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: [AMICUS REPUBLICAE]: Address to the Public, Containing Some Remarks on the Present Political State of the American Republicks, etc. - Charles S. Hyneman, American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1 
American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, ed. Charles S. Hyneman and Donald Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983). 2 vols. Volume 1.
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Address to the Public, Containing Some Remarks on the Present Political State of the American Republicks, etc.
Published anonymously in Exeter, New Hampshire, as a response both to growing civil unrest and to attacks on the state constitutions, this essay defends the state constitutions from both radicals and Federalists. Admitting the need for some alterations in state political systems, the author advises against complacency on the one hand, and needless change on the other. In addition to presenting a balanced view, the essay lays out the basics of the Whig perspective on politics. In this last regard, the essay is one of the best we have for illustrating how American Whigs approached political problems and how they used language in political discourse.
Friends and Fellow Citizens,
Nothing but the critical situation of our governments could have induced me to become an author upon this subject. For some considerable time, I have been in expectation of seeing some able pen employed in pointing out our dangerous situation; and in enlightening the minds of the people into that which is absolutely necessary for our existence and happiness as an independent nation. Something of this nature appears to be very necessary at this critical period; for although there may be some persons in our republicks, who are so politically corrupt, that they will not receive instruction, yet there are many, whose minds are unstable and in doubts, for want of information and direction; and who have sufficient regard to public virtue to pursue it, when they can understand in what it does consist.
I shall therefore attempt to make some remarks on this subject, leaving my deficiencies to be supplied hereafter, by more able writers.
The important end of government is the good of the whole. And in order to the forming and establishing of any government, it is necessary for individuals to give up, by a civil compact, some of their natural rights, for securing to themselves others which they would retain. And all those, who enter voluntarily into such civil compacts with one another, are as to matters of government free and independent, so long as government is administered agreeable to the principles of this their political constitution. But it is directly incompatible with the end of government, and every civil constitution, for subjects to claim the exercise of those natural rights which they have given up by their civil compact, in any mode but such as their constitution shall warrant and point out;—for then, had they such a right, all ideas of civil government would be exploded, and they would be, in the most strict sense, in a state of nature. A state of nature, and a state of civil government, are in the nature of things repugnant the one to the other.—The states of America have respectively, by civil compacts voluntarily and solemnly entered into covenant for the defence of liberty, life and property. The subjects in each state have, voluntarily, given up some of their natural rights, that they might be secured in the enjoyment of those, that they would retain: and the public interest and welfare being the end of this civil combination, those that have entered into covenant, have solemnly engaged to be governed by the voice of the major part, in all administrations of government corresponding with their several compacts.—The several states having thus adopted and established civil constitutions, they organized their governments, by filling every department, with rulers and officers, for the due administration of justice, agreeably to the principles of their governmental establishment. And each state, in order to secure to themselves, the blessings of their independent governments against intestine feuds and foreign invasions, have entered into solemn covenant with each other according to the federal constitution.—Thus the wisdom and power of all these states are united for the support and defence of every part. And in order further to secure the tranquility and happiness of these republicks, our Foederal Council or Congress have entered into treaties of alliance with foreign governments, upon principles of mutual advantage:—They have also entered into treaties of peace and commerce, in the capacity of the Supreme Executive Council of the United States.
Thus there is a most important connection in our governments, beginning in our distinct governmental compacts, running through every branch of civil administration; reaching up to our national confederation; and extending to all our national treaties of alliance, peace and commerce, and all our national engagements. This connection ought ever to be attended to, by every subject, by all our governments, and by our confederate power, in order to secure the good of the whole, and of every part. It is then, of the greatest importance, that each State in the Union should exert themselves, both rulers and people, to support their civil constitutions, and the administrations of government.—The respective constitutions of the states are in general doubtless well adapted to secure the great end of government. The several states have formed and adopted such civil compact, as they supposed was best adapted to their situation, and ability; and such as they presumed would best secure their liberties, property and life.—They have summoned their united wisdom in this great undertaking; and have had the wisdom and experience of many ages past to improve upon, and to guard them against mistakes:—nor is it supposeable, that there is any constitution of government, or any mode of administration, in any kingdom or state on the earth, that is better adapted to render the subjects happy than the constitutions and administrations of government in these states, were they strictly adhered to and supported.
But then, we are not to suppose, that these constitutions are perfect, or without such errors, as may in some instances, operate to the injury of some individuals. It is not in the power of the most enlightened politicians always to foresee the operations of all principles of government and modes of administration, so as to prevent the evils that may arise from them. It is ever the wisdom of all men to fix their governments upon an establishment, that will come as nigh perfection as possible: But the most perfect civil governments will ever come far short of this. There is not, nor can there be, any government absolutely perfect in its constitution and adminstration in every respect, but only the moral government of God. But then after any people have adopted, and voluntarily established, a civil compact, which is the result of their united wisdom, they ought to adhere to, and endeavor to support it; and in this case alterations and innovations may be dangerous, and without any beneficial effects. If all men would conform to the virtue, or the moral government of God, civil government would be unnecessary. They might then all continue secure in a state of nature; and might enjoy their natural rights without giving up any of them, for the security of those that remained in their hands. But the human mind, is not yet formed to such a state of moral improvement, as to admit of this. The necessity of having civil governments arises from the moral corruptions of mankind. But it is difficult for any man to determine, otherwise than by experience, how much power must be lodged in any government, to secure the subjects from the vices of one another, and render them the most happy.
But, it has been generally observed from experience, that republican governments have not in their operation, answered this important end, so effectually as some other mode, and constitution. All the republics that have existed, through many ages, have been convulsed by their vices; and they have generally come to dissolution, for want of consistency and energy: And it has been supposed by many wise politicians in Europe, as well as feared by many in America, that these States would prove, that they were incapable of governing themselves upon republican principles. The States, however, we trust, will not coincide with such a supposition. Well might we presume and hope at the period of the revolution, that the Americans were possessed of wisdom and virtue, to enable them to form and support a republic with consistency and energy.—Though we had the follies, the vices and ill success of all preceeding republicks to check our hopes, yet we presumed that the wisdom and virtue of the people of this country would carry civil improvements higher than all that had gone before them; and enable them to support the honor and dignity of an independent, and powerful republic. They are now making the experiment. And it is now, doubtless, in the power of the states, under God, to become great and happy. But in order to this, they must be possessed of public virtue sufficient to enable them to support their governments. The very existence of republican governments, depends upon public virtue. By public virtue I would be understood to mean, such an attachment to the interest of the public as shall excite the subjects of government voluntarily to support the constitution and laws, even though it should in some instances be much to their present injury. Nothing short of this will be sufficient to support a government, that devolves into the hands of the people annually, or in short periods. There must be in the minds of the people a disposition to support the constitution, the laws and the various officers of government in the exercise of constitutional powers, or all government must cease. Under despotic governments, public virtue, in the major part of the people, is not so necessary for the support of government. In this case, a supreme uncontroulable power will compel the subjects to obedience; nor is resistance in this case practicable without the greatest hazard and difficulty. In the beginning of the contest with Great-Britain, the people of the States, in general, seemed disposed to run the greatest hazards, to expend even half their property, and to expose their lives at the point of the sword, in order to extricate themselves from the oppressions of tyranny; and they entered into a civil compact by mutual consent, that life and property might be more secure. They fought and obtained all their desires. At the conclusion of the war they were full of expectation. They looked back and viewed the difficulties they had passed through, and the dangers to which they had been exposed: They looked forward, and contemplated their rising greatness. Both Europe and America echoed honor to our arms. And it seems as though a view of these important transactions, and our noble prospects, would carry the states above all future difficulties. The states were then masters of an extensive country, perhaps equal, in a complex view, to any upon the globe. They had conquered, and were in possession of a free and independent government. Nations viewed them in a light of great importance; and several of the potentates of Europe recognized their independence, and entered into treaties of alliance with them. This was the political situation of the states, when they obtained peace with the government of Britain. And they are yet in possession of these excellent liberties and advantages. But the spirit, that carried them through former difficulties, seems to be declining, and threatens the introduction of consequences of the most serious nature. Many that were most active in effecting our governmental revolution, seem to be inimical to, and are endeavoring to overturn our republics. This is a matter really paradoxical, as there can be no visible prospect of the least advantage finally from such an attempt, even to the insurgents themselves.—If the people of the states cannot be happy under, and will not support the governments they have already established, it is evident they will never voluntarily support, nor will they be happy under any constitution of government whatever. They have voluntarily entered into civil compacts, and such as they presumed were most free from errors and defects. They retain a right of annually electing their Legislators and Supreme Executive Magistrates; and the right of these elections devolving into their hands annually gives them an effectual check upon the exercise of all unconstitutional power. In case of any mal-administration in the officers of government, they are liable to impeachment and trial by their equals, and to be removed from office. The interest of those, who have the power of legislation, being one with the interest of their subjects, has a tendency to induce them to consult the interest of the people in their legislations. And should the subjects ever presume, that they labour under any grievances, they have the right of remonstrating and petitioning in an orderly manner as distinct corporations for redress. Thus whilst the governments are vested with sufficient power to secure the great end of government among a virtuous people, there are in the several constitutions, sufficient checks provided against all exorbitant power; and the subjects that would subvert such a constitution of government as this, must be actuated not by their virtues, but their vices.—And if they cannot bear up under the restrictions, laws and orders of such a government, surely they would not find in themselves public virtue sufficient for supporting any government, in which less extensive powers were vested; but they would be restless and dissatisfied under every government, and would return to a state of nature, unless their wills were bent by some irresistible force.
If such a general disaffection should prevail against our governments as to issue in a civil war, many weary weighty evils would be the result, without one single general benefit or advantage. Life and property would be then more insecure than they would be in a state of nature. Every man’s word would be turned against his fellow; and mutual jealousy, resentment and malice, would operate in acts of the greatest cruelty. Our republics would become one general scene of plunder and slaughter. Thus vexation would harrass the mind; and by our own crimes we should be reduced to a condition of extreme poverty. Our national debts would be continually accumulating, whilst we were rendering ourselves less and less able to discharge them; all these civil commotions, instead of placing us under a government, which would render us more happy than we might be under our present governments, would leave us in a state of nature, or would probably introduce a government that was absolute; for if by experience it was evident that our governments were overturned for want of energy, necessity would lead us to establish a government vested with more extensive power. Anarchy has a direct tendency to the introduction of tyranny. This is abundantly evident from the experience of ages. The States of America will not long continue without a government that has energy, though they should be unable to retain their different civil constitutions. Some power or other will rise up and give them law. So long as there are powerful nations in Europe, America will be viewed as an object worth their attention. And should our republicks be overthrown, and should we not be able to govern ourselves, some power or powers in Europe will interpose, and fix a chain upon our necks which will cause us to couch under the burden.
But it is highly supposeable, should the states be involved in civil war, that Great-Britain or some other power, would so interfere, as to prevent our determining whether we should have been able again to establish our governments. In this case we could have no great prospect of any thing, but subjection to foreign matters.—Britain would eagerly grasp such an opportunity to retrieve her losses, and spend her resentment upon a people who had formerly bid defiance to her power. And, although France has been, and still continues to be our magnanimous ally, yet if our governments were convulsed or overthrown, she would be justified, upon the best national principles, in interfering to secure the demands she has upon us. Thus the states being convulsed and rent in sunder by intestine contentions, and foreign invasions, would present a picture of the greatest calamities; and demonstrate the impossibility of any republic long existing, in this state of moral imperfection.
Are these, my fellow-citizens, observations that have the support of reason, or not? Consider and examine for yourselves: Consider well the nature, the necessity and operations of governments: Consider well the danger of dissaffection to your own governments, and the distressing consequences of anarchy and civil wars.
Look around you: view your present political situation, and your political connections with nations in Europe. You have, by your late achievements, obtained honor with nations of the world; and you ought to strive to retain it.—Let us not by our vices tarnish all our glory, and plunge ourselves into a state of national ruin. Our situation is critical and dangerous; and our national vices are the only cause: but it is not yet too late to reform, and to become and continue to be happy as a nation. Our civil constitutions and administrations must be supported, or we can reasonably expect nothing but national ruin. Nor is it in the power of the wisest statesman to draw and support our civil compacts, and honor and support the authority of the officers of government. Those that are in administration doubtless endeavor to manage the affairs of government in general with fidelity. But it is not a matter of astonishment if there be some ill designing men in office, or places of administration. This, it is probable, may be the case in all governments. But our civil rulers, as a body at least, deserve our confidence and support. But should those in administration commit an error, this ought not to disaffect us to our governments. Their business as legislators is complicated and difficult; and it would be beyond the wisdom of any politicians on the earth to manage, at all times, the weighty affairs of government in our present situation, without incurring censures from some in the community. Or should individuals in government, be detected in criminal proceedings, our civil constitution directs us how to proceed. Such persons are liable to impeachment, and upon conviction of mal-conduct they shall be displaced. What more could we desire for a guard, in this case, of our liberties? can it be prudent and constitutional—can it be doing justice to the public interest, to clamour against government, and attempt to subvert it, on account of the misconduct of some particular persons in administration, while at the same time our civil compact points us to an easy remedy, that can be attended with no fatal consequences? or should the general administration of government be unconstitutional and subject us to grievances, we have a constitutional mode for obtaining redress. We are authorized to assemble as towns, in an orderly manner, to remonstrate and petition for redress of grievances: and in this case our rulers will doubtless retract, and afford us relief, upon their being convinced of their mistakes and deviations. They are chosen from amongst ourselves; and their interest is involved on the welfare of the public; and they must necessarily bear a portion of the common burden, and feel our common calamities.
But should we not be able, in this way, to obtain redress, we surely may do it within the period of one year. Their powers of administration are taken from their hands annually by the constitution; and we have then a constitutional right to another election of the officers of government; we may elect such persons as we think will best promote the public interest. Surely then it must be very impolitic to throw the public into convulsions, and attempt to overturn our governments to relieve ourselves from an unconstitutional administration, since we may have it in our power to effect it, without injury to the public.—It can never be justifiable to throw the states into a civil war which perhaps could continue years to obtain redress of grievances, when it might be effected within one year constitutionally, and without any dangerous or injurious consequences. Were the people in the states groaning under the burdens of an absolute and tyrannical government, which could not be thrown off or rectified, without their rising to arms, the case would be altogether different from our present situation. Then seven years war might be compensated perhaps, by an hundred years enjoyment of liberty and its consequent blessings. When we revolted from the British government and flew to arms, it was the only possible method by which we supposed we should be able to recover and enjoy the liberties and blessings of a free government: the supreme executive power of government was not lodged in our hands, or in a person of our appointment.—But under our present governments, all our rulers and officers are of our own creating, and are amendable to us according to certain modes pointed out in our civil compacts. Let us then look about us, and be wise, and make a judicious improvement of our national liberties; and let us resolve to exert all our power in supporting our excellent governments.
I am far from supposing that the number is at present very considerable in the states, that are inimical to our civil governments. The most substantial, and indeed a very large majority of the people are determined to abide by, and endeavor to support the governments: and I hope and trust that they will stand up and defend them against all opposition. But there are clamours and insurrections by so large a number of people in some of the states, that they afford a melancholy aspect, and indicate the danger of their terminating in serious consequences.—And it is of great importance, that those who wish for the support of our civil constitutions, exert themselves to strengthen the hands of government: to remove errors and mistakes from the minds of those that are misinformed; and guard themselves against being misled, and overcome by wickedly designing men, that wish to see our states sink into a state of anarchy and ruin,—Nothing is now necessary under the providence of God, for our becoming great and happy, but a close attachment to our governments, and prudence, fidelity and honesty in our proceedings and engagements. It is true, however, that the states labour under great embarassments in their commerce, and their finances; and they are burthened with a very considerable national debt. But diligence, oeconomy, patience, honesty and perseverance, in pursuing the great object of government, will carry them above all their difficulties and embarrassments. A very considerable part of our national burdens originated from our own vices, from our dishonesty and luxury, and from an uneasy and discontented disposition of some particular classes of subjects, who have supposed that their civil liberties and independence might be enjoyed without expence, and would enable them to throw off every burden, without their contributing any thing as an adequate compensation. This is an idea incompatible with a state of civil society. No government can be established, defended and exercised without considerable expence; and the reward of this expence is the protection and defence of our remaining natural rights, and the defence of life, and of that property which is guaranteed to the subject by the civil compact. Many of the people in the states made great mistakes immediately after the conclusion of the war, and have persisted in them ’till absolute necessity has obliged them in some measure to desist. The exorbitant importation of foreign luxuries has introduced most pernicious consequences. It has encouraged idleness and every species of extravagance; and has in a great measure, robbed us of a circulating medium of trade and business.—The specie that has been exported from this country in payment for foreign luxuries, might have been sufficient to pay the one quarter or one half of our national debt, had we prudently kept it amongst us. We have imprudently expended our monies in luxuries; and now we begin to feel the consequence, and groan under burdens for want of a circulating medium. But our past errors ought to excite us to a reformation, and to different practices in future. We have not yet tried the experiment of thoroughly retrenching in our unnecessary expenditures. And should we pursue this object, so far as we might do, and yet live comfortably, we should make a prodigious saving, which would enable us to diminish our burdens very considerably. There are but few necessaries of life, but what we might obtain from our own soil, and manufactories. The one half perhaps of what we now expend of foreign commodities and manufactures, may be classed among our superfluities. The gauzes, ribbons, silks, feathers, flowers &c. for which we export our monies to Europe, are moths to our purses and rob us of that cash, which ought to be advanced for the payment of our debts. Rum and tea are other superfluities in general; and there is ten times so much of them consumed in the states as is beneficial: and the revenue that might arise from denying ourselves those superfluities, would pay every farthing annually of the demands our governments have upon us. But we will not in general retrench in the use of them; we are prodigal and extravagant, and then complain of the burdens of governments. We ought first to retrench, be frugal, be industrious, and then we shall know our wealth and ability. But we have but very trifling reasons for complaints of the burdens of a good government, ’till we throw aside our superfluities and luxuries.
It is true our national debt accumulated by the war is very considerable: Nor could we rationally presume it would be otherwise. At the time that we commenced war with Great Britain, we had not monies in fund to enable us to carry it on. We were without warlike resources; and could devise no method to defend our liberties, but by involving ourselves in debt to individuals amongst ourselves, and to nations in Europe. The people of the state well knew that this was the only method, by which we could maintain our independence; and they consented to these debts being contracted by their legislatures, their agents and ambassadors. And doubtless they were as sparing in borrowing monies, and in entering into engagements, as the necessity of our circumstances would admit of. And doubtless the monies were expended with all possible oeconomy and prudence. And instead of our national debt being so large as it is, we may wonder it is not larger, considering our situation, and the long period of the war. The expenditures of Great Britain within the period of one year were nearly as much as the whole of our present national debt contracted through the whole of the war. The whole of our national debt amounts to about ten millions three hundred thousand pounds, our lawful money. This is collectively a large sum for the states to pay. But when it is divided equally to the citizens of the states, according to their ability, it is not a demand that they are beyond the possibility of discharging. The proportion of the debt, that will fall to a citizen to pay that is worth six hundred pounds, will not exceed one hundred dollars. And surely a man of such an estate may, if frugal and diligent, be able to discharge this in the term of five or ten years, without diminishing his real estate, or capital. And can it be wise and prudent to injure or overthrown the governments of the states to obtain a freedom from discharging such a demand? But this measure would only bring us more and more into debt and increase our calamities. Were not our liberties worth purchasing at so moderate a price. Was it not much better to pay six or ten or even twenty percent upon our estates, than to lose all our liberties, to become slaves to foreign masters, and to have all our property insecure?
Let us judge like men of reason, be honest and speak our minds.—It must however be allowed, that we must at present find it very difficult to discharge this debt speedily for want of a larger circulation of coin. But we may now perhaps, annually, so exert ourselves as to discharge the interest arising: and this may suffice, if we are honest, and exert ourselves so far as possible.—If we are really honest, and disposed to do the best we can to pay our foreign creditors, they may consider our situation, and wait with patience ’till we can command specie to pay the principal. But the way to acquire this ability, is to vest Congress with ample powers to enter into treaties of commerce, to be diligent and frugal, and to bring the balance of trade in our favour, so that we can receive cash in return for our own productions. We must for this purpose also be so honest as to endeavor to discharge our private debts, and renounce all ideas of introducing paper money and tender acts, to the injury of creditors. All this is necessary, in order to call forth the specie that is accumulated and retained by men of affluence. But it is surely for our interest to exert ourselves to the utmost, to diminish and pay our national debt; for it must be effected sooner or later, or we shall bring upon us the resentments and power of European creditors. It is a thing absolutely impossible for the states to avoid paying their foreign creditors. Should the subjects of the states attempt a subversion of their governments for this purpose, it would sink them into a state of ruin. Or should the governments refuse to make payment, they would lose all their national honor and credit, and would bring the power of their creditors upon them, to obtain satisfaction. In this case our soil must be given up to discharge a debt, we might have paid with our monies, without diminishing our capital. And if America should prove so base, so dishonorable, and so dishonest as this, her vices would give her a shock, from which she would not perhaps speedily if ever recover. The states would become a reproach, a hissing and a bye word among the nations. And should they ever recover from their state of ruin, they would not find it easy to form alliances with nations for their safety and defence. Foreign kingdoms would be jealous of their honor and fidelity. Nor would the states in this situation find their credit to be sufficient to borrow monies on loan, to enable them to defend their liberties and property in case of an invasion. Thus they would be deserted perhaps by all the world, as unfit for any national alliances or connections; and they would become liable to the attack of other kingdoms, whilst they would obtain no foreign aid.
Thus every person of honesty and common sense may see, that our national debt must be discharged sooner or later, or our national ruin will inevitably ensue.—We ought then to be patient under our national burdens and diminish our debt as fast as we possibly can.—There seem to be some persons in our republics that are oppressed from some cause, and wish to relieve themselves, by one bold stroke, in subverting our governments; and the method they would pursue, will only add ten fold weight to their burdens. Some of their burdens that they cast upon the government, originate from their own vices, and they must relinquish them, before they can expect rationally to throw off their embarrassments. Others of their burdens originate from the imperfections of the present state, and the imperfections connected with a state of civil society, which are unavoidable. But yet such a state is far preferable to a state of nature. It is entirely unreasonable for subjects to ascribe all their sufferings to the mal-administrations of government, whilst they originate principally from other causes.
It is of importance that such unreasonable restless minds should be brought to a better understanding of the nature and importance of government, and that they be taught due obedience to the constitution and laws. An attempt to subvert the constitution of government, or to obstruct the administration of justice, is generally under all governments, accounted and made high treason; and the offence is of the most enormous size, and the highest kind that can be committed against men.—It is an offence that is capital, being an attempt upon the life of every subject in the community. The safety and life of all the subjects depend upon the civil compact and the due administration of justice; and the person, who would destroy either aims at the destruction of all the community, in a rational and legal sense of explication. High treason is then intentional murder and robbery, and by all civilized states is wisely made a capital offence.—This is a matter that the subjects of all governments ought to consider and understand, and to govern themselves accordingly.
There are some persons that would pretend to make matter of conscience of all their actions, but those that relate to matters of government. They pretend to much religion, and to be much more sanctified than others. But they lose their consciences, when they act as subjects of civil government; and they will pretend it is not morally wrong to rise up against a civil constitution or the laws of a state, if they are not in all things agreeable to the humours and taste. But in this case they really violate the most solemn compact or agreement. If they were dissatisfied with the civil constitution, they were at liberty to elope, and put themselves under some other government. But if they continued under the constitution they consented and implicitly engaged to abide by the principles of it, and to conform to the orders of a constitutional administration. This is the case by just explication, whether they did actually give their vote or not for the constitution. Therefore by their rising against the constitution or the just administrations of government, they violate a solemn covenant or compact. And in doing this, they must sin against their own consciences, if they have any, and they sin against God. It is as criminal, and it is a more heinous offence, to violate a public contract, than a private or individual one, because the consequences may be much more extensive. Every man and especially those who make any pretentions of religion and honesty, ought to consider this. All governmental compacts are formed and established by the majority of the people; and must be considered as binding upon all the community, so long as such a compact continues, and all opposition to it by the minority or individuals is a violation of a covenant, is high treason and rebellion.
But we may further observe that it is not only of importance to support the constitutions of our respective governments, and a constitutional administration; but it is of importance to support our federal union. By this union the wisdom and power of all the states become united, in the direction and support of the republics. Had not the states entered into this combination, they must respectively depend on their own strength to defend themselves from intestine feuds and foreign invasions: and in this case they might become an easy prey to their enemies. Without this, they could not have recovered their liberties, nor can they long support their independence. The states severally are not known to the nations of Europe as sovereign and independent. They are known only in the capacity of one united republic, represented by Congress. Annihilate, then our confederation and Congress, and all our national alliances, treaties and connections with the sovereignties of Europe will cease; and we shall no longer be considered as an united and independent republic. And in this case, we should become the sport of the jealosy and various interests of the respective states, and might be convulsed and rent in sunder, by the powers of our governments being opposed to each other. It is then of importance that we support the union upon the principles of the confederation; and conform, as distinct governments, to all the constitutional recommendations and ordinances of Congress.—And we ought to honor that respectable body, and enable them to support the honor and dignity of their station. In order to this, we ought as far as possible to enable them, by payment of our taxes, to fulfill their public engagements. By the confederation they are authorised to borrow monies and engage payment, in the name and in behalf of the states. And their situation must be very disagreeable, when pressed for payment, not to have it in their power to do it, not even the interest of the debt. And when their credit is injured, the credit of the states is equally affected, as they are the representative body of all our governments. We ought, then, by every safe and constitutional method, to enable them to collect and establish a sufficient continental fund to answer the demands of our nation, government and creditors. In order to this, we should do well to give them an exclusive power, for a term of years, to levy and collect a duty of impost according to their request, upon the importations of the several states. Had this been done at the commencement of the peace, our national finances would now have been on a respectable establishment, and our national debt would have been diminished.—The states in general have acceded to the requisition or desires of Congress; and it is to be hoped that all the states will speedily grant full powers for the purpose. The states ought also to support Congress in all their national engagements, alliances and treaties. All this is of great importance in order to our national happiness.
But it is much more easy to prescribe what ought to be done, than it is to persuade the people in general to practice accordingly. Never was there a people upon the face of the earth that had it more in their power to become happy, as a nation, than the people of this country. They have been exalted to heaven in point of privilege both civil and religious. But a wise improvement of them, only, will render them honorable, wealthy and powerful, and ensure them peace and happiness. They ought then to be jealous of themselves, lest they misapply and abuse their liberties. Could the people of the states in general, obtain just conceptions of the people in other kingdoms of the world, groaning under their lords and task-masters, and compelled to obedience by arbitrary power, they would prize and hold fast their dear bought liberties; and would shudder at the idea of being either under an absolute government, or in a state of anarchy, as both are attended with most weighty calamities. They would then be likely to prize their civil constitutions, and honor and support the civil magistracy. But what the future political condition of this country will be is not in the power of the most extensive human sagacity to foresee. If we could foresee how the people would in future periods conduct in a political view, we could form a judgment of their future condition. If they should by their contentions and convulsions overturn their governments, they will be plunged into a state of the greatest calamities. Should they in future, exercise public virtue sufficient to support their republics, they will become wealthy, honorable, powerful and happy. But every judicious and honest mind must, when it considers the present licentious disposition of many persons, be depressed, and elated alternately by hope and fear. These states are now the only free and independent republics of any importance, that are upon the globe. The states of Greece and Rome were overturned by their licentious abuse of liberty.—The states of Holland were obliged to deviate from republican principles, in order to prevent the dissolution of their government. We ought, then, to take warning from the misconduct of the other republics in the abuse of liberty, and avoid similar practices. Our virtues or vices will, through every period of our republics determine our condition. We cannot reasonably depend on the support of the providence of the great ruler of the world, if we pursue practices that tend to our national ruin. But, we shall be suffered to plunge into a state of ruin, and feel all the consequences of our crimes.
The happiness of the states depends under God upon their own wisdom and virtue. And they have every inducement to pursue practices that tend to the support of these republics. They have purchased their inheritance and liberties at a great price. With much labour, and many difficulties, they obtained possession of, and defended their country against the savages. And they have defended their rights against the encroachments of British tyranny. This has cost them the blood of thousands of their fathers and brethren, and a vast consumption of property. This has called forth their wisdom and united exertions for more than eight years in a war with Great Britain. From small beginnings their numbers have become great, and their landed improvements, extensive. A large field is now opened before them for enterprize. From these beginnings and improvements, they have it in their power to become wise, great, powerful and happy. They, by their political virtues and conduct, may fix the worldly conditions of millions yet unborn. If by their vices they subvert their governments, anarchy, a state of nature, or absolute tyranny will be the condition of future generations. The political actions of this generation may have an influence on the actions and political situation of generations for centuries to come. If the people of these states now support and establish their governments, and cultivate the virtues that tend to national happiness, future generations may from hence derive wisdom, liberty and blessings, which may descend through centuries, and raise this young empire to a state of greatness far exceeding our present conceptions. These are considerations, that will be to all minds of sensibility, as weighty as mountains, and stimulate them to the most noble political actions. These are considerations that will overbalance every spark of ambition for honor or interest, at the expence of our governments, or the good of the public. These are ideas that will induce every honest mind to resolve to support our civil constitution, and our confederation; and fulfil all national alliances, treaties and engagements, though difficult to be accomplished. Let us then, my fellow citizens, prove, that we think and act upon a generous and extensive scale in our political conduct. Let us demonstrate that we love not only ourselves, but also our country, and wish well to those millions who will act upon the stage in our places after our names are enrolled amongst the dead. Let us demonstrate that we not only wish to be free, but also that we are determined to be honest, to be virtuous, and can surmount burdens and difficulties in the way to national glory. Let us stand up to our social compacts, be patient under unavoidable burdens, be frugal and industrious, and retrench in our unnecessary expenditures. Let us not suffer the unhallowed hands of licentiousness, vain ambition or covetousness, to touch our liberties, or break in upon our constitutional rights. Let us elect to public offices and places of government, from time to time, men that we have reason to presume are the wisest, the most honest, and such as have the good of their country at heart; and let us acquiesce in, and endeavor to support, all their good administrations. Unreasonable clamours against government let us discountenance and despise. Tumults and insurrections against the constitutions, the laws and administrations of government, let us endeavor to suppress and discourage.—These are evils that spread their influence like witchcraft, and lead on to the most ruinous consequences. The convulsions of a political nature, in several of our states, have probably, before this period, spread through most of the courts and kingdoms of Europe.—Some doubtless lament our licentious folly: Others rejoice in our confusion. Shall we demonstrate to all the world, that we fought for liberty only to abuse it? and shall we prove that we cannot govern ourselves, but must submit to some tyrant amongst ourselves, or to foreign task-masters?—Let us then resolve to be virtuous: We shall then support our governments, we shall be Free, Independent and Happy.
N—b-H—n, December 4, 1786