Front Page Titles (by Subject) : Bostonians: Serious Questions Proposed to All Friends to The Rights of Mankind, With Suitable Answers - American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1
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: Bostonians: Serious Questions Proposed to All Friends to The Rights of Mankind, With Suitable Answers - 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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Serious Questions Proposed to All Friends to The Rights of Mankind, With Suitable Answers
The catechism-like question and answer format of this piece efficiently conveys the American Whig view of a proper constitution. Published as an implied rebuke to the proposed Federal Constitution in the November 19, 1787 Boston Gazette, the piece does effectively summarize some of the basic changes in view on constitutions between 1776, when the radical Whigs were in ascendance, and 1787, when the Federalists were on the rise.
As much has been said in favour of the proposed New Constitution,—and as little is allowed to be said against it,—I now send you, for the information and consideration of your readers, the ideas the people had of a Constitution in the year 1776, contained in a number of serious questions and answers, published in the Pennsylvania Evening Post, at a time when the whole people were contending with a powerful nation for the security of their Liberties and a free Constitution, with a determined resolution to transmit the same to succeeding generations. And as we are now about to establish the free Constitution which they then fought and bled for, shall we not be allowed to examine it?—shall we not be allowed to give our sentiments upon it, with the same manly freedom with which they were inspired while the bayonet was held at their breasts?We Will.
Serious Questions proposed to all friends to the rights of mankind, with suitable Answers.
Q. What is government?
A. Certain powers vested by society in public persons for the security, peace and happiness of its members.
Q. What ought a society to do to secure a good government?
A. Any thing. The happiness of man, as an inhabitant of this world, depends entirely upon it.
Q. When ought a new government to be established?
A. When the old becomes impracticable, or dangerous to the rights of the people.
Q. Who ought to form a new constitution of government?
A. The people.
Q. From whom ought public persons to derive their authority to govern?
A. From the people whom they are to govern.
Q. What ought to be the object of government?
A. The welfare of the governed.
Q. How is such a government to be obtained?
A. By forming a constitution which regards men more than things, by framing it in such a manner that the interest of the governours and governed shall ever be the same; and by delegating the powers of government so that the people may always have it in their power to resume them, when abused, without tumult or confusion, and to deliver them to persons more worthy of trust.
Q. Should the officers of the old constitution be entrusted with the power of making a new one when it becomes necessary?
A. No. Bodies of men have the same selfish attachments as individuals, and they will be claiming powers and prerogatives inconsistent with the liberties of the people. Aristocracies will by this means be established, and we shall exchange a bad constitution for a worse, or the tyranny of one for the tyranny of many.
Q. Who ought to have such a trust conferred upon them, as it is the highest and most important which men can delegate?
A. First, Men of the greatest wisdom and integrity, who have as much, if not more, natural than acquired sense and understanding. Secondly, Men who can be under no temptations to frame political distinctions in favour of any class or set of men. Thirdly, Men who the moment the constitution is framed, must descend into the common paths of life, and have as great a chance to feel every defect in the constitution as any man. And lastly, Men who regard not the person of the rich, nor despise the state of the poor, but who prefer justice and equity to all things, and would go any lengths to establish the common rights of mankind on the firmest foundation.
Q. Ought the constitution which a proper number of such persons agree upon to be immediately adopted?
A. No. After agreeing upon a constitution, or form of government, they ought to adjourn for six or nine months, publish the plan, request every man to examine it with the utmost seriousness and attention, make remarks upon it, point out any defects which may appear in it, and offer amendments. Then let the same body of men who framed it, joined by an additional number of new members, meet at the time fixed in their adjournment, canvass the whole again, take the defects pointed out into consideration, and finally agree.—N. B. This frame of government, when agreed upon, should be intituled the Social Compact of the People of —, &c. and should be unalterable in every point, except by a delegation of the same kind of that which originally framed it, appointed for that purpose.
Q. What should be done after this compact is finally agreed upon?
A. The same, or another body of men, should be appointed to draw up what I shall call a charter of delegation, being a clear and full description of the quantity and degree of power and authority, with which the society, vests the persons instructed with the power of the society, whether civil or military, legislative, executive or judicial.