Front Page Titles (by Subject) Condemnations, Defenses, and Society Attacks on the Excise - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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Condemnations, Defenses, and Society Attacks on the Excise - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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Condemnations, Defenses, and Society Attacks on the Excise
“A Friend to Good Government” New York Daily Gazette 21 February 1794
Upon reading the constitution of a society lately established in this city, entitled “The Democratic Society,” published in your paper yesterday, the following Queries struck me:
Is liberty in danger, either from the form or administration of the general government?
Or, is the government in danger from the excess of liberty?
Is America in so critical a situation as to require the aid of new councils?
Is it necessary we should be in a revolutionary state, and try new projects?
Do the people require intermediary guides betwixt them and the constituted authorities?
Or, are they weak and uninformed, after having performed wonders in legislation and arms—Is a restless society necessary to their preserving it?
Are the members who compose this society more virtuous or less ambitious than others?
Have they long given proofs of piety, patriotism, morality, and various other duties that characterize good citizens?
Are these people organizers, or disorganizers; are they federalists or anti-federalists?
Do they associate to electioneer to effect, or to prevent others from doing it?
Above all, Mr. Printer, I ask, Are they chosen by the people? If not, as I know no other authority, I shall hereafter regard them as self-creators, as a branch, perhaps, of the Jacobin Society of Paris.
“A Friend to Rational Government” New York Journal 22 February 1794
A member of the Democratic Society, in answer to the Querist in Mr. M’Lean’s paper of yesterday, informs him, That the old whigs in this city, observing of late the warm attachment of the old tories (who deserted their country, and joined their enemies, during her conflict with the British Dey) who are now enemies of our good allies, the French—I say, we, observing their attachment for measures and men in government that no patriot can approve of, suspect all is not right, and it behooves us, who purchased Liberty at the risque of life and fortune, to be on our watch. I hope this explanation will satisfy the Querist; if not, by calling at No. 244, Cooper-street, he may be further informed of the designs of the Society.
Republican Society of the Town of Newark (New Jersey) Newark Gazette 19 March 1794
Friends and Countrymen
It is not a strange matter to see the moneyed part of the people of America in general opposed to Republican Societies; the only reason is because a great many of them have crept into offices, and [are] jealous least too great a share of political knowledge should be diffused among the people and, of course, their conduct would be examined into, which they are doubtful will not stand the test, and of consequence they will be hurled from their easy situation; a change which they cannot think of undergoing while there is possibility of avoiding it. For this reason, they oppose the forming of Republican Societies, because it will have a tendency to enlighten the minds of the people.
The forming of Republican Societies has caused a great stir in many parts of America amongst the Tory part of the people; but in none more than it has in this place; the Tories and the nobility have joined their efforts to prevent the forming of a Republican Society in this town; but (to the praise of the Republicans be it spoken) they have not succeeded.
It must be the mechanics and farmers or the poorer class of people (as they are generally called) that must support the freedom of America; the freedom which they and their fathers purchased with their blood—the nobility will never do it—they will be always striving to get the reins of government into their own hands, and then they can ride the people at pleasure.
It stands the people in hand, who would keep up the spirit of freedom in America, to stir themselves up, lest while they are sleeping, the lamp of liberty goes out and they be left to grope in the dark land of despotism and oppression. Now is the time—every day you slumber gives strength to the enemies of freedom—they are waking while you are sleeping—trust not the enemies of the precious diadem—you have won in the field of battle, amidst blood and carnage to be the guardians of it.
It is said that we have a good constitution—let us know it well—let us see whether we have a good constitution or not; and if we have, let us see whether the administration is agreeable to it or not; if so let us endeavor to make each other as happy under such a constitution as possible, if it is a good constitution let us take care that neither ruler nor ruled infringe upon it!
A good constitution is like good wine, unless it is kept corked tight, it will degenerate. And it may be compared to a fountain, that if ever so pure, if the spouts are filthy, the streams will be corrupted. Let us therefore watch with attention and let us take great care that we do not pin our faith upon other men’s sleeves.
Address of the Democratic Society in Wythe County, Virginia, to the People of the United States Newark Gazette 18 June 1794
It is a right of the people peaceably to assemble and deliberate. It is a right of the people to publish their sentiments. These rights we exercise, and esteem invaluable.
A war raging in Europe, a war of tyrants against liberty, cannot be unfelt by the people of the United States—It has roused our feelings. We have rejoiced when victory followed the standard of liberty. When despots were successful, we have experienced the deepest anxiety.—We have lamented that our good wishes were the only aid we could give the French… .
While with anxious expectation we contemplate the affairs of Europe, it would be criminal to forget our own country. … A Session of Congress having just passed, the first in which the people were equally represented, it is a fit time to take a retrospective view of the proceedings of government. We have watched each motion of those in power, but are sorry we cannot exclaim, “well done thou good and faithful servant!” We have seen the nation insulted, our rights violated, our commerce ruined; and what has been the conduct of Government? Under the corrupt influence of the paper system, it has uniformly crouched to Britain, while on the contrary our allies the French, to whom we owe our political existence, have been treated unfriendly; denied any advantages from their treaties with us; their Minister abused; and those individuals among us who desired to aid their arms prosecuted as traitors. Blush Americans for the conduct of your government!!!
Shall we Americans, who have kindled the spark of liberty, stand aloof and see it extinguished when burning a bright flame in France, which hath caught it from us? Do you not see if despots prevail, you must have a despot like the rest of the nations? If all tyrants unite against free people, should not all free people unite against tyrants? Yes! Let us unite with France and stand or fall together.
We lament that a man who hath so long possessed the public confidence as the head of the Executive Department hath possessed it should put it to so severe a trial as he hath by a late appointment. The constitution hath been trampled on, and your rights have no security. Citizens! What is despotism? Is it not a union of executive, legislative, and judicial authorities to an executive office by the head of that branch of Government; in that capacity he is to make treaties: Those treaties are your supreme law?—and of this supreme law he is supreme Judge!!! What has become of your constitution & liberties?
We hope the misconduct of the executive may have proceeded from bad advice; but we can only look to the immediate cause of the mischief. To us, it seems a radical change of measures is necessary. How shall this be effected? Citizens it is to be effected by a change of men. Deny the continuance of our confidence to such members of the legislative body as have an interest distinct from that of the people. To trust yourselves to stock holders what is it but, like the Romans, to deliver the poor debtor to his creditor, as his absolute property. To trust yourselves to speculators, what is it, but to committ the lamb to the wolf to be devoured.
It was recommended by the conventions of some of the states so to amend the Constitution as to incapacitate any man to serve as President more than eight years successively. Consider well this experiment. ’Tis probably the most certain way to purge the different departments and produce a new state of things.
Believe us fellow citizens, the public welfare is our only motive.
William Neely, Chairman
Republican Society of Newark 9 June 1794
Resolved, as the opinion of this society that the raising a revenue by means of excise, except in cases of eminent necessity, is incompatible with the spirit of a free people. Insomuch as to make it productive, it would become necessary to throw open the sacred doors of domestic retirement and expose the persons of all ages and sex to the ferocious insolence of the lowest order of revenue officers, which would have a tendency either to debase the minds of the citizens and prepare them for slavery or excite disgust against the government and produce convulsions and the dissolution of society. Besides its being the most expensive mode of taxation is a sufficient reason for disapproving of it, experience having taught that the mode of raising a revenue by excise takes more money out of the pockets of the citizens and puts less into the public coffers than another—it having a tendency to corrupt the morals of the people, by opening another door to fraud and perjury, is in the opinion of this society an additional argument against the adoption of an excise system of revenue.
The Democratic Society of Philadelphia
Resolved, as the opinion of this society, that taxation by excise has ever been justly abhorred by free men; that it is a system attendant with numerous vexations, opens the door to manifold frauds, and is most expensive in its collection; It is also highly objectionable by the number of officers it renders necessary, ever ready to join in a firm phalanx to support government even in unwarrantable measures.
“For the Columbian Centinel,” Boston 27 September 1794
Every part of the conduct of our Genetines affords proof of their inconsistency and deceit; their conduct and their professions are at open variance in every instance. We call them Genetines rather than Jacobins or Democrats; it is more precisely descriptive, and there is a marked propriety in deriving their name from their patron and founder.
Those who pretend to superior virtue and patriotism ought, at least, to equal their more modest neighbors, who make no such professions, in a disinterested, consistent display of regard for the happiness of others and a willingness to share equally with them the burdens as well as the benefits of society. But our Genetines are as conspicuous for their endeavors to secure to themselves every office of honor and profit as they are for encroaching upon the rights of others. They are professed advocates for equality, but in all cases they assume rights to themselves which they deny to others.
The leaders of our Genetine Club were among the first who clamored at the institution of the Cincinnati, because they were self-created and had taken the liberty of an appropriate badge, a peculiar mark of distinction to themselves and their descendents. A desire to set up and retain this idle gewgaw of a Ribbon and a Goose must have originated in aristocratic principles, it was urged, and was conclusive proof of a lust of domination. Upon this ground, the members of the Cincinnati were held up and denounced as Aristocrats, men who meant to lord it over others and who were dangerous to the state.
But the Genetines are as unfounded and unknown to our constitution and laws as were the Cincinnati, and the object of their institution and the views and principles of their leaders are much more alarming and dangerous to society. The former were chargeable only with a foolish pride for an empty distinction, at the worst; but the latter assume the right of a papal inquisition to arraign before the public the men and the measures of the people, and exclusively and definitively to pass sentence upon them. They even go so far in their publications in the Chronicle and in their private discussions and votes as to style themselves the people and to criminate the President and other servants of the public as if they had been created to office by the voice of their Clubs alone. As well might a band of midnight robbers style themselves the people and seize upon the public treasure, under pretence of its being the people’s property. The band indeed would appear less criminal and dangerous before any tribunal than the Clubs; for the former will have robbed the community only of its wealth, but the latter destroy also its peace, its safety, and happiness… .