shape they please. 
This single sentence in the preamble is tantamount to a vol- 
ume, and contains the essence of all the bills of rights that 
have been or can be devised ; for it establishes at once, that 
in the great article of government, the people have a right to 
do what they please. It is with pride, Mr. President, I re- 
mark the difference between the terms of this constitution, 
and the British declaration of rights, or even their boasted 
Magna Charta. For, Sir, from what source does Magna 
Charta derive the liberties of the people? The very words 
of that celebrated instrument declare them to be the gift or 
grant of the king; and under the influence of that doctrine, 
no wonder the people should then and at subsequent periods 
wish to obtain some evidence of their formal liberties by the 
concessions of petitions and bills of right. But here. Sir, 
the fee simple of freedom and government is declared to be 
in the people, and it is an inheritance with which they will 
not part. 

Mr. Smilie. I expected, Mr. President, that the honorable 
gentleman would have proceeded to a full and explicit inves- 
tigation of the proposed system, and that he would have made 
some attempts to prove that it was calculated to promote the 
happiness, power and general interests of the United States. 
I am sorry that I have been mistaken in this expectation, for 
surely the gentleman's talents and opportunities would have 
enabled him to furnish considerable information upon this 
important subject; but I shall proceed to make a few remarks 
upon those words in the preamble of this plan, which he has 

250 Jlic Debate in the Conventiojt. 

considered of so super-excellent a quality. Compare them, 
Sir, with the language used in forming the state constitution, 
and however superior they may be to the terms of the great 
charter of England; still, in common candor, they must yield 
to the more sterling expressions employed in this act. Let 
these speak for themselves: 

"That all men are born equally free and independent, and 
have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights, among 
which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquir- 
ing possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and ob- 
taining happiness and safety. 

"That the people of this state have the sole, exclusive and 
inherent right of governing and regulating the internal police 
of the same. 

"That all power being originally inherent in, and conse- 
quently derived from the people; therefore all officers of gov- 
ernment, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees 
and servants, and at all times accountable to them. 

"That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the 
common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation 
or community; and not for the particular emolument or ad- 
vantage of any single man, family, or set of men, who are a 
part only of that community. And that the community hath 
an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, 
alter or abolish government in such manner as shall be by 
that community judged most conducive to the public weal." 

But the gentleman takes pride in the superiority of this 
short preamble when compared with Magna Charta — why, sir, 
I hope the rights of men are better understood at this day 
than at the framing of that deed, and we must be convinced 
that civil liberty is capable of still greater improvement and 
extension, than is known even in its present cultivated state. 
True, sir, the supreme authority naturally rests in the people, 
but does it follow, that therefore a declaration of rights would 
be superfluous? Because the people have a right to alter and 
abolish government, can it therefore be inferred that every 
step taken to secure that right would be superfluous and 
nugatory? The truth is, that unless some criterion is estab- 

The Debate in the Convention. 251 

lished by which it could be easily and constitutionally ascer- 
tained how far our governors may proceed, and by which it 
might appear when they transgress their jurisdiction, this 
idea of altering and abolishing government is a mere sound 
without substance. Let us recur to the memorable declara- 
tion of the 4th of July, 1776. Here it is said : 

"When in the course of human events, it becomes neces- 
sary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have 
connected them with another, and to assume among the 
powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which 
the laws of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the 
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the 
causes which impel them to the separation. 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are 
created equal ; that they are endowed by their Creator with 
certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, 
and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, 
governments are instituted among men, deriving their just 
powers from the consent of the governed; that when any form 
of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the 
right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a 
new government, laying its foundation on such principles, 
and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall 
seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." 

Now, Sir, if in the proposed plan, the gentleman can show 
any similar security for the civil rights of the people, I shall 
certainly be relieved from a weight of objection to its adop- 
tion, and I sincerely hope, that as he has gone so far, he will 
proceed to communicate some of the reasons (and undoubtedly 
they must have been powerful ones) which induced the late 
federal convention to omit a bill of rights, so essential in the 
opinion of many citizens to a perfect form of government. 

Mr. M'Kean. — I conceived, Mr. President, that we were at 
this time to confine our reasoning to the first article, which 
relates to the legislative power composed of two branches, and 
the partial negative of the President. Gentlemen, however, 
have taken a more extensive field, and have employed them- 
selves in animadverting upon what has been omitted, and 

252 The Debate in the Cojiventi07i. 

not upon what is contained in the proposed system. It is 
asked, Sir, why a bill of rights is not annexed to the consti- 
tution? The origin of bills of rights has been referred to, 
and we find that in England they proceed upon the principle 
that the supreme power is lodged in the king and not in the 
people, so that their liberties are not claimed as an inherent 
right, but as a grant from the sovereign. The great charter 
rests on that footing, and has been renewed and broken above 
30 times. Then we find the petition of rights in the reign 
of Charles I., and lastly, the declaration of rights on the ac- 
cession of the Prince of Orange to the British throne. The 
truth is. Sir, that bills of rights are instruments of modern 
invention, unknown among the ancients, and unpractised 
but by the British nation, and the governments descended 
from them. For though it is said that Poland has a bill of 
rights, it must be remembered that the people have no par- 
ticipation in that government. Of the constitutions of the 
United States, there are but five out of the thirteen which 
have bills of rights. In short, though it can do no harm, I 
believe, yet it is an unnecessary instrument, for in fact the 
whole plan of government is nothing more than a bill of 
rights — a declaration of the people in what manner they 
choose to be governed. If, Sir, the people should at any time 
desire to alter and abolish their government, I agree with 
my honorable colleague that it is in their power to do so, 
and I am happy to observe, that the constitution before us 
provides a regular mode for that event. At present my chief 
object is to call upon those who deem a bill of rights so essen- 
tial, to inform us if there are any other precedents than 
those I have alluded to, and if there is not, the sense of 
mankind and of nations will operate against the alleged ne- 

Mr. Wilson. * Mr. President, we are repeatedly called upon 
to give some reason why a bill of rights has not been annexed 
to the proposed plan. I not only think that enquiry is at this 
time unnecessary and out of order, but I expect, at least, that 
those who desire us to show why it was omitted, will furnish 

*From tlie Penusylvauia Herald, Dec. 12th, 1787. 

The Debate in the Convention. 253 

some arguments to show that it ought to have been inserted; 
for the proof of the affirmative naturally falls upon them. 
But the truth is, Sir, that this circumstance, which has since 
occasioned so much clamor and debate, never struck the mind 
of any member in the late convention till, I believe, within 
three days of the dissolution of that body, and even then of 
so little account was the idea that it passed off in a short con- 
versation, without introducing a formal debate or assuming 
the shape of a motion. For, Sir, the attempt to have thrown 
into the national scale an instrument in order to evince that 
any power not mentioned in the constitution was reserved, 
would have been spurned at as an insult to the common un- 
derstanding of mankind. In civil government it is certain 
that bills of rights are unnecessary and useless, nor can I con- 
ceive whence the contrary notion has arisen. Virginia has 
no bill of rights, and will it be said that her constitution was 
the less free ? 

Mr. Smilie. I beg leave to observe, Mr. President, that 
although it has not been inserted in the printed volume of 
state constitution, yet I have been assured by Mr. Mason that 
Virginia has a bill of rights. 

Mr. Wilson. I do not rely upon the information of Mr. 
Mason or of any other gentleman on a question of this kind, 
but I refer to the authenticity of the volume which contains 
the state constitutions, and in that Virginia has no bill of 
rights. But, Sir, has South Carolina no security for her lib- 
erties? — that state has no bill of rights. Are the citizens of 
the eastern shore of the Delaware more secured in their free- 
dom, or more enlightened on the subject of government, than 
the citizens of the western shore? New Jersey has no bill of 
rights. New York has none, Connecticut has none, and Rhode 
Island has none. Thus, Sir, it appears from the example of 
other states, as well as from principle, that a bill of rights is 
neither an essential nor a necessary instrument in framing a 
system of government, since liberty may exist and be as well 
secured without it. But it was not only unnecessary, but on 
this occasion it was found impracticable — for who will be bold 
enough to undertake to enumerate all the rights of the peo- 

254 The Debate in the Convention. 

pie? — and when the attempt to enumerate them is made, it 
must be remembered that if the enumeration is not complete, 
everything not expressly mentioned will be presumed to be 
purposely omitted. So it must be with a bill of rights, and 
an omission in stating the powers granted to the government, 
is not so dangerous as an omission in recapitulating the rights 
reserved by the people. We have already seen the origin of 
magna cliarta, and tracing the subject still further we find the 
petition of rights claiming the liberties of the people, accord- 
ing to the laws and statutes of the realm, of which the great 
charter was the most material, so that here again recourse is 
had to the old source from which their liberties are derived, 
the grant of the king. It was not till the revolution that the 
subject was placed upon a different footing, and even then the 
people did not claim their liberties as an inherent right, but 
as the result of an original contract between them and the 
sovereign. Thus, Mr. President, an attention to the situation 
of England will show that the conduct of that country in 
respect to bills of rights, cannot furnish an example to the 
inhabitants of the United States, who by the revolution have 
regained all their natural rights, and possess their liberty 
neither by grant nor contract. In short. Sir, I have said that 
a bill of rights would have been improperly annexed to the 
federal plan, and for this plain reason that it would imply 
that whatever is not expressed was given, which is not the 
principle of the proposed constitution. 

Mr. Smilie. The arguments which have been urged, Mr. 
President, have not, in my opinion, satisfactorily shown that 
a bill of rights would have been an improper, nay, that it is 
not a necessary appendage to the proposed system. As it has 
been denied that Virginia possesses a bill of rights, I shall 
on that subject only observe that Mr. Mason, a gentleman 
certainly of great information and integrity, has assured me 
that such a thing does exist, and I am persuaded I shall be 
able at a future period to lay it before the convention. But, 
Sir, the state of Delaware has a bill of rights, and I believe 
one of the honorable members (Mr. M'Kean) who now con- 
tests the necessity and propriety of that instrument, took a 

The Debate in the Convention. 255 

very conspicuous part in the formation of the Delaware 
government. It seems, however, that the members of the 
federal convention were themselves convinced, in some de- 
gree, of the expediency and propriety of a bill of rights, for 
we find them expressly declaring that the writ of habeas 
corpus and the trial by jury in criminal cases shall not be 
suspended or infringed. How does this indeed agree with 
the maxim that whatever is not given is reserved? Does it 
not rather appear from the reservation of these two articles 
that everything else, which is not specified, is included in 
the powers delegated to the government? This, Sir, must 
prove the necessity of a full and explicit declaration of rights; 
and when we further consider the extensive, the undefined 
powers vested in the administrators of this system, when we 
consider the system itself as a great political compact be- 
tween the governors and the governed, a plain, strong, and 
accurate criterion by which the people might at once deter- 
mine when, and in what instance their rights were violated, 
is a preliminary, without which, this plan ought not to be 
adopted. So loosely, so inaccurately are the powers which 
are enumerated in this constitution defined, that it will be 
impossible, without a test of that kind, to ascertain the 
limits of authority, and to declare when government has de- 
generated into oppression. In that event the contest will 
arise between the people and the rulers: "You have exceeded 
the powers of your ofiice, you have oppressed us," will be the 
language of the sufiering citizen. The answer of the govern- 
ment will be short — "We have not exceeded our power; you 
have no test by which you can prove it." Hence, Sir, it will 
be impracticable to stop the progress of tyranny, for there 
will be no check but the people, and their exertions must be 
futile and uncertain; since it will be difficult, indeed, to com- 
municate to them the violation that has been committed, 
and their proceedings will be neither systematical nor unani- 
mous. It is said, however, that the difficulty of framing a 
bill of rights was insurmountable; but, Mr. President, I can- 
not agree in this opinion. Our experience, and the numer- 
ous precedents before us, would have furnished a very 

256 77/^? Debate in the Convention. 

sufficient guide. At present there is no security even for the 
rights of conscience, and under the sweeping force of the 
sixth article, every principle of a bill of rights, every stipula- 
tion for the most sacred and invaluable privileges of man, are 
left at the mercy of government. 

Mr. Whitehill. I differ. Sir, from the honorable member 
from the city,* as to the impropriety or necessity of a bill of 
rights. If, indeed, the constitution itself so well defined the 
powers of the government that no mistake could arise, and 
we were well assured that our governors would always act 
right, then we might be satisfied without an explicit reserva- 
tion of those rights with which the people ought not, and 
mean not to part. But, Sir, we know that it is the nature of 
power to seek its own augmentation, and thus the loss of lib- 
erty is the necessary consequence of a loose or extravagant 
delegation of authority. National freedom has been, and will 
be the sacrifice of ambition and power, and it is our duty to 
employ the present opportunity in stipulating such restric- 
tions as are best calculated to protect us from oppression and 
slavery. Let us then, Mr. President, if other countries can- 
not supply an adequate example, let us proceed upon our own 
principles, and with the great end of government in view, 
the happiness of the people, it will be strange if we err. 
Government, we have been told, Sir, is yet in its infancy: we 
ought not therefore to submit to the shackles of foreign 
schools and opinions. In entering into the social compact, 
men ought not to leave their rulers at large, but erect a per- 
manent land-mark by which they may learn the extent of 
their authority, and the people be able to discover the first 
encroachments on their liberties. But let us attend to the 
language of the system before us. ' ' We the people of the 
United States," is a sentence that evidently shows the old 
foundation of the union is destroyed, the principle of con- 
federation excluded, and a new and unwieldy system of con- 
solidated empire is set up, upon the ruins of the present com- 
pact between the states. Can this be denied? No, Sir: It is 
artfully indeed, but it is incontrovertibly designed to abolish 

*Mr. Wilson. 

The Debate in the Convention. 257 

the independence and sovereignty of the states individually, 
an event which cannot be the wish of any good citizen of 
America, and therefore it ought to be prevented, by rejecting 
the plan which is calculated to produce it. What right in- 
deed have we in the manner here proposed to violate the ex- 
isting confederation? It is declared, that the agreement of 
nine states shall be sufficient to carry the new system into 
operation, and consequently to abrogate the old one. Then, 
Mr President, four of the present confederated states may not 
be comprehended in the compact: shall we, Sir, force these 
dissenting states into the measure? The consequences of that 
attempt are evidently such as no man can either justify or 
approve. But reverse the idea — would not these states have 
a fair pretext to charge the rest with an unconstitutional and 
unwarrantable abandoment of the nature and obligation of 
the union of 1776? And having shown sufficient reason why 
they could not accede to the proposed government, would 
they not still be entitled to demand a performance of the orig- 
ginal compact between the states ? Sir, these questions must 
introduce a painful anticipation of the confusion, contest, and 
a civil war, which, under such circumstances, the adoption 
of the offered system must produce. It will be proper, per- 
haps, to review the origin of this business. It was certainly, 
Mr. President, acknowledged on all hands, that an additional 
share of power for federal purposes ought to be delegated to 
Congress; and with a view to enquire how far it was neces- 
sary to strengthen and enlarge the jurisdiction of that body, 
the late convention was appointed under the authority, and 
by legislative acts of the several states. But how. Sir, did 
the convention act upon this occasion? Did they pursue the 
authority which was given to them? By the State of Penn- 
sylvania that authority was strictly defined in the following 

"And the said Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George 
Clymer, Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Fitzsimons, James Wilson 
and Governeur Morris, Esqrs., or any four of them, are 
hereby constituted and appointed deputies from this state, 
with powers to meet such deputies as may be appointed and 

258 The Debate in the Convention. 

authorized by the other states to assemble in the said conven- 
tion at tlie city aforesaid, and to join with them in devising, 
deliberating on and discussing all such alterations and further 
provisions as may be necessary to render the federal constitu- 
tion fully adequate to the exigencies of the union; and in re- 
porting such act or acts for that purpose to the United States 
in Congress assembled, as when agreed to by them, and duly 
confirmed by the several states, will effectually provide for 
the same. ' ' 

Thus, Sir, it appears that no other power was given to the 
delegates from this state (and I believe the power given by the 
other states was of the same nature and extent) than to in- 
crease in a certain degree the strength and energy of Con- 
gress; but it never was in the contemplation of any man that 
they were authorized to dissolve the present union, to abrogate 
the state sovereignties, and to establish one comprehensive 
government, novel in its structure, and in its probable opera- 
tion oppressive and despotic. Can it then be said that the late 
convention did not assume powers to which they had no legal 
title ? On the contrary, Sir, it is clear that they set aside the 
laws under which they were appointed, and under which 
alone they could derive any legitimate authority, they arro- 
gantly exercised any powers that they found convenient to 
their object, and in the end they have overthrown that gov- 
ernment which they were called upon to amend, in order to 
introduce one of their own fabrication. 

True* it is, Mr. President, that if the people intended to en- 
gage in one comprehensive system of continental government, 
the power to frame that system must have been conferred by 
them; for the legislatures of the states are sworn to preserve 
the independence of their respective constitutions, and there- 
fore they could not, consistently with their most sacred obli- 
gations, authorize an act which sacrificed the individual to 
the aggregate sovereignty of the states. But it appears from 
the origin and nature of the commission under which the 
late convention assembled, that a more perfect confederation 
was the only object submitted to their wisdom, and not, as it 

*From the Penusylvania Herald, Dec. I5tli, 1787. 

The Debate in the Convention. 


is attempted by this plan, the total destruction of the govern- 
ment of Pennsylvania, and of every other state. So far, Sir, 
the interference of the legislatures was proper and efficient; 
but the moment the convention went beyond that object, they 
ceased to act under any legitimate authority, for the assem- 
blies could give them none, and it cannot be pretended that 
they were called together by the people; for, till the preamble 
was produced, it never was understood that the people at 
large had been consulted upon the occasion, or that other- 
wise than through their representatives in the several states, 
they had given a sanction to the proceedings of that body. 
If, indeed, the federal convention, finding that the old system 
was incapable of repair, had represented the incurable defects 
to Congress, and advised that the original and inherent power 
of the people might be called into exercise for the institution 
of a new government, then. Sir, the subject would have come 
fairly into view, and we should have known upon what prin- 
ciples we proceeded. At present we find a convention ap- 
pointed by one authority, but acting under the arbitrary as- 
sumption of another; and instead of transacting the business 
which was assigned to them, behold! they have produced a 
work of supererogation, after a mysterious labor of three 
months. I^et us, however, Sir, attend for a moment to the 
constitution. And here we shall find, in a single line, suffi- 
cient matter for weeks of debate, and which it will puzzle 
any one member to investigate and define. But, besides 
the powers enumerated, we find in this constitution an au- 
thority is given to make all laws that are necessary to carry 
it effectually into operation, and what laws are necessary 
is a consideration left for Congress to decide. In consti- 
tuting the representative body, the interposition of the Con- 
gress is likewise made conclusive; for, with the power of 
regulating the place and manner of elections, it is easy to 
perceive that the returns will always be so managed as to 
answer their purpose. It is strange to mark, however, 
what a sudden and striking revolution has taken place in 
the political sentiments of America; for. Sir, in the opening 
of our struggle with Great Britain, it was often insisted 

26o The Debate in the Convention. 

that annual parliaments were necessary to secure the liberties 
of the people, and yet it is here proposed to establish a house 
of representatives which shall continue for two, a senate for 
six, and a president for four years! What is there in this 
plan indeed, which can even assure us that the several de- 
partments shall continue no longer in office? Do we not 
know that an English parliament elected for three years, by 
a vote of their own body, extended their existence to seven, 
and with this example, Congress possessing a competent 
share of power may easily be tempted to exercise it. The ad- 
vantages of annual elections are not at this day to be taught, 
and when every other security was withheld, I should still 
have thought there was some safety in the government, had 
this been left. The seats of Congress being held for so short 
a period, and by a tenure so precarious as popular elections, 
there could be no inducement to invade the liberties of the 
people, nor time enough to accomplish the schemes of ambi- 
tion and tyranny. But when the period is protracted, an 
object is presented worthy of contention, and the duration of 
the office affiDrds an opportunity for perpetuating the influence 
by which it was originally obtained. Another power de- 
signed to be vested in the new government, is the superlative 
power of taxation, which may be carried to an inconceivable 
excess, swallowing up every object of taxation, and conse- 
quently plundering the several states of every means to sup- 
port their governments, and to administer their laws. Then, 
Sir, can it longer be doubted that this is a system of consoli- 
dation? That government which possesses all the powers of 
raising and maintaining armies, of regulating and com- 
manding the militia, and of laying imposts and taxes of 
every kind, must be supreme, and will (whether in twenty 
or in one year, it signifies little to the event) naturally 
absorb every subordinate jurisdiction. It is in vain. Sir, 
to flatter ourselves that the forms of popular elections will be 
the means of self-preservation, and that the officers of the pro- 
posed government will uniformly act for the happiness of the 
people — for why should we run a risk which we may easily 
avoid ? The giving such extensive and undefined power is 

The Debate in the Convention. 261 

a radical wrong that cannot be justified by any subsequent 
merit in the exercise; for in framing a new system, it is our 
duty rather to indulge a jealousy of the human character, 
than an expectation of unprecedented perfection. I^et us, 
however, suppose what will be allowed to be at least possible, 
that the powers of this government should be abused, and the 
liberties of the people infringed; do any means of redress re- 
main with the states or with the people at large, to oppose 
and counteract the influence and oppression of the general 
government? Secret combinations, partial insurrections, 
sudden tumults may arise; but these being easily defeated 
and subdued, will furnish a pretence for strengthening that 
power which they were intended to overthrow. A bill of 
rights, Mr. President, it has been said, would not only be un- 
necessary, but it would be dangerous, and for this special 
reason, that because it is not practicable to enumerate all the 
rights of the people, therefore it would be hazardous to secure 
such of the -rights as we can enumerate! Truly, Sir, I will 
agree that a bill of rights may be a dangerous instrument, 
but it is to the views and projects of the aspiring ruler, and 
not the liberties of the citizen. Grant but this explicit crite- 
rion, and our governors will not venture to encroach; refuse 
it, and the people cannot venture to complain. From the 
formal language of magna charta we are next taught to con- 
sider a declaration of rights as superfluous; but, Sir, will the 
situation and conduct of Great Britian furnisli a case parallel 
to that of America? It surely will not be contended that we 
are about to receive our liberties as a grant or concession 
from any power upon earth ; so that if we learn anything from 
the English charter, it is this: that the people having negli- 
gently lost or submissively resigned their rights into the 
hands of the crown, they were glad to recover them upon 
any terms; their anxiety to secure the grant by the strong- 
est evidence will be an argument to prove, at least, the 
expediency of the measure, and the result of the whole is a 
lesson instructing us to do by an easy precaution, what will 
hereafter be an arduous and perhaps insurmountable task. 
But even in Great Britain, whatever may be the courtesy of 

262 The Debate in the Convention. 

their expressions, the matter stands substantially on a differ- 
ent footing, for we know that the divine right of kings is 
there, as well as here, deemed an idle and chimerical tale. 
It is true, the preamble to the great charter declares the liber- 
ties enumerated in that instrument, to be the grant of the 
sovereign, but the hyperbolical language of the English law 
has likewise declared that "the king can do no wrong," and 
yet, from time to time, the people have discovered in them- 
selves the natural source of power, and the monarchs have 
been made painfully responsible for their action. Will it 
still be said, that the state governments would be adequate to 
the task of correcting the usurpations of Congress? lyCt us 
not, however, give the weight of proof to the boldness of 
assertion; for, if the opposition is to succeed by force, we find 
both the purse and the sword are almost exclusively trans- 
ferred to the general government; and if it is to succeed by 
legislative remonstrance, we shall find that expedient ren- 
dered nugatory by the law of Congress, which is to be the 
supreme law of the land. Thus, Mr. President, must the 
powers and sovereignty of the several states be eventually 
destroyed, and when, at last, it may be found expedient to 
abolish that connection which, we are told essentially exists 
between the federal and individual legislatures, the proposed 
constitution is amply provided with the means in that clause 
which assumes the authority to alter or prescribe the place 
and manner of elections. I feel, Mr. President, the magni- 
tude of the subject in which I am engaged, and although I 
am exhausted with what I have already advanced, I am con- 
scious that the investigation is infinitely far from being com- 
plete. Upon the whole, therefore, I wish it to be seriously 
considered, whether we have a right to leave the liberties of 
the people to such future constructions and expositions as 
may possibly be made upon this system ; particularly when its 
advocates, even at this day, confess that it would be dangerous 
to omit anything in the enumeration of a bill of rights, and ac- 
cording to their principle, the reservation of the habeas corpus, 
and trial by jury in criminal cases, may hereafter be construed 
to be the only privileges reserved by the people. I am not anx- 

The Debate in the Convention. 263 

ions, Mr. President, about forms — it is the substance which I 
wish to obtain; and therefore I acknowledge, if our liberties 
are secured by the frame of government itself, the supplement- 
ary instrument of a declaration of rights may well be dispensed 
with. But, Sir, we find no security there, except in the two 
instances referred to, and it will not, I hope, any longer be 
alleged that no security is requisite, since those exceptions 
prove a contrary sentiment to have been entertained by the 
very framers of the proposed constitution. The question at 
present, Sir, is, however, of a preliminary kind — does the 
plan now in discussion propose a consolidation of the states? 
and will a consolidated government be most likely to promote 
the interests and happiness of America ? If it is satisfactorily 
demonstrated, that in its principles or in its operation, the 
dissolution of the state sovereignties is not a necessary conse- 
quence, I shall then be willing to accompany the gentlemen 
on the other side in weighing more particularly its irierits 
and demerits. But my judgment, according to the informa- 
tion I now possess, leads me to anticipate the annihilation of 
the several state governments — an event never expected by 
the people, and which would, I fervently believe, destroy the 
civil liberties of America. 

Mr. Wilson.* I am willing, Mr. President, to agree with 
the honorable member who has just spoken, that if this 
system is not calculated to secure the liberties and happiness 
of the United States, it should not be adopted; but, on the 
contrary, if it provides an adequate security for the general 
liberties and happiness of the people, I presume it ought not 
to be rejected. Before I comment upon the principles which 
have brought us to this issue, I beg leave to make one gen- 
eral remark. Liberty and happiness have. Sir, a powerful 
enemy on each hand; — on the one hand there is tyranny, on 
the other there is licentiousness. To guard against the 
latter, it is necessary that adequate powers should be given 
to the government, and to protect us from the former, it is 
requisite that that those powers should be properly distrib- 
uted. Under this consideration, let us now regard the pro- 

*From the Pennsylvania Herald, Dec. igtli 1787. 

264 The Debate in the Convention. 

posed system ; and I freely confess that if its adoption will 
necessarily be followed by the annihilation of the state 
governments, the objection is of very great force, and ought 
to be seriously weighed. The inference, however, appears 
rather unnatural that a government should be expressly cal- 
culated to produce the destruction of other governments, upon 
which its own existence must entirely depend; for, Mr. Presi- 
dent, it is capable of demonstration, that if the state govern- 
ments fall, the general government must likewise be involved 
in one common ruin. Is it not evident, Sir, when we par- 
ticularly examine the structure of the proposed system, that 
the operation of the federal legislature necessarily presup- 
poses the existence of the legislatures of the several States ? 
Can the Congress, the president, or even the judiciary 
department, survive the dissolution of those powers in the 
separate governments, from which they essentially derive 
their origin, and on which they must forever depend for 
their renovation? No, sir! For, we find that the House of 
Representatives is to be composed of persons returned by 
the suffrage of freemen who are qualified to vote for the 
members of the most numerous branch of the state legisla- 
ture, which legislature must necessarily exist, or the only 
criterion for supplying the popular department of the fed- 
eral government will be extinct. The senate, which is to 
be chosen by the se\'eral legislatures, cannot consequently be 
appointed unless those legislatures exist; which is likewise 
the case in respect to the president, as this ofiice is to be 
filled by electors nominated by the respective state legisla- 
tures; and, lastly, the judges are to be commissioned by the 
president and senate, who cannot appoint, unless they are 
themselves first appointed, and that, it appears, must depend 
upon the existence of the state legislatures. Thus, Mr. Pres- 
ident, by a clear deduction, it is evident that the existence 
and efficiency of the general government presupposes the ex- 
istence and full operation of the separate governments. For 
you can never prove a person to have been chosen, till you 
have proved that he was the choice of persons qualified to 
vote; you cannot prove any man to be entitled to elect a 

The Debate in the Convention, 265 

member of the house of representatives, till you have proved 
that he is qualified to elect a member of the most numerous 
branch of the state legislature. But, Sir, it has been inti- 
mated that the design of the federal convention was to absorb 
the state governments. This would introduce a strange doc- 
trine indeed, that one body should seek the destruction of 
another, upon which its own preservation depends, or that 
the creature should eat up and consume the creator. The 
truth is, Sir, that the framers of this system were particularly 
anxious, and their work demonstrates their anxiety, to pre- 
serve the state governments unimpaired — it was their favorite 
object; and, perhaps, however proper it might be in itself, it 
is more difficult to defend the plan on account of the exces- 
sive caution used in that respect than from any other objec- 
tion that has been offered here or elsewhere. Hence, we have 
seen each state, without regard to their comparative import- 
ance, entitled to an equal representation in the senate, and a 
clause has been introduced which enables two-thirds of the 
state legislature at any time to propose and effectuate altera- 
tions in the general system. But, Mr. President, though in 
the very structure of the plan the concomitant duration of 
the state governments is always pre-supposed, yet their power 
is not the only one intended to be recognized and established. 
The power of the people, Sir, is the great foundation of the 
proposed system, a power totally unknown in the present 
confederation, but here it mediately pervades every depart- 
ment and is immediately exercised in the house of represent- 
atives. I trust it is unnecessary to dwell longer upon this 
subject; for, when gentlemen assert that it was the intention 
of the federal convention to destroy the sovereignty of the 
states, they must conceive themselves better qualified to judge 
of the intention of that body than its own members, of whom 
not one, I believe, entertained so improper an idea. Intended 
it. Sir! how was this information obtained? I trust we shall 
not admit these visionary interpretations, but wisely judge 
of the tree by its fruit. The only pretence of proof, indeed, 
has been taken from the work itself — from that section which 
empowers the Congress to alter the place and manner of elec- 

266 The Debate in the Convention. 

tioii, under which, it is said, the national government may be 
carried on after the state governments are totally eradicated. 
This, Mr. President, is not only a proper, but a necessary 
power, for every government should possess the means of 
self-preservation. We have seen that the States may alter 
or amend the proposed system, if they should find it incom- 
patible with their interest and independency, and the same 
reason justifies and requires that Congress should have an 
ultimate control over those elections, upon which its purity 
and existence must depend. What would otherwise be the 
consequence? One or more States might refuse to make any 
regulations upon the subject, or, might make such regulations 
as would be highly inconvenient and absurd — if the election 
were appointed to be held at Pittsburgh, or, if a minority, 
tumultuously breaking up the legislatures, should defeat the 
disposition of the majority to appoint any place for that pur- 
pose, shall Congress have no authority to counteract such 
notorious evils, but continue in absolute dependence upon the 
will of a refractory State ? I say not, Sir, that these are prob- 
able events; but as they are certainly possible, it was the 
duty of the late convention to provide against the mischief, 
and to secure to the general government a power, in the 
dernier resort, for the more perfect organization of its constit- 
uent parts. In short. Sir, this system would be nugatory 
without the provision so much deprecated, as the national 
government must be laid prostrate before any State in the 
union, whose measures might at any time be infiuenced by 
faction and caprice. These, therefore, are the reasons upon 
which it is founded, and in spite of every perversion, it 
will be found only to contain the natural maxims of self-pres- 
ervation. I shall take a future opportunity to remark upon 
the other points of the speech delivered by the member from 
Cumberland, and upon the general principles of the proposed 
constitution. Thus I have thought it proper to remark, in 
this early stage of the debate, because I am sensible that the 
imputation of subverting the State governments, either as a 
principle or a consequence of the plan, must if well founded 
prove a very important objection. 

The Debate in the Convention, 267 

Mr, Smilie. I am happy, Mr. President, to find the argu- 
ment placed upon the proper ground, and that the honorable 
member from the city has so fully spoken on the question, 
whether this system proposes a consolidation or a confedera- 
tion of the states, as that is, in my humble opinion, the 
source of the greatest objection, which can be made to its 
adoption. I agree likewise with him, Sir, that it is, or ought 
to be, the object of all governments, to fix upon the interme- 
diate point between tyranny and licentiousness; and there- 
fore, it will be one of the great objects of our enquiry, to as- 
certain how far the proposed system deviates from that point 
of political happiness. For my part, I will readily confess, 
that it appears to be well guarded against licentiousness, but 
I am apprehensive it has deviated a little on the left hand, 
and rather invites than guards against the approaches of 
tyranny. I think however, Mr. President, it has been clearly 
argued, that the proposed system does not directly abolish, 
the governments of the several States, because its organiza- 
tion, and, for some time, perhaps, its operations, naturally 
pre-suppose their existence. But, Sir, it is not said, nor is 
thought, that the words of this instrument expressly an- 
nounce that the sovereignty of the several States, their inde- 
pendency, jurisdiction, and power, are at once absorbed and 
annihilated by the general government. To this position and 
to this alone, the arguments of the honorable gentlemen can 
effectually apply, and there they must undoubtedly hold as 
long as the forms of State Government remain, at least, till 
a change takes place in the federal constitution. It is, how- 
ever, upon other principles that the final destruction of the in- 
dividual governments is asserted to be a necessary consequence 
of their association under this general form, — for, Sir, it is 
the silent but certain operation of the powers, and not the 
cautious, but artful tenor of the expressions contained in this 
system, that can excite terror, or generate oppression. The 
flattery of language was indeed necessary to disguise the bane- 
ful purpose, but it is like the dazzling polish bestowed upon an 
instrument of death; and the visionary prospect of a magnifi- 
cent, yet popular government, was the most specious mode 

26S The Debate in the Conveiition. 

of rendering the people accessory to the ruin of those systems 
which they have so recently and so ardently labored to estab- 
lish. Hence, Sir, we may trace that passage which has been 
pronounced by the honorable delegate to the late convention 
with exultation and applause; but when it is declared that 
"We the people of the United States do ordain and establish 
this constitution," is not the very foundation a proof of a con- 
solidated government, by the manifest subversion of the 
principle that constitutes a union of States, which are sover- 
eign and independent, except in the specific objects of con- 
federation? These words have a plain and positive meaning, 
which could not be misunderstood by those who employed 
them; and therefore. Sir, it is fair and reasonable to infer, 
that it was in contemplation of the framers of this system, to 
absorb and abolish the efficient sovereignty and independent 
powers of the several States, in order to invigorate and 
aggrandize the general government. The plan before us, 
then, explicitly proposes the formation of a new constitution 
upon the original authority of the people, and not an associa- 
tion of States upon the authority of their respective govern- 
ments. On that ground, we perceive that it contains all the 
necessary parts of a complete system of government, the ex- 
ecutive, legislative and judicial establishments; and when 
two separate governments are at the same time in operation, 
over the same people, it will be difficult indeed to provide for 
each the means of safety and defence against the other; but 
if those means are not provided, it will be easily foreseen, 
that the stronger must eventually subdue and annihilate the 
weaker institution. IvCt us then examine the force and in- 
fluence of the new system, and enquire whether the small 
remnant of power left to the States can be adequate even to 
the trifling charge of its own preservation. Here, Sir, we 
find the right of making laws for every purpose is invested in 
the future governors of America, and in this is included the 
uncontrolled jurisdiction over the purses of the people. The 
power of raising money is indeed the soul, the vital prop of 
legislation, without which legislation itself cannot for a 
moment exist. It will, however, be remarked that the 

The Debate in the Convention. 269 

power of taxation, though extended to the general govern- 
ment, is not taken from the States individually. Yes, Sir! — 
but it will be remembered that the r.ational government may 
take from the people just what they please, and if anything 
should afterwards remain, then indeed the exigencies of the 
State governments may be supplied from the scanty gleanings 
of the harvest. Permit me now, Sir, to call your attention 
to the powers enumerated in the 8th section of the first arti- 
cle, and particularly to that clause which authorizes the pro- 
posed Congress, ' ' to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts 
and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common de- 
fence and general welfare of the United States." With such 
powers, Mr. President, what cannot the future governors ac- 
complish? It will be said, perhaps, that the treasure, thus 
accumulated, is raised and appropriated for the general wel- 
fare and the common defence of the States; but may not this 
pretext be easily perverted to other purposes, since those very 
men who raise and appropriate the taxes, are the only judges 
of what shall be deemed the general welfare and common de- 
fence of the national government? If then, Mr. President, 
they have unlimited power to drain the wealth of the people 
in every channel of taxation, whether by imposts on our 
commercial intercourse with foreign nations, or by direct 
levies on the people, I repeat it, that this system must be too 
formidable for any single State, or even for a combination of 
the States, should an attempt be made to break and destroy 
the yoke of domination and tyranny which it will hereafter 
set up. If, indeed, the spirit of men, once inflamed with the 
knowledge of freedom, should occasionally blaze out in re- 
monstrance, opposition and force, these symptoms would 
naturally excite the jealousy of their rulers, and tempt them 
to proceed in the career of usurpation, till the total destruc- 
tion of every principle of liberty should furnish a fit security 
for the exercise of arbitrary power. The money which has 
been raised from the people, may then be effectually em- 
ployed to keep them in a state of slavish subjection: the 
militia, regulated and commanded by the officers of the gen- 
eral government, will be warped from the patriotic nature of 

2/0 The Debate in the Convention. 

their institution, and a standing army, that most prevailing 
instrument of despotism, will be ever ready to enforce obedi- 
ence to a government by which it is raised, supported and 
enriched. If, under such circumstances, the several States 
should presume to assert their undelegated rights, I ask again 
what balance remains with them to counteract the encroach- 
ments of so potent a superior? To assemble a military force 
would be impracticable; for the general government, foreseeing 
the attempt would anticipate the means, by the exercise of its 
indefinite control over the purses of the people; and, in order 
to act upon the consciences as well as the persons of men, we 
find it is expressly stipulated, that every officer of the State 
government shall be sworn to support the constitution of the 
United States. Hence likewise. Sir, I conclude that in every 
point of rivalship, in every contention for power on the one 
hand and for freedom on the other, the event must be favor- 
able to the views and pretensions of a government gifted with 
so decisive a pre-eminence. Let us, however, regard this 
subject in another light. What, Mr. President, will be the 
feelings and ideas of the people, when by the operation of the 
proposed system, they are exposed to such accumulated ex- 
pense, for the maintenance of the general government? Is 
it not easy to foresee, that however the States may be dis- 
posed individually to preserve the parade of independence 
and sovereignty, the people themselves will become indiffer- 
ent, and at last, averse to the continuance of an expensive 
form, from which they derive no advantage? For, Sir, the 
attachment of citizens to their government and its laws is 
founded upon the benefits which they derive from them, and 
it will last no longer than the duration of the power to con- 
fer those benefits. When, therefore, the people of the respec- 
tive States shall find their governments grown torpid, and 
divested of the means to promote their welfare and interests, 
they will not, Sir, vainly idolize a shadow, nor disburse their 
hard earned wealth without the prospect of a compensation. 
The constitution of the States having become weak and use- 
less to every beneficial purpose, will be suffered to dwindle 
and decay, and thus if the governors of the Union are not 

The Debate in the Convention. 271 

too impatient for the accomplishment of unrivalled and ab- 
solute dominion, the destruction of State jurisdiction will be 
produced by its own insignificance. Having now, Mr. Presi- 
dent, shown that eventually this system will establish a con- 
solidated government, though the intention is not expressly 
avowed, I will take some notice of the honorable member's 
principle, culled from the mode of election which is here pre- 
scribed. Sir, we do not upon this occasion contend for forms, 
which it is certain may exist long after the substance has for- 
ever perished. It is well remembered that the Roman senate 
continued to meet in all its ceremonies, long after they had 
lost their power, and the liberty of Rome had been sacrificed 
to the most horrid tyranny. Such, Sir, must be the case with 
the State legislature, which will necessarily degenerate into 
a mere name, or at most settle in a formal board of electors, 
periodically assembled to exhibit the servile farce of filling 
up the Federal representation. 

Mr. M'Kean. The first objection ofiered, Mr. President, 
to the adoption of the proposed system, arises from the omis- 
sion of a bill of rights, and the gentlemen in the opposition 
have gone (contrary, I think, to their former wishes, which 
were to discuss the plan minutely, section after section,) from 
the immediate objects of the first article into an investigation 
of the whole system. However, as they have taken this wide 
and extensive path, I shall, though reluctantly, pursue them. 
It appears then. Sir, that there are but seven nations in the 
world which have incorporated a bill or declaration of 
rights into their system of government. The ancients 
were unacquainted with any instrument of that kind and 
till the recent establishment of the thirteen United States, 
the moderns, except Great Britain and Poland (if the Pacta 
Conventa of that kingdom may be considered), have not rec- 
ognized its utility. Hence, Sir, if any argument is to be 
drawn from the example of other countries, we find that far 
the greatest number, and those most eminent for their power 
and wisdom, have not deemed a declaration of rights in any 
degree essential to the institution of government or the pres- 
ervation of civil liberty. But, Sir, it has already been in- 

272 The Debate in the Convention. 

controvertibly shown that on the present occasion a bill of 
rights was totally unnecessary, and that it might be accom- 
panied with some inconveniency and danger, if there was any 
defect in the attempt to enumerate the privileges of the peo- 
ple. This system proposes a union of thirteen sovereign and 
independent states, in order to give dignity and energy to the 
transaction of their common concerns; it would be idle there- 
fore to countenance the idea that any other powers were dele- 
gated to the general government than those specified in the 
constitution itself, which, as I have before observed, amounts 
in fact to a bill of rights — a declaration of the people in what 
manner they choose to be governed. I am happy, Mr. Presi- 
dent, to find that no objection has been taken to the forms and 
structure of the proposed system, to the two branches of leg- 
islation, the unity of the executive power, and the qualified 
negative upon laws which is vested in the president. Objec- 
tions upon the subject, indeed, might have easily been an- 
swered, since it is evident without the distribution of powers 
here made, the legislature would naturally have absorbed the 
authority of every other department, but particularly of the 
executive. It has, I am persuaded, been satisfactorily proved 
by my honorable colleague, that the suggestion which repre- 
sent this system as being expressly calculated to annihilate 
the soverignty and independence of the States, is groundless 
and delusive; for he made it evident the existence of the States 
is a thing without which the federal functions cannot be or- 
ganized and supplied, and therefore, the dissolution of the 
individual and general government must be concurrent — if 
the state legislatures fail, the Congress of the United States 
must likewise be at an end, inasmuch as the annihilation of 
that power which is alone competent to elect, must be fol- 
lowed by the annihilation of the body which is the object of 
its election. But it is argued that the power of changing the 
time and place of elections, transfers to Congress an authority 
which ought exclusively to reside in the respective states, and 
which will eventually enable that body to act independent of 
the several governments. In this respect, Sir, it must be re- 
membered that in the first instance the states are authorized 

The Debate in the Convention. 273 

to regulate the time, place and proceedings of elections, and 
while they act with propriety, there can be little reason to 
suppose Congress will officiously interfere. But if, as it has 
been suggested by the honorable member from the city, an 
inconvenient situation should be appointed for holding the 
election, or if the time and manner should be made inconsis- 
tent with the principles of a pure and constitutional election, 
can it be doubted that the federal government ought to be 
enabled to make the necessary reform in a business so essen- 
tial to its own preservation and prosperity? If, for instance, 
the states should direct the suffrage of their citizens to be 
delivered viva voce, is it not necessary that the Congress 
should be authorized to change that mode, so injurious to 
the freedom of election, into the mode by ballot so happily 
calculated to preserve the suffrages of the citizens from bias 
and influence? This was one object, I am persuaded, which 
weighed with the late convenaion in framing this clause; and 
we farther collect their solicitude to prevent as much as pos- 
sible, an undue influence of wealth and talents in the impor- 
tant choice of representatives, from the regulation which 
expressly declares that the day of election shall be the same 
throughout the United States. By this means it is evident 
that the influence which is naturally acquired by extraordi- 
nary talents, activity and wealth, will be restricted in its 
operation, and the great men of one district deprived of all 
opportunity to interfere in the elections of another. Review- 
ing then, Sir, the objections to the power given to the pro- 
posed government for superintending the time, place and 
manner of choosing its members, they seem to be the off- 
spring of fancy, unsupported by real or probable argument, 
while the power itself is proved to be a wise and rational sub- 
ject of delegation. It is next said, Mr. President, and it is 
reasoned upon as a fact, that the Congress will enjoy over the 
thirteen States an uncontrolled power of legislation in all 
cases whatsoever; and it is repeated, again and again, in one 
common phrase, that the future governors may do what they 
please with the purses of the people, for there is neither re- 
striction nor reservation in the constitution which they will 

274 The Debate in the Convention. 

be appointed to administer. Sir, there is not a power given 
in the article before us that is not in its expression, clear, 
plain, and accurate, and in its nature proper and absolutely 
necessary to the great objects of the union. To support this 
assertion, permit me to recapitulate the contents of the arti- 
cle immediately before us. First, then, it is declared that 
"the Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, 
duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for 
the common defence and general welfare of the United 
States." Thus, Sir, as it is not the object of this govern- 
ment merely to make laws for correcting wicked and unruly 
men; but to protect the citizens of an extensive empire from 
exterior force and injury, it was necessary that powers should 
be given adequate to the discharge of so important a duty. 
But the gentlemen exclaim that here lies the source of ex- 
cessive taxation, and that the people will be plundered and 
oppressed. What is there, however, that should render it a 
more dangerous trust in the hands of the general than of a 
particular government? For, is it not as much in the power 
of the State legislatures at this day to do all this mischief, as 
it will be hereafter in the power of Congress? The truth is. 
Sir, that the great restraint upon excessive taxation arises 
from this consideration, that the same act by which a repre- 
sentative imposes a tax upon his constituents, extends to 
himself and all his connections, friends and acquaintance, 
so that he never will attempt to lay a greater burthen upon 
the people than he is convinced is necessary for the public 
service and easy to be borne. Besides this natural security, 
which applies equally to the individual and the general gov- 
ernment of the States, the people will, from time to time, 
have it in their power to remove those persons who have pro- 
moted any measure that tends to injure and oppress them. 
In short. Sir, it seems that the honorable members are so 
afraid the Congress will do some mischief, that they are de- 
termined to deny them the power to do any good. But we 
must divest ourselves of this extravagant jealousy, and re- 
member that it is necessary to repose some degree of confi- 
dence in the administration of a g-overnment, from which we 

The Debate in the Convention. 275 

expect the revival of commerce, the encouragement of arts, 
and the general happiness of the people. To whose judg- 
ment, indeed, could be so properly referred the determination 
of what is necessary to accomplish those important objects, as 
the judgment of a Congress elected, either directly or in- 
directly, by all the citizens of the United States? For if the 
people discharge their duty to themselves, the persons that 
compose that body will be the wisest and best m.en amongst 
us; — the wisest to discover the means of common defence and 
general welfare, and the best to carry those means into exe- 
cution, without guile, injustice or oppression. But it is not 
remarkable, ]\Ir. President, that the power of raising money 
which is thought dangerous in the proposed system, is, in 
fact, possessed by the present Congress, tho' a single house 
without checks, and without responsibility. Let us now 
proceed, Sir, to the succeeding detail of the powers of 
the proposed government. That Congress shall have the 
power to borrow money on the credit of the United States, 
is not objected to; nor are the powers to regulate trade, to 
establish a general rule of naturalization, and to enact uni- 
form laws on the subject of bankruptcies. The power to 
coin money and regulate its value, must be esteemed highly 
advantageous to the States, for hitherto its fluctuation has 
been productive of great confusion and fraudulent finesse. 
But when this power has established a certain medium 
throughout the United States, we shall know the extent and 
operation of our contracts, in what manner we are to pay or 
to be paid; no illicit practice will expose property to a sudden 
and capricious depreciation, and the traveller will not be em- 
barrassed with the different estimates of the same coin in the 
different districts through which he passes. The punishment 
of forgery, and the establishment of post-offices and post 
roads, are subjects confessedly proper to be comprehended 
within the federal jurisdiction; and the power of securing to 
authors and inventors the exclusive right to their writings 
and discoveries, could only with effect be exercised by the 
Congress. For, Sir, the laws of the respective States could 
only operate within their respective boundaries, and there- 

2y6 The Debate in tJie Conveiition. 

fore, a work which had cost the author his whole life to com- 
plete, when published in one State, however it might there 
be secured, could easily be carried into another State, in 
which a republication would be accompanied with neither 
penalty nor punishment — a circumstance manifestly injurious 
to the author in particular, and to the cause of science in 
general. The next powers enumerated are those for consti- 
tuting tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court, for defining 
and punishing piracies and offences against the law of nations, 
and for declaring war, to which no objection has been made, 
and, I am persuaded, none can be made v/itli reason and 
propriety. But, Sir, the power to raise and support armies 
has occasioned infinite opposition, and has been clothed in all 
the terrors which a jealous and heated imagination could con- 
ceive. Is it not necessary, however, Mr. President, that some 
power should exist capable of collecting and directing the 
national strength against foreign force, Indian depredations, 
or domestic insurrection ? If that power is necessary, where 
could it otherwise reside, what other body is competent to 
carry it efiectually into operation! For my part, Sir, I can 
perceive that the power is absolutely necessary to support the 
sovereignty and preserve the peace of the union, and, there- 
fore, I will not idly argue against its use, from the possible 
abuse — an argument which, as it applies to every other power 
as well as that under our immediate consideration, would 
supersede all the attributes of government, and defeat every 
purpose of society. Having thus,* Mr. President, recapitu- 
lated the powers delegated by the proposed constitution, it ap- 
pears to me that they are necessary to the objects of the union, 
and therefore entitled to our confirmation. Nor am I, Sir, 
impressed with the opinion which has given so much pain 
to the worthy gentlemen in the "opposition, that the powers 
are so vaguely expressed, so indefinite and extensive in their 
nature, that they may hereafter be stretched to every act of 
legislation, and construed to imply something beyond what 
is here specified. To evince that the powers enumerated in 
this article are all the powers given to the proposed Congress, 

*From the Penusylvania Herald, December 26, 1787. 

The Debate in the Conventtoit. 277 

we need only refer to the clause in the section which I have 
just discussed, that grants to that body a right of exclusive 
jurisdiction in any district of ten miles, which shall hereafter 
with the consent of the inhabitants become the seat of federal 
government. Does not this clearly prove. Sir, that their 
right of exclusive jurisdiction is restricted to that district, 
and with respect to the United States at large, their jurisdic- 
tion must be measured by the powers actually contained in 
the instrument before us? For no proposition can surely be 
more clear than this, that in every grant whatever is not 
mentioned must, from the nature of the thing, be considered 
as excluded. But, Sir, we are repeatedly told that however 
specious the enumeration may be, yet by the sixth article, a 
general authority is given to the acts of the proposed govern- 
ment, which renders its powers supreme and unlimited. Let 
us attend to this assertion and compare it with the article re- 
ferred to. There it is said, Mr. President, that "this consti- 
tution and the laws of the United States which shall be made 
in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be 
made under the authority of the United States, shall be the 
supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall 
be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of 
any state to the contrary notwithstanding." Now, Sir, what 
does this prove? The meaning which appears to be plain 
and well expressed, is simply this, that Congress have the 
power of making laws upon any subject over which the pro- 
posed plan gives them a jurisdiction, and that those laws thus 
made in pursuance of the constitution, shall be binding upon 
the States. With respect to treaties, I believe there is no 
nation in the world in which they are not considered as the 
supreme law of the land, and consequently, obligatory upon 
all judges and magistrates. They are a common concern, and 
obedience to them ought to be a common duty. As, indeed, 
the interest of all the States must be uniformly in the con- 
templation of Congress, why should not that body be author- 
ized to legislate for all ? I earnestly hope. Sir, that the stat- 
utes of the federal government will last till they become the 
common law of the land, as excellent and as much valued as 

278 The Debate in the Convention. 

that which we have hitherto fondly denominated the birth- 
right of an American. Such, Mr. President, are the objects 
to which the powers of the proposed government extend. 
Nor is it entirely left to this evident principle, that nothing 
more is given than is expressed, to circumscribe the federal 
authority. For, in the ninth section of the first article, we 
find the powers so qualified that not a doubt can remain. In 
the first clause of that section, there is a provision made for 
an event which must gratify the feelings of every friend to 
humanity. The abolition of slavery is put within the reach 
of the federal government. And when we consider the situ- 
ation and circumstances of the southern states, every man of 
candor will find more reason to rejoice that the power should 
be given at all, than to regret that its exercise should be post- 
poned for twenty years. Though Congress will have power 
to declare war, it is here stipulated that "the privilege of the 
writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in 
cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require 
it;" and men will not be exposed to have their actions con- 
strued into crimes by subsequent and retrospective laws, for 
it is expressly declared that "no bill of attainder or ex post 
facto law shall be passed." Though Congress will have 
the power to lay duties and taxes, yet, "no capitation or 
other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the 
census or actual enumeration of the states, nor can any tax 
or duty be laid on articles of exportation." Thiswise reg- 
ulation. Sir, has been successfully practiced by England and 
Ireland, while the commerce of Spain by a different conduct 
has been weakened and destroyed. The next restriction 
on the powers of Congress respects the appropriation of the 
public funds. "For no money shall be drawn from the 
treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by 
law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts 
and expenditures of all public money shall be published from 
time to time." What greater security could be required or 
given upon this important subject? First, the money must 
be appropriated by law, then drawn for according to that 
appropriation, and lastly, from time to time, an account of 

The Debate in the Convention. 279 

the receipts and expenditures must be submitted to the peo- 
ple, who will thus be enabled to judge of the conduct of their 
rulers, and, if they see cause to object to the use or the excess 
of the sums raised, they may express their wishes or disappro- 
bation to the legislature in petitions or remonstrances, which, 
if just and reasonable, cannot fail to be effectual. Thus, Sir, 
if any power is given, you cannot in my opinion give less — 
for less would be inadequate to the great objects of the 
government, and would neither enable Congress to pay the 
debts, or provide for the common defence of the Union. The 
last restriction mentioned prohibits Congress "from granting 
titles of nobility, and the officers of the proposed government 
from accepting, without the consent of Congress, any present, 
emolument, office or title of any kind whatever, from any 
king, prince, or foreign State. ' ' The section which follows 
these qualifications of the powers of Congress, prescribes some 
necessary limits to the powers of the several States; among 
which, I find with particular satisfaction, it is declared that 
"no State shall emit bills of credit, or make anything but 
gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts." By this 
means. Sir, some security will be offered for the discharge of 
honest contracts, and an end put to the pernicious specula- 
tion upon paper emissions — a medium which has undermined 
the morals, and relaxed the industry of the people, and from 
which one-half of the controversies in our courts of justice 
has arisen. Upon the whole, Mr. President, I must repeat, 
that I perceive nothing in this system which can alarm or 
intimidate the sincerest friend to the liberties of his country. 
The powers given to the government are necessary to its 
existence, and to the political happiness of the people — while 
the objections which are offered, arise from an evident per- 
version of its principles, and the presumption of a meaning 
which neither the framers of the system, nor the sys- 
tem itself, ever meant. True it is, Sir, that a form more 
pleasing, and more beneficial to the State of Pennsylvania, 
might be devised; but let it be remembered that this truth 
likewise applies to each of our sister States, whose separate 
interests have been proportionally sacrificed to the general 

28o The Debate in the Convention. 

welfare. And after all Mr. President, though a good 
system is certainly a blessing, yet the wealth, the prosperity, 
and the freedom of the people, must ultimately depend upon 
the administration of the best government. The wisdom, 
probity and patriotism of the rulers, will ever be the criterion 
of public prosperity; and hence it is, that despotism, if well 
administered, is the best form of government invented by 
human ingenuity. We have seen nations prosperous and 
happy under monarchies, aristocracies, and governments 
compounded of these, and to what can we ascribe their felic- 
ity, but the wise and prudent conduct of those who exercise 
the powers of government? For experience will demonstrate 
that the most perfect system may be so perverted as to pro- 
duce poverty and misery, and the most despotic so executed 
as to disseminate affluence and happiness among the people. 
But, Sir, perfection is not to be expected in the business of 
this life, and it is so ordered by the wisdom of Providence, 
that as our stay in this world seldom exceeds three score and 
ten years, we may not become too reluctant to part with its 
enjoyments, but by reflecting upon the imperfections of the 
present, learn in time to prepare for the perfections of a 
future state. I^et us then, Mr. President, be content to ac- 
cept this system as the best which can be obtained. Every 
man may think, and many a man has said, that he could 
make it better; but. Sir, as I observed on a former occasion 
with respect to religion, this is nothing more than opinion, 
and every person being attached to his own, it will be difficult 
indeed to make any number of men correspond in the same 
objects of amendment. The excellent letter which accom- 
panies the proposed system, will furnish a useful lesson upon 
this occasion. It deserves to be read with attention, and 
considered with candor. Allow me therefore. Sir, to close 
the trouble which I have given you in discussing the merits 
of the plan, with a perusal of this letter — in the second para- 
graph of which the reason is assigned for deviating from a 
.single body for the federal government. 

The Debate in the Convention. 281 


Sir: We have now the honor to submit to the consideration of the United 
States in Congress assembled, that Constitution which has appeared to us 
the most adviseable. 

The friends of our country have long seen and desired that the power of 
making war, peace and treaties, that of levying money and regulating com- 
merce, and the correspondent executive and judicial authorities, should be 
fully and effectually vested in the general government of the Union; but the 
impropriety of delegating such extensive trust to one body of men is evi- 
dent. Hence results the necessity of a different organization. 

It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these States, 
to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each and yet provide for 
the interest and safety of all. Individuals entering into society must give 
up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice 
must depend as as well on sitviation and circumstances, as on the object to 
be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line be- 
tween those rights which must be surrendered and those which may be re- 
served; and on the present occasion this difficulty was increased by a differ- 
ence among the several States as to their situation, extent, habits and 
particular interests. In all our deliberations on this subject we kept steadily 
in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true 
American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosper- 
ity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This important consid- 
eration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the 
convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have 
been otherwise expected, and thus the Constitution which we now present is 
the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession 
which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable. 

That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not, per- 
haps, to be expected; but each will doubtless consider that, had her interests 
been alone consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disa- 
greeable or injurious to others; that it is liable to as few exceptions as could 
reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote 
the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom 
and happiness, is our most ardent wish. With great respect, we have the 
honor to be, Sir, Your Excellency's most obedient humble servants. 

By the unanimous Order of Convention. 

I confess, Sir, that reading this letter and examining the 
work to which it refers, though there are some points that I 
might wish had been otherwise, yet upon the whole, I am 
struck with wonder and admiration that this Constitution 
should have been rendered so unexceptionable as it is, and 
that so many men, the representatives of States differing es- 
sentially in their views and interests, should have concurred 
in presenting it to their country. 

282 The Debate in the Convention, 

The convention adjourned till Friday at half past nine 
o'clock, having first agreed to meet in the convention room 
to-morrow morning, in order to attend to the exercises per- 
formed at the German Lutheran church. 

On Wednesday [28th]* Mr. M'Kean closed a long speech 
on the legislative article of the new constitution with this 
striking observation: "Though a good system of government 
is certainly a blessing, yet it is on the administration of the 
best system that the freedom, wealth and happiness of the 
people depend. Despotism, if wisely administered, is the 
best foinn of government invented by the ingenuity of man^ 
and we find that the people under absolute and limited mon- 
archies, under aristocracies and mixed governments, are as 
contented and as prosperous as we are, owing, undoubtedly, 
to the wisdom and virtue of their rulers. In short, the best 
government may be so conducted as to produce misery and 
disgrace, and the worst so administered as to ensure dignity 
and happiness to a nation." 

On the same day Mr. Smilie, in an elegant, ingenious and 
argumentative speech, traced some of the leading defects in the 
constitution, and endeavored to show that, if not in express 
terms, yet by inevitable consequence, it would terminate in 
a consolidation and not a confederation of the States. To 
this objection (which Mr. Wilson agreed if taken upon true 
grounds was a very serious and important one), the argument 
respecting the necessary relation between the State legisla- 
tures and the federal branches of government was repeated, 
the latter of which could not exist, it was said, if the former 
were annihilated. "But (added Mr. Smilie) let us review 
the history of Rome and we shall find, after the most abso- 
lute and horrid tyranny was established on the imperial 
throne, the ancient forms of the commonwealth were pre- 
served; its senate still met and were flattered with a show of 
authority, but we know the power and dignity of that once 
illustrious body were dwindled to a name. So here, Mr. 
President, the shadow of State government may long be re- 
tained when the substance is totally lost and forgotten." 
* From the Pennsylvania Packet, December 3d, 1787. 

The Debate in the Convention. 2 S3 

"Liberty and happiness (says Mr. Wilson) have a powerful 
enemy on each hand; on the one hand tyranny, on the other 
licentiousness. To guard against the latter, it is necessary to 
give the proper powers to government; and to guard against 
the former, it is necessary that those powers should be prop- 
erly distributed." 

"I agree (replies Mr. Smilie) that it is, or ought to be, the 
object of all governments to fix upon the intermediate point 
between tyranny and licentiousness; and I confess that the 
plan before us is perfectly armed to repel the latter; but I be- 
lieve it has deviated too much on the left hand, and rather 
invites than guards against the approaches of tyranny. ' ' 

Thursday^ November 2g. 

The members of the convention being assembled proceeded 
agreeably to their resolution of yesterday to the church in 
Race street, where they were entertained with the exercises 
of the young gentlemen belonging to the German Lutheran 


Friday^ November jo. 

The Convention* met pursuant to adjournment. 

Mr. Whitehill. I confess, Mr. President, that after the full 
exercise of his eloquence and ingenuity, the honorable dele- 
gate to the late conventionf has not removed those objections 
which I formerly submitted to your consideration, in hopes 
of striking, indeed, from his superior talents and information, 
a ray of wisdom to illuminate the darkness of our doubts, and 
to guide us in the pursuit of political truth and happiness. 
If the learned gentleman, however, with all his opportunities 
of investigating this particular system, and with all his gen- 
eral knowledge in the science of government, has not been 
able to convert or convince us, far be it from me to impute 
this failure to the defects of his elocution, or the languor of 
his disposition. It is no impeachment of those abilities which 
have been eminently distinguished in the abstruse disquisi- 
tions of law, that they should fail in the insidious task of 
supporting, on popular principles, a government which origi- 

*From the Pennsylvania Herald, December 29, 17S7. 
t Mr. Wilson. 

2S4 The Debate in the Convention. 

nates in myster>', and must terminate in despotism. Neither 
can the want of success, Sir, be ascribed to the want of zeal; 
for we have heard with our ears, and our eyes have seen, the 
indefatigable industry of the worthy member in advocating 
the cause which he has undertaken. But, Mr, President, the 
defect is in the system itself; there lies the evil which no ar- 
gument can palliate, no sophistry can disguise. Permit me, 
therefore. Sir, again to call your attention to the principles 
which it contains, and for a moment to examine the ground 
upon wdiich those principles are defended. I have said, and 
with increasing confidence I repeat, that the proposed consti- 
tution must eventually annihilate the independent sover- 
eignty of the several states. In answer to this, the forms of 
election for supplying the offices of the federal head have 
been recapitulated; it has been thence inferred that the con- 
nection between the individual and the general governments 
is of so indissoluble a nature, that they must necessarily 
stand or fall together, and, therefore, it has been finally de- 
clared to be impossible, that the framers of this constitution 
could have a premeditated design to sow, in the body of 
their work, the seeds of its own destruction. But, Sir, I 
think it may be clearly proved that this system contains 
the seeds of self-preservation independent of all the forms 
referred to — seeds which will vegetate and strengthen in 
proportion to the decay of state authority, and which will 
ultimately spring up and overshadow the thirteen common- 
wealths of America with a deadly shade. The honorable 
member from the city has, indeed, observed that every gov- 
ernment should possess the means of its own preservation; 
and this constitution is possibly the result of that proposition. 
For, Sir, the first article comprises the grants of powers so 
superlative in their nature, and so unlimited in their extent, 
that without the aid of any other branch of the system, a 
foundation rests upon this article alone, for the extension of 
the federal jurisdiction to the most extravagant degree of ar- 
bitrary sway. It will avail little to detect and deplore the en- 
croachments of a government clothed in the plenitude of 
these powers; it will afford no consolation to reflect that we 

The Debate in the Convention. 285 

are not enslaved by the positive dereliction of our rights; 
but it will be well to remember at this day, Sir, that, in 
effect, we rob the people of their liberties, when we establish a 
power, whose usurpations they will not be able to counteract 
or restrict. It is not alone, however, the operative force of 
the powers expressly given to Congress that will accomplish 
their independence of the States, but we find an efficient 
auxiliary in the clause that authorizes that body ''to make 
all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into 
execution the foregoing powers and all other powers vested 
by this constitution in this government of the United States 
or in any department or office thereof" Hence, Sir, if it 
should happen, as the honorable members from the city have 
presumed, that by the neglect or delinquency of the States, 
no place and manner, or an improper place and manner for 
conducting the elections should be appointed, will it not be 
said that the general government ought not for this reason to 
be destroyed? and will it not therefore be necessary for carry- 
ing the powers of this constitution into execution, that the 
Congress should provide for its elections in such manner as 
will prevent the federal business from being frustrated by the 
listless or refractory disposition of the States individually? 
This event is in a great measure provided for, indeed, by the 
plan itself; for "the Congress may (constitutionally) at any 
time by law make or alter such regulations (that is the times, 
places and manner of holding elections prescribed in each State 
by the legislature thereof) except as to the places of choosing 
senators. ' ' If the power here given was necessary to the preser- 
vation of the proposed government, as the honorable members 
have contended, does it not, at the same time, furnish the 
means to act independent of the connection which has been 
so often represented as the great security for the continuance 
of the State sovereignties? Under the sanction of this clause, 
the senators may hold their seats as long as they live, and 
there is no authority to dispossess them. The duration of the 
house of representatives may likewise be protracted to any 
period, since the time and place of election will always be 
adapted to the objects of the Congress or its leading dema- 

286 The Debate in the Convention. 

gogues; and as that body will ultimately declare what shall 
constitute the qualifications of its members, all the boasted 
advantages of representation must terminate in idle form and 
expensive parade. If the voice of complaint should not then 
be silenced by the dread of punishment, easy it is, neverthe- 
less, to anticipate the fate of petitions or remonstrances pre- 
sented by the trembling hand of the oppressed to the irritated 
and ambitious oppressor. Solicitation will be answered by 
those statutes which are to be the supreme law of the land, 
and reproach will be overcome by the frown of insolent au- 
thority. This, Mr. President, is but a slight view of the 
calamities that will be produced by the exercise of those 
powers which the honorable members from the city have en- 
deavored to persuade us it is necessary to grant to the new 
government in order to secure its own preservation and to 
accomplish the objects of the Union. But in considering. Sir, 
what was necessary to the safety and energ>' of the govern- 
inent, some attention ought surely to have been paid to the 
safety and freedom of the people. No satisfactory reason has 
yet been offered for the omission of a bill of rights; but on the 
contrary, the honorable members are defeated in the only 
pretext which they have been able to assign, that everything 
which is not given is excepted, for we have shown that there 
are two articles expressly reserved, the writ of habeas corpus 
and the trial by jury in criminal cases, and we have called 
upon them in vain to reconcile this reservation with the 
tenor of their favorite proposition. For if there was danger 
in the attempt to enumerate the liberties of the people, lest it 
should prove imperfect and destructive, how happens it that 
in the instances I have mentioned, that danger has been in- 
curred? Have the people no other rights worth their atten- 
tion, or is it to be inferred, agreeably to the maxim of our op- 
ponents, that every other right is abandoned? Surely, Sir, 
our language was competent to declare the sentiments of the 
people and to establish a bar against the intrusion of the gen- 
eral government in other respects as well as these; and when 
we find some privileges stipulated, the argument of danger is 
effectually destroyed; and the argument of difficulty which 

The Debate in the Convention. 287 

has been drawn from the attempt to enumerate every right, 
cannot now be urged against the enumeration of more rights 
than this instrument contains. In short, Mr. President, it is 
our duty to take care that the foundation of this system is so 
laid that the superstructure, which is to be reared by other 
hands, may not cast a gloom upon the temple of freedom, the 
recent purchase of our toil and treasure. When, therefore, I 
consider it as the means of annihilating the constitutions of 
the several States, and consequently the liberties of the peo- 
ple, I should be wanting to my constituents, to myself and to 
posterity, did I not exert every talent with which heaven has 
endowed me to counteract the measures that have been taken 
for its adoption. That it was the design of the late federal 
convention to absorb and abolish the individual sovereignty 
of the States, I seek no other evidence but this system ; for as 
the honorable delegate to that body has recommended, I am 
also satisfied to judge of the tree by its fruit. When, there- 
fore, I behold it thus systematically constructed for the 
accomplishment of that object, when I recollect the talents 
of those who framed it, I cannot hesitate to impute to them 
an intention corresponding with the principles and operation 
of their own work. Finally, Sir, that the dissolution of our 
State constitutions will produce the ruin of civil liberty is a 
proposition easy to be maintained, and which I am persuaded 
in the course of these debates will be incontrovertibly estab- 
lished in the mind of every member whose judgment is open 
to conviction, and whose vote has not been conclusively 
pledged for the ratification of this constitution before its 
merits were discussed. 

Mr. Wilson. It is objected* that the number of members 
in the House of Representatives is too small. This is a sub- 
ject something embarrassing, and the convention who framed 
the article felt the embarrassment. Take either side of the 
question, and you are necessarily led into difficulties. A 
large representation, Sir, draws along with it a great expense. 
We all know that expense is offered as an objection to this 

*From Lloyd's Debates. 

288 The Debate in the Co7tveiition. 

system of government, and certainly had the representation 
been greater, the clamor wonld have been on that side, and 
perhaps with some degree of justice. But the expense is not 
the sole objection ; it is the opinion of some writers, that a 
deliberative body ought not to consist of more than one hun- 
dred members. I think, however, that there might be safety 
and propriety in going beyond that number; but certainly 
there is some number so large, that it would be improper to 
increase them beyond it. The British House of Commons 
consists of upwards of five hundred. The senate of Rome 
consisted, it is said, at some times of one thousand members. 
This last number is certainly too great. 

The convention endeavored to steer a middle course, and 
when we consider the scale on which they formed their calcu- 
lation, there are strong reasons why the representation should 
not have been larger. On the ratio that they have fixed, of 
one for every thirty thousand, and according to the generally 
received opinion of the increase of population throughout the 
United States, the present number of their inhabitants will be 
doubled in twenty-five years, and according to that progres- 
sive proportion, and the ratio of one member for thirty thou- 
sand inhabitants, the Plouse of Representatives will, within a 
single century, consist of more than six hundred members. 
Permit me to add a further observation on the numbers — that 
a large number is not so necessary in this case as in the cases 
of state legislatures. In them there ought to be a represen- 
tation sufficient to declare the situation of every county, town 
and district, and if of every individual, so much the better, 
because their legislative powers extend to the particular in- 
terest and convenience of each; but in the general govern- 
ment its objects are enumerated, and are not confined in their 
causes or operations to a county, or even to a single state. 
No one power is of such a nature as to require the minute 
knowledge of situations and circumstances necessary in state 
governments possessed of general legislative authority. These 
were the reasons, Sir, that I believe had influence on the con- 
vention to agree to the number of thirty thousand; and when 
the inconveniences and conveniences on both sides are com- 

The Debate in the Cunvention. 289 

pared, it would be difficult to say what would be a number 
more unexceptionable. 

FiHday^ November joth. 

Mr. Hartley.* It has been uniformly admitted, Sir, by 
every man who has written or spoken upon the subject, that 
the existing confederation of the vStates is inadequate to the 
duties of a general government. The lives, the liberties and 
the property of the citizens are no longer protected and 
secured, so that necessity compels us to seek beneath another 
system, some safety for our most invaluable rights and pos- 
sessions. It is then the opinion of many wise and good men, 
that the constitution presented by the late federal convention, 
will in a great measure afford the relief which is required by 
the wants and weakness of our present situation, but, on the 
other hand, it has been represented as an instrument to un- 
dermine the sovereignty of the States and destroy the liber- 
ties of the people. It is the peculiar duty of this convention 
to investigate the truth of those opinions, and to adopt or re- 
ject the proposed constitution, according to the result of that 
investigation. For my part I freely acknowledge, Mr. Presi- 
dent, that impressed with a strong sense of the public calami- 
ties, I regard the system before us as the only prospect which 
promises to relieve the distresses of the people and to advance 
the national honor and interests of America. I shall therefore 
offer such arguments in opposition to the objections raised by 
the honorable delegates from Cumberland and Fayette, as 
have served to establish my judgment, and will, I hope, com- 
municate some information to the judgment of the worthy 
members who shall favor me with a candid attention. The 
jEirst objection is, that the proposed system is not coupled with 
a bill of rights, and therefore, it is said, there is no security 
for the liberties of the people. This objection, Sir, has been 
ably refuted by the honorable members from the city, and 
will admit of little more animadversion than has already been 
bestowed upon it, in the course of their arguments. It is 
agreed, however, that the situation of a British subject, and 
that of an American citizen in the year 1776, were essenti- 
ally different; but it does not appear to be accurately under- 

*From the Pennsylvania Herald, January 2, 1788. 

290 The Debate in the Convention. 

stood in what manner the people of England became enslaved 
before the reign of King John. Previonsly to the Norman 
conquest, that nation certainly enjoyed the greatest portion 
of civil liberty then known in the world. But when William, 
accompanied by a train of courtiers and dependents, seized 
upon the crown, the liberties of the vanquished were totally 
disregarded and forgotten, while titles, honors and estates, 
were distributed with a liberal hand among his needy and 
avaricious followers. The lives and fortunes of the ancient 
inhabitants became thus subject to the will of the usurper, 
and no stipulations were made to protect and secure them 
from the most wanton violations. Hence, Sir, arose the 
successful struggles in the reign of John, and to this source 
may be traced the subsequent exertions of the people for the 
recovery of their liberties, when Charles endeavored totally 
to destroy, and the Prince of Orange at the celebrated era 
of British revolution, was invited to support them, upon the 
principles declared in the bill of rights. Some authors, in- 
deed, have argued that the liberties of the people were de- 
rived from the prince, but how they came into his hands is a 
mystery which has not been disclosed. Even on that princi- 
ple, however, it has occasionally been found necessary to 
make laws for the security of the subject — a necessity that 
has produced the writ of habeas corpus, which affords an 
easy and immediate redress for the unjust imprisonment of the 
person, and the trial by jury, which is the fundamental secu- 
rity for every enjoyment that is valuable in the contempla- 
tion of a freeman. These advantages have not been obtained 
by the influence of a bill of rights, which after all we find is 
an instrument that derives its validity only from the sanction 
and ratification of the prince. How different then is our 
situation from the circumstances of the British nation? 

As soon as the independence of America was declared, in 
the year 1776, from that instant all our natural rights were 
restored to us, and we were at liberty to adopt any form of 
government to which our views or our interest might incline 
us. This truth, expressly recognized by the act declaring 
our independence, naturally produced another maxim, that 
whatever portion of those natural rights we did not transfer 

The Debate in the Convention. 291 

to the government, was still reserved and retained by the 
people ; for, if no power was delegated to the government, no 
right was resigned by the people; and if a part only of our 
natural rights was delegated, is it not absurd to assert that we 
have relinquished the whole? Where then is the necessity 
of a formal declaration, that those rights are still retained, of 
the resignation of which no evidence can possibly be pro- 
duced? Some articles, indeed from their pre-eminence in the 
scale of political security, deserve to be particularly specified, 
and these have not been omitted in the system before us. 

The definition of treason, the writ of habeas corpus, and 
the trial by jury in criminal cases, are here expressly provided 
for; and in going thus far, solid foundation has been laid. 

The ingenuity of the gentlemen who are inimical to the 
proposed constitution may serve to detect an error, but can 
it furnish a remedy? They have told us that a bill of rights 
ought to have been annexed; but, while some are for this 
point, and others for that, is it not evidently impracticable to 
frame an instrument which will be satisfactory to the wishes 
of every man who thinks himself competent to propose and 
obviate objections? Sir, it is enough for me that the great 
cardinal points of a free government are here secured without 
the useless enumeration of privileges, under the popular ap- 
pellation of a bill of rights. The second objection which I 
have been able to collect from the arguments of the honorable 
members in opposition is this, that annual elections are not 
recognized and established by this constitution. I confess, 
Mr. President, the business of elections is a ver>' important 
object in the institution of a free government; but I am of 
opinion, that their frequency must always depend upon the 
circumstances of the country. In a small territory, an annual 
election is proper and convenient; but in a jurisdiction ex- 
tending 1,500 miles, through various climates, even if prac- 
ticable, it would be an idle and burthensome arrangement. 
If, for instance, a delegate to the Congiess were obliged to 
travel 700 or 800 miles to Georgia and Carolina, he could 
scarcely have entered upon the duties of his appointment, be- 
fore the year would be past, and his authority annulled. Let 
us look at the nations in Europe, and, by way of illustration. 

292 The Debate in the Convention. 

let us suppose particularly that it was uecessary in Denmark 
to meet in Copenhagen, the seat of government, from districts 
at the distance of seven hundred miles, would it not be proper 
to extend the period of service in proportion to the time re- 
quired for collecting the scattered members of the body politic? 
In England, indeed, a compact and cultivated country, through 
which the communication is never interrupted, an annual elec- 
tion might be productive of great advantages, and could be at- 
tended with few inconveniences; but, as I have already repre- 
sented, the case must here be essentially different. If, then, this 
objection is answered, so likewise must be the objection which 
has been next offered, that the appropriation of public moneys 
for the maintenance of a military force, may be for a period of 
ten years, whereas in England it is only for one; since the same 
reasons which made it necessary to deviate from annual elec- 
tions, must render it necessary to extend those appropriations. 
The power granted to levy taxes is another subject for op- 
position; and at first view, indeed, it may naturally excite 
some astonishment. But, Mr. President, it is necessary that 
those v/ho are authorized to contract debts upon the public 
faith should likewise be invested with the means for discharg- 
ing those debts. We have fatally experienced that recom- 
mendations are incompetent to that object, for what part of 
our foreign obligations have they hitherto been able to dis- 
charge? Let us, however, suppose that by the operation of 
federal recommendation, it is possible to accomplish the pay- 
ment of our existing debts; where is the faith so credulous 
that will advance us another shilling upon the same security? 
But on the other hand, establish a power which can discharge 
its engagement, and you insure the confidence and friendship 
of the world. The power of taxation is then a great and im- 
portant trust; but we lodge it with our own representatives, 
and as long as we continue virtuous we shall be safe, for they 
will not dare to abuse it. We now come. Sir, to the objec- 
tion which seems to spread the greatest alarm, and in support 
of which much labor and ingenuity have been displayed. 
That the rights now possessed by the States will in some de- 
gree be abridged by the adoption of the proposed system, has 
never been denied; but it is only in that degree which is neces- 

The Debate in the Convention. 293 

sary and proper to promote the great purposes of the Union. 
A portion of our natural rights are given up in order to con- 
stitute society; and as it is here, a portion of the rights be- 
longing to the States individually is resigned in order to con- 
stitute an efficient confederation. But, Mr. President, I do 
not know any instance in ancient history exactly similar to 
the situation of this country. The allusion which was made 
by the honorable member from Fayette to the Roman annals, 
is incapable of a just application to the subject in discussion; 
for the senate at the period to which he has referred was not 
created by election, but appointed by the mandate of the 
prince. The power of life and death was exclusively pos- 
sessed by the Emperor, and the senate had no authority but 
what he pleased to bestow. In modern history there is in- 
deed one event which seems to be in point. When the Union 
was about to be formed between Scotland and England in the 
reign of Queen Anne, wise men of all descriptions opposed 
the transaction, and particularly it was the subject of clamor 
among the clergy of every denomination. Lord Peterborough 
compared it to Nebuchadnezzar's image of iron and clay; and 
then, as it is now, the annihilation of the inferior power was 
warmly predicted by the wise men of the north. But, Sir, 
those fears and prognostications have been dissipated and dis- 
appointed by the event, and every liberal Scotchman will 
acknowledge he has gained by the bargain. Let it now be 
remarked that though Scotland sends only fifty-five members 
to the British Parliament, yet its judiciary and religious es- 
tablishments being secured to them by the union, it has 
never been alleged that the superintending power has in any 
degree intruded upon those rights, or infringed the general 
tenor of the compact. Here then is an instance of a kingdom 
preserved even where the law is made and proceeds from a 
different and distant country. With respect to the German 
confederation, if anything can thence be drawn, it is an in- 
ference contrary to the doctrine contended on the part of the 
opposition. There, Sir, a number of deputies meet in gen- 
eral diet and make certain laws which are to prevade the 
Germanic body. But has this general head subverted the in- 
dependence and liberties of its constituent members? No: 

294 '^^^^ Debate in the Convejition. 

for, on the reverse, we fiud the House of Austria, a single 
branch, has become superior to the whole, except the King 
of Prussia, who is likewise formidable, but it is in his power 
and influence over the general system. Upon the whole, Mr. 
President, I sincerely think that the opinions of the worthy 
gentlemen are mistaken, and that their fears are vain and 
extravagant; for it is necessary that something should be 
done, and this plan, waiving any compliment to its excellence, 
is at least an eligible one. 

Doctor Rush.* I believe, Mr. President, that of all the 
treaties which have ever been made, William Penn's was the 
only one, which was contracted without parchment; and I 
believe, likewise, it is the only one that has ever been faith- 
fully adhered to. As it has happened with treaties, so. Sir, 
has it happened with bills of rights, for never yet has one 
been made which has not, at some period or other, been 
broken. The celebrated magna charta of England was 
broken over and over again, and these infractions gave birth 
to the petition of rights. If, indeed, the government of that 
country has not been violated for the last hundred years, as 
some writers have said, it is not owning to charters or declara- 
tions of rights, but to the balance which has been introduced 
and established in the legislative body. The constitution of 
Pennsylvania, Mr. President, is guarded by an oath, which 
every man employed in the administration of the public busi- 
ness is compelled to take; and yet. Sir, examine the pro- 
ceedings of the council of censors, and you will find innumer- 
able instances of the violation of that constitution, committed 
equally by its friends and enemies. In truth, then, there is 
no security but in a pure and adequate representation; the 
checks and all the other desiderata of government are noth- 
ing but political error without it, and with it, liberty can 
never be endangered. While the honorable convention, who 
framed this system, were employed in their work, there are 
many gentlemen who can bear testimony that my only anx- 
iety was upon the subject of representation ; and when I be- 
held a legislature constituted of three branches, and in so 

*From the reiinsylvania Herald, January 5, 17S8. 


The Debate in the Convention. 295 

excellent a manner, either directly or indirectly, elected by 
the people, and amenable to them, I confess, Sir, that here I 
cheerfully reposed all my hopes and confidence of safety. 
Civilians having taught us, Mr. President, that occupancy 
was the origin of property, I think it may likewise be con- 
sidered as the origin of liberty; and as we enjoy all our 
natural rights from a pre-occupancy, antecedent to the social 
state, in entering into that state, whence shall they be said 
to be derived? Would it not be absurd to frame a formal dec- 
laration that oui natural rights are acquired froin ourselves? 
and would it not be a more ridiculous solecism to say, that 
they are the gift of those rulers whom we have created, and 
who are invested by us with every power they possess? Sir, 
I consider it as an honor to the late convention, that this 
system has not been disgraced with a bill of rights; though I 
mean not to blame or reflect upon those States which have 
encumbered their constitutions with that idle and superfluous 
instrument. One would imagine, however, from the argu- 
ments of the opposition, that this government was immedi- 
ately to be administered by foreigners — strangers to our habits 
and opinions, and unconnected with our interests and pros- 
perity. These apprehensions. Sir, might have been excused 
while we were contending with Great Britain; but at this time 
they are applicable to all governments, as well as that under 
consideration; and the arguments of the honorable member 
are, indeed, better calculated for an Indian council-fire, than 
the meridian of this refined and enlightened convention. 

Mr. Yeates. The objections hitherto offered to this system, 
Mr. President, may, I think, be reduced to these general 
heads: first, that there is no bill of rights, and secondly, that 
the effect of the proposed government will be a consolidation 
and not a confederation of the States. Upon the first head 
it appears to me that great misapprehension has arisen, from 
considering the situation of Great Britain to be parallel to the 
situation of this country; whereas the difference is so essential, 
that a bill of rights which was there both useful and neces- 
sary, becomes here at once useless and unnecessary. In Eng- 
land a power (by what means it signifies little) was established 
paramount to that of the people, and the only way whic!. 

296 The Debate in the Convent io?t. 

they had to secure the remnant of their liberties, was, on ev- 
ery opportunity, to stipulate with that power for the uninter- 
rupted enjoyment of certain enumerated privileges. But our 
case is widely different, and we find that upon the opinion of 
this difference, seven of the thirteen United States have not 
added a bill of rights to their respective constitutions. Noth- 
ing, indeed, seems more clear to my judgment than this, that 
in our circumstances, every power which is not expressly 
given is in fact reserved. But it is asked, as some rights are 
here expressly provided for, why should not more? In truth, 
however, the writ of habeas corpus, and the trial by jury in 
criminal cases, cannot be considered as a bill of rights, but 
merely as a reservation on the part of the people, and a re- 
striction on the part of their rulers. And I agree with those 
gentlemen who conceive that a bill of rights, according to the 
ideas of the opposition, would be accompanied with consid- 
erable difficulty and danger; for it might be argued at a 
future day by the persons then in power, You undertook to 
enumerate the rights which you meant to reserve; the preten- 
sion which you now make is not comprised in that enumera- 
tion, and consequently our jurisdiction is not circumscribed. 
The second general head respects the consolidation of the 
States; but I think, Sir, candor will forbid us to impute that 
design to the late convention, when we review the principles 
and texture of their work. Does it not appear that the or- 
ganization of the new government must originate with the 
States? Is not the whole system of federal representation 
dependent upon the individual governments? For we find 
that those persons who are qualified to vote for the most 
numerous branch of the State legislatures, are alone qualified 
to vote for delegates to the house of representatives: the 
senators are to be chosen immediately by the legislatures of 
the States; and those legislatures likewise are to prescribe 
the manner for the appointment of electors who are to elect 
the President. Thus, Sir, is the connection between the 
States in their separate and aggregate capacity preserved, and 
the existence of the Federal government made necessarily 
dependant upon the existence and actual operation of its 
constituent members. Lest anything, indeed, should be 

The Debate in the Convention. 297 

wanting- to assure us of the intention of the framers of this 
constitution to preserve the individual sovereignty and inde- 
pendence of the States inviolate, we find it expressly declared 
by the 4th section of the 4th article, that " the United States 
shall guarantee to every State in this Union, a republican 
form of government" — a constitutional security far superior 
to the fancied advantages of a bill of rights. It is urged, 
however, that all the security derived from this clause, and 
from the forms of representation, may be defeated by the ex- 
ercise of the power which is vested in Congress to change the 
times, places, and manner of election. Sir, let it be remem- 
bered that this power can only operate in a case of necessity, 
after the factious or listless disposition of a particular State 
has rendered an interference essential to the salvation of the 
general government. But is it fair, is it liberal, that every 
presumption should impute to Congress an abuse of the 
powers with which they are entrusted? We might surely, on 
the ground of such extravagent apprehensions, proscribe the 
use of fire and water — for fire may burn, and water may 
drown us. Is it, indeed, possible to define any power so ac- 
curately, that it shall reach the particular object for which it 
was given, and yet not be liable to perversion and abuse? If 
it is too much restrained it will certainly be incompetent; 
and I am free to declare the opinion, that it is much better 
under a limited government, to trust something to the dis- 
cretion of the rulers, than to attempt so precise a definition 
of power as must defeat every salutary object which it is in- 
tended to produce. In what instance does it appear, after 
all, that the jurisdiction of the States will be abridged, ex- 
cept, indeed, in those respects from which the universal 
sense of mankind must forever exclude them? The general 
government will, and incontrovertibly should, be possessed 
of the power to superintend the general objects and interests 
of the country; the particular objects and interests of the 
States will still be subject to the power of the particular gov- 
ernments — and is this not a natural and necessary distribu- 
tion of authority? What single State, for instance, is equal 
to the regulation of commerce? Have we not seen a sister 
republic, by an obstinate refusal of the 5 per cent impost, in- 

298 The Debate in the Cojivention. 

volve the whole union in difficulties and disgrace? To that 
refusal, indeed, may be ascribed our present embarrassments, 
and the continuance of a heavy debt, which must, otherwise, 
have been long since discharged. But what are the particu- 
lar restrictions which this system imposes upon the authority 
of the States? They are contained, Sir, in the tenth section 
of the first article ; and I appeal, cheerfully, to the candor of 
every man who hears me, whether they are not such as 
ought, for the sake of public honor and private honesty, to be 
imposed. "No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or 
confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin 
money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and 
silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of at- 
tainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of 
contracts, or grant any title of nobility." These, Sir, and 
some restraints in commercial affairs, are the restrictions on 
the several States; we have little information from the fatal 
experience of past years, if we cannot perceive their propriety, 
and rejoice in the anticipation of the beneficial consequences 
they must produce. What, Mr. President, has hitherto been 
the effect of tender laws, paper money, and the iniquitous 
speculations these excrescences of a weak government natur- 
ally engendered ? I wish not. Sir, to afflict you with a painful 
recollection upon this subject; but it will be well toremembei 
how much we have suffered, that we may properly estimate 
the hand which rescues us from poverty and disgrace. If 
virtue is the foundation of a republican government, has it 
not been fatally sapped by these means? The morals of the 
people have been almost sunk into depravity; and the gov- 
ernment of laws has been almost superseded by a licentious 
anarchy. The day of reformation and happiness, however, 
rapidly approaches, and this system will be, at length, the 
glorious instrument of our political salvation. For, under 
the authority here given, our commerce will be rendered re- 
spectable among the nations of the world; the product of the 
impost will ease the weight of internal taxation; the land 
tax will be diminished; and the luxuries and conveniences 
of life bear a proportionate share in the public expenses. In 
short. Sir, I perceive nothing in this system to terrify, but 

The Debate in the Convention. 299 

everything to flatter the hopes of a friend to his country, and 
I sincerely hope it will be adopted. 

On Friday 30th* the convention proceeded in their delib- 
erations upon the first article of the proposed constitution, 
and Mr. Wynkoop moved, after some debate, that the second 
article should be taken into consideration. On this Mr. 
Smilie observed, that he hoped so precipitate a measure 
would not be adopted, for, in his opinion, they had not yet 
got over the first six words of the preamble. He then re- 
duced the present subject of discussion to two general heads, 
viz. ist. The necessity of a declaration of rights; and 2d. 
Whether the plan was a consolidation, or a confederation of 
the United States? After these points are ascertained, he 
observed, it would be proper to consider each section of the 
first article particularly, in order to state the objections to the 
powers delegated to the Congress for imposing internal taxa- 
tion, raising a poll tax, and maintaining a standing army in 
time of peace. The convention adjourned at two o'clock. 

Mr. M'Kean said on Friday, in the convention, that he 
wished the opponents of the proposed constitution would not 
merely find out its defects, but state the remedies. Since 
they consider a bill of rights so essential, why do they not 
show us one, that we may judge of its necessity ? To this 
Mr, Smilie answered, he was happy to hear the idea sug- 
gested, for he had understood that the convention did not 
mean to admit either additions or amendments; but let them 
agree to do this, and he pledged himself to produce such a 
declaration of rights, and such other amendments, as would 
conciliate the opponents of the plan in its present state, who 
wished not to reject it altogether, but to make it as secure as 
possible, in favor of the civil liberties of the people. 

Saturday^ December ist. 
Doctor Rushf (on the subject of the new government tend- 
ing to abridge the States of their respective sovereignty) ob- 
served in the convention, that this passion for separate sover- 

*From the Pennsylvania Packet, Dec. 3, 1787. 
t From the Pennsylvania Packet, Dec. 5th, 1787. 

300 The Debate in the Convention. 

eignty had destroyed the Grecian Union. This plurality of 
sovereignty is in politics what plurality of gods is in religion 
— it is the idolatry, the heathenism of government. In 
marking the advantages which are secured to us by the new 
government, the Doctor principally enforced the following: 
The citizens under it wall have an immediate voice in delega- 
tions to Congress: that an unoffending posterity will not (as 
is now the case on commission of treason) be punished for the 
sins of offending ancestors; that an eternal veto will be 
stamped on paper emissions; that religious tests would be 
abolished; that Commerce will hold up her declining head, 
under the influence of general, vigorous, uniform regulations; 
that a system of infinite mischief to this State w^ould be coun- 
teracted; that the adopted certificates would devolve back to 
the continent. The Doctor concluded an animated speech by 
holding out the new constitution as pregnant with an increase 
of freedom, knowledge and religion. 

On Saturday [Dec. ist] * Mr. Findley delivered an eloquent 
and powerful speech, to prove that the proposed plan of gov- 
ernment amounted to a consolidation, and not a confederation 
of the states. Mr. Wilson had before admitted that if this was 
a just objection, it would be strongly against the system; and 
it seems from the subsequent silence of all its advocates upon 
that subject (except Doctor Rush, who on Monday insinuated 
that he saw and rejoiced at the eventual annihilation of the 
state sovereignties) Mr. Findley has established his position. 
Previous to an investigation of the plan, that gentleman 
animadverted upon the argument of necessity, which had 
been so much insisted upon, and showed that we were in an 
eligible situation to attempt the improvement of the Federal 
Government, but not so desperately circumstanced as to be 
obliged to adopt any system, however destructive to the liber- 
ties of the people, and the sovereign rights of the states. He 
then argued that the proposed constitution established a 
general government and destroj'ed the individual govern- 
ments, from the following evidence taken from the system it- 

* From the reuusylvauia Packet, Dec. 6th. 

The Debate in the Convention. 301 

self: ist. In the preamble, it is said, We the People^ and not 
We the States^ which therefore is a compact between individ- 
uals entering into society, and not between separate states 
enjoying independent power, and delegating a portion of that 
power for their common benefit. 2d, That in the legislature 
each member has a vote, whereas in a confederation, as we 
have hitherto practised it, and from the very nature of the 
thing, a state can only have one voice, and therefore all the 
delegates of any state can only give one vote, 3d. The 
powers given to the Federal body for imposing internal taxa- 
tion will necessarily destroy the state sovereignties, for there 
cannot exist two independent sovereign taxing powers in the 
same community, and the strongest will of course annihilate 
the weaker. 4th, The power given to regulate and judge of 
elections is a proof of a consolidation, for there cannot be two 
powers employed at the same time in regulating the same 
elections, and if they were a confederated body, the individ- 
ual states would judge of the elections, and the general 
Congress would judge of the credentials which proved the 
election of its members. 5th, The judiciary power, which is 
co-extensive with the legislative, is another evidence of a 
consolidation, 6th, The manner in which the wages of the 
members is paid, makes another proof ; and lastly, The oath 
of allegiance directed to be taken establishes it incontroverti- 
bly; for would it not be absurd, that the members of the 
legislative and executive branches of a sovereign state should 
take a test of allegiance to another sovereign or independent 
body ? 

Mr, Wilson,* The secret is now disclosed, and it is dis- 
covered to be a dread that the boasted state sovereignties will, 
under this system, be disrobed of part of their power. Before 
I go into the examination of this point, let me ask one im- 
portant question: Upon what principle is it contended that 
the sovereign power resides in the state governments? The 
honorable gentleman has said truly, that there can be no sub- 
ordinate sovereignty. Now if there can not, my position is, 
that the sovereignty resides in the people. They have not 

* From Lloyd's Debates. 

302 The Debate in the Convention. 

parted with it; they have only dispensed such portions of 
power as were conceived necessary for the public welfare. 
This constitution stands upon this broad principle. I know 
very well, Sir, that the people have hitherto been shut out 
of the federal government, but it is not meant that they 
should any longer be dispossessed of their rights. In order 
to recognize this leading principle, the proposed system sets 
out with a declaration that its existence depends upon the 
supreme authority of the people alone. We have heard much 
about a consolidated government. I wish the honorable gen- 
tleman would condescend to give us a definition of what he 
meant by it. I think this the more necessary, because I ap- 
prehend that the term, in the numerous times it has been 
used, has not always been used in the same sense. It may 
be said, and I believe it has been said, that a consolidated 
government is such as will absorb and destroy the govern- 
ments of the several States. If it is taken in this view, the 
plan before us is not a consolidated government, as I showed 
on a former day, and may, if necessary, show further on some 
future occasion. On the other hand, if it is meant that the 
general government will take from the state governments 
their power in some particulars, it is confessed and evident 
that this will be its operation and effect. 

When the principle is once settled that the people are the 
source of authority, the consequence is that they may take 
from the subordinate governments powers with which they 
have hitherto trusted them, and place those powers in the 
general government, if it is thought that there they will be 
productive of more good. They can distribute one portion 
of power to the more contracted circle called State govern- 
ments: they can also furnish another proportion to the gov- 
ernment of the United States. Who will undertake to say 
as a state officer that the people may not give to the general 
government what powers and for what purposes they please? 
how comes it. Sir, that these State governments dictate to 
their superiors? — to the majesty of the people? When I say 
the majesty of the people, I mean the thing, and not a mere 
compliment to them. The honorable gentleman went a step 

The Debate in the Convention. 303 

further and said that the State governments were kept out of 
this government altogether. The truth is, and it is a leading 
principle in this system, that not the States only but the peo- 
ple also shall be here represented. And if this is a crime, I 
confess the general government is chargeable with it; but I 
have no idea that a safe system of power in the government, 
sufficient to manage the general interest of the United States, 
could be drawn from any other source or rested in any other 
authority than that of the people at large, and I consider this 
authority as the rock on which this structure will stand. If 
this principle is unfounded, the system must fall. If honor- 
able gentlemen, before they undertake to oppose this princi- 
ple, will show that the people have parted with their power 
to the State governments, then I confess I cannot support 
this constitution. It is asked, can there be two taxing powers? 
Will the people submit to two taxing powers? I think they 
will, when the taxes are required for the public welfare, by 
persons appointed immediately by their fellow citizens. 

But I believe this doctrine is a very disagreeable one to 
some of the State governments. All the objections that will 
furnish an increase of revenue are eagerly seized by them; 
perhaps this will lead to the reason why a State government, 
when she was obliged to pay only about an eighth part of the 
loan-office certificates, should voluntarily undertake the pay- 
ment of about one-third part of them. This power of taxa- 
tion will be regulated in the general government upon equit- 
able principles. No State can have more than her just pro- 
portion to discharge — no longer will government be obliged 
to assign her funds for the payment of debts she does not owe. 
Another objection has been taken that the judicial powers are 
co-extensive with the objects of the national government. So 
far as I can understand the idea of magistracy in every gov- 
ernment, this seems to be a proper arrangement; the judicial 
department is considered as a part of the executive authority 
of government. Now, I have no idea that the authority 
should be restrained so as not to be able to perform its func- 
tions with full effect. I would not have the legislature sit to 
make laws which cannot be executed. It is not meant here 

304 The Debate in the Convention. 

that the laws shall be a dead letter; it is meant that they shall 
be carefully and duly considered before they are enacted; and 
that then they shall be honestly and faithfully executed. 
This observation naturally leads to a more particular consid- 
eration of the government before us. In order, Sir, to give 
permanency, stability and security to any government, I con- 
ceive it of essential importance that its legislature should be 
restrained; that there should not only be what we call a. pas- 
sive^ but an active power over it; for of all kinds of despotism, 
this is the most dreadful and the most difficult to be corrected. 
With how much contempt have we seen the authority of the 
people treated by the legislature of this State — and how often 
have we seen it making laws in one session that have been 
repealed the next, either on account of the fluctuation of 
party or their own impropriety ! 

This could not have been the case in a compound legisla- 
ture; it is therefore proper to have efficient restraints upon 
the legislative body. These restraints arise from different 
sources: I will mention some of them. In this constitution 
they will be produced in a very considerable degree by a di- 
vision of the power in the legislative body itself Under this 
system they may arise likewise from the interference of those 
officers, who will be introduced into the executive and judi- 
cial departments. They may spring also from another source, 
the election by the people, and finally, under this constitu- 
tion, they may proceed from the great and last resort — from 
the PEOPLE themselves. I say, under this constitution, the 
legislature may be restrained and kept within its prescribed 
bounds by the interposition of the judicial department. This 
I hope. Sir, to explain clearly and satisfactorily. I had oc- 
casion on a former day to state that the power of the consti- 
tution was paramount to the power of the legislature acting 
under that constitution. For it is possible that the legislature, 
when acting in that capacity, may transgress the bounds as- 
signed to it, and an act may pass in the usual mode notwith- 
standing that transgression; but when it comes to be discussed 
before the judges, when they consider its principles, and find 
it to be incompatible with the superior powers of the consti- 

The Debate in the Conventio7i. 305 

tution, it is their duty to pronounce it void; and judges inde- 
pendent, and not obliged to look to every session for a con- 
tinuance of their salaries, will behave with intrepidity and 
refuse to the act the sanction of judicial authority. In the 
same manner the President of the United States could shield 
himself and refuse to carry into effect an act that violates the 

In order to secure the President from any dependence upon 
the legislature as to his salary, it is provided that he shall, at 
stated times, receive for his services a compensation that shall 
neither be increased nor diminished during the period for 
which he shall have been elected, and that he shall not receive 
within that period any other emolument from the United 
States or any of them. 

To secure to the judges this independence, it is ordered that 
they shall receive for their services a compensation which 
shall not be diminished during their continuance in office. 
The Congress may be restrained by the election of its constit- 
uent parts. If a legislature shall make a law contrary to the 
constitution or oppressive to the people, they have it in their 
power, every second year in one branch, and every sixth 
year in the other, to displace the men who act thus inconsis- 
tent with their duty; and if this is not sufficient, they have 
still a further power; they may assume into their own hands 
the alteration of the constitution itself — they may revoke the 
lease, when the conditions are broken by the tenant. But 
the most useful restraint upon the legislature, because it 
operates constantly, arises from the division of its power 
among two branches, and from the qualified negative of the 
piesident upon both. As this government is formed, there 
are two sources from which the representation is drawn, 
though they both ultimately flow from the people. States 
now exist and others will come into existence ; it was thought 
proper that they should be represented in the general govern- 
ment. But gentlemen will please to remember, this consti- 
tution was not framed merely for the States; it was framed 
for the PEOPLE also; and the popular branch of the Congress 
will be the objects of their immediate choice. 

3o6 The Debate in the Conventioit. 

The two branches will serve as checks upon each other; 
they have the same legislative authorities, except in one in- 
stance. Money bills must originate in the house of represen- 
tatives. The senate can pass no law without the concurrence 
of the house of representatives; nor can the house of repre- 
sentatives without the concurrence of the senate. I believe, 
Sir, that the observation which I am now going to make, will 
apply to mankind in every situation; they will act with more 
caution, and perhaps more integrity, if their proceedings are 
to be under the inspection and control of another, than when 
they are not. From this principle, the proceedings of Con- 
gress will be conducted with a degree of circumspection not 
common in single bodies, where nothing more is necessary to 
be done, than to carry the business through amongst them- 
selves, whether it be right or wrong. In compound legisla- 
tures, every object must be submitted to a distinct body, not 
influenced by the arguments, or warped by the prejudices of 
the other. And, I believe, that the persons who will form 
the Congress, will be cautious in running the risk, with a bare 
majority^ of having the negative of the president put on their 
proceedings. As there will be more circumspection in form- 
ing the laws, so there will be more stability in the laws when 
made. Indeed one is the consequence of the other; for what 
has been well considered, and founded in good sense, will, in 
practice, be useful and salutary, and of consequence will not 
be liable to be soon repealed. Though two bodies may not 
possess more wisdom or patriotism than what may be found 
in a single body, yet they will necessarily introduce a greater 
degree of precision. An undigested and inaccurate code of 
laws, is one of the most dangerous things that can be intro- 
duced into any government. The force of this observation is 
well known by every gentleman that has attended to the laws 
of this State. This, Sir, is a very important advantage, that 
will arise from this division of the legislative authority. 

I will proceed now to take some notice of a still further re- 
straint upon the legislature: I mean the qualified negative 
of the president. I think this will be attended with very im- 
portant advantages, for the security and happiness of the peo- 

The Debate m the Coiivention, 307 

pie of the United States. The president, Sir, will not be a 
stranger to our country, to our laws, or to our wishes. He 
will, under this constitution, be placed in office as the presi- 
dent of the whole union, and will be chosen in such a man- 
ner that he may be justly styled THE man OF THE PEOPLE; 
being elected by the different parts of the United States, he 
will consider himself as not particularly interested for any 
one of them, but will watch over the whole with paternal 
care and affection. This will be the natural conduct to rec- 
ommend himself to those who placed him in that high chair, 
and I consider it as a very important advantage, that such a 
man must have every law presented to him before it can be- 
come binding upon the United States. He will have before 
him the fullest information of our situation, he will avail 
himself not only of records and official communications, for- 
eign and domestic, but he will have also the advice of the 
executive officers in the different departments of the general 

If in consequence of this information and advice, he ex- 
ercise the authority given to him, the effect will not be lost 
— he returns his objections, together with the bill, and unless 
two-thirds of both branches of the legislature are 7iow found 
to approve it, it does not become a law. But even if his ob- 
jections do not prevent its passing into a law, they will not be 
useless; they will be kept together with the law, and, in the 
archives of congress, will be valuable and practical materials, 
to form the minds of posterity for legislation — if it is found 
that the law operates inconveniently, or oppressively, 
the people may discover in the president's objections the 
source of that inconvenience or oppression. Further, Sir, 
when objections shall have been made, it is provided, in 
order to secure the greatest degree of caution and responsibi- 
lity, that the votes of both houses shall be determined by 
yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and 
against the bill, shall be entered in the journal of each house 
respectively. Thus much I have thought proper to say, with 
regard to the distribution of the legislative authority, and the 
restraints under which it will be exercised. 

3o8 The Debate in the Convention. 

The gentleman in opposition strongly insists, that the 
general clause at the end of the eighth section, gives to con- 
gress a power of legislating generally; but I cannot conceive 
by what means he will render the word susceptible of that ex- 
pansion. Can the words, "the congress shall have power to 
make all laws which shall be necessary and proper to carry 
into execution the foregoing powers," be capable of giving 
them general legislative power? I hope that it is not meant 
to give to congress merely an illusive show of authority, to de- 
ceive themselves or constituents any longer. On the con- 
trary, I trust it is meant, that they shall have the power of 
carrying into effect the laws which they shall make under 
the powers vested in them by this constitution. In answer 
to the gentleman from Fayette (Mr. Smilie,) on the subject 
of the press, I beg leave to make an observ^ation: it is very 
true. Sir, that this constitution says nothing with regard to 
that subject, nor was it necessary, because it will be found 
that there is given to the general government no power what- 
soever concerning it; and no law in pursuance of the consti- 
tution, can possibly be enacted, to destroy that liberty. 

I heard the honorable gentleman make this general asser- 
tion, that the Congress was certainly vested with power to 
make such a law, but I would be glad to know by what part 
of this constitution such a power is given? Until that is 
done, I shall not enter into a minute investigation of the 
matter, but shall at present satisfy myself with giving an 
answer to a question that has been put. It has been asked, 
if a law should be made to punish libels, and the judges 
should proceed under that law, what chance would the 
printer have of an acquittal? And it has been said he 
would drop into a den of devouring monsters. 

I presume it was not in the view of the honorable gentle- 
man to say there is no such thing as a libel, or that the 
writers of such ought not to be punished. The idea of the 
liberty of the press, is not carried so far as this in any coun- 
try — what is meant by the liberty of the press is, that there 
should be no antecedent restraint upon it; but that every 
author is responsible when he attacks the security or welfare 

The Debate in the Convention, 309 

of the government, or the safety, character and property of 
the individual. 

With regard to attacks upon the public, the mode of pro- 
ceeding is by a prosecution. Now if a libel is written, it 
must be within some one of the United States, or the district 
of congress. With regard to that district, I hope it will take 
care to preserve this as well as the other rights of freemen ; 
for whatever district congress may choose, the cession of it 
cannot be completed without the consent of its inhabitants. 
Now, Sir, if this libel is to be tried, it must be tried where 
the offence was committed; for under this constitution, as 
declared in the second section of the third article, the trial 
must be held in the State; therefore on this occasion it must 
be tried where it was published, if the indictment is for pub- 
lishing; and it must be tried likewise by a jury of that State. 
Now, I would ask, is the person prosecuted in a worse situa- 
tion under the general government, even if it had the power 
to make laws on this subject, than he is at present under the 
State government ? It is true there is no particular regula- 
tion made, to have the jury come from the body of the county 
in which the offence was committed; but there are some 
States in which this mode of collecting juries is contrary to 
their established custom, and gentlemen ought to consider 
that this constitution was not meant merely for Pennsylva- 
nia. In some States the juries are not taken from a single 
county. In Virginia, the sheriff, I believe, is not confined 
even to the inhabitants of the State, but is at liberty to take 
any man he pleases, and put him on the jury. In Maryland 
I think a set of jurors serve for the whole Western Shore, 
and another for the Eastern Shore. 

I beg to make one remark on what one gentleman has said, 
with respect to amendments being proposed to the constitu- 
tion. To whom are the convention to make report of such 
amendments? He tells you, to the present congress. I do 
not wish to report to that body, the representatives only of 
the State governments; they may not be disposed to admit 
the people into a participation of their power. It has also 
been supposed, that a wonderful unanimity subsists among 

2IO The Debate in the Convoition. 

those who are enemies to the proposed system. On this 
point I also diflfer from the gentleman who made the obser- 
vation. I have taken every pains in my power, and read 
every publication I could meet with, in order to gain infor- 
mation; and as far as I have been able to judge, the opposi- 
tion is inconsiderable and inconsistent. Instead of agreeing 
in their objections, those who make them bring forward 
such as are diametrically opposite. On one hand, it is said 
that the representation in congress is too small ; on the other, 
it is said to be too numerous. Some think the authority of 
the senate too great; some that of the house of representa- 
tives; and some that of both. Others draw their fears from 
the powers of the president; and like the iron race of Cadmus, 
these opponents rise only to destroy each other. 

Monday^ December ^. 

On Monday [Dec. 3d] * it was urged by Mr. Findley, that 
Congress, under the new system, would have it in their 
power to lay an impost upon emigrants. Doctor Rush 
said he thought there was no reason to object to its being 
laid on the importation of indented servants, and Mr. Wil- 
son said that the emigration of freemen was an object of 

Doctor Rush having frequently alluded with disapprobation 
to the funding system, in a late debate, Mr. Findley observed 
that the Doctor was one of the committee of public creditors 
who had conferred with a committee of the General Assembly 
upon this measure, and was at that time active in promoting 
it. The Doctor, for fear any unfavorable impression should 
be made by that assertion, observed that he did not think 
the system would have extended so far. 

Mr. Wilson said that the manner in which the opposition 
treated the proposed constitution, taking it by piece-meal, 
without considering the relative connection and dependence 
of its parts, reminded him of an anecdote which occurred 
when it was the practice in churches to detail a single line of 
Sternhold and Hopkins's psalms, and then set the verse to 

* From the Pennsylvania Packet, Dec. 6th. 

The Debate in the Coiwentioit. 311 

music. A sailor entered tlie church, wheu the clerk gave out 
the following line: 

The Lord will come, and he will uot 

The sailor stared, but when he heard the next line, 

Hold peace, but speak aloud, 

he instantly left the congregation, convinced that it was an 
assembly of lunatics. 

Mr. Wilson.* Much fault has been found with the mode 
of expression used in the first clause of the ninth section of 
the first article. I believe I can assign a reason why that 
mode of expression was used, and why the term slave was not 
directly admitted in this constitution: — and as to the manner 
of laying taxes, this is not the first time that the subject has 
come into the view of the United States, and of the legisla- 
tures of the several States. The gentleman (Mr. Findley) 
will recollect, that in the present Congress, the quota of the 
federal debt and general expenses was to be in proportion to 
the value of land and other enumerated property within the 
States. After trying this for a number of years, it was found 
on all hands to be a mode that could not be carried into exe- 
cution. Congress were satisfied of this, and in the year 1783 
recommended, in conformity with the powers they possessed 
under the articles of confederation, that the quota should be 
according to the number of free people, including those bound 
to servitude, and excluding Indians not taxed. These were 
the very expressions used in 1783, and the fate of this recom- 
mendation was similar to all their other resolutions. It was 
not carried into effect, but it was adopted by no fewer than 
eleven out of thirteen States; and it cannot but be a matter 
of surprise to hear gentlemen who agreed to this very mode 
of expression at that time, come forward and state it as an 
objection on the present occasion. It was natural. Sir, for 
the late convention to adopt the mode after it had been 
agreed to by eleven States, and to use the expression which 

* From Lloyd's Debates. 

312 The Debate in the Convention. 

they found had been received as unexceptionable before. 
With respect to the clause restricting Congress from prohibit- 
ing the migration or importation of such persons as any of 
the States now existing shall think proper to admit, prior to 
the year 1808, the honorable gentleman says that this clause 
is not only dark, but intended to grant to Congress, for that 
time, the power to admit the importation of slaves. No such 
thing was intended; but I will tell you what was done, and 
it gives me high pleasure that so much was done. Under the 
present confederation, the States may admit the importation 
of slaves as long as they please; but by this article, after the 
year 1808, the Congress will have power to prohibit such im- 
portation, notwithstanding the disposition of any State to the 
contrary. I consider this as laying the foundation for banish- 
ing slavery out of this country; and though the period is 
more distant than I could wish, yet it will produce the same 
kind, gradual change which was pursued in Pennsylvania. 
It is with much satisfaction I view this power in the general 
government, whereby they may lay an interdiction on this 
reproachful trade. But an immediate advantage is also ob- 
tained, for a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation 
not exceeding ten dollars for each person; and this. Sir, ope- 
rates as a partial prohibition. It was all that could be ob- 
tained. I am sorry it was no more; but from this I think 
there is reason to hope that yet a few years, and it will be 
prohibited altogether. And in the meantime, the new States 
which are to be formed will be under the control of Congress 
in this particular, and slaves will never be introduced 
amongst them. The gentleman says that it is unfortunate 
in another point of view: it means to prohibit the introduc- 
tion of white people from Europe, as this tax may deter them 
from coming amongst us. A little impartiality and attention 
will discover the care that the convention took in selecting 
their language. The words are, the migration or importa- 
tion of such persons, etc., shall not be prohibited by Con- 
gress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty may be im- 
posed on such IMPORTATION. It is observable here that the 
term migration is dropped when a tax or duty is mentioned, 

The Debate in tJie Convention. 313 

so that Congress have power to impose the tax only on those 

Tuesday December ^, ijSj. 

Mr. Wilson. * I shall take this opportunity of giving au 
answer to the objections already urged against the constitu- 
tion; I shall then point out some of those qualities, that en- 
title it to the attention and approbation of this convention; 
and after having done this, I shall take a fit opportunity of 
stating the consequences which I apprehend will result from 
rejecting it, and those which will probably result from its 
adoption. I have given the utmost attention to the debates 
and the objections that from time to time have been made 
by the three gentlemen who speak in opposition. I have re- 
duced them to some order, perhaps not better than that in 
which they were introduced. I will state them; they will be 
in the recollection of the house, and I will endeavor to give 
an answer to them — in that answer, I will interweave some 
remarks that may tend to elucidate the subject. 

A good deal has already been said, concerning a bill of 
rights; I have stated, according to the best of my recollec- 
tion, all that passed in convention relating to that business. 
Since that time, I have spoken with a gentleman, who has 
not only his memory, but full notes, that he had taken in 
that body; and he assures me, that upon this subject no 
direct motion was ever made at all ; and certainly, before we 
heard this so violently supported out of doors, some pains 
ought to have been taken to have tried its fate within; but 
the truth is, a bill of rights would, as I have mentioned 
already, have been not only unnecessary, but improper. In 
some governments it may come within the gentleman's idea, 
when he says it can do no harm ; but even in these govern- 
ments, you find bills of rights do not uniformly obtain; and 
do those States complain who have them not? Is it a maxim 
in forming governments, that not only all the powers which 
are given, but also that all those which are reserved, should 
be enumerated? I apprehend that the powers given and re- 
served, form the whole rights of the people, as men and as 

* From L,loyd Debates. 

314 The Debate in the Convention. 

citizens. I consider, that there are very few who understand 
the zc'holc of these rights. All the political writers, from Gro- 
tius and Puffendorf, down to Vattel, have treated on this 
subject; but in no one of those books, nor in the aggregate 
of them all, can you find a complete enumeration of rights 
appertaining to the people as men and as citizens. 

There are two kinds of government; that where general 
power is intended to be given to the legislature, and that 
where the powers are particularly enumerated. In the last 
case, the implied result is, that nothing more is intended to 
be given than what is so enumerated, unless it results from 
the nature of the government itself. On the other hand, 
when general legislative powers are given, then the people 
part with their authority, and on the gentleman's principle 
of government, retain nothing. But in a government like 
the proposed one, there can be no necessity for a bill of rights. 
For, on my principle, the people never part with their power. 
Enumerate all the rights of men! I am sure, Sir, that no 
gentleman in the late convention would have attempted such 
a thing. I believe the honorable speakers in opposition on 
this floor were members of the assembly which appointed 
delegates to that convention; if it had been thought proper 
to have sent them into that body, how luminous would 
the dai'k conclave have been! So the gentleman has been 
pleased to denominate that body. Aristocrats as they were, 
they pretended not to define the rights of those who sent 
them there. We are asked repeatedly, what harm could the 
addition of a bill of rights do? If it can do no ^ood^ I think 
that a sufficient reason to refuse having anything to do with 
it. But to whom are we to report this bill of rights, if we 
should adopt it? Have we authority from those who sent us 
here to make one? 

It is true we may propose, as well as any other private per- 
sons; but how shall we know the sentiments of the citizens 
of this State and of the other States ? are we certain that 
any one of them will agree with our definitions and enume- 

In the second place, we are told, that there is no check 

The Debate in the Convention. yi^ 

upon the government but the people; it is fortunate, Sir, if 
their superintending authority is allowed as a check : but I 
apprehend that in the very construction of this government, 
there are numerous checks. Besides those expressly enume- 
rated, the two branches of the legislature are mutual checks 
upon each other. But this subject will be more properly 
discussed, when we come to consider the form of government 
itself; and then I mean to show the reason, why the right of 
habeas corpus was secured by a particular declaration in its 

In the third place we are told, that there is no security 
for the rights of conscience. I ask the honorable gentleman, 
what part of this system puts it in the power of congress to 
attack those rights? When there is no power to attack, it is 
idle to prepare the means of defence. 

After having mentioned, in a cursory manner, the foregoing 
objections, we now arive at the leading ones against the pro- 
posed system. 

The very manner of introducing this constitution, by the 
recognition of the authority of the people, is said to change 
the principle of the present confederation, and to introduce 
a consolidating and absorbing government ! 

In this confederated republic, the sovereignty of the States, 
it is said, is not preserved. We are told that there cannot 
be two sovereign powers, and that a subordinate sovereignty 
is no sovereignty. 

It will be worth while, Mr. President, to consider this ob- 
jection at large. When I had the honor of speaking for- 
merly on this subject, I stated, in as concise a manner as pos- 
sible, the leading ideas that occurred to me, to ascertain 
where the supreme and sovereign power resides. It has not 
been, nor, I presume, will it be denied, that somewhere there 
is, and of necessity must be, a supreme, absolute and uncon- 
trollable authority. This, I believe, may justly be termed 
the sovereign power; for from that gentleman's (Mr. Find- 
ley) account of the matter, it cannot be sovereign, unless it 
is supreme; for, says he, a subordinate sovereignty is no 
sovereignty at all. I had the honor of observing, that if the 

3i6 The Debate i7t the Convention. 

question was asked, where the supreme power resided, dif- 
ferent answers would be given by different writers. I men- 
tioned that Blackstone will tell you, that in Britain it is 
lodged in the British parliament; and I believe there is no 
writer on this subject on the other side of the Atlantic, but 
supposes it to be vested in that body. I stated further, that 
if the question was asked, some politician, who had not con- 
sidered the subject with sufficient accuracy, where the 
supreme power resided in our governments, would answer, 
that it was vested in the State constitutions. This opinion 
approaches near the truth, but does not reach it; for the 
truth is, that the supreme, absolute and uncontrollable autho- 
rity, remains with the people. I mentioned also, that the 
practical recognition of this truth was reserved for the honor 
of this country. I recollect no constitution founded on this 
principle: but we have witnessed the improvement, and en- 
joy the happiness, of seeing it carried into practice. The 
great and penetrating mind of Locke seems to be the only 
one that pointed towards even the theory of this great truth. 

When I made the observation, that some politicians would 
say the supreme power was lodged in our State constitutions, 
I did not suspect that the honorable gentleman from West- 
moreland (Mr. Findley) was included in that description; 
but I find myself disappointed; for I imagined his opposition 
would arise from another consideration. His position is, that 
the supreme power resides in the States, as governments; 
and mine is, that it resides in the people, as the fountain 
of government; that the people have not — that the people 
mean not — and that the people ought not, to part with it to 
any government whatsoever. In their hands it remains 
secure. They can delegate it in such proportions, to such 
bodies, on such terms, and under such limitations, as they 
think proper. I agree with the members in opposition, that 
there cannot be two sovereign powers on the same subject. 

I consider the people of the United States as forming one 
great community, and I consider the people of the different 
States as forming communities again on a lesser scale. From 
this great division of the people into distinct communities 

The Debate hi the Convention. 317 

it will be found necessary that different proportions of legis- 
lative powers should be given to the governments, according 
to the nature, number and magnitude of their objects. 

Unless the people are considered in these two views, we 
shall never be able to understand the principle on which this 
system was constructed. I view the States as made for the 
people as well as by them, and not the people as made for the 
States. The people, therefore, have a right, whilst enjoying 
the undeniable powers of society, to form either a general 
government, or state governments, in what manner they 
please; or to accommodate them to one another, and by this 
means preserve them all. This, I say, is the inherent and 
unalienable right of the people, and as an illustration of it, I 
beg to read a few words from the Declaration of Independence, 
made by the representatives of the United States, and recog- 
nized by the whole Union. — 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are 
created equal ; that they are endowed by their Creator with 
certain unalienable rights ; that among these are life, liberty, 
and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, 
governments are instituted among men, deriving their just 
powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any 
form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is 
the RIGHT of the people to alter or to abolish it, and institute 
a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, 
and organizing its powers in such forms, as to them shall 
seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." 

This is the broad basis on which our independence was 
placed. On the same certain and solid foundation this sys- 
tem is erected. 

State sovereignty, as it is called, is far from being able to 
support its weight. Nothing less than the authority of the 
people could either support it or give it efficacy. I cannot 
pass over this subject without noticing the different conduct 
pursued by the late federal convention, and that observed by 
the convention which framed the constitution of Pennsylva- 
nia. On that occasion you find an attempt made to deprive 
the people of this right, so lately and so expressly asserted in 

3i8 The Debate in the Convention. 

the Declaration of Independence. We are told in the pream- 
ble to the Declaration of Rights, and frame of government, 
that ''''we do, by virtue of the authority vested in tts^ ordain, 
declare, and establish, the following Declaration of Rights 
and frame of government to be the constitution of this com- 
monwealth, and to remain in force therein unaltered, ex- 
cept in such articles as shall hereafter on experience be found 
to require improvement, and which shall, by the same au- 
thority of the people, fairly delegated as this frame of govern- 
ment directs^'' — An honorable gentleman (Mr. Chambers) was 
well warranted in saying that all that could be done was done 
to cut off the people from the right of amending; for if it be 
amended by any other mode than that which it directs, then 
any number more than one-third may control any number 
less than two-thirds. 

But I return to my general reasoning. My position is, Sir, 
that in this country the supreme, absolute, and uncontroll- 
able power resides in the people at large; that they have 
vested certain proportions of this power in the State govern- 
ments, but that the fee simple continues, resides and remains 
with the body of the people. Under the practical influence 
of this great truth we are now sitting and deliberating, and 
under its operation, we can sit as calmly, and deliberate as 
coolly in order to change a constitution, as a legislature can 
sit and deliberate under the power of a constitution in order 
to alter or amend a law. It is true, the exercise of this power 
will not probably be so frequent, nor resorted to on so many 
occasions, in one case as in the other; but the recognition of 
the principle cannot fail to establish it more firmly. Because 
this recognition is made in the proposed constitution, an ex- 
ception is taken to the whole of it, for we are told it is a vio- 
lation of the present confederation — a confederation of 
SOVEREIGN STATES. I shall not enter into an investigation 
of the present confederation, but shall just remark, that its 
principle is not the principle of free governments. The PEO- 
PLE of the United States are not as such represented in the 
present Congress; and considered even as the component 
parts of the several States, they are not represented in pro- 
portion to their numbers and importance. 

The Debate in the Conventio7i. 319 

In this place I cannot help remarking on the general in- 
consistency which appears between one part of the gentle- 
man's objections and another. Upon the principle we have 
now mentioned, the honorable gentleman contended, that 
the powers ought to flow from the States; and that all the 
late convention had to do, was to give additional powers to 
Congress. What is the present form of Congress? A single 
body, with some legislative, but little executive, and no 
effective judicial power. What are these additional powers 
that are to be given? In some cases legislative are wanting, 
in other judicial, and in others executive; these, it is said, 
ought to be allotted to the general government; but the im- 
propriety of delegating such extensive trust to one body of 
men is evident; yet in the same day, and perhaps the same 
hour, we are told, by honorable gentlemen, that these three 
branches of government are not kept sufficiently distinct in 
this constitution; we are told also that the senate, possessing 
some executive power, as well as legislative, is such a mon- 
ster that it will swallow up and absorb every other body in the 
general government, after having destroyed those of the par- 
ticular States. 

Is this reasoning with consistency? Is the senate under 
the proposed constitution so tremendous a body, when 
checked in their legislative capacity by the house of repre- 
sentatives, and in their executive authority by the president 
of the United States? Can this body be so tremendous 
as the present congress, a single body of men possessed of 
legislative, executive and judicial powers? To what purpose 
was Montesquieu read to show that this was a complete ty- 
ranny? The application would have been more properly 
made by the advocates of the proposed constitution, against 
the patrons of the present confederation. 

It is mentioned that this federal government will annihi- 
late and absorb all the State governments. I wish to save as 
much as possible the time of the house: I shall not, therefore, 
recapitulate what I had the honor of saying last week on this 
subject; I hope it was then shown, that instead of being 
abolished (as insinuated) from the very nature of things, and 

320 The Debate in the Convention. 

from the organization of the system itself, the State govern- 
ments must exist, or the general government must fall amidst 
their ruins; indeed, so far as to the forms, it is admitted they 
may remain, but the gentlemen seem to think their power 
will be gone. 

I shall have occasion to take notice of this power hereaf- 
ter, and, I believe, if it was necessary, it could be shown that 
the State governments, as States, will enjoy as much power, 
and more dignity, happiness and security, than they have 
hitherto done. I admit, Sir, that some of the powers will be 
taken from them, by the system before you; but it is, I be- 
lieve, allowed on all hands, at least it is not among us a dis- 
puted point, that the late convention was appointed with a 
particular view to give more power to the government of the 
union: it is also acknowledged, that the intention was to obtain 
the advantage of an efficient government over the United 
States; now, if power is to be given to that government, I 
apprehend it must be taken from some place. If the State 
governments are to retain all the powers they held before, 
then, of consequence, every new power that is given to Con- 
gress must be taken from the people at large. Is this the 
gentleman's intention? I believe a strict examination of 
this subject will justify me in asserting that the States, as 
governments, have assumed too much power to themselves, 
while they left too little to the people. Let not this be called 
cajoling the people — the elegant expression used by the 
honorable gentleman from Westmoreland (Mr. Findley) — it is 
hard to avoid censure on one side or the other. At some 
time it has been said, that I have not been at the pains to 
conceal my contempt of the people; but when it suits a pur- 
pose better, it is asserted that I cajole them. I do neither 
one nor the other. The voice of approbation. Sir, when I 
think that approbation well earned, I confess is grateful to 
my ears; but I would disdain it, if it is to be purchased by a 
sacrifice of my duty, or the dictates of my conscience. No, 
Sir, I go practically into this system; I have gone into it 
practically when the doors were shut, when it could not be 
alleged that I cajoled tha people; and I now endeavor to 

The Debate in the Convention. 321 

show that the true and only safe principle for a free people, 
is a practical recognition of their original and supreme 

I say, Sir, that it was the design of this system, to take 
some power from the State government, and to place it in 
the general government. It was also the design, that the 
people should be admitted to the exercise of some powers 
which they did not exercise under the present confederation. 
It was thought proper that the citizens, as well as the States, 
should be represented; how far the representation in the 
senate is a representation of States, we shall see by and by, 
when we come to consider that branch of the federal govern- 

This system, it is said, ' ' unhinges and eradicates the State 
governments, and was systematically intended so to do;" to 
establish the intention^ an argument is drawn from Art. ist 
sect. 4th, on the subject of elections. I have already had 
occasion to remark upon this, and shall therefore pass on to 
the next objection — that the last clause of the 8th sect, of 
the ist article, gives the power of self-preservation to the 
general government, independent of the States. For in case 
oit\\Q.\r abolition^ it will be alleged in behalf of the general 
government, that self-preservation is the first law, and neces- 
sary to the exercise of all other powers. 

Now let us see what this objection amounts to. Who are 
to have this self-preserving power? The Congress. Who are 
Congress? It is a body that will consist of a senate and a 
house of representatives. Who compose this senate ? Those 
who are elected by the legislatures of the different States. 
Who are the electors of the house of representatives? Those 
who are qnalified to vote for the most numerous branch of 
the legislature in the separate States. Suppose the State 
legislatures annihilated, where is the criterion to ascertain the 
qualification of electors? and unless this be ascertained, they 
cannot be admitted to vote; if a state legislature is not 
elected, there can be no senate, because the senators are to be 
chosen by the legislatures only. 

This is a plain and simple deduction from the constitution, 

322 The Debate in the Convention. 

and yet the objection is stated as conclnsive upon an argu- 
ment expressly drawn from the last clause of this section. 

It is repeated, with confidence, "that this is not z. federal 
government, but a complete one, with legislative, executive 
and judicial powers: it is a consolidating government." I 
have already mentioned the misuse of the term; I wish the 
gentleman would indulge us with his definition of the word. 
If, when he says it is a consolidation, he means so far as re- 
lates to the general objects of the union — so far it was in- 
tended to be a consolidation, and on such a consolidation, 
perhaps, our very existence, as a nation, depends. If, on the 
other hand (as something which has been said seems to in- 
dicate) he (Mr. Findley) means that it will absorb the govern- 
ments of the individual States, so far is this position from be- 
ing admitted, that it is unanswerably controverted. The 
existence of the State government, is one of the most promi- 
nent features of this system. With regard to those purposes 
which are allowed to be for the general welfare of the union, 
I think it no objection to this plan, that we are told it is a 
complete government. I think it no objection, that it is al- 
leged the government will possess legislative, executive and 
judicial powers. Should it have only legislative authority? 
We have had examples enough of such a government, to 
deter us from continuing it. Shall Congress any longer con- 
tinue to make requisitions from the several States, to be 
treated sometimes with silent, and sometimes with declared 
contempt? For what purpose give the power to make laws, 
unless they are to be executed? and if they are to be exe- 
cuted, the executive and judicial powers will necessarily be 
engaged in the business. 

Do we wish a return of those insurrections and tumults to 
which a sister State was lately exposed? or a government 
of such insufficiency as the present is found to be ? Let me, 
Sir, mention one circumstance in the recollection of every 
honorable gentleman who hears me. To the determination 
of Congress are submitted all disputes between States, con- 
cerning boundary, jurisdiction, or right of soil. In conse- 
quence of this power, after much altercation, expense of time, 

The Debate in the Convention, 323 

and considerable expense of money, this State was successful 
enough to obtain a decree in her favor, in a difference then 
subsisting between her and Connecticut; but what was the 
consequence ? the Congress had no power to carry the decree 
into execution. Hence the distraction and animosity, which 
have ever since prevailed, and still continue in that part of 
the country. Ought the government then to remain any 
longer incomplete? I hope not; no person can be so insen- 
sible to the lessons of experience as to desire it. 

It is brought as an objection "that there will be a rival- 
ship between the State governments and the general govern- 
ment; on each side endeavors will be made to increase 
power. ' ' 

Let us examine a little into this subject. The gentlemen 
tell you, Sir, that they expect the States will not possess any 
power. But I think there is reason to draw a different con- 
clusion. Under this system their respectability and power 
will increase with that of the general government. I believe 
their happiness and security will increase in a still greater 
proportion. Let us attend a moment to the situation of this 
country: it is a maxim of every government, and it ought 
to be a maxim with us, that the increase of numbers increases 
the dignity, the security, and the respectability of all govern- 
ments; it is the first command given by the Deity to man, 
increase and multiply; this applies with peculiar force to this 
country, the smaller part of whose territory is yet inhabited. 
We are representatives, Sir, not merely of the present age, 
but of future times; nor merely of the territory along the sea 
coast, but of regions immensely extended westward. We 
should fill, as fast as possible, this extensive country, with 
men who shall live happy, free and secure. To accomplish 
this great end ought to be the leading view of all our patri- 
ots and statesmen. But how is it to be accomplished, but by 
establishing peace and harmony among ourselves, and dignity 
and respectability among foreign nations? By these means, 
we may draw numbers from the other side of the Atlantic, 
in addition to the natural sources of population. Can either 
of these objects be attained without a protecting head? 

324 The Debate in the Convention. 

When we examine history, we shall find an important fact, 
and almost the only fact, which will apply to all confedera- 

They have all fallen to pieces, and have not absorbed the 
subordinate governments. 

In order to keep republics together they must have a strong 
binding force, which must be either external or internal. 
The situation of this country shows, that no foreign force 
can press us together; the bonds of our union ought therefore 
to be indissolubly strong. 

The power of the States, I apprehend, will increase with 
the population, and the happiness of their inhabitants. Un- 
less we can establish a character abroad, we shall be unhappy 
from foreign restraints, or internal violence. These reasons, 
I think, prove sufficiently the necessity of having a federal 
head. Under it the advantages enjoyed by the whole union 
would be participated by every State. I wish honorable gen- 
tlemen would think not only of themselves, not only of the 
present age, but of others, and of future times. 

It has been said, "that the State governments will not be 
able to make head against the general government;" but it 
might be said with more propriety, that the general govern- 
ment will not be able to maintain the powers given it against 
the encroachments and combined attacks of the State govern- 
ments. They possess some particular advantages, from which 
the general government is restrained. By this system, there 
is a provision made in the constitution, that no senator or 
representative shall be appointed to any civil office under 
the authority of the United States, which shall have been 
created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased, 
during the time for which he was elected; and no person 
holding any office under the United States can be a member 
of either house; but there is no similar security against State 
influence, as a representative may enjoy places and even 
sinecures under the State governments. On which side is 
the door most open to corruption? If a person in the legis- 
lature is to be influenced by an office, the general govern- 
ment can o-ive him none unless he vacate his seat. When 

The Debate in the Convention. 325 

the influence of office conies from the State government, he 
can retain his seat and salary too. But it is added, under 
this head, "that State governments will lose the attachment 
of the people, by losing the power of conferring advantages, 
and that the people will not be at the expense of keeping 
them up." Perhaps the State governments have already 
become so expensive as to alarm the gentlemen on that head. 
I am told that the civil list of this State amounted to ^40,- 
000, in one year. Under the proposed government, I think 
it would be possible to obtain in Pennsylvania every advan- 
tage we now possess, with a civil list that shall not exceed 
one-third of that sum. 

How differently the same thing is talked of, if it be a 
favorite or otherwise ! When advantages to an officer are to be 
derived from the general government, we hear them men- 
tioned by the name of bribery^ but when we are told of the 
State governments losing the power of conferring advanta- 
ges, by the disposal of offices, it is said they will lose the 
attadiment of the people. What is in one instance corruption 
and bribery, is in another the power of conferring advanta- 

We are informed that "the State elections will be ill at- 
tended, and that the State governments will become mere 
boards of electors. ' ' Those who have a due regard for their 
country, will discharge their duty, and attend ; but those 
who are brought only from interest or persuasion had better 
stay away; the public will not suffer any disadvantage from 
their absence. But the honest citizen, who knows the value 
of the privilege, will undoubtedly attend, to secure the man 
of his choice. The power and business of the State legisla- 
tures relates to the great objects of life, liberty and property; 
the same are also objects of the general government. 

Certainly the citizens of America will be as tenacious in 
the one instance as in the other. They will be interested, 
and I hope will exert themselves, to secure their rights not 
only from being injured by the State governments, but also 
from being injured by the general government. 

"The power over election, and of judging of elections, 

326 The Debate in the Conventio7t. 

gives absolute sovereignty;" this power is given to every 
State legislature, yet I see no necessity that the power of 
absolute sovereignty should accompany it. My general posi- 
tion is, that the absolute sovereignty never goes from the 

We are told, "that it will be in the power of the senate to 
prevent any addition of representatives to the lower house." 

I believe their power will be pretty well balanced, and 
though the senate should have a desire to do this, yet the at- 
tempt will answer no purpose ; for the house of representatives 
will not let them have a farthing of public money, till they 
agree to it. And the latter influence will be as strong as the 

"Annual assemblies are necessary" it is said — and I an- 
swer, in many instances they are very proper. In Rhode 
Island and Connecticut they are elected for six months. In 
larger States, that period would be found very inconvenient, 
but in a government as large as that of the United States, I 
presume that annual elections would be more dispropor- 
tionate, than elections for six months would be in some of 
our largest States. 

"The British Parliament took, to themselves the prolonga- 
tion of their sitting to seven years. But even in the British 
Parliament the appropriations are annual." 

But Sir, how is the argument to apply here? — how are the 
congress to assume such a power? They cannot assume it 
under the constitution, for that expressly provides "the 
members of the house of representatives shall be chosen 
every two years, by the people of the several States, and the 
senators for six years." So if they take it at all, they must 
take it by usurpation and force. 

"Appropriations may be made for two years, — though in 
the British Parliament they are made but for one. ' ' For some 
purposes, such appropriations may be made annually, but for 
every purpose they are not; even for a standing army, they 
may be made for seven, ten, or fourteen years — the civil list 
is established during the life of a prince. Another objection 
is "that the members of the senate may enrich themselves — 

The Debate in the Convention. 327 

they may hold their office as long as they live, and there is 
no power to prevent them; the senate will swallow up every- 
thing." I am not a blind admirer of this system. Some of 
the powers of the senators are not with me the favorite parts 
of it, but as they stand connected with other parts, there is 
still security against the efforts of that body: it was with 
great difficulty that security was obtained, and I may risk the 
conjecture, that if it is not now accepted, it never will be 
obtained again from the same States. Though the senate 
was not a favorite of mine, as to some of its powers, yet it 
was a favorite with a majority in the Union, and we must sub- 
mit to that majority, or we must break up the Union. It is 
but fair to repeat those reasons, that weighed with the con- 
vention; perhaps I shall not be able to do them justice, but 
yet I will attempt to show, why additional powers were given 
to the senate, rather than to the house of representatives. 
These additional powers, I believe, are, that of trying im- 
peachments, that of concurring with the President in making 
treaties, and that of concurring in the appointment of officers. 
These are the powers that are stated as improper. It is for- 
tunate, that in the exercise of every one of them, the Senate 
stands controlled; if it is that monster which it said to be, it 
can only show its teeth, it is unable to bite or devour. With 
regard to impeachments, the senate can try none but such as 
will be brought before them by the house of representatives. 

The senate can make no treaties; they can approve of none 
unless the President of the United States lay it before them. 
With regard to the appointment of officers, the President 
must nominate before they can vote. So that if the powers of 
either branch are perverted, it must be with the approbation 
of some one of the other branches of government: thus 
checked on each side, they can do no one act of themselves. 

"The powers of Congress extend to taxation, to direct tax- 
ation, to internal taxation, to poll taxes, to excises, to other 
State and internal purposes. ' ' Those who possess the power 
to tax, possess all other sovereign power. That their powers 
are thus extensive is admitted; and would any thing short of 
this have been sufficient? is it the wish of these gentlemen? 

328 The Debate in the Conventiojt. 

If it is, let us hear their sentiments, that the general govern- 
ment should subsist on the bounty of the States. Shall it 
have the power to contract, and no power to fulfil the con- 
tract? Shall it have the power to borrow money, and no 
power to pay the principal or interest? Must we go on, in 
the track that we have hitherto pursued? and must we again 
compel those in Europe, who lent us money in our distress, 
to advance the money to pay themselves interest on the certi- 
ficates of the debts due to them? 

This was actually the case in Holland, the last year. Like 
those who have shot one arrow, and cannot regain it, they 
have been obliged to shoot another in the same direction, in 
order to recover the first. It was absolutely necessary. Sir, 
that this government should possess these rights, and why 
should it not as well as the State governments? Will this 
government be fonder of the exercise of this authority, than 
those of the States are? Will the States, who are equally re- 
presented in one branch of the legislature, be more opposed 
to the payment of what shall be required by the future, than 
what has been required by the present Congress? Will the 
people, w''^ o must indisputably pay the whole, have more 
objections to the payment of this tax, because it is laid by 
persons of their own immediate appointment, even if those 
taxes were to continue as oppressive as they now are? — but 
under the general power of this system, that cannot be the 
case in Pennsylvania. Throughout the union, direct taxa- 
tion will be lessened, at least in proportion to the increase 
of the other objects of revenue. In this constitution, a power 
is given to Congress to collect imposts, which is not given 
by the present articles of confederation. A very consider- 
able part of the revenue of the United States will arise from 
that source; it is the easiest, most just, and most productive 
mode of raising revenue; and it is a safe one, because it is 
voluntary. No man is obliged to consume more than he 
pleases, and each buys in proportion only to his consumption. 
The price of the commodity is blended with the tax, and 
the person is often not sensible of the payment. But would 
it have been proper to have rested the matter there? Sup- 

TJie Debate in the Cotivenfion. 329 

pose tlie funds should not prove sufficient, ought the public 
debts to remain unpaid? — or the exigencies of government 
be left unprovided for? Should our tranquility be exposed 
to the assaults of foreign enemies, or violence among our- 
selves, because the objects of commerce may not furnish a 
sufficient revenue to secure them all? Certainly Congress 
should possess the power of raising revenue from their con- 
stituents, for the purpose mentioned in the eighth section 
of the first article, that is '.'to pay the debts and provide for 
the common defence and general welfare of the United 
States. ' ' It has been common with the gentlemen, on this 
subject, to present us with frightful pictures. We are told 
of the hosts of tax-gatherers that will swarm through the 
land; and whenever takes are mentioned, military force 
seems to be an attending idea. I think I may venture to 
predict, that the taxes of the general government (if any 
shall be laid) will be more equitable, and much less expen- 
sive, than those imposed by the State government. 

I shall not go into an investigation of this subject; but it 
must be confessed, that scarcely any mode of laying and col- 
lecting taxes can be more burdensome than the present. 

Another objection is, " that Congress may borrow money, 
keep up standing armies, and command the militia." The 
present Congress possesses the power of borrowing money and 
of keeping up standing armies. Whether it will be proper 
at all times to keep up a body of troops, will be a question 
to be determined by Congress; but I hope the necessity will 
not subsist at all times; but if it should subsist, where is the 
gentleman that will say that they ought not to possess the 
necessary power of keeping them up? 

It is urged, as a general objection to this system, that "the 
powers of Congress are unlimited and undefined, and that 
they will be the judges, in all cases, of what is necessary and 
proper for them to do." To bring this subject to your view, 
I need do no more than point to the words in the constitution, 
beginning at the 8th sect. art. ist. "The Congress (it says) 
shall have power, &c. ' ' I need not read over the words, but 
I leave it to every gentleman to say whether the powers are 

330 The Debate in the Convoition. 

not as accurately and minutely defined, as can be well done 
on the same subject, in the same language. The old consti- 
tution is as strongly marked on the subject; and even the 
concluding clause, with which so much fault has been found, 
gives no more, or other powers; nor does it in any degree 
go beyond the particular enumeration; for when it is said, 
that Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall 
be necessary and proper, those words are limited, and defined 
by the following, "for carrying into execution the forego- 
ing powers." It is saying no more than that the powers we 
have already particularly given, shall be effectually carried 
into execution. 

I shall not detain the house, at this time, with any further 
observations on the liberty of the press, until it is shown that 
Congress have any power whatsoever to interfere with it, by 
licensing it, or declaring what shall be a libel. 

I proceed to another objection, which was not so fully 
stated as I believe it will be hereafter; I mean the objection 
against the judicial department. The gentleman from West- 
moreland only mentioned it to illustrate his objection to the 
legislative department. He said "that the judicial powers 
were so co-extensive with the legislative powers, and extend 
even to capital cases." I believe they ought to be co-exten- 
sive, otherwise laws would be framed, that could not be exe- 
cuted. Certainly, therefore, the executive and judicial de- 
partments ought to have power commensurate to the extent 
of the laws ; for, as I have already asked, are we to give power 
to inake laws, and no power to carry them into effect? 

I am happy to mention the punishment annexed to one 
crime. You will find the current running strong in favor of 
humanity. For this is the first instance in which it has not 
been left to the legislature, to extend the crime and punish- 
ment of treason so far as they thought proper. This punish- 
ment, and the description of this crime, are the great sources 
of danger and persecution, on the part of government against 
the citizen. Crimes against the state! and against the offi- 
cers of the state! History informs us, that more wrong may 
be done on this subject than on any other whatsoever. But 

The Debate in the Convention. 331 

under this constitution, there can be no treason against the 
United States, except such as is dejfined in this constitution. 
The manner of trial is clearly pointed out; the positive testi- 
mony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or a confession 
in open court, is required to convict any person of treason. 
And after all, the consequence of the crime shall extend no 
further than the life of the criminal; for no attainder of 
treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture, except 
during the life of the person attainted. 

I come now to consider the last set of objections that are 
oflfered against this constitution. It is urged, that this is not 
such a system as was within the powers of the convention; 
they assumed the power of proposing. I believe they might 
have made proposals without going beyond their powers. 
I never heard before, that to make a proposal was an exer- 
cise of power. But if it is an exercise of power, they certainly 
did assume it; yet they did not act as that body who framed 
the present constitution of Pennylvania acted; they did not 
by an ordinance attempt to rivet the constitution on the 
people, before they could vote for members of assembly under 
it. Yet such was the effect of the ordinance that attended 
the constitution of this commonwealth. I think the late 
convention have done nothing beyond their powers. The 
fact is, they have exercised no power at all. And in point 
of validity, this constitution proposed by them for the gov- 
ernment of the United States, claims no more than a pro- 
duction of the same nature would claim, flowing from a pri- 
vate pen. It is laid before the citizens of the United States, 
unfettered by restraint; it is laid before them, to be judged 
by the natural, civil and political rights of men. By their 
FIAT, it will become of value and authority; without it, it 
will never receive the character of authenticity and power. 
The business, we are told, which was entrusted to the late 
convention, was merely to amend the present articles of con- 
federation. This observation has been frequently made, and 
has often brought to my mind a story that is related of Mr. 
Pope, who it is well known, was not a little deformed. It 
was customary with him, to use this phrase, "God mend 

332 The Debate in the Convention. 

me," when any little incident happened. One evening a 
link boy was lighting him along, and coming to a gutter, 
the boy jumped nimbly over it — Mr. Pope called to him to 
turn, adding, "God mend me:" The arch rogue turned 
to light him — looked at him, and repeated, "God mend 
you! he would sooner make a half-a-dozen new ones." This 
would apply to the present confederation; for it would be 
easier to make another than to mend this. The gentlemen 
urge, that this is such a government as was not expected by 
the people, the legislatures, nor by the honorable gentlemen 
who mentioned it. Perhaps it was not such as was ex- 
pected, but it may be BETTER; and is that a reason why it 
should not be adopted? It is not worse, I trust, than the for- 
mer. So that the argument of its being a system not ex- 
pected, is an argument more strong in its favor than against 
it. The letter which accompanies this constitution, must 
strike every person with the utmost force. " The friends of 
our country have long seen and desired the power of war, 
peace and treaties, that of levying money and regulating 
commerce, and the corresponding executive and judicial 
authorities, should be fully and effectually vested in the 
general government of the union; but the impropriety of 
delegating such extensive trust to one body of men, is evi- 
dent. Hence results the necessity of a different organisation. ' ' 
I therefore do not think it can be urged as an objection 
against this system, that it was not expected by the people. 
We are told, to add greater force to these objections, that 
they are not on local, but on general principles, and that 
they are uniform throughout the United States. I confess I 
am not altogether of that opinion; I think some of the objec- 
tions are inconsistent with others, arising from a different 
quarter, and I think some are inconsistent even with those 
derived from the same source. But, on this occasion, let us 
take the fact for granted, that they are all on general princi- 
ples, and uniform throughout the United States. Then we 
can judge of their full amount; and what are they, but 
TRIFLES LIGHT AS AIR? We see the whole force of them; 
for according to the sentiments of opposition, they can no 

The Debate in the Convention. 333 

where be stronger, or more fully stated, than here. The con- 
clusion, from all these objections, is reduced to a point, and 
the plan is declared to be inimical to our liberties. I have 
said nothing, and mean to say nothing, concerning the dispo- 
sitions or characters of those that framed the work now before 
you. I agree that it ought to be judged by its own intrinsic 
qualities. If it has not merit, weight of character ought not 
to carry it into effect. On the other hand, if it has merit and 
is calculated to secure the blessings of liberty and to promote 
the general welfare, then such objections as have hitherto 
been made ought not to influence us to reject it. 

I am now led to consider those qualities that this system 
of government possesses, which will entitle it to the attention 
of the United States. But as I have somewhat fatigued my- 
self, as well as the patience of the honorable members of this 
house, I shall defer what I have to add on this subject until 
the afternoon. 

Before I proceed to consider those qualities in the consti- 
tution before us, which I think will endure in our approba- 
tion, permit me to make some remarks, and they shall be 
very concise, upon the objections that were offered this fore- 
noon, by the member from Fayette (Mr. Smilie). I do it at 
this time, because I think it will be better to give a satisfac- 
tory answer to the whole of the objections, before I proceed to 
the other part of my subject. I find that the doctrine of a 
single legislature is not to be contended for in this constitu- 
tion. I shall therefore say nothing on that point. I shall 
consider that part of the system, when we come to view its 
excellencies. Neither shall I take particular notice of his 
observation on the qualified negative of the president; for 
he finds no fault with it; he mentions, however, that he 
thinks it a vain and useless power, because it can never be 
executed. The reason he assigns for this is, that the king 
of Great Britain, who has an absolute negative over the laws 
proposed by parliament, has never exercised it, at least 
not for many years. It is true, and the reason why he did 
not exercise it, was, that during all that time, the king pos- 
sessed a negative before the bill had passed through the two 

334 '^^^^ Debate in the Convention. 

houses; a much stronger power than a negative after debate. 
I believe, since the revolution, at the time of William the 
Third, it was never known that a bill disagreeable to the 
crown passed both houses. At one time in the reign of 
Queen Anne, when there appeared some danger of this being 
effected, it is well known that she created twelve peers, and 
by that means effectually defeated it. Again, there was 
some risk of late years in the present reign, with regard to 
Mr. Fox's East-India bill, as it is usually called, that passed 
through the house of commons, but the king had interest 
enough in the house of peers, to have it thrown out; thus it 
never came up for the royal assent. But that is no reason 
why this negative should not be exercised here, and exer- 
cised with great advantage. Similar powers are known in 
more than one of the States. The governors of Massachusetts 
and New York have a power similar to this; and it has been 
exercised frequently, to good effect. 

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

The honorable gentleman from Westmoreland (Mr. Find- 
ley) by his highly refined critical abilities, discovers an in- 
consistency in this part of the constitution and that which 
declares, in section first: "All legislative powers, herein 
granted, shall be vested in the Congress of the United States, 
which shall consist of a senate and a house of representa- 
tives," and yet here, says he, is a power of legislation given 
to the president of the United States, because every bill, be- 
fore it becomes a law, shall be presented to him: thus he 
is said to possess legislative powers. Sir, the convention ob- 
served on this occasion strict propriety of language; "if he 
approve the bill when it is sent, he shall sign it, but if not, 

The Debate i7i the Convention. 335 

he shall return it;" but no bill passes in consequence of 
having his assent — therefore he possesses no legislative au- 

The effect of his power, upon this subject, is merely this: 
if he disapproves a bill, two-thirds of the legislature become 
necessary to pass it into a law, instead of a bare majority. 
And when two-thirds are in favor of the bill, it becomes a 
law, not by his, but by authority of the two houses of the 
legislature. We are told, in the next place, by the honorable 
gentleman from Fayette (Mr. Smilie) that in the different 
orders of mankind, there is that of a natural aristocracy. On 
some occasions, there is a kind of magical expression, used to 
conjure up idesfs, that may create uneasiness and apprehen- 
sion. I hope the meaning of the words is understood by the 
gentleman who used them. I have asked repeatedly of gen- 
tlemen to explain, but have not been able to obtain the ex- 
planation of what they meant by a consolidated government. 
They keep round and round about the thing, but never de- 
fine. I ask now what is meant by a natural aristocracy? I 
am not at a loss for the etymological definition of the term, 
for, when we trace it to the language from which it is de- 
rived, an aristocracy means nothing more or less than a 
government of the best men in the community, or those who 
are recommended by the words of the constitution of Penn- 
sylvania, where it is directed, that the representatives should 
consist of those most noted for wisdom and virtue. Is there 
any danger in such representation? I shall never find fault, 
that such characters are employed. Happy for us, when 
such characters can be obtained. If this is meant by a 
natural aristocracy, and I know no other, can it be objection- 
able that men should be employed that are most noted for 
their virtue and talents? And are attempts made to mark 
out these as the most improper persons for the public confi- 

I had the honor of giving a definition, and I believe it was 
a just one, of what is called an aristocratic government. It 
is a government where the supreme power is not retained by 
the people, but resides in a select body of men, who either fill 

336 The Debate 211 the Convention. 

up the vacancies that happen by their own choice and elec- 
tion, or succeed on the principle of descent, or by virtue of 
territorial possessions, or some other qualifications that are 
not the result of personal properties. When I speak of per- 
sonal properties, I mean the qualities of the head and the dis- 
position of the heart. 

We are told that the representatives will not be known to 
the people, nor the people to the representatives, because they 
will be taken from large districts where they cannot be par- 
ticularly acquainted. There has been some experience in 
several of the States upon this subject, and I believe the ex- 
perience of all who have had experience, demonstrates that 
the larger the district of election, the better the representa- 
tion. It is only in remote corners of a government, that 
little demagogues arise. Nothing but real weight of charac- 
ter, can give a man real influence over a large district. This 
is remarkably shown in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. 
The members of the house of representatives are chosen in 
very small districts, and such has been the influence of party 
cabal and little intrigue in them, that a great majority seem 
inclined to show very little disapprobation of the conduct of 
the insurgents in that State. 

The governor is chosen by the people at large, and that 
State is much larger than any district need be under the pro- 
posed constitution. In their choice of their governor, they 
have had warm disputes; but however warm the disputes, their 
choice only vibrated between the most eminent characters. 
Four of their candidates are well known; Mr. Hancock, Mr. 
Bowdoin, General Lincoln, and ]\Ir. Gorham, the late presi- 
dent of Congress. 

I apprehend it is of more consequence to be able to know 
the true interest of the people, than their faces; and of more 
consequence still, to have virtue enough to pursue the means 
of carrying that knowledge usefully into effect. And surely 
when it has been thought hitherto, that a representation in 
Congress of from five to two members, was sufficient to re- 
present the interest of this State, is it not more than suffi- 
cient to have ten members in that bodv? and those in a 

The Debate in the Cojivent^on. 337 

greater comparative proportion than heretofore? The citizens 
of Pennsylvania will be represented by eight, and the State 
by two. This, certainly, though not gaining enough, is 
gaining a good deal; the members will be more distributed 
through the State, being the immediate choice of the people, 
who hitherto have not been represented in that body. It is 
said that the house of representatives will be subject to cor- 
ruption, and the senate possess the means of corrupting, by 
the share they have in the appointment to office. This was 
not spoken in the soft language of attachment to government. 
It is perhaps impossible, with all the caution of legislators 
and statesmen, to exclude corruption and undue influence 
entirely from government. All that can be done, upon this 
subject, is done in the constitution before you. Yet it be- 
hoves us to call out, and add, ever>' guard and preventative 
in our power. I think, Sir, something very important, on 
this subject, is done in the present system. For it has been 
provided, effectually, that the man that has been bribed by 
an office, shall have it no longer in his power to earn his 
wages. The moment he is engaged to serve the senate, in 
consequence of their gift, he no longer has it i-n his power to 
sit in the house of representatives. For "no representative 
shall, during the term for which he w^as elected, be appointed 
to any civil office, under the authority of the United vStates, 
which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof 
shall have been increased during such time." And the fol- 
lowing annihilates corruption of that kind: "and no person 
holding any office under the United States, shall be a mem- 
ber of either house, during his continuance in office." So 
that the mere acceptance of an office as a bribe, effectually 
destroys the end for which it was offered. Was this attended 
to when it was mentioned, that the members of the one 
house could be bribed by the other? "But the members of 
the senate may enrich themselves, ' ' was an observation made 
as an objection to this system. As the mode of doing this 
has not been pointed out, I apprehend the objection is not 
much relied upon. The senate are incapable of receiving any 
money except what is paid them out of the public treasury. 

33S The Debate in the Convention. 

They cannot vote to themselves a single penny, unless the 
proposition originates from the other house. This objection 
therefore is visionary like the following one, "that pictured 
group, that numerous host and prodigious swarm of officers, 
which are to be appointed under the general government." 
The gentlemen tell you that there must be judges of the su- 
preme and judges of the inferior courts, with all their appen- 
dages. There will be tax-gatherers swarming throughout the 
land. Oh ! say they, if we could ennumerate the offices and 
the numerous officers that must be employed every day in 
collecting and receiving and comptrolling the moneys of the 
United States, the number would be almost beyond imagina- 
tion. I have been told, but I do not vouch for the fact, that 
there are not in some shape or another more than a thousand 
persons in this very state who get their living in assessing 
and collecting our revenues from the other citizens. Sir, 
when this business of revenue is conducted on a general plan, 
we may be able to do the business of the thirteen states 
with an equal, nay, with a less number — instead of thirteen 
comptroller generals, one comptroller will be sufficient; I 
apprehend that the number of officers under this system will 
be greatly reduced from the number now employed. For as 
congress can now do nothing effectually, the states are obliged 
to do everything. And in this very point, I apprehend that 
we shall be great gainers. 

Sir, I confess I wish the powers of the senate were not as 
they are. I think it would have been better if those powers 
had been distributed in other parts of the system. I men- 
tioned some circumstances in the forenoon, that I had ob- 
served on this subject. I may mention now, we may think 
ourselves very well off. Sir, that things are as well as they 
are, and that that body is even so much restricted. But 
surely objections of this kind come wath a bad grace from the 
advocates, or those who prefer the present confederation, 
and wdio wish only to increase the powers of the present Con- 
gress. A single body, not constituted with checks like the 
proposed one, who possess not only the power of making 
treaties, but executive powers, would be a perfect despotism; 

TJie Debate in the Convention, ^ 339 

but, further, these powers are, in the present confederation, 
possessed without control. 

As I mentioned before, so I will beg leave to repeat, that 
this senate can do nothing without the concurrence of some 
other branch of the government. With regard to their con- 
cern in the appointment to offices, the president must nomi- 
nate before they can be chosen; the president must acqui- 
esce in that appointment. With regard to their power in 
forming treaties, they can make none, they are only auxil- 
iaries to the president. They must try all impeachments ; 
but they have no power to try any until presented by the house 
of representatives; and when I consider this subject, though 
I wish the regulations better, I think no danger to the liber- 
ties of this country can arise even from that part of the sys- 
tem. But these objections, I say, come with a bad grace 
from those who prefer the present confederation, who think 
it only necessary to add more powers to a body organized in 
that form. I confess, likewise, that by combining those pow- 
ers, of trying impeachments, and making treaties, in the 
same body, it will not be so easy as I think it ought to be, 
to call the senators to an account for any improper conduct 
in that business. 

Those who proposed this system, were not inattentive to 
do all they could. I admit the force of the observation, made 
by the gentleman from Fayette (Mr. Smilie) that when two- 
thirds of the senate concur in forming a bad treaty, it will 
be hard to procure a vote of two-thirds against them, if they 
should be impeached. I think such a thing is not to be ex- 
pected; and so far they are without that immediate degree of 
responsibility, which I think requisite to make this part of 
the work perfect. But this will not be always the case. 
When a member of senate shall behave criminally, the 
criminality will not expire with his office. The senators 
may be called to account after they shall have been changed, 
and the body to which they belonged shall have been altered. 
There is a rotation; and every second year one-third of the 
whole number go out. Every fourth year two-thirds of them 
are changed. In six years the whole body is supplied by a 

340 The Debate in the Convention. 

new one. Considering it in this view, responsibility is not 
entirely lost. There is another view in which it ought to be 
considered, which will show that we have a greater degree 
of security. Though they may not be convicted on impeach- 
ment before the senate, they may be tried by their country: 
and if their criminality is established, the law will punish. 
A grand jury may present, a petty jury may convict, and 
the judges will pronounce the punishment. This is all that 
can be done under the present confederation, for under it 
there is no power of impeachment; even here then we gain 
something. Those parts that are exceptionable in this con- 
stitution, are improvements on that concerning which so 
much pains are taken to persuade us, that it is preferable to 
the other. 

The last observation respects the judges. It is said that 
if they dare to decide against the law, one house will impeach 
them, and the other will convict them. I hope gentlemen 
will show how this can happen, for bare supposition ought 
not to be admitted as proof The judges are to be im- 
peached, because they decide an act null and void, that was 
made in defiance of the constitution ! What house of repre- 
sentatives would dare to impeach, or senate to commit judges 
for the performance of their duty? These observations are 
of a similar kind to those with regard to the liberty of the 

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

In giving a definition of the simple kinds of government 
known throughout the world, I have occasion to describe 
what I meant by a democracy; and I think I termed it, that 
government in which the people retain the supreme power, 
and exercise it either collectively or by representation. This 
constitution declares this principle in its terms and in its 
consequences, which is evident from the manner in which 

The Debate in the Convention. 341 

it is announced — "WE, THE people of the United 
States. After all the examination which I am able to 
give the subject, I view this as the only sufficient and the 
most honorable basis, both for the people and government, 
on which our constitution can possibly rest. What are all 
the contrivances of states, of kingdoms and empires? What 
are they all intended for? They are all intended for man, 
and our natural character and natural rights are certainly 
to take place, in preference to all artificial refinements that 
human wisdom can devise. 

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

I shall mention another good quality belonging to this 
system. In it the legislative, executive and judicial powers 
are kept nearly independent and distinct. I express myself 
in this guarded manner because I am aware of some powers 
that are blended in the senate. They are but few, and they 
are not dangerous. It is an exception, yet that exception 
consists of but few instances and none of them dangerous. I 
believe in no constitution for any country on earth is this 
great principle so strictly adhered to or marked with so much 
precision and accuracy as in this. It is much more accurate 
than that which the honorable gentleman so highly extols, I 
mean the constitution of England. There, Sir, one branch of 
the legislature can appoint the members of another. The 
king has the power of introducing members into the House 
of Lords. I have already mentioned that in order to obtain 
a vote, twelve peers were poured into that house at one time; 
the operation is the same as might be under this constitution 
if the president had a right to appoint the members of the 
senate. This power of the king's extends into the other 

342 The Debate in the Convention. 

branch, where, though he cannot immediately introduce a 
member, yet he can do it remotely by virtue of his preroga- 
tive as he may create boroughs with power to send members to 
the House of Commons. The House of Lords form a much 
stronger exception to this principle than the senate in this 
system; for the House of Lords possess judicial powers, not 
only that of trying impeachments, but that of trying their 
own members, and civil causes when brought before them 
from the courts of chancery and the other courts in England. 

If we therefore consider this constitution with regard to 
this special object, though it is not so perfect as I would 
wish, yet it is more perfect than any other government that I 

I proceed to another property which I think will recom- 
mend it to those who consider the effects of beneficence and 
wisdom. I mean the division of this legislative authority into 
two branches. I had an opportunity of dilating somewhat on 
this subject before, and as it is not likely to afford a subject 
of debate, I shall take no further notice of it, than barely to 
mention it. The next good quality that I remark is that the 
executive autJiority is one ; by this means we obtain very im- 
portant advantages. We may discover from history, from 
reasoning, and from experience, the security which this fur- 
nishes. The executive power is better to be trusted when it 
has no screen. Sir, we have a responsibility in the person of 
our president; he cannot act improperly and hide either his 
negligence or inattention; he cannot roll upon any other per- 
son the weight of his criminality. No appointment can take 
place without his nomination; and he is responsible for every 
nomination he makes. We secure vigor. We well know what 
numerous executives are; we know there is neither vigor, 
decision nor responsibility in them. Add to all this: That 
officer is placed high, and is possessed of power far from be- 
ing contemptible, yet not a single privilege is annexed to his 
character; far from being above the laws^ he is amenable to 
them in his private character as a citizen., and in his public 
character by impeachment. 

Sir, it has often been a matter of surprise, and frequently 

The Debate in the Conventiojt. 343 

complained of even in Pennsylvania, that the independence 
of the judges is not properly secured. The servile depen- 
dence of the judges, in some of the States, that have neg- 
lected to make proper provision on this subject, endangers 
the liberty and property of the citizen ; and I apprehend that 
whenever it has happened that the appointment has been for 
a less period than during good behaviour, this object has not 
been sufficiently secured; for if every five or seven years the 
judges are obliged to make court for a re-appointment to of- 
fice, they cannot be styled independent. This is not the case 
with regard to those appointed under the general government, 
for the judges here shall hold their offices during good be- 
haviour. I hope no further objections will be taken against 
this part of the constitution, the consequence of which will 
be that private property (so far as it comes before their courts) 
and personal liberty, so far as it is not forfeited by crimes, 
will be guarded with firmness and watchfulness. 

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

Permit me to make one more remark on the subject of the 
judicial department. Its objects are extended beyond the 
bounds of power of every particular State, and therefore must 
be proper objects of the general government. I do not recol- 
lect any instance where a case can come before the judiciary 
of the United States that could possibly be determined by a 
particular State, except one, which is, where citizens of the 
same state claim lands under the grant of different States, 
and in that instance the power of the two States necessarily 
comes in competition; wherefore there would be great im- 
propriety in having it determined by either. 

Sir, I think there is another subject with regard to which 
this constitution deserves approbation. I mean the accuracy 
with which the line is dj'awn between the powers of the gen- 
eral government^ and that of the particular State govern- 
ments. We have heard some general observations on this 
subject, from the gentlemen who conduct the opposition. 

344 '^^^^ Debate in the Convention. 

Tliey have asserted that these powers are unlimited and un- 
defined. These words are as easily pronounced as limited and 
defined. They have already been answered by my honorable 
colleague (Mr. INI'Kean) therefore, I shall not enter into an 
explanation; but it is not pretended, that the line is drawn 
with mathematical precision; the inaccuracy of language 
must, to a certain degree, prevent the accomplishment of such 
a desire. Whoever views the matter in a true light, will see 
that the powers are as minutely enumerated and defined as 
was possible, and will also discover that the general clause, 
against which so much exception is taken, is nothing more 
than what was necessary to render effectual the particular 
powers that are granted. 

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

Permit me to proceed to what I deem another excellency 
of this system — all authority of ever}- kind is derived by REP- 
piHnciple is carried into every part of the government. I had 
an opportunity when I spoke first of going fully into an elu- 
cidation of this subject. I mean not now to repeat wdiat I 
then said. 

I proceed to another quality that I think estimable in this 
system, it secures in the strongest manner tJie right of suffrage. 

TJie Debate in the Convention. 345 

Montesquieu, book 2cl, ch. 2d, speaking of laws relative to 
democracy, says: 

"When the body of the people is possessed of the suprkmk 
POWER, this is called a democracy. When the SUPRKMK 
POWER is lodged in the hands of a part of the people, it is 
then an aristocracy. 

"In a democracy the people are in some respects the sove- 
reign, and in others the subject. 

"There can be no exercise of sovereignty but by their suf- 
frages, which are their own will. Now, the sovereign's will 
is the sovereign himself. The laws, therefore, which estab- 
lish the right of suffrage are fundamental to this government. 
And indeed it is as important to regulate in a republic in 
what manner, by whom, to whom, and concerning what, 
suffrages are to be given, as it is in a monarchy, to know 
who is the prince, and after what manner he ought to gov- 

In this system it is declared that the electors in each state 
shall have the qualification requisite for electors of the most 
numerous branch of the state legislature. This being made 
the criterion of the right of suffrage, it is consequently se- 
cured, because the same constitution guarantees to every state 
in the union a republican form of government. The right of 
suffrage is fundamental to republics. 

Sir, there is another principle that I beg leave to mention. 
Representation and direct taxation under this constitution are 
to be according to numbers. As this is a subject which I be- 
lieve has not been gone into in this house, it will be worth while 
to show the sentiments of some respectable writers thereon. 
Montesquieu, in considering the requisites in a confederate 
republic, book 9th, ch. 3d, speaking of Holland observes, "It 
is difficult for the United States to be all of equal power and 
extent. The Lycian* republic was an association of twenty- 
three towns; the large ones had three votes in the common 
council, the middling ones two, and the small towns one. 
The Dutch republic consists of seven provinces of different 
extent of territory which have each one voice. 

* Strabo, lib. 14. 

346 The Debate i7i the Convention. 

The cities of Lycia^ contribiited to the expenses of the state 
according to the proportion of suffrages. The provinces of the 
United Netherlands cannot follow this proportion ; they must 
be directed by that of their power. 

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

I have endeavored, in all the books that I could have access 
to, to acquire some information relative to the Lycian repub- 
lic, but its history is not to be found ; the few facts that relate 
to it are mentioned only by Strabo ; and however excellent 
the model it might present, we were reduced to the necessity 
of working without it. Give me leave to quote the sentiments 
of another author, whose peculiar situation and extensive 
worth throws a lustre on all he says — I mean Mr. Neckar — 
whose ideas are very exalted both in theory and practical 
knowledge on this subject. He approaches the nearest to the 
truth in his calculations from experience, and it is very re- 
markable that he makes use of that expression. His words 
are::]: "Population can therefore be only looked on as an ex- 
act measure of comparison, when the provinces have resources 
nearly equal; but even this imperfect rule of proportion ought 
not to be neglected. And of all the objects which may be 
subjected to a determined and positive calculation, that of the 
taxes to the population approaches nearest to the truth." 

Another good quality in this constitution is, that the mem- 
bers of the legislature cannot hold offices under the authority 
of this government. The operation of this, I apprehend, would 
be found to be very extensive and very salutary in this coun- 
try, to prevent those intrigues, those factions, that corruption, 
that would otherwise rise here, and have risen so plentiful in 
every other country. The reason why it is necessary in Eng- 
land to continue such influence, is that the crown, in order 
to secure its own influence against two other branches of the 

* Strabo, lib. 14. flbid. j Neckar ou Finance, vol. i., p. 30S. 

The Debate in the Coiivention. 347 

legislature, must continue to bestow places, but ^\os^ places 
produce the opposition which frequently runs so strong in the 
British Parliament. 

Members who do not enjoy offices combine against those 
who do enjoy them. It is not from principle that they thwart 
the ministry in all its operations. No; their language is: 
Let us turn them out and succeed to their places. The great 
source of corruption in that country, is that persons may hold 
offices under the crown, and seats in the legislature at the 
same time. 

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

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

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

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

How would such a delightful prospect expand the breast 
of a benevolent and philanthropic European! Would he 
cavil at an expression, catch at a phrase? No, Sir; that is 
only reserved for the gentleman on the other side of your 

348 The Debate in the Convention. 

chair to do. What would be the exultation of that great 
man, whose name I have just mentioned, we may learn from 
the following sentiments on this subject. They cannot be 
expressed so well as in his own words. * 

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

"I am sensible, and I grieve at it, that these reflections 
which others have made much better than me, are unfortu- 
nately of very little use! The necessity of supporting sove- 
reign power has its peculiar laws, and the wealth of nations 
is one of the foundations of this power: thus the sovereign 
who should be the most thoroughly convinced of what is due 
to humanity, would not singly renounce the service of slaves 
in his colonies; time alone could furnish a population of free 
people to replace them, and the great difference that would 
exist in the price of labor would give so great an advantage 
to the nation that should adhere to the old custom that the 
others would soon be discouraged in wishing to be more vir- 

*Vol. i., p. 329. 

ihe Debate in the Convention. 349 

tuous. And yet, would it be a chimerical project to propose 
a general compact by which all the European nations should 
unanimously agree to abandon the traffic of African slaves! 
They would in that case find themselves exactly in the same 
proportion relative to each other as at present; for it is only on 
comparative riches that the calculations of power are founded. 

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

"The time may nevertheless arrive when, fatigued of that 
ambition which agitates them and of the continual rotation 
of the same anxieties and the same plans, they may turn their 
views to the great principles of humanity; and if the pres- 
ent generation is to be witness of this happy revolution, they 
may at least be allowed to be unanimous in offering up their 
vows for the perfection of the social virtues and for the pro- 
gress of public beneficial institutions." 

These are the enlarged sentiments of that great man. 

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

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

350 The Debate in the Convention. 

[Of the debates on the 5th and 6th of December no report 
exists. Neither Lloyd nor the newspapers have preserved for 
us even a summary. As the convention was in session on 
each of these days, the lack of any report can only be ex- 
plained by supposing that no shorthand writer was present. 
From the manuscript notes of James Wilson, however, it is 
possible to get some idea of what was said.] 

Wednesday^ December ^th. * 

On the morning of the 5th, Mr. Fiudley seems to have 
made a long speech on the need of a Bill of Rights ; the 
amount of sovereignty it was safe for the States to give up ; 
how much the constitution would take from them, and ended 
with an appeal for a federal in preference to a consolidated 
government. To say that if the constitution were rejected 
evil would follow, was, in his opinion, improper. It was act- 
ing the tyrant's part and saying, "Take this or nothing." 

In the afternoon, Mr. Findley spoke on the partial nega- 
tive of the President, on the system of representation, on the 
need of annual elections, on the independence of the judges; 
declared the internal powers of the proposed new govern- 
ment inadmissible"; said there was no guard against Congress 
making paper money, and insisted that if the amendments 
wanted were not obtained now, they never would be. Mr. 
Chambers then moved to pass to the consideration of Arti- 
cle 2d. 

TJmrsday^ December 6th. * 

Mr. Smilie objected to the powers of Congress over the 
militia, thought that the representatives were too few; that 
the President should make all appointments with the advice 
of a council, and dwelt at great length on the evil of giving 
Congress command of the militia. In these views he was 
supported by Mr. Findley. 

Friday^ December yth. * 

According to the notes of ]\Ir. Wilson, Mr. Whitehill 
opened with an attack on the Vice-President. He thought 
that officer dangerous, as he had a casting vote, and on that 

* Manuscript notes of James "Wilson. 

The Debate in the Convention. 351 

vote might often depend his salary. The power of Congress 
to fix the time of choosing electors was improper; the power" 
of the Senate to make treaties was dangerous. 

Mr. Findley did not want the Senate to try impeachments, 
and objected to blending legislative and executive powers. 

Messrs. Whitehill, Smiley and Findley, in turn, then dis- 
cussed the provision touching the Supreme Court. Mr. 
Wilson, in his notes, makes no mention of a speech by him- 
self, but Lloyd reports him to have spoken as follows:* 

Mr. Wilson. This is the first time that the article respect- 
ing the judicial department has come directly before us. I 
shall therefore take the liberty of making such observations 
as will enable honorable gentlemen to see the extent of the 
views of the convention in forming this article, and the ex- 
tent of its probable operation. 

This will enable gentlemen to bring before this House their 
objections more pointedly than, without any explanation, 
could be done. Upon a distinct examination of the different 
powers, I presume it will be found that not one of them is 
unnecessary. I will go further — there is not one of them but 
will be discovered to be of such nature, as to^be attended with 
very important advantages. I shall beg leave to premise one 
remark, that the convention, when they formed this system, 
did not expect they were to deliver themselves, their rela- 
tions and their posterity, into the hands of such men as are 
described by the honorable gentlemen in opposition. They 
did not suppose that the legislature, under this constitution, 
would be an association of demons. They thought that a 
proper attention would be given by the citizens of the United 
States, at the general election, for members to the House of 
Representatives; they also believed, that the particular States 
would nominate as good men as they have heretofore done, 
to represent them in the Senate. If they should now do 
otherwise, the fault will not be in Congress, but in the people, 
or States themselves. I have mentioned oftener than once, 
that for a people wanting to themselves, there is no remedy. 

The convention thought further (for on this very subject, 

* Lloyd's Debates. 


The Debate in the Convention. 

there will appear caution, instead of imprudence in tlieir 
transactions) they considered, that if suspicions are to be 
entertained, they are to be entertained with regard to the 
objects in which government have separate interests and 
separate views from the interests and views of the people. 
To say that officers of government will oppress, when noth- 
ing can be got by oppression, is making an inferrence, bad as 
human nature is, that cannot be allowed. When persons can 
derive no advantage from it, it can never be expected they 
will sacrifice either their duty or their popularity. 

Whenever the general government can be a party against 
a citizen, the trial is guarded and secured in the constitution 
itself, and therefore it is not in its power to oppress the 
citizen. In the case of treason, for example, though the 
prosecution is on the part of the United States, yet the Con- 
gress can neither define nor try the crime. If we have re- 
course to the history of the different governments that have 
hitherto subsisted, we shall find that a very great part of their 
tyranny over the people has arisen from the extension of the 
definition of treasc a. Some very remarkable instances have 
occurred, even in so free a country as England. If I recollect 
right, there is one instance that puts this matter in a very 
strong point of view. A person possessed a favorite buck, 
and on finding it killed, wished the horns in the belly of the 
person who killed it; this happened to be the king; the in- 
jured complainant was tried and convicted of treason, for 
wishing the king's death. 

I speak only of free governments, for in despotic ones, 
treason depends entirely upon the will of the prince. Let 
this subject be attended to, and it will be discovered where 
the dangerous power of the government operates to the op- 
pression of the people. Sensible of this, the convention has 
guarded the people against it, by a particular and accurate 
definition of treason. 

It is ver}^ true, that trial by jury is not mentioned in civil 
cases; but I take it, that it is very improper to infer from 
hence, that it was not meant to exist under this government. 
Where the people are represented — where the interest of gov- 

The Debate m the Conveyttion. 353 

ernment cannot be separate from that of the people, (and this 
is the case in trial between citizen and citizen) the power of 
making regulations with respect to the mode of trial, may 
certainly be placed in the legislature; for I apprehend that 
the legislature will not do wrong in an instance from which 
they can derive no advantage. These were not all the rea- 
sons that influenced the convention to leave it to the future 
Congress to make regulations on this head. 

By the constitution of the different States, it will be found 
that no particular mode of trial by jury could be discovered 
that would suit them all. The manner of summoning jurors, 
their qualifications, of whom they should consist, and the 
course of their proceedings, are all different, in the different 
States; and I presume it will be allowed a good general 
principle, that in carrying into effect the laws of the general 
government by the judicial department, it will be proper to 
make the regulations as agreeable to the habits and wishes 
of the particular States as possible; and it is easily discovered 
that it would have been impracticable, by any general regu- 
lation, to have given satisfaction to all. We must have 
thwarted the custom of eleven or twelve to have accommo- 
dated any one. Why do this, when there was no danger to 
be apprehended from the omission? We could not go into 
a particular detail of the manner that would have suited each 

Time, reflection and experience, will be necessary to sug- 
gest and mature the proper regulations on this subject; time 
and experience were not possessed by the convention, they 
left it therefore to be particiilarly organized by the legislature 
— the representatives of the United States, from time to time, 
as should be most eligible and proper. Could they have done 

I know in every part, where opposition has risen, what a 
handle has been made of this objection; but I trust upon ex- 
amination it will be seen that more could not have been done 
with propriety. Gent'emen talk of bills of rights ! What is 
the meaning of this continual clamor, after what has been 
urged, though it may be proper in a single State, whose 

354 '^^^^ Debate in the Convention. 

legislature calls itself the sovereign and supreme power? yet 
it would be absurd in the body of the people, when they are 
delegating from among themselves persons to transact certain 
business, to add an enumeration of those things, which they 
are not to do. "But trial by jury is secured in the bill of 
rights of Pennsylvania; the parties have a right to trials by 
jury, which ought to be held sacred," and what is the con- 
sequence? There have been more violations of this right in 
Pennsylvania, since the revolution, than are to be found in 
England, in the course of a century. 

I hear no objection made to the tenure by which the judges 
hold their offices — it is declared that the judges shall hold 
them during good behavior; nor to the security which they 
will have for their salaries — they shall at stated times re- 
ceive for their services, a compensation which shall not be 
diminished during their continuance in office. 

The article respecting the judicial department, is objected 
to as going too far, and is supposed to carry a very indefinite 
meaning. Let us examine this — the judicial power shall ex- 
tend to all cases in law and equity, arising under this consti- 
tution and the laws of the United States. Controversies may 
certainly arise under this constitution and the laws of the 
United States, and is it not proper that there should be 
judges to decide them? The honorable gentleman from 
Cumberland (Mr. Whitehill) says, that laws may be made in- 
consistent with the constitution, and that therefore the 
powers given to the judges are dangerous; for my part, Mr. 
President, I think the contrary inference true. If a law 
should be made inconsistent with those powers vested by this 
instrument in Congress, the judges, as a consequence of their 
independence, and the particular powers of government being 
defined, will declare such law to be null and void. For the 
power of the constitution predominates. Any thing there- 
fore, that shall be enacted by Congress contrary thereto, will 
not have the force of law. 

The judicial power extends to all cases arising under trea- 
ties made, or which shall be made, by the United States. I 
shall not repeat at this time, what has been said with regard 

The Debate in the Convention. 355 

to the power of the States to make treaties; it cannot be con- 
troverted, that when made, they ought to be observed. But 
it is highly proper that this regulation should be made; for 
the truth is, and I am sorry to say it, that in order to prevent 
the payment of British debts, and from other causes, our trea- 
ties have been violated, and violated too by the express laws 
of several States in the Union. Pennsylvania, to her honor 
be it spoken, has hitherto done no act of this kind; but it is 
acknowledged on all sides, that many States in the Union 
have infringed the treaty; and it is well known, that when 
the minister of the United States made a demand of Lord 
Carmarthen, of a surrender of the western posts, he told the 
minister, with truth and justice, "The treaty, under which 
you claim those possessions, has not been performed on your 
part; until that is done, those possessions will not be de- 
livered up." This clause, sir, will show the world that we 
make the faith of treaties a constitutional part of the charac- 
ter of the United States; that we secure its performance no 
longer nominally, for the judges of the United States will be 
enabled to carry them into effect, let the legislatures of the 
diflferent States do what they may. 

The power of the judges extends to all cases affecting am- 
bassadors, other public ministers, and consuls. I presume 
very little objection will be offered to this clause; on the con- 
trary, it will be allowed proper and unexceptionable. 

This will also be allowed with regard to the following 
clause, "all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction." 

The next is, "to controversies to which the United States 
shall be a party." Now I apprehend it is something very in- 
congruous, that, because the United States are a party, it 
should be urged as an objection, that their judges ought not 
to decide, when the universal practice of all nations have and 
unavoidably must admit of this power. But, say the gentle- 
men, the sovereignty of the States is destroyed, if they should 
be engaged in a controversy with the United States, because 
a suitor in a court must acknowledge the jurisdiction of that 
court, and it is not the custom of sovereigns to suffer their 
names to be made use of in this manner. The answer is plain 

256 The Debate in the Cotivention. 

and easy: The government of each State onght to be subor- 
dinate to the government of the United States. 

"To controversies between two or more States." This 
power is vested in the present congress, but Ihey are unable, 
as I have already shown, to enforce their decisions. The ad- 
ditional power of carrying their decrees into execution, we 
find is therefore necessary, and I presume no exception will 
be taken to it. 

" Between a state, and citizens of another State." When 
this power is attended to, it will be found to be a necessary 
one. Impartiality is the leading feature in this Constitution; 
it pervades the whole. When a citizen has a controversy 
with another State, there ought to be a tribunal where both 
parties may stand on a just and equal footing. 

" Between citizens of different States, and between a State, 
or the citizens thereof, and Foreign States, citizens or sub- 
jects." This part of the jurisdiction, I presume, will occasion 
more doubt than any other part, and 2X first viezv it may seem 
exposed to objections well-founded and of great weight; but 
I apprehend this can be the case only at first view. Permit 
mc to observe here, with regard to this power, or any other of 
the foregoing powers given to the Federal court, that they 
are not exclusively given. In all instances the parties may 
commence suits in the courts of the several States. Even the 
United States may submit to such decision if they think pro- 
per. Though the citizens of a State, and the citizens or sub- 
jects of foreign States, may sue in the federal court, it does 
not follow that they must sue. These are the instances in 
which the jurisdiction of the United States may be exercised; 
and we have all the reason in the world to believe, that it 
will be exercised impartially; for it would be improper to in- 
fer that the judges would abandon their duty, the rather for 
being independent. Such a sentiment is contrary to experi- 
ence, and ought not to be hazarded. If the people of the 
United States are fairly represented, and the president and 
Senate are wise enough to choose men of abilities and inte- 
grity forjudges, there can be no apprehension; because, as I 
mentioned before, the government can have no interest in in- 
juring the citizens. 

The Debate in the Convention. 357 

But when we consider the matter a little further, is it not 
necessary, if we mean to restore either public or private 
credit, that foreigners, as well as ourselves, have a just and 
impartial tribunal to which they may resort? I would ask, 
how a merchant must feel to have his property lie at the 
mercy of the laws of Rhode Island? I ask further, how will 
a creditor feel, who has his debts at the mercy of tender laws 
in other States? It is true, that under this Constitution, 
these particular iniquities may be restrained in future; but. 
Sir, there are other ways of avoiding payment of debts. 
There have been instalment acts, and other acts of a similar 
effect. Such things, Sir, destroy the very sources of credit. 

Is it not an important object to extend our manufactures 
and our commerce? This cannot be done, unless a proper 
security is provided for the regular discharge of contracts. 
This security cannot be obtained, unless we give the power 
of deciding upon those contracts to the general governments. 

I will mention further, an object that I take to be of par- 
ticular magnitude, and I conceive these regulations will pro- 
duce its accomplishment. The object, Mr. President, that 
I allude to, is the improvement of our domestic navigation, 
the instrument of trade between the several States. That 
decay of private credit which arose from the destruction of 
public credit, by a too inefficient general government, will 
be restored, and this valuable intercourse among ourselves, 
must give an encrease to those useful improvements, that will 
astonish the world. At present, how are we circumstanced? 
Merchants of eminence will tell you, that they can trust their 
correspondents without law; but they cannot trust the laws 
of the State in which their correspondents live. Their friend 
may die, and may be succeeded by a representative of a very 
different character. If there is any particular objection that 
did not occur to me on this part of the Constitution, gentle- 
men will mention it; and I hope when this article is exam- 
ined, it will be found to contain nothing but what is proper 
to be annexed to the general government. The next clause, 
so far as it gives original jurisdiction in cases affecting ambas- 
sadors, I apprehend is perfectly unexceptionable. 

358 The Debate in the Co7ivention. 

It was tliouglit proper to give the citizens of foreign States 
full opportunity of obtaining justice in the general courts, 
and this they have by its appellate jurisdiction; therefore, in 
order to restore credit with those foreign States, that part 
of the article is necessary. I believe the alteration that will 
take place in their minds, when they learn the operation of 
this clause, will be a great and important advantage to our 
country, nor is it anything but justice; they ought to have 
the same security against the State laws that may be made, 
that the citizens have; because regulations ought to be equally 
just in the one case as in the other. Further, it is necessary 
in order to preserve peace with foreign nations. lyct us sup- 
pose the case, that a wicked law is made in some one of the 
States, enabling a debtor to pay his creditor with the fourth, 
fifth, or sixth part of the real value of the debt, and this 
creditor, a foreigner, complains to his prince or sovereign, 
of the injustice that has been done him: What can that 
prince or sovereign do? Bound by inclination as well as duty 
to redress the wrong his subject sustains from the hand of 
perfidy, he cannot apply to the particular guilty State, be- 
cause he knows that by the articles of confederation, it is de- 
clared that no State shall enter into treaties. He must 
therefore apply to the United States: The United States must 
be accountable: "My subject has received a flagrant injury; 
do me justice, or I will do myself justice." If the United 
States are answerable for the injury, ought they not to pos- 
sess the means of compelling the faulty State to repair it ? 
They ought, and this is what is done here. For now, if 
complaint is made in consequence of such injustice, Congress 
can answer, "Why did not your subject apply to the general 
court, where the unequal and partial laws of a particular 
State would have had no force?" 

In two cases the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction; 
that affecting ambassadors, and when a State shall be a party. 
It is true, it has appellate jurisdiction in more, but it will 
have it under such restrictions as the Congress shall ordain. 
I believe then any gentleman, possessed of experience 01 
knowledge on this subject, will agree that it was impossible 

The Debate in the Convention. 359 

to go further with any safety or propriety, and that it was 
best left in the manner in which it now stands. 

"In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme 
Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and 
fact." The jurisdiction as to fact, may be thought improper; 
but those possessed of information on this head, see that it is 
necessary. We find it essentially necessary from the ample 
experience we have had in the courts of admiralty with re- 
gard to captures. Those gentlemen, who during the late 
war, had their vessels retaken, know well what a poor 
chance they would have had, when those vessels were taken 
into other States and tried by juries, and in what a situation 
they would have been, if the court of appeals had not been 
possessed of authority to reconsider and set aside the verdict 
of those juries. Attempts were made by some of the States 
to destroy this power, but it has been confirmed in every 

There are other cases in which it will be necessary; and 
will not Congress better regulate them as they rise from time 
to time, than could have been done by the convention ? Be- 
sides, if the regulations shall be attended with inconvenience, 
the Congress can alter them as soon as discovered. But any 
thing done in convention must remain unalterable, but by 
the power of the citizens of the United States at large. 

I think these reasons will show, that the powers given to 
the Supreme Court, are not only safe, but constitute a wise 
and valuable part of this system. 

Saturday^ December 8th. 

The whole of this day was taken up with a debate on the 
failure of the Constitution to provide for trial by jury in 
civil cases. Twice in the course of it the members came to 
personalities, and once almost to blows. 

The first occurred in the course of an argument to prove 
the dissolution of the trial by jury, if the proposed system 
was adopted, and the consequent sacrifice of the liberties of 
the people, Mr. Findley observed, that when the trial by jury 
which was known in Sweden so late as the middle of the last 

36a The Debate in the Convejiiion. 

century, fell into disuse, the commons of that nation lost their 
freedom, and a tyrannical aristocracy prevailed. Mr. Wilson 
and Mr. M'Kean interrupted Mr. Findley, and called warmly 
for his authority to prove that the trial by jury existed in 
Sweden, Mr. Wilson declaring that he had never met with 
such an idea in the course of his reading; and Mr. M'Kean 
asserting, that the trial by jury was never known in any other 
country than England, and the governments descended from 
that kingdom. Mr. Findley answered, that he did not at 
that moment recollect his authority, but having formerly 
read histories of Sweden, he had received and retained the 
opinion which he now advanced, and would on a future occa- 
sion perhaps, refer immediately to the book. Accordingly, 
on Monday afternoon, he produced the Modern Universal 
History, and the 3d volume of Blackstone's Commentaries, 
which incontrovertibly established his position. Having read 
his authorities, he concluded in the following manner: "I 
am not accustomed, Mr. President, to have my word disputed 
in public bodies, upon the statement of a fact; but in this 
convention it has already occurred more than once. It is now 
evident however, that I was contradicted on this subject im- 
properly and unjustly, by the learned Chief Justice and 
Counsellor from the city. That the account given in the 
Universal History should escape the recollection or observa- 
tion of the best informed man, is not extraordinary, but this 
I will observe, that if my son had been at the study of the 
law for six months, and was not acquainted with the passage 
in Blackstone, I should be justified in whipping him. But 
the contradiction coming from the quarter known to this 
Convention, I am at a loss whether to ascribe it to the want 
of veracity, or the ignorance of the learned members." On 
Tuesday morning Mr. Wilson again adverted to the subject 
in the following manner. " I will, Mr. President, take some 
notice of a circumstance, which for want of something more 
important, has made considerable noise. I mean what re- 
spects the assertion of the member from Westmoreland, that 
trials by jury were known in Sweden. I confess. Sir, when 
I heard that assertion, it struck me as new, and contrary 'to 

The Debate in the Convention. 361 

my idea of the fact, and therefore, in as decent terms as I 
could, I asked for the honorable member's authority: the 
book in which it is found convinces me I must before have 
read it, but I do not pretend to remember everything I read. 
This remark is made more for the sake of my colleague, who 
supported my opinion, than for my own. But I will add. Sir, 
that those whose stock of knowledge is limited to a few 
items, may easily remember and refer to them; but many 
things may be overlooked and forgotten in a magazine of lit- 
erature. It may therefore with propriety be said by my 
honorable colleague, as it was formerly said by Sir John May- 
nard to a petulant student, who reproached him with an 
ignorance of a ^^r'fling point, "Young man, I have forgotten 
more law than ever you learned. ' ' * 

Hardly had this incident passed away when the Anti- 
federal party, put into high spirits by the arguments of 
Findley, Smilie and Whitehill, on the question of trial by jury, 
began to call loudly for answers from the friends of the con- 
stitution. What followed is thus reported in the Packet. 

On Saturday last a very warm altercation passed in the 
convention, of which we submit to our readers the following 
impartial statement, 

Mr. M'Kean, rising in consequence of the repeated call of 
the opposition for an answer to their arguments, observed 
that the observations and objections were so often reiterated, 
that most of them had already been replied to, and in his 
opinion, all the objections which had been made to the pro- 
posed plan, might have been delivered in the space of two 
hours; so he concluded, that the excess of time had been con- 
sumed in trifling and unnecessary debate. In reply to these 
observations, Mr. Smilie remarked, that the honorable gen- 
tleman had treated the opposition with contempt; and with a 
magisterial air had condemned their arguments. He was 
about to proceed in his animadversion upon the conduct of 
the majority, who presumed thus, he added, upon their num- 
bers, when several members started up, but at length Mr. 

* Pennsylvania Packet, Dec. 13, 1787. 

362 The Debate in the Convention. 

Chambers claimed the attention of the president: He began 
a speech of some length with terming Mr. Smilie's language 
indecent^ because he said it alluded to Mr. M'Kean as a judge. 
He then proceeded with great heat to reprobate the behavior 
of the three gentlemen, who managed the arguments against 
the proposed system, and declared that they had abused the 
indulgence which the other side of the House had granted to 
them, in consenting to hear all their reasons. He next an- 
imadverted upon the characters of those who composed the 
opposition, and loudly asked, where had they been found in 
the day of danger? Thence drawing a contrast between 
them and the representatives of Pennsylvania in the late 
Federal Convention, who were, he remarked, men of as great 
talents and patriotism, as good generals and statesmen, as 
any that had appeared in the businesss of the revolution. 
From this ground he took an opportunity of saying some- 
thing about those Englishmen who had arrived in this 
country since the peace, and who had presumed to judge for 
themselves respecting the politics of Pennsylvania. He re- 
ferred to Mr. Findley's having no more than two votes as a 
delegate to the Federal Convention, in order to show the in- 
significance of his character, and the wisdom of Pennsylvania, 
which would not admit of his being elected on that occasion. 
He then adverted to the character of Mr. M'Kean, which he 
asserted was superior to all attacks, and concluded with de- 
claring that everything which had been oJGfered by the oppo- 
sition was, in his judgment, trifling and unnecessary. When 
Mr. Chambers had finished, Mr. Smilie appealed to the 
candor of the convention, whether he had used a single word 
which could be deemed indecent^ and which was not fairly 
justified by the conduct to which he had alluded. He feel- 
ingly exclaimed that he was pleading for the interests of his 
country, and that no character should influence, and no 
violence overawe his proceedings. For, he not only claimed 
the free exercise of speech as a right, but he would exercise 
it as a duty. Mr. Findley followed, promising that he should 
take very little notice of the speech delivered by Mr. 
Chambers, as indeed he had never found occasion to take 

The Debate m the Convention. 363 

much notice of anything that dropped from that quarter. He 
would observe, however, that the characteristic of the conduct 
of the honorable inember in public bodies was to discourse 
without reason, and to talk without argument. Here a con- 
siderable cry of order arose, and Mr. Findley said he would 
only add, that he always wished to avoid an investigation of 
characters, but at least he would take care never to engage 
on that subject but with a competent judge. During some 
disturbance in the House, Mr. Chambers retorted, that he 
had a perfect contempt both for Mr. Findley's arguments and 
person, and Mr. Findley closed the altercation with declaring, 
that he saw no reason for dispute, since he and Mr. 
Chambers were in that respect so perfectly agreed. Mr. 
Macpherson stated to the chair the impropriety of such pro- 
ceedings, and observed, that the member from Fayette had 
not satisfactorily shown in what manner the member from 
the city (Mr. M'Kean) had spoken indecent language, to 
justify the retort that had been made. Mr. Findley then re- 
marked, that when a member undertook personally to dictate 
to the convention, he was an object of personal animadversion; 
for it was only by motion and resolve of the whole body, 
that their proceedings were to be governed. 

Mr. Smilie said, he had in his opinion satisfactorily shown 
the ground upon which he had spoken, for he had referred to 
the recollection of the convention that Mr. M'Kean treated 
the arguments of the opposition as trifling and contemptible, 
and this with a ?nagisterial air^ which was all the retort he 
had made. To this Mr. Findley subjoined, that he did not 
rise to argue upon the question, but to claim what was just 
and right; he therefore referred it to the President to deter- 
mine, whether he or his coadjutors had transgressed any of 
the established rules of the convention? Upon this the Presi- 
dent said, it was true that no positive rule had been trans- 
gressed, but he could not avoid considering Mr. Smilie's lan- 
guage highly improper. On this there was an unanimous 
cry of adjourn, which at last put a stop to the altercation.* 

* Pennsylvania Packet Dec. 13, 1787. 

364 The Debate in the Convention. 

Monday^ December loth. 

As soon as Mr. Findley had cited his authorities in support 
of his statement regarding trial by jury in Sweden, a num- 
ber of memorials were on Monday last presented to the con- 
vention from the inhabitants of the county of Philadelphia, 
stating the advantages that county enjoys, and requesting it 
might be offered as the seat of Federal Government, in which 
the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress may be exercised. 
This done, Mr. M'Kean took the floor and replied at length 
to the objectors to the Constitution, having previously given 
notice that he should on Wednesday recur to his motion for 
the adoption of the proposed plan, and remarked that the 
State of Delaware had already entered into that resolution, to 
which Mr. Smilie replied, that the State of Delaware had in- 
deed reaped the honor of having first surrendered the liberties 
of the people to the new system of government. * 

The speech of Mr. M'Kean is summed up in the Packet as 

On Monday (loth) afternoon, Mr. M'Kean entered into an 
elaborate investigation of the leading objections made to the 
proposed constitution, and having ably defended it in all its 
parts, he concluded emphatically, that having served a routine 
in government, in the legislative, executive and judicial de- 
partments, he saw nothing in the system under consideration 
which his judgment could determine to be the object of terror 
or apprehension; but he anticipated from its adoption what 
had been his constant wish — permanency in the government, 
and stability in the laws. 

As soon as Mr. M'Kean had closed his speech, a loud 
and general tribute of applause was expressed by the 
citizens in the gallery; which gave occasion to the follow- 
ing philippic from Mr. Smilie, "Mr. President, I confess 
that hitherto I have persuaded myself that the opposition 
had the best of the argument on the present important 
question; but I have found myself mistaken, for the gentle- 
men on the other side have indeed an argument which sur- 
passes and supersedes all others, — a party in the gallery 

* Peunsylvauia Packet, Dec. 13, 1787. 

Nat. 1724 -Ob 1817 

J^rom. <z JbriJiC iy Ti^out, in th^possessuitt cfiiie-J/istoricaiy Soci^tif of ft. 

The Debate in the Convention. 365 

prepared to clap and huzza in afErmance of their speeches. 
But, Sir, let it be remembered that this is not the voice of the 
people of Pennsylvania; for, were I convinced of that, I 
should consider it as a conclusive approbation of the proposed 
system, and give a ready acquiescence. No, Sir, this is not 
the voice of the people of Pennsylvania; and were this con- 
vention assembled at another place, the sound would be of a 
different nature, for the sentiments of the citizens are different 
indeed. Even there however it would pain me, were I to see 
the majority of this body treated with such gross insult and 
disrespect by my friends, as the minority now experience 
from theirs. In short, Mr. President, this is not the mode 
which will prevail on the citizens of Pennsylvania to adopt 
the proposed plan, let the decision here be what it may; and 
I will add, that such conduct, nay were the gallery filled with 
bayonets, such appearance of violence would not intimidate 
me, or those who act with me, in the conscientious discharge 
of a public duty." When Mr. Smilie had finished, Mr. 
M'Kean remarked that the worthy gentleman seemed mighty 
angry, merely because somebody was pleased. 

Mr. M'Kean said, in the course of his speech on Monday, 
that the apprehensions of the opposition respecting the new 
plan, amounted to this, that if the sky falls^ we shall catch 
larks; if the rivers run dry^ ive shall catch eels: and he com- 
pared their arguments to a sound, but then it was a mere 
sound, like the working of small beer. 

[A better report has been preserved by Lloyd, who in his 
published debates, declared it was delivered on December 
nth. The newspapers, however, and Mr. Wilson's notes 
where the whole speech is carefully summarized, prove it was 
delivered on December loth.] 

Mr. M'Kean.* Sir, you have under your consideration a 
matter of very great weight and importance, not only to the 
present generation but to posterity; for where the rights and 
liberties of the people are concerned, there certainly it is fit 
to proceed with the utmost caution and regard. You have 
done so hitherto. The power of this convention, being de- 

* Lloyd's Debates. 

366 The Debate in the Convention. 

rived from the people of Pennsylvania, by a positive and 
voluntary grant, cannot be extended farther than what this 
positive grant hath conveyed. You have been chosen by the 
people, for the sole purpose of "assenting to and ratifying the 
constitution, proposed for the future government of the 
United States, with respect to their general and common con- 
cerns," or of rejecting it. It is a sacred trust; and, as on the 
one hand, you ought to weigh well the innovations it will 
create in the governments of the individual States, and the 
dangers which may arise by its adoption; so upon the other 
hand, you ought fully to consider the benefits it may promise, 
and the consequences of a rejection of it. You have hitherto 
acted strictly conformably to your delegated power; you have 
agreed, that a single question can come before you; and it has 
been accordingly moved, that you resolve, "to assent to and 
ratify this constitution." Three weeks have been spent in 
hearing the objections that have been made against it, and 
it is now time to determine, whether they are of such a 
nature as to overbalance any benefits or advantages that may 
be derived to the State of Pennsylvania by your accepting it. 

Sir, I have as yet taken up but little of your time; notwith- 
standing this, I will endeavor to contract what occurs to me 
on the subject: and in what I have to oflTer, I shall observe 
this method; I will first consider the arguments that have 
been used against this constitution, and then give my reasons, 
why I am for the motion. 

The arguments against the constitution are, I think, chiefly 

First. That the elections of representatives and senators 
are not frequent enough to ensure responsibility to their con- 

Second. That one representative for thirty thousand per- 
sons is too few. 

Third. The senators have a share in the appointment of 
certain officers, and are to be the judges on the impeachment 
of such officers. This is blending the executive with the 
legislative and judicial department, and is likely to screen 
the offenders impeached, because of the concurrence of a 
majority of the senate in their appointment. 

The Debate in the Convention. 367 

Fourth. That the Congress may by law deprive the elec- 
tors of a fair choice of their representatives, by fixing im- 
proper times, places and modes of election. 

Fifth. That the powers of Congress are too large, particu- 
larly in laying internal taxes and excises, because they may 
lay excessive taxes, and leave nothing for the support of the 
State governments. 

In raising and supporting armies, and that the appropri- 
ation of money for that use should not be for so long a term 
as two years. 

In calling forth the militia on necessary occasions; because 
they may call them from one end of the continent to the 
other, and wantonly harass them ; besides, they may coerce 
men to act in the militia, whose consciences are against bear- 
ing arms in any case. 

In making all laws which shall be necessary and proper 
for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all 
other powers vested by this constitution in the government 
of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof. 

And in declaring, that this constitution, and the laws of 
the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, 
and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the 
authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of 
the land. 

That migration or importation of such persons, as any of 
the States shall admit, shall not be prohibited prior to 1808, 
nor a tax or duty imposed on such importation exceeding ten 
dollars for each person. 

Sixth, That the whole of the executive power is not lodged 
in the President alone, so that there might be one responsible 

That he has the sole power of pardoning offences against 
the United States, and may therefore pardon traitors, for trea- 
sons committed in consequence of his own ambitious and 
wicked projects; or those of the Senate. 

That the Vice-President is a useless officer, and being an 
executive officer, is to be president of the Senate, and in case 
of a division is to have the castinsf voice. 

3^8 The Debate in the Convetition. 

Seventh. The judicial power shall be vested in one Su- 
preme Court. An objection is made, that the compensation 
for the services of the judges shall not be diminished during 
their continuance in office, and this is contrasted with the 
compensation to the President, which is to be neither in- 
creased nor diminished during the period for which he shall 
have been elected: but that of the judges may be increased, 
and the judge may hold other offices of a lucrative nature, 
and his judgment be thereby warped. 

That in all the cases enumerated, except where the Su- 
preme Court has original jurisdiction, "they shall have ap- 
pellate jurisdiction, both as to law and facts, with such 
exceptions, and under such regulations, as the Congress shall 
make." From hence is inferred that the trial by jury is not 

That they have jurisdiction between citizens of different 

Eighth. That there is no bill or declaration of rights in 
this constitution. 

Ninth. That this is a consolidation of the several States, and 
not a confederation. 

Tenth. It is an aristocracy^ and was intended to be so by 
the framers of it. 

The first objection that I heard advanced against this con- 
stitution, I say, sir, was that the elections of representatives 
and senators are not frequent enough to ensure responsibility 
to their constituents. 

This is a subject that most men differ about, but there are 
more considerations than that of mere responsibility. By 
this system the House of Representatives is composed of per- 
sons, chosen every second year by the people of the several 
States; and the senators every six years by the Legislatures: 
whether the one or the other of these periods are of too long 
duration, is a question to which various answers will be given; 
some persons are of opinion that three years in the one case, 
and seven in the other, would be a more eligible term than 
that adopted in this constitution. In Great Britain, we find 
the House of Commons elected for seven years; the House of 

The Debate in the Convention. 369 

Lords is perpetual, and the king never dies. The Parliament 
of Ireland is octennial ; in various other parts of the British 
dominions, the House of Representatives are during the royal 
pleasure, and have been continued twenty years; this, sir, is a 
term undoubtedly too long. In a single State, I think annual 
elections most proper, but then there ought to be more 
branches in the Legislature than one. An annual Legisla- 
ture possessed of supreme power, may be properly termed an 
annual despotism — and, like an individual, they are subject 
to caprice, and act as party spirit or spleen dictates; hence 
that instability to our laws, which is the bane of republican 
governments. The framers of this constitution wisely divided 
the legislative department between two houses, subject to the 
qualified negative of the President of the United States, 
though this government embraces only enumerated powers. 
In a single State, annual elections may be proper, the more 
so when the legislative powers extend to all cases; but in 
such an extent of country as the United States, and when the 
powers are circumscribed, there is not that necessity, nor are 
the objects of the general government of that nature as to be 
acquired immediately by every capacity. To combine the 
various interests of thirteen different States, requires more ex- 
tensive knowledge than is necessary for the Legislature of any 
one of them; two years are therefore little enough for the 
members of the House of Representatives to make themselves 
fully acquainted with the views, the habits and interests of 
the United States. With respect to the Senate, when we 
consider the trust reposed in them, we cannot hesitate to pro- 
nounce, the period assigned to them is short enough; they 
possess, in common with the House of Representatives, leg- 
islative power; with its concurrence they also have power to 
declare war; they are joined with the President in concluding 
treaties; it therefore behooves them to be conversant with the 
politics of the nations of the world, and the dispositions of 
the sovereigns, and their ministers; this requires much reading 
and attention. And believe me, the longer a man bends his 
study to any particular subject, the more likely he is to be 
the master of it. Experience and practice will assist genius 

370 The Debate in the Convention. 

and education. I therefore think the time allowed, under 
this system, to both houses, to be extremely proper. This 
objection has been made repeatedly, but it can only have 
weight with those who are not at the pains of thinking on 
the subject. When anything, sir, new or great, is done, it 
is very apt to create a ferment among those out of doors, who, 
as they cannot always enter into the depth and wisdom of 
counsels, are too apt to censure what they do not understand; 
upon a little reflection and experience, the people often find 
that to be a singular blessing which at first they deemed a 

Second. "That one representative for thirty thousand per- 
sons is too few." 

There will be, sir, sixty-five in the House of Representa- 
tives and twenty-six in the Senate, in all ninety-one, who, 
together with the President, are to make laws in the several 
particular matters entrusted to them, and which are all 
enumerated and expressed. I think the number sufficient at 
the present, and in three years' time, when a census or actual 
enumeration must take place, they will be increased, and in 
less than twenty-five years they will be more than double. 
With respect to this, different gentlemen in the several States 
will differ, and at last the opinion of the majority must 

Third. "The senators have a share in the appointment of 
certain officers, and are to be the judges on the impeachment 
of such officers. This is blending the executive with the 
legislative and judicial department, and is likely to screen 
the offenders impeached, because of the concurrence of a 
majority of the Senate in their appointment." 

The President is to nominate to office, and with the ad- 
vice and consent of the Senate appoint officers, so that he is 
the responsible person, and when any such impeachment 
shall be tried, it is more than probable, that not one of the 
Senate, who concurred in the appointment, will be a senator, 
for the seats of a third part are to be vacated every two years, 
and of all in six. 

As to the senators having a share in the executive power. 

The Debate in the Convention. 371 

so far as to the appointment of certain officers, I do not know 
where this restraint on the President could be more safely 
lodged. Some may think a privy-counsellor might have 
been chosen by every State, but this could little mend the 
matter if any, and it would be a considerable additional ex- 
pense to the people. Nor need the Senate be under any 
necessity of sitting constantly, as has been alleged, for there 
is an express provision made to enable the President to fill up 
all vacancies that may happen during their recess; the com- 
missions to expire at the end of the next sessions. 

As to impeachments, the objection is much stronger 
against the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania. 

The House of Lords in Great Britain are judges in the last 
resort in all civil causes, and besides have the power of try- 
ing impeachments. 

On the trial of impeachments the senators are to be under 
the sanction of an oath or affirmation, besides the other ties 
upon them to do justice; and the bias is more likely to be 
against the officer accused than in his favor, for there are 
always more persons disobliged than the contrary when an 
office is given away, and the expectants of office are more 
numerous than the possessors. 

Fourth. ' ' That the Congress may by law deprive the elec- 
tors of a fair choice of their representatives, by fixing im- 
proper times, places and modes of election." 

Every House of Representatives is of necessity to be the 
judges of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own 
members. It is therefore their province, as well as duty, to 
see that they are fairly chosen, and are the legal members; 
for this purpose, it is proper they should have it in their 
power to provide, that the times, places and manner of elec- 
tion, should be such as to ensure free and fair elections. 

Annual congresses are expressly secured; they have only a 
power given to them, to take care, that the elections shall be 
at convenient and suitable times and places, and conducted 
in a proper manner; and I cannot discover why we may not 
entrust these particulars to the representatives of the United 
States, with as much safety as to those of the individual 

372 The Debate in the Convention. 

In some States the electors vote viva voce^ in others by 
ballot; they ought to be uniform, and the elections held on 
the same day throughout the United States, to prevent cor- 
ruption or undue influence. Why are we to suppose that 
Congress will make a bad use of this power, more than the 
representatives in the several States? 

It is said " that the powers of Congress, under this consti- 
tution, are too large, particularly in laying internal taxes and 
excises, because they may lay excessive taxes, and leave noth- 
ing for the support of the State governments. ' ' Sir, no doubt 
but you will discover, on consideration, the necessity of ex- 
tending these powers to the government of the Union. If 
they have to borrow money, they are certainly bound in honor 
and conscience to pay the interest, until they pay the princi- 
pal, as well to the foreign as to the domestic creditor ; it 
therefore becomes our duty to put it in their power to be 
honest. At present, sir, this is not the case, as experience 
has fully shown. Congress have solicited and required the 
several States to make provision for these purposes; has one 
State paid its quota ? I believe not one of them ; and what 
has been the result ? Foreigners have been compelled to ad- 
vance money, to enable us to pay the interest due them on 
what they furnished to Congress during the late war. I trust, 
we have had experience enough to convince us, that Congress 
ought no longer to depend upon the force of requisition. I 
heard it urged, that Congress ought not to be authorized to 
collect taxes, until a State had refused to comply with this 
requisition. Let us examine this position. The engage- 
ments entered into by the general government, render it nec- 
essary that a certain sum shall be paid in one year; notwith- 
standing this, they must not have power to collect it until 
the year expires, and then it is too late. Or is it expected 
that Congress would borrow the deficiency? Those who lent 
us in our distress, have little encouragement to make advan- 
ces again to our government; but give the power to Congress 
to lay such taxes as may be just and necessary, and public 
credit will revive: yet, because they have the power to lay 
taxes and excise, does it follow that they must? For my 

The Debate in the Convention. 373 

part, I hope it may not be necessary; but if it is, it is much 
easier for the citizens of the United States to contribute their 
proportion, than for a few to bear the weight of the whole 
principal and interest of the domestic debt; and there is per- 
fect security on this head, because the regulation must equally 
affect every State, and the law must originate with the imme- 
diate representatives of the people, subject to the investiga- 
tion of the State representatives. But is the abuse an argu- 
ment against the use of power? I think it is not ; and, upon 
the whole, I think this power wisely and securely lodged in 
the hands of the general government; though on the first 
view of this work, I was of opinion they might have done 
without it; but, sir, on reflection, I am satisfied that it is not 
only proper, but that our political salvation may depend upon 
the exercise of it. 

The next objection is against "the power of raising and 
supporting armies, and the appropriation of money for that 
use, should not be for so long a term as two years." Is it 
not necessary that the authority superintending the general 
concerns of the United States, should have the power of rais- 
ing and supporting armies? Are we, sir, to stand defenseless 
amidst conflicting nations? Wars are inevitable, but war 
cannot be declared without the consent of the immediate 
representatives of the people; there must also originate the 
law which appropriates the money for the support of the 
army, yet they can make no appropriation for a longer term 
than two years; but does it follow that because they may 
make appropriations for that period, that they must or even 
will do it ? The power of raising and supporting armies, is 
not only necessary, but is enjoyed by the present Congress, 
who also judge of the expediency or necessity of keeping 
them up. In England there is a standing army; though in 
words it is engaged but for one year, yet is it not kept con- 
stantly up? is there a year that parliament refuses to grant 
them supplies? Though this is done annually, it might be 
done for any longer term. Are not their officers commis- 
sioned for life? and when they exercise this power with so 
much prudence, shall the representatives of this country be 
suspected the more, because they are restricted to two years ? 

374 ^/^^ Debate in tJic Conveiition. 

It is objected that the powers of Congress are too large, be- 
cause "they have the power of calling forth the militia on 
necessary occasions, and may call them from one end of the 
continent to the other, and wantonly harass them; besides, 
they may coerce men to act in the militia whose consciences 
are against bearing arms in any case." It is true, by this 
system, power is given to Congress to organize, arm, and dis- 
cipline the militia, but everything else is left to the State 
governments; they are to officer and train them. Congress 
have also the power of calling them forth, for the purpose of 
executing the laws of the Union, suppressing insurrections 
and repelling invasions; but can it be supposed they would 
call them in such cases from Georgia to New Hampshire? 
Common sense must oppose the idea. 

Another objection was taken from these words of the con- 
stitution: "to make all laws which shall be necessary and 
proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, 
and all other powers vested by this constitution in the gov- 
ernment of the United States, or in any department, or offi- 
cer thereof." And in declaring "that this constitution, and 
the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursu- 
ance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, 
under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme 
law of the land, ' ' This has at last been conceded, that though 
it is explicit enough, yet it gives to Congress no further pow- 
ers than those already enumerated. Those that first said it 
gave to Congress the power of superseding the State govern- 
ments, cannot persist in it; for no person can, with a toler- 
able face, read the clauses over, and infer that such may be 
the consequence. 

Provision is made that Congress shall have power to pro- 
hibit the importation of slaves after the year 1808, but the 
gentlemen in opposition accuse this system of a crime, be- 
cause it has not prohibited them at once. I suspect those 
gentlemen are not well acquainted with the business of the 
diplomatic body, or they would know that an agreement 
might be made, that did not perfectly accord with the will 
and pleasure of any one person. Instead of finding fault with 

The Debate in the Convejtttoft. 375 

what has been gained, I am happy to see a disposition in the 
United States to do so much. 

The next objections have been against the executive power; 
it is complained of, "because the whole of the executive 
power is not lodged in the President alone^ so that there 
might be one responsible person; he has the sole powers of 
pardoning offences against the United States, and may there- 
fore pardon traitors, for treasons committed in consequence 
of his own ambitious or wicked projects, or those of the 

Observe the contradiction, sir, in these two objections; one 
moment the system is blamed for not leaving all executive 
authority to the President alone^ the next it is censured for 
giving him the sole power to pardon traitors. I am glad to 
hear these objections made, because it forebodes an amend- 
ment in that body in which amendment is necessary. The 
President of the United States must nominate to all offices, 
before the persons can be chosen; he here consents and 
becomes liable. The executive council of Pennsylvania 
appoint officers by ballot, which effectually destroys respon- 
sibility. He may pardon offences, and hence it is inferred 
that he may pardon traitors, for treason committed in con- 
sequence of his own ambitious and wicked projects. The 
executive council of Pennsylvania can do the same. But the 
President of the United States may be impeached before the 
Senate and punished for his crimes. 

"The vice- President is an useless officer;" perhaps the 
government might be executed without him, but there is a 
necessity of having a person to preside in the Senate, to con- 
tinue a full representation of each State in that body. The 
Chancellor of England is a judicial officer, yet he sits in the 
House of Lords. 

The next objection is against the judicial department. 
The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court. 
An objection is made that the compensation for the services 
of the judges shall not be diminished during their continu- 
ance in office, and this is contrasted with the compensation 
of the President, which is to be neither increased nor dimin- 

376 TJie Debate in the Convention. 

Lshcd during the period for which he shall be elected. But 
that of the judges may be increased, and the judges may hold 
other offices of a lucrative nature, and his judgment be 
thereby warped. 

Do gentlemen not see the reason why this difference is 
made? do they not see that the President is appointed but 
for four years, whilst the judges may continue for life, if they 
shall so long behave themselves well ? In the first case, little 
alteration can happen in the value of money; but in the 
course of a man's life, a very great one may take place from 
the discovery of silver and gold mines, and the great influx 
of those metals; in which case an increase of salary may be 
requisite. A security that their compensation shall not be 
lessened, nor they have to look up to every session for salary, 
will certainly tend to make those officers more easy and inde- 

" The judges may hold other offices of a lucrative nature." 
This part of the objection reminds me of the scheme that was 
fallen upon in Pennsylvania, to prevent any person from 
taking up large tracts of laud: a law was passed restricting 
the purchase to a tract not exceeding three hundred acres; 
but all the difference it made, was, that the land was taken up 
by several patents, instead of one, and the wealthy could 
procure, if they chose it, three thousand acres. What though 
the judges could hold no other office? might they not have 
brothers, children and other relations, whom they might wish 
to see placed in the offices forbidden to themselves? I see no 
apprehensions that may be entertained on this account 

That in all cases enumerated, except where the Supreme 
Court has original jurisdiction, "they shall have appellate 
jurisdiction both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and 
under such regulations as the Congress shall make." From 
this is inferred that the trial by jury is not secured; and an 
objection is set up to the system, because they have jurisdic- 
tion between citizens of different States. Regulations, under 
this head, are necessary, but the convention would form no 
one that would have suited each of the United States. It has 
been a subject of amazement to me to hear gentlemen contend 

The Debate in the Convention. 377 

that the verdict of a jury shall be without revision in all 
cases. Juries are not infallible because they are twelve in 
number. When the law is so blended with the fact as to be 
almost inseparable, may not the decision of a jury be errone- 
ous? Yet notwithstanding this, trial by jury is the best 
mode that is known. Appellate jurisdiction, sir, is known 
in the common law, and causes are removed from inferior 
courts by writ of error into some court of appeal. It is said 
that the Lord Chancellor, in all cases, sends down to the lower 
courts when he wants to determine a fact, but that opinion is 
not well founded, because he determines nineteen out of 
twenty without the intervention of any jury. The power to 
try causes between citizens of different States was thought by 
some gentlemen invidious; but I apprehend they must see the 
necessity of it, from what has been already said by my hon- 
orable colleague. 

"That there is no bill or declaration of rights in this con- 
stitution. ' ' 

To this I answer, such a thing has not been deemed essen- 
tial to liberty, excepting in Great Britain, where there is a 
king and a House of Lords, quite distinct with respect to 
power and interest from the rest of the people; or in Poland, 
the pacta conz>enta, which the king signs before he is crowned, 
and in six States of the American United States. 

Again, because it is unnecessary; for the powers of Con- 
gress, being derived from the people in the mode pointed out 
by this constitution, and being therein enumerated and posi- 
tively granted, can be no other than what this positive grant 
conveys. * 

With respect to executive officers, they have no manner of 
authority, any of them, beyond what is, by positive grant and 
commission, delegated to them. 

' ' That this is a consolidation of the several States, and not 
a confederation. ' ' 

To this I answer, the name is immaterial — the thing unites 
the several States, and makes them like one in particular in- 

* Locke on Civil Government, vol. 2, b. 2, chap, ii, sect. 141, and in the 
xiiith chap. sect. 152. 

378 The Debate in the Conveiition. 

stances and for particular purposes, which is what is ardently 
desired by most of the sensible men in this country. I care 
not whether it is called a consolidation, confederation, or na- 
tional government, or by what other name, if it is a good 
government, and calculated to promote the blessings of lib- 
erty, tranquillity and happiness. 

"It is an aristocracy^ and was intended to be so by the 
framers of it." 

Here again, sir, the name is immaterial, if it is a good sys- 
tem of government for the general and common concerns of 
the United States. But after the definition which has already 
been given of an aristocratic government, it becomes unnec- 
essary to repeat arguments to prove that this system does not 
establish an aristocracy. 

There have been some other small objections to, or rather 
criticisms on this work, which I rest assured the gentlemen 
who made them, will, on reflection, excuse me in omitting 
to notice them. 

Many parts of this constitution have been wrested and tor- 
tured, in order to make way for shadowy objections, which 
must have been observed by every auditor. Some other 
things were said with acrimony; they seemed to be personal; 
I heard the sound, but it was inarticulate. I can compare it 
to nothing better than the feeble noise occasioned by the 
working of small beer. 

It holds in argument as well as nature, that destritctio uniiis 
est generatio alterius — the refutation of an argument begets a 

The objections to this constitution having been answered, 
and all done away, it remains pure and unhurt, and this alone 
is a forcible argument of its goodness. 

Mr. President, I am sure nothing can prevail with me to 
give my vote for ratifying this constitution, but a conviction 
from comparing the arguments on both sides, that the not 
doing it is liable to more inconvenience and danger than the 
doing it. 

I. If you do it, you strengthen the government and people 
of these United States, and will thereby have the wisdom and 
assistance of all the States. 

The Debate in the Conveiition. 379 

II. You will settle, establish and firmly perpetuate our in- 
dependence, by destroying the vain hopes of all its enemies, 
both at home and abroad. 

III. You will encourage your allies to join with you; nay 
to depend, that what hath been stipulated or shall hereafter 
be stipulated and agreed upon, will be punctually performed, 
and other nations will be induced to enter into treaties with 

IV. It will have a tendency to break our parties and divi- 
sions, and by that means, lay a firm and solid foundation for 
the future tranquility and happiness of the United States in 
general, and of this State in particular. 

V. It will invigorate your commerce, and encourage ship- 

VI. It will have a tendency not only to prevent any other 
nation from making war upon you, but from offering you 
any wrong or even insult. 

In short, the advantages that must result from it are ob- 
viously so numerous and important, and have been so fully 
and ably pointed out by others, that it appears to be unnec- 
essary to enlarge on this head. 

Upon the whole, sir, the law has been my study from my 
infancy, and my only profession. I have gone through the 
circle of office, in the legislative, executive and judicial 
departments of government; and from all my study, obser- 
vation and experience, I must declare, that from a full exam- 
ination and due consideration of this system, it appears to me 
the best the world has yet seen. 

I congratulate you on the fair prospect of its being adopted, 
and am happy in the expectation of seeing accomplished, 
what has been long my ardent wish — that you will hereafter 
have a salutary permanency in magistracy and stability 


Tuesday^ December nth. 

[Mr. Wilson occupied the entire day with his reply to the 
objections made to the constitution. Says the Packetfl 

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Wilson entered into a general 
answer of all the objections urged by the opposition, but, be- 

380 The Debate in the Convention. 

ing fatigued, the conclusion of his speech was postponed till 
the afternoon. The substance of this, and of the several 
speeches of the members on both sides, will be given in the 
regular course of the debates. * 

[Ivloyd's report of the speech is this:]t 

Tuesday^ December nth. 
Mr. Wilson. Three weeks have now elapsed since this 
convention met. Some of the delegates attended on Tuesday, 
the 20th of November, a great majority within a day or two 
afterwards, and all but one on the fourth day. We have 
been since employed in discussing the business for which we 
are sent here. I think it will now become evident to every 
person who takes a candid view of our discussions, that it is 
high time our proceedings should draw toward a conclusion. 
Perhaps our debates have already continued as long, nay 
longer than is sufficient for any good purpose. The business 
which we were intended to perform is necessarily reduc to 
a very narrow compass. The single question to be de- 
termined is, shall we assent to and ratify the constitution 
proposed? As this is the first State whose convention has 
met on the subject, and as the subject itself is of very great 
importance, not only to Pennsylvania but to the United 
States, it was thought proper fairly, openly and candidly, to 
canvass it. This has been done. You have heard, Mr. 
President, from day to day and from week to week, the ob- 
jections that could be offered from any quarter. We have 
heard those objections once — we have heard a great number 
of them repeated much oftener than once. Will it answer- 
any valuable end, sir, to protract these debates longer? I 
suppose it will not. I apprehend it may serve to promote very 
pernicious and destructive purposes. It may perhaps be in- 
sinuated to other States, and even to distant parts of this 
State, by people in opposition to this system, that the ex- 
pediency of adopting is at most very doubtful, and that the 
business labors among the members of the convention. 

* Pennsylvania Packet, Dec. 13, 17S7. 
t Lloyd's Debates. 

The Debate in the Co7ive?ition. 381 

This would not be a true representation of the fact; for 
there is the greatest reason to believe, that there is a very- 
considerable majority, who do not hesitate to ratify the con- 
stitution. We were sent here to express the voice of our 
constituents on the subject, and I believe that many of them 
expected to hear the echo of that voice before this time. 

When I consider the attempts that have been made on this 
floor, and the many misrepresentations of what has been said 
among us that have appeared in the public papers, printed in 
this .city, I confess that I am induced to suspect that oppor- 
tunity may be taken to pervert and abuse the principles on 
which the friends of this constitution act. If attempts are 
made here, will they not be repeated when the distance is 
greater, and the means of information fewer? Will they not 
at length produce an uneasiness, for which there is, in fact, 
no cause? Ought we not to prohibit any such uses being 
made of the continuance of our deliberations ? We do not 
wish to preclude debate — of this our conduct has furnished 
the most ample testimony. The members in opposition have 
not been prevented a repetition of all their objections, that 
they could urge against this plan. 

The honorable gentleman from Fayette (Mr. Smilie) the 
other evening claimed for the minority, the merit of contend- 
ing for the rights of mankind; and he told us, that it has 
been the practice of all ages, to treat such minorities with 
contempt: he further took the liberty of observing, that if 
the majority had the power, they do not want the inclination 
to consign the minority to punishment. I know that claims, 
self-made, form no small part of the merit, to which we have 
heard undisguised pretences; but it is one thing to claim, 
and it is another thing, very different indeed, to support 
that claim. The minority, sir, are contending for the rights 
of mankind; what then are the majority contending for? If 
the minority are contending for the rights of mankind, the 
majority must be contending for the doctrines of tyranny and 
slavery. Is it probable that is the case? Who are the 
majority in this assembly? Are they not the people? are 
they not the representatives of the people, as well as the 

382 The Dcbalc in I he Convenlion. 

minority? Were lliey not elected by the people as well as 
by the minority? Were they not elected by the greater part 
of the people? Have we a single right separate from the 
rights of the people? Can we forge fetters for others, that 
will not be clasped round our own limbs? Can we make 
heavy chains, that shall not cramp the growth of our own 
posterity? On what fancied distinction shall the minority 
assume to themselves the merit of contending- for the rights 
of mankind? 

Sir, if the system proposed by the late convention, and the 
conduct of its advocates who have appeared in this house, de- 
serve the declarations and insinuations that have been made 
concerning them — well may we exclaim — 111 fated America! 
thy crisis was approaching! perhaps it was come ! Thy various 
interests were neglected — thy most sacred rights were insecure. 
Without a government ! wathout energy ! without confidence 
internally! without lespect externally! the advantages of soci- 
ety were lost to thee! In such a situation, distressed but not 
despairing, thou desiredst to re-assume thy native vigor, and 
to lay the foundation of future empire! Thou selectedst a 
number of thy sons, to meet together for the purpose. The 
selected and honored characters met; but horrid to tell! they 
not only consented, but they combined in an aristocratic sys- 
tem, calculated and intended to enslave their country! Un- 
happy Penns5dvania! thou, as a part of the union, must share 
in its unfortunate fate! for when this system, after being laid 
before thy citizens, comes before the delegates selected by you 
for its consideration, there are found but three of the numerous 
members that have virtue enough to raise their voices in 
support of the rights of mankind! America, particularly 
Pennsylvania, must be ill-starred indeed, if this is the true 
state of the case! I trust we may address our country in far 
other language. 

Happy America! thy crisis was indeed alarming, but thy 
situation was not desperate. We had confidence in our 
country ; though on whichever side we turned, we were 
presented with scenes of distress. Though the jarring inter- 
ests of the various vStates, and the different habits and incli- 

TJic Debate in iJic Convention. 383 

nations of their inhabitants, all lay in the way, and rendered 
our prospect gloomy and discouraging indeed, yet such were 
the generous and mutual sacrifices offered up, that amidst 
forty-two members, who represented twelve of the United 
States, there were only three who did not attest the instru- 
ment as a confirmation of its goodness. Happy Pennsylvania! 
this plan has been laid before thy citizens for consideration, 
they have sent delegates to express their voice; and listen, 
with rapture listen! from only three opposition has been 
heard against it. 

The singular unanimity that has attended the whole pro- 
gress of their business will in the minds of those considerate 
men, who have not had opportunity to examine the general and 
particular interest of their country, prove to their satisfaction 
that it is an excellent constitution, and worthy to be adopted, 
ordained and established by the people of the United States. 

After having viewed the arguments drawn from probability^ 
whether this is a good or a bad system, whether those who 
contend for it, or those who contend against it, contend for the 
rights of mankind, let us step forward and examine the fact. 

We were told some days ago, by the honorable gentleman 
from Westmoreland (Mr. Findley), when speaking of this 
system and its objects, that the convention, no doubt, thought 
they were forming a compact or contract of the greatest im- 
portance. Sir, I confess I was much surprised at so late a 
stage of the debate to hear such principles maintained. It 
was matter of surprise to see the great leading principle of 
this system still so very much misunderstood. " The con- 
vention, no doubt, thought they were forming 'a contract!' " 
I cannot answer for what every member thought; but I be- 
lieve it cannot be said that they thought they were making a 
contract, because I cannot discover the least trace of a com- 
pact in that system. There can be no compact unless there 
are more parties than one. It is a new doctrine that one can 
make a compact with himself. "The convention were form- 
ing compacts!" With whom? I know no bargains that 
were made there. I am unable to conceive who the parties 
could be. The State governments make a bargain with one 

384 The Debate in the Cojivention. 

another; that is the doctrine that is endeavored to be estab- 
lished, by gentlemen in opposition; their State sovereignties 
wish to be represented! But far other were the ideas of this 
convention, and far other are those conveyed in the system 

As this subject has been often mentioned, and as often mis- 
understood, it may not be improper to take some further no- 
tice of it. This, Mr. President, is not a government founded 
upon compact; it is founded upon the power of the people. 
They express in their name and their authority, '•''We the 
People do ordain and establish^'''' &c., from their ratification, 
and their ratification alone it is to take its constitutional au- 
thenticity; without that it is no more than tabula rasa. 

I know very well all the common -place rant of State sove- 
reignties, and that government is founded in original com- 
pact. If that position was examined, it will be found not to 
accede very well with the true principle of free government. 
It does not suit the language or genius of the system before 
us. I think it does not accord with experience, so far as I 
have been able to obtain information from history. 

The greatest part of governments have been founded on 
conquest; perhaps a few early ones may have had their origin 
in paternal authority. Sometimes a family united, and that 
family after\^ards extended itself into a community. But 
the greatest governments which have appeared on the face of 
the globe have been founded in conquest. The great empires 
of Assyria, Persia, Macedonia and Rome, were all of this 
kind. I know well that in Great Britain, since the revolu- 
tion, it has become a principle that the constitution is founded 
in contract; but the form and time of that contract no writer 
has yet attempted to discover. It was, however, recognized 
at the time of the revolution, therefore is politically true. 
But we should act very imprudently to consider our liberties 
as placed on such foundation. 

If we go a little further on this subject, I think we see 
that the doctrine of original compact cannot be supported 
consistently with the best principles of government. If we 
admit it, we exclude the idea of amendment; because a con- 

The Debate in the Convention. 385 

tract once entered into between the governor and governed 
becomes obligatory, and cannot be altered but by the mu- 
tual consent of both parties. The citizens of United Amer- 
ica, I presume, do not wish to stand on that footing, with 
those to whom, from convenience, they please to delegate the 
exercise of the general powers necessary for sustaining and 
preserving the Union. They wish a principle established, by 
the operation of which the legislatures may feel the direct 
authority of the people. The people possessing that author- 
ity, will continue to exercise it by amending and improving 
their own work. This constitution maybe found to have 
defects in it; amendments hence may become necessary; but 
the idea of a government founded on contract, destroys the 
means of improvement. We hear it every time the gentle- 
men are up, " Shall we violate the confederation, which directs 
every alteration that is thought necessary to be established 
by the State legislatures only?" Sir, those gentlemen must 
ascend to a higher source; the people fetter themselves by no 
contract. If your State legislatures have cramped themselves 
by compact, it was done without the authority of the people, 
who alone possess the supreme power. 

I have already shown, that this system is not a compact or 
contract; the system itself tells you w^liat it is; it is an ordi- 
nance and establishment of the people. I think that the 
force of the introduction to the work, must by this time have 
been felt. It is not an unmeaning flourish. The expressions 
declare, in a practical manner, the principle of this constitu- 
tion. It is ordained and established by the people themselves ; 
and we, who give our votes for it, are merely the proxies of 
our constituents. We sign it as their attorneys, and as to our- 
selves, we agree to it as individuals. 

We are told by honorable gentlemen in opposition, "that 
the present confederation should have been continued, but 
that additional powers should have been given to it: that 
such was the business of the late convention, and that they 
had assumed to themselves the power of proposing another 
in its stead; and that which is proposed, is such an one as 
was not expected by the legistatures nor by the people." I 

386 TJie Debate iit the Convention. 

apprehend this would have been a very insecure, very inade- 
quate, and a very pernicious mode of proceeding. Under the 
present confederation, Congress certainly do not possess suf- 
ficent power; but one body of men we know they are; and 
were they invested with additional powers, they must become 
dangerous. Did not the honorable gentleman himself tell us, 
that the powers of government, vested either in one man, or 
one body of men, formed the very description of tyranny? 
To have placed in the present, the legislative, the executive 
and judicial authority, all of which are essential to the gen- 
eral government, would indubitably have produced the sever- 
est despotism. From this short deduction, one of these two 
things must have appeared to the convention, and must ap- 
pear to every man, who is at the pains of thinking on the 
subject. It was indispensably necessary, either to make a 
new distribution of the powers of government, or to give such 
powers to one body of men as would constitute a tyranny. 
If it was proper to avoid tyranny, it becomes requisite to 
avoid placing additional powers in the hands of a Congress, 
constituted like the present; hence the conclusion is war- 
ranted, that a different organization ought to take place. 

Our next inquiry ought to be, whether this is the most 
proper disposition and organization of the necessary powers. 
But before I consider this subject, I think it proper to notice 
one sentiment, expressed by an honorable gentleman from the 
county of Cumberland (Mr. Whitehill) ; he asserts the extent 
of the government is too great, and this system cannot be 
executed. What is the consequence, if this assertion is true? 
It strikes directly at the root of the Union. 

I admit, Mr. President, there are great difficulties in adap- 
ting a system of good and free governments to the extent of 
our country. But I am sure that our interests as citizens, as 
States and as a nation, depend essentially upon an Union. 
This constitution is proposed to accomplish that great and 
desirable end. Let the experiment be made, let the system 
be fairly and candidly tried, before it is determined that it 
cannot be executed. 

I proceed to another objection; for I mean to answer those 

The Debate in the Convention. 387 

that have been suggested, since I had the honor of addressing 
you last week. It has been alleged by honorable gentlemen, 
that this general government possesses powers, for ijtternal 
purposes, and that the general government cannot exercise 
internal powers. The honorable member from Westmore- 
land (Mr. Findley) dilates on this subject, and instances the 
opposition that was made by the colonies against Great 
Britain, to prevent her imposing internal taxes or excises. 
And before the Federal Government will be able to impose 
the one, or obtain the other, he considers it necessary that it 
should possess power for every internal purpose. 

Let us examine these objections; if this government does 
not possess internal as well as external power, and that power 
for internal as well as external purposes, I apprehend that 
all that has hitherto been done, must go for nothing. I ap- 
prehend a government that cannot answer the purposes for 
which it is intended, is not a government for this country. I 
know that Congress, under the present articles of confedera- 
tion, possess no internal power, and we see the consequences: 
they can recommend; they can go further, they can make 
requisitions; but there they must stop. For as far as I recol- 
lect, after making a law, they cannot take a single step to- 
wards carrying it into execution. I believe it will be found 
in experience, that with regard to the exercise of internal 
powers, the general government will not be unnecessarily 
rigorous. The future collection of the duties and imposts, 
will, in the opinion of some, supersede the necescity of hav- 
ing recourse to internal taxation. The United States will 
not, perhaps, be often under the necessity of using this power 
at all; but if they should, it will be exercised only in a 
moderate degree. The good sense of the citizens of the 
United States, is not to be alarmed by the picture of taxes 
collected at the point of the bayonet. There is no more rea- 
son to suppose that the delegates and representatives in Con- 
gress, any more than the legislature of Pennsylvania, or any 
other State, will act in this manner. Insinuations of this 
kind, made against one body of men, and not against another, 
though both the representatives of the people, are not made 

388 The Debate in the Convention. 

with propriety, nor will they have the weight of argument. 
I apprehend the greatest part of the revenue will arise from 
external taxation. But certainly it would have been very 
unwise in the late convention to have omitted the addition 
of the other powers; and I think it would be very unwise in 
this convention to refuse to adopt this constitution, because 
it grants Congress power to lay and collect taxes, for the pur- 
pose of providing for the common defense and general wel- 
fare of the United States. 

What is to be done to effect these great purposes, if an im- 
post should be found insufficient? Suppose a war was sud- 
denly declared against us by a foreign power, possessed of a 
formidable navy: our navigation would be laid prostrate, our 
imposts must cease; and shall our existence as a nation, de- 
pend upon the peaceful navigation of our seas? A strong 
exertion of maritime power, on the part of an enemy, might 
deprive us of these sources of revenue in a few months. It 
may suit honorable gentlemen, who live at the western ex- 
tremity of this State, that they should contribute nothing, by 
internal taxes, to the support of the general government. 
They care not what restraints are laid upon our commerce; 
for what is the commerce of Philadelphia to the inhabitants 
on the other side the Alleghany Mountain? But though it 
may suit them, it does not suit those in the lower part of the 
State, who are by far the most numerous. Nor can we 
agree that our safety should depend altogether upon a 
revenue arising from commerce. 

Excise may be a necessary mode of taxation; it takes place 
in most States already. 

The capitation tax is mentioned as one of those that are 
exceptionable. In some States, that mode of taxation is used; 
but I believe in many, it would be received with great reluc- 
tance; there are one or two States, where it is constantly in 
use, and without any difficulties and inconveniences arising 
from it. An excise, in its very principles, is an improper 
tax, if it could be avoided; but yet it has been a source of 
revenue in Pennsylvania, both before the revolution and 
since; during all which time, we have enjoyed the benefit of 
free government. 

The Debate in the Convention. 389 

I presume, sir, that the executive powers of government 
ought to be commensurate with the government itself, and 
that a government which cannot act in every part, is so far 
defective. Consequently it is necessary, that Congress pos- 
sess powers to tax internally, as well as externally. 

It is objected to this system, that under it there is no sov- 
ereignty left in the State governments. I have had occasion 
to reply to this already; but I should be very glad to know at 
what period the State governments became possessed of the 
supreme power. On the principle on which I found my 
arguments, and that is the principle of this constitution, the 
supreme power resides in the people. If they choose to in- 
dulge a part of their sovereign power to be exercised by the 
State governments, they may. If they have done it, the 
States were right in exercising it; but if they think it no 
longer safe or convenient, they will resume it, or make a new 
distribution, mere likely to be productive of that good, which 
ought to be our constant aim. 

The power both of the general government, and the State 
governments, under this system, are acknowledged to be so 
many emanations of power from the people. The great ob- 
ject now to be attended to, instead of disagreeing about who 
shall possess the supreme power, is to consider whether the 
present arrangement is well calculated to promote and secure 
the tranquility and happiness of our common country. These 
are the dictates of sound and unsophisticated sense, and what 
ought to employ the attention and judgment of this honorable 

We are next told, by the honorable gentlemen in opposition 
(as indeed we have been from the beginning of the debates in 
this convention, to the conclusion of their speeches yester- 
day) that this is a consolidated government, and will abolish 
the State governments. Definitions of a consolidated govern- 
ment have been called for; the gentlemen gave us what they 
termed definitions, but it does not seem, to me at least, that 
they have as yet expressed clear ideas upon that subject. I 
will endeavor to state their different ideas upon this point. 

The gentleman from Westmoreland (Mr. Findley) when 

390 TJie Debate in the Convention. 

speaking on this subject, says, that he means by a consolida- 
tion, that government which puts the thirteen States into 

The honorable gentleman from Fayette (Mr. Smilie) gives 
you this definition: "What I mean by a consolidated govern- 
ment, is one that will transfer the sovereignty from the State 
governments to the general government." 

The honorable member from Cumberland (Mr. Whitehill) 
instead of giving you a definition, sir, tells you again, that 
"it is a consolidated government, and we have proved it so." 

These, I think, sir, are the different descriptions given us 
of a consolidated government. As to the first, that it is a 
consolidated government, that puts the thirteen United 
States into one; if it is meant, that the general government 
will destroy the governments of the States, I will admit that 
such a government would not suit the people of America: It 
would be improper for this country, because it could not be 
proportioned to its extent on the principles of freedom. But 
that description does not apply to the system before you. 
This, instead of placing the State governments in jeopardy, 
is founded on their existence. On this principle, its organi- 
zation depends; it must stand or fall, as the State governments 
are secured or ruined. Therefore, though this may be a very 
proper description of a consolidating government, yet it must 
be disregarded as inapplicable to the proposed constitution. 
It is not treated with decency, when such insinuations are 
offered against it. 

The honorable gentleman (Mr. Smilie) tells you, that a 
consolidating government "is one that will transfer the 
sovereignty from the State governments to the general gov- 
ernment." Under this system, the sovereignty is not in the 
possession of the State governments, therefore it cannot be 
transferred from them to the general government. So that 
in no point of view of this definition, can we discover that it 
applies to the present system. 

In the exercise of its powers will be insured the exercise 
of their powers to the State government; it will insure peace 
and stability to them; their strength will increase with its 
strength, their growth will extend with its growth. 

The Debate in the Convention. 391 

Indeed, narrow minds, and some sucli there are in every 
government — narrow minds, and intriguing spirits — will be 
active in sowing dissentions and promoting discord between 
them. But those whose understandings and whose hearts 
are good enough to pursue the general welfare, will find, that 
what is the interest of the whole, must, on the great scale, be 
the interest of every part. It will be the duty of a State, as 
of an individual, to sacrifice her own convenience to the gen- 
eral good of the Union. 

The next objection that I mean to take notice of is, that 
the powers of the several parts of this government are not 
kept as distinct and independent as they ought to be. I ad- 
mit the truth of this general sentiment. I do not think, that 
in the powers of the Senate, the distinction is marked with 
so much accuracy as I wished, and still wish; but yet I am 
of opinion that real and effectual security is obtained, which 
is saying a great deal. I do not consider this part as wholly 
unexceptionable; but even where there are defects in this 
system, they are improvements upon the old. I will go a 
little further; though in this system, the distinction and in- 
dependence of power is not adhered to with entire theoretical 
precision, yet it is more strictly adhered to than in any other 
system of government in the world. In the Constitution of 
Pennsylvania, the executive department exercises judicial 
powers, in the trial of public officers; yet a similar power in 
this system is complained of ; at the same time the constitu- 
tion of Pennsylvania is referred to, as an example for the late 
convention to have taken a lesson by. 

In New Jersey, in Georgia, in South Carolina, and in 
North Carolina, the executive power is blended with the 
legislative. Turn to their constitutions, and see in how many 

In North Carolina, the senate and house of commons elect 
the governor himself; they likewise elect seven persons, to 
be a council of State, to advise the governor in the execution 
of his office. Here we find the whole executive department 
under the nomination of the legislature, at least the most im- 
portant part of it. 

392 The Debate in the Coiivention, 

In South Carolina, the legislature appoint the governor and 
commander-in-chief, lieutenant governor and privy council. 
"Justices of the peace shall be nominated by the legislature, 
and commissioned by the governor," and what is more, they 
are appointed during pleasure. All other judicial ofi&cers are 
to be appointed by the senate and house of representatives. I 
might go further, and detail a great multitude of instances, 
in which the legislative, executive, and judicial powers are 
blended, but it is unnecessary; I only mention these to show, 
that though this constitution does not arrive at what is called 
perfection, yet it contains great improvements, and its pow- 
ers are distributed with a degree of accuracy superior to what 
is termed accuracy, in particular States. 

There are four instances in which improper powers are said 
to be blended in the Senate. We are told, that this govern- 
ment is imperfect, because the Senate possess the power of 
trying impeachments. But here, sir, the Senate are under a 
check, as no impeachment can be tried until it is made; and 
the House of Representatives possess the sole power of mak- 
ing impeachments. We are told that the share which the 
Senate have in making treaties, is exceptionable; but here 
they are also under a check, by a constituent part of the gov- 
ernment, and nearly the immediate representative of the peo- 
ple — I mean the President of the United States, They can 
make no treaty without his concurrence. The same observa- 
tion applies in the appointment of officers. Every officer 
must be nominated solely and exclusively by the President. 

Much has been said on the subject of treaties, and this 
power is denominated a blending of the legislative and exec- 
utive powers in the Senate. It is but justice to represent the 
favorable, as well as unfavorable side of a question, and from 
thence determine whether the objectionable parts are of a 
sufficient weight to induce a rejection of this constitution. 

There is no doubt, sir, but under this constitution, treaties 
will become the supreme law of the land; nor is there any 
doubt but the Senate and President possess the power of 
making them. But though treaties are to have the force of 
laws, they are in some important respects very different from 

The Debate in the Convention. 


other acts of legislation. In making laws, our own consent 
alone is necessary. In forming treaties, the concurrence of 
another power becomes necessary ; treaties, sir, are truly con- 
tracts, or compacts, between the different states, nations, or 
princes, who find it convenient or necessary to enter into 
them. Some gentlemen are of opinion, that the power of 
making treaties should have been placed in the legislature at 
large; there are, however, reasons that operate with a great 
force on the other side. Treaties are frequently (especially 
in time of war) of such a nature that it would be extremely 
improper to publish them, or even commit the secret of their 
negotiation to any great number of persons. For my part I 
am not an advocate for secrecy in transactions relating to the 
public; not generally even in forming treaties, because I 
think that the history of the diplomatique corps will evince, 
even in that great department of politics, the truth of an old 
adage, that "honesty is the best policy," and this is the con- 
duct of the most able negotiators; yet sometimes secrecy may 
be necessary, and therefore it becomes an argument against 
committing the knowledge of these transactions to too many 
persons. But in their nature treaties originate differently 
from laws. They are made by equal parties, and each side 
has half of the bargain to make; they will be made between 
us and the powers at the distance of three thousand miles. 
A long series of negotiations will frequently precede them; 
and can it be the opinion of these gentlemen, that the legis- 
lature should be in session during this whole time ? It well 
deserves to be remarked, that though the house of represen- 
tatives possess no active part in making treaties, yet their 
legislative authority will be found to have strong restraining 
influence upon both President and Senate. In England, if 
the king and his ministers find themselves, during their 
negotiation, to be embarrassed, because an existing law is 
not repealed, or a new law is not enacted, they give notice 
to the legislature of their situation, and inform them that it 
will be necessary, before the treaty can operate, that some 
law be repealed, or some be made. And will not the same 
thing take place here? Shall less prudence, less caution, 

394 '^^^^ Debate in the Convention. 

less moderation, take place among those who negotiate 
treaties for the United States, than among those who nego- 
tiate them for the other nations of the earth? And let it be 
attended to, that even in the making treaties the States are 
immediately represented, and the people mediately repre- 
sented; two of the constituent parts of the government must 
concur in making them. Neither the President nor the Sen- 
ate solely, can comjDlete a treaty; they are checks upon each 
other, and are so balanced as to produce security to the 

I might suggest other reasons, to add weight to what has 
already been offered, but I believe it is not necessary; yet let 
me, however, add one thing, the Senate is a favorite with 
many of the States, and it was with difficulty that these 
checks could be procured; it was one of the last exertions of 
conciliation, in the late convention, that obtained them. 

It has been alleged, as a consequence of the small number 
of representatives, that they will not know as intimately as 
they ought, the interests, inclinations, or habits, of their con- 

We find on an examination of all its parts, that the objects 
of this government are such as extend beyond the bounds of 
the particular States. This is the line of distinction between 
this government and the particular State governments. 

This principle I had an opportunity of illustrating on a 
former occasion. Now when we come to consider the objects 
of this government, we shall find, that in making our choice 
of a proper character to be a member of the House of Repre- 
sentatives, we ought to fix on one, whose mind and heart are 
enlarged; who possesses a general knowledge of the interests 
of America, and a disposition to make use of that knowledge 
for the advantage and welfare of his country. It belongs not 
to this government to make an act for a particular township, 
county, or State. 

A defect in viinnte information, has not certainly been an 
objection in the management of the business of the United 
States, but the want of enlarged ideas, has hitherto been 
chargeable on our councils; yet even with regard to minute 

The Debate in the Convention. 395 

knowledge, I do not conceive it impossible to find eight char- 
acters, that may be very well informed as to the sitnation, 
interests and views of every part of this State; and who may 
have a concomitant interest with their fellow citizens: they 
could not materially injure others, without affecting their 
own fortunes. 

I did say, that in order to obtain that enlarged information 
in our representatives, a large district for election would be 
more proper than a small one. When I speak of large dis- 
tricts, it is not agreeble to the idea entertained by the honor- 
able member from Fayette (Mr. Smilie), who tells you, that 
elections for large districts must be ill attended, because the 
jDeople will not choose to go very far on this business. It is 
not meant, sir, by me, that the votes should be taken at one 
place; no, sir, the elections may be held through this State, 
in the same manner as elections for members of the general 
assembly, and this may be done too without any additional 
inconvenience or expense. 

If it could be effected, all the people of the same society 
ought to meet in one place, and communicate freely with 
each other on the great business of representation. Though 
this cannot be done in fact, yet we find that it is the most 
favorite and constitutional idea. It is supported by this 
principle too, that every member is the representative of the 
whole community, and not of a particular part. The larger 
therefore the district is, the greater is the probability of select- 
ing wise and virtuous characters, and the more agreeable it 
is to the constitutional principle of representation. 

As to the objection, that the House of Representatives may 
be bribed by the Senate, I confess I do not see that bribery 
is an objection against this system; it is rather an objection 
against human nature. I am afraid that bribes in every gov- 
ernment may be offered and received; but let me ask of the 
gentlemen who urge this objection, to point out where any 
power is given to bribe tinder this Constitution? Every 
species of influence is guarded against as much as possible. 
Can the Senate procure money to effect such design ? All 
public moneys must be disposed of by law, and it is necessary 

396 The Debate in the Convention. 

that the House of Representatives originate such law. Be- 
fore the money can be got out of the treasury, it must be ap- 
propriated by law. If the legislature had the effrontery to 
set aside three or four hundred thousand pounds for this pur- 
pose, and the people would tamely suffer it, I grant it might 
be done; and in Pennsyvania the legislature might do the 
same; for by a law, and that conformably to the Constitution, 
they might divide among themselves what portion of the 
public money they pleased. I shall just remark, Sir, that 
the objections which have repeatedly been made, with regard 
to " the number of representatives being too small, and that 
they may possibly be made smaller; that the districts are too 
large, and not within the reach of the people ; and that the 
House of Representatives may be bribed by the Senate." 
These objections come with an uncommon degree of impro- 
priety, from those who would refer us back to the articles of 
confederation. For under those the representation of this 
State cannot exceed seven members, and may consist of only 
two; and these are wholly without the reach or control of the 
people. Is there not also greater danger that the majority of 
such a body might be more easily bribed, than the majority 
of one, not only more numerous, but checked by a division 
of two or three distinct and independent parts? The danger 
is certainly better guarded against in the proposed system, 
than in any other yet devised. 

The next objections which I shall notice, are, "that the 
powers of the Senate are too great, that the representation 
therein is unequal, and that the Senate, from the smallness 
of its number, may be bribed. ' ' Is there any propriety in 
referring us to the confederation on this subject? Because, 
in one or two instances, the Senate possess more power than 
the House of Representatives, are these gentlemen supported 
in their remarks, when they tell you they wished and ex- 
pected more powers to be given to the present Congress, a 
body certainly much more exceptionable than any instituted 
under this system? 

"That the representation in the Senate is unequal," I 
regret, because I am of opinion the States ought to be repre- 

The Debate in the Convention. ^97 

sented according to their importance; but in this system 
there is considerable improvement; for the true principle of 
representation is carried into the House of Representatives, 
and into the choice of the President; and without the assist- 
ance of one or the other of these, the Senate is inactive, and 
can do neither good or evil. 

It is repeated again and again, by the honorable gentle- 
men, "that the power over elections, which is given to the 
general government in this system, is a dangerous power. " 
I must own I feel myself surprised that an objection of this 
kind should be persisted in, after what has been said by my 
honorable colleague in reply. I think it has appeared by a 
minute investigation of the subject, that it would have been 
not only unwise, but highly improper in the late convention, 
to have omitted this clause, or given less power than it does 
over elections. Such powers, sir, are enjoyed by every State 
government in the United States. In some, they are of a 
much greater magnitude; and why should this be the only 
one deprived of them? Ought not this, as well as every 
other legislative body, to have the power of judging of the 
qualifications of its own members? "The times, places and 
manner of holding elections for representatives, may be 
altered by Congress." This power, sir, has been shown to 
be necessary, not only on some particular occasions, but even 
to the ver}' existence of the federal government. I have 
heard some very improbable suspicions indeed, suggested 
with regard to the manner in which it will be exercised. 
Let us suppose it may be improperly exercised; is it not 
more likely so to be by the particular States, than by the 
government of the United States? because the general gov- 
ernment will be more studious of the good of the whole, than 
a particular State will be; and therefore, when the power of 
regulating the time, place or manner of holding elections is 
exercised by the Congress, it will be to correct the improper 
regulations of a particular State. 

I now proceed to the second article of this Constitution, 
which relates to the executive department. 

I find. Sir, from an attention to the argument used by the 


The Debate in the Convention. 

gentlemen on the other side of the house, that there are but 
few exceptions taken to this part of the system. I shall take 
notice of them, and afterwards point out some valuable quali- 
fications, which I think this part possesses in an eminent de- 

The objection against the powers of the President, is not 
that they are too many or too great, but to state it in the 
gentlemen's own language, they are so trifling, that the Pre- 
sident is no more than the tool of the Senate. 

Now, Sir, I do not apprehend this to be the case, because 
I see that he may do a great many things independent of the 
Senate; and with respect to the executive powers of govern- 
ment in which the Senate participate, they can do nothing 
without him. Now I would ask, which is most likely to be 
the tool of the other? Clearly, Sir, he holds the helm, and 
the vessel can proceed neither in one direction nor another, 
without his concurrence. It was expected by many, that 
the cry would have been against the powers of the President 
as a monarchical power; indeed the echo of such sound was 
heard, some time before the rise of the late convention. 
There were men at that time, determined to make an attack 
upon whatever system should be proposed, but they mistook 
the point of direction. Had the President possessed those 
powers, which the opposition on this floor are willing to con- 
sign him, of making treaties, and appointing officers, with 
the advice of a council of State, the clamor would have been, 
that the House of Representatives, and the Senate, were the 
tools of the monarch. This, Sir, is but conjecture, but I leave 
it to those who are acquainted with the current of the poli- 
tics pursued by the enemies to this system, to determine 
whether it is a reasonable conjecture or not. 

The manner of appointing the President of the United 
States, I find, is not objected to, therefore I shall say little on 
that point. But I think it well worth while to state to this 
house, how little the difficulties, even in the most difficult 
part of this system, appear to have been noticed by the hon- 
orable gentlemen in opposition. The Convention, Sir, were 
perplexed with no part of this plan so much as with the mode 

The Debate m the Convention. ^QQ 

of choosing the President of the United States. For my own 
part, I think the most unexceptionable mode, next after the 
one prescribed in this Constitution, would be that practised 
by the eastern States, and the State of New York; yet if 
gentlemen object, that an eighth part of our country forms 
a district too large for elections, how much more would they 
object, if it was extended to the whole Union? On this sub- 
ject, it was the opinion of a great majority in Convention, that 
the thing was impracticable; other embarrassments presented 

Was the President to be appointed by the legislature? was 
he to continue a certain time in office, and afterward was he 
to become inelegible? 

To have the executive officers dependent upon the legisla- 
tive, would certainly be a violation of that principle, so neces- 
sary to preserve the freedom of republics, that the legislative 
and executive powers should be separate and independent. 
Would it have been proper, that he should be appointed 
by the Senate? I apprehend that still stronger objections 
could be urged against that — cabal, intrigue, corruption — 
every thing bad would have been the necessary concomitant 
of every election. 

To avoid the inconveniences already enumerated, and many 
others that might be suggested, the mode before us was 
adopted. By it we avoid corruption, and we are little exposed 
to the lesser evils of party and intrigue; and when the gov- 
ernment shall be organized, proper care will undoubtedly be 
taken to counteract influence even of that nature — the consti- 
tution, with the same view, has directed that the day on 
which the electors shall give their votes, shall be the same 
throughout the United States. I flatter myself the experi- 
ment will be a happy one for our country. 

The choice of this officer is brought as nearly home to the 
people as is practicable; with the approbation of the State 
legislatures, the people may elect with only one remove; for 
"each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature 
thereof may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole 
number of senators and representatives, to which the State 

400 The Debate in the Convention, 

may be entitled in Congress." Under this regulation, it will 
not be easy to corrupt the electors, and there will be little 
time or opportunity for tumult or intrigue. This, Sir, will 
not be like the elections of a Polish diet, begun in noise and 
ending in bloodshed. 

If gentlemen will look into this article, and read for them- 
selves, they will find that there is no well-grounded reason 
to suspect the President will be the /cc/of the Senate. "The 
President shall be commander in chief of the army and navy 
of the United States, and of the milita of the several States, 
when called into the actual service of the United States. 
He may require the opinion in writing of the principal officers 
in each of the executive departments, upon any subject rela- 
tive to the duties of their respective offices; and he shall have 
power to grant reprieves and pardons, for offences against the 
United States." Must the President, after all, be called the 
tool of the Senate ? I do not mean to insinuate that he has 
more powers than he ought to have, but merely to declare, 
that they are of such a nature as to place him above expres- 
sions of contempt. 

There is another power of no small magnitude, entrusted 
to this officer: "He shall take care that the laws be faith- 
fully executed." 

I apprehend, that in the administration of this government, it 
will not be found necessary for the Senate always to sit. I know 
some gentlemen have insinuated and conjectured, that this 
will be the case, but I am inclined to a contrary opinion. If 
they had employment every day, no doubt but it might be the 
wish of the Senate to continue their session; but from the 
nature of their business, I do not think it will be necessary 
for them to attend longer than the House of Representatives. 
Besides their legislative powers, they possess three others, 
viz., trying impeachments, concurring in making treaties, and 
in appointing officers. With regard to their power in mak- 
ing treaties, it is of importance that it should be very seldom 
exercised — we are happily removed from the vortex of 
European politics, and the fewer and the more simple our 
negotiations with European powers, the better they will be; 

The Debate in the Convention. 401 

if such be the case, it will be but once in a number of years, 
that a single treaty will come before the Senate. I think, 
therefore, that on this account it will be unnecessary to sit 
constantly. With regard to the trial of impeachments, I 
hope it is what will seldom happen. In this observation, 
the experience of the ten last years supports me. Now there 
is only left the power of concurring in the appointment of 
officers; but care is taken, in this constitution, that this 
branch of business may be done without their presence — the 
President is authorized to fill up all vacancies that may 
happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commis- 
sions, which shall expire at the end of their next session. So 
that on the whole the Senate need not sit longer than the 
House of Representatives, at the public expense; and no 
doubt if apprehensions are entertained of the Senate, the 
House of Representatives will not provide pay for them one 
day longer than is necessary. But what (it will be asked) is 
this great power of the President? he can fill the offices only 
by temporary appointments. True: but every person knows 
the advantage of being once introduced into an office; it is 
often of more importance than the highest recommendation. 

Having now done with the legislative and executive 
branches of this government, I shall just remark, that upon 
the whole of the executive, it appears that the gentlemen in 
opposition state nothing as exceptionable but the deficiency 
of powers in the President; but rather seem to allow some 
degree of political merit in this department of government. 

I now proceed to the judicial department; and here, Mr. 
President, I meet an objection I confess I had not expected; 
and it seems it did not occur to the honorable gentleman 
(Mr. Findley) who made it, until a few days ago. 

He alleges that the judges, under this constitution, are 
not rendered sufficiently independent, because they may hold 
other offices; and though they may be independent as judges, 
yet their other office may depend upon the legislature. I 
confess, sir, this objection appears to me to be a little wire- 
drawn in the first place; the legislature can appoint to no 
office, therefore the dependence could not be on them for the 

402 The Debate in the Convention. 

office, but rather on the President and Senate; but then these 
cannot add the salary, because no money can be appropriated 
but in consequence of a law of the United States. No sine- 
cure can be bestowed on any judge, but by the concurrence 
of the whole legislature and of the President; and I do not 
think this an event that will probably happen. 

It is true, that there is a provision made in the Constitution 
of Pennsylvania, that the judges shall not be allowed to hold 
any other office whatsoever; and I believe they are expressly 
forbidden to sit in Congress; but this, sir, is not introduced 
as a principle into this constitution. There are many States 
in the Union, whose constitutions do not limit the usefulness 
of their best men, or exclude them from rendering such ser- 
vices to their country, for which they are found eminently 
qualified. New York, far from restricting their chancellor 
or judges of the Supreme Court from a seat in Congress, ex- 
pressly provide for sending them there on extraordinary occa- 
sions. In Connecticut, the judges are not precluded from 
enjoying other offices. Judges from many States have sat in 
Congress. Now it is not to be expected, that eleven or 
twelve States are to change their sentiments and practice on 
this subject, to accommodate themselves to Pennsylvania. 

It is again alleged against this system, that the powers of 
the judges are too extensive; but I will not trouble you, sir, 
with a repetition of what I had the honor of delivering the 
other day ; I hope the result of those arguments gave satisfac- 
tion, and proved that the judicial were commensurate with 
the legislative powers; that they went no further, and that 
they ought to go so far. 

The laws of Congress being made for the Union, no par- 
ticular State can be alone affected; and as they are to provide 
for the general purposes of the Union, so ought they to have 
the means of making the provisions effectual, over all that 
country included within the Union. 

Eodem Die^ lyS'/^ P. M. 
Mr. Wilson. I shall now proceed, Mr. President, to notice 
the remainder of the objections that have been suggested, by 

The Debate m the Convention. 403 

the honorable gentlemen who oppose the system now before 

We have been told, Sir, by the honorable member from 
Fayette (Mr. Smilie), "that the trial by ]\iry vfSiS iyitended 
to be given up, and the civil law was intended to be intro- 
duced into its place, in civil cases." 

Before a sentiment of this kind was hazarded, I think. Sir, 
the gentleman ought to be prepared with better proofs in its 
support, than any he has yet attempted to produce. It is a 
charge, Sir, not only unwarrantable, but cruel; the idea of 
such a thing, I believe, never entered into the mind of a 
single member of that convention; and I believe further, that 
they never suspected there would be found within the United 
States, a single person that was capable of making such a 
charge. If it should be well founded. Sir, they must abide 
by the consequences, but if (as I trust it will fully appear) it 
is ill founded, then he or they who make it, ought to abide 
by the consequences. 

Trial by jury forms a large field for investigation, and 
numerous volumes are written on the subject; those who are 
well acquainted with it may employ much time in its discus- 
sion; but in a country where its excellence is so well under- 
stood, it may not be necessary to be very prolix, in pointing 
them out. For my part, I shall confine myself to a few ob- 
servations in reply to the objections that have been suggested. 

The member from Fayette (Mr. Smilie) has labored to in- 
fer, that under the articles of confederation, the Congress 
possessed no appellate jurisdiction; but this being decided 
against him, by the words of that instrument, by which is 
granted to Congress the power of "establishing courts for re- 
ceiving and determining, finally, appeals in all cases of cap- 
ture;" he next attempts a distinction, and allows the power 
of appealing from the decisions of the judges, but not from 
the verdict of a jury; but this is determined against him also, 
by the practice of the States; for in every instance which has 
occurred, this power has been claimed by Congress, and ex- 
ercised, by the court of appeals; but what would be the con- 
sequences of allowing the doctrine for which he contends? 

404 The Debate in the Convention. 

Would it not be in the power of a jury, by their verdict, to 
involve the whole Union in a war? They may condemn the 
property of a natural, or otherwise infringe the law of nations; 
in this case ought their verdict to be without revisal? Noth- 
ing can be inferred from this, to prove that trials by jury 
were intended to be given up. In Massachusetts, and all the 
Eastern States, these causes are tried by juries, though they 
acknowledge the appellate jurisdiction of Congress. 

I think I am not now to learn the advantages of a trial by 
jury; it has excellencies that entitle it to a superiority over 
any other mode, in cases to which it is applicable. 

When jurors can be acquainted with the characters of the 
parties and the witnesses, where the whole cause can be 
brought within their knowledge and their view, I know no 
mode of investigation equal to that by a jury: they hear every 
thing that is alleged ; they not only hear the words, but they 
see and mark the features of the countenance; they can judge 
of weight due to such testimony; and moreover, it is a cheap 
and expeditious manner of distributing justice. There is an- 
other advantage annexed to the trial by jury; the jurors may 
indeed return a mistaken, or ill founded verdict, but their 
errors cannot be systematical. 

Let us apply these observations to the objects of the judi- 
cial department, under this constitution. I think it has been 
shewn already, that they all extend beyond the bounds of 
any particular State; but further, a great number of the civil 
causes there enumerated, depend either upon the law of 
nations, or the marine law, that is, the general law of mer- 
cantile countries. Now, Sir, in such causes, I presume it 
will not be pretended that this mode of decision ought to be 
adopted; for the law with regard to them is the same here 
as in every other country, and ought to be administered in the 
same manner. There are instances, in which I think it 
highly probable, that the trial by jury will be found proper; 
and if it is highly probable that it will be found proper, is 
it not equally probable, that it will be adopted? There may 
be causes depending between citizens of different States, and 
as trial by jury is known and regarded in all the States, they 

The Debate in the Convention. 405 

will certainly prefer that mode of trial before any other. 
The Congress will have the power of making proper regula- 
tions on this subject, but it was impossible for the convention 
to have gone minutely into it; but if they could, it must 
have been very improper, because alterations, as I observed 
before, might have been necessary; and whatever the con- 
vention might have done would have continued unaltered, 
unless by an alteration of the Constitution. Besides, there 
was another difficulty with regard to this subject. In some 
of the States they have courts of chancery, and other appel- 
late jurisdictions, and those State are as attached to that 
mode of distributing justice, as those that have none are to 

I have desired, repeatedly, that honorable gentlemen, who 
find fault, would be good enough to point out what they deem 
to be an improvement. The member from Westmoreland 
(Mr. Findley) tells us, that the trial between citizens of dif- 
ferent States ought to be by a jury of that State in which the 
cause of action arose. Now it is easy to see, that in many 
instances, this would be very improper and very partial ; for 
beside the different manner of collecting and forming juries 
in the several States, the plaintiff comes from another State; 
he comes a stranger, unknown as to his character or mode of 
life, while the other party is in the midst of his friends, or 
perhaps his dependents. Would a trial by jury in such a 
case ensure justice to the stranger? But again; I would ask 
that gentleman, whether if a great part of his fortune was in 
the hands of some person in Rhode Island, he would wish 
that his action to recover it, should be determined by a jury 
of that country, under its present circumstances? 

The gentleman from Fayette (Mr. Smilie) says, that if the 
convention found themselves embarrassed, at least they might 
have done thus much — they should have declared, that the sub- 
stance should be secured by Congress; this would be saying 
nothing unless the cases were particularized. 

Mr. Smilie. I said the convention ought to have declared, 
that the legislature should establish the trial by jury by 
proper regulations. 

4o6 The Debate in the Convention. 

Mr. Wilson, The legislature shall establish it by proper 
regulations ! So after all, the gentleman has landed us at the 
very point from which we set out. He wishes them to do the 
very thing they have done, to leave it to the discretion of 
Congress. The fact, sir, is, nothing more could be done. 

It is well known, that there are some cases that should not 
come before juries; there are others, that in some of the 
States never come before juries, and in those States where 
they do come before them, appeals are found necessary, the 
facts re-examined, and the verdict of the jury sometimes is 
set aside; but I think in all cases, where the cause has come 
originally before a jury, that the last examination ought to 
be before a jury likewise. 

The power of having appellate jurisdiction, as to facts, has 
been insisted upon as a proof, "that the convention intended 
to give np the trial by jury in civil cases, and to introduce 
the civil law." I have already declared my own opinion on 
this point, and have shown, not merely, that it is founded on 
reason and authority. The express declaration of Congress * 
is to the same purpose: They insist upon this power, as re- 
quisite to preserve the peace of the Union; certainly, there- 
fore, it ought always to be possessed by the head of the con- 

We are told, as an additional proof, that the trial by jury 
was intended to be given up, "that appeals are unknown to 
the common law; that the term is a civil law term, and with 
it the civil law is intended to be introduced." I confess I 
was a good deal surprised at this observation being made; for 
Blackstone, in the very volume which the honorable member 
(Mr. Smilie) had in his hand and read us several extracts 
from, has a chapter entitled "of proceeding in the nature of 
appeals; " and in that chapter says, that the principal method 
of redress for erroneous judgments in the king's courts of re- 
cord, is by writ of error to some superior ^^ court of appeal.'' '''\ 
Now, it is well known, that his book is a commentary upon 
the common law. Here then is a strong refutation of the as- 
sertion, "that appeals are unknown to the common law." 

♦Journals of Congress, March 6, 1779. '\lll. Blackstone, 406. 

The Debate in the Convention. 407 

I think these were all the circumstances adduced to show 
the truth of the assertion that in this constitution, the trial 
by jury was intended to be given up by the late convention 
in framing it. Has the assertion been proved? I say not, 
and the allegations offered, if they apply at all, apply in a 
contrary direction. I am glad that this objection has been 
stated, because it is a subject upon which the enemies of this 
constitution have much insisted. We have now had an 
opportunity of investigating it fully, and the result is, that 
there is no foundation for the charge, but it must proceed 
from ignorance or something worse. 

I go on to another objection which has been taken to this 
system, "that the expense of the general government and of 
the State governments, will be too great, and that the citi- 
zens will not be able to support them." If the State govern- 
ments are to continue as cumbersome and expensive as they 
have hitherto been, I confess it would be distressing to add 
to their expenses, and yet it might be necessary; but I think 
I can draw a different conclusion on this subject, from more 
conjectures than one. The additional revenue to be raised 
by a general government, will be more than sufficient for the 
additional expense; and a great part of that revenue may be 
so contrived as not to be taken from the citizens of this 
country; fori am not of opinion that the consumer always 
pays the impost that is laid on imported articles; it is paid 
sometimes by the importer, and sometimes by the foreign 
merchant who sends them to us. Had a duty of this nature 
been laid at the time of the peace, the greatest part of it 
would have been the contribution of foreigners. Besides, 
whatever is paid by the citizens is a vQhx'iiX.Qsy payment. 

I think. Sir, it would be very easy and laudable, to lessen 
the expenses of the State governments. I have been told (and 
perhaps it is not very far from the truth), that there are two 
thousand members of assembly in the several States; the busi- 
ness of revenue is done in consequence of requisitions from 
Congress, and whether it is furnished or not, it commonly 
becomes a subject of discussion. Now when this business is 
executed by the legislature of the United States, I leave it to 

4o8 The Debate in the Convention. 

those who are acquainted with the expense of long and fre- 
quent sessions of assembly, to determine the great saving that 
will take place. Let me appeal to the citizens of Pennsyl- 
vania how much time is taken up in this State every year, if 
not every session, in providing for the payment of an amazing 
interest due on her funded debt. There will be many sources 
of revenue, and many opportunities for economy, when the 
business of finance shall be administered under one govern- 
ernment; the funds will be more productive, and the taxes, in 
all probability, less burthensome than they are now. 

I proceed to another objection that is taken against the 
power given to Congress, of raising and keeping up standing 
armies. I confess I have been surprised that this objection 
was ever made, but I am more so that it is still repeated and 
insisted upon. I have taken some pains to inform myself 
how the other governments of the world stand with regard to 
this power; and the result of my enquiry is, that there is not 
one which has not the power of raising and keeping up stand- 
ing armies. A government without the power of defence ! — it 
is a solecism ! 

I well recollect the principle insisted upon by the patriotic 
body in Great Britain ; it is that in time of peace a standing 
army ought not to be kept up without the consent of parlia- 
ment. Their only apprehension appears to be that it might 
be dangerous, was the army kept up without the concurrence 
of the representatives of the people. Sir, we are not in the 
millennium. Wars may happen — and when they do happen, 
who is to have the power of collecting and appointing the 
force then become immediately and indispensably necessary? 

It is not declared in this constitution that the Congress shall 
raise and support armies. No, Sir, if they are not driven to 
it by necessity, why should we suppose they would do it by 
choice, any more than the representatives of the same citizens 
in the State legislatures? for we must not lose sight of the 
great principle upon which this work is founded. The au- 
thority here given to the general government flows from the 
same source as that placed in the legislatures of the several 

The Debate in the Convention. 409 

It may be frequently necessary to keep up standing armies 
in time of peace. The present Congress have experienced the 
necessity; and seven hundred troops are just as much a stand- 
ing army as seventy thousand. The principle which sustains 
them is precisely the same. They may go further, and raise 
an army without communicating to the public the purpose 
for which it is raised. On a particular occasion they did this: 
When the commotions existed in Massachusetts, they gave 
orders for enlisting an additional body of two thousand men. 
I believe it is not generally known on what a perilous tenure 
we held our freedom and independence at that period. The 
flames of internal insurrection were ready to burst out in 
every quarter; they were fanned by the correspondents of 
some State officers (to whom an allusion was made on a former 
day) and from one end to the other of the continent, we 
walked on ashes, concealing fire beneath our feet: and ought 
Congress to be deprived of power to prepare for the defence 
and safety of our country? Ought they to be restrained from 
arming until they divulge the motive which induced them to 
arm? I believe 'Cix^ power oi raising and keeping up an army 
in time of peace is essential to every government. No gov- 
ernment can secure its citizens against dangers, internal and 
external, without possessing it, and sometimes carrying it 
into execution. I confess it is a power in the exercise of 
which all wise and moderate governments will be as prudent 
and forbearing as possible. When we consider the situation 
of the United States, we must be satisfied that it will be nec- 
essary to keep up some troops for the protection of the west- 
ern frontiers and to secure our interest in the internal naviga- 
tion of that country. It will be not only necessary, but it 
will be economical on the great scale. Our enemies finding 
us invulnerable, will not attack us, and we shall thus prevent 
the occasion for larger standing armies. I am now led to 
consider another charge that is brought against this system. 

It is said, that Congress should not possess the power of 
calling out the militia, to execute the laws of the Union, sup- 
press insurrections and repel invasions, nor the President 
have the command of them, when called out for such pur- 

4IO The Debate in the Convention. 

I believe any gentleman who possesses military experience 
will inform you, that men without an uniformity of arms, 
accoutrements and discipline, are no more than a mob in a 
camp: that in the field, instead of assisting, they interfere 
with one another. If a soldier drops his musquet, and his 
companion, unfurnished with one, takes it up, it is of no ser- 
vice, because his cartridges do not fit it. By means of this 
system, a uniformity of arms and discipline will prevail 
throughout the United States. 

I really expected that for this part of the system at least, 
the framers of it would have received plaudits,' instead of cen- 
sures, as they here discover a strong anxiety to have this 
body put upon an effective footing, and thereby, in a great 
measure, to supersede the necessity of raising, or keeping up, 
standing armies. 

The militia formed under this system, and trained by the 
several States, will be such a bulwark of internal strength, as 
to prevent the attacks of foreign enemies. I have been told, 
that about the year 1744, an attack was intended by France 
upon Massachusetts Bay, but was given up on reading the 
militia law of that province. 

If a single State could deter an enemy from such attempts, 
what influence will the proposed arrangement have upon the 
different powers of Europe ! 

In every point of view, this regulation is calculated to pro- 
duce the best effects. How powerful and respectable must 
the body of militia appear, under general and uniform regu- 
lations ! how disjointed, weak and inefficient are they at pre- 
sent ! I appeal to military experience for the truth of my ob- 

The next objection, Sir, is a serious one indeed; it was 
made by the honorable gentleman from Fayette (Mr. Smilie): 
"The Convention knew this was not a free government, 
otherwise they would not have asked the powers of the purse 
and sword." I would beg to ask the gentleman, what free 
government he knows that has not the powers of both? There 
was indeed a government under which we unfortunately 
were for a few years past, that had them not, but it does not 

The Debate in the Convention. 411 

now exist. A government without those powers, is one of 
the improvements with which the opposition wish to astonish 

Have not the freest governments those powers? and are 
they not in the fullest exercise of them? This is a thing so 
clear, that really it is impossible to find facts or reason more 
clear, in order to illustrate it. Can we create a government 
without the power to act; how can it act without the assist- 
ance of men ? and how are men to be procured without being 
paid for their services? is not the one power the consequence 
of the other? 

We are told, and it is the last and heaviest charge, " that 
this government is an aristocracy, and was intended so to be 
by the late Convention;" and we are told (the truth of which 
is not disputed) that an aristocratical government is incom- 
patible with freedom. I hope, before this charge is believed, 
some stronger reasons will be given in support of it, than any 
that have yet been produced. 

The late Convention were assembled to devise some plan 
for the security, safety and happiness of the people of the 
United States; if they have devised a plan that robs them 
of their power, and constitutes an aristocracy, they are the 
parricides of their country, and ought to be punished as such. 
What part of this system is it that warrants the charge ? 

What is an aristocratic government ? I had the honor of 
giving a definition of it at the beginning of our debates; it 
is, Sir, the government of a few over the many, elected by 
themselves, or possessing a share in the government by in- 
heritance, or in consequence of territorial rights, or some 
quality independent of the choice of the people; this is an 
aristocracy, and this constitution is said to be an aristocrati- 
cal form of government, and it is also said that it was in- 
tended so to be by the members of the late convention who 
framed it. What peculiar rights have been reserved to any 
class of men, on any occasion ? Does even the first magistrate 
of the United States draw to himself a single privilege, or 
security, that does not extend to every person throughout the 
United States ? Is there a single distinction attached to him 

412 The Debate in the Convention. 

ill this system, more than there is to the lowest officer in the 
republic? Is there an office from which any one set of men 
whatsoever are excluded ? Is there one of any kind in this 
system but is as open to the poor as to the rich? to the in- 
habitant of the country, as well as to the inhabitant of the 
city? and are the places of honor and emoluments confined 
to a few? and are these few the members of the late Conven- 
tion ? Have they made any particular provisions in favor of 
themselves, their relations, or their posterity? If they have 
committed their country to the demon of aristocracy, have 
they not committed themselves also, with everything they 
held near and dear to them ? 

Far, far other is the genius of this system. I have had 
already the honor of mentioning its general nature; but I will 
repeat it. Sir. In its principle, it is purely democratical ; 
but its parts are calculated in such manner as to obtain those 
advantages also, which are peculiar to the other forms of 
government in other countries. By appointing a single 
magistrate, we secure strength, vigor, energy and responsi- 
bility in the executive department. By appointing a senate, 
the members of which are elected for six years, yet by a rota- 
tion already taken notice of they are changing every second 
year, we secure the benefit of experience, while, on the other 
hand, we avoid the inconveniences that arise from a long and 
detached establishment. This body is periodically reno- 
vated from the people, like a tree, which, at the proper sea- 
son, receives its nourishment from its parent earth. 

In the other branch of the legislature, the House of Repre- 
sentatives, shall we not have the advantages of benevolence 
and attachment to the people, whose immediate representa- 
tives they are ? 

A free government has often been compared to a pyramid. 
This allusion is made with peculiar propriety in the system 
before you: it is laid on the broad basis of the people; its 
powers gradually rise, while they are confined, in proportion 
as they ascend, until they end in that most permanent of all 
forms. When you examine all its parts, they will invariably 
be found to preserve that essential mark of free governments, 
a chain of connection with the people. 

The Debate in the Converition. 413 

Such, Sir, is the nature of this system of government; but 
the important question at length presents itself to our view, 
Shall it be ratified, or shall it be rejected by this Convention ? 
In order to enable us still further to form a judgment on this 
truly momentous and interesting point, on which all we have 
or can have dear to us on earth is materially depending, let 
us for a moment consider the consequences that will result 
from one or the other measure. Suppose we reject this system 
of government, what will be the consequences? Let the 
farmer say; he whose produce remains unasked for, nor can 
he find a single market for its consumption, though his fields 
are blessed with luxuriant abundance. Let the manufacturer 
and let the mechanic say; they can feel and tell their feelings. 
Go along the warves of Philadelphia, and observe the melan- 
choly silence that reigns. I appeal not to those who enjoy 
places and abundance under the present government; they 
may well dilate upon the easy and happy situation of our 
country. Let the merchants tell you, what is our commerce; 
let them say what has been their situation, since the return 
of peace: an sera which they might have expected would have 
furnished additional sources to our trade, and a continuance, 
and even an increase to t-heir fortunes. Have these ideas 
been realized, or do they not lose some of their capital in 
every adventure, and continue the unprofitable trade from 
year to year, subsisting under the hopes of happier times 
under an efficient general government? The ungainful trade 
carried on by our merchants, has a baneful influence on the 
interests of the manufacturer, the mechanic, and the farmer, 
and these I believe are the chief interests of the people of the 
United States. 

I will go further — is there now a government among us 
that can do a single act, that a national government ought 
to do? Is there any power of the United States that can 
commaitd a single shilling? This is a plain and a home ques- 

Congress may recommend; they can do more, they may 
require; but they must not proceed one step further. If 
things are bad now, and that they are not worse, is only 

414 The Debate in the Convention. 

owing to hopes of improvement, or change in the system. 
Will they become better when those hopes are disappointed ? 
We have been told, by honorable gentlemen on this floor 
(Mr. Smilie, Mr. Findley and Mr. Whitehill), that it is im- 
proper to urge this kind of argument in favor of a new system 
of government, or against the old one. Unfortunately, Sir, 
these things are too severely felt to be omitted; the people 
feel them; they pervade all classes of citizens and every 
situation from New Hampshire to Georgia; the argument 
of necessity is the patriot's defence, as well as the tyrant's 

Is it likely. Sir, that if this system of government is rejected, 
a better will be framed and adopted? I will not expatiate on 
this subject, but I believe many reasons will suggest them- 
selves to prove that such an expectation would be illusory. 
If a better could be obtained at a future time, is there any- 
thing essentially wrong in this? I go further: is there any- 
thing wrong that cannot be amended more easily by the mode 
pointed out in the system itself, than could be done by calling 
convention after convention before the organization of the 
government? Let us now turn to the consequences that will 
result if we assent to, and ratify the instrument before you; I 
shall trace them as concisely as I can, because I have tres- 
passed already too long on the patience and indulgence of the 

I stated on a former occasion one important advantage: by 
adopting this system we become a nation; at present we are 
not one. Can we perform a single national act ? can we do 
anything to procure us dignity, or to preserve peace and tran- 
quility? can we relieve the distress of our citizens? can we 
provide for their welfare or happiness ? The powers of our 
government are mere sound. If we offer to treat with a 
nation, we receive this humiliating answer, "You cannot in 
propriety of language make a treaty — because you have no 
power to execute it." Can we borrow money? There are 
too many examples of unfortunate creditors existing, both on 
this and the other side of the Atlantic, to expect success from 
this expedient. But could we borrow money, we cannot 

The Debate in the Convention. 415 

command a fund to enable us to pay either the principal or 
interest; for in instances where our friends have advanced the 
principal, they have been obliged to advance the interest also 
in order to prevent the principal from being annihilated in 
their hands by depreciation. Can we raise an army? The 
prospect of a war is highly probable. The accounts we re- 
ceive by every vessel from Europe mention that the highest 
exertions are making in the ports and arsenals of the greatest 
maritime powers ; but whatever the consequence may be, are 
we to lay supine? We know we are unable under the articles 
of confederation to exert ourselves; and shall we continue so 
until a stroke be made on our commerce, or we see the 
debarkation of an hostile army on our unprotected shores? 
Who will guarantee that our property will not be laid waste, 
that our towns will not be put under contribution, by a small 
naval force, and subjected to all the horror and devastation 
of war? May not this be done without opposition, at least 
effectual opposition, in the present situation of our country? 
There may be safety over the Appalachian mountains, but 
there can be none on our sea coast. With what propriety can 
we hope our flag will be respected while we have not a single 
gun to fire in its defence ? 

Can we expect to make internal improvement, or accom- 
plish any of those great national objects which I formerly 
alluded to, when we cannot find money to remove a single 
rock out of a river? 

This system, Sir, will at least make us a nation, and put it 
in the power of the Union to act as such. We will be con- 
sidered as such by every nation in the world. We will regain 
the confidence of our own citizens, and command the respect 
of others. 

As we shall become a nation, I trust that we shall also form 
a national character; and that this character will be adapted 
to the principles and genius of our system of government: as 
yet we possess none — our language, manners, customs, habits 
and dress, depend too much upon those of other countries. 
Every nation in these respects should possess originality. 
There are not on any part of the globe finer qualities, for 

4i6 The Debate in the Convention. 

forming a national character, than those possessed by the 
children of America. Activity, perseverance, industry, laud- 
able emulation, docility in acquiring information, firmness in 
adversity, and patience and magnanimity under the greatest 
hardships; from these materials, what a respectable national 
character may be raised ! In addition to this character, I 
think there is strong reason to believe that America may take 
the lead in literary improvements and national importance. 
This is a subject which I confess I have spent much pleasing 
time in considering. That language, Sir, which shall become 
most generally known in the civilized world, will impart great 
importance over the nation that shall use it. The language 
of the United States will in future times be diffused over a 
greater extent of country than any other that we now know. 
The French, indeed, have made laudable attempts toward 
establishing an universal language; but beyond the boundaries 
of France, even the French language is not spoken by one in 
a thousand. Besides the freedom of our country, the great 
improvements she has made and will make in the science of 
government will induce the patriots and literati of every 
nation, to read and understand our writings on that subject, 
and hence it is not improbable that she will take the lead in 
political knowledge. 

If we adopt this system of government, I think we may 
promise security, stability and tranquility to the governments 
of the different States. They will not be exposed to the 
danger of competition on questions of territory, or any other 
that have heretofore disturbed them. A tribunal is here 
founded to decide, justly and quietly, any interfering claim; 
and now is accomplished, what the great mind of Henry the 
IV. of France had in contemplation, a system of govern- 
ment, for large and respectable dominions, united and bound 
together in peace, under a superintending head, by which 
all their differences may be accommodated, without the des- 
truction of the human race ! We are told by Sully, that this 
was the favorite pursuit of that good king during the last 
years of his life, and he would probably have carried it into 
execution, had not the dagger of an assassin deprived the 

The Debate in the Convention. 


world of his valuable life. I have, with pleasing emotion, 
seen the wisdom and beneficence of a less efficient power 
under the articles of confederation, in the determination of 
the controversy between the States of Pennsylvania and Con- 
necticut; but, I have lamented that the authority of Congress 
did not extend to extinguish, entirely, the spark which has 
kindled a dangerous flame in the district of Wyoming. 

Let gentlemen turn their attention to the amazing con- 
sequences which this principle will have in this extended 
country — the several States cannot war with each other; the 
general government is the great arbiter in contentions be- 
tween them ; the whole force of the Union can be called forth 
to reduce an aggressor to reason. What a happy exchange 
for the disjointed, contentious State sovereignties ! 

The adoption of this system will also secure us from dan- 
ger, and procure us advantage from foreign nations. This, 
in our sitution, is of great consequence. We are still an in- 
viting object to one European power at least, and, if we can- 
not defend ourselves, the temptation may become too allur- 
ing to be resisted. I do not mean, that, with an efficient 
government, we should mix with the commotions of Europe. 
No, Sir, we are happily removed from them, and are not 
obliged to throw ourselves into the scale with any. This sys- 
tem will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard 
against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a 
single body of men, to involve us in such distress, for the 
important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature 
at large; — this declaration must be made with the concur- 
rence of the House of Representatives; from this circum- 
stance we may draw a certain conclusion, that nothing but 
our national interest can draw us into a war. I cannot for- 
bear, on this occasion, the pleasure of mentioning to you the 
sentiments of the great and benevolent man whose works I 
have already quoted on another subject; Mr. Neckar has ad- 
dressed this country, in language important and applicable in 
the strictest degree to its situation and to the present subject. 
Speaking of war, and the great caution that all nations ought 
to use in order to avoid its calamities, "And you, rising 

4i8 The Debate in ihe Conveniion. 

nation," says he, " whom generous efforts have freed from the 
yoke of Europe ! let the universe be struck with still greater 
reverence at the sight of the privileges you have acquired, by 
seeing you continually employed for the public felicity: do 
not offer it as a sacrifice at the unsettled shrine of political 
ideas, and of the deceitful combinations of warlike ambition; 
avoid, or at least delay participating in the passions of our 
hemisphere; make your own advantage of the knowledge 
which experience alone has given to our old age, and preserve 
for a long time, the simplicity of childhood: in short, honor 
human nature, by shewing that when lost to its own feelings, 
it is still capable of those virtues that maintain public order, 
and of that prudence which insures public tranquillity." 

Permit me to offer one consideration more that ought to in- 
duce our acceptance of this system. I feel myself lost in the 
contemplation of its magnitude. By adopting this system, 
we shall probably lay a foundation for erecting temples of 
liberty in every part of the earth. It has been thought by 
many, that on the success of the struggle America has made 
for freedom, will depend the exertions of the brave and en- 
lightened of other nations. The advantages resulting from 
this system will not be confined to the United States; it will 
draw from Europe, many worthy characters, who pant for 
the enjoyment of freedom. It will induce princes, in order 
to preserve their subject, to restore to them a portion of that 
liberty of which they have for so many ages been deprived. 
It will be subservient to the great designs of providence, with 
regard to this globe; the multiplication of mankind, their 
improvement in knowledge, and their advancement in happi- 

Wednesday^ December 12^ ^ySy. 

[With the speeches of Wilson and M'Kean the report of 
Lloyd ceases. Of the proceedings on the 12th he makes no 
mention. The newspapers then are the only source of in- 
formation, and of these the Packet is the fullest.] 

On Wednesday Mr. Findley in the course of an eloquent 
and argumentative speech, suddenly introduced the following 
observation : ' ' Mr. President, I have observed a person who 

The Debate in the Convention. 


h^s introduced himself among the members of this conven- 
tion, laughing for some time at everything I have said. This 
conduct does not, Sir, proceed from a superiority of under- 
standing, but from the want of a sense of decency and order. 
If he were a member, I should certainly call him to order; 
but as it is, I shall be satisfied with despising him. 

"What," said Mr. Findley, "would we have thought of 
Congress, if at the time that body made the requisition for 
an impost of five per cent., the powers and jurisdiction con- 
tained in the proposed plan had been required? It would 
have been thought at once imprudent and ridiculous. How 
great then is the revolution of our sentiments in so short a 
space of time !" 

In the course of the desultory debate which took place im- 
mediately before the vote of adoption and ratification, Mr. 
M'Kean pronounced an animated eulogium on the character, 
information and abilities of Mr. George Mason, but concluded 
that the exclusion of juries in civil causes was not among the 
objections which had governed his conduct. On this assertion 
Mr. Whitehill quoted the following passage from Mr. Mason's 
objections: "There is no declaration of any kind for preserv- 
ing the liberty of the press, the trial by jury in civil causes^ nor 
against the danger of standing armies in time of peace." 

On Wednesday morning Mr. Findley closed his arguments 
in opposition to the proposed Federal system, and in the 
afternoon Mr. Smilie, taking a general view of the subject, 
stated briefly the leading principles which influenced his vote. 
The important question was now called for, when Doctor 
Rush requested the patience of the Convention for a few min- 
utes. He then entered into a metaphysical argument, to 
prove that the morals of the people had been corrupted by the 
imperfections of the government; and while he ascribed all 
our vices and distresses to the existing system, he predicted 
a millennium of virtue and happiness as the necessary conse- 
quence of the proposed Constitution. To illustrate the de- 
praved state of society, he remarked, among other things, the 
disregard which was notorious in matters of religion, so that 
between the congregation and the minister scarcely any com- 

420 The Debate in the Conventio7i. 

munication or respect remained; nay, the Doctor evinced 
that they were not bound by the ties of common honesty, on 
the evidence of two facts, from which it appears that several 
clergymen had been lately cheated by their respective flocks 
of the wages due for their pastoral care and instruction. 
Doctor Rush then proceeded to consider the origin of the pro- 
posed system, and fairly deduced it from heaven, asserting 
that he as much believed the hand of God was employed in 
this work, as that God had divided the Red Sea to give a pas- 
sage to the children of Israel, or had fulminated the ten com- 
mandments from Mount Sinai ! Dilating sometime upon this 
new species of divine right^ thus transmitted to the future 
governors of the Union, he made a pathetic appeal to the op- 
position, in v/hich he deprecated the consequences of any 
further contention, and pictured the honorable and endearing 
effects of an unanimous vote, after the full and fair investiga- 
tion which the great question had undergone. " It is not. 
Sir, a majority, (continued the Doctor) however numerous 
and respectable, that can gratify my wishes — nothing short 
of an unanimous vote can indeed complete my satisfaction. 
And, permit me to add, were that event to take place, I could 
not preserve the strict bounds of decorum, but, flying to the 
other side of this room, cordially embrace every member, who 
has hitherto been in opposition, as a brother and a patriot. 
Let us then. Sir, this night bury the hatchet, and smoke the 
calumet of peace ! ' ' When Dr. Rush had concluded, Mr. 
Chambers remarked upon the Doctor's wish of conciliation 
and unanimity, that it was an event which he neither ex- 
pected nor wished for. Mr. Whitehill now rose, and having 
animadverted upon Dr. Rush's metaphysical arguments, and 
regretted that so imperfect a work should have been ascribed 
to God, he presented several petitions from 750 inhabitants 
of Cumberland county, praying, for the reasons therein speci- 
fied, that the proposed Constitution should not be adopted 
without amendments, and particularly, without a bill of 
rights. The petitions being read from the chair, Mr. M'Kean 
said he was sorry at this stage of the business so improper an 
attempt should be made. He repeated that the duty of the 

The Debate in the Convention. 421 

Convention was circumscribed to the adoption or rejection of 
the proposed plan, and such had certainly been the sense of 
the members, when it was agreed that only one question 
could be taken on the important subject before us. He hoped, 
therefore, that the petitions would not be attended to. Mr. 
Whitehill then read, and offered as the ground of a motion 
for adjourning to some remote day the consideration of the 
following articles, which, he said, might either be taken col- 
lectively, as a bill of rights, or, separately, as amendments to 
the general form of government proposed. 

1. The rights of conscience shall be held inviolable, and 
neither the legislative, executive nor judicial powers of the 
United States shall have authority to alter, abrogate or in- 
fringe any part of the constitutions of the several States, 
which provide for the preservation of liberty in matters of 

2. That in controversies respecting property and in suits 
between man and man, trial by jury shall remain as hereto- 
fore, as well in the federal courts, as in those of the several 

3. That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man has 
a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, as 
well in the federal courts, as in those of the several States; 
to be heard by himself or his counsel; to be confronted with 
the accusers and witnesses; to call for evidence in his favor, 
and a speedy trial, by an impartial jury of the vicinage, with- 
out whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor 
can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no 
man be deprived of his liberty, except by the law of the land 
or the judgment of his peers. 

4. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor exces- 
sive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments inflicted. 

5. That warrants unsupported by evidence, whereby any 
officer or messenger may be commanded or required to search 
suspected places, or to seize any person or persons, his or 
their property, not particularly described, are grievous and 
oppressive, and shall not be granted either by the magistrates 
of the federal government or others. 

422 The Debate in the Coiivention. 

6. That the people have a right to the freedom of speech, 
of writing and of publishing their sentiments; therefore, the 
freedom of the press shall not be restrained by any law of the 
United States. 

7. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence 
of themselves and their own State, or the United States, or 
for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed 
for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes 
committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals; 
and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to 
liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military 
shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed 
by the civil power. 

8. The inhabitants of the several States shall have liberty 
to fowl and hunt in seasonable times on the lands they hold, 
and on all other lands in the United States not inclosed, and 
in like manner to fish in all navigable waters, and others not 
private property, without being restrained therein by any laws 
to be passed by the legislature of the United States. 

9. That no law shall be passed to restrain the legislatures 
of the several States from enacting laws for imposing taxes, 
except imposts and duties on goods exported and imported, 
and that no taxes, except imposts and duties upon goods im- 
ported and exported and postage on letters, shall be levied by 
the authority of Congress. 

10. That elections shall remain free, that the house of rep- 
resentatives be properly increased in number, and that the 
several States shall have power to regulate the elections for 
senators and representatives, without being controlled either 
directly or indirectly by any interference on the part of Con- 
gress, and that elections of representatives be annual. 

11. That the power of organizing, arming and disciplining 
the militia, (the manner of disciplining the militia to be pre- 
scribed by Congress) remain with the individual States, and 
that Congress shall not have authority to call or march any 
of the militia out of their own State, without the consent of 
such State, and for such length of time only as such State 
shall agree. 

The Debate in the Convention. 423 

12. That the legislative, executive, and judicial powers be 
kept separate, and to this end, that a constitutional council 
be appointed to advise and assist the President, who shall be 
responsible for the advice they give (hereby, the senators 
would be relieved from almost constant attendance); and also 
that the judges be made completely independent. 

13. That no treaties which shall be directly opposed to the 
existing law^s of the United States in Congress assembled, 
shall be valid until such laws shall be repealed or made con- 
formable to such treaty, neither shall any treaties be valid 
which are contradictory to the constitution of the United 
States, or the constitutions of the individual States. 

14. That the judiciary power of the United States shall be 
confined to cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers 
and consuls, to cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, 
to controversies to which the United States shall be a party, 
to controversies between two or more States — between a State 
and citizens of different States — between citizens claiming 
lands under grants of different States, and between a State or 
the citizens thereof and foreign States, and in criminal cases, 
to such only as are expressly enumerated in the constitution, 
and that the United States in Congress assembled, shall not 
have power to enact laws, which shall alter the laws of 
descents and distributions of the effects of deceased persons, 
the title of lands or goods, or the regulation of contracts in 
the individual States. 

15. That the sovereignty, freedom and independency of 
the several States shall be retained, and every power, juris- 
diction and right which is not by this constitution expressly 
delegated to the United States in Congress assembled. 

Some confusion arose on these articles being presented to 
the chair, objections were made by the majority to their being 
officially read, and, at last, Mr. Wilson desired that the in- 
tended motion might be reduced to writing, in order to ascer- 
tain its nature and extent. Accordingly, Mr. Whitehill drew 
it up, and it was read from the chair in the following manner: 

"That this Convention do adjourn to the day of 

next, then to meet in the city of Philadelphia, in 

424 ^^^^ Debate in the Convention. 

order that the propositions for amending the proposed consti- 
tution may be considered by the people of this State; that 
we may have an opportunity of knowing- what amendments 
or alterations may be proposed by other States, and that these 
propositions, together with such other amendments as may 
be proposed by other States, may be offered to Congress, and 
taken into consideration by the United States, before the pro- 
posed constitution shall be finally ratified." 

As soon as the motion was read, ]\Ir. Wilson said he re- 
joiced that it was by this means ascertained upon what prin- 
ciples the opposition proceeded, for, he added, the evident 
operation of such a motion would be to exclude the people 
from the government and to prevent the adoption of this or 
any other plan of confederation. For this reason he was 
happy to find the motion reduced to certainty, that it would 
appear upon the journals, as an evidence of the motives that 
prevailed with those who framed and supported it, and that 
its merited rejection would permanently announce the senti- 
ments of the majority respecting so odious an attempt. Mr. 
Smilie followed Mr. Wilson, declaring that he too rejoiced 
that the motion was reduced to a certainty, from which it 
might appear to their constituents that the sole object of the 
opposition was to consult with and obtain the opinions of the 
people upon a subject, which they had not yet been allowed 
to consider. "If," exclaimed j\Ir. Smilie, "those gentlemen 
who have affected to refer all authority to the people, and to 
act only for the common interest, if they are sincere, let 
them embrace this last opportunity to evince that sincerity. 
They all know the precipitancy with which the measure has 
hitherto been pressed upon the State, and they must be con- 
vinced that a short delay cannot be injurious to the proposed 
government, if it is the wish of the people to adopt it; if it is 
not their wish, a short delay, which enables us to collect their 
real sentiments, may be the means of preventing future con- 
tention and animosity in a community, which is, or ought 
to be, equally dear to us." The question being taken on the 
motion, there appeared for it 23, against it 46. The great 
and conclusive question was then taken, that "this con- 

The Debate in the Convention. 


vention do assent to and ratify the plan of federal govern- 
ment, agreed to and recommended by the late federal con- 
vention?" when the same division took place, and the yeas and 
nays being called by Mr. Smilie and Mr. Chambers, were as 
given in our paper of Thursday last. Yeas 46. Nays 23. 

This important decision being recorded, Mr. M'Kean 
moved that the convention do to-morrow proceed in a body 
to the Court House, there to proclaim the ratification, and 
that the supreme executive council be requested to make the 
necessary arrangements for the procession on that occasion, 
which motion was agreed to, and the convention adjourned 
till the next morning at half-past nine o'clock. 

From the minutes of the convention it appears that the vote 
of each member was, 


George Latimer, 
Benjamin Rush, 
Hilary Baker, 
James Wilson, 
Thomas M'Kean, 
William Macpherson, 
John Hunn, 
George Gray, 
Samuel Ash mead, 
Enoch Edwards, 
Henry Wynkoop, 
John Barclay, 
Thomas Yardley, 
Abraham Stout, 
Thomas Bull, 
Anthony Wayne, 
William Gibbons, 
Richard Downing, 
Thomas Cheyney, 
John Hannum, 
Stephen Chambers, 
Robert Coleman, 
Sebastian Graff. 


John Hubley, 
Jasper Yeates, 
Henry Slagle, 
Thomas Campbell, 
Thomas Hartley, 
David Grier, 
John Black, 
Benjamin Pedan, 
John Arndt, 
Stephen Balliet, 
Joseph Horsfield, 
David Deshler, 
William Wilson, 
John Boyd, 
Thomas Scott, 
John Neville, 
John Allison, 
Jonathan Roberts, 
John Richards, 
F. A. Muhlenberg, 
James Morris, 
Timothy Pickering, 
Benjamin Elliot. 


426 The Debate in the Convention. 


John Whiteliill, William Findley, 

Joliu Harris, John Bard, 

John Reynolds, William Todd, 

Robert Whitehill, James Marshall, 

Jonathan Hoge, James Edgar, 

Nicholas Lutz, Nathaniel Breading, 

John lyudwig, John Smilie, 

Abraham Lincoln, Richard Baird, 

John Bishop, William Brown, 

Joseph Hiester, Adam Orth, 

James Martain, John Andre Hannah. 23. 

Joseph Powell, 

Thursday^ December /j, lySi. 
On Thursday, the convention being assembled, Mr. White- 
hill remarked that the bill of rights, or articles of amend- 
ment, which he had the day before presented to the chair, 
were not inserted upon the journals, together with the reso- 
lution which referred to them. This he declared an improper 
omission, and desired they might be inserted. This was op- 
posed by the majority, but as there was no motion before the 
convention, the president did not see how a determination 
could take place, though he wished to know the sense of the 
members upon this occasion. Mr. Smilie, in consequence of 
this intimation, moved for the insert-ion of Mr. Whitehill's 
articles. ]\Ir. Wilson continued his opposition, and called 
upon Llr. Smilie to reduce his motion to writing. "Indeed, 
sir," observed Mr. Smilie, "I know so well that if the hon- 
orable member from the city says the articles shall not, they 
will not be admitted, that I am not disposed to take the use- 
less trouble of reducing my motion to writing, and therefore 
I withdraw it." Mr. Chambers exclaimed that the member 
from Fayette and his friends might be accustomed to the ar- 
rangement which he alluded to, but neither Mr. Wilson, nor 
those who agreed in sentiments with him, were to be led by a 
mere _/?«/. The form being presented by Mr. LI'Kean, who 
with Mr. Wilson and Mr. Yeates were appointed as a com- 
mittee to prepare it, it was agreed that the convention should 

The Debate in the Convention. 427 

proceed to proclaim the ratification before it was signed, 
which was accordingly done. * 

Joined by the President and Vice-President of the State, 
members of Congress, the faculty of the University, the mag- 
istrates and militia officers of the city, the convention then 
proceeded to the Court House, where the ratification was 
read to a great gathering of people. 
In the procession went 

Constables with their Staves. 

Sub-Sheriffs with their Wands. 

High Sheriff and Coroner with their Wands. 

Judges of the Supreme Court, and Judges of the 

High Court of Errors and Appeals. 

Attorney-General and Prothonotary of the 

Supreme Court. 

Marshal of the Admiralty. 

Judge and Register of the Admiralty. 

Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia. 

Naval Officers, Collectors of the Customs, and 

Tonnage Officer. 

Treasurer and Comptroller-General. 

Secretary of the lyand Office. 

Receiver-General and Surveyor-General. 

Justices of the Peace. 

Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas, and 

Clerk of the Court of Quarter Sessions. 

Clerk of the City Court. 

Master of the Rolls and Register of Wills. 

Assistant Secretary of the Council. 

Secretary of the Council. 

His Excellency the President, and Honorable 

the Vice President. 

Members of the Council, two and two. 

Doorkeeper of the Council. 

Sergeant-at-Arms, with the Mace. 

Secretary of the Convention. 

Honorable the President of the Convention. 

* Pennsylvania Packet, December I4tli. 

428 The Debate in the Convention. 

Members of the Convention, two and two. 

Doorkeeper of the Convention, 

Provost and Faculty of the University. 

Officers of the Militia. 



In the Name of the People of Pennsylvania: 

BE it known unto all men — That we, the delegates of the 
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in general convention as- 
sembled, have assented to and ratified, and by these presents 
do, in the name and the authority of the same people, and 
for ourselves, assent to and ratify the foregoing constitution 
for the United States of America. 

Done in convention the I2tli day of December, in the 
year 1787 and of the Independence of the United States 
of America the twelfth. 
In witness whereof, &c. 

Thirteen cannon were then fired, and the bells were rung 
on this joyful occasion; after this the convention returned to 
the State House and subscribed the two copies of the ratifi- 

On the return of the members to the convention, Mr. Hart- 
ley hoped that the opposition might yet be induced to sign 
the ratification, as a fair and honorable acquiescence in the 
principle that the majority should govern. To which Mr. 
Smilie replied, that speaking for himself, he never would al- 
low his hand, in so gross a manner, to give the lie to his 
heart and tongue. Two copies of the proposed constitution 
were then formally ratified by the members who voted in 
favor of it; Mr. Harris observing, that though he had voted 
against it, and would still abide by that vote so far as to de- 
cline putting his signature to the ratification, yet he did now, 
and always should, consider himself to be bound by the sense 
of the majority of any public body of which he had the honor 
to be appointed a member. The convention then adjourned 
till Friday morning at half past nine o'clock. 

At three o'clock they met and dined with the members 

The Debate in the Convention. 429 

of the supreme executive council, several members of Con- 
gress and a number of citizens, at Mr. Kpple's tavern; where 
the remainder of the day was spent in mutual congratulations 
upon the happy prospect of enjoying, once more, order, jus- 
tice and good government in the United States. The follow- 
ing is the list of the toasts given on the occasion: 

1. The People of the United States. 

2. The President and Members of the late Convention of 
the United States. 

3. The President of the State of Pennsylvania. 

4. May the citizens of America display as much wisdom in 
adopting the proposed Constitution to preserve their liberties, 
as they have shown fortitude in defending them. 

5. May order and justice be the pillars of the American 
Temple of Liberty. 

6. May the agriculture, manufactures and commerce of the 
United States speedily flourish under the new Constitution. 

7. The Congress. 

8. The virtuous minority of Rhode Island. 

9. The powers of Europe in alliance with the United 

10. May the flame, kindled on the Altar of Liberty in 
America, lead the nations of the world to a knowledge of 
their rights and to the means of recovering them. 

11. The memory of the heroes who have sacrificed their 
lives in defence of the liberties of America. 

12. May America diffuse over Europe a greater portion of 
political light than she has borrowed from her. 

13. Peace and free governments to all the nations in the 

Friday^ Decejjiber //, //c?/. 
Friday the Convention appointed a committee to consider 
and report upon the overtures which have been made by the 
county of Philadelphia, and likewise by part of the county of 
Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks united, respecting the 
cession of 10 miles square to the future Congress of the 
United States. This the opposition to the federal system 
deemed a matter upon which the Convention could not, and 


The Debate in the Conveiitio7i. 

ought not to act; for, tliey represented it as a violation of 
the constitution of the State, which still existed, and which 
while in existence, it was the duty of every citizen to support. 
Upon this principle they refused either to vote for or against 
the appointment of a committee, which produced a temporary 
embarrassment, as the majority were not at first agreed in the 
number, but ultimately concurred in making it nine. The 
Convention likewise appointed a committee to receive and 
state an account of their expenses, &c., and then adjourned 
till Saturday at half past nine o'clock. 

Saturday December /j, I'jS'j. 

The Convention met pursuant to adjournment. 

The committee appointed to consider the motion of Mr. 
Wilson relative to a cession, to the United States, of a district 
for the seat of the federal government, report the following 

"That when the Constitution proposed by the late general 
Convention shall have been organized, this commonwealth 
will cede to the Congress of the United States the jurisdic- 
tion over any place in Pennsylvania, not exceeding ten miles 
square, which with the consent of the inhabitants, the Con- 
gress may choose for the seat of the government of the United 
States, excepting only the city of Philadelphia, the district of 
Southwark, and that part of the Northern-Liberties included 
within a line running parallel with Vine street, at the distance 
of one mile northward thereof, from the river Schuylkill to 
the southern side of the main branch of Cohocksink creek, 
thence down the said creek to its junction with the river 
Delaware. But the marsh land and so much of the adjoin- 
ing bank, on the same side of the said creek, as shall be 
necessary for the erecting any dams and works to command 
the water thereof, are excluded from this exception. 

"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Convention, that 
until the Congress shall have made their election of a district, 
for the place of their permanent residence, and provided 
buildings for their accommodation, they have the use of such 
of the public buildings within the city of Philadelphia, or 
any other part of this State, as they shall find necessary. 

The Debate in the Convetition. 431 

" Unanimously Resolved, That the thanks of this Conven- 
tion be presented to the President, for his able and faithful 
discharge of the duties of the Chair." 

To which the President answered: 

"I feel with the utmost gratitude the honor you have just 
now done me, and I shall always esteem your approbation as 
my highest reward for performing my duty to you, or render- 
ing any services to my fellow citizens." 

The Convention then adjourned sine die. 



[As soon as the work of the Convention began, the press, 
and particularly the anti-federal press, teemed with letters, 
squibs, and essays from the people at large. Some were seri- 
ous, some were intended to be satirical or funny, some were 
in verse, and some were exceedingly silly. Yet, taken as a 
whole, they form a running commentary on the work of the 
Convention from day to day, and must be considered as a fair 
expression of what the people as a body thought. To give 
them all is impossible ; a few therefore have been selected, 
and these, it is believed, may be safely regarded as samples 
of all. No attempt has been made to edit them, as they are 
too miscellaneous to allow of such treatment. 

First, in point of time, was a petition drawn up and passed 
round the coffee-houses by those in favor of amending the 
Constitution, or referring it for amendment to a new Con- 

Such of the citizens of Pennsylvania as are not clearly ascer- 
tained of the propriety of adopting the proposed constitu- 
tion, without amendment or farther consideration, may 
think it proper to join in the following petition : 
To the Honorable the Delegates of the State Convention : 
The Petition of the Citizens of Pennsylvania humbly 

That your petitioners, highly sensible of the benefits aris- 
ing from good government, and perceiving that there were 
defects in the federal compact established in the infancy of 
our independency, assented with alacrity to a revision of the 
articles of confederation, in full confidence that such amend- 
ments would be made therein as would give sufficient strength 
and energy to the federal head, without infringing those 

While the Convention was Sitting, 433 

rights of sovereignty in the several States which are neces- 
sary for the purposes of internal government, and the per- 
formance of their respective functions as members of a federal 
union ; or such rights of individuals as are necessary to dis- 
tinguish free citizens from the subjects of despotism. 

That the plan proposed by the general convention, instead 
of offering to our consideration such amendments as were 
generally expected and might be easily understood, contains 
a total abolition of the existing confederation, and is in itself, 
as a late writer expresses it, "a novelty in the practice of 
legislation, essentially different, both in principles and organ- 
ization, from any system of government heretofore formed." 
And although it may be an improvement on all those which 
have preceded it, and better calculated for political happiness 
than our present system of confederation is capable of being 
made, yet your petitioners conceive it is no less the duty than 
the right of every citizen to examine it with care and atten- 
tion, and deliberately consider its probable operations and 
effects before he assents to the adoption of a system of such 
infinite importance. Accident, fraud, or force, may impose 
on a people a system of government to which they will yield 
obedience no longer than they are restrained from opposition 
by a power that deprives them of the freedom of citizens. 
But when a free people deliberately frame a government for 
themselves, or adopt as their deliberate choice a system which 
they have carefully investigated and understand, they are 
bound to the observance of it by other ties than those of fear: 
confident of acting in general concert, and of deriving recip- 
rocal benefits, every individual will then more cheerfully 
yield obedience to the laws and perform the duties of a citi- 
zen. Hence it is of the highest importance that the proposed 
system of government should be well understood by the peo- 
ple in every State before it be adopted. 

But your petitioners conceive that the people of Pennsyl- 
vania have not yet had sufficient time and opportunity 
afibrded them for this purpose. Many of those who have 
had the best opportunity that the shortness of the time would 
admit, find their minds yet unsatisfied on some important 


434 While the Convention was Sitting. 

points, though they may highly approve of the general struc- 
ture; others, who felt a general approbation at first view, 
now think some amendments essentially necessary: but the 
great bulk of the people, from the want of leisure from other 
avocations; their remoteness from information, their scat- 
tered situation, and the consequent difficulty of conferring 
with each other, cannot yet have duly investigated and con- 
sidered a system of so much magnitude, which involves so 
many important considerations as to require not only more 
time than they have yet had since it was promulged, but 
the combined force of many enlightened minds, to obtain a 
right understanding of it. 

Your petitioners hope they shall be excused if they men- 
tion on this occasion some other matters which have retarded 
the calm investigation which a subject of this importance 
ought to receive. The disorderly proceedings in the city, 
and the unaccountable zeal and precipitation used to hurry 
the people into a premature decision, spread an amazement 
through the country, which excited jealousies and suspicions 
from which they could neither easily nor speedily recover. 
Those who became partisans in the business had their minds 
too much agitated to act with deliberation, and the election 
of delegates was rushed into before the greater part of the 
people had sufl&ciently recovered from their surprise to know 
what part to take in it, or how to give their suffrages; they 
therefore remained inactive. Your petitioners wish to be un-- 
derstood, however, as being far from intending to invalidate 
the election, or to intimate any irregularity in the members 
chosen, whom they respect both individually and as a body, 
and in whose desire to promote the welfare and happiness of 
the people they have much confidence; but they conceive it 
will operate as a strong argument in favor of the measure 
they request. 

Your petitioners beg leave to suggest that the suspension 
of your final determination for a few months will not occasion 
any delay to the union, as divers of the States, whose deter- 
minations are of equal importance with that of Pennsylvania, 
will not meet in convention on this business in less than five 

WJiile the Convention was Sitting. 435 

or six months. The people of these States have wisely- 
determined to deliberate before they delegate the power of 
decision. But the people of Pennsylvania, deprived of this 
privilege, are reduced to the necessity of asking as a favor, 
what they ought to have enjoyed as a right, and they 
confide in your wisdom and prudence to afford them an 
opportunity of forming, collecting and expressing their sen- 
timents by petitions or instructions before you come to a 
determination which may preclude farther deliberation. 

Your petitioners therefore pray that the honorable Conven- 
tion will be pleased to adjourn till some day in April or May 
next, in order to obtain the deliberate sense of the citizens of 
Pennsylvania on the plan of government proposed by the 
late general convention. * 

[An essay by "Candid" defending the work of the Federal 
Felloiv Citizens^ 

The object of our present attention is the establishment of 
a permanent government for ourselves and posterity; than 
which, except what immediately concerns eternal salvation, 
no object of greater magnitude can be offered to human con- 

History does not afford an instance exactly parallel with 
the present — a people highly civilized, in an enlightened 
age, in profound peace, the wisdom of the world in their 
hands, all theory before their eyes, and all experiment within 
their knowledge, resolving themselves, as it were, into a 
state of nature, to institute a system of government, which 
is to characterize their country, and on which their political 
happiness and safety is to depend. I say, history does not 
furnish an instance of such a people, so employed, and under 
like circumstances. 

The only practicable mode of commencing this important 
business has been adopted. Delegates have been appointed 
by the respective States for the purpose of framing a system 

*From the Pennsylvania Packet, Dec. 11, 1787. 

43^ While the Convention was Sitting. 

of government, and proposing it to the consideration of the 
people at large. In this first step you have shown a discretion 
and propriety not usual in popular elections, I mean as to 
the persons whom you appointed to this difficult and import- 
ant service. Your most precious and admired characters were 
brought together on this occasion — men most eminent for 
wisdom and integrity — men whose judgments could not be 
warped by any personal interests whatever, who were them- 
selves to partake of the good or evil of the fruits of their de- 
liberations — men whose attachment to their country cannot 
be doubted, and whose competency to the business in hand 
has never been disputed. One partiality alone could influence 
the component parts of that most respectable body, the late 
Convention; and that I conceive to be a happy influence. 
The delegates from the respective States would naturally, 
and from a sense of duty, be jealous and watchful, that in the 
formation of a general government, no more of the specific 
rights or interests of each State should be sacrificed, than 
was absolutely necessary for the dignity, safety, and good 
government of the United States; and therefore, it may be 
supposed, as the fact really was, that they have made the best 
compromise of complicated interests, which the nature of the 
case would allow; so that the present question is not whether 
the government proposed is the best of all possible govern- 
ments, theoretically considered-although if fairly investi- 
gated, it might stand even this test-but whether a better 
union of separate sovereignties can be obtained ; or which is 
of still greater importance, whether if the proposed system 
should be rejected, the States will ever again make the same 

The theory of government hath employed the pens of spec- 
ulative and learned men in every age; and yet no system 
hath ever been formed which is not liable to many positive 
and many more probable evils and objections. A scheme of 
government which shall invest the rulers with efficient pow- 
ers, without a possibility of these powers being in any in- 
stance abused or misaoplied, should be sought lor by those 
only who are looking tor tne pnuosopiier s stone, or the per- 

WJiile the Convention was Sitting. 437 

petual motion. But supposing it were possible to form a 
political system unexceptionable in theory, it would be found 
unexceptionable in theory only. The temper, genius, and 
internal circumstances of the country to which it is to be ap- 
plied, must be considered, otherwise the people might be 
very unhappy under this best of all possible schemes. 

In governments, two extremes are positively evil — an un- 
controlled and unresponsible tyranny on the one hand, and 
such a relaxed state on the other, as is insujBicient for defence 
or good order, in which all men are put upon a level, without 
regard to virtue, merit, or abilities, and in which he who 
can practise most upon the credulity and indolence of the 
multitude, will have the best opportunities of gratifying his 
ambition and avarice. Between these extremes are many 
degrees of excellence; many combinations of forms and dis- 
positions of delegated power, which may be suited to the cir- 
cumstances of different nations, and yet all liable to ingenious 
objections by those who may think it their interest to mag- 
nify possible evils, and hold up imaginary dangers. 

If a people should remain without any government, until a 
system could be framed so seemingly perfect in itself as to be 
impregnable to all criticism, they would wait till fallible man 
should do that which the Deity at least hath not done. The 
government of the Jews, which was a pure theocracy^ was not 
so perfect, but that people frequently murmured and rebelled. 

After our struggles for liberty and independence were 
crowned with acknowledged success, the politicians of Eu- 
rope looked to see the sun of our glory rise; but a long night 
hath followed. Our federal union hath become insignificant 
— almost contemptible. No one will be so hardy as to assert 
that our situation as a nation, is either happy or honorable. 
And how long shall we remain in this situation? Until all 
malcontents shall be satisfied? Until the unanimous con- 
sent of the people shall be obtained ? Be not deceived — those 
who oppose this constitution, under a pretended zeal for the 
liberties of the people, would with equal zeal, and under the 
same pretences, oppose every other that could be offered. I 
know not how it may be in the other States, but in Pennsyl- 

438 IVJiile the Convent io7t was Sitting. 

vania we need only look at the men to know their motives. 
If we wait till these men are satisfied, we shall wait till some 
Shays, some desperate adventurer, shall rise in the blast of 
popular confusion into influence and importance, and frame 
a government for us in a camp. And then, a very short an- 
swer will sufiice for all objections real and imaginary. 

It is time — it is high time — that we had an efficient govern- 
ment, in which the wisdom and strength of the United States 
may be concentered. The fable of the man and his sons and 
the bundle of sticks, may with propriety be extended beyond 
the usual interpretation of mere mental concord. The moral 
of the fable requires not only a bundle of sticks, but a bundle 
of sticks bound together, for a union of strength. An efficient 
federal government is the only cord that can bind our States 
together for any length of time. For want of this bond of 
union, Rhode Island, which is but a twig in the bundle, hath 
already shewn symptoms of disaffection. 

The establishment of a good and respectable government 
for the United States, was an event which the leading men of 
a party in Pennsylvania neither wished for, nor expected. 
Their hope was, that the delegates from the different States 
would never unite in any system. But when it was discovered 
that a frame of government was indeed likely to be fixed upon, 
and was nearly ripe for promulgation, some of the party were 
so indiscreet as to declare their intended opposition, even 
before they knew the system they were determined to oppose. 
But the more cunning, though not less adverse, waited till 
the Convention had announced their plan, and even then, 
these politicians affected to be in its favor, and with its suc- 
cess, until by an unexpected motion in the House of Assem- 
bly, they were compelled to throw off" the mask, and declare 
themselves openly. They wished to prevent even the first 
step for bringing the federal government into existence. 
They saw plainly, that a majority of the House would be for 
recommending it to the people of the State at large to appoint 
delegates in their behalf to consider, and if proper, give the 
assent of this State to the proposed plan. In this emergency 
they played off" a stroke of wicked policy, which the same 

While the Conveniio7i was Sitting. 439 

party had once before found successful. As many of the mal- 
contents, or rather tools of real malcontents, as were suffi- 
cient to break up the House, abandoned their seats; but even 
this manoeuvre did not answer the purpose. An accident not 
looked for, defeated the pernicious intent, and the House 
have legally, and in complete organization, recommended 
that a State Convention should be called, and pointed out the 
time and mode of doing it. 

The disappointed partisans are now filling the newspapers 
with loud outcries against the proposed constitution. They 
have invoked Hecate to their aid; called up spirits from the 
vasty deep, and presented raw-head and bloody-bones to the 
people; weak and nervous politicians are even terrified by 
their incantations. But the fallacy consists in this: These 
writers consider the proposed constitution as vesting govern- 
mental powers in strangers to be imported from God knows 
what country, whose interests and those of the people of the 
United States are not only separate from, but opposed to each 
other. And in this view they descant largely on the dangers 
and evils to be apprehended. Upon no other ground can 
their arguments prove of any force. But the truth is, that 
this Federal Assembly, this Senate, and this President of the 
United States, are to be composed of our own brethren, of 
men of our own appointment, taken from amongst ourselves; 
whose interests must go hand in hand with ours; who, if 
they do evil, must partake of that evil. If they enslave 
others, they cannot leave their own children free. If they 
involve the country in ruin, they cannot provide a Goshe7t 
for themselves, their families and friends; for their power 
will neither be perpetual nor hereditary. The constitution 
ordains a frequent recurrence to the people for the choice of 
their legislators and principal officers, all of whom are re- 
sponsible for their conduct, and the component parts of the 
system mutually control and check each other, in all cases 
where checks and controls are consistent with good govern- 

But this good constitution may be corrupted and abused, 
say the opposers; and so indeed it may. From a like argu- 

440 While the Convention was Sitting. 

merit, divine wisdom would have never made man, because 
his body is subject to disorders; much less would man have 
been entrusted with freedom of will, because it is too mani- 
fest that he can make a bad use of it. For the same reason, 
we should not eat for fear of indigestion, or drink for fear of 
a dropsy, should never travel lest we lose our way, or go to 
sea because we may be shipwrecked. Some hazard must at- 
tend all human transactions, and the event of the most 
simple pursuit cannot be ascertained with certainty. 

Imagination has been wearied with efforts to vilify the 
Federal Constitution proposed by the late convention; but if 
nothing more substantial can be urged against it, we may 
well pronounce it to be most worthy of our acceptance. The 
irresistible voice of the people seems to be in its favor; and I 
hope, and I doubt not but that it will be established to the 
honor and safety of the United States, and to the confusion 
of their enemies internal and external. Candid. * 


It must be so — K m, thou reason'd well! 

Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire, 

This longing after offices of State? 

Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror. 

Of falling into nought ? Why shrink our souls. 

And startle at the Federal Government ? 

' Tis interest, dear self-interest stirs within us, 

And tells us that a Federal government 

Is bane, is prison to State demagogues. 

A Federal government — O dreadful thought! 

Through what variety of untried being. 

Through what new scenes and changes must we pass ? 

The wide unbounded prospect lies before us; 

But shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it. 

State sovereignty we'll hold: for if there is 

A power superior that we must submit to, 

(And that there must be, reason cries aloud 

Through all the land) it may be just and virtuous; 

Defeat our views, and make a nation happy. 

I fear ! I fear ! — This State is not for K m. 

But time must soon decide — My death and life,t 

* From the Pennsylvania Packet, Nov. 27th. 

t Pointing to the Federal system and State Constitution. 

While the Convention was Sitting. 441 

My bane and antidote, are both before me: 
This in a moment brings me to an end, 
And this informs me I shall still be great. 
My interest well secur'd, I'll smile at those 
Poor easy tools, I've dup'd to serve my purpose ; 
And mock at all the clamors of good men. 
Patriots may shrink away — Fabius himself, 
And Franklin dim with age, lament with tears 
Their toils, their cares, with virtues, all